Friday, November 4, 2011

A Great Day For A Run - The Innagural Scoob and Sonia Trail Half Marathon

A group shot before the run. Everybody present and accounted for
except the photographer/race director extraordinaire Scott (Scoob) S.,
Sherri and a couple of pups (Bella and Patsy)
(left to right: Ted, Sherry, Sonia, Perry, Dawn, Sue, Murray, Me, Doug and Blue right out front)

What do you have when you get a combination of triathletes (Ironman junkies), ultra marathoners and a barefoot runner together on a chilly late October afternoon in Riding Mountain National Park for a run? A crazy great time had by all of course, would you expect anything less.

It was a run organized by a fantastic couple from Dauphin, Scoob and Sonia who took it upon themselves to organize a half marathon / 10 km fun trail adventure for their friends. Not a easy task at the best of times, but Scoob and Sonia are not ordinary people. The both of them are avid triathletes who have competed in Ironman events across North America, and do so for the love of the sport and no other reason. Both are active in the community and will work tirelessly for a cause or a event they believe is worth while. I have known Scoob for not quite 2 years and Sonia for much less but I can say with much certainty that it is a honour to know them both and to consider them my friends. Enough said on this let us move on.

When Scoob mentioned a couple of months back that he and Sonia were planning to organize a 'little' event in Riding Mountain National Park for his friends, the first thing that popped into my head was, I'm all in. This was going to be a blast, because everything that Scoob gets involved in turns into a great time (case in point their wedding this summer). I also thought it would be a lot of fun to run the trails up there as well especially with it being late fall with all the colours and hidden surprises that usually occur on a trail run. I decided early that I was not going to miss it, and thanks to my wife making arrangements on Saturday, I was able to make my way up. It was interesting other than Scoob and Sonia, I knew no one else who was going to be there. Sure I met a couple of the others at the wedding this summer, but really this was an opportunity to meet some new people and just have a good time. I honestly was a little nervous, here I am a guy who has been running for a total of 2 years and barefoot to boot, going to join some accomplished triathletes and ultra marathoners for a little run through the bush. Can we say intimidating, I was hoping that I would just keep up with them for a little while so I could pick up some pointers and not look to much like a idiot.

The day started with me jumping into the truck and heading three and a half hours northwest to Dauphin, of course I left later than I originally intended so I may have been going slightly faster than I should of but I was still getting passed left right and centre. This also included a semi that must of been doing at least 130 because he flew by me like I was standing still, and I really think the guy that was coming towards me was not really amused. The drive up was quite uneventful until I entered the park, as I got to about half way through I saw one of those highway signs that tell you to watch out for a particular animal for the next so many kms. You know the one, where you never actually see the animal, well this was a sign for moose. Well low and behold, not even 20 feet beyond the sign there was a bull moose standing in the ditch, it was almost like it was posing and everything because it was in the exact same stance as the sign. I really wish I had my camera so I could take a picture but unfortunately it was in the back of the truck and I wasn't stopping to find it, oh well, se la vie.

I pulled into Dauphin and got to Scoob's house at about 11:15, just enough time to throw some bags in the house, get introduced to Dawn and hop on to the bus to head back to Riding Mountain and the run. The bus, how can I explain the bus, well take a old school bus, let a bunch of kids paint and write all over the exterior of it and convert the interior into a really cool camper with all the amenities. It was called travelling in style, kind of felt like the Partridge Family without the corny music. So here we were heading up the highway riding in 'The Bus' towards the park at warp speed, bouncing along to meet the rest of the runners at the Beach Ridge Trail Head, definitely the start of a great day. We arrived at the trail head just before the approximate start time of 12:00 noon or there-abouts.

The weather was perfect for the run, a decent 4 degrees with a overcast sky and a slight wind was going to be apparent when we got into the open areas. After everybody got themselves ready to go, and some introductions were completed, Scoob went over the details of the trail and the route that both the half marathoners and the 10 k'ers were going to complete. In all there was 4 of us running the half mary (Sonia, Murray, Doug and myself), the balance were taking on the 10 km. The trail consisted of a loop around the Beach Ridges Trail Head Loop then out to Highway 10 north to the gate then south to Crawford Creek and up to the end of the trail and return back to Beach Ridges and another loop and wham, bam your done, 13.1 miles plus a little in the books. The 10 km was slightly modified but still consisted of the 2 loops of Beach Ridges and an out and back to Crawford Creek parking lot. My only concern was being able to keep up with the big dogs who I was going to be running with (and I don't mean Scoob and Sonia's canine runners though I would be really hard pressed to keep up with them for sure).

This was the map that we were provided, if nothing less 
Scoob is very thorough and the running people are 

As I looked around a smile broke onto my face, Sonia was in costume dressed as a either a light snow storm or a blizzard, she hadn't quite decided yet, as it would depend on how fast she was running at the time.

