Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon - Kick Ass Edition 2012

I have been a little lax at doing this write up but better a little late (ok a couple of weeks late) then never, it has taken me that long to figure out what to type, because honestly I was a little P.O'ed at the end result. No the race was great as always, a great little course, great volunteers, a very good cause, and how can you not support the hometown police force (insert plug for potential future traffic stop issue), a class act event all around. The RD, Nick Paulett puts on a great event every year, come hell or high water, or snow, sleet or what ever Mother Nature throws at us, last years event here.

This race was to be my coming out so to speak, it was suppose to be my sub 2:00 barefoot half marathon, I was feeling confident, strong and ready to totally destroy my previous personal best at this distance, it was going to wish it have given up the PB title long ago. Yes, I know this is a bit of a touchy subject for me, I thought I was going to get the elusive sub 2 hour run last year, and if you count the first half of the Bismark Marathon I ran last year, I would have it. But that is just not the way this guy's bare feet turn over, it had to be an official Half Mary, so I could get the official time, something to look back at and tell the grand kids, yes sirree, 'I ran that half marathon in under 2 hours in my bare feet cause back then I was so tough I didn't need shoes.' Hell, everybody needs a "I had to walk 13.1 miles to school when I was your age through snow and rain in nothing but a pair of rubber boots." story to tell the grand kids and that will be mine.

Anyway, I digress...........

It was a dark and stormy night........... no that's not right,

Let's try this again........

This was going to be a special event, a friend was running her first half marathon, I was going break the 2:00 hour mark, Nicole and Gail were going to run their longest run in a month, some of my Running Clinic peeps (Ramona and Sarah) were going to surprise themselves with a fantastic run and finish and some lucky female runners got a sneak peek under my kilt as the wind flipped it up while I was going over the train bridge, oh yeah it was also my last race as a 40 year old. All and all everybody got what they wanted and some got a bit more than they bargained for except for maybe one item (officially and no I not talking about the kilt).

There was a great turn out for the race, as per every year it sells out usually around the February or March area, now not everybody shows up but there was between 1900 and 2000 runners this year. The weather was perfect for this type of event, overcast with a light wind and about 10 degrees, great running conditions and primed for some PB's to fall for sure. We got the customary fly by, by the Canadian Forces Hercules, and it was timed out perfectly for the start of the race, also a sign of a good race director, attention to details.

A Canadian Forces Hercules does a fly by to signal the start of the race

As I noted above, a good friend was running her first half marathon, it was also her longest run ever, she had never gone over the 9 mile mark (and this was done on a treadmill), so this was going to be  an event to remember for her. Way to go Les.

Gail, Nicole and Leslie before the run posing in front of the WPS Chopper, Air Wolf bite my dust

As per my typical fashion, I started at the back of the pack which ensured me going out slower at the start so I can get my legs warmed up. Without the blood flowing freely through my legs and feet, I have a hard time maintaining a quicker pace. Basically I start slow and ramp up to my 8:00 to 9:00 min/mile pace so I can maintain it, if I start out at the quicker pace my legs just don't respond as well and my time suffers. Of course, I was getting a few looks and comments with my attire, I guess my blue City Park Runners Singlet was clashing with my red kilt and bare feet, I didn't think so but obviously with all the whispering and pointing going on that supposed fashion faux pa must of been it. I zigged and zagged through the slower runners, getting myself bottle necked a few times but was able to get clear by the time we reached the back half of the Formal Gardens and the exit from the park. I ran with Julio for a couple of minutes, said hi to some other runners that I knew and ran behind the 'Super Friends' prior to ramping up to my 8:45 comfortable pace and heading out onto Wellington Crescent. I was feeling very comfortable as I continued to pass other runners, answered questions like, "What ya wearing under that kilt?", "Holy crap how can you run without shoes?" and my favorite, "Where are you hiding your bagpipes?" Of course the answers flowed out to the tune of, "Regimental, baby, regimental", "Holy crap, how can you run in those shoes?" and "Only the wife will find that out, sorry"

I guess I was creating a bit of a stir out there on the course, not quite sure why, I was just running my race, and hoping that the running gods were on my side this time. Everything felt fantastic as I passed by another runner in a kilt (he was wearing shoes though), my feet were responding well, my breathing was good and steady, everything was just falling into place. I turned up towards the train bridge and across the Assiniboine River on the gravel path to some ooo's and ahhhs and Kim yelling 'Go Barefoot Bob', I guess this caused a bit of a reaction from the other spectators around her, I just waved, fist pumped and carried on. There was a Military Band playing the bagpipes and drums at this point and I start hooting and hollering that they rocked as I went by. I was in front of a group of women runners as I hit the train bridge and just as I got to the middle, a nice gust of wind took my kilt and lifted it above my waist. Well I am quite sure they got a good view of my bare buns of steel before I was able to corral it back down. If anybody was looking behind them who was in front of me at the time, they would of gotten a real sight for sore eyes. Had to slow down a bit going over the bridge to hold my kilt down, but once I was over it was off to the races again. Going through the neighbourhoods is always a lot of fun as people come out of their houses to cheer the runners on, this always brings a smile to my face. I got quite a few great comments through this area, especially from a older gentleman (must of been at least 70), who yelled out "Now that's the way to run, bare feet, that's the way i used to run." I gave him the thumbs up and sped up with a little more gitty up in my step than before.

