28 September 2015

race report - scanlon creek "Run For The Trails" 7k

the caution tape got me again.

earlier this spring at the Sulphur Springs 50k i wound up running about an extra kilometre because i zigged when i should have zagged, having missed the fact that a caution tape barrier had fallen to the ground.  this time the tape was tied up nice and tightly ... only it barricaded off the trail that should have been the home stretch of the race and led to me take a detour that had doing the hokey-pokey ("and you turn yourself around, that's what it's all about").

i'd wanted to participate in the 2014 edition of this race because it was the inaugural event and because my friend kate stewart was on the event organizing committee.  as a 7k trail race hosted by the friends of scanlon creek in support of a project to build an accessible trail at the scanlon creek conservation area it would fit in nicely to a 'normal' saturday workout, but last year i was out of town on race weekend - but not this time around!  even with pacing duties at the county marathon coming up in a week's time i made it a priority to participate in the second annual competition.

registration was taken care of easily enough online, and i waited until race day to pick up my kit - which included the most AMAZING goody bag including various energy bars and snacks, the race t-shirt, toothbrushes, cups, heat/ice packs, an emergency whistle, teas, vitamin drink mixes, all in a reusable fabric tote bag ... seriously, i would figure that the swag included outdid just about any other race of any other size/distance that i'd been to.  it was as heavy as a full bag of groceries and provided full value (if not more) for the $40 registration fee.

this race kit bag definitely had some heft to it!

as the pick-up took place between 8:00-8:30am, that gave me about 90 minutes before the start of my race.  the 1k and 3k races would start at 1/2 hour intervals beginning at 9:00am, so after a quick visit with my friends robin brunet, rhonda-marie avery, steven parke and amanda parlett (from MEC, who was staffing an aid station) i headed out with the intention of scouting out the entire 7k course.  my initial observation was that it was incredibly easy to follow given the number of orange surveyor's flags and regular fluorescent spray paint markers on the ground identifying just about every stump, root or rock that could potentially cause a stumble.

taking mental notes along the way, i observed that the course was fairly undulating with only short-ish stretches of flats - and the most significant section climb began with a log staircase.

it got real interesting when i was closing in on the 6k mark - looking at the time i was wanting/needing to wrap up this warm-up run in the next 5-6 min. but when i continued to follow the route i found myself doubling back on a section that i'd already run.  confused, i did a 180° and busted it across a caution tape barricade to a trail that i knew would take me back to the start/finish area (which i could tell just by following the sound of the music being played over the announcement speakers).  arriving at the pavilion where everyone was gathering i spotted my friend kate and thanked her for her work in putting together the event - and when she asked what i thought of the trails i quickly mentioned my bout of disorientation and she reassured me that flags would need to be shifted for the 7k runners and that between the signs and the on-course marshals we wouldn't have any issue whatsoever navigating the route.

the race
as we gathered in the chute the MC noted that anyone capable of a 20 minute 5k should make their way to the front of the pack, which i did.  looking back i'm not sure it was the best decision because at the gun there were about five of us who took off like we were shot out of a cannon.  yes it was a slight downhill but when i looked at my watch after about 400m the pace was a smooth 3:23/km - way too fast for my own good.  even with the prospect of blowing up by the time that i'd hit the 4k or 5k mark i stuck with the lead pack of three so that i could avoid being jammed in when the trail went single-track.

[ photo courtesy of jim craigmyle ]

over the first 5k i was only passed by one other runner - the guy who would eventually take third place overall.  he zipped past me once my launch thrusters fizzled out (at about 1.5k) but i managed to stay within about 100-150m of him until about the 5.5k mark.  that's when we went every which way but loose ...

remember how i'd gotten misdirected during my scouting warm-up?  same thing happened during the race - except that since there were course marshals helping to usher runners across the access roads i stopped to check in with them when i encountered them for the second time.  of the three (volunteer) marshals that i spoke to each one kept telling me that i needed to carry on in the same direction that i'd been traveling, even though i knew that a third loop would bring me back to the exact same spot.  in fact, between re-running this section and turning right around and running against the flow of traffic i passed the official photographer four times (although i'm sure he did have any interest in photographing my backside).  it wasn't until i acquiesced to their direction pointing that i got to a split in the trail where a caution tape barrier was clearly blocking one path, but when i paid close attention i could see the surveyor's flags running down that path as well as the other fork.  with nothing left to lose (i could no longer see mr. third-place and had already started passing people who had started in the middle section of the chute) i squeezed past the end of the tape barrier and followed the 'road less traveled'.  about 150m down this path there it was:  a sign reading "Scanlon Creek Run For The Trails - 6k".  i'd found my way onto the correct section of trail and was headed for the finish.

