Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My First Canadian Running Magazine Blog Post

It has been a month of great news as I have been asked to write bi-weekly barefoot running blog posts for Canadian Running Magazine.

Keep me in their good books go check it out and lets share the hell out of it.

This is installment one.

Why I Run Barefoot.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The North Face / Canadian Trail Runner Ambassador's Selected For 2013

2013 The North Face Trail Ambassadors Announced

I really don't know how to do the whole link thing... so copy and paste it is! Congratulations to Bob on his becoming a Canadian Ambassador for The North Face. That's him in the center photo. you can find the artical at  (I hope this link thing works???)

I am really proud of my awesome husband who has fallen in love with trail running. It is so great to see him enjoy going out for a run...... especially when he used to think I was absolutely crazy for doing so! Well done husband! I can't wait to see you run this next year!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Barefoot Winter Running, Yes Through The Snow

Now I have to start with this, I never realized how difficult is to actually videotape yourself run until I actually tried it today. Throw in running in well below zero temps and on slippery snow with a Iphone, and well you know.........

Anyway for those of you that were wondering if I was serious about me running barefoot this time of year, here is a video that I took today and a few pics for your viewing enjoyment.

and here is a few pictures as well........

Me before I started my run with my awesome mukluks on.......

......And the mukluks come off.........

Yes, that is snow and no it is not cold.......

My right foot after my 4 km barefoot jaunt.......

........ and the left.
And a footnote (ha, foot get it), the peeling that you see on the bottom of my feet is from minimial barefoot mileage, with all the snow depth, and lack luster spreading of salt, chemicals and sand to the running trails. The peeling has happened to my feet for the last three years and is perfectly normal, my soles are just as durable as before in all the areas that are experienced SPS (skin peel syndrome).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Snowy Night Run Through Assiniboine Forest

Just a few pictures to post this time from mine and Hazel's run tonight.
Hazel giving it down the snowy trail, dragging me behind, she picked up the scent of a bunch of deer just up the trail, and we were off.


I love the moon shot and the colours of the sky with the silhouette of the tree

Hazel looking up at the moon, it looked like she was just going to sit down and start to howl, absolutely stunning night for a run.
How I do love to run on the trails at night in Winnipeg.

Winter Running: My Guest Post On Daily Improvisations

As promised, here is my Guest Post on Daily Improvisations, I hope you enjoy it. Also please do feel free to leave comments, in fact I encourage it as I am always interested to see what your opinion is.

Daily Improvisations

Thanks again to Laura, for giving me the opportunity to reach a wider audience.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Going Up, Up In The World

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to consider filling a very important spot in a organization that I am very proud to be a member of, The Barefoot Runners Society or BRS for short. I was honoured that the powers that be would even consider me as a possibility to fill a position but least of all a important role like the Admin VP, kind of took me by surprise.

Here is the link to the Announcement that was posted on the BRS web page, hopefully I can fill the big foot prints of the previous members that came before me and help out in a small way.

BRS Announcement Link

Guest Post on Daily Improvisations

I am honoured to say that I will be a guest blogger on a friend's blog that will be posted on Tuesday Nov 27, 2012 and I am very excited about it.

I had originally posted it here on my blog, but after much consideration, I have pulled it and will provide a link on Tuesday to Laura's Blog, Daily Improvisations. She has taken my raw material and tweaked the format to make it flow as it was intended, and for that I am very excited as I have seen the finished product and it looks good, really good.

As soon as it is up, I will post a link from my blog to the post, and I hope you all enjoy it. But in the meantime, check out Laura's Blog at

Daily Improvisations

Have a great day of running everybody, I know I will.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Winter Barefoot Running Challenge - 2012/2013

The gauntlet has been thrown down,

The battle lines have been drawn,

The shoes have been removed,

The soles have been prepped,

The cold weather is here.................

Time for the yearly barefoot winter running challenge, 2012 Edition.

The rules are simple,

We want you to record your BARE FOOT running at temperatures below 5°C (41°F), whether you run once or 50+ times. The Challenge is about having fun and exploring barefoot running, in winter conditions. Besides, it's worth all the strange looks and dropped jaws you'll get from the disbelievers.

Here's how to play: Oct 01 2012 to Apr 01 2013
1. Go to this Winter Challenge link (charts are more interactive if you are logged on with Google account ie gmail)
2. Add your Member ID (1st sheet - row A)
3. Add your Country (1st sheet - row B)
4. Add your cumulative number of runs and distance for each temperature range (include Wind Chill --- here is a link to a Wind Chill calculator)
5. Add your coldest run (temperature and distance)
6. Check out the 'Stats' sheet to see how everyone is doing

Now, no you don't have to be like this weirdo,

but it will take the attention from your bare feet.

If you want to join the challenge or just keep track of how we are doing and 'just how low we can go' then here is the link.

Winter Barefoot Running Challenge 2012/2013

Happy Barefoot Winter Running.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Beaudry Lemming Loop

I'm afraid. Totally unprepared! Doesn't this sound familiar? I seem to do this over and over again, you know the whole thing about jumping in over my head..... I'm up to so much of this kinda thing this year; I would almost think I shouldn't be afraid?! Now I'm just waiting on some laundry in the dryer, my clothes are set aside -the blue nuu-muu with leggings, long sleeve tech shirt, Solomon fleece with Solomon jacket to start the morning (I hate to be cold; even to start) and a headlamp (blue to match the dress!) black head band to keep my ears warm. In my box of stuff (drop bag), north face jacket for a change if I need something dry later, as well another long sleeve tech shirt and another pair of running pants. I also have a hand held water bottle, second pair of shoes, socks, my glasses (in case my contacts don't last), running poles (in case I stumble too much and need them to hold me up the last few hours?), extra music, ....... maybe a couple of cliff bars????

One thing I'm not really worried about is the food situation! Dwayne has proven himself in many of the runs I've been to! I'm always impressed with his thoughtfulness! So I've decided to run without carrying anything to start, which is unusual as I really like to be prepared (over prepared?). It's a 5km loop with a water station at the halfway point.... I'm thinking this is a well planned location. I guess we'll see tomorrow. Hopefully running a loop, I won't even have to be worried about getting lost! for the first few hours anyways!!
We are allowed pacers for the last 2 hours. I'm excited because Bob said he would run with me. We don't get alot of time together for running as it gets expensive getting a sitter all the time, so we pick and choose what we do run together. This will be an interesting experience I'm sure, especially running together after I'm already tired from running 10 hours; and trying to remember that he's been an awesome husband who's been with the kids for the last 10 hours.... Hmmmm, guess there are some interesting tests in marriage, this could be a lesson to learn from?! I'm going to stop thinking about this part of the run now....
I guess the biggest thing, other than exhaustion, I'm concerned about would be the head space this can put someone into. Which is where prayer is going to play the biggest role; as it should I suppose! I am looking forward to the day the God has placed before me; whatever that may be? Really! it's weird I know, but I was out for a run Thursday and was actually able to enjoy the snow whipping into my face after beginning the morning dreading my run in that weather.
It was my 5 year old who was so excited as we left for school. He walked outside and was sooo happy to catch snow on his tongue that in the 10 minutes we took to walk to school I had a change of attitude myself! I was now able to envision some of the pictures from the Winnie the pooh books, The Blustery Day story! SOOOOO WINNIPEG! Of course having that thought in my head I was able to look for adventure, intrigue, and my friends! Thursday was awesome!
I would like to wish you all an awesome day! Even if you are on the road, in Winnipeg, Minneapolis, or wherever. Enjoy the day, God placed it there for you!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Canadian Death Race -The 'Views' From A Barefoot Runner'

I had truly intended for this post to go out very quickly after we finished the Death Race, but everytime I sat down to start writing I started thinking about Lost Soul which I ran last weekend (report to come hopefully very quickly). I was on such a runner's high right after the race that I could not sit still long enough to start typing and when I did, my mind would drift towards thinking about my upcoming 100 miler. So for this I applogize, especially to Wendy as I know she has been chomping at the bit to read this. So here we go.....