As I worked my way onto Portage Avenue, getting closer to the half way point, I took a quick look at my Garmin, and I was still under a hour, 55:24 to be exact, my only thought was here comes my goal time, and that smile creeped across my face once again. I saw Karen and Vicki cheering everybody on along Portage and Vicki got this photo of me

About the half way point of the WPS Half Marathon, I was having a great time

I was making pretty good time and as we swerved back into the neighborhoods just south of Portage prior to heading over the Moray Bridge to Charleswood and I was feeling good, too good in fact. It was just going so well, that you knew something was going to happen to say hello, are you with me. Well it happened, just as I got over the Moray Bridge, my stomach started to cramp and my bowels (I know too much information, but I'm going to say it anyway so you get the whole experience) started to rumble. First is was a little bit, then the tremors turned into full blown volcanic explosions of gas. I had to stop running for fear that my bowels would just let go.... Luckily I didn't have to worry about messing up my shorts, because I wasn't wearing any. So I walked for a minute or two to get everything back under control, and when I was sure I had just that. I started running again in search of the elusive and recluse port-a-potty. Did you ever notice when you really need one, there is none to be found, I was hoping that there would be one stationed at the turn-a-round on Roblin, but of course there was not. I had to run fast and quick all the way back across the bridge and onto Portage and west to just past the Robins before I found one. To make matters worse, it was occupied, seriously of all the luck. So there I was, dancing around in my bare feet and a kilt like a Highland Dancer on crack, waiting for the nice runner to finish up before I could get in. While I was waiting, I had a great conversation with some of the volunteers about my running style and this helped take my mind off the 'Thing That Should Not Be Talked About', oh ok my EBS (Erupting Bowel Syndrome).
After perfecting some pirouettes, side leaps and chassa's (those would be ballet terms for the uncultured or those that do not have access to Google), the bathroom door opened up and I sprinted in before she could let go of the door with a quick thanks.

It was a 'lightening' experience as I finished up in there as quickly as possible. Damage included over 4 minutes of non-running or non-moving forward time plus my unwanted walk break earlier. How the hell was I going to make up over 5 minutes of unexpected delays and still make it in under 2 hours. Well, I figured I would have to pick up the pace and see what my legs had left in me. So I straightened my kilt, brushed the gravel off my feet and set out with a determination I don't remember having for quite a while. I took off down Portage to the turn off into Woodhaven and screamed by a couple of really surprised police officers who were directing traffic and cheering on the runners. I must of looked quite interesting running towards them with a scowl on my face and dressed in a kilt. I smiled quickly said thanks for coming out and made the tight turn into Woodhaven. I will be blunt, the streets of Woodhaven suck, the asphalt is all broken up, there are more uneven surfaces and the roads don't look like they are ever cleaned or swept. Basically a runners potential nightmare for sprained ankles or twisted knees, but to run barefoot through here is so much fun but dangerous. You have to be on top of your game and be able to change direction at a moments notice to avoid a crumbling piece of asphalt. So as I sprinted through the mine field affectionately called Woodhaven Blvd leading to Assiniboine Avenue where my hasher friend Chilly is waiting with his ever present Beer Stop. Well let me say, I felt like a quick chug of beer would give me that extra bit of umph to get the rest of the race done, so when I saw Chilly in the distance my spirits picked up. Then I realized he didn't have his cooler out, I did not see any beer just Chilly standing there with a Beer Stine filled with 'TEA', what the hell is that...... wait is that a police officer just standing down from Chilly........ oh, this could be why there is no foamy nectar of the gods present today. Oh well, On On. So with a quick hello to Chilly, I turned left onto Assiniboine and tore up the road towards the last few miles of the race.

Me on the return trip up Portage Ave to the finish

I was still feeling good when we crossed under the Moray Bridge and through the curvy wall thingy that lead back to Pinewood Drive and then back onto Portage for the last sprint to the finish at Assiniboine Park. This was where I met up with Connie (who I had the pleasure of running with last year at the Ted's Run For Literacy which is taking place again this year see here) and her friend and for some reason her name is not coming to me. We went back and forth with them in the lead and then me passing them and then back the other way for most of the way down Portage. At this point I let them go with a quick 'Don't let the barefoot runner beat you now' comment. They both had picked up their pace and I was wavering a bit, not a lot but enough. I did have enough to kick it into another gear once I got to the foot bridge that crossed to the park and made the last turn and .10 miles to the finish line. I am sure I looked pretty determined as I crossed the line. I looked at my Garmin and it read 1:58:36, woo hoo I did it. But wait, I needed to check the official time when they print it off and set it up at the Duck Pond. So now that my race was over, I waited for Nicole to come across the finish line and hopefully get a good picture. But as luck would have it, I missed her somehow in the throngs of runners and spectators so the picture was not to be. But Nicole had a great time at just over 2:11:23 just a few seconds off her personal best, Gail ran it in 2:10:51 and Leslie who was running her first half marathon finished in a quick 2:52:00, not bad for someone who could barely run a year ago.

