30 August 2019

Are trail running shoes overrated?

I can hardly believe that I'm actually writing this entry.

For as far as I can remember (since I started running) I've been a believer in specialization.  That means that if you want to run fast, you need to run fast (as well as running slow in between workouts).  To prep for hot weather racing, you should ... run in hot weather.  For trail races, practice getting out on trail conditions of all kinds.

And different types of running should call for different types of shoes.  Racing flats.  Track spikes.  Cushioned road shoes (for easy/recovery days).  Trail shoes for trails.

But hold the phone ...

Out of (perhaps an overinflated) sense of obligation**, I decided to try out wearing the Reebok Forever Floatride Energy (FFE) as my footwear of choice for both the Sunburn Solstice Trail Run and the Limberlost Challenge.  The FFE shoes are designed for the road, whereas both of the aforementioned races were conducted on trail surfaces.  Now I know that anyone who has tackled either of those events would recognize that they are not particularly technical as far as trail conditions (on a scale of 1-10 the Sunburn Solstice might have been a 4 or 5, while the Limberlost Challenge might nab a 6 or 7 at most) so perhaps you could argue that they don't particularly demand the advantages that trail shoes offer.  All the same they are marketed as trail races, and as such would lead your average runner (such as myself) to believe that trail shoes are either mandatory or at least recommended for the course surface.

How did I manage in attempting to take on these races in road shoes?

Long story short, surprisingly well.

I didn't feel like I suffered much in the way of traction or stability, which I was surprised about given their fairly flat outsole profile.  I may not have propelled my way up inclines effortlessly, but then again anything of a serious grade had me power-hiking (hands-on-knees style) anyway.  Where things got technical-ish I was maneuvering slowly and deliberately anyhow, and through sections of significant mud I'm not sure that the traction currently offered to me by the trail shoes in my inventory (the Skechers GO Trail, GO Ultra Trail 3 and Merrell Mix Master 2) would have made a discernible difference.

The Reebok Forever Floatride Energy - only ever-so-slightly nubby outsoles

Basically since I wasn't doing any mountain climbing or fell running (and that's not running while falling - that I've got covered) these road shoes were more than capable of getting me between points A and B, and multiple times over as required.  I found my footing to be acceptably stable, and the FFEs provided plenty of comfort for hour upon hour of trail tromping.

With this in mind I plan on using the FFE as my primary treads when I take on the Hallucination 100 miler next Friday just outside of Hell, Michigan (for real folks).  I'll bring some trail shoes as backups since I've been advised that having extra shoes on hand is always wise for a hundie, but armed with the knowledge that I was able to get through 100km in the FFE blister-free (and retaining the original colour in all my toenails I might add) who knows whether or not I'll need to perform a mid-race swap.

Does that mean that I'm giving up on trail shoes?

Nope.  

I think that trail shoes will still be handy just for the fact that they'll give my road shoes a rest and they may stimulate my feet and legs in a slightly different manner.  That and my trail shoes are my go-tos for winter running traction.

Anyone else have further thoughts or comments on the necessity of trail shoes?  Hit me up in the comments - I'm always open to learning as I bumble and fumble my way stride after stride!

** I received a complimentary pair of the Forever Floatride Energy directly from Reebok Canada, and am under no obligation (contractual or otherwise) to endorse their products on this blog.  All opinions expressed - however poorly - are voluntary and entirely my own.
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03 July 2019

The Sunburn Solstice Trail Run (Full) - race report

Yes sir, the definition of insanity is indeed doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result ...

That was the kind of feeling that I had during this race.

I'd signed up to compete in the inaugural edition of Happy Trails Racing's "The Sunburn Solstice Trail Run" in the hopes of attacking it as a training run in advance of the planned 100-mile attempt later on this September.  I thought that both in terms of time on my feet (as the event was scheduled to cover the entire period between sunrise and sunset - 15h23m - on June 22, the longest day of the summer) and projected distance this would be a solid test of my physical fitness and mental fortitude.

Admittedly I did come into the race with my stores still somewhat depleted - not to make excuses or diminish my effort (or anyone else's for that matter), but I know that having participated in a 50 miler, a 300+ km relay and a 10km push-chair event in the month leading up to it that I'd done a delicate, or perhaps not-so-delicate dance with the overtraining monster.  Still I'd scaled back significantly in the mid-June weeks to try to rest up and not be a ticking time-bomb standing at the start line.

