Saturday, October 13, 2018

Strike a Pose For Sherry Arnold

I ran for Sherry today. I printed the bib years ago when I first heard about Sherry’s abduction and murder. I ran for her but I never pinned the bib on or shared her story. I didn’t know Sherry but she was a runner like me and a Mom and her story spoke to me,
 “Why do bad things happen to good people like her?”
There are no good answers to those kinds of questions but they are still worth asking and reflecting upon.
Note my “Arnold” pose for Sherry Arnold. Her friends and family wanted her to be remembered for her “Courage, Strength, Grace”. That pose now represents those sentiments to me.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Tribute

I am publishing an alternate(example) version of a poem I wrote 
for my Mother-in-Law Fran Murphy.
I am saving the original version for the special spot. 
I have inserted parenthesis where you might consider changing 
and personalizing the poem.

A Tribute To

As you cherished your time here(this place)
And it's special( ) view;
Today another will sit( )
And contemplate it too.

Loved by thousands around,
You will forever remain,
The "Glorious Lady"
Of this ex-ample( ) refrain.
                                                        By Eliza Ralph-Murphy
                                                                                     copyrighted Oct. 12, 2018                         

Sunday, February 5, 2017

If Life Gives you Lemons...

A pair of swans "wintering" on the bank of the Rideau River. There was a flock of 100 birds.
 my original photo
A few of the many swans who chose to spend their winter in Kingston, Ontario. Why I wonder?

A hummingbird from an internet photo and a You Tube "How To" course:-)
 Another little hummingbird. He looks so proud:-)
A monarch. I enjoyed studying the finer details.

I took up painting recently. I began with acrylic but I think watercolours and I are a better fit.  Here are my first attempts at paining in watercolour. It will be quite the adventure and will take humility, perseverance and dedication. Reminds me of another hobby I use to practice and hoping to get back to real soon. Take care and remember if Life gives you lemons, reach out and call Lemon Aid:-)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Getting Lost at The Barkley Fall Classic 2015

But I didn’t get lost, I just followed some young bucks in the wrong direction for the heck of it. Pretty quickly I was sure we needed to head back to the correct trail but then they got ahead of me running very fast down the west side of Bird Mountain and I began to get worried they’d get lost. I figured I’d catch them, turn them around and try to make up time after that. But I didn’t catch them until they had stopped at the bottom of the mountain unsure of how to proceed. After professing that we needed to retrace our steps all the way back up they actually somehow convinced me that I was wrong. By then I really wanted them to be right(which they swore they were) because climbing that mountain again was too much to bear. I lead them for a few minutes and told them I was breaking cobwebs so we were definitely going the wrong way. They then concurred that they had been breaking them all of the way down too. OMG!! I immediately took them by the ears (wet as they were) and turned them around, showing them where we went wrong on the map and feeling pretty darn smug about my amazing map reading skills and how I had saved the youngins’ from a night in the woods and Laz a sleepless night of searching. And with that they were gone like two (insert witty simile here) and I was left alone with only my righteous smugness and withering pride for company at the bottom of Bird Mountain.


PS apparently the bucks made the first cutoff. I got there an hour too late so was courteously shown the exit.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Is this one of the Hardest Races in the World??

This past weekend I ran along side some brave athletes who were tackling the 100 mile event at's annual snowshoe races in Pittsfield, Vermont. Some quick approx. stats

Finish rates-
125 people in the 10km fun run, 1 loop with 100% finish rate

 125 people in the half marathon, 2 loops, 92 % finish rate

 66 people in the marathon, 4 loops, 58% finish rate

10 people in the 100 miler, 16 laps, 0% finish rate

100 mile race stats required to finish-
16 laps(10km or 6.5 miles x 16)
36 hour cut-off (average of 2 hours and 15 min per lap)
4 finishers on old course with 1200 gain/loss per loop
0 finishers on new course with 1900 gain/loss per loop

100% of course is snow
100% of course run on snowshoes

100 mile race profile-
This year's course  had approx.1900 feet of gain and loss per loop
Recent past years course had 1200 feet of gain and loss per loop
Original course had 1900 ft. of gain per loop
Profile(in metres) of one lap of the 2014 Peaks Races snowshoe course.
Approx. 1990 ft. total gain/loss per lap

Other Hardest Races in the World for comparison(I left the comparison for you to do)

Barkley Marathon's



race name??????

race name??????

So what do you think? Does this course really measure up to the BIG BOYS of Hardest Race in The World Fame?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Chasing the Cut-Off at the Peaks National Snowshoe Championship

"Would you like your medal now?", the young guy asked as he held out the finisher medal ready to place it over my head. "No, thanks" I replied for the 3rd time that day, "I'm going for another lap". "Oh?", the timer to the right of me exclaimed, "You'll have to be back before 6pm, can you do that?" she anxiously asked. "We're closin' up at six, absolutely no one can be on course after 6pm", Andy the RD interjected. "Can you BOOK IT?" he pointedly asked me, "You'll have to book it!". "Well, my watch died, what time is it?" I asked of them, "3:15", the timer replied. "So I have 2hours and 45min? No problem", I promised and ran off to replenish my bottles trying not to even think about if I had to pee or change clothes or do anything else because really I wasn't sure if I had the time to do anything else plus make in back in time for the cut-off.