But getting back to my time, it was not posted at the Duck Pond in the results when I checked later, could not figure that out but assumed there had been a problem with my timing chip or something. Oh well, I guess I would have to wait for the website time to see what I ended up with. Well I found out later that night and I was not to impressed, the final official results had me listed at 2:00:54, all I could think was WTF. My Garmin had me at just over 1:58 and they had me listed at over 2 minutes more. The only thing I could assume is that the time they gave me was the time I finished at when I crossed the line. That would make sense because it was about 2 minutes before I got to the start line by starting at the back. Son-of-a-bitch, so close to that elusive sub 2:00 official time, I guess I will have to give it another go in the fall at the WFPS Half Marathon.

Once again, another great event by the WPS organizers, hats off to them and looking forward to next year.
On On.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Manitoba Trail 50k-Spruce Woods: A Great Day For A Run

We could not of asked for a more perfect day, the weather was fantastic, a great technical barefoot trail (I will clarify this later) ahead of us, a good selection of experienced and new to the ultra running scene runners, very enthusiastic volunteers and a Race Director that takes pride in what he does. All in all, a recipe for a unbelievable day and event.

It was a early rise for us, as we prepared to get out to Spruce Woods in plenty of time to ensure we both had a chance to get the pre-race necessities out of the way as well as have a chance to relax and get ready for the 8:30 am start time. The drive was fairly uneventful, we saw a beautiful sunrise coming over the horizon behind us as we headed west towards the park. It was a clear cut sign it was going to be a beautiful day with a endless supply of surprises and we were definitely not going to be disappointed.

The sunrise behind us as we travelled down the highway

As we drove down Highway 5 towards the Spruce Woods trail head Epinette Creek and the race starting point, the standard race jitters started to rear their ugly head, for lack of a better expression. I have been looking forward to this run ever since I signed myself and Nicole up for it 18 months ago. It was a bitter disappointment last year when it was originally postponed due to the flood damage in the park last spring, and once again postponed in the fall due to not being ready as deemed by Parks. But this also shows the determination and resolve of the race director, Dwayne Sandall, who was going to put on the best event he could come hell or high water (thankfully there was none this year), and damn it, he kept his word.

Woohoo the park sign, Entrance to the Trail Head

As the sun lifts in the sky the cars start to arrive

Now I, have not done to many Ultra's yet, but this is my 3rd, I have done Vulture Bait 50km in London, ON twice (the first a DNF, see here) and the 2nd a successful first Ultra completion in muddy conditions, see here. Both of these races had prepared me for the distance, as I knew what to expect, but there was no way I was going to be prepared for the hills today. Let's just say, I was expecting some hills, but not the whole distance comprising of ups and downs, I honestly think the flattest area of the entire course was the beaver dam crossing, which I will get to later. In short the hills kicked my ass, and gave me a good look into how my quads were going to feel after I tackle The Canadian Death Race this summer. Now don't get me wrong, I expect that my quads will feel like a hot poker has been repeatedly stabbed into my legs during CDR, and I will be dragging my sorry ass up and down Mount Hamel for Leg No. 4, but I will be smiling all the way because I know its there. But I seriously was not expecting what we got today, I was expecting some good hills similar to the Treherene Marathon in the Tiger Hills, but not continuous ups and downs for 50km. Good on you Dwayne for keeping this little tid-bit of information under wraps, I like surprises it keeps everybody honest.

Its really interesting to be that guy that runs barefoot all the time, its hard to go unnoticed, fly under the radar so to speak. No matter where I run, I get comments, looks and questions. I really don't see what the big deal is, my feet have been conditioned for this, the layer of skin on my feet are probably as thick as some of the rubber on the bottom of most running shoes. Further to this, I don't need cushioning as my feet are strong, I have been developing the almost forgotten muscles by other runners that are located in their feet to fine tuned blood pumping shock absorbers. My feet morph and mould around the terrain that I run on, plus I hate the idea of carrying all the extra weight (you do know that shoes are heavy right), and there is nothing like the feeling of mud and dirt squishing between your toes. Anyway, I did get some looks as I wandered around the area, checking in and stretching out my legs before the run. Of course saying hi to the great people that I have had the privilege to meet at other events like David and Melissa (two very inspiring Ultra marathoners), Stephen from St. Malo (a very talented and fast runner), Murray and Chantal (fellow Hashers) and of course Steve from CPR, I know I am missing others and for that I apologize. Add to this all the great people that Nicole and I met today as well, and that is why I love the Ultra scene, it is just one big community that is out to have a good time and go for a run. Everybody is out to help one another and push you along to mutual success.