One of the other very cool things about this event was that the Happy Trails Racing (HTR) team structured this race as a fundraiser for Camp Marydale's "One-to-One" program.  As we were running on the trails of Camp Marydale it seemed fitting to give back to them, and the "One-to-One" program is intended to help provide resources so that kids with exceptional needs could be given the opportunity to experience summer camp just like their peers.  I decided to put some energy into this as a way of leveraging my running for the benefit of others, but also (just being honest here) because HTR offered to refund entry fees for anyone bringing in more than $200 in donations.

Gotta say that I was blown away by the support of friends both newer and older, far and near who responded to my call for support - they all helped me to surpass my individual goal of $500, and the event's overall goal of raising $4000.


Highlights

1.  The Happy Trails Racing team - this was my first time participating in an HTR event although I'd known of Jeff (Rowthorn) and Heather (Borsellino) and always heard amazing things about them.  A number of my friends have also been ambassadors for HTR and spoke highly of the great vibe at their races as well as about the high degree of excellence with which they are executed.  The Sunburn Solstice Trail Run certainly delivered on all counts, from an amazing race kit including sunglasses, a metal whistle and a white pine sapling to the start/finish aid station which was fully staffed and fully stocked (e.g. protein balls, M&Ms, veggie dogs, pickles, grilled cheese sandwiches, watermelon, oh my!).  The course was super-clearly marked, the photog was all over the course (thanks to the irrepressible Sue Sitki Photography) and the venue pretty much ideal.  Can't think of a negative thing to say about the day from the organizational perspective!

2.  So many amazing new friends made - While there were all sorts of familiar faces that I was so pleased to have bumped into (K, Sandi, Tyler, Steve, Spencer, Rebecca, April and Melanie to name a few) it was also a tremendous privilege to have shared the course with a whole bunch of new-to-me friends.  From starting the day with Anna (choosing to celebrate her 21st anniversary with her husband at the race), Coffee (yup, that's his name!) and Reza (the eventual full-solstice winner) to meeting Jason (hiking the whole day with a 50-lb. rucksack), Brian, Jeff, Sheila, Craig, Mary, Renate, James, David and Julius (who helped drag my butt through the entire day), they were the ones who helped me to maintain a smile across the miles.
https://www.facebook.com/happytrailsracing/photos/a.152829215364340/348851589095434/?type=3&permPage=1

3.  The weather - It was a totally suitable day for an outing called "The Sunburn Solstice" as the conditions included almost full sun with temperatures peaking at around 25°C and only light breezes - a pretty glorious environment all in all.

4.  The course - Despite it being 'only' a 4km loop, there was sufficient variation in terrain to keep things interesting - from a short paved pathway to grassy tracks to, dusty trails to short wooden bridge crossings, and one hairpin turn in a parking lot around a small monument.  The mud was almost negligible (woo hoo!) with only a short 4 ft. patch that actually threatened to encompass shoes.

5.  No tripping or blisters - I'd elected to go full Reebok-kit on the day, including wearing the Floatride Forever Energy on my feet.  Even with road shoes I managed to not stumble or fall, and my feet held up well with no hot spots, rubbing or soreness.  #feelthefloatride !

Lowlights
Alas, it can't all be fun and games ...

1.  Poor fueling - Even though I'd loaded up my handheld with a GU electrolyte drink mix and stored an extra bottle's worth plus a tub of drink mix powder in my cooler at the start/finish pavilion area I somehow managed to neglect to consume enough calories through the first half of the day.  By the time that I hit 42km (around 10:30 am) I was STARVING!!  I'd been up since 2:00 am and really not had much to eat until that point, only sipping on my bottle maybe a handful of times ... so I decided to take a full-blown lunch break at the conclusion of that loop (maybe 20 min.) and downed some grilled cheese sandwiches, several pickles, some coke and a few cupcakes.  I had to then spend the next 30 min. or so just walking the course so that I gave myself sufficient time to digest, and then started up running once more.  And you know what?  After eating I felt like a million bucks!  -1000 points for not having a smart race-fueling strategy.

2.  The heat - Despite my best efforts to dump water on my head regularly, take salt tabs and stay hydrated I think that I fell victim to a moderate form of heat stress.  The course was about 50-60% canopied so it wasn't like we were constantly baked in the sun, but somewhere around 80km into the race my gut was feeling off ... like, waaaayyyy off.  After departing the start/finish aid station at 88km I almost immediately threw up in the grass beside the paved pathway leading into the woods - I then recovered enough to walk/jog for another km before repeating my oh-so-lovely display of wretching.  This continued for the pretty much the last 12km of my day, and thankfully I managed to not compound my situation by becoming seriously dehydrated.  I'm glad that none of the photos captured these moments for posterity.

