Exploits of a Mid-Packer

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Updated: 46 min 53 sec ago

Product Review - Asics Lite-Show Tights

11 December, 2013 - 20:13

As the Pacific Northwest has gone from unseasonably warm and mild to being in the midst of freezing temperatures, snow and freezing drizzle, I decided to invest in some proper full-length running tights.
Historically, Asics has fit me quite well so I purchased a pair of their Lite-Show tights. The great thing about these, and a big deciding factor, is that all the stitching is reflective. According to Asics, it reflects light straight back to it's source, so regardless of which direction a car may be coming from, it will see you (or at least, your tights!). Given the high incidence of collisions with runners and cars, this is really important for me, especially during the dark winter months. I went out for a run the other night and my friends said I lit up like a Christmas tree!
The sizing is in line with the rest of their products. These particular tights use Stretch-Tech fabric and sit nicely on the body. Asics use elastic grip material at the ankles, so they stay put and don't ride up. The fabric is soft and smooth, and the flatlock seams reduce chafing. The material is warm, but breathable and moisture-wicking, so it doesn't collect sweat and cause you to get chilled. I've been perfectly comfortable wearing these when the mercury drops below zero. They would also be appropriate to wear for cross-country or downhill skiing.
My one suggestion would be to have a larger, zippered pocket to stash keys or gels. There is a small pocket hidden in the waistband, but there is no zipper, which always makes me worry when storing keys or other important items. 

Scouting the Howe Sound Crest Trail

28 October, 2013 - 22:23
I've been wanted to run or hike the Howe Sound Crest Trail for many years now. It's at the top of my local bucket list. I'd been hoping to cross it off this summer; but didn't want to compromise my newly-healed stress fracture. So instead, a couple running friends and I had toyed around with the idea of scouting the route; doing the first few peaks to get an idea of the terrain and how great a challenge the whole trail would be. Today our scouting trip finally came to fruition.
And what a day it was!
The Lions
Francine, Cam and I started at 9am from Cypress. We found our route and were pleasantly surprised that the first 3km of the trail had been recently reconstructed and was very runnable. So groomed and wide you could probably take an off-road wheelchair on it in fact! On our return trip we met some Park Rangers who informed us that eventually the improved trail would extend all the way to the top of Saint Marks. Our glee was overtaken by grunts as the trail turned into the rocky, root-filled remaining 2.5km ascent of Saint Marks. Saint Marks is the first mountain you 'bag' along the Howe Sound Crest Trail and is a relatively popular day hike. We were quite surprised to actually make the ascent a little over an hour after we'd started. Humm, we thought, this is going rather well! The view over Howe Sound was incredible; not a cloud in the sky after almost 2 weeks of fog. The sun was warm on our backs and the air was crisp. We had timed things right. I pointed out the various islands to Cam and Francine and sent a hello to my mom, who had always wanted to hike the Lions, but won't be able to cross that particular item off her bucket list.
Looking over Howe Sound. Bowyer Island in the foreground, Bowen
Island to the left, Gambier to the right, Keats Island and then the Sunshine
Coast in the background. Stunning!Taking in the view
(Photo Credit: Cam Eldred)Proof! Francine & I at the top of Saint Marks
(Photo Credit: Cam Eldred)We'd summited Saint Marks faster than anticipated, so we carried on towards Mt. Unnecessary. As we descended Saint Marks to the saddle, I commented that hey, the trail really wasn't as rugged as I'd been lead to believe. Well, I spoke to soon. A signpost warned us that the maintained trail was about to end. And it did; fallen trees lay helter skelter and the singletrack trail became more overgrown and less developed. That said, it was passable and there were ample trail markers, but it was certainly a hike and not a run. There was a little false summit on the way, that I was certain was the South Peak, but according to our Park Rangers was just a false summit of Mt Unnecessary. We took some time here enjoying the view, taking some photos, and snacking.Why do yoga in a studio?
(Photo Credit: Francine Hong)Not too shabby a view!
(Photo Credit: Cam Eldred)We continued on upwards for a stretch until we made it to the South Peak. Like I said, this was a bit of a surprise as I'd thought it was the North Peak.
Francine & Cam trekking up to the South Peak of Mt Unnecessary
With the Lions in the background
(Photo Credit: Cam Eldred)Even though we'd gotten the 'money shot' we were looking for I didn't want to turn around before summiting the North Peak of Mt Unnecessary as well. I'd been joking all morning that we would end up doing the whole HSCT, well, maybe not, but I at least wanted to finished first third. So we carried on, down the South Peak to the col, or saddle. This section had a small rock face section with a rope and a minor ledge to navigate. No problem for us, but I wouldn't want to tackle it on a slick, wet day. The North Peak was a mere 20 minutes away. And at 1542m, the highest point on the HSCT as long as you don't actually summit the West Lion.Trail markers were plentiful but this particular sign was rather weather-beaten!