"YOU'LL HAVE TO BOOK IT...BOOK IT...BOOK IT", was all that I could hear echoing in my head as I quickly ran the 50 ft or so from the start/finish to the base of the mountain where I began the arduous 1200 ft. climb to the summit. 2hours and 45min. seemed more then doable at that moment but I didn't know if my body would still be so agreeable to that after another climb up or if my mind would be sharp enough for that during another run down. So in a desperate move to convince myself that it was possible I began a mantra which I continued for the entire loop, "I can do it, I can do it, I can do it".

The unrunnable(for me anyways) incline went on for a good 1km at a 21percent grade it took me approx. 20 minutes. Then there were some switch backs with some short but runnable sections which I had always forced myself to run on my previous ascents. It was so easy to get stuck in the rhythm of hiking on the up parts that when you finally could run, if only for a short section, your legs just didn't seem to want to start up again. I wondered if it was even worth revving up the engine to only have to gear down again after a measly 40 or 30 or 20 ft. when the switchback would turn and begin to climb steeply again. But I chose to run each and every time if only for the sake of sticking to a plan that seemed to be working and would hopefully get me back to the finish before the cut-off of 6:00 pm.

I continued up the remaining 2 plus kms to the top(3km total) and was all alone as I entered an eerie section aptly named "The Labyrinth". Inside the trees grew so closely to one another that they blocked out most of the sunlight and the trail winded seemingly aimless back and forth, up and up. Once deep inside, the temperature dropped markedly from the lack of light and I got colder and colder and soon all I wanted to do was to get out as fast as possible where there might be some warmth to be gleaned from the cloud covered sun that awaited me on the other side. Once I was back into daylight I warmed up quickly and with a few more steep and now familiar climbs I was at the summit and a small stone house called "Shrek's Cabin". There was no one there to greet me this time and I began to feel abandoned when suddenly from behind me a fellow called to me as he practically fell out of the old wooden outhouse with a half moon hole on it asking if I was the last person on the course. "I think I am", I shouted back as he reached for his phone to call down to verify that fact and I imagined that after a long day on the summit he was probably ready to get back to a warmer and more comfortable setting. I found out later that I was indeed the last runner that they had let back on the course and that the RD had let me go as a sweep of sorts. I'd be able to verify to him that no other runners were out there and when I passed the volunteers on the summit it would be their cue to come down. I suppose he figured that once I was in that everyone would be in and that would mark the end of what had been a very long day and successful day.

I had made up my mind while climbing to the summit that I would have to throw caution to the wind and make up as much time as I could on the down side. I had to make sure to be back with time to spare as the last thing I wanted to happen was to finish a 4th lap and have it not count. On my first lap I ran down the 4kms to the bottom at what I would describe as "break neck speed", meaning that if I was to fall I might indeed break my neck or collar bone or an arm or my head, face etc., etc. After finishing that lap however I began to re-think all of the risky jumps and slides and stumbles I had survived and I become more cautious with each successive lap. I'd catch my snowshoe on a root or almost fall on my face or I'd fall on my back and think, "Wow that could have been a lot worse, maybe I should slow down". I also saw a lot of people take hard falls and tumbles and paying for it with broken snowshoes and painful impacts and after experiencing that over and over I began to put the brakes on during the more difficult descents more often as time wore on. However on this last lap it was as though my brake pads were completely worn and my accelerator was stuck to floor and I hit every short steep dip and every long slippery slope the course had to throw at me with complete abandon.

As I was about halfway down I noticed another runner below and a few switch backs ahead of me and I was quickly gaining on him. I hadn't seen anyone for a long time so it was nice to catch up to him and he fell in behind me. We made it to the base of the mountain where on previous years there was a bridge that would lead runners to the finish line. However this year there was no bridge so instead the course designer perhaps decided it would be fun(I use the word "fun" loosely) to send the runners back up the mountain for another 1.5km and an added 700 ft of gain before we would then come back down another 1.5km and to the finish area. It was at this part in every loop where I could "smell the barn" but it seemed to take just so darn long to get to it. Tim and I were not really sure how long it would take us to get to the finish and he calculated that we would be close time wise to beat the cut-off so I began the run back up the mountain...that's right, I said "run up" the mountain.

For the first time all day I decided to not only run the "runnable" stretches but to run the "unrunnables" also. I didn't need to save my gas anymore and was happy to run to the end on fumes if I had to. Needless to say I don't think that Tim was too thrilled with this new plan and suggested that "we should be fine" time wise but I could not take the chance and I kept pushing us up and up and just when I thought the ups were over we'd round a bend and there would be another up. "Oh when will it end?" I thought to myself...out loud. We began to pass people as we charged through "The Stairs" and the "Escalator" trails and it was not until we finally hit the downs that we knew we would be back in time. Only another 1.5km down, one more dicey sugary long slope, a few more switch backs and we could see the parking lot, then the outline of a wooden barn and then the cheers of some volunteers and Andy and the lovely Lady Timer who exclaimed, "You did it!...And faster then you said you would!" Finally, after 9 and a half hours I allowed the young guy with the out reached arms holding the finisher medal to place it around my neck. I had in deed "BOOKED IT", I had chased and beaten the cut-off, running the second fastest loop of my day with 30 plus minutes to spare.