After the heart felt opening instructions and speech by Dwayne, which included the ever faithful you can't get lost if you keep the markers to the left, if they are on the right you are going the wrong way. With this Dwayne asked all the runners to raise their left hands, and Chantal being the character she is, quickly advised Dwayne that was just not possible for her to do that (If you have never had the good fortune to meet Chantal she lost her left hand in an accident many years previous), which promptly got everybody laughing. Dwayne also brought up the beaver dam crossing which was about 6 or 7 miles in and also the return trip back at about mile 29, he advised us that some of it had washed away and to stay upstream of the dam when we crossed (a little bit of foreshadowing here). With the information part of the show done we headed out to the dirt access road to the north for the start.

Dwayne giving the very important race instructions see everybody hanging on his every word. Oops something must of distracted me. Photo Credit: Sheila Clark-Turcotte

Nicole and I took up our customary starting spot at the back of the pack

Heading out with Nicole and me towards the back in our familiar starting place
Photo Credit: Sheila Clark-Turcotte

As we waited for the fly by that was the signal of the start of the race, we heard Dwayne shout out a quick GO!!!, and we were off. A quick kiss from the wife, and I was on my way. I wasn't shooting for a time, I just wanted to enjoy the run, but deep down I wanted to beat my last ultra time and figured that would be not to difficult based on the mud run last year that we endured through. That was also before I realized the entire course was hills. The customary questions started with, "How can you run on gravel with no shoes?" and "How long have you been running barefoot?", and of course "Your not going to run the whole thing without shoes on are you?" and of course "Where are your shoes?"  I responded with, in order, "Gravel is no issue and this stuff has been smoothed down over the years so its like a good foot massage." and "I have been running barefoot for about two and a half years." and with a smile "Yes, yes I am." and finally, "No, I am running with shoes, see they are in my hands, I just don't want to get them dirty so they are just coming along for the ride." The last one usually gets a good laugh and we move onto other subjects.

The course consists of a 8 plus km out and back and then out onto the main course for the balance of the 50 km length. As usual, I was starting out a little quick as I was passing other runners a little to casually as I moved up the pack, not up with the elite runners but still comfortably into the middle of the pack. I was maintaining a 9:20 min/mile pace as we hit the start of the hills. The out and back was also on a limestone gravel path that looks like it was laid down late last year, my first thoughts were if the whole trail consists of this, my Vibrams may be coming out after all. As I can run on this stuff for miles and miles but my skin will definitely get more tender once I pass the 20 mile mark running consistently on it. Oh well, we will see how the day plays out. I got into a good groove as we went up and down, up and down, over one hill then onto the next. My legs were responding to the hills well early on as I was easily able to run up them keeping the same effort and then flying down the back side with enough momentum to get me partially up the next hill. I was thinking this is great, get all the hills out early and it will be smooth sailing, boy was I ever in for a rude awaking. As we hit the turn around of the out and back, I blurted out the sincere "Thanks for coming out" to the volunteer who was stationed there to make sure nobody went off course and got my camera ready for a photo of Nicole as she came cruisin' down the trail. I will be honest, I was expecting a bit more of a separation between Nicole and me at the start, but the hills must of been giving her that extra bit of motivation to push harder because there she was coming flying up the trail so quickly I almost missed her.

Nicole at about 2.5 miles in.

Everything was going according to plan, as we made our way back along the trail, I was feeling very comfortable, talking with the other runners as we went along. Then that uncomfortable feeling that I needed to go to the bathroom started. Crap, no not literally it was the other one, never fails it seems unless I completely clear everything out, I have to go pretty much right away or a couple of miles in. It was either hit the bush or wait a bit for the outhouse that I saw just up the trail. With the runners so bunched together at the start, I opted to wait for the outhouse. As I stopped, I heard one of the runners call out, don't fall in, all I can think is that is all I need, and start to laugh. After the stop, I lost a little bit of ground and start back out to finish the return portion off prior to hitting the meat and potatoes of the run. As I crest the first hill again, I roll into the first aid station, fully stocked and ready to go. The volunteer sitting there looks at my barefeet and with a priceless expression on her face exclaims, "Where are your shoes?", I innocently say, "Right here" as I lift my shoes to proudly show her my VFF's positioned nicely in my right hand. With this, I grab what I thought was a energy drink, and quickly realized it was Mountain Dew, oops I was not planning on any carbonated drinks this early (especially not Mountain Dew because I have never drank it before), but oh well what can you do. I expected I would be burping for the next few miles as I went along as the stuff bounced around in my stomach. With this thought I grabbed some potato chips and a cookie and headed out. Salt replenishment would be important because it was going to get hot today, and I sweat a lot of it out when I run longer distances.

After leaving the aid station and a saying a few hello's to some of the half marathoners that I knew, we headed up into the hills once again. These were back to the trails that I was expecting, dirt mixed with grass and sand, good single track trails, my first thought was, this was more like it. I could see David and Melissa ahead of me moving at a good pace, and I just decided I was going to slow down a bit and take it all in. So out came the camera as I panned around and took a few pictures of what was ahead of me, behind me and around me, as I said earlier I was not running for a time, just going out for a enjoyable run with 50 or so of my friends and the great outdoors, could life be better, not today that's for sure.