Sonia in Costume as a Blizzard
(No Minor Snow Storm Here)

Everybody was all decked out to run including myself not really knowing what to expect regarding the weather or the temperature, I layered up a little more than I would normally. I ended up with a long sleeve tech shirt with a short sleeve over top and my wind breaking North face jacket and wearing a pair of running tights under my shorts to keep my legs warmer. I cannot for any reason run with just my running tights, I am a little consciensious of people seeing my ass and junk that clearly, lets just say I am a little modest (yet I have not issue with running like a true Scot in a kilt, go figure).I was even going to experiment with Nic's running pack to carry the camera and some extra gear just in case, this was something new for me as I am really not accustomed to running with a backpack. I was still wearing my VFF's at the time, because I wasn't sure how the trail was going to be, and I think I might of been concerned about freaking everybody out right off the start, so I decided to leave them on for at least a little while.

The trail head lots of interesting surprises
under all that leave coverage
We gathered at the trail head and Scoob with a final instruction of ,"Good luck and have fun", set us on our merry way. Sonia was off with a bang with all three dogs in tow, and I was following right behind. The trail had just been cleared of debris the previous week so the build up of leaves covering what was underneath was the only real concern. The trail overall for the first 2 plus mile loop was in great condition and even I or Gail (just kidding G) would not be able to get lost with a easy turn to the right at the fork and again to the right as you come out, easy peasy. I was keeping a moderate pace, as I was unsure of the trail, and I really am slower when I wear shoes of any type, with my foot freedom being restricted and all.

The boardwalk
I lost sight of Sonia fairly quickly as she glided along with the dogs in tow, by the time I reached the wooden boardwalk they were long gone and Ted was quickly catching up. I scampered over the
boardwalk as quickly as possible and I couldn't believe how loud I was being, I felt like I would scare any possible animal around away for miles, hmmm maybe that was not a bad thing. As I hit the trail again on the return to trail head, Ted caught up and we talked for a couple of minutes prior to Sue ever so stealthy catching us and politely sliding by, with that Ted was off and we parted way.
The rest of the trail back to the Trail Head was pretty much standard, lots of leaves, a few roots, the odd tree branch down across the trail to create either a hurdle or a limbo pole (I have discovered I am not so good at the limbo, as I fell on my ass trying to go under, my body is just not meant to bend like that). My comfort level was good, plus if I ever came across a PO'ed bear or moose, I know I am faster without the shoes then with, so it was decided the shoes would be gone by the time I hit the road. As I turned the corner towards the parking lot, there was Scoob, playing the role of photographer extraordinaire with the camera on a tripod, and all you could hear was click, click, click in rapid fire succession. With a quick high five, I headed out into the gravel parking lot towards Highway 10 and the turn towards the north gate.
All I could think of was, "must stop at the road and lose the shoes", it was a great feeling to get the VFF's off, a smile breached my face as my warm toes felt the cool gravel on the edge of the asphalt. I quickly slipped my VFF's into the backpack (I knew it would come in handy), and I happily went on my way up the road towards the gate house. There was a brisk wind coming from the south helping push me along, so my pace was pretty good and it felt like I was burning up the road (at least for me). A couple of cars and trucks passed me on the road, it was interesting to see the brake lights go on after they passed me to take another look to confirm what they saw. Yes, yes you did see a barefoot guy running down the highway, and no he was not scared out of his shoes by a bear and your lucky I wasn't wearing my kilt. I sometimes would really like to be a fly on the wall to hear some of the conversations that go on after the break lights go on, maybe something like this:
"Did you just see what I saw?"
"I did, I did, I did gosh darn see a barefoot runner, I really did!"
or maybe,
"Holy crap that guy must of been running fast, he ran right out of his shoes!"
or maybe,
"Man that looks like a whole lot of fun, maybe we should try running without shoes!" Well there is always hope isn't there.

As I made the turn through the gate parking lot and back onto the highway heading south, I hit the crazy wind that was swirling earlier. Needless to say my speed fell quicker than a newborn filling it's nappy after sucking back a bottle. I'm glad it wasn't summer still, if I left my mouth open I'm sure I would of been picking bugs out of my teeth for days the way the wind was hitting me in the face. I continued to chug along south towards the Crawford Creek trail head which was about a mile down the road when Murray and Doug caught up to me and eventually passed me. They did hang back with me for a couple of minutes to ask some questions of the crazy ass barefoot guy, which I of course tried to answer with my witty charm. As they slowly started to pull away, I figured it was the opportune time to pick up the pace to try to stay up with them as long as possible. So I kept pace but back a little bit, the asphalt surface was ok but not great, there were some areas that were pretty beat up but after some of the crappy surfaces that I have run on in the last 18 months it was really nothing to write home about. We passed by the 10km runners heading back towards the start with a wave and smile as they were on the last half of their run, everybody looked like they were having a great time.