3.  Only 100km - As ridiculous as it sounds, this was the minimum threshold of what I'd hoped to accomplish on this day, even considering that (a) I'd never run this long or (b) I'd never run this far in one session.  Plus I barely made to this point.  I limped away from the day seriously thinking that I need to bail on the Hallucination 100 miler because there'd be no way that I could pack in another 60km.  However, after a short and slow 8km recovery run the next morning I was back to my ridiculously deluded self and am still planning on making the trip to Hell, Michigan in September.

Lessons Learned
1.  Eat, man, eat! - I've gotta get better at pounding down the necessary calories, especially early in a race.

2.  Walk more - Again this is something that I need to do before I need to do it.

3.  Pacers and crew can make a difference - I'm grateful to Spencer (whom I first met a couple of years ago while pacing at The County Marathon) who jumped in to keep me going at around the halfway point when I just wasn't feeling it anymore.  And there were folks like Anna and Sandi and Julius who lifted my spirits just when things were looking bleak ... in these distances running is definitely a team sport.

4.  Even my hurt can be someone else's hope - The HTR team was gracious enough to recognize me as one of their "Wolf Patch" recipients, stating that "The Wolf Patch is for the runner who exhibits a 'pack mentality' by showing an abundance of compassion and camaraderie on the course to the other runners, staff, and volunteers."  I'm not sure how I was even considered for this as most of my race was focused on trying to keep myself upright and moving forward, but there must have been something in my grimacing and muttering that was perceived as helpful to my fellow competitors.

- - - - - - -

I'll definitely have to add another HTR event to my calendar sometime soon, if even just to be blessed by the amazing energy of the folks who are a part of this tribe!

Next up is another attempt at redemption at The Limberlost Challenge 56k this Saturday - let's see if I'm actually any wiser (if not better) this time around!






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07 June 2019

All about kills and blisters: Ragnar Relay Niagara race report

There's nothing quite like living in a van down by the river. :)

Unless it's spending two days in a van with five people you'd never met and trying to plot out how you're going to run 300+ km together.

That was the task that lay before us at this past weekend's Ragnar Relay Niagara as one of two teams sponsored by Reebok Canada.  The first team was a 'corporate team', comprised of 12 employees of Adidas-Reebok, and our team was an 'ultra' team where none of us was officially employed by Reebok (although one of our members is an officially sponsored Reebok athlete).  I had the honour of being recruited to the ultra team by my friend Martyna, and even though I had no practical concerns of covering the distance that would be allocated to me (a total of 49.6km) I was legitimately worried that I would be completely outclassed by my fellow ultra-mates.  I'm happy to say that throughout our time on the road together the last thing that I felt was out of place, and that's entirely to the credit of my generous and incredibly encouraging new friends.


R to L:  Sara, Elisa, Jeph, Filsan, photobomber, Mandy

The overall schedule had our team beginning with the 8:30am wave on Friday May 31 from Legion Fields in Cobourg, Ontario.  We met initially at the Reebok Canada offices in Woodbridge and then loaded our van and traveled in teams to the start line - once there we were treated to a 10-minute 'safety essentials' video (including guidelines about obeying traffic laws and not pooping on people's lawns) and then it was just about waiting to see our first runner (Filsan) embark on the first leg of the journey.  To be fair since we were an 'ultra' team she would be taking on the first two legs of the journey - we had coordinated in advance to split each person's allotment of miles into three double-leg segments instead of six single-legs, thinking that this would provide us with more of an opportunity to get into a decent rhythm as well as not having to play 'race the racer' to the next exchange point (especially since the shortest leg was something like 3km, and watching vans depart from that exchange to get to the next one was akin to watching an episode of The Amazing Race).

Rather than provide a detailed blow-by-blow of the entire 300km run let me provide some highlights from the three segments that I took on, along with some other notable observations and moments ...


Legs 9 & 10 I received the snap-bracelet (in place of a baton) hand-off from a speedy Elisa at the Canlan Ice Sports complex in Oshawa at just before 4pm on Friday.  I tried to offer the team a guesstimate of when I might finish up my 15.4kms, but honestly having just come off of the Sulphur Springs 50 miler not a week before and having twisted my left ankle nicely just two nights before on the trails I wasn't confident about presenting anything that looked like a run effort.  I offered up "1:15 if I'm feeling good, probably more like 1:20-1:25, and less than 1:15 if I run stupid" - and this is what the team had to work off of in terms of timing their arrival at C4 Church in Ajax (exchange point #10).