Does it get any better than this?
What a fantastic day! It was a 4.5 hour run trip for us (not including photo and food breaks) and I'm just thrilled to have gotten as far as we did, even if it was 'the easy section'! Next year I am crossing the whole HSCT off my list and I sure hope to have as nice a day and as great company to do it with!

Run for the Toad - 2013

17 October, 2013 - 21:31
Well, once again Race Directors George and Peggy Sarson put on one hell of a race. No detail was too minute and no idea or request impossible; the Run for the Toad is an event that gets better every year. If you're looking for a well-organized race it really doesn't get any better than this.
Ryne and I arrived in Toronto on the thursday and drove straight to Pinehurst Conservation Area to visit with George and Peggy before the race chaos began. The next afternoon was spent at the park as well. Ryne, who was the elite athlete coordinator and co-MC this year, hosted a press conference interviewing the elites and introducing the RD's and park officials. We met up with old friends and met new ones over lunch. There was a gang from the UK as well as a couple groups of guys from Ohio and Maryland. We all chatted and introduced ourselves. After lunch I took Stacie Carrigan on a run through the last half of the course.
The Royal Highland Fusiliers Pipe & Drum Band of CanadaRace morning dawned early as Ryne was out of the hotel to get ready for a full day of officiating. I took my time getting ready, eating breakfast and putting on my race kit. I was sleepy, but alert. I'd spent the previous evening visualizing the course with me on it. I felt prepared. Stacie and I drove to the park with Stacey & Dave Cleveland, friends from back home who were also running the race.
"Tent City" was packed with over 1000 runners, volunteers and crowd supporters. We lined up for the Opening Ceremonies and watched as the Royal Highland Fusiliers marched in. They proceeded to play various songs as well as the national anthem as the Canadian and American flags were raised and a moment of silence honoured for our military personnel. It was a really moving and personal touch.
The 50km runners lined up. We shared some jittery banter and there were calls of 'good luck' all around, and then we were off.
The race start
(Photo Credit: Ryne Melcher)
I always go out like a shot before I settle into my stride. It was fun going out with the leaders and then watching as they peeled away. Dave Riddle, Verelle Wyatt and Tom Cornwaithe, all new friends were off to the races. I cheered Glen Redpath on as he went past and then Scott Myers snuck up behind me to say hello. "The Stacey's" were off as well. It was a fun and social atmosphere. It took me awhile to find a rhythm--almost a full 12.5km lap in fact. However, I did manage to run the lap in 1:07:12, well under the 1:10-1:12/lap I'd allotted myself. The course was in amazing shape, all the leaves and rocks raked away and noticeable trail maintenance from last time I was there in 2011. The rains that had been falling the previous day were holding off and it was a relatively nice autumn morning.
The 25km runners had caught up during the second lap and I saw Josh and Di from the UK roaring through like freight trains in the lead. I felt fine on the second lap, but slowed by about 7 minutes. When I came into the start/finish I knew I would have to really kick it up a notch to get my time goal, but I also felt the tiredness in my legs creeping up on me. Running just over 63km at the fixed time race two weeks before was not working in my favour.
At the top of Skeleton Hill
(Photo Credit: Ryder Photography)
The third lap was my slowest; the toughest slog and I walked some of the hills that are so constant. I really had forgotten how incessantly rolling the course is. It's hard to prepare yourself for constant up, down, up, down for 50km when you come from a terrain that is a long slog up and then a long slog down. But I kept on trucking. I was enjoying the course and the scenery. The neat thing was that as I started my third lap, Verelle was leading his way into the final lap. I saw him just flying along the course like a gazelle, nevermind the fact he was almost 40km into it. Then I saw Dave Riddle go by and cheered him on. I knew Ryne had some beer bets on this match-up!
View from the course
(Photo Credit: Mark Godale)
This race didn't go badly, it just wasn't great either. I made it through the fourth and final lap faster than the third despite tired, achy legs and some knee and hip niggles from the 7-hour race two weeks prior. I finished in 5:10:53 and 14th female. Not the top ten, 4:45 finish I'd be dreaming of, but not terrible either. It just gives me more reason to go back next year!
I took a dip in Kettle Lake after the race. I did the duathlon :) 
I had a blast and so enjoyed the family reunion-like vibe at the race and throughout the weekend. It was exciting being able to race and watch a bit of the race as well as there are a few places in the course where you can see runners farther along. A huge congrats to Stacie Carrigan and Stacey Cleveland who took 1st and 3rd, respectively. Congrats too to all the men, too many to name.
My finisher's medal is solid and beautiful; another sign of the quality of the race. The post-race meal was delicious and George even went around handing out toad-shaped chocolates. At the awards ceremony he must have had about 50 toad toques as draw prizes along with other goodies and swag. The volunteers were great; so cheerful and supportive. Aid was never an issue. A MASSIVE kudos and thank you to George and Peggy who pour their hearts and souls into this race, with all the proceeds going back to Pinehurst Conservation Area. It is a true labour of love and they make it look easy.

