Friday, January 30, 2009

King of Scrabble

Someone kicked someone else's ass in Scrabble last night!...

After a hard day of playing in the snow there is nothing like a friendly game of scrabble in front of a warm fire. No gloating, just for relaxation purposes of course.

I retire!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Training Log: Jan 19 - 25 (13:20)

Great week of running. I've only been back really training at any sort of intensity for about 10 days now since being sick, but have felt better each day. The tough part will be not to push it too much. I feel in a very good place that each day I'm gettng a little bit closer to being able to do pretty much anything that I was able to do before getting sick. Our 3:34 pulk run on Sunday was a real confidence builder and was a good opportunity to test out some gear. I will continue to build my mileage this week and plan to have a good long run, or possibly back-to-back next weekend.

Week Ending Total = 13:20

Mon/19 (2:05)
am (1:02) Dion Snowshoes. Easy snowshoe run on Paudyn loop with snowshoes. Trail a little more packed down after yesterdays loops. Beautiful morning. Cold, but bright sunshine.
pm (1:03) DionSS. Paudyn loop with Sara, then out to Varty Lake. Trail to the lake good and fast. Ran steady on the way back to meet Sara.

Tue/20 (1:18)
am (:47) DionSS. Easy snowshoe run at Lemoine before work in Kingston. Felt really quite good, but a little tired after the past two days. Feeling much stronger each day, but will take a while for fitness to return. Very happy to be feeling like I'm training again. Also, gave an early morning talk on ultrarunning to the Rotary Club of Kingston at their breakfast meeting.
pm (:31) Raceblades/Microspikes. Easy run on Cat West with Sara. Need to be a little proactive with recovery days for a bit.

Wed/21 (2:10)
am (1:30) Crosslite. Great run with pulk from home to North Trail and out onto Varty Lake. Could have worn snowshoes on trail, but good conditions without which was nice. Felt good to run with pulk again. Used green sled to save yellow one for Rock and Ice.
pm (:40) DionSS. Easy snowshoe run with Sara on Cat Trail West. Legs felt pretty good after morning run, but probably need to take it a little easier tomorrow and not rush back too quickly.

Thu/22 (:45)
pm (:45) DionSS. Easy run on Hare Trail. Have increased quite a bit this week, so was feeling the need to take a bit of a recovery day. Was nice getting out though.

Fri/23 (1:56)
am (1:00) DionSS. Beautiful snowshoe run though a couple of loops of Paudyn Trails. Very warm temp today of 0C, so was good to get the trail packed down a little before the cold weather that's coming this weekend.
pm (:56) DionSS. Nice night snowshoe run with Sara on Paudyn trails. Very mild still. Great footing.

Sat/24 (1:32)
am (1:00) Crosslite screwshoes. Pretty cold with a strong wind. Beautiful sunny day though. Ran easy with Sara on Cataraqui Trail West. Footing very good from freezeup last night.
pm (:32) DionSS. Nice easy snowshoe run on our backyard trail. Felt pretty good and wanted to keep going, but decided to save something for tomorrow.

Sun/25 (3:34)
pm (3:34) Crosslites. Great pulk run with Sara and a really good chance to test out gear. We were planning to run Cataraqui Trail West, then do a big loop on Varty Lake. Started out well, but got halfway across the lake and poked through a few places into some slush that hadn't frozen. We looked at options of going around, but didn't feel safe going off the snowmobile tracks, so turned around and re-traced our footsteps back off the lake. We weren't really worried about the lake as it is not very deep, but the thought of running with really wet feet for another couple of hours wasn't very appealing. So followed our route back to where we started and then headed north to go through a more wooded section of trail that meanders through a marsh before going out onto the east end of Varty Lake. We knew this section was solid and didn't need to go out very far anyhow to get the time we wanted in. The sun was just setting and it was beautiful as we came to the lake. I found myself not wanting to turn back, but felt that 3.5 hrs would be much better to limit it to at this point in coming back from being sick. Felt great during the run and actually seemed to get stronger as I went. My sled was loaded pretty heavy today with probably about 75% of what I will be pulling at Rock and Ice. I still need to modify my sled a bit more to make it slide smoother.
***RANT: Lot's of snowmobiles on the trails today. I have a real love/hate relationship with them. Love them because they make great trails in addition to the trail maintenance they do, but hate them for the speed, noise and pollution/smell. You can literally smell a snowmobile for 10mins or longer after they've passed by. Can't understand why there are no regulations regarding emission tests on them, when there is on cars. Crazy. Most of the time, snowmobilers are considerate when passing on the trail, but I would say that about 10% are idiots who think it's fun to fly by as fast as possible.***

