Big Canada

Sunday Runday and I waited until today to finally make a big blogging deal about the latest running adventure in which I’ve signed up to participate. I’ve been sitting on it for a couple weeks and have been excited to post about it.

In fact, shortly after I wrote about running inspiration and alluded to my good friend who was just finishing up a virtual cross-Canada race logging nearly five thousand kilometers over twelve months, the same friend sent out a group chat wondering if anyone would be interested in something similar this year, but in relay form. He wasn’t keen on the solo route again.

Eight of us put up our hands, and dropped our cash on the table… and that’s how about three weeks ago I found myself signed up for “leg number two” of The Big Canada Run where the nine of us are going to need to log ten thousand kilometers between July 1st and June 30th of next year.

Ten. Thousand.

10,000 km.

That’s about sixty-two hundred miles for you imperial system folks.

And as I’m writing this on July 4th, you can probably imagine that we’ve already started logging those kilometers… and yes, your imagination would be very correct.

Our team is currently sitting at just barely two percent done having kicked off the meandering virtual trip across the continental map with a group breakfast run on our July 1st Canada Day holiday in the scorching hot weather which ended, as all breakfast runs should, with an eggs and bacon picnic in the grass beside a freeway. Yup, really.

With my share of ten thousand klicks to clock, it could prove to be a very interesting running year for me. Perhaps it might even inspire me to train a little harder and do some races that are a little more based in reality, y’know, sooner than later.

And I’ll drop some further updates when we hit significant milestones. Stay tuned.

Hot Days, Trail Run Nights

Sunday Runday and technically I finished my weekly long, slow distance very early this morning, even before I went to bed last night.

The arrival of what the weather forecasters have called “a mass of hot air” over the western half of North America has provided us with a second great excuse to mix up the running training plan.

The first excuse is that a large contingent of our running crew is off to an overnight mountain race in less than two weeks thanks to the lifting of pandemic restrictions and the resumption of in person racing. They need some serious mileage to help with their training.

Two great excuses collided into an impromptu plan to start our run just as the sun was setting last night, providing a bit of reprieve from the heat and some local training for trail running by headlamp.

The first five or six kilometers wedged neatly into a golden hour dusk even after most of the sunlight had faded beyond the horizon. We trod through a more open section of gravel trail still able to mostly see without artificial lights and stumbling through the terrain without much difficulty.

The next three klicks took us into a winding, twisting, rolling bit of the river valley that swtiched back on itself and sometime between entering and leaving the disorienting maze of trees and roots and flitting insects, the night fully collapsed into darkness and my seven companions and I were little more than spots of light and echo-location-like shouts from the distance.

Yet, it is remarkable how the dark plays with all your senses on a run like this. Confusing them. Blurring them. At one point, stumbling down a narrow tree-lined path in the dark, I caught myself checking to see if I was maybe dreaming and mentally pinching myself as I felt my mind drift past it’s bedtime fuzziness.

Our full path crossed with late-night picnickers, a porcupine, a creepy man rollerblading through the trails in pitch black, and the eerie silence once abruptly broken by the echoing boom of a distant blast of noise. For one long stretch of about fifteen minutes where we had nothing but smooth asphalt ahead of us we turned off our headlamps and ran in the pitch blackness under the starry sky and soft glow of the surrounding suburbs.

It was all at once crazy, serene, painful, and intimidating.

I crawled into bed shortly after one-thirty am, having crept back into my sleeping house and quietly showered the dust from my calves and sweat from my back, my Sunday run done, and my mind a blur from the mash up of heat and experiences.

Gear: Skin 4 Hydration Vest

As the summer runs get longer (and hotter) I’ve picked up a new bit of gear to assist with the ever-present runner’s dilemma: hydration.

I don’t think I need to write too many words on the subject of why water is important to … um … being alive, but certainly the effort of carrying enough fresh water (or other fluids that both fuel and hydrate) on a long distance run is a complex challenge for anyone who is out there on the trails.

Water, of course, is heavy and clumsy.

A bottle in the hand is something that needs to be carried, balanced, and on the trails two free hands are more useful than one might realize. On a short run taking a small bottle along is just fine, but an hour into a longer run the last thing I want to be carrying is a half-full plastic bottle that’s sloshing around in my hand.

I’ve used water belts in the past, but sloshing along with a couple plastic containers on your hip is a moderate inconvenience. And I have yet to do a race a not see multiple dropped belt-bottles littering the course, usually in the first five hundred meters of the race when someone’s carefully planned hydration plan is now just garbage and an obstacle for the next hundreds of people who run by.

I’ve tried a couple hydration packs in the past, the key differences from a hydration vest being the kinds of shoulder straps and the location of pouches. A pack is basically a light backpack with a water pouch. And my biggest problem with my previous pack solution was that usually within ten kilometers into a run I was running with my thumbs hitched up under the thin straps to limit the whole apparatus from that chafe-inducing jostling that was already well underway.

Last week I pried open my wallet and ordered myself what is probably the sports-car-equivalent of hydration solutions: a Salomon Skin 4 Hydration Vest, a snug fitting, light-weight, multi-pocket four-liter backpack-slash-vest designed to hold water bottles, a water bladder, gel packs, cell phones, car keys, and whatever else a distance runner might need quick access to while on the trails.

The new pack arrived yesterday and I wore it for our regular Wednesday evening adventure run.

The advantage of this pack, or so the logic of the purchase goes, is that it is snug. I have no honest comparison, but I assume it’s a little like wearing a sports bra overtop of a running shirt. This tight fit is both deliberate and a feature. It keeps the whole system from moving, shaking, jostling, and rubbing, and is meant to wear comfortably and securely for hours of running while keeping the hands free for trail navigation.

Our adventure run took us deep into some rolling river valley trails, the kind of terrain where your legs are slapped by branches as bumble through the trails and as you scramble up over steep dirt paths, grabbing onto tree stumps and protruding roots. I only carried a bit of water, as it was a short sub-ten kilometer run, but a set of car keys, my wallet and an iPhone tucked neatly into the pack and

… well … success!

I barely noticed the pack after the first few minutes.

A better test will come this weekend, as temperatures creep into the mid-30s Celsius and our distances move into the longer-than-a-half-marathon slogs through that same heat. I can’t say I’m not nervous about both the heat and the mileage, but at least now I’m pretty certain I won’t die of thirst.

*This is gear I've purchased for myself and not a paid endorsement of this product.

Double Tap, Catching Up

Sunday Runday and today I didn’t.

I woke up nursing my second dose vaccine hangover, and feeling as tho I had just run a half marathon. The crew was due to run at least that much, so it didn’t take much convincing to ping everyone and let them know I was going to bail out.

Of course, the problem with skipping a long run as your running partners keep the training schedule, is that there’s really no such thing as catching up. You either run or you don’t. You either train or you don’t. Outside of the racing, the only measuring stick is the one you hold up to yourself.

In other words, I fell a little behind today, but got a bit ahead of that pesky virus.

Hopefully I feel a little bit more like myself tomorrow.