David and Melissa picking up the pace as we head deeper into the park

This was one of the many racers utilizing poles. Going to have to get some of those for CDR

View as we headed into the tree line.
The sun was starting to get hotter in the open areas as we headed into the treeline and for this I was grateful, as running in heat for extended periods of time taps a lot of your strength, plus hydration becomes a very important thing. So the shade of the trees to deflect some of the sun is always a very welcoming thing. The other great thing about trail running is that you can be within a few hundred feet of someone and not even know it, if you like running alone it is a great feeling but also having the knowledge that there is someone not to far away, the surreality of it as the birds chirp and the wind rustles the leaves, and the sound of your feet gliding over the trail. As the hills continued we started to get into the sandy trail areas the paths up the hills consisted of lots of sand and scattered throughout lots of ant hills (this is some more fore shadowing, cue the strange music). Did you ever wonder if ants were really smart, I honestly never thought to much of it. But if you think about it, they live in colonies, work together for a common goal, and nothing will stand in their way if they want something or need to get somewhere fast, I found this out first hand (or foot). I am running happily along, stopping occasionally to take in the vistas, when I feel this little pinch on my toe, I stop and look down and see a ant running away from my foot. I thought I might of stepped on a pine needle, so I check my foot and nothing is there, so I carry on. A little while later there is another little pinch on my other foot, and I stop again, there again I see a couple of ants running away from feet. Hmm curious, maybe I stepped on them while I was running. This goes on for a while, as I make my way to the, bom bom pa da, Beaver Dam.

The Beaver Dam, it looks innocent enough doesn't it?

This was where the pile up of runners begins, as I came down the hill towards the dam, I see a bottleneck of runners waiting to get across, my mind starts working overtime, as I think hmmm, the photo gems that could come out of this, such potential. So out came the camera to hopefully get some good shots and some memories to share with the other runners. It really didn't look that bad as I ran up, a couple of runners complaining about getting their feet wet (David), others trying to find an alternate route around (David), making mention that this was suppose to be a nice run throughout the woods not getting wet (David), maybe a couple of quizzical looks as they brainstormed on how to get across the now falling apart dam (David, hmmm do you see a trend here). Anyway, joking aside it was quite comical watching everybody take a different approach to the problem at hand. One runner just trudged ahead trying to prove that he had great balance as he leap frogged over the open water areas; Melissa just dove right in, literally up to her neck as she made her way across; Scott tried to make the careful approach by grabbing a stick and wading across, oh boy watch out for that sink hole; David tried making a bridge with a two by four, didn't work, scanned the area for another way across, didn't work, bounding back and forth for an attempt, nope turn back, try again, nope turn back. It really was quite entertaining. I on the other hand just stuffed my camera in one of my shoes and threw them across to the other side with my water bottle before proceeding to go across with my bare feet, no problem done. As I picked up my stuff, I looked back to David finally resolving to taking off his shoes and socks to come across or so I thought. I would not see David for about an hour when he finally caught back up to me (note: he is a lot faster than I am, so this kind of surprised me.) See below for some of the crossing shots for your enjoyment, I smile everything I look at them again, but it might be because you needed to be there to see all the action.........

This is Melissa in the lead and David sprinting back looking for another way across

Melissa coming out after her swim, a runner trying to build a bridge and Scott waiting for his crossing attempt

Look out that's going to be a soaker

Melissa climbing out soaking wet and Scott trying his luck

Oops, Scott is in and here comes David for another closer look

Oh well, I'm wet now says Scott, while David is still scheming of a potential way across

Anne showing everybody how it is done as she quickly leap frogs across

With the entertainment of the beaver dam behind me, I started to focus on the trail ahead again, up a big hill and into the trees we went, it was interesting my feet were feeling great (surprising what a dip in some cold water will do to revive them), and the trail was soft and barefoot friendly with a combination of soft grasses, dirt trail and sand. Once we hit the full tree coverage, that changed quickly as the trail suddenly began to be covered in sticks and twigs, thus turning the trail into a very technical barefoot running endeavour. Sure when wearing shoes, sticks are usually not much of a problem just the occasional jab through the shoe top but when you don't have that extra layer between your skin and the stick you have to be very adept at deking in and out to avoid that potential puncture wound. Now I have become quite good at this over the last few years, so as long as I kept a watchful eye on where I was going, everything was golden. I was still maintaining a comfortable pace, chugging along up the hills, down the hills, repeat, repeat, I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to see flat land again. One particular hill we went up put up top of a nice valley area, where you could see for miles, so of course me playing the Ultra marathoner tourist type, I stopped to take some pictures and just take in the view. Its fun when you discover something that you were really not expecting like the following views. I could of sat up there for much longer but decided after about 5 minutes it would be a good idea to move along. Here are some shots of the view below:

View to the northwest overlooking a creek meandering thru the park

Another shot of the valley, what a great blue sky.