Here are a few photos and a couple of videos from our Sunday run...

Sara with her weighted backpack...
Pulk running on Varty Lake...
Sara on the West end of Varty Lake. Was strange as it's sunny here, but the weather changed quickly and was snowing hard within a couple of minutes...
East shore of Varty Lake at sunset...
Running through the marsh...
Coming off Varty Lake East onto the marsh...

The benefits of running with a pulk...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rock and Ice Update #3: Cold enough for ya?

( Over the past few weeks we’ve had some pretty cold days in Eastern Ontario. When things dip into the -30C range, it sometimes can become a bit of a challenge to convince yourself to get out the door. While the thought of a warmer climate and running in shorts and t-shirt is appealing to a certain extent, I find myself hoping that we get another good cold stretch of weather to be able to fully prepare for Rock and Ice.

During the first year of the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra in 2007 temperatures dipped down to -40C. This made things extremely difficult for racers in an already very difficult race to begin with. Running up to 45km each day for six days was one thing, but trying to stay warm while sleeping in tents along the trail at night was quite another. Not optimal racing conditions for sure, but everyone was in the same boat and athletes persevered.

I ran the K-Rock three day race at Rock and Ice in 2008 and while there were times that weather conditions seemed very cold, it was nothing like the stories that I heard from the previous year. Even though we had deep and difficult snow conditions, I can’t help but think that we got off lucky. Lucky last year, but what do the Yellowknife Weather Gods have lined up for us in 2009? To be perfectly honest, thinking about it too much sometimes scares the hell out of me.
While I feel as though I learned a lot from being there last year, witnessing how cold it can be and talking to and observing other competitors, I am still trying to do everything possible to fully prepare myself for the worst possible conditions this year.

I was quite ill for three weeks recently, which limited the amount of training I could do, however this gave me a good opportunity to research further about the most appropriate type of gear I should be looking to use for a self-supported six day race in an extreme climate. My plan once again will be to focus on layering the most breathable clothing possible to prevent any moisture from building up inside my clothing. In the north, a little bit of overheating can be a very dangerous thing.

Since I haven’t really been able to fully duplicate what the conditions of the north could be for the race, I have taken to doing the best I can and running during the coldest parts of the day. I’ve also found that doing some unconventional training has helped to get me used to the colder temperatures. Aside from snowshoe running, my other wintertime passion is dogsledding. During the recent cold snap, I was out dogsledding on some very cold nights. While I didn’t get much of a workout by standing on the sled, I do feel as though I got some good cold weather acclimatization at -25C, and the wind chill created by being whisked through the trails by our team of enthusiastic huskies.

Dogsledding might not be the best way to train for Rock and Ice, but mentally in combination with all of the other training I’ve been doing, this has helped me to feel more at one with the north.

For more information on the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra, please visit . (Note: Rock and Ice Race Director Scott Smith has extended the early registration discount to March 1, so you can still sign up at the reduced rate.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Training Log: Jan 12 - 18 (5:20)

Certainly not a huge week, but considering how sick I was for the past three weeks I will take it. Very happy with how I'm feeling right now going into next week. My strength has come back and I feel that I can pretty much start to train as hard as I want again now. I will throw in a few recovery days here and there, but full steam ahead otherwise.

Check out the above photo of the beautiful trails we get to run on daily. We are very fortunate to have access to these types of trails that make it easy to want to get out the door.