We left Winnipeg at our usual time which is very early in the morning so we could make it into Edmonton as soon as possible. It's always interesting travelling with kids and a dog, because play and run breaks are very important, thus a usual 12 hour drive turns into 14 and sometimes more. As always, we had some interesting moments along the way. We almost ran out of gas twice, once in Saskatchewan (shudder the thought) and once in Elk Island National Park (seriously I thought there was more gas stations along the Yellowhead). Luckily we were able to coast into the gas station both times, phew I really didn't want to start running a long distance that soon I was trying to save my legs.

I also want to point out that I now know where all the mosquitos disappeared from Manitoba too, holy crap Alberta (especially around Edmonton). It brought a tear to my eye to hear all that familiar buzzing and skin smacking as the hoards of little blood suckers pounced on our relatively unblemished bodies. Five words come to mind, "You can keep them Alberta", they are all yours, we do not miss them at all.

We stayed in Edmonton overnight, to give the kids a hotel (and waterslide) fix, and this also allowed us to opportunity to go back to the Enjoy Centre which is a interesting place to check out when you are in the Edmonton / St. Albert area. To borrow the catch phrase description of the Centre from their website, "The Enjoy Centre is a unique multi-use facility featuring a spa, restaurant, bakery, deli and whole foods market, kitchen and d├ęcor boutique, liquor store, floral studio, greenhouse—even an events space!". It really is worth checking out.

The Enjoy Centre located at 101 Riel Drive, St. Albert. Just off of Ray Gibbon Drive
The Enjoy Centre is where we found quick access to the VEGA SPORT product line, that both Nicole and I have found preliminary success with in the form of hydrators and gels (I really do not like the GU gels, they are just nasty). I have also found that the Electrolyte Sustain Hydrator - Pom Berry flavour is the perfect thing to add to my water in my camelback bladder for the long run, it gives me that extra little bit that water cannot. Even the bars are pretty good, as they do not taste like that crap that Powerbar or some of those other companies put out. Who would of thought a year ago this meat loving transplanted Albertan would be using vegan products and actually telling people about it, for shame, for shame. Don't fret though, I still like my bloody slab of red meat though, I think I feel like steak for dinner tonight, but I digress.

VEGA SPORT Line, great products and they do what they advertise. Even this meat eater appreciates it. 

After we filled up on the necessities, we packed everybody back into the truck and started on our way to Grande Cache, another 4 hours with breaks and we would be there. The excitement was starting to build the closer we got, along with this was also the thoughts of  'What have we gotten ourselves into!' and 'Shit, are we really ready for this?' Nothing like a little bit of self-doubt before the biggest run I have done, like EVER.

We rolled into Grande Cache to something we were not expecting, cool temperatures and off and on rain. Crap I was really hoping for mid-range temperatures and partly cloudy, but it being the mountains that was a pipe dream. But at least I knew there was going to be MUD and lots of PUDDLES to tromp through, it gives me a slight advantage over those shoe wearing folks who are trying to keep their feet dry.

We were booked to stay at the Grande Cache Municipal Campgrounds for the weekend, but in true fashion, I screwed up and booked us in for Friday night to Monday, this would normally not be a problem but it was Thursday and this was CDR weekend. Well, I am happy to report that the operator at the campsite is an absolute doll and went out of her way to find us a campsite to use for the night. I really wish I could remember her name but as usual, it has disappeared into the black hole that is my name recognition area of my brain (one of these days I am just going to randomly start spewing names out of all the people I have forgotten over the years). It would mean we would need to move the tent to our reserved spot on Friday, but at least we had a place to sleep, all was good. Plus have you ever seen a couple of people walking down the road of a campsite with a completely constructed tent, I am sure it was quite interesting to see as that was what Nicole and I did the next morning, and it didn't even fall apart, as the shirt says above, "Be Impressive", and dammit we were. I would highly recommend the Campgrounds if you need a place to stay, absolutely fantastic.

Hazel at Campsite No. 1, intently watching the squirrels as they stayed just beyond her leash extents.
After we had the tent up, I went up to the office to find out where I could get some firewood for us, cooking hotdogs,etc over a campstove is just not the same. After a brief conversation with the operator (I seriously wish I could remember her name), I headed over to the wood enclosure to load up my wheel barrel ($10 for a load, pretty sweet deal), a couple of people started coming up to me and saying, "Hi Bob", I didn't think to much of it until one guy started talking about the Death Racer magazine and how I had a two-page article in it, and he went back to his truck and grabbed a copy for me. I was over-whelmed and really did not know what to say, I was contacted by a reporter about a month ago and he did ask some questions, but I was not expecting this. Pretty cool, there I was in a magazine complete with pictures, anonymity is now gone. Guess I was committed to run it barefoot now, oh well, wouldn't have it any other way.

Our 2 page spread on Team 'Up A Mountain With No Shoes'
Guess I am committed to running now.
As we mulled around keeping ourselves busy and waiting for Dan to arrive, he was flying in and was scheduled to arrive late Friday morning, we decided to head to town to check out the vibe on the street, so to speak. The town was hopping, Death Race flags and shirts everywhere, this was a town that was just busting at the seams getting ready for a hell-of-a-weekend. We started running into people we had ran the training camp with, and I was getting some weird looks and finger pointing, but honestly that was par for the course for the last few years anyway.
After picking up the race kits and taking part in a so-so pre-race pasta dinner at the hotel, we headed over to the 'Pre-Race Information' session, which was being held at the main stage by the start/finish line. Although it had a lot of good information, it was a little to theatrical for my tastes, Dale Tuck decked out as Dr. Death went through the leg descriptions one by one with a little bit of the 'Fear and Loathing' descriptions of what the runners might face thru the day. Dale sure knows how to work a crowd though it was quite interesting to watch. We also ran into Erick (City Park Runners) who was running Leg 5 with one of the North Face teams, Mark V. of course and numerous other participants of the training camp like Bert, Nikki, Carolyn, Jennifer, Rose and Christian. I know I am missing people again, but such is life in my world, if I did forget you, I apologize profusely and bend a knee to you in forgiveness (I really need to stop reading this Game of Thrones series, its corrupting me).