The legs were officially given the ratings of "easy" (leg 9) and "hard" (leg 10), but from what I could tell the only quality that differentiated the two was that leg 10 had about a kilometre-long stretch that wound its way through a wooded park on dirt trail.  Some of the other legs that were ranked "hard" or "very hard" had significant elevation gains, but for the most part I found that the rating scale had more to do with how much of a clear, safe path runners had underfoot.

I should also note here the "kill" factor - I learned that when you passed a runner on any given leg that was counted as a "kill", and you tallied the number of kills you accumulated and marked them on the side of your team van (along with all sorts of other expressive decor).  Of course the competitor in me found this to be motivating, so the kill count was an important part of each leg.

It was within the first kilometre of leg 9 that I logged my first kill ... and then before completing km 2 I tracked another runner down.  2 kills in 2 km.  "Hmmm" I thought ... I wonder if I could keep this ratio up - and so it went that kilometre after kilometre I was able to catch up to at least one other runner.  By the time that I hit 15km on my Epson RunSense 810 I'd racked up a kill count of 15, and was shoulder-to-shoulder with another runner.

400m to go on a straightaway section of path, with the exchange point in sight.

We each started to pick up the pace.

We each saw one another's raise.

By the time that we had less than 80m to go we were full-out sprinting ... and I was grateful that I'd chosen to wear to the Floatride Run Fast Pro, as the quicker the pace got the more responsive it was.  In the end I managed to edge out my fellow Ragnarian by the slimmest of margins, only to look around and note that my team was not there for the bracelet hand-off.

I had run faster than I said I would, and arrived too early.

Apparently the team joked that I would finish in and around 1:10, but I came in closer to 1:08 ... and my friend Jeph (who had the next legs) was still in the port-a-potty.  After a bit of a mad scramble to try to locate him I was able to complete the exchange and he took off like a rocket.

Distance:  15.7k / Time:  1:07:49 / Shoes:  Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro

Legs 21 & 22
I managed to get next-to-no sleep in advance of my next turn which came at around 12:15am on Saturday - I am grateful to Mandy (the most incredibly positive and enthusiastic person ever, by the way!!) who offered to drive to the exchange point so as to afford me just a bit of shuteye even if it was only in the form of a power-nap.  By the time that it came for me to meet Elisa after her 20km stretch I was the only one not snoozing the night away.

I knew that I was feeling pretty depleted from residual fatigue and the fact that I'd been on the go since 4:00am Friday, so I wasn't sure what kind of pace I would keep over the next 17.3km.  Being that the streets were pretty lonely on the border between Mississauga and Oakville at that hour I just tried to keep some kind of mental focus by eyeballing the next runner ahead of me.  This was made somewhat easier by virtue of the fact that in addition to wearing a headlamp and a reflective vest it was mandatory for each of the nighttime runners to wear a taillight of some kind.

It was pretty surreal plodding through the nearly-deserted streets of the city, being passed by the occasional vehicle (usually a Ragnar team van) and the odd (in more ways than one) pedestrian.  In total I managed to accumulate 17 legitimate kills ... my original count was 23, but then Jeph pointed out to me that at night a number of runners often have a teammate pace them just for safety/company.  After all was said and done I was pleased that I'd managed to keep a respectable pace for this part of my load and felt somewhat refreshed (and ready to drive again) by the time that I handed off to Jeph at exchange point 22.

Distance:  17.3k / Time:  1:25:11 / Shoes:  Reebok Floatride Forever Energy

Legs 33 & 34
This was a challenge from even before I received the bracelet - en route to exchange point 32 we took an unintended circuitous route to hit a Starbucks and that wound up adding some time to our van commute.  Our concerns about making it to the exchange in time to meet up with Elisa were compounded exponentially when we arrived at an open drawbridge at the first lock of the Welland Canal ... needless to say there was no option for vehicles (or runners for that matter) around it and we were held up at least an extra 7-8 minutes awaiting six pleasure-craft to make their way across.



After the exchange finally happened (yes, we left Elisa hanging as she made it there first ...) I tried to once again settle into a manageable 'predatorial' pace.  I gathered that everyone was beginning to feel the weariness of event but there were definitely more than a few folks who were looking fresher than others, and my best guess is that they were probably 12-person team runners who had perhaps snatched a half-decent rest through the night.  While I managed to tally 12 kills I was also passed twice - once in the first leg by a runner who said he'd been hunting me down for about 6km, and once in the second leg by a runner whom I had passed but then managed to pick up speed and overtake me back.