Firstly, a HUGE thanks to my coach Derrick who's training plan got me to the starting line healthy and ready to run further, for longer and higher then I have ever done before or even dreamed possible. As I wrote to him after the race, "Without your training plan I would not have attempted it(the race) in the first place, I would not have had that thread of hope to hold onto in the middle of it and I would not have had that great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at the end of it."

Also EPIC thanks to the Peak Races organization, RD Andy Weinberg, course designer Matt Baatz and all of the great volunteers who spent the entire day waiting, cheering and making sure that everything and everyone was running as smoothly as possible. This was truly an "EPIC DAY" in every way!!!

Last but not least, thank-you to everyone who shared the mountain with me as we made our way through various portions of the course. Your amazing performances inspired me when your pace overtook mine , your encouraging words gave me hope when you stepped aside for me and when I fell your helping hands lifted me up in so many ways. (a very nice gentleman literally pulled me to my feet when I fell during my first descent. You were so kind. Thank-you so much).

A few facts-
The Race- Peaks National Snowshoe Championship - Marathon / Half Marathon and 10km
Where- Pittsfield Vermont
When- March 1st 2014
Loop Distances- 3 km up, 4 km down, 1.5 km up, 1.5km down (total approx. 10.2km)
Gain- 1900ft per loop(7600ft total according to Peaks)
Grade up- 21% for first 1km, then averaged 5% for next 2 km to the top with switch backs and climbs. Avg. total grade up was 10%
Grade down- -6 % for 2 km down, -14 % the next 1km down, then -5% for .5km, then up 7.5% for 1.5 km then down again 4% avg. for 2 km
Total time- 9:35
Lap times on course- 2:01, 2:25, 2:33, 2:15(approx. 9:15)
Time between loops- 3mins, 13minutes, 5minutes(approx. 20 minutes)
Place- 5th Women
Finish rate-50% women, 66% men
Temperature- -15C(morning) to -5C(mid day)
Nutrition/Hydration- 20 oz.(560 calories) of Vitargo, 20 oz. protein drink(100 calories) 1 block(300 calories) per loop(approx. 800-900 per 2 hour loop)
Snowshoes- Dion 121's
Lodgings- The Swiss Family Inn, Pittsfield, VT

A porta-potty closer to the start finish for those of us who don't like to make yellow snow art along the trail. A woman's tent to change wet clothes in between laps.

Pictures can be found here

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

5 years of the Dion Frontenac Park Snowshoe Race

The start of the 5th Annual Dion Frontenac Park Snowshoe Race
(can you spot me?)
I was very happy to attend the 5th annual running of the Dion Frontenac Park Snowshoe Race this past weekend.  There was a good amount of new snow fall leading into the weekend which made for a beautiful snow covered course on race day and with the temperature hovering around 3 or 4 degrees below freezing it turned out to be almost ideal conditions for this kind of event. Over 50 athletes showed up with their snowshoes in tow ready to tackle the trails which included a good variety of terrain to test their snowshoeing skills on.

The race began with a long, wide and rolling straightaway for the first 2km then made an abrupt left turn into the woods for some exciting single track action with lots of steep, short ups and downs including multiple bridge crossings and if you weren't already tired enough there was a good long climb as we made our way back towards to the finish of the 6.5 km lollypop loop course.

Thank-you very much to Derrick Spafford and Sara Montgomery, their family and all of the volunteers who help out every year to put on this and other awesome snowshoe races in the area.

Cool race swag included these Barefooter shoes which I won
in a tie breaking Rock, Paper, Scissor contest when
my "Rock" crushed my opponents "Scissors".
These shoes are very cool and I am already addicted to
wearing them around the house instead of slippers.

My 5 Years of Running the Frontenac Snowshoe Race in Pictures

2010 47:27

2011 47:37

2012 42:21
2013 44:14


2014 47:46

Photos by Evelyn Harding, Sara Montgomery and

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Run For the Toad…My first 50km Race Report

At the start with Bathrobe Guy behind me
“Hey you're DFL”, the bushy faced older gentleman sporting a colorful bathrobe called to me from the sidelines approx.100m passed the finish line where I had just completed my first 50km race. “D.F.L.”, I thought to myself. I had heard the acronym before, now how does that go? Oh ya, “Dead F#$%king Last”. Unfortunately as I unravelled the letter puzzle in my mind the words took control of my tongue and I blurted it out loud for anyone near to hear.  Luckily there were no children around and only a few post race stragglers along with the the oddly dressed man who appeared to have just stepped out of a shower. But I knew he wasn’t wearing that robe as a result of cleaning up after a hard 50km run. I had seen that eyesore of a wardrobe before, earlier today at the starting line and also a few months back at the Sri Chinmoy 6hr race in Kingston. The eccentric ultra runner, who’s name eludes me is somewhat of a staple fixture on the Ouser circuit (Ontario Ultra Series Events Races) and Ontario ultra scene and I was amused to have actually made it on to the cantankerous coot’s radar. “Well at least I didn’t “DNF” I called back jokingly, which I immediately wanted to take back just in case he himself had DNFd. I know there are all kinds of reasons why people don’t finish a race and I didn’t want to offend anyone especially someone with the chutzpah to don bathroom attire in a public venue. As I headed towards Aid Station 1 to retrieve my gear I could hear a friend of his tell him that shouldn’t have said that and then they both had a bit of a muffled laugh.