Dr. Death (aka Dale Tuck) and the Crystal Skull (trophy for the top finisher)

Disclaimer: As I am only intimately familiar with Legs 1 and 4 due to these are the only ones I actually ran this year. All information written below pertaining to Legs 2, 3 and 5 are only here say and conjecture, thus I am not taking any responsibility for false statements that may inadvertently be implied.
Preparation and Gear:
After a night of not much sleep (like that is unusual), I rolled out of our sleeping bag and started to get ready for the long day ahead. I was full of all types of emotions, excitement, nervousness, anxiousness to name a few. Nicole had been up and was returning from town with coffee for us and Dan (how awesome is that), and she already had half of my pack filled up with the essentials like, a full bladder, energy bars, Vega gels, emergency blanket and my bear bangers. I love my wife dearly, she always puts others before herself but sometimes I wish she thought of herself more, but at this point I was not complaining.
I was really starting to freak out as I was getting my running gear together and glancing over at the time, I did not want to be late to the start line not for this. So I started running my gear checklist through my head as I ripped through our running gear bag.
Ink 'N' Burn shorts, check;
Under Armor t-shirt, check;
Nike Running Hat, check;
garmin. check;
North Face light jacket, check;
Gloves, check;
Poles, my mid range trekking poles for those nasty hills, check;
Made For Skin Natural Skin Balm, check (perfect for prevention of chaffing, I really do not like Body Glide, this stuff is amazing and made in Winnipeg);
Death Race Coin and check in finger thingy, check, check;
Shoes, ch----, just kidding, I don't need no stinking shoes. Only my backup Vibram KSO's just in case.

Leg One:
With that, we all piled into the truck and raced to the start line to get me checked in, it was getting late, about 7:40 and I wanted a few minutes to focus on the day ahead without scrambling around to much. As I headed over to the North Face check in area I ran into Lori, one of the many fantastic organizers of this event. She greeted me with a great big smile, and promptly said after looking at my feet, "Why are those on your feet, your running barefoot aren't you Bob?" I smiled and said of course, but I am going incognito until closer to race start time I don't want to freak to many people out. She laughed and wished me luck. I checked in quickly and headed back to the start line where I disposed of the shoes and tucked them away, other runners started looking my way and pointing at my feet and whispering. I just ignored as much as possible and focused on getting into the zone. I got a bunch of good lucks from runners around me as the small talk continued, and I ran into (not literally) Craig from Winnipeg, we chatted for a couple of minutes said our good lucks and buckled down for the start. As the big clock at the Start line clicked down to the 8:00 start, I quickly went through my mental checklist in my head (because out loud would of just seemed crazy). Hat...check; running pack.... check; full Shit, I forgot to go to the loo, oh oh this could be interesting, hopefully my system can hold out until the end of the leg, cross your fingers or legs whatever comes natural.
View from the start line with about 10 minutes to the gun
At 8:00 we were off, after a slow shuffle out of the gate towards Hoppe Avenue, with RCMP officers in full regalia leading the way. The start of the run featured a quick loop up and back down to the start line where we were off and running. This was when I first realized I didn't have my poles with me, crap of all the things to forget I did not want these to be one of them. As I was cursing my way along, I looked up to see Nicole, like a vision of beauty, standing off to the side holding my poles out to me. With a quick thank you, love you and good luck I was off. Things were going along swimmingly as we carried on up Shand Avenue towards 100th Street (I believe that would be Main Street) and turned to head out of town. I was trying to maintain a even pace for this part as it was all on asphalt and I did not want to blow it early by going out to quickly. I was still passing other runners, to the shock and dismay of them once they realized my feet were bare. I felt like I was surrounded by a herd of buffalo with all the foot stomping going on, I just cringed and focused on nice light steps, be the ninja, I am the ninja........ Then there was Dale Tuck prancing (and I do mean prancing) up the dirt trail beside the road looking fresh and spry, enticing everybody on. This seriously was not a good look for the guy who was sporting black and white face paint, a cape and carrying a crystal skull the night before, did he have us all fooled the night before.All I can say is 'Well played Dale, well played'.
I was really happy with my pace as we made the turn to get onto the first part of dirt trail, I was still passing other runners, my breathing was good, my feet felt fantastic, I am quite sure my smile was from ear to ear. Then as we entered the woods, the unmentionable happened.... my stomach started to gurgle, crazy noises started to escape my posterior. 'Hmm must of been a squirrel making all that noise', was the only thing i could think of saying as i cruised along the trail, hoping nobody suspected the barefoot runner was letting lethal backdoor breezes escape in rapid fire succession. 

Then all of a sudden it stopped. I wasn't quite sure how to take it, was this just trying to get my system cleaned out of excess gas and potentially take a few of my competitors out at the same time or was it the calm before the storm. Only time would tell. So I figured I would take the opportunity to get some good running done, so I picked up the pace a bit and hit the muddy and wet sections adjacent the golf course with a reckless abandonment. I smiled as runners were trying to find a dry path around the many puddles that frequented this part of the trail as I just crashed right through the meat and potatoes of them. I felt like Wyle.E.Coyote at a Roadrunner convention with the doors locked as I tromped through the endless puddles. I was passing some serious runners and moving up the pack. I know I got some looks as other runners who could not see my feet until I came of out of the water seemed dazed and confused. I got my fair share of comments and well wishes as I made my way. I passed a photographer at one puddle and he went crazy with the photos as I went by I think I was also the only one he turned around to get a picture of me after going by him see link. I'm not sure if it was my crazy speed or my barefeet, I'm going with the speed because I was just flying (wink, wink). It was fun, for a while at least, until it felt like somebody just reached into my gut and twisted my insides into a knot. The gas came fast and furious and loud, so loud. I had no choice but to veer off of the trail and drop the shorts and let the world (at least the poor runners around me) see me in all my glory as i lost every bit of my dignity and cleared my bowels out at the same time. All I could think was I hope I brought the TP, because I really do not want to wipe my ass with a squirrel as my buddy Jason Robillard would say, or for that matter with leaves. Woohoo the TP was in the backpack complete with a ziploc for the cleanup, yes I am environmentally friendly, i have no issue with shitting in the woods, but I will not leave used TP around, that is just nasty.

After the 15 minute mandatory evacuation I was feeling much better so I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the trail, a good amount of runners had passed me by this time and I had a lot of ground and time to pick up. All I could think was my 2 hour first leg finish was definitely in jeopardy and I would have to run like gang-busters to get in anywhere close to that time. So I headed out with a bit of grit and determination, my bare feet felt like they were barely hitting the ground as I picked up the cadence. I hit the hills hard, trying my best to let my body go and have my legs and feet try to keep up on the downhill, it was an awesome feeling as I started to pass runners again. Things were looking up as I broke out of the woods at the highway access onto the gravel road prior to hitting the short trail run along the highway. The volunteers were hooting and hollering, and all of a sudden they stopped, then I heard it, the exclamation of "He's got no shoes on as I pounded past them with no concern with the pointy sharp rocks that were underfoot. Show no pain, lift, lift, lift, run like the ninja, was all I was thinking as I cruised by and turned up the trail. At this point I ran into one of my new Facebook running friends, PJ from Wisconsin, we talked a bit while we ran the trail to the road crossing, it was good to finally meet.

The volunteers were well organized and did a fantastic job of controlling the flow of runners and vehicles at the road crossing, this could of been a dangerous situation with cars trying to get to the transition for Leg 2 and the runners trying to get across the road, but it was 'smooth like butter' as I only had to wait for about 20 seconds to get my opening to take off across the road.

Things were going well as I felt like I sped through the next portion of trails, and onto the gravel road which at first I was quite concerned with but my feet just 'toed' the tire tracks and I carried on my merry way. With about half of the gravel road behind me, I was slowly catching up on one of the Legends of The Death Race, Dag Aabye, an absolute inspiration to me and many other a Death Racer. Dag is 71 years young and has participated in the last 10 Death Races as a solo runner and finishing I believe 7 of them. The only way I can describe the way Dag runs is, 'Smooth as Silk', he is such a treat to watch as he strides along at a consistent pace.