It may have been that my legs were beginning to fail me, or the slowly rising humidity on the day but I could definitely sense my entry into pain cave territory.  The last 4km of the final leg were downright nasty and I imagined that I looked something like a lumbering ent from "The Return of the King".

In my head I kept thinking "Jeph is fast, all I have to do is make it to the hand-off to Jeph" ... add to that the threat of being passed by any other runners and I managed to pick up the pace for the last kilometre to get to exchange point 34.

Distance:  16.8k / Time:  1:23:27 / Shoes: Reebok Floatride Run Fast

Last Stop:  Niagara Falls
I'm not sure that it's mandatory, but it's at least 'tradition' for each team to run the final 100m or so together to cross the finish line.  By now the day had been brought to a slow simmer with pretty close to full sun and temps in the mid-20s ... this left Jeph really toughing it out as the ultimate leg of the relay is essentially all uphill, but we found him and managed to put a bow on our first ever Ragnar Relay together in just over 28 hours.



I simply can't overstate what amazing people my teammates are - to a person I'm confident that we'd all say that we had a fabulous time together, cheering each other on and laughing about the blisters (yep, there were serious blisters - on everyone but me somehow - and even more serious laughter ... right, Sara?!?) that were accumulated over the course of 300+ km of pavement pounding.  Certainly there's something about the ethos of the running community that made this group click, but beyond that we had a kind of chemistry that you really can't orchestrate.  We legitimately started out as strangers and ended our journey as family - and that beats any medal-bling or bragging rights that would come our way.

So many thanks have to go out to:
  • Martyna, Cheyenne and the good people at Reebok Canada for providing us with this amazing opportunity and entrusting us to carry one of the banners for the presenting sponsor.  They took amazing care of us, providing for all of our needs from start to finish
  • Ben Flanagan (Canadian soil 5k record holder and Team Reebok athlete) for sending a hugely-inspiring send-off video to our teams
  • The organizers of the Ragnar Relay for a really well-marked course (coming from a guy who's taken more than a few wrong turns in races) even if there were no "1 mile-ish to go" signs
  • Mandy for suggesting last year that Reebok should consider entering an 'ultra' team, and for being our unwaveringly positive bright light even when half-asleep
  • Filsan for kicking us off in the perfect fashion and looking fashionable the whole way - no one else could have been as reliable, relentless and rock solid
  • Elisa for having that championship spirit and taking on the witching hour 20k section
  • Sara for bringing the heat, taking on the hills and creating the greatest gut-busting moment of the whole experience
  • Jeph for being 'car-dad #1' and showing us that poutine and pizza can turn into jet fuel
  • Our significant others and families for supporting us in crazy ventures like these.
The Reebok Ragnar Relay Niagara was unlike any other running event I'd participated in before - but if this experience was indicative of why there is a whole 'Ragnar culture' that exists (as evidenced by teams from New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin, and more) then I can wholeheartedly endorse this as something that every runner should consider trying at least once.

You just might come away from it with friends for life.

#bemorehuman #feelthefloatride #TeamReebok #RagnarRelay #mindoverblisters

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30 May 2019

Taking a thrashing at the 2019 Sulphur Springs Trail Run (50 mile race report)

I contemplated titling this post "Confessions of a Perpetual Overtrainer".

Whatever you want to call it, this year's edition of the Sulphur Springs Trail Run was nothing short of ridiculously awful.  Still, I lived to tell the tale, and would recommend it to anyone who'd care to give it a shot.

My second ultramarathon-distance race of the year turned out (yet again!) to be not just a test of endurance but an environmental challenge ... last month it was the snow and wind, and this time around it was the thunder, lightning, copious amounts of rain and subsequent pits of mud.  As my friend Tyler (who finished 3rd overall for the 50-mile distance) described it, the course offered up 1/3 of its trail as an experience of running through glue.  I would amend that and say that it was some devious combination of glue and Crisco.  Imagine combining an ultramarathon with mud-wrestling, and you'll understand how I (and about 1200 other people) spent our Saturday.