Week Ending total = 5:20
Mon/12 (:20) Easy on snowshoes on trail loop behind house. Still not feeling great, but a little better than yesterday.
Tue/13 (:35) Snowshoe run. Definitely on the mend today. Ran 10' with Sara during her tempo run, then took about a 3' recovery, then another 7' of Sara's tempo. Felt good to move faster, but was tough.
Wed/14 (:20) Easy snowshoe run on our trails again.
Thu/15 (:45) Ahhh, this feels like what I remember. Nice snowshoe run with Sara on Hare Trails. Ran out and back with new juniper loop. Beautiful night out. Cold, but nice.
Fri/16 (:45) Same snowshoe run as last night, but felt much better. Getting some strength back finally. As soon as we got home, headed back out for a dogsled run. Cold night, but great run. The dogs were flying.
Sat/17 (1:02) Easy Snowshoe run at Little Cat with Sara. Trails were groomed, so good footing. Felt much better today.
Sun/18 (1:33) Tough snowshoe run on Paudyn Trails. We got a lot of snow over the last couple of days, so decided to open up the Paudyn loop again. Very tough going as we were up to our knees in places. I ran two loops, then Sara continued on to get her three hour run in. I would have liked to have kept going, but didn't have the strength quite yet. Recovered quickly after I got home though.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sleddog Blog

Question: How many sleddogs can you fit in a Subaru Forester?....
Answer: 5 (so far).

With the cold weather we've had recently, we've been taking advantage of some great dogsledding conditions. A couple of nights ago we loaded up the team and headed to our favourite trails. The trails were fast and the dogs were flying. I love dogsled runs after dark. Everything feels so alive.
Here are a short profile of the huskies and their roles on the dogteam...
Alpha female. Great lead dog. Not our fastest dog, but a good problem solver who could pretty much parallel park a dogsled.
Super enthusiastic. Loves to run. Keeps everyones spirits up on the trail. Runs well with Meela in lead and listens to her well.
Mr Reliable. Seasoned pro. Runs in point well, as well as a great lead dog. Has seen and experienced everything as he has several years of racing under his belt.
Extremely strong dog. A gentle giant. The hardest working dog in our pack. Thinks he needs to try to pull the entire sled by himself. We think it's to impress the girl huskies.
The wonder pup. This is her first year of being hooked up with the team, but is a natural. Loves to run and has taken to dogsledding right from the first hookup.
Okay, we can't forget the non-sleddogs in the pack...
"What do you mean? I'm a real sleddog. I have a harness you know. I can pull." Well, yes Neeka has been hooked up and I believe deep down thinks she IS a husky, but seems to perform better as a cheerleader.
Well, it's pretty safe to say that Mali will probably never make the team, although she does look rather fashionable in her booties. Mali prefers to bark commands with her booming baritone voice, while munching on a porkchop.

We'll try to get some action photos and videos at some point during a day run.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Finally, things seem to be turning the corner for me!

After being sick with SJS since December 24, I started to notice some improvement on Monday. Mornings are still a bit of a challenge and I am a bit weak, but the past few days have been better.

On Tuesday, I was even able to join Sara for part of her tempo run on snowshoes. That felt really good. Not physically good, but mentally good to be out there running a little bit faster instead of the survival shuffle I have been doing recently. I was able to run with Sara for about 10 mins of her tempo, then took about 5 mins of easy running, and then did the final 5 mins of her workout. In total I got in 35mins of snowshoe running yesterday, which was very encouraging.

I still feel weak at times, especially if I try to do too much, but it is so nice knowing that each day will be better than the previous. I know that I still have a long ways to go to get back to my pre-sickness fitness, but it shouldn't take long once I feel 100% healthy again.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Training Log: Jan 5 - 11 (2:20)

~ Well, another week down and another week of feeling lousy. I have been pretty much on a liquid diet for almost the entire 3 weeks since I've been sick. I have been trying to drink as many calories as I can so that I don't lose much weight and so that once I do start back running more, I will be able to increase quicker. Sara has been great in helping to keep me taking in calories, even when I don't feel like it. I have been living on ice cream, gingerale, gatorade, boost shakes, with a little bit of rice and cheese curds mixed in at times.