As we pulled off of the highway and into the gravel parking lot at Crawford Creek we quickly looked around to find the trail head which was just off to the right running beside the highway before it heads off into the woods. Figuring it was the right way, the three of us headed out. The trail was quite level for the first bit then it hit a good uphill as it went deeper into the trees. We came across a couple of ladies walking back from the trail and Murray mentioned something about him being a bear, which in turn the ladies laughed. Just to ensure we were on the right trail, I stopped to ask one of the ladies if she had seen a runner (Sonia) go by, in which she replied no. That caught me of guard and made me think we were on the wrong trail, but then I thought afterwards, they were probably coming off a another trail and missed her. Or I should of asked if they had seen a blizzard fly by, as Sonia was covered in snowflakes, but she was probably going so fast they just didn't see her, yeah that's it. As we carried on, we knew we were on the right trail because we found some abandoned snow flakes that have apparently committed suicide from Sonia's costume along the way.

The trail was great all the way up to the Warming Shack at the top of the hill which pretty much had a continuous climb all the way. Murray slowly pulled away from Doug and I as we went along. It was really interesting, there was a lot of different sounds coming from the bush, Doug told me it was just the trees making noises in the wind, I know I live in a city but I have never heard a tree bray before. It's really weird hearing a noise and not being able to figure out where it was coming from. We kept a consistent but slower pace up to the top, with the occasional walk on the steeper upgrades, all part of the plan I kept telling myself, just look out when we come down. By the time we were half way up the trail, Murray was no where to be seen ahead of us, but that was ok I was having a blast. I was able to find a little bit of mud to run through, cool squishy mud nothing like it, well sort of squishy, it was cooler out. The trail was awesome with variation of terrain and elevation but clear enough that nothing was a major surprise, just the occasional hidden rock to deal with.  As we got close to the top, we ran into Sonia and Murray running the other way back down, they both had huge smiles on their faces like they were having the time of their lives. It was great to see.

As we hit the top, we took a quick breather to catch our breath and started heading back down. I just let myself go, let my legs just go with the momentum carry me down. It was a great feeling, plus it was the only way I could keep up with Doug and his long legs. As we made our way down we passed a couple of hikers and a bike rider with his dogs, a couple of comments about my barefeet but nothing to crazy. I slowly started to pull away from Doug, as he was getting some grief from his hamstring, so with a see you at the end. I made it down the hill and onto the approaching path to the parking lot and decided I would stop for some water at the unmanned water station that was set up. Of course, I was as clumsy as ever and dropped my full cup 2 times before it made it finally to my mouth. Oh well, third times a charm I guess. After a quick drink (or not so quick drink) I headed back out to the highway and just enjoyed the feel of the asphalt on my feet as the wind helped push me along. Got to like it when you run about 10 miles and you feel fresh and full of energy, it just made that smile get bigger and bigger (once again thankfully there was no bugs).

As I turned onto the dirt road to the parking area and the final loop around the trail head, all I could hear was hooping and hollering as everybody was cheering me on. Some no shoe comments were blerted out and a couple of holy craps, etc. I just smiled and kept running, as I really like a good gravel run it gets all the nerve ending firing on all cylinders which is the best in my honest opinion. With a quick high five from Scoob I was on the trail for the last 2 plus miles, the finish and a big cup of coffee (home brewed, Dauphin style). As I reached the trail split I passed Murray and Sonia and the dogs finishing off their run, my first thought was wow, I'm not that far behind them, cool. With this in mind, I started stopping along the last loop and taking some pictures of what caught my eye. I hit the boardwalk and stopped to take in the scenery and snap a few shots, took a few more pictures on the last half of the loop, including a picture of my foot next to a nice present that I just missed. Also got a cool picture of a tree with one lonely leaf on it, still hanging in there. As I got closer to the finish, the dogs came ripping and roaring up the trail to lead me in, which I thought was really cool, my own barefooted posse' leading me to the finish line and a big cup of freshly brewed coffee. What's not to smile about.

Some pictures taken along the way and of course the finishing photos:

Me heading up the gravel road to the parking lot

A shot looking out into the marsh from the

Ewe look what I just missed. This is one of the
only unpleasant things about running barefoot. 
But at least feet are easier to wash then shoes. 

The limbo tree, how low can you go?
The last leaf standing or hanging if you will

Ted crossing the finish line after 10km

 Sue crossing the finish line after 10 km

Sherri crossing the finish line after 10 km

Dawn crossing the finish line after the 10 km

Sherry and Perry Finishing it up
Like those tights Perry!

Doug finishing up his run at 17 plus km

Sonia and Murray and entourage bringing
er' home after a strong half marathon

Me and my barefooting posse'
bringing it home

The event was a great success and I personally think this could turn into something great and I can't wait till next year, as I will be patiently waiting for the next email announcing the 2nd annual Scoob and Sonia Half Marathon.


  1. That was a terrific read, Bob. It really was a great event; Scoob and Sonia are a wonderful pair. Let's hope they invite us back.

    Often. :)



  2. Barefoot Bob hard to believe that you've only been running for 2 years and barefoot to boot! Hope to see you at the next great Scoob event.

  3. Great Read Bob! Well done. It is so beautiful out in that park.

  4. Sue, thanks you are a huge inspiration, I only hope I can eventually run the distances that you run. That 100 miler is a goal of mine, and when Scoob sets up the next one, I will be there. Meeting everybody was really great.

    Perry, I agree, I agree.

    Kim, thanks that means a lot coming from you, and I agree that park is awesome.