when the trail finally spit me out at the finish line straightaway i crossed behind people i had not ever seen ahead of me.  looking at my watch, i did the math and figured out that i'd run 7.9k, and noted that for the timekeepers at the finish line clock.  as i stood explaining to them the puppy tail-chasing that i did and the misadventure with the caution tape, mr. third-place came up to me and said "where did you go?"  i discovered that he and the first and second-place finishers each ran about 5.8k because they did not re-do the loop over and over to find the correct trail but instead cut across an open area to the finishing straightaway.  while i was a bit bummed to not have place properly in terms of the finishing order it was consolation to know that it wasn't just me who couldn't follow directions. :)

all in all it was a gorgeous day (temperature was about 11°C to start the morning, 16°C at the finish of the race) and the trails were in amazing shape.  there was an awesome spread of post-race snacks, including homemade banana loaf!  i couldn't stick around for the whack of draw prizes that they had available, but did connect again with kate who sought me out to specifically apologize for the confusion on-course and asked me if i was fairly certain that i'd finished in fourth spot.  i thanked her and let her know that it really didn't matter - it was such an enjoyable outing for a fantastic cause, and i got my workout in.

 from l-to-r:  robin, me, something protruding from my ear, rhonda-marie

kudos to the friends of scanlon creek for all of their work - not just for organizing this race but for their efforts in preserving this natural forest/marshland and providing people of all abilities the opportunity to enjoy it.  i definitely hope to get back out in 2016 for another go at the Run For The Trails 7k - this time it's personal! :)

[ photo courtesy of jim craigmyle ]

race gear for the 2015 run for the trails 7k:


25 September 2015

road review: Skechers GORun 4 and GORun Ride 4

it's been a while since i've reviewed any shoes, but these two definitely deserve some long-awaited attention.

after being underwhelmed by the GOMeb Speed 3 i backed off on some of my expectations for the other '2015 gen' shoes from my friends at Skechers Performance Division.  my impressions didn't initially change when i unboxed and tried on the latest iteration of the cornerstone GORun shoe, the GORun 4.  it felt flat (what happened to my beloved M-Strike midfoot rocker?!?), a bit clunky and well-removed from the speedy feel of the GORun 3 to which i've shown much love on the roads.

alas, i'm not too proud of a person to recant.

having persevered in including the GORun 4s in my shoe rotation, i'm now happy to say that they are a staple in my key-workout arsenal.  although they still feel flatter to me and the fact that i perceive some additional stiffness to the outsole thanks to the 'power pillar' configuration under the arch area, they've managed to produce the kind of 'pop' that does seem to translate into a quicker turnover and stride.

to pick them up they feel like a light and fast shoe as well.  the official line on them is that they weigh in at 7.8 oz for a men's size 9, but my good ol' starfrit kitchen scale puts them in at just about the same weight for my men's size 10.

 i'm surprised that these aren't floating above the scale

plus i love the colours - they just scream "lookout, comin' through!"

the neat little feature that probably draws the most attention on these shoes is the Quick-Fit portal located up by the heel tab area.  it's a basic cut-out that allows for a quick-and-easy yanking on of the shoe by looping your finger through the gap - the initial impression is that it facilitates a quicker transition for all of those triathlete-types who want to minimize the time spent going from bike-to-run, but honestly it just feels cool to do it anytime that you're donning the shoe.  it's well-constructed so there's no fear of ripping that sucker straight off and it seems to keep that tab area soft so there's no abrasion issues on the achilles (even for a guy with a honkin' huge achilles tendon repair scar).

now for a quick word on the GR4's sister shoe - the GORun Ride 4.

the "Ride" series from Skechers Performance has proven to be an incredibly versatile and excellent shoe.  again, my initial thoughts before trying out the GORun Ride 3 was that these shoes would be a bit 'plush' for my liking.  they looked bulkier and had enough stack height to make me think that this line was targeting the 'easy-going' runner. 

boy, was i wrong.

this model is essentially the if-i-only-had-one-pair-to-take-with-me running shoe.  it's light enough (at a listed 8.4 oz in men's 9s) to enable rapid turnover for tempo runs and intervals and it provides sufficient cushioning for long runs (i've tested it to 27 miles at a time).  i'm also crazy about the fact that the GRR4s incorporate a super-breathable upper material (which feels like it is a close cousin to the FitKnit tech used in other Skechers shoes) that is soft to the touch and extremely comfortable as it conforms nicely with every footstrike.