This was a typical trail shot heading to yet another hill

Heading back out onto the trail, for some reason I took a look down towards my feet, not sure why, I just did and to my surprise there was about 5 ants riding on my toes, thinking to myself, I've got some free loaders catching a ride. About 500 feet down the trail, I feel that pinch again down around my toes, so like before I stop and look down and low and behold, I see all 5 ants hop off my feet and go on their merry way. The little buggers were hitching a ride, biting me when then wanted off so I would stop, bloody ingenius. I just started laughing, now it made sense, why walk when you can catch a ride on unsuspecting toe, right. Just as I was about to start off again, I saw another couple on ants trying to jump onto my feet, not this time as I shook them off and I was away with a big grin on my face, because who would of thought.

The trail continued to go up and down for the next few miles, transitioning between soft grass trail, to sand, to stick covered with the occasional roots and rocks. Right in the middle of the trail at about mile 11 or so I came across a pile of scattered bones, bleached in the sun, picked clean and spread out over the path, at first I didn't think to much about as I passed by, but for some reason I decided to stop and take a picture, not really sure why. Just thought it was kind of neat to be running a race and have to run over bones, could be something about natural selection or only the strong survive or just an symbol of the Canadian Death Race, who knows. Anyway I stopped and took a couple of pictures, I told you I was playing a tourist on this run.

Bleached bones just sitting in the middle of the path

Basically a skull that had been shattered and picked clean

At this point I carried onto the 3rd Aid Station, and I caught up to Melissa and Anne who were just finishing up with some salty snacks. Melissa asked me if I had seen David, at which I mentioned I had last seen him taking off his shoes and socks at the beaver dam, that made me think yeah he should of caught up to me by now, strange. She just looks at me and starts snickering, he was having a bit of a issue with getting wet so early in the race so he had to work himself up to getting over it. With that, they were off and running again, while I fueled up with some water, chips, cookies and a hand full of gum drops. After a quick conversation with the volunteers and a big thank you to them I was once again on the run as well. One piece of advice that I have that I need to share is don't eat to many gum drops at once. I made this mistake as I was running along the trail, I popped the complete handful in my mouth at the same time. I very quickly realized my mistake, my whole mouth was stuck together, it took me about 20 minutes to get through all the chewiness and get it all down. Now that was 20 minutes of me not thinking about running but also 20 minutes of me not watching where and what I was running on either. I ended up driving a pretty decent size stick between my big toe and my second toe which created quite the scratch, nothing damaging but it did surprise me and sting for a couple of seconds. A quick check to see if there was no impalement and I was off again with my first war wound.

Somewhere between this point and the next aid station, David caught up to me and we ran together for a couple of minutes before he slowly pulled away with the intent to catching up with Melissa. He was still a little choked about the beaver dam, but more that he lost his Ipod somewhere during the crossing and he has not ran without music for a very long time. But the ultra runner was very evident in him as the glint in his eyes showed as if he was not going to let that ruin his day. David has one of the most efficient running strides I have ever seen, it barely looks like he is even trying as he floats along the trail, it is a treat to watch him run. I only wish I looked that fluid, I think I look more awkward than anything as I dipsy-doodle this way and that to avoid the things that most runners just run over. You definitely can't start day dreaming when you run trails barefoot, you have to be focused to your surroundings at all times.

By this time, I was really noticing the workout my quads were getting as we continued with the hills, they were not tired yet but they were definitely getting worked over, I was even starting to walk some of the uphills now, because I was starting to realize that the hills were continuous and I still had about 14 miles to go (give or take). I hit the next aid station to the sound of music and dancing, they were having some serious fun sitting in the middle of the field, all I hear as I round the corner is some hooting and hollering as one of my favourite volunteers (I really wish I could remember her name) was cheering me in. Of course I had to sit and talk for a few minutes, answer some questions and get loaded up with water again. On top of this I had to get a picture of them as they were truly enjoying themselves to best of their abilities and then some.

A favorite aid station stop complete with music and dancing

Heading off into the woods again, I was noticing that the hills were starting to take their toll on my pace, as I was definitely slowing down but was maintaining a modest 11:00 to 12:00 min/mile. I was definitely walking more of the hills as I continued to run up as far as I could before settling into a walk to the top and then a run down the other side. The stragedy seemed to be working as it gave me a chance to catch my breath again before I started running down the backside of the hill. That was when I got to the road I believe it was somewhere around Jackfish Lake, all I saw was down hill on gravel and shale rock, not worn down and with the steep incline I decided it was safer to walk down or proceed at a slow jog for this then try to run down and kill my feet off or lose my footing. It actually went fairly well, I was quite pleased that the slow jog worked as well as it did, I almost caught up to Scott again, but let him get away while I had to stop to use the bushes marked with a 'Men's Washroom' sign. No worries I would be seeing him again soon enough.

This was the dirt road at about Mile 18 that I had to go down it doesn't look to daunting but you didn't have to go down it.

Try going down this at high speed with bare feet, not for the faint of heart

Or another view, I wish I could of got the incline shot better.

