Friday, June 28, 2019

Kusam Klimb 2019 mountain run fun

I camped in Sayward the night before the Kusam Klimb. They have several municipal campsites by a pond at he edge of the village. I picked a site with a view of Mount Kusam. On the way into Sayward I had spotted a black bear crossing the road so I decided not to cook anything at the campsite. Instead I ate a sub sandwich and had a cup of coffee, munching it as I took in the view of mountain I would be running on the next day.
This year was my sixth time completing the Kusam Klimb. It had the driest trail conditions I've ever seen. Even the top of the mountain was mostly clear of snow. I was glad that I had carried a camel pack with about a liter of fluids to drink as the streams on the way up were bone dry. It's always worth the effort once you reach the top when you're above the clouds and you look to the valley below where the race began. It's a tough slog to make it to the top, power hiking and sometimes crawling on all fours. In the first 10 kilometers of the race you'll ascend over 4,700 feet. On the summit I ran with a group of four others for about 20 minutes up to the last steep ascent where I stopped to drink and take in some electrolytes.
Getting down Mount Kusam has its challenges too. At some of the steep areas ropes are required. If they're not available then you have to hang off of tree branches and shrubs for support as you descend. Because of the dry trail conditions it was easy to make up for lost time once I was out of the forest onto the old logging roads. I met up with some other runners at this point and kept pace with them until we reached check point three where peanut butter Nanaimo bars and chunks of watermelon were waiting. After almost three hours of mountain running aid station 3 was a welcome site.
The remainder of the trail system was mostly shielded from the morning sun by the trees that over hang the logging roads. At some of the ditches and streams I hopped across along the way I took the opportunity to cool off by soaking my head wear in the cool water. I could feel the heat of the day when I entered the last roadway leading to the finish. I was glad the end was near. I passed another racer and thought I was in the clear as I had fifty meters or so left. But as the finish line came in sight she sped up and tried to pass me. I wouldn't give up that easy though, and pushed on with a final surge that had me tripping just before the finish line at 4:45:41. I landed on my chest and scrapped the palms of my hands breaking my fall, but we tied. That was a finish I will not soon forget.

Monday, May 13, 2019

My First Cumby 25 Mountain Run

There's a saying that time flies when you're having fun. That was true of my experience running the Cumby 25 for the first time May 11th. Maybe it was the quickly changing scenery as we ascended the winding mountain trails, or the cheerful volunteers offering lemonade at the top of Slick Rock trail where it turned onto Steam Donkey, or the sound of huffing and puffing and polite runners saying, "passing to your left" as we power hiked up the steep Truffle Shuffle, that made time fly. Suddenly I found myself at the top of Upper Vanilla trail forty-four minutes into the Cumby 25.
I continued on alone, it seemed, enjoying the descent running over the roots and rocks along the trail, through the shadows of a fir tree forest, shafts of morning light would fall upon me, here, and there, until I reached aid station one, situated on a logging road, beside a wide open section of descending trail with switchbacks that led down a steep incline. I felt the heat of the day for the first time there while exposed to the sun and was glad to be back under the shade of the trees again after reaching Even Lower Vanilla. There, I met up with some other runners as we slowed, coming to a narrow wooden bridge over a swamp, and a steep embankment. We climbed this, and after scrambling across a section of rocky, gently, rolling hills, we came to a straight logging road. I checked my Garmin watch and saw that I was moving at a pace about six-to-eight minutes ahead of what I had anticipated. This cheered me up as I was about to head into a section of trail I had never run before, Swamp Monster, and Rug Burn.