so pretty and soft!

the Quick-Fit portal is also present on the GRR4 - and while i'm not sure that this presents itself as the same kind of sell-feature as it does on the GR4 (just because it doesn't seem to me to be a racing shoe) it's still adds a cool factor and helps with sliding into the shoe.

 don't they just tempt you to stick a finger in there ...?

even looking at the tongue padding can differentiate the plushness


after all's said and done i'm happy to give both the GR4 and the GRR4 a solid 4.5 footprints on the rendezvoo scale.

and if you are inclined to watch me fumble a camera and two pairs of shoes at once (!) check out the video review here:

*** disclaimer:  i was provided with the GORun 4 and GORun Ride 4 by Skechers Performance Division (Canada) but was not obligated to provide a positive review.  all opinions - however poorly expressed - are my own.

17 September 2015

race report - 2015 MEC Barrie Race Four (#family5k)

this was probably the funnest race ever.

(yep, i used that word).

not because it's been a while since i've entered a 5k.  not because there were a ton of the Barrie Running Ninjas out for this MEC Barrie Race Four all sporting their custom-designed, available-only-through-MEC-Barrie's-group-run t-shirts.

it's because i finally got my birthday present from my kids. 

when i was asked back in june what i wanted for my birthday, i told my girls that i would love for them to run this 5k race in september with me.  three of them immediately agreed, while my oldest knew right off the bat that she wouldn't be up for it (and instead bought me a big bag of twizzlers).  so with that commitment in place we embarked on a semi-regular schedule of 'family run nights' through the summer in order to prepare.  the kids had already had some experience with running/race-training through our local chapter of the Girls On The Run programme but would not be considered 'active' runners ... and while my wife runs from time-to-time on the treadmill she rarely ventures out onto the streets of barrie unless coerced by her nutjob husband.

A photo posted by patrick voo (@pbfvoo) on

despite the long-range forecast calling for rain it turned out to be near ideal 'racing' conditions (overcast and about 14°C with little wind).  granted it was a bit on the brisk side for standing around, but certainly would not make dehydration a high risk factor for the day.

allyson, the girls and i arrived about an hour before gun time for our distance (the 15k race would start at 9am, followed by the 10k race at 9:10am and then our 5k), providing us ample time to get our timing chips and hobnob with various familiar faces (well, at least to me).  it was actually surprising to me how many people i knew there that morning, and i felt like i was constantly making introductions to my heretofore snuffleupagus-like family.

with the staggered starts i was able to see off a bunch of my friends and cheer them on as they embarked on their respective race journeys.  while this was great, it did mean that my family and i were left trying to figure out ways to keep warm until our starter's pistol fired.  amelie (our second oldest daughter) thought that the best way to do that was to down as many of the complimentary taste of nature organic bars as possible.

the race
having completed our lunge matrix stretches we were sent on our way on a short stretch of packed gravel before hitting the roads just on the south side of orillia by the lake.  although i thought that amelie and allyson would be taking it nice and slow together while i paced an eager charlotte, it quickly turned out that those energy bars (or maybe just that race atmosphere) had amelie going out at a brisk pace.  i realized then and there that i would be looping forward and backward on the course to spend time encouraging each of my ladies as they pounded the pavement for 5k.  no one had any specific goals in mind (at least not that i was told about beforehand) so i was just out there to try to help them each have the best experience that they could.

here's a mini-breakdown of how each voo racer fared:

amelie - our natural-born athlete succumbed to every racer's temptation of going out too hard at the beginning.  she seemed to be overtaking numerous fellow competitors using her shorter, compact, high-turnover legs but did wind up walking good stretches of the course (as she knew that she would).  still she would lead the voo pack throughout and in the final 500m huffed and puffed her way up the incline.  i was concerned at one point that she was looking like her asthma was going to kick in (as i paced her through to the finish over the last 1.5k or so), but she gritted it out with the prospect of more 'energy bars' to devour after crossing the finish line.

charlotte - who had been eager to train with me just about every time that i offered and showed signs of being in strong competition shape wound up finding the 5k more of a stuggle than she had anticipated.  her long and lean 9-year old frame still served her well although she had to back off of the pace that she had carried through many of our training runs ... it could well have been that she was overheating a bit as she made the last-second decision to wear her hoodie for the run.  still, she finished strong in the final stretch - and as a bonus we discovered that the pickiest of our eaters (who has to this point shown the ability to subsist on ramen noodles, french fries and yorkshire puddings) enjoys CLIF bars.  who knew?!?