-Montrail Bajadas
-Asics 2-in-1 shorts
-Columbia Freeze Degree short sleeve
-Moving Comfort "Charity" sports bra
-Injini toe socks

Sri Chinmoy 7-hour

23 September, 2013 - 22:24
"Try to be a runner, and try all the time to surpass and go beyond all that is bothering you and standing in your way. 
Be a real runner so that ignorance, limitation and imperfection will all drop far behind you in the race." 
-Sri Chinmoy

I can honestly say yesterday's race was a first for me; my first fixed-time running race. Not only that, it wasn't a standard time of 6, 12 or 24 hours. Rather, it was 7 hours. 7 hours to see who could run the farthest. This was the Sri Chinmoy 7-hour Self Transcendence Run.
We drove down primarily because Ryne had been wanting to do this race for a while. He'd raced many of the fixed-time races put on by the Sri Chinmoy's back in Ontario and was looking forward to trying the race genre again. I was just tagging along. My training programme had me down for a 40km long run. Okay, I thought, I'd run 40 km and then tack on an extra 10 km to make it a true ultra. "Well, you have to keep running if you're winning" posited Ryne. Yeah right, I humoured him with a smile. 
We had spent the night in Everett and drove to the race start at Magnuson Park, Seattle for the sleep-in time of 8am. Checked in, tied our shoes, fastened our bibs and we were ready. A cozy crew of 23 people lined up for the start and, after a minute of silent meditation, we were off to the blow of a conch shell. 
Not having been to a fixed-time event I took off as per usual, like a shot. I ran quite speedily for the first 10km before settling into an ever-slowing rhythm. The loop, thankfully, was 'long' at 2.4km. Some fixed-timed races are held around a 400m track which I would find mind-numbing. Normally I hate looped courses, but for whatever reason this one went by fast enough. 
The loop had a straight stretch leading into the start/finish on a grass field beside Lake Washington, before a short straight section on a paved path. From here you ran onto a crushed gravel walkway and did a little lollipop loop around a small hill. Back along the gravel path and onto the straightaway stretch of a track. Off the track and through a fun little rolling doubletrack in the woods and blackberry brambles. Down a short little hill and onto a road for about 200m before ducking into "Fin City"; a collection of submarine fins jutting out of the grass. That's it. Over and over and over and over and over and over again.