It was near the end of Swamp Monster that I had my first fall. I tripped on a rock and went flipping head over heels onto the edge of the trail. When I attempted to stand, a shooting pain pulsed through my right calf muscle. It felt like a micro tear. A fellow racer stopped to help me up. He offered me some pickle juice he had in small plastic bottle, but I declined, telling him that I had an electrolyte mixture of my own. It was hot out on the exposed rocks of Swamp Monster, and approaching an hour-and-a-half into the race, I limped along, slowly, hoping that the calf cramp would go away as I drank mouthfuls of fluid from my hydration pack. The runner who helped me up ran with me for the next kilometer, making sure that I would be okay. With aid station two in sight my helper left, running ahead at the end of Lower Crafty Butcher. The aid station had a good selection of drinks ready to go. I took two, and dumped one cup of cold water over my head, leaving with a chocolate GU Gel in hand to sip on as I made my way up a steep incline near the start of the Two Flats trail. I encouraged myself that this was near the halfway mark, according to my Garmin watch. My right calf was still bothering me though, and every now and then I could feel a shooting pain as I descended the first part of the Rapture trail. Would I be able to carry on this way? I wondered. I stopped to walk and re-hydrate when I got to Ark trail, where it turned onto a straight section of logging road. A passing runner saw I was struggling and offered me an electrolyte jelly cube. I gladly took it, and jogged on toward Rapture cliff. It loomed ahead of me in the distance - majestic in the midday sun. I enjoyed the climb, taking in the views, slowly making my way to the top.

A refreshing breeze hit me there as I crossed the summit heading to the Kamikaze Downhill that would take me back to Rapture. I felt somewhat revived. A volunteer at the trail junction there said we had about ten more kilometers to go. I shuffled down Kamikaze taking a quick left onto Rapture and hustled along the rolling trail. I was able to keep a steady pace and was making up time, until I had my second fall. Heels over head is how I would describe it. This time when I landed I skinned my left knee and my left calf muscle cramped up. I was alone, so I had to struggle to get to my feet on my own. The cramp was bad. I could only manage to limp on to aid station three, which was fortunately close by, within 120 meters. When I arrived there, I felt like giving up. I spent about six minutes re-hydrating, pouring water over my head, refilling my hydration pouch with water. I also took two Eload Zone caps and Advils. Several runners arrived at the aid station while I was there, looking just as disheveled as I was. I figured I would continue on with six kilometers to go and see if I could work out my cramped calf muscles. If I could get back on to pace I was still within range of reaching my goal time of three-and-a-half hours. The day before I had told my wife, Olivia, to expect me at the finish line around that time. She said she would be there to cheer for me as I arrived. I continued on. I caught up with another couple of runners and was able to keep pace with them for the next four kilometers. With around two kilometers to go we came to a long downhill leading to the last section of trail. I had fifteen minutes left to get to the finish. Thankfully, I made it one minute before my three-and-a-half hour goal time. My wife was there. I gave her a high-five as I ran past her into the roped off finish area. Time sure does fly when you're having fun.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Training For The Cumby 25km

This past few weeks I've been training in the Cumberland Mountain trail system in preparation for the upcoming "Cumby 25" mountain trail run. The course follows various mountain biking trails winding through the forests and logging roads south of Cumberland, B.C. on Vancouver Island. The race website provides a map and written instructions. I printed that off, had it laminated, and brought it along with me on the training runs so I wouldn't get lost. On my first attempt out I did get lost a couple of times and had to back-track on the trails to find the right way. Thanks to some helpful mountain bikers I was given the right directions.
The "Cumby 25" gets steep just after the "Teapot" trail enters the "Truffle Shuffle". I could only manage a power hike in these sections as there was a lot of loose stones, and slick rock with the rain coming down the one day. The rest of the trail system is runnable, with plenty of vertical to work the quads. Most of this is technical descent with some low lying roots and rocks.
If it's been raining heavily the days leading up to the race, May 11th, expect to get wet while running through "The Crafty Butcher" trail segment. The day I ran in the rain I couldn't keep my feet dry there. The puddles are on top of solid rock and many of them are deeply grooved.
The last 1/2 - 1/3 of the race is spent on "The Rapture Trail". If it's a clear day you'll be able to take in some great views as you slowly climb the "Rapture Cliff" trail. After making the rounds of the summit watch for the "Kamikazi Downhill" veering off the edge, the entrance back onto the Rapture Trail comes up quickly on the left.
The remainder of the "Rapture Trail" before you get to "Crazy Ivan" and "Tunnel Canary" crosses over three old logging access roads. A couple of minutes after crossing the last road you should pop out in sight of the start of "Crazy Ivan". There are two straight-aways after this where you can make up for some of the time you lost on the more technical sections of Rapture. "Two Shoes" trail is a short leg in the race. You'll see "Rapture" on your right fairly soon after getting onto it. "Rapture" will lead you back to the logging road at the top of "Sapsucker". You'll pass "Cottonwood", "Iron Curtain" and "50:1" on the way there. The Access trail is a fairly straight downhill that passes the end of "Sapsucker" (you'll see it on your left). If your quads have any strength left in them this is a good place to make up some time. At the bottom of the hill you'll see the entrance to "Josh's Trail" at the "T" junction just off to the right, which goes back towards the start/finish. Pay attention while navigating the muddy trails as there's plenty of roots and rocks. You'll come to a wooden bridge on your right that crosses the swamp. Go over it and follow the trail behind the condominiums up to "2nd Street". After taking the first left the finish line will be in your sights.