allyson - my wife would call herself almost exclusively a treadmill runner, so dealing with breezy, cool conditions on an undulating route was challenge enough.  but ally played it smart - from the get-go she determined to find a 'manageable' pace that she thought that she would be able to keep up for the entirety of the 5k distance, and to her credit she took fewer walk breaks than did our daughters.  it was certainly a test of endurance for her, made a little more enjoyable when she connected in with a group of other ladies who seemed to be running at close to her pace.  apparently during their banter it came up that she was running this as a birthday gift for me - to which they responded with some wit "then next year you should ask your husband to take you on a trip to cuba for your birthday".  i dunno ... i got ally into the race on a complimentary registration ... cuba sounds a whole lot pricier (not that she isn't worth it!).  in any case, we crossed the finish line together (after our daughters) at which point she revealed that she'd hit her goal of completing the event in under 45 minutes.  success!

everybody seemed to be in fine shape after crossing the timing mats - ally spent a little extra time with a cool-down walk, while i found the girls raiding the refreshment tent like it was going out of style. ally would also fill me in later that charlotte had said to her that after she'd finished the race she felt 'proud of herself'. big win there!

as well it was great to check in with the Ninjas to see how they'd done ... there were numerous happy faces to be sure, and great results to boot.  it really is such an awesome feeling to be in with a league of such happy and dedicated runners - they are without a doubt like another family to me.

so i got to double-dip on family time!

[ photos courtesy of chris hillis ]


02 September 2015

gear review - CW-X Stabilyx Ventilator Compression Shorts

this year i was again selected as a winner in the team running free lottery, and my prize was a credit toward CW-X compression wear.  i was excited about this as i'd wanted to check out a pair of compression running shorts for a while (after watching dathan ritzenhein race the 2012 us olympic marathon trials and seeing rob krar race numerous events in the same type of shorts) as perhaps a go-between for weather where tights/capris were too warm and (split) shorts might be just a bit brisk.  as i reviewed the options available to me - and read the various reviews associated with the different models - i settled on the stabilyx ventilator shorts as the shorts were generally reported to feel quite warm while running and i knew that i would really only be wearing them through the summer training season.

on the plus side
  • quality - have you ever purchased any stretchy garments that just seem to be cheaply made and ready to rip at an inopportune moment's notice?  yeah, well this CW-X product isn't one of them.  the stitching is strong, the material has got a great hand to it and is definitely durable (having survived my beat-it-up washing machine numerous times thus far).
  • breathability - the perforated front panels of the ventilator style do a decent job of not making it feel like all of the heat and perspiration is trapped against my upper thighs.  after giving it possible consideration as my shorts of choice for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler i wound up going with my Skechers Performance split shorts because of the projected temps for that race - but for just about any other race or summer conditions i think that these are just fine.

  • sizing - the CW-X size chart situates me (5'8", 137 lbs.) as a men's small and this turned out to be a perfect fit for me.

on the something-left-to-be-desired side
  • storage - this was another decisive factor for me in terms of not choosing the ventilator for the 50-miler.  there's just a single small key pocket sewn into the inside waistband ... i was mildly concerned about the rubbing/chafing effect that it might have over the course of an ultra, and the fact that the pocket doesn't even have a top flap made me wonder whether or not i might lose the key into the bushes should i need to make a quick trailside pitstop.  i tend to prefer shorts with an external zippered pocket (even if only key-sized) which is what my split shorts afforded me.
  • reflectivity - while there is some lime-green coloured piping on these shorts there is very little in the way of reflective accents.  some might find such detailing gaudy but for pre-dawn road workout fiends like myself they would have been a nice safety addition.
  • support - don't get me wrong here - i think that there is definitely a science to the design of the compression panels incorporated into the stabilyx ventilator (although i'm still not entirely convinced of the compression effect of any apparel items).  it's just that, well, for a single-layered below-the-waist garment i had some concerns about the degree of comfort and concealment of certain body parts - and it appears that i'm not alone in trying to settle the issue on this.  after a few runs testing out the shorts as they arrived off the production line, i decided to add an additional front panel to the groin area similar to what can be found in swimming jammer tights.  it was a basic cut-out from an old lycra rashguard top that i had from my surfing days so as to keep the level of breathability and general feel the same.  this minor alteration has helped me feel a bit more discrete as well as helping to keep things in place.

here's the video version of this report for your viewing pleasure:

if you like running in compression wear (whether shorts, capris, full pants or tops - CW-X produces all of them) then these are definitely worth checking out!