Dag Aabye as he came into the transition point of Leg 2
Photo Credit to Ray Stader's Better Half

 I was in awe as I slowly picked up the pace to catch up to him, I wanted to shake his hand and tell him how inspired I was by him, and that I hoped I could be doing what he was doing in 30 years. All this was flowing through my mind as I finally caught up to Dag, we both looked at each other and that was when the magic happened (at least in my mind). We both held our hands to each other and said pretty much at the same time, "I want to shake your hand you are a inspiration for what you do." I was in shock, here was this man who is the epitome of what runners should be, telling me I am a inspiration. I did not know what to say, and then I shook my head and we just shot the shit for a few minutes, it was amazing and humbling listening to him tell me a little about himself. He was also very interested with what started me on the path of barefoot running. It was a amazing experience running and talking with him and I will remember it for a long time to come.
As we headed off the road and back onto the trails we ended up running along the edge of Peavine Lake where this great shot was taken (I hope I got the lake name right, I don't think it was Grande Cache Lake), I think the blue sky brings out the flesh tone in my feet, don't you.
 At this point we only had a few more miles to go into the transition point with a couple of big up's and downs and some really muddy, swampy areas. In other words, fun for me. Absolute treat getting all dirty and not having to worry about the shoes being sucked off of my feet. The poor runner ahead of me, I think that was what she was worried about, as she cringed every time her foot went in and her foot came out with a big sucking sound. I just told her, that I would help her dig it out, if she did end up losing a shoe, at least I made her smile. Then we broke out of the bush to more gravel and the last little bit of distance to the building and hopefully where Dan was waiting. It was a great feeling running by all the people and being greeted by my son cheering me on to the finish. With a quick exchange of timing chip and Death coin, Dan was off to the races for Leg 2. I ended up finishing my Leg One in 2:18:15, definitely not the quickest time in the world but I will take it. As expected my feet performed perfectly, for that matter they performed better than even I anticipated. Now the long wait till my next Leg, that would be Leg 4: The Hamel Assault.
Leg 2: Flood Mtn / Slugfest / Grande Mtn:
This was Dan's leg, this was a quick mountain assent up Flood, followed with a crazy 'bumslide' into Slugfest, which brings us to another assent up Grande and a very long descent down the power line and back into town. This can be a very nasty leg, with lots of mud and water in the bogs of Slugfest. It is one of the longer legs at 27km but it gives you some spectacular views and of course lots of mud. Great place to get dirty, and not the place to be if you don't like a little bit of mud on your shoes, or feet or what ever you run in.
Dan was shooting for between a 4:30 and a 5 hour run and he finished not to far off that at 5:21 and change. This is not an easy leg, one day to the next it can change so much, depending on the moisture received. This would leave Nicole with 3 hours and about 40 minutes to finish Leg 3 or our day was done, no pressure right.
This sign is so true as you start your descent into Slugfest. One steep drop it definitely is.
Leg 3: Old Mine Road:
This was Nicole's first leg, a 21 km run from the Start/Finish Line (yes you return to the Start line at the end of Leg 2) shortcutting through town towards the dump and potential bears looking for an afternoon meal, then up the old mine road to the active coal mine and down the highway to the start of Leg 4. Doesn't sound like much does it, well don't be fooled. Even though this is deemed one of the easiest of the legs, it has it's own set of unique challenges and can become dangerous very quickly. I will not even mention the bears, but you end up running down some interesting trails that are covered with lots of loose rocks (prime territory for a good ankle sprain if you are not being careful). The leg also brings you through the valley, which heats up substantially and this year I believe it crossed the 30 degree mark. The heat and the trees above create another interesting phenomenon as well, the sunlight coming through the trees creates this sort of prism effect, which can really screw with your eyes if you are really not being careful, thus the loose rocks on the downhill and the light create quite the tripping hazard.
Besides these little gems, this is a perfect leg to pick up some well needed time, because there are some great downhills and some flat areas where you can pick up the speed and just go. My understanding that the heat this year knocked a few of the runners on their ass, really drained them just in time to start Leg 4.
Nicole did awesome on this leg, even though she would say it was to slow, at 2:57. I say she finished it standing and before the cutoff and she gave me over 40 minutes to spare, that was all I needed. I also must say, Nicole was not feeling to well before heading out, it might have been the nerves but none the less, she made it through and that shows how tough the love of my life is. A challenge comes up and she meets it head on. So as Nicole ran into the transition station, I could tell she was slightly relieved that she finished. Although she had to rest up, because Leg 5 was hopefully not to far away.
Leg 4: The Hamel Assault
I was getting really antsy waiting for Nicole to get in to the transition station, figuring she would be in at around 6:00pm, I was starting to get concerned when 6:05 then 6:15 passed by. I was doing little circles, around and around, I almost think a wore a path into the ground with all my pacing. The great thing about this was that I was not worried about people noticing my bare feet. With all the activity going on, nobody seemed to notice anyway which was a good thing. Because, I am sure the tension was pretty high with everybody and I'm not sure how i would of reacted if somebody would of said something. Trying to take my mind off the waiting, I checked my poles, got my gloves on, double checked my backpack (also making sure I disposed of my little package from leg one, ewwwe), made sure my bladder was working and just kept an eye on the incoming runners so I would not be caught off guard as Nicole came in. At about 6:19, I saw my two boys jumping up and down madly, as Nicole rounded the corner into the transition station, so I started getting ready for a quick osculation, some words of encouragement and a really quick start.
As Nicole reached me, there was the hand off of the timing chip, the Death Coin (very important for Leg 5), the above mentioned osculation (kiss) and I was off with a bang. I flew out of the transition station to a chorus of, "Hey look it's the barefoot guy" and " Holy crap he really isn't wearing any shoes!". I just focused on the path ahead of me and tried to steam roll up the pathway to the highway and the ditch until I had to enter the trees and the seamless never ending upwards trek to the top of Hamel.
I was so determined and focused that I just powered up the hill, utilizing a combination of power hiking and running when I could. I passed numerous runners, some looking better than others, some were well on their way to total exhaustion but digging deep to keep moving forward one step at a time. I took inspiration in this, as these runners (the majority soloists) were giving it their all and trying to finish, so who was I not to let them know how great they were doing and how great they were for taking on this amazing challenge. So at that point I made the decision to talk to everybody I met on the way up and let them know how awesome they were doing, its a beautiful thing. Of course with this, I ended up getting the 'Your My Hero' or the 'Your Hardcore' or my favorite 'Your Crazy' (aren't we all) comments thrown at me. The most inspiring moment for me was when I was coming up on this one relay runner, she did not look like your typical runner, a little over weight, dressed in not your typical trail running attire, but slugging it out none the less. You could tell she was putting every ounce of effort she had into this climb, she looked exhausted but determined to not let her team down and would not let the mountain conquer her. I ran with her for a bit to help spur her along, all she kept talking about was my feet and how she was just amazed at what I was doing. All I can say is, thank you for running that day, you are amazing and I hope to run into you again next year.
As I got about half way up Hamel, there is this clearing in the trees that gives one of the best views of the trail down (showing all the runners at different stages of the mountain, pretty epic) as well as out towards the other mountains, I decided to stop there and take a quick look around soak in the moment so to speak. Just on cue, I opened my mouth and I yelled at the top of my lungs, "Go Death Racer", and as my call ended, another picked up and then another, and another. 'Go Death Racer' echoed up and down the trail, it was one of the most beautiful and fitting things I have ever heard. I just stood there and smiled, then I turned and ran on inspired to finish this thing off.
Me heading up Hamel, look at all that glorious mud.......