50km Race Start - Of 1250 athletes only 169 were in the 50km
I was doing that a lot today it seemed, hearing conversations going on regarding me not intended for my ears. Like back at the last couple of aids stations catching wind of the attendants radioing in my position and progress, “Runner 162 is heading into Station 2”, “Runner 162 has left Station 4”. Then there’s the time that keeps echoing in my head at the last road crossing, with 250m to go and only a short final stretch of forest remaining the volunteer radioed as I passed by, “Last runner heading home”. “LAST RUNNER”, “Did I just hear that?” I thought to myself, “Last runner?”, “Am I really the last one?” I have to admit that a few tears came to my eyes, my lower lip quivered and I am sure I was sporting the most pathetic sad face you have ever seen. “People must have dropped I thought to myself but still I’m last, Last!, LAST!!”. “It’s my first 50km and I’m LAST!”. “Who cares if I'm last” the one way conversation with myself continued, “I’m last and there are people waiting for me and I’m happy just to have finished and hey I beat the muscle cramping demons, I'm still running and never gave up hope”. “I deserve last, LAST is GOOD”. There were no cowbells leading me in this time around and as I approached the finish I guessed the rain had chased everyone home early. The cars were all gone and my spirits slumped a bit. There was one lonely paramedic huddled in her truck as I made my way towards the archway I had already passed under 4 times today. I raised my arms in victory and let out a little holler (hope that pictures turns out well) and a few officials and the photographer were waiting to greet me under a shelter with a few last cow bells to seal the deal. Still as they placed my finisher’s medal around my neck I held out hope that maybe just maybe there was another runner on course but I dared not ask. I just really didn’t want any confirmation at that point that I was indeed last during this final celebratory moment of a race that had begun 7 hours and 20 minutes earlier on a cloudy and humid day.

They had been calling for rain all week plus lightning to boot. It was a chilly fall morning when I poked my head out of my first floor motel room’s back sliding door. I was heading out for some early morning pre-race food and the rain was misty but nothing like what had been forecast. Unfortunately due to the weather predictions, my crew of my Mom and her two dogs had opted out of joining me at the race. I didn’t blame her for not wanting to sit around all day in the rain with two wet border collies. So after a bagel, eggs, banana and a coffee I headed off to the race with a cooler of premixed Vitargo in 5 water bottles, enough gels, blocks and salt tabs to fuel my race  and a couple changes of clothes and shoes in preparation for a long wet and stormy day in the Pinehurst Conservation Area. The line of cars heading into the park seemed endless and we weaved and snaked our way through the forested race venue until finally I was directed to park in some obscure field. I was impressed with the organization to it all and the volunteers did their best to stuff over 1200 athlete’s vehicles into every nook and cranny they could find. I made my way to the Start/Finish area and Aid Station #1 which was also the dropbag area for the 50km runners where I surveyed the land and met some of my fellow runners. We were all busily preparing, trying to figure out what to wear etc. when the bagpipes began to play signifying the beginning of the opening ceremonies. It all happened so fast after that. I was there listening to the music of the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada (RHFC) and they called for the 50km runners to line up where I found myself behind the arch I would be running through for a total of five times throughout the day. The course was made up of a 12.5 km loop which you ran 4 times for a total of 50km. The 50km runners lined up and started first, to be soon followed by the 25km runners and walkers. The gun went off and everyone began to move, I kept to the back and dropped off my raincoat at the aid station and upon my leaving realized that I was in fact in last place. The mob disappeared ahead of me and I fell in behind a few other slow moving brethren.

I don’t like to say that I wasn’t prepared for this race as that kind of talk only sounds like I’m making excuses. But I had been very ill for 2 weeks straight, not being able to run at all during weeks 13 and 14 of my 16 week training program and not being well enough to run a true long run since week 11. When I finally was able to run at the beginning of week 15 it then took me all of those 7 days to get my running legs back and culminated with a nice 10km run in the woods. It was then time to taper. It really didn’t make sense for me to do so but not knowing what else to do the week of a race I kept to the schedule and taper I did. Well we have all read the studies that say you don’t lose that much fitness in the course of a month's time so I figured I’d run the race and see just how accurate those accounts were.  My “A Plan” was to finish running, “B Plan” to finishing walking, “C Plan” to finish as many loops as possible without damaging my body. So finding myself at the back of a pack of many veteran and talented ultra runners including David Riddle, Cleve Thorson and Stacie Carrigan to name a few, didn’t worry me a bit, in fact it was comforting to know that I hadn’t gone out too fast and I felt ready to settle into my own rhythm and a comfortable pace. Unfortunately the muscle cramping demons in my legs had other ideas.