The course - before the rains came!
(Photo Credit: Yatkara Aleksapolskyy)
I lead the race from the start, feeling good but certainly not intending to run, let alone race the full 7 hours. The course was just long enough that I could fit in roughly 4 laps an hour, at least to begin with. I felt great until I hit the half-marathon mark about 2 hours in. Then I hit a bit of a mental rough patch and thought "Good lord, 5 more hours? Why couldn't this be a 6-hour race? Then I'd already be a third of the way through!" But I knew I had to stick it our for at least the 40km. 
Coming through the start/finish and aid station was great. The Sri Chinmoy volunteers were so cheerful and happy. Every time I came through all I heard was "Go Kristin, Go!" and "Wow! Lap 8!" and "You're leading, except for Ryne, you're behind Ryne", to which I replied "I'm always behind Ryne". 
It began to rain about 3.5 hours in. Then it began to squall out. Pouring rain and a headwind every time I came into the start-finish area. My eyes stung from the salty sweat streaming down my face. I got drenched, but while I noticed every other runner changed into a jacket and a hat, I kept on chugging in my shorts and now-soaked long sleeve.

The rainclouds rolling in...
(Photo Credit: Yatkara Aleksapolskyy)
40km came and went and under the 4 hour mark, which I was happy with. Still logging sub 1-hr for 10km. 50km in just over 5 hours. At this point I knew I'd lapped all the women at least once and thought I'd lapped them all twice. Ryne's words came back to haunt me "If you're winning, you can't quit". Darn. 
So I kept running. My body started to ache; my knees and hips began to groan, so I designated walk breaks. I walked the little lollipop hill and the hill in the forest. I stopped more frequently at the aid station to eat watermelon and guzzle some electrolyte fluid. I changed into a dry shirt and a jacket. This provided me more relief than I thought it would; the simple act of being warm made me immeasurably happy. 
The other racers were great. I saw about half of them every loop and the other half I barely saw at all. There were two ladies Janice and Jackie, who told me I looked like I was "exploding". "Exploding??" "No, you look like you are floating!" they laughed. A physics and chemistry teacher named James commented on my running stride, saying I looked biomechanically efficient. He chuckled when I told him I worked in biomechanics. I met an lovely gentleman who told me how he'd run all across all the lower 48 states, decided that wasn't enough, and then ran from Winnipeg to Vancouver. Clearly I was out of my league!Intensity
(Photo Credit: Yatkara Aleksapolskyy)
I picked up Ryne on loop 21. He had been a lap ahead of me, but a seized calf slowed him to a walk. He began jogging with me though once we met up. It was quite helpful really. With his numbers brain, he explained how fixed-time races worked; that I didn't have to actually run for 7 hours, but I just needed to run the most. He thought it would take 25 laps to win, 26 to be safe. At this point we'd just finished lap 23. Okay, I steeled myself, "I can handle three more laps, but that's it". So we chugged along. At 6:45 I finished lap 26 and stopped. The sun was started to poke her head out and the wind picked up to gale-force. We cheered in the rest of the runners. Jackie and Janice who had a goal of run/walking 30miles and nailed it. Rupasi, the woman just behind me, finished her 25th lap. It was a great community feel. The conch blew and the clock stopped. 
We got changed and had an great vegetarian post-race meal. As we were sitting there trying not to get blown away, freshly baked pies and door prizes were given out. Then came the awards. Everyone got a finisher's medal and the top 3 in each age group got a trophy. Awards were presented by the racer's travelling or running companion. It was, as I say, a wonderful community feel. 
I was presented with my finisher's medal and a trophy for winning the race. 63.2km in 7hours. It was great and the best part is, now, the day after, I don't feel like I was run over by a truck! Who knows, maybe these fixed-time races are my thing!

Ryne and I with my awards
(Photo Credit: Yatkara Aleksapolskyy)
All smiles
(Photo Credit: Yatkara Aleksapolskyy)