I was setting a torrid pace up Hamel, I got to the top and checked in after the shale switchbacks, running the ridge line and collecting the flag and getting back in 2:32 which is pretty damn quick, most of the runners around our time were running this in over 3 hours so I was quite proud of my performance. Especially since I spent a little bit of extra time walking the ridge line in my barefeet, I really had to take my time up there as the the rocks were quite pointy and sharp. I also had to get some photos as well, because being on top of a mountain at sunset is the most spectacular thing to witness ever.
Looking out past the edge of the ridge line beyond the flag pick up station
The flags we had to get on the edge of the ridge line over looking a very long way down
Looking back the way I had come running back along the ridge line
just beautiful with one runner coming towards me.
I had originally figured I would put my Vibrams on for the shale switchbacks to the summit and for the summit ridgeline itself, but I was having such a great time and my feet felt fantastic, so I just carried on to the dismay of numerous runners and volunteers. Even stopped to pose for a picture or two, and possibly a proposition about watching me run over the rocky trail again or something like that. I was on such a runner's high, that it did not even concern me I would be going down the mountain as the sun was setting. That was at least until I remembered the Rock Garden that is located a couple of miles down the trail from the summit, this would be absolutely crazy to try to do barefoot in the dark. So with this thought I headed down the long and windy trail off of the summit. I will admit I was a lot slower going down than going up for some reason (yeah didn't make sense to me either), the only thing I could account it to was ensuring I had good FOOTing on the downs, one slip and my run could of been over with a broken toe or a serious bit of trail rash. My intent was to get as far down the mountain as I could before the sun finally dipped below the horizon.
With a little bit of skill and a whole lot of luck (definitely more luck than skill), I made it down to the flats approximately 5 km to Ambler Loop (a very long 5 km but 5 none the less). Here was a quick check point where the volunteers were stationed to record runner's numbers and ensure they put their head lamps on as the sun was pretty much gone and the darkness had taken over. I must say first of all both my lights sucked, they sucked royally, I thought I would be set with one on my head and the other wrapped around my waist, boy was I wrong. I was having a hell-of-a time seeing anything at all, first I thought it was my eyesight playing tricks on me, but that was quickly disproved when I was running with Barb with her crazy high powered light. So I quickly realized that my lights were grossly inadequate for running trails, technical or non-technical in the dark. So plan B came out, I made sure I was running with another runner or two for the balance of the trail to Ambler then I would re-evaluate. This worked really well, plus I got to talk to some really awesome soloists en route, picking their brains for tidbits of information on training, and them me for the ever popular topic of barefoot running. They never suspected that I was just using them for their lights, it was a perfect relationship. Just kidding, they got me back a little further up the trail when we encountered the lakes that were dotting the landscape of the trail, can you guess who tested the water. I knew you could, of course send the barefoot runner into the water to test how deep and treacherous it is. Not that I really minded, as I happily trudged through the water and mud. Pretty much they needed to find a way around if they wanted to keep their feet dry, was the verdict for most of them. Thanks to Tom, Steve and Pascal (I hope that was everybody, its hard to tell in the dark), I was able to make it to Ambler safe and sound.
After a quick stop to check in and hitting the aide station for some sugary goodness (got to keep that energy up), I headed out on the 2 km portion of gravel road to the next check in and the trail that loops back to the aide station. I was still barefoot as I headed out, and after about a km and a lot of cursing and swearing (I just could not pick up the gravel very well with my lights), I was starting to think that finishing off Leg 4 barefoot was not in the cards. I could of kept going but at a reduced pace, but I was starting to get concerned with time as I still had 10km plus to finish and the majority of it was on gravel. So with a sigh I sat down in the middle of the road and started to put my VFF's on. I was a little disappointed,  but when Jennifer and Nicole a couple of other fantastic soloists passed me and gave me the motivational speech I needed (I still can't believe you went that far barefoot), I brightened up, got my shoes on and got my butt back to racing. Seriously I just finished a mountain summit barefoot and finished about 50 of 60km barefoot on the day, I would say that was a huge accomplishment, and why shouldn't I be proud of that.
So with that, I cruised up to the next check-in point, not worrying as much where I was stepping, cause my feet were protected by my KSO's. I think my speed pretty much doubled over my previous output, well that might be a bit of a stretch but it felt like I was flying. I quickly passed Jennifer and Nicole, thanking the both of them for getting my mental game back where it needed to be and I entered the trails of Ambler Loop. You know that they added this section on to get the distance because it is the most boring section of the whole 125km, I just wanted it over, so I went quick, not worrying about puddles, just running right through them, wet shoes or not. It also helped that I really still could not see that well so a couple of the bigger puddles caught me off guard and I was in them before I even realized it. This would of not been so bad if it was just me but I was still kind of trail blazing for a few other runners and unfortunately a few of them got wet too, oops.
After finishing Ambler I quickly checked in and started heading down the last 7km of gravel road and onto the highway to the transition point. This was the longest part of the whole leg for me, it just seemed like it would never end, typically I run a 10km in about 50 to 55 minutes, this race from getting to Ambler Loop to the finish it took me 2 hours and 16 minutes, that was 12km give or take plus a aide station stop, can we say my lighting speed was very much turtle like. But realistically I cannot complain because that first 1 km and a bit barefoot on the gravel took me about 20 minutes at a run, I could of walked it faster I am sure.
When the endearment of the gravel road from hell finally came to a conclusion, I was so glad that I had only 2 km up the side of the road. I was making good progress and I caught up to another soloist about a half of a km from the finish. Now I am a bit competitive, but I could not bring myself to pass a soloist before a transition station, to me it is just not good karma. They have been out here slugging away and I am just doing two legs, no way I slowed down to let them in first. I did not find this out till later, but the runner I was trailing into the station was Craig D. from Winnipeg. A great runner who I have had the pleasure of running with at the start of the day, Craig finished Leg 4 ahead of me by 6 seconds. Overall I finished Leg 4 in 7:02:32 not bad for this barefoot guy. Nicole would have lots of time to finish Leg 5 (about 6 hours and 20 minutes), unless she got lost or fell off the trail we were sure to finish before the 8:00 am cut off, still no pressure right.
Leg 5: Hell's Gate:
This was Nicole's turn to shine, she loves running in the dark, and was really looking forward to the boat crossing at the Smokey River. She took off from the aide station with her normal zest for life, definitely feeling better than she did earlier. She headed up into the bush for the technical canopy trail with a bit of a skip and a jump in her step. It brought a smile to my face as I watched her disappear into the woods. I knew she would do awesome, because she sure kicked my ass at the training camp for this portion, so it was definitely in the cards. Sometimes I wish I could of ran with her for this, but I felt I could live vicariously through her for the trip across the finish line. I know she did great because she is my wife and she is the most awesome part of my life. She also never ceases to amaze me with everything that she does on a day to day basis. Let me just say life is never boring with Nicole around, she inspires me to do epic things like this little race.
Nicole finished strong and ended up running in with another unbelievable soloist named Laura finishing right behind her with the same finishing time (21:54:21), that would be 5:54 in the morning Alberta time. What a experience for everybody involved, this is a Class event and an adventure to remember for not just all that finished but for all that participated. The organizers and volunteers are top notch bar none, and the town comes together to put on one hell of a great event. I now know why runners who participate in this event come back year after year, and I will be one of them. Next year I will be tackling this solo and have already started planning my strategies to make sure I finish. Because I am a Death Racer, and I do not take that lightly.
Go Death Racer..............