In the woods
OK I expected that I might have to deal with some muscle cramping issues sometime in the race, like on loop 2 or 3 or 4, but loop 1 at 6km, no way!! I still find it hard to believe that only 6km into the race my legs began to cramp up. From the bottom of my feet to the tops of my thighs, I had spasms upon spasms. It could not have been the distance, it could not have been the hills(I had walked almost all of them), it could not have been my fueling. I didn’t know why but all I could do was deal with it so from that point on, with 44 km in front of me to go I began the process of cramp management. Whatever it took to keep my legs from going into full spasm I did. Mostly that meant running with straighter legs and walking the hills, sometimes sideways so the shins were happy. It seemed that anytime one muscle was stretched the opposing muscle cramped so I couldn’t stretch or contract any muscle too much…for hour upon hour. It was a constant mental battle to figure out the rubrics cube like solution to keep my legs functioning. But lap after lap I succeeded and really from the waist up I was in as good of spirits as anyone in the middle of a 50km race could be. In some ways I was the lucky one because I wasn’t taxing my anaerobic system at all. My heart rate was steadily between 130 and 140, exactly where I would have wanted it to be with or without the cramps. So perhaps in a way the cramps forced me to slow down and may have actually saved my race.

 As I pulled into Aid Station 1 for the last time to refuel I noticed a gentleman a bit older then myself follow me in. “One more lap for me” I told him, “Me too he replied” and I was off. Funny thing but I suddenly realized that the muscle cramping demons had mysteriously disappeared as fast as they had arrived 6 hours earlier. I was moving freely and felt strong. “Dare I ?” I thought to myself, “Dare I push the last lap of a race distance I have never run before”. The furthest I had ever run was perhaps 28km and as I entered into lap 4 I had already surpassed that mark by10km. Well I went for it. I ran every hill in the early going. Finally I was able to put to use all of hill repeats and hilly tempos I had been running previous to getting sick. I did notice that my foot was hurting me, an old cuboid problem I haven’t felt since hiking the Cataraqui Trail pulling a sled this past winter. But I wasn’t going to let a foot ache slow me down. Heck it was probably the pain from the foot that had in fact caused the cramping to so suddenly stop. I do know that the body has a short attention span and that diversions like sour pickle juice or a pinched lip has been known to stop muscle spasms. I actually tried using that tactic earlier in the race by breaking my salt tab on my tongue every hour hoping for that very effect. But alas I do believe it was the foot that finally did the trick, but how long would it last. Well not that long.

The finish
 One particular quad, the right one was determined to keep on cramping which forced me to run or walk sideways up every hill but undeterred I kept moving forward, every sideways hill climb carrying me closer to the finish. BTW, that rain I mentioned earlier that was suppose to make the day so wet and miserable, well it finally hit halfway into the last lap. I laughed, I had to laugh, no rain was going to stop me, as long as I didn’t tumble down a slippery hill and hit my head that is. But I didn’t and I rolled through each aid station, hearing my number being called ahead to the finish line as they awaited my arrival and I thought about the guy who I assumed was behind me and how he was making out in the rain. “Last runner heading home”, is what he said, and I crossed the finish line, received my medal, was chided for being DFL from a cantankerous "bathrobe" guy and as I made my way to the drop bag area I fully expected it to be empty and deserted, but it wasn’t. Hey maybe I wasn't DFL after all I thought to myself. Just then Peggy, the race director came to check on the area and I pointed out 4 lonely bags to her to which she replied, “Yep, they're still out there”.

 As of now while I write this I still don’t know when or if the others made it in. I wish I could have stayed to wait for them but it was a long 4 hour drive home alone in the dark and rain with a pair of cranky legs to contend with. I wish I had stayed, they deserved that. So to whoever you are, congratulations on a great race and if you were the one to finish last then CHEERS TO YOU and your well earned title of DFL!!

Lap 1 1:48:05 avg. hb 136 bpm
Lap 2 1:51:13 avg. hb 137 bpm
Lap 3 1:54:26 avg. hb 135 bpm
Lap 4 1:47:50 avg. hb 143 bpm

 Of course I have to thank the RDs Peggy and George and all of the great volunteers who encouraged all of us runners and provided everything we could possibly need during the race. Kind words, drinks, food, a good laugh and endless clapping, cheering and cow belling. Also congratulations to all of the winners and finishers of this 12th Annual Run For the Toad event. See you all next year:-)

Update: Results are up and I was officially 143 out of of 147 finishers. Cheers to finisher 147 Peter Bromley. Way to get 'er done!! Although I lost my title of overall DFL to Peter it turns out that I was DFLF. I'll carry my title proudly(after a good tear up and lip quiver that is):-P
…hopefully some pics to follow :-)



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Is it possible?

Is it possible?