I was in good spirits when I got to the bottom of the road as I continued down the trail towards a warming hut or cabin or what ever it was called. Things were going well, I still had lots of energy, my feet felt fantastic and I was enjoying every minute of the journey and the scenery that was surrounding me. As I passed by the cabin, I crossed over a little creek bridge and was staring the 'Hill From Hell' straight in the face. I stopped and starred for a couple of minutes as I tried to follow the path before me up to the top, needless to say I couldn't see the top, the trail just seemed to go up and up and up with no stop in sight. My first thought was to turn around and run the other way, it must of been easier the other way, really. They do say adversity makes you stronger, well I guess we were going to find out because by the end of this hill, my quads were either going to say, 'Give me another of those hills" or they were going to start screaming at me to "Stop the abuse". Either way I figured I should get going I had a hill to tackle and Scott to catch up to. So I started to run to try to get as far up the hill as I could before stopping and walking the balance, well that did not last to long. I got about 100 yards up the incline and then started walking. The trail twisted and turned for what seemed like an hour (probably only 5 minutes but melodramatics can be well placed occasionally), the trail was a mix of sand and soft pack, so running would of been interesting anyway. Plus I had some more hitchhikers tagging along for the ride, I will never look at a ant the same way again.

This was the start of the hill up doesn't look to daunting until you get a little closer

A little closer look at the rise it takes off at a really good slope when you make it around the corner

When I got to the top, I was glad not only to see the end of that hill, but also the view at the top. It really was quite a sight overlooking all the trees and taking in all the area that we had just finished making our way through. I just stood up there and looked around, thinking to myself this is why I run these to take in vistas like this.

The view once I got to the top

A little closer to the edge, it was a long way down to the bottom

As I started out again, I was definitely feeling the burn in the quads but I was also very satisfied with my progress, yes I was making a lot of photo stops but I was also still moving forward and there was no soreness in my feet at all. With 18 plus miles down, I was know focusing on the next 2 miles, knocking it off in smaller increments seemed like the way to go. I caught up to Scott at about mile 20, he was running along slow and steady, we talked for a bit, he asked about my feet, I asked how he was doing, the normal greetings on the trail at least for me. It was interesting Scott was just getting back into long distance running and this was his first in quite a few years. He had ran CDR a couple of times years ago (not finishing either but got close the second time) and at some time wanted to try it again. I found it really interesting, over the day Nicole and I have run into a good quantity of runners here that have run the Death Race. Who said all the runners in Manitoba like flat courses, that was being proved wrong today for sure. I ran with Scott for about a mile as we continued the hill training, then we parted ways with a good luck and a see you at the end as I slowly picked up my pace.

The next few miles were fairly uneventful, sandy trails up and over the hills, the walking of the hills was coming more frequently though, this was a good test of resolve for sure. I was still maintaining the running down the hills which was a good thing, because going up was getting slower and slower, almost until I felt like I was going backwards. With the heat of the day coming out, the sand on the trail was getting hotter and I had to lift my feet quicker for fear of burning my already well used soles. As I was trudging along, I had the feeling that I was being tracked and in fact I was, another runner named John had been slowly reeling me in for the last few miles, I really wasn't trying to stay ahead of him but it was definitely helping push me along. As we entered a wooded area, I came up to one of the few actual obstacles that were crossing the path, a big tree that had fallen over sometime previously. I started to look to see what would be the course of action to get by and the only real option was to go under. Lucky my limbo skills were in fine tune as I bent over and quickly glided under. All I could think of at the time was the Calypso music playing in my head as I made short work of the tree.

My limbo tree

View from the other side, you can just make out me taking a photo behind the tree
Photo Credit: John Alexander Blyth

I will tell you one thing the hills just kept piling up, there is nothing like an endless supply of quad burning hills to tackle in a run. No matter the distance you are running these bad boys will wear you down and no picture that you take does them justice. As I look back at the photos that I did take, all I can think is they don't look to bad, but then I remember the actual hill and think well yes they were. As I got to the next hill, I stopped to take a picture just so I try to get the magnitude of the slope, I look back at the picture and once again it doesn't look to bad, but this sucker was a treat to get up.

Deceiving slope up and the down on the other side was a treat too.

John taking a picture of me as I took a picture of him

Me taking a picture of John as he took my picture
Photo Credit: John Alexander Blyth

Me waiting for John to catch up
Photo Credit: John Alexander Blyth

Come on John we have to tackle this bloody hill, a better view of the slope up this one was a bitch
Photo Credit: John Alexander Blyth

I ran with John for a bit as we made our way along the trail, he is a interesting character as well, another one who has run the Canadian Death Race, seeing a bit of a trend here. John is a bit of a competitive chap, as we jockeyed for 37 and 38 place over all, he had me laughing and forgetting about my quads. As John started to pull away, he looked back with a smile and exclaimed that 35th and 36th places were just up around the bend and he was off. I just watched in awe as he steadily pulled away from me and I wished him luck at moving up the ranks.