Race organizers may change the course slightly due to active logging in the area so the directions that I've given here are just a general guide. I ran this, wearing a triathlete pack, carrying 1.5 litres of Nuun drink, cell phone, and snacks. I'd recommend bringing this if you're running solo. Race day there'll be 3 aid stations so I'll be able to travel lighter.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Indivisible opened in 830 theaters across the USA this weekend

Last year in June I was in California at a studio ranch outside Hollywood for two weeks acting the part of a US Army soldier in the movie INDIVISIBLE. A lot of energy and sweat went into those days on set running around in full US Army body armor climbing in and out of Humvees. Sometimes explosions went off around us as we did this. You can read more detail about my experience including the miraculous way I was able to be involved in this in a blog I wrote back in July of 2017 HERE. It released at 830 theaters this weekend across the USA and debuted just outside the top-10 at number 13, below the new Rowan Atkinson release, 'Johnny English Strikes Again'. On the 'Tomatometer' presently it's 95% liked by audiences and 69% Fresh (Check here TOMATOMETER). Overall INDIVISIBLE is getting good reviews. I was able to see an early preview in an online screening and was amazed at how the production turned out. Even though I was on set for many of the scenes that were to have taken place in Iraq 2007, and could remember what was going on behind the scenes, I found myself emotionally caught up and moved by the film. Sarah Drew and Justin Bruening do a powerful job portraying the main characters Darren and Heather Turner. All the supporting cast are strong too, including Skye P. Marshall who plays Sgt Shonda Peterson. The director David Evans doesn't shy away from showing the raw realities of a war zone. He takes you into this Army chaplain's emotional ride as he deals with the suffering and loss of his brother's in arms - how it changes him while he's there and when he returns home.

I felt passionate about being involved with this production because I've had friends who have struggled with post traumatic stress (PTSD) due to what they've experienced on deployments with the military. INDIVISIBLE offers hope to those who are struggling in this way showing that healing and reconciliation is possible.

(Above, next to Humvees, My 2002 Pontiac Montana van with Syrian license plates - insurgent vehicle)

I had such a great working experience on INDIVISIBLE I'd do another film like it again in a heartbeat.

If you haven't seen it yet in USA theaters, please do. It opens in Australia November 2nd. Find out more about the movie here:INDIVISIBLE

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Photo opportunity saves trail runner from bear encounter

I was on my usual long mountain run on Saturday morning following the steep, winding, logging road up Cumberland Mountain, when I was overcome by the beauty of the view below. As I gazed out at the fir-tree forests, and beyond that, the Georgia Strait, separating Vancouver Island from the mainland, and the Rocky Mountains silhouetted across the horizon in the early morning sun, I felt I just had to take a photo. I stopped near the summit to remove my smart phone from my backpack, powered it up, aligned the view finder, and took the best shot.

When I turned around to take another photo of the trail ahead, I spotted a black bear, not too far off. It was eating ripe black berries from the bushes at the side of the logging road. I took a shot of it too, and then, quietly, I backed away, moving down the steep hill I had just run up, thinking, "If I hadn't stopped to take that photo I would've had a close encounter with a black bear."
Since I was up at the summit so early, there weren't other bikers or trail runners around. I descended the mountain the same way I had come, quickly, hoping that the bear was not alerted to my presence. I checked over my shoulder a couple of times to make sure that I wasn't being followed. I was relieved when I got back to the lower trails where there were plenty of bikers and dog walkers.
Since 2015 I have been running the Cumberland Mountain trail system. I had seen posters with cougar and bear warnings, but had never had an encounter or even spotted one. I had seen evidence of them like tracks and dung. My only other encounters with bears while on trail runs were on the Pipe Line Trail north of the Stotan Falls bridge, and the Cape Scott Park trail on northern Vancouver Island. In those incidences I was making enough noise that they knew I was there, and they took off.