I was pessimistic, in an optimistic kind of way. I held on to the hope that I would feel up to running today but knew it probably wouldn’t work out that well. I hadn’t run in 2 ½ weeks and history tells me that I never have a good run the first day back after being off for injury, illness or race recovery. So I was hoping for the best but expecting the worst, i.e. runners knee symptoms that always pop up, shin tightness I’ve been plagued with for a year now and maybe even the muscle cramps which crept into my last run those 17 days before that finally clued me into the fact that I was sick…real sick. Not just stuffy nose above the shoulder you can run through sick. I had the sweats and unexplainable cramping of my quad muscles only a couple of kilometres into my run which had me turning home with the sinking feeling that I wouldn’t be back anytime soon.

“Maybe a week”, I thought to myself, 7 days of no running and resting would surely have me back on track ‘er trail, missing merely one week of a 14 week plan (which had already been modified from a 16 week plan). Even though the coming week was supposed to culminate with me running my first half marathon, as a training run mind you, I knew I’d have to give the “rest and recovery thing” a good effort or I’d risk letting this illness drag on even longer. I had already taken a half assed approach to getting over whatever it was, with taking 2 days off then trying to run, and taking another 3 days off before trying again and failing miserably.  I was only getting much worse and didn’t want to jeopardize my ability to take my place at the starting line at this year’s Run For The Toad 50km on October 5th. So 7 days off it would have to be. I’d probably have to miss the half but hey, if I was back to feeling good by the Saturday I might still be able to get it in and then get on with the next 3 weeks, and what important weeks they were to be.

Two of my biggest running weeks were ahead of me, an 84 km week followed by a 74, a 67 then a taper week before the BIG RACE. Two of those weeks would hold the biggest running totals I have ever done along with some hilly tempos and increasing hill repeats so I was still holding out hope that one OFF week to kick this illness wouldn’t be the end to my successful foray into the world of ultras. Well the week dragged by and I visited my doctor to get her opinion. It isn’t always easy to get in to see her and I luckily already had an appointment lined up to talk to her about my shin. It had been a year since she had diagnosed me with a stress fracture. The diagnosis was the impetus for me to begin hiking and in turn for deciding to back off of 5kms and try to get a good base of slower miles in my legs. For the most part this approach worked out well as it had always seemed that I would begin getting injured (foot, calf, knee) when speed was introduced to my training. Unfortunately though, the shin never seemed to be absolutely happy as it still had this constant omnipresent dull throbbing ache.

So there I was in the doctor’s office and she starts in with, “So I understand your shin is still bothering you”, to which I reply, “Forget about the shin doc, I have bigger problems these days”…or something to that effectJ So it turns out I had a temperature and together with the sweats, muscle cramps and aches she thought I probably had a nasty virus that was going around. She also ordered a round of blood tests to be sure it wasn’t something more chronic like anemia or a hypothyroidism. Well the rest of the week didn’t go well and I ended up skipping the half, and had only enough energy the next week to get up and go back to sleep a few hours later, every day, day after day. I have never felt like that before and all kinds of thoughts entered my head, let’s just say I was worried and not just for my race but my future health as well. I was very glad that I had taken time off to recover though because as it turned out I could have extended this thing a lot longer if I hadn’t headed the warning signs and tried to push through my workouts just to get the miles or time on legs in.

So here I am now, four days out from the race. Having missed 2 ½ key weeks of training I bring you back to my initial question, “Is it possible?” Can I actually run and finish a 50km race this Saturday? Well to fill you in further, the first run back which you’ll remember had me optimistically pessimistic lasted about 15 min before the knee started complaining, so I tried again a couple days later. I got a bit further each day, 40min, 50min then had a 90 min. run this past Sunday. Heading home from Sunday’s run in Gould Lake on the same stretch of trail where I first felt my shin pain last year, I couldn’t help but hope I’d make it back to my car running. I was also trying not to think about the muscle cramps that plagued my runs 3 weeks back that had put a sudden halt to my training and I had some time to reflect on what had made it all go so wrong. Had I pushed the pace on my back to backs? Heck, should I even have been running back to backs? Well I know my first mistake was throwing my coaching/training funds into the monthly expenses pot and going it alone or coachless for the first time in 4(?) years. But I saw it all as a learning experience and one I dove into head first and excitedly so if not with some trepidation.

I had pieced together a training schedule in a way only Dr. Frankenstein might appreciate. A part from this 50km plan I found on the race’s website, a piece from that marathon plan I googled, a tidbit from past plans, a crumb I picked from my former coach’s brain. I think I probably screwed things up when I  became so concerned with hitting weekly distance goals that I ran recovery runs for distance and not by how I was feeling and thinking back believe that many of them could have been reduced by half or more. In the past I ran 30, 40, 60min recovery runs but now was doing 13km recoveries which came in around 90 minutes. I even wrote a few times in my journal that it didn’t seem much like a “recovery run”. The week I began to fall apart and get sick I had to take two days off before my hills because I was just too darn tired. I had every intention of making up the days later in the week but my body had other ideas and put a stop to my hill repeats early, then rewarded me with horrible muscle cramps on the way home during which time I fell hard and scraped myself up on the trail. I really think that with the overtraining or overreaching as some like to call it, that I left myself vulnerable to whatever viruses were circulating at the time and I seemed to pick up a nasty one.