To be fair, I had a great first loop running with my friend Nick Wagner whom I hadn't seen since the 2016 EndurRUN.  Back in 2016 Nick hadn't yet run anything beyond a half-marathon in terms of distance, but now he was an experienced ultramarathoner with at least one 100k race under his belt.  I remember how strong a runner he was a few years ago, and he's only become fitter and more durable since then.  We had a great 25k or so chatting it up and busting along not-yet-damp footing until I got a pebble in my shoe and had to stop to extricate it - I insisted that he continue forward, and while I was able to keep him within visual distance after starting up again I was never able to catch back up.

It wasn't long after that that the monsoon rains hit in the midst of what may well have been a severe thunderstorm warning.  Of course this transformed the softer ground into tarpits, and while I was able to continue to stubbornly plug away it was at about 35k that I weebled-and-wobbled my way into a groin pull while trying to maintain my balance on one particularly greasy section.  I knew pretty quickly that this didn't bode well.


During the third loop my knees felt wrecked, my inner thighs overdone, and I was walking a significant portion of the loop.  I seriously wanted to pull the plug after 60k but told myself that if I did that then there'd be no way that I'd have any hope of making it through a 100-miler ... so I resolved that even if it meant walking through the entire final 20k I'd finish this race.  Two things helped me to see this resolution through:  (1) the spring roll at aid station #3 was an out-of-body experience at 53k, and (2) the thought that if I could get done by 6pm I'd have a hope of making it back in time for the game 6 tip-off between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks.

I have to say that having given myself that bit of margin was a real relief, and even though I saw many people passing me by (even the 50-mile winner lapped me with about 50 metres left to the start/finish line) I was content to just to try to pack the training miles in.  I approached each long tract of mud with trepidation as I was concerned about doing any kind of serious damage that might jeopardize the next couple months' worth of running and racing.  Plodding my way along I was also grateful to cross paths with Sherman Lam (a former Running Free teammate) at 73k - his positive attitude and trekking poles helped pace me through the next 5k or so, and I finally finished a shade over 11 hours.

Half-baked ramblings after hobbling my way to the car post-race

The long car ride home was made even longer by torrential rains that brought Hwy. 403 to a crawl between Hamilton and Oakville, so a 90 min. drive had an extra hour tacked on to that because of the weather.  So running or automobiling, the environmental conditions had my number that day.

I've now given myself a few days off of running this week to try to be ready to contribute to the Team Reebok effort at the Ragnar Relay - Niagara event starting tomorrow.  I'll be running as part of the 'ultra' team, so each of our 6 members will have 6 legs of the course to do (ballpark of about 50 km as the total distance from Cobourg to Niagara Falls is 306 km).  The only snag in this whole 'week of recovery' plan was going out last night for an easy trail run with the RunNinjas only to have turned my ankle for the first time all year leading to what quite possibly is a moderate strain of the extensor digitorum brevis muscle.  

Pain cave, once again here I come.
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24 May 2019

From PYP 2019 (50k) to Sulphur Springs 2019 (50 miler)

It's T-minus 20 hours until the start of my second-ever 50 mile race ... and boy, do I ever feel underpowered.

Just about a month ago I completed the first ultra on my race calendar for 2019, the Pick Your Poison Trail Run. There's so much to like about it - a hometown race, early enough in the year to keep you motivated for winter training, plenty of elevation changes, scenic trails and fabulous goodies (the jar of honey at packet pick-up and the pair of socks at the finish line) - but this year it proved to be a doozie of a day with wicked winds and snow greeting competitors first thing in the morning.

Feeling like I've pulled into the base camp for an ascent of Mt. Everest!
 
Yup ... I could just stay cozy inside the chalet all morning ...

Knowing that I was approaching this event as a 'training day' (with my long-term preparation for the Hallucination 100 mile run in view) I wanted to do my best to exercise restraint and hold a controlled and manageable pace throughout this run.  However, the formula of snowy trails + 375 runners equalled major mud + packed ice by the time that loops 3 and 4 (each loop being 12.5k) came around, so it felt more like a "how can I get through this uninjured" type of day.  All in all though it turned out to be quite survivable, even enjoyable given the company along the route, great encouragement from spectating crowds and unbelievable support from the folks who willingly braved the elements to staff the aid stations.  I was happy to walk away with a 6:09 finish time, and four reasonably even split times for each loop.

A quick post-event video rundown!

Now I get to stretch out my trail running legs a bit longer - the last time that I took on Sulphur Springs was four years ago for the 50k distance, so this will definitely be a tougher test distance-wise, compounded by the forecast of thunderstorms.


Got my gels, pizza, cupcakes and cinnamon buns packed - let's do this thing!
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