Monday, April 06, 2020

Global charity run for COVID-19 Relief

A video clip I took of myself training during the COVID-19 Quarantine in the Comox Valley was used in the above video montage produced by I-Run-Far (at around 2:25) for their Operation Inspiration.

Because of COVID-19 most of the ultra-marathon and mountain races scheduled for the Spring of 2020 have been cancelled or postponed. Many of the race directors, sponsors, and athletes upset by this turned it into a good thing by coming up with the idea of doing a virtual race. This past weekend I took part in "Operation Inspiration" a global charity run organized by I-Run-Far, joining 1600 long distance runners from around the world. Together we raised over $52,000 dollars for the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.


When my race bib number arrived the day before, I found it had a spot where I could write in who I wanted to inspire by doing this. After giving it some thought I realized how much work the cashiers were doing during this quarantine - so I put them down. Cashiers, you are my heroes. Those working at Walmart, Superstore, Costco, and other grocery stores, helping us to continue to have the necessities we need to survive. Brovo!

I picked a 20 km route to run that followed the Forbidden Plateau road heading up 1750 feet 10 kms and then back down again. Here are some edited video clips I made while I was doing the run Saturday morning documenting my progress(below).

Training during the COVID-19 quarantine

I recently took a one hour run on one of my favourite trail systems during the corona virus quarantine in B.C. on Vancouver Island. I found that I was more careful than usual and stayed on the even surfaced logging road. I didn't venture off on the more technical mountain bike trails that wind through the forests like I usually do. There are over 25 kms of trails to explore in the mountains outside of Cumberland. Since 2015 I've trained on the trails and in the technical sections have only had a couple of scrapes and muscle strains throughout the years. I've always made it out safe.
It was a beautiful day. I met other people who were out walking their dogs or on mountain bikes. We made room for each other as the logging road was wide enough to practice the 2 metre physical distancing rule. This is the first time that I've had to deal with a quarantine like this. So much had changed within a period of two weeks. I ran along thinking of the changes; the cancelled sports events, closed theatres, restaurants, and clubs. I looked around. The forest was the same. The birds were still chirping. With a thankful heart I focused my mind on the many things in my life that hadn't changed and it gave me hope as I finished my run.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

50 km World Vision Canada Charity Run - 2020

February 22nd, at 5 a.m. I left Courtenay B.C. attempting a 50 km charity run for World Vision Canada. My wife, Olivia, drove the support vehicle and shuttled ahead of me stopping every 8 km or so to provide aid. The first two hours as I headed south on the old coast highway 19A it was dark. Even though I wore a headlamp I was able to take in the stars of the clear night sky, and the reflection of the constellations in the coastal waters. 15 km into the run the sun began to rise. I was just on the edge of Union Bay where Olivia was waiting with the car as the second aid station stop. I dropped off my headlamp, refilled my Nathan drink bottles, and picked up a Mars bar to nibble on later. A kilometer further down the road Olivia drove past me cheering me on. This encouraged me. My body felt warmed up, and my legs were loose, but I wondered if the heavy fitness test I had completed earlier in the week at work might hinder me from finishing. I continued on hoping that no muscles would strain. After passing the halfway point at the Fanny Bay wharf the bright morning sun broke over the tree tops of Denman Island to the east. I felt encouraged.
After Fanny Bay the route I was on turned inland through some hilly and forested areas. I kept telling myself to run the kilometer that I was in and not to worry about the many others that were ahead. Just as I came into the fourth aid station stop Olivia told me to get quickly get into the car. I thought she saw a cougar or a bear. She drove ahead to find a better spot for us to stop maybe 3/4 of a kilometer. Once we had stopped she explained to me that there was a strange person asleep at the side of the road where we had originally planned to have the stop. She didn't want to wake him/her. Due to this change I calculated that we should add an extra kilometer to the distance we had planned.
As you can see from the video below I was able to complete the 50 km World Vision Canada Charity Run with the support of my wife.