What I have learned is that viruses love to attack weakened, damaged cells and I probably had a big share of those due to overstressing my system. So once the virus takes up residency in these dying cells it begins to replicate itself. The more weakened cells you have the more viruses can move in and the longer it can take your immune system to fight them and clear them out. So what may have been a virus that most people can deal with in a week, my compromised system took 3 weeks to take care of. All I can say is thank goodness it is gone and lessoned learned.

An interesting side note for runners is that viruses actually help clear your body of all of those damaged cells we accumulate as a result of breaking down our muscles etc. during workouts. Our body is actually not that good at recognizing what cells have been damaged so the bad ones tend to sit around a long time before being replaced with strong healthy cells. However, viruses like colds and flus can detect those compromised cells quickly and when they do move in the body is alerted to the virus and the damaged cells and begins clearing them both out. Of course a cold or flu virus is pretty easy for our bodies to deal with if we are relatively healthy however sometimes a real nasty one can move in which can lead to one of many diseases. So if you are one to always come down with a cold before a race it is probably due to an accumulation of damaged cells from your training. This of course has me pondering how we can best use this knowledge so as to make sure we are healthy for race day. If I want to avoid a cold, obviously, not over reaching in my training is a no brainer but I might want to consider taking a week off now and again weeks before a race to let those damaged cells clear out of my system before a nasty virus moves in. Or if I can’t avoid the colds altogether, I could at least try to “schedule my colds” for earlier in training rather than later. One way to do this might be extend my training period and perhaps the tapers also. Now that I have a better handle on the damaged cell, virus connection it makes it easy to connect it to other dots such as making sure to boost  my immune system with what I put in to my body and to take adequate recovery no matter what the bloody schedule calls for.

As for the race I plan on starting very conservatively. I can only hope to finish at this point. I’ll have a small crew of 2 border collies and my Mom. I am running it as a long run…a very long, long run or perhaps just a good days hike:-) I really hope to be able to run more then I walk. I don't even know if there are cut-offs...let's hope not:-P
Map of Race Course



Monday, June 17, 2013

Sri Chinmoy 2013 - Race Summary after inadvertent delete:-( With Update:-)

 (photo credit Rhiannon Murphy)
Feeling good just before... 

(photo credit Sara Montgomery)
 ...the wheel(left wheel to be exact) fell off:-)

(photo credit Sara Montgomery)
Me and my very first sandbag heading out for my final partial lap.

OK I had a nice report all written up for my 6 hr. race and I accidently deleted it. I had inadvertently typed it into the caption portion of one of my pictures and when I deleted the picture everything below it was also deleted. Note: I have since had time to add a few unimportant facts and important past due thank-yous to the summary in bold.

So to summarize what I had written-

I went out "TOO FAST", well actually, "NOT SLOW ENOUGH". I learned there is a difference. Even though I had topped out with a 4 hour long run a few weeks before the race, I had been keeping my heart rate below 140bpm in training and in turn that meant usually walking the longer hills. I figured that because this was a flat course it would be faster and therefore I should be faster and hoped I would be able to get away with a bit higher heartbeat of 145ish for the duration. Wrong!! I think the one thing I failed to realize was that I had been walking during training so I had never really run more then 2hrs. non-stop and with the addition of the faster pace, higher hr and 100% pavement it was all too much for my left quad. I know it was my A-goal of reaching the 50km mark that drove me to blindly go where I had never been before but I found that I just couldn't let go of the idea of hitting that mark until it was too late.

My left quad started to pull on my knee cap after 2 hours and try as I might I eventually had to walk the remaining time. I could walk without pain but could not run but a few steps which was the most frustrating part as the rest of me wanted to run but we were being held back my one little party pooper:-(

I ran approx. the same distance in the first 2:15 hours that I walked in the last 3:45. I was at 19km at 2:15 hrs. and walked just over 18 km after that. I wasn't exactly power walking either, more like I was out for a nice brisk stroll. In the end I was not only the slowest runner but the walkers were passing me too. That is when I really began to appreciate just what great athletes all of these people were.

I learned that ultra runners are the most seasoned runners that I have ever come across anywhere. Most have run more ultras then I've run 5kms and some have run 10xs more and for some that is just this year. I bow to the endless hours and countless miles in their collective rock solid muscled legs:-)

I have recovered very well. I haven't run yet but the left quad was the only sore spot and then only going down stairs the next few days after. I'm going for my first run since the race tonight,(Monday 17th) wish me luck!

I would like to add that this event was organized and run to perfection by Hladini Wilson and a big thanks to her and all of the lap counting volunteers who were very encouraging including one particular French gentleman who spent the entire day trying to learn to pronounce my name with his thick accent. I had my own food and water so didn't sample the buffet but there was always something on the table for everyone(including my daughter to my dismay) throughout the day. The other runners were also very friendly and supportive and I highly recommend putting this event on your race card if you ever want to try this type of event in the future. The views of the lake were breathtaking and ever changing with the sail boaters and kayakers out enjoying the day as the racers winded their way around the point of the Royal Military College grounds and weaved in and out of the historic walls of Fort Frederick.