Nicole coming into the finish just behind Laura. Note the time was adjusted due to the time out at the river crossing waiting for the boat across.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lost Soul 100 Mile Ultra Marathon

Here we are, the night before Lost Soul and my first 100 miler,
am I nervous - a little;
am I excited - damn straight;
am I ready - as ready as I am ever going to be.

Here is a link to the tracker system that they are using for the race, if you want to follow along. Hopefully it will be good forward progress.

Wish me luck.. and see you at the finish line.

Lost Soul Tracker

Friday, August 31, 2012

7 Days Until I Lose My 100 Miler Virginity

A view of one of the climbs and descents from Lost Soul
7 Days......
Yes, 7 Days....
....That is how long until I am a virgin no more, this time next week I will be over 8 hours into my first 100 mile ultra marathon. Of course, I couldn't of picked a easy one either, Lost Soul 100 miler is considered one of the toughest races on the prairies. I laugh at this, as most people consider the prairies flat, well this run is not flat, there are over 17,000 ft of elevation change over the 100 miles. Here is the elevation grid for each lap of the run, remember 100 miles is 3 laps, that last climb to the finish is going to be a killer, not withstanding the rest of the climbs and descents.

Can we say a lots of up's and down's, I knew you could
A shot of the train bridge that we will be running by

I am looking forward to seeing this waterfall, one of the great things with running ultras, mother nature at its best.

Am I looking forward to this?

Well that is a stupid question, of course I am.

Am I ready to take on this distance?

As ready as I am ever going to be, I have played through this in my head a 'Hundred' times mile by mile for the last 3 weeks. I will be running this race first on strength, then heart (or passion) and then finally on guts and determination. I am sure I will want to quit numerous times throughout the run, but I am a stubborn son-of-a-bitch (no offence mom), and I just will not allow myself to do that. I am expecting to experience pain, lots of pain, hallucinations, serious fatigue and doubt in my abilities, and more pain. But I will persevere, because I believe I have found my bliss, running long and far and pushing my body to the limit and then seeing how much farther I can push it. It will be a test of wills, my brain saying, "Go on you can do it, you are a rock" while my body tells me, "Are you bloody well insane, I've got nothing left". It will be a battle, that is for sure, but I am determined to push myself through to the end. Besides, I will not be alone, a good friend will be with me, Scott Burton, another 100 miler virgin (yes we travel in groups), together we will be pushing each other along and motivating each other to finish.

Am I insane?

Yes, yes I am, everybody who I talk to thinks so, and maybe they are right. We will just have to see how that turns out.

Am I going to run it barefoot?

YES, for as long as I possibly can. Will my feet survive? I honestly do not know, I ran up and down Mount Hamel including the summit barefoot (oops, teaser from my future CDR blog post), so I know my soles can handle it, but for 100 miles? That I do not know, and is yet to be seen. Will I be the first to complete a 100 mile Ultra barefoot? That I am not sure about, there must be others out there, but I do know if I do complete it barefoot, I will be in the minority, one of the few to overcome and conquer the distance and barefoot to boot (pun intended).

I have been giddy with excitement, ready to boil over at the seams as I have been counting down the days to this point. I have been so engrossed with this run that I haven't even posted a new blog since before the Canadian Death Race, which I have still yet to complete and post, and yes that was epic and the story will be told, but it will be a little later.

So here I am, sitting and counting the days until next Thursday when I board the plane for Alberta and the new adventure that I am partaking in. I have a lot of nervous energy right now, most would probably say I should be tapering and resting but I cannot seem to do that. I have been running everyday for the last 20 days and have only missed one or two days in the last 200 plus days. I have been running in the heat of the day, at night in the dark with no headlamp, going out when I am tired and not sure if I have the energy to make it down the front stairs, running our husky so she pulls me and makes me speed up when I don't want to and slow down as well. Prepping for any possibility is very important as I do not have any idea what is going to happen or how my body will react to this. My last thoughts are..............

Get 'Er Done.......

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jumping In the Deep End With Both Bare Feet : Lost Soul 100 Miler Ultra Marathon

Southern Alberta's Ultimate Trail Run
September 7-8, 2012
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada 50Km 100Km 100Miles
"The Toughest Race on the Prairies"

So I have been humming and hah-ing about upping the ante this year, and doing 2 legs of the Death Race is definitely doing that. But, I also wanted to really get out of my comfort zone by going all out and trying a 100 miler. Now this might seem pretty silly to some, as the longest I have run in a race situation is 50km but lets just say I was inspired by a couple of fantastic runners who were in the same place that I currently find myself in.

Vanessa Rodriguez of Vanessa Runs and her other half, Robert Shackleford affectionately known as Shacky ran their first 100 miler this spring, see the first of Vanessa's blog posts on the achievement here, followed by Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and finally Part 5. These are a awesome read and a good way to get a unique perspective from inside the head of a Ultra Marathoner who is finishing their first 100 miler. Plus Vanessa is such a good writer, she makes you feel like you are right there with her.

A friend of mine, Scott decided a few months ago that he was going to tackle the 100 miler this year, this will also be his first, and has been training relentlessly since. I have been reading and talking with him about his progress and in the back of my mind weighing the pro's and con's of jumping in as well. First, I was trying to figure out how I could help him crew and maybe be his pacer for the last lap, that seemed possible. The logistics would be interesting because we are both from Manitoba and I would need to get there, secure accommodations and of course take some time of work. Then I started to think, Could I actually run this now and finish? I was originally thinking and planning where I could try a 100 miler next year, but the more I thought (sometimes this is quite the process, I am blonde you know),  why not this year.  I kept all this to myself for the last month or so, not really sure if I wanted to seriously consider it or not, there was some serious logistics to be thought out and I wanted to make sure I was really committed to this. Of course this would mean my lovely and very talented wife would be left with the kids for a few days as Daddy travelled to Alberta, ran a crazy distance, then travelled home in total disarray and would be probably be pretty much useless for a couple of days afterwards. I love Nicole like crazy, because she is totally supportive in whatever crazy ass thing I decide to do, including this one.

I am super excited and nervous at the same time, once we finish the Death Race August long weekend, this will be the focus, so hopefully all my friends don't want to shoot me by the time I leave for Alberta, because I am sure it will be the only thing I want to talk about.

Wish me luck this is going to be a crazy ride, and I will be hanging on for dear life.

Course Map from the 2009 Race here

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where's The Beach? Stead, MB - Mountain Bike Enduro Event Trail Running Style

On July 1, this year I signed up to take part in a little Run, Bike challenge in Stead, MB. Basically a 33km trail run taking place during a Mountain Bike Enduro Race of 33km, 66 km or 100km. Just couldn't pass it up. It was hotter than hell, and the sand was like running through hot coals but I finished and I finished smiling. This little video was put together by the organizers of the event. I have a very quick double time barefoot running cameo near the end. Had a blast and this is definitely a recommended event if you want to do something a little different.