After completing the run we had lunch at Lefty's Restaurant in picturesque Qualicum Beach. They make a great bacon cheeseburger with a side order of fries. This is just what you need after pounding out 50 kms.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tzouhalem Mountain Trail race 2019

When I saw the heavy rain before the start of the Tzouhalem Mountain Trail race I wondered if I would be able to complete it under my 2 hour goal time. Due to the rain we huddled under banquet tents set up on the large front lawn of Providence Farm until the very last minutes before the start count down was made. We were off, kicking up mud, trying to avoid puddles in the dirt road that led up to the trail head. Tzouhalem Mountain was shrouded in mist. I couldn't see the heights we were to ascend. The first four kilometers were mostly climbing and scrambling at certain places where the rain had washed over bare, rocky, slippery, outcrops. As it was well into fall, many leaves were on the ground. This made it hard to see the pink directional flags once we got to the summit and were following single track. The four runners I followed went off course about 800 meters when the lead runner lost sight of the pink flag markers. When I had to back track I thought my goal time was an impossibility. When it got tough I thought of a Bible verse I had read earlier that day, Psalm 18:33 "He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and leads me on the heights." I whispered it in a prayer under my breath.

We pressed on, coming to some trails near a cliff edge where we could look out to the valley below. By the time we had reached the summit the mist had cleared enough that we were able to gaze down. I stopped to take a couple of photos. After 7 kilometers the trail started into a series of steep descents. I had to be careful at some because of the trail conditions with the mud and puddles. I didn't fall even once though thanks to my stable Altra Olympus 3.0 trail running shoes. I picked up speed and was able to pass some people during my descent. I checked my watch at the 9 kilometer mark and saw that I was within range of reaching my goal time. 1:50 was looking like a possibility. I stayed focused and pushed down the quad trail switchbacks that led back to Providence Farm. I felt good. The finish came into sight after passing back through the barnyard. I didn't care about stepping in puddles anymore.
I finished in 1:48 better than my goal time. I heard chatter a few seconds later that a pack of runners was right behind me and 15 of them had taken a wrong turn on the summit and had done an extra loop. A light rain was still falling and there was a chill in the air as we waited for the rest of the runners to finish while eating soft tacos and drinking coffee.
RACE RESULTS

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Training for the MT Tzouhalem mountain trail run

I had the last two weeks of August free so I took a short overnight camping trip to the Cowichan region of Vancouver Island, where Mount Tzouhalem is located. I arrived in Duncan just after the sun had risen. I had a map of the trail system with the racecourse marked out but had a hard time finding my way as the course wasn’t marked. I had a few false starts finding the right dirt road, and almost ran through a horse paddock at Providence Farms. The horses were glad to see me. I was surprised.

I finally found the start area and got onto the dirt road that led to the trail head of Mt Tzouhalem. After the first switchbacks that are wide enough for a quad wheeler to access, it becomes mostly single track, technical, with rocks, roots, and fallen trees to navigate. With 500 meters of vertical the slog to the first summit has a lot of long steep sections that can only be power hiked. I went off course and ended up on the summit of the cross trail, which offered me some amazing early morning views. I found the single-track trail beyond this wasn’t marked well. I’m sure race day they’ll have it tagged with ribbons. There were too many forks in the trail with no directional arrows. After an-hour and forty-five minutes I decided to head back to Providence Farm so I wouldn’t get lost.

As I returned to my car I had put in almost a three-hour training run, and had had a good taste of the trail conditions for the up-coming MT Tzouhalem trail run, part of the Vancouver Island trail running series. I would say, as a mountain running trail race it’ll be tougher than the Cumby 25, but not as punishing as the Kusam Klimb. As I was soaking my feet in the Lake Cowichan back at the beech where I was camping I found that I had lost a toenail during the run. Later that evening I comforted myself over the loss as I refueled with a meal of fried chicken and chips and a milkshake at the fifties diner in Cowichan village.

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.