The best way to avoid bear encounters while trail running:

- Make noise; sing, shout, wear bear bells.
- Use trails frequented by dog walkers (dogs mark their territory).
- Avoid trails where berries are ripe.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Celebrated 50th birthday with a 50 mile run

To celebrate my 50th birthday I planned to run 50 miles on a 10km circuit route (8 x 10kms) nearby in Comox, B.C.. With 216 feet of elevation gain per loop I would end up with a total of 2,777 feet elevation gain. I hadn't considered that ice and snow would be a problem since the temperatures at sea level on Vancouver Island are usually mild mid winter. However, as the day drew near for the run a high pressure weather system moved over much of Canada producing record low temperatures east of the Rockies. The day before my planned running date, my birthday, December 31st, snow fell, and black ice became a problem on several sections of the route. To finish before the sunset I would have to start before the sunrise. This meant I had to wear a head-lamp. I wondered how I would navigate the snow and black ice with a head-lamp for over two hours. I would have to be cautious.

Near 5 a.m. I set off running alone from my self-serve aid station at Point Holmes, heading west along a coastal trail that wound along beside the beach. Snow fell, flashing in front of me in the brightness of the head-lamp. Heading up the edge of Lazo Road, I could see ahead about 4-5 metres, and dropped back the pace when I encountered black ice. Once onto the sidewalks on Guthrie Road I was out of the woods and had much better visibility. There were some good climbs coming up Guthrie and Pritchard Roads that took some work. At the top I was encouraged by the thought that when I switched directions for my next loop after my aid station I would be coming down the same hills. I had to take things cautiously in the dark on Knight Road as there were long sections of black ice and uneven patches of snow on its shoulders.

The sun came up on my third loop so I could take in the ocean and mountain views the route had to offer. Upon completion of this I was met at my aid station by my wife, Olivia, with a bacon and egg sandwich and veteran marathoner Ken Richardson who would pace me around to the halfway point. It was good to have someone to talk to, as this helped the miles to fly by. He gave me some advice on how to mentally move through the final 40kms. When we reached my aid station at the completion of this stage we were greeted with cheers by a group of members from the Comox Valley Road Runners. One of them asked me how long I had been training for the run and Ken Richardson answered them, "He's been training 50 years for this one." Before I left on the fifth loop though they sang "Happy Birthday" to me. They had a delicious spread of desserts and drinks laid out. I would've liked to stay longer with them to enjoy the tailgate party but I had to keep moving so my legs wouldn't cramp up.

To get through the second half of the 50 miles I mentally divided the remaining distance into aid station stops. With only two remaining, I felt a burst of energy and optimism. "I can do this," I thought. While running loop six I passed a tow truck pulling a 4x4 truck out of a ditch. It had spun off of Knight Road by Siefferts Farm Market. Black ice was still a problem in the shade. I had to be careful. Ken Richardson found me at my aid station as I was preparing to start the final 10km loop. Because he had an appointment at 4 p.m. he could only run with me for the first kilometer or so. Before turning around he encouraged me that I was in good shape to reach my goal.

With a great sense of joy and accomplishment, as the sun set over Mount Washington, I arrived at Point Holmes. I didn't realize how cold I had become until I got home and was helped into a warm bath by my wife. I went directly from there to a bed under three blankets. I turned on the room's electric heater (unusual for me). It took me a couple of hours to calm the chills.

Shoes: Altra Olympus 2
Drinks: Nuun, (Active, Boost)
Nutrition: Ensure protein drink, Mars chocolate bars, Cliff gels, bacon.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The best trail runs in the Comox Valley

The Comox Valley hosts several amazing running trails. In this blog I've attempted to rank six of my favourite ones using the following as determining factors:
1) ease of access to the trail-head;
2) difficulty of the terrain;
3) the beauty, and,
4) length of run.