Canadian Death Race Training Camp Day 2: Mount Hamel

What more can you say other than looking at the above Elevation Profile for the Death Race, do you see that really high up to the right of the white line? That's Mount Hamel, it is a epic 6 mile run up to the top (seriously feels like you are going straight up at times) before you crank out a really long down to the start of Leg 5. This leg is 36 kms long with the largest elevation gain. Of course I would make this leg mine, because I really like to go up and the down is manageable in my mind. But I digress, back to the start of the day.

The day started with little to no sleep, because who can sleep with the a day planned like this, a 13 mile mountain bike ride called Leg 3 to warm the legs up and get them good and tired before tackling my leg, which would be 4, The Hamel Assault. That sounds so cool doesn't it, I think so and that is all that matters. Anyway, as I said sleep was hard to come by the night before, I would be lucky to say Nicole and I got 2 hours between us. What lied ahead and what we just finished did not allow my brain to shut down long enough to drift off. This crazy ass smile just kept drifting onto my face and I could not stop it, I bet I looked like the Joker with that grin, I swear it was from ear to ear.

As Nicole was running Leg 3 race day, she did not want to bike it (and who could blame her, I probably should of ran it too, as I swear I almost filled my shorts a few times during the ride), so she and a few other runners left a little bit earlier and headed out to cover it by running. But figuring I was saving my legs a bit for my Hamel by biking (boy was I wrong), Dan and I stuck around the hotel and had breakfast while we waited for the bike ride from hell to start. Now don't get me wrong I like riding my bike, I like hills (remember I am from Manitoba, land of the Flatlanders) and trails but I was total out of my comfort zone with this. Supposedly this was a easy ride, but for a relatively new mountain biker, I never learned how to use my gears until about a month prior, it was nerve racking as hell. Anyway I am not going to bore you with the details, lets just say I was never so glad to get off my bike and get ready for some running when we arrived at the start of Leg 4. The only thing I remember was what Dale said at the beginning, "When you are going downhill, be alert to the big rocks, holes and trees on the path, but don't look at them as your bike will go where your eyes are looking, always look for the clear path and your bike will follow." That is so true, but damn it was mind numbing constantly worrying about going ass over tea kettle when hitting that one big rock.End of story.

But here are a couple of pictures from Nicole's adventures along Leg 3, I was glad she took some because there was no way I was, I was hanging on for dear life for most of it.
Somewhere along Leg 3, I think I had my eyes shut at this point on the bike

Nicole, my beautiful wife rocking the scenery
One of Nicole's partners in crime, I cannot remember her name though, did I mention how crappy I am at remembering names, well this was another case of it.

A river runs through it.....
This was one of the streams that run across the trail along Leg 3, try not to get your feet wet.

One of the many vistas along the way, again I didn't see this either, crap my eyes must of been closed.

Running along the highway to the end of Leg 3

Yay, the finish of Leg 3, now I can get off my bloody bike
Time for Pizza

As I stated above, when I pulled into the area that served as the transition between Legs 3 and 4, I was relieved to the point of giddiness. I was quick to load my bike onto the trail, rip my helmet off and headed directly over to the pizza boxes that served as our very welcomed lunch. After scarfing down 3 or 4 pieces, guzzling Gatorade and water and looking for my trekking poles because I would be needing those for sure, I started getting ready for the running adventure ahead.

I got my pack back on and prepped myself for the run, as I looked down at my Vibram clad feet, I thought to myself, take them off, keep them on, take them off, hmmm dilemmas what to do, what to do. So I decided, to not to freak out everybody, I would leave them on until I hit the treeline, then I could non-discretely take them off and run free once again. So we were off up the road we went following what we thought was the trail up a ridge and along a narrow path to........... nothing, well a dropoff anyway so that could be called nothing. What the heck, we just started the leg and we were already off course, this did not bode well for the rest of the run, or did it. So we doubled back, down the ridge and back onto the road for a bit more before.... low and behold.... a clearly marked trail right up into trees and straight up the mountain. Right on, here we go, once I hit the treeline, the shoes came off and I felt the dirt track against my feet, the big smile graced me with its presence, then I started running. Piece of advice never run in the woods with a smile on your face, because yes, smack right in the teeth a bug decided to make it home right between my two front teeth, yuck, I swear I was spitting bug parts for at least a mile.

The first couple of km the course winded straight up with nice trail like this....

With a little bit of this.......

And then some of this.......

Which resulted in this........

Oh glorious mud, how you cake my legs and feet

Here is another vista shot along the way up the mountain.

I loved this run up the mountain, there was a bunch of different types of terrain, once we got above the dirt trails we hit rock, lots of rock and stone littering the trail.....

A foot massage for sure, I see you cringing, but damn it this rocked.......

But seriously, I was having the time of my life, my legs felt good, some of the steeper uphills I power hiked, but I ran as much as possible to get the full effect of race day. As we broke out of the thicker tree cover we hit the mine road which was a combination of dirt road with gravel, shale and bits of coal thrown in for good measure. This was really fun to run on as I had to do a lot of deking, insert sound effects here (that would be a chu, chu chu type sound). If you have ever ran with me before you would know what that means, if not well maybe next time. The mining road twisted and winded up the mountain until you got to this......

Which of course you had to follow to reach this sign......

The irony as we went over the edge into the unknown, well at least unknown to me anyway

As we carried on we ended up on some more mining roads that continued the trek up the mountain. It seemed like we had been running for at least 10 miles but in reality it may of been 3 or 4, your perception as you run up hill does funny things to you for sure.

Bits and pieces of the mining road up Hamel

The mining road as it twisted and turned up the side of the mountain
Another one of the signs en route, inspiration comes in the strangest places

Once again the trail changes as we hit a new area and height.......

and again.........
What the hell, why are we going down... oh yeah I turned around to take this picture...never mind.

Look over there, way over there, that is Mount Hamel's summit shroud in clouds. Seriously I still have that far to go, shazam..........

I think I will look the other way......... yup looks better, oh well back to running.

and more trail change........
This was awesome on the feet, running in the mud then running up the stream to clean them off, repeat, repeat.......

Gee, you know you are getting up there in elevation when you come across....... SNOW in late June.

I almost went over to put my foot prints in the snow, but figured why ruin a perfect picture
Then we hit above the tree line and the shale switchbacks, these were really interesting to run on barefoot, trying to find the sweet spot to put my foot down and make my way up, the switchbacks seemed to go on for ever as I slowly made my way to the top. With a combination of running and power hiking, utilizing the mossy areas on the side of the switchbacks when I could, I slowly made my way to the top. Just as I reached the last set of switchbacks before the summit I met a hiker who was making his way down the way I came up. I look at him and give him a quick hi, he looks at me and starts to repeat the salutation when he realizes there are no shoes on my feet. His expression changes and he says, 'Wow, barefoot, now that's hardcore man!' I just smiled and said, hardcore no, silly maybe, we will see how my feet are when I get down the other side. With this we parted ways and I continued up to the top.
This was the surface of the switchbacks, lots of shale sheets, rocks, rocks, rocks everywhere....
oh yeah, that is my finger there, just pretend its not there and obscuring part of the shot. Sorry about that......
As I crested the top of Mount Hamel, I just stood there and looked around, I was in awe, firstly because I have seen numerous pictures and videos of this on the net as I was doing my Death Race research and could not believe I was actually here. Secondly, because this is the highest I had ever gone on my own two feet (and bare to boot) and that was a great feeling. Thirdly, because the view was absolutely spectacular, well it probably would of been if I was not shrouded in cloud, what a cool feeling that was.
The proof is in the pudding or the cloud bank, here is the marker that sits on top of Hamel....
Notice the white piece of paper taped to the support post, it was a little bit of inspiration for Nicole, well probably not my wife Nicole, but damn it you take the inspiration where you can get it.....