I carried on, walking the ups and running the downs for about another mile when I turned the corner and I saw John's 35th and 36th place quarry right in front of me, I was honestly a little surprised with who it was as well. David and Melissa were slowly making their way along the trail and I will be honest I was concerned because Melissa was doing more of a limp run. I caught up and found out that Melissa's plantar fasciitis starting acting up quite a ways back and it had started to slow them down. Now first of all, I have never had plantar fasciitis and I hope I never do, but I do understand it is a painful situation that will stop most runners in their tracks and for that matter, running on it is not easy. So as I look at Melissa in complete awe, all I can think is, 'Wow, Melissa has just leaped frogged the majority of my "Who I want to be when I grow up" inspirations'. The other thing about this was David, using the ultra marathoner philosophy to never leave anyone behind who may be in need, he never left her side. We carried along the trail, and the funny thing the grit and determination was really starting to show in Melissa as she started to pull ahead of David and I again. Here I am a little tired, my quads are working overtime and I am falling behind again. To put it bluntly Melissa has that killer instinct when she runs, no matter the obstacle, nor hell or high water, nothing was going to stop her from finishing this race. Just inspiring, that is all I can say. I just watched them pick up the pace and slowly pull away, Melissa carried on to finish just ahead of me by 29 seconds at the end of the day. David ended up finishing ahead of both of us, I would assume Melissa told him to run on and he galloped to a strong finish picking up places and finishing a whole 22 minutes before we crossed the line, he must of been flying for the last 6 or 7 miles to make up that much ground.

For the next few miles, up to the last aid station with about 9 kms to go, I was jockeying back and forth with Anne from Brandon, she was running a steady race and it appeared we were using each other to spur each other along. It was interesting, Anne would run a steady pace up the hills as far as she could, walk to the top then start gliding down the other side, while I power walked the majority of the hills and picked up speed down the other side, we traded positions right to the aid station. The runs down the backside of the hill were getting more challenging as the sticks were getting denser and I really had to pay attention to where I was planting my feet, for fear of impalement. I really didn't want to finish this off with my feet in a bloody mess, so I just focused to put one foot in front of the other and dipsy doodle down the hills looking for the clearest path. When we got into the last aid station, a quick fill up of water, chips, pretzels and choc chip cookies were completed before heading out. The volunteers advised us that there was about 9 km to go and it was mostly downhill, can we say that was a little bit of a fib. Nothing like getting someone's hopes up and then having them dashed as we coast down a trail and come across nothing but another uphill. Oh well, should of known better, I started tackling the course with a new vigor, there was no way I was going to stop with being this close. I started pulling away from Anne and kept a steady 11:00 min/mile pace to the 2nd crossing of the beaver dam. A bit more of it was broken away, but I saw a good route through that would make this time around a little easier.  Once I put my feet into the cold water, they felt totally rejuvenated, it was like a shot of adrenaline just started coursing through my body. First my feet then my legs, I suddenly felt like I had not just finished running 47.5 km of hills. I quickly got out of the water with a big stupid grin on my face and the desire to finish this run off fast. So I chugged up to the inpromptly set up water station, grabbed a quick drink and picked up the pace. The last couple of kms flew by as I ran up the grassy dunes and tried to chase down the runners in front of me. The distance shrunk as we got closer to the finish, I could hear the hooting and hollering as I crested the last hill for the couple ahead of me, which included Melissa and another runner named Scott. I picked up the pace to about a 10:00 min/mile as I screamed across the finish line. Woot woot, 50km all done, with some congrats from some of the other racers and a smile that ran across the entire width of my face I stopped my Garmin with a time of 6:47:58 (actual official finishing time was 6:47:51). Not bad, still managed a PB by over 9 minutes even with the unexpected hills and the sight seeing tour. I will take it.

I had some of Dwayne's famous finisher's chili as I waited for Nicole to come in, took some feet condition photos and of course started picking the ticks off my legs (only ended up with 3 of them, not bad considering they were fairly bad out there), what a great day for a run.

My right foot after finishing 50km of trail running no worse for wear. A little dirty but ready for more.

My left foot, very similar to the right no damage done.

As I was sitting down re-hydrating some more and just enjoying the sunshine, I here the hooting and hollering starting once again, and there is Nicole coming over the last hill, running hard (boy she loves the downhills), she barely looks gassed at all as  this big smile breaks across her face as she approaches the finish line. She crosses the finish line and our day is done at least the running part of it anyway.

Nicole coming over the last hill towards the finish line

Nicole as she crossed the finish line looking great as always, did she just run 50km? Yes, yes she did.

Me after the finish all refreshed and ready to run again.

I didn't catch his name, but he finished the balance of the run from the beaver dam barefoot carrying his Vibrams, and he finished hard.
Photo Credit: Sheila Clark-Turcotte

Dwayne mucking around on another trail run
Photo Credit: Unknown

 It was a fantastic event, and Dwayne should be proud of not only all his hard work but the work of the many volunteers who came out to support a bunch of crazies like us run and run hard. We will definitely be back next year to partake in his new 50 mile option. Kudos to all and a great race ran by everybody.

I have also included Nicole's garmin profile for the run, for a review of the run, you will notice the ups and downs are continuous throughout. Hope to you out there next year, its going to be bigger and better if I know Dwayne.