#1, Cumberland Mountain:
For the past two years I've been running The Cumberland Mountain trail on a weekly basis and I just don't get tired of it. It's always a challenge, an adventure, and leaves me whacked after running its hills for hours. I guess that's why it's number one on my list. Numerous entrances to the trail system are found at the edge of the Village of Cumberland. I prefer to park my car in the recreation centre parking lot off Dunsmuir Avenue, its main thoroughfare. From there I run down Sutton Road to the Cumberland Community Forest. Hours of challenging fun can be had running the hilly logging roads and mountain bike trails.It takes about an hour to reach the summit after ascending 1200-1400 feet. The views on a clear day are inspiring. You can run 2-5 hours through the vast Cumberland Mountain trail system. Make sure you bring extra fluids in the summer as the streams dry up and it can get hot in the back hills. Watch out for roots and rocks on the secondary trails, and make noise as bears and cougars have been spotted on some of these (I've never met any).

#2, Riverside/Nymph Falls:
The Riverside/Nymph Falls trail system covers close to 20kms if you follow it full circle. Running along beside the edge of the Upper Puntledge River through mostly evergreen forested areas it offers many beautiful views where you will be tempted to stop and rest to enjoy the scenery. West of the Inland Island Highway the trails can be a challenge on the north side of the river especially in the rainy season. A 2-3 kilometer stretch back up toward Nymph Falls follows a narrow mountain biking trail with many wooden bridges that get frosty in the winter months. But with rolling hills, several outhouses, and well groomed pathways throughout most of it, the circuit is a pleasure to explore. Access the trail head by vehicle either through Forbidden Plateau Road, Nymph Falls Nature Park or park at the end of Powerhouse Road in Courtenay and run west beside the cement hydro tubes (15-20 minutes) to the Duncan Bay Main Line Road. Continue on following the hydro tubes up hill and you will eventually join the Riverside Trail on the east side of the Puntledge River. If you cross the bridge following Duncan Bay Main Road over the river after 50 metres or so on the left you will see the narrow entrance to the Riverside Trail.
#3, Forbidden Plateau to Mount Washington:
Running this challenging trail is best done in the dryer months. During the rainy season sections of the trail are submerged by swamp and may be impassable. If you're running with a friend you can both meet up in separate vehicles either at the parking lot at the top of Forbidden Plateau or by Raven Lodge on Mount Washington. Leave one car behind and travel together in the other vehicle to the opposite end of the trail. To run this it will take 5-7 hours. There are some sections that are steep and technical with roots and rocks where your pace will be reduced to power-hiking. I usually wear a pair of gloves to protect my hands, and a camel pack with 2 litres of fluid, energy gels, and snacks.
#4, Lazo Marsh Northeast Nature Trails: To access this trail system there's plenty of parking to be found behind Highland High School off of Guthrie Road. I like running here when I want to get in an hour or so of trail training on varied terrain. There are close to 10kms of paths winding around the Lazo Marsh Northeast Nature Trail. It's a mix of rocky, root filled, and well groomed trails. There are some good short hills to test your stamina. The surroundings are beautiful with several old growth trees in the lower sections. Watch out for dog walkers. Give them plenty of warning so their pets aren't startled.
#5, One Spot: One Spot trail is an easy, well groomed, trail that for the most part follows an old lumber railway that once bore the same name. It passes by farmland where cows and horses can be spotted. Hedge groves along the way provide shade. Running out to the end and back from the Condensory Road Bridge in Courtenay can take around 2 hours. The trail head is located near River Meadow Farms on Condensory Road. I've had to share the trail with horses on several occassions. It's best to step aside and let them pass.
#6, Seal Bay Nature Park: The Seal Bay Nature Park trail is divided by Bates Road, where you will find the best place to park. Most of the trails are well groomed, and there are outhouses and directional maps stationed throughout. The circular Horse Bike Trail offers the longest run at around 7kms. But don't stop there, cross over to the east side of the trail system and take in the awesome ocean views from the trails that snake along the cliff side there. There are stairs that lead down to the beach, if you would like a challenging stair workout. The Seal Bay Nature Park trail is a great beginner trail for a road runner interested in making the transition.

CAUTION: For the Cumberland Mountain Trail and Riverside Trail systems I recommend that ear bud type music listening not be used as this may interfere with hearing oncoming mountain bikers and avoidance of wild animal encounters.