I also want to thank my crew of my daughter Rhiannon and my Mom Jane for being there for me for the 6 hours and managing my water, food, clothes and spirit. It turned out to be a cool, dampish windy day for the spectators although for the runners it was pretty perfect weather as long as you were able to keep up a good pace. I unfortunately was not, so I had to don my wind pants and another shirt to keep me warm in the latter stages of the race. Funny story but when I finally decided to get some warm clothes on I headed for my crew and there was my Mom, warm(and asleep) in the car, but who could blame her:-) Another cute story about my daughter has her seeing me slow down and beginning to walk when my knee started barking. Well this was embarrassing her and she called to me, "Don't walk Mom, RUN". So I'd start running again and this happened a few times. Then as the day progressed and I had been walking for a few hours and my crew had come to realize how sore my knee was but every now and again I would try to run and I'd hear a voice call to me, "Don't run Mom, WALK":-)

Lastly, MUCH thanks to my coach Derrick Spafford for preparing me for this race and every race before this and ultimately every other race/adventure I take on after this if he's still coaching me or not. If I had only listened to his(your) warning to keep my hr down around 135, I know I would have been able to run much longer. I was also surprised to see him(you) and Sara around the 4 hour mark of the race. I had already been walking for what seemed like weeks(2hours) and I knew I had some  explaining to do. Thanks to Sara for taking some pictures to commemorate the event. When I saw her(you) taking my picture it kinda felt like I was at some kind of Ultra graduation and they(you) were my proud Ultra parents...which believe me was weird:-P But really, they(you) have both been there from the beginning of my running career and I know they(you) understand better then anyone what that race was about and that it was only one of many more ultras that await me in my future.

Onward and upward:-)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Kingston Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 6-Hour Race 2013

"There is only one perfect road,
and that road is ahead of you,
always ahead of you."
~Sri Chinmoy

A runner at the 2012 Sri Chinmoy 6hr. Race with a view across
Lake Ontario of Kingston's Historic City Hall.
(all pictures courtesy of the race's official gallery)
A quick preview of the Kingston Self-Transcendence 6-Hour Race, 2013, which I will be participating in on June 8th.


The Kingston Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 6-Hour Race is run on an 880-metre paved loop along Lake Ontario and around the walls of Fort Frederick and the Royal Military College in historic Kingston, Ontario. I am really not sure why I was drawn to this race as my next challenge following my hike of The Cataraqui Trail, or the "CT" as it known amongst us hikers:) The race has been around since 1996 although very few people I know are aware of it, including, most "running people" I know.

The official lap counters from the 2012 edition of the race.

Runners on part of the 880 metre winding path.

Scanning through the past 16 years of results I could count on both of my hands the number of people who have hailed from the Kingston area. Despite there being a huge running population here and with the race being run practically on the training grounds of the Kingston Road Runners Association, for some reason it has not attracted the road, trail, tri or ultra crowds from the area. A few recognizable names from the ultra-community who are regular attendees of the event are, Laurie McGrath, who dominates this race every year she shows up and Helen Malmberg who is the RD of Canada's premier ultra, The Haliburton Forest 100.

A runner with the "Leader Board" in the background.

Perhaps one reason I am drawn to this event and am not as dismissive of it as others appear to be, is that I don't feel that I am any certain "kind" of runner. I don't feel affiliated with, or a lack of affiliation to, any particular type of racing be it road or trail, short or long. I guess I haven't been at any of them long enough to have tired of one over the other. The one thing about running on a looped course and is perhaps why these events are run in this manner is that I assume it becomes less about the "place" you are running in the longer you are at it.

Participants of the 2012 edition of the
Sri Chinmoy Self-transcendence 6-hour Race
Seeing as the course is so short and repetitive it wouldn't take long for every straight away, curve and dip in the road to become programmed into one's legs leaving your mind free to "transcend" the body, kind of like when you zone out while driving and can't remember how you got home. Sure it's possible to reach this state of mind on a longer road or trail course but with ever changing terrain you need a higher level of mental awareness then you would on these short looped courses. Anyhow it will be interesting to see how the race plays out for me and I am really looking forward to finishing up my training and for race day to arrive. Will I find a place in my mind to transcend to while my body pounds out each and every monotonous loop? Or will I be fully aware and living every moment of the race, the good and the bad? I guess I am looking forward to it either way.


"What gives life its value,
If not its constant cry,
For self-transcendence?"
~Sri Chinmoy


Friday, March 8, 2013

Picture Enhancement...Steroids for My Photos?

I thought I'd enhance some of my photos from my recent adventure on the Cataraqui Trail after viewing a bit of,  "Trail Porn"(I'm not sure how long the site has been around but you can submit pictures if  you think they have what it takes to be a "Porn Star"). It is amazing what a few adjustments of contrast, brightness, saturation, cropping, straightening/rotating etc. can do for a once drab photo. Not only is it fun but it almost makes me feel like I know what I'm doing :-)
Compare the originals with the digitally enhanced version. Like with steriods, the enhanced version may look better however they are in some cases nothing but a distorted reality. So what do you think? Is picture enhancement OK, or should I be banned for life?