Next time, I want to see a big set of bare foot prints that scream, "Go Death Racers"

Some more misc. shots of the top of Mount Hamel, once again I apologize for the thumb in the picture, I was in awe.....

In the immortal words of Bon Scott of AC/DC, It's A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock'n'Roll........

love the bagpipes, and yes I am Scottish.......

and one of my favorites, it's a long way down
So, here I stand on top of Mount Hamel with my barefeet, I honestly thought I was going to be cold, nope I could feel the heat coming off of me as I took in the views. What a feeling, I had just run up a mountain with no shoes on, the week before I was unsure if I could deal with the verticals, now I knew I could do it, and what a feeling that was. Bring on race day, because I am going rock it, and be dubbed the convented 'Death Racer' and hear me roar.
The crazy thing is while running up Hamel is a major achievement, I still had to go down, and the up was only 10 km of the run, there was still 23 more to go, totally mind boggling. My feet were feeling great, but after the swale switchbacks to the top I figured I would be running on the same coming down, I really did not like that idea to much and would shred the bottom of my feet and I still had another day to go. So I put my Vibrams on for the way down, it was kind of a strange feeling, knowing what I had just tackled and completed, but I like my feet and I figured they liked me so I wanted to keep them.
The run down was very different, the slopes more gentle the trails winded in and out through the trees as we made our way down, I really could of taken my Vibrams back off but for some reason I was a little hesitant, oh well at least I will have a little bit of protection in case I need it. This was the perfect place to keep practicing with the poles, and I was starting to think I was getting the hang of it as my legs were feeling pretty fresh and relaxed. I was able to start just letting go, relax and running with the hill, unlike my usual 'fight the momentum and tense up as I traversed down an incline'. I was having a blast. Dan caught up to me as I hit a flat and made a stop to have a bite to eat and a good drink, it was good to run with him for a time, running trails in solitude is a lot of fun, but running with a friend is just as much fun.
We continued on for a while until Dan decided he needed to walk a bit, I on the other hand wanted to pick the pace up a bit and with a quick see ya at the end, I was off. It is such a great feeling to just let go and run, I was having a great time and moving quite quickly along when I heard a funny noise. It was sort of this low rumbling throaty sound that was coming from the treeline, my first thought was crap is that a cougar. I really didn't want to look, but figured it would be smarter to know then not know what I might have to deal with, I really don't like surprises and especially ones like this. So I turned my head and looked into the trees and low and behold there is a black bear about 20 feet from me (felt like it was closer than that) making some really interesting noises and looking right at me. So my woodlands instincts kicked in (I grew up on a airforce base in northern Alberta called Cold Lake and spent most of childhood in the woods) and I started making the same noise back at him (or her) in the throatiest growl I could come up with. It seemed to work, the bear caulked its head and just sat there as I ran by, it did not come any closer but it did continue to talk like it wanted to have a conversation. I obliged with a few more growls and I picked up the pace so I could get as much distance between it and me as possible. I did not slow down till I was at least a km away, and was glad I did not have to clean out my shorts, too close for my comfort that's for sure. Next time I will make sure I have some bear bangers with me, I am just glad the bear speak I used, did not translate into a challenge or something. That would not of been good for someone, and that someone would of been me.
I got down into the more flatter areas (relatively speaking of course) and saw someone I was not expecting in the not so far distance. There was Nicole moving along steadily ahead of me, I figured she would of been finished and waiting for us at the end of Leg 4 by this point. Oh well, at least I would be able to run with my wife for a little bit as we were not to far from the gravel road and the start of Ambler's Loop.
A few more pictures along the way down Hamel....


and......... one of the friends we met along the way........

here is a shot of the valley we ran through before we hit Ambler's Loop.....

and another one......

As we broke out of the trail and onto the dirt road we hear all this whooping and hollering from our personal cheering squad, the organizers. What a great sight to see, everybody sitting around waiting for the runners to get to this point, and they had chips and fluids (water, Gatorade and even beer) for those that needed to indulge. Absolutely fantastic, although I was not able to run Ambler Loop, which was a shame, I figured that could wait for race day. I hung around for a few minutes, chatting with everybody and fueling up a little bit before I started out down the gravel road to the end. Of course got some pictures to share as well.

Dan with a well deserved beer..... once a hasher, always a hasher......

The smiling faces of Lori and Dave awaiting us at the Aid Station

Tanis and Eryn grinning from ear to ear.......

Anita keeping track of the runners,

Yes, I am going out again..... look I am putting my gloves back on to prove it.......

Nicole, Dan and I pose for a great picture.... who's thumb is that? Man I am short or Dan is a giant..... yeah I guess I am short.....

I ended up making it about another 2 km before the volunteer trucks came flying down the dirt road to start plucking the runners one by one, to see if we could stuff the cabs as full as possible. I ended up sitting in Nicole's lap, I was hoping my bony ass didn't cause her to much pain as we hit the bumps along the way. I think we ended up with 11 in the crew cab and another 4 in the back for 15 crushed runners. Of course there were the die-hard runners who totally refused to get in and wanted to finish. If I only knew that was a option I would of probably did the same, oh well the ride was good too.

Anyway, a quick recap....

Mountain biking in the mountains is scary business, and I am not sure I like it.

I ran up Hamel barefoot and am damn proud of that.

You can really run faster when you are scared s**tless.

It is surprising what your body is capable of when you think you have nothing left or should have nothing left.

The organizer's for this race are first class, and I would recommend the training camp to everyone who is thinking of doing this race, I had the time of my life.

My thoughts for race day, I will start Leg 4 barefoot, and run up Hamel to the shale level then put the Vibrams on for the summit and take them back off for the way down. This is going to rock.

So if you are running up Hamel or anywhere else along the course and you see some lunatic run by with no shoes, just wave and say hi, because that would be me.

Go Death Racers.

I was going to make a separate post for Day 3, but I think I will forgo that with a quick review of the day.

Day 3 consisted of me running Leg One (not from the start line but from the hotel) out to the trail head and continuing for about 7 km through some 'easy' (relatively speaking of course) trails with lots of mud and water. It was a blast with my bare feet, until we reached the point where we cross the highway, this was where we took up the mountain bikes again to finish the balance of Leg 1. Yes I scared the crap out of myself again with some of the hills, almost went into the lake with the bike and tackled some crazy uphills (one that Dale had to get off his bike and carry it up). Best quote of the day was when we were standing at the hotel before the start and Dale was mentioning not to take any gear with you that you did not need for the run. As he looks straight at me, and says, "If you don't need your gear like shoes for the run, throw them into the back of the truck" Of course everybody looked at me and started laughing. Tension be gone.

Looking forward to tackling this for real, see you in August for Death Race Weekend.......

One last appropriate song for good measure.....