Week Ending Total = 2:20

Mon/5 (:20) Very easy jogging each day.
Tue/6 (:20)
Wed/7 (:20)
Thu/8 (:20)
Fri/9 (:20)
Sat/10 (:20) Snowshoe run
Sun/11 (:20) Snowshoe run

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sick of being sick!

Being sick sucks! I am not a patient person, but I’ve had to deal with it for the past 3 weeks.

I have a rare condition called Stevens Johnsons Syndrome. You’ve probably never heard of it as SJS affects only about one person in one million…I guess I won the lottery. SJS is basically an allergic reaction to something that your body doesn’t agree with. It can be caused initially by a simple drug reaction or even just a flu or virus. I’ve had episodes of SJS since a very young age, and we aren’t exactly sure what initially caused it or what triggers an attack now. I still have a hunch that it originally may have been caused by having a mild case of meningitis when I was only a few months old.

SJS affects many areas of the body and causes severe skin irritations. It can affect the entire outside of your body with burns and blisters, but also can affect your eyes and mouth as well as internally. Needless to say, it can be very dangerous to the person who has it and can be fatal if not recognized.

I am very fortunate in that I don’t get SJS as badly as some people do. An outbreak for me usually lasts 2-3 weeks. I may feel fine otherwise, but have a slight skin reaction on my arms and legs and that can be it. In more severe cases with me, and if I don’t get on my medication at the first symptoms, I can end up getting a pretty bad eye and mouth irritation that makes it tough to see; while eating and drinking are extremely difficult. I’ll usually run a fever with this for a while as well. Basically, it’s not much fun.

So, this is what I’ve been dealing with since Christmas. This most recent attack is probably one of the worst I’ve had in years. I was in the hospital for a week back in 1987, and I remember them having no idea what it was. The doctors at the time thought that I’d had a reaction to illegal drugs and kept asking me what I was on. This was very difficult trying to tell them that I was a runner and not on anything.

I have had two attacks in the past 6 months, where as I haven’t had an attack for 6 years before that. The reason for the recent attack was that my doctor and I felt that it might be better if I went on a new drug for a shorter term. This hasn’t proven to work very well though, so I am going back on the original medication next time.

Unfortunately, once an attack happens, there is not much to do but wait it out. Like I said, I am not very patient. While I still feel like hell and would really like to be back out there running more, I do feel that I am slowly starting to improve and hope to be feeling better in the next few days.

Running has been very difficult, but I have managed to keep my streak alive with a token 20 minutes of running each day. Not much, but helps with my sanity. Just getting outdoors for that period of time gives me hope that I’m on the mend and what I can look forward to again soon.

I should also point out that SJS has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of running that I do as I’ve had attacks before I began competitive running and at times when I’ve been running very little.

The good thing about this is that once I start feeling better, I tend to come around pretty quickly. You never really appreciate your health until you get knocked down a level. I guess that’s where I am right now, and can’t wait to get back out there training hard again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rock and Ice Update #2: Why?

( I have been asked many times why I want to compete in a race like the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra. I will be racing in the Diamond Ultra (six day/225km race), then there’s the K-Rock Ultra (three day/135km) and also the Cold Foot Ultra (one day/55km). All races are very challenging in their own way with the unpredictable environment of Canada’s North. With the extreme nature of Rock and Ice, I sometimes find myself asking the same question….why?

Participants in the three races last year ranged in age from university students to a 65 year old gentleman from South Africa. This is truly an international race with competitors travelling from such places as Great Britain, Australia, South Africa, Italy, France, Korea, Ireland, in addition to various parts of Canada.

What is it about Rock and Ice that captures everyone’s imagination and lures them to Yellowknife?

I guess I can only speak for myself, and for me, the appeal of the north has always been a part of why I’ve wanted to run Rock and Ice. I love the winter months. Many hours of my winter training are taken up by either running the cold trails near our home, or strapping on the snowshoes and spending long, wonderful hours of snowshoe running in the forest and frozen lakes nearby.

My other favourite wintertime activity is dogsledding with our pack of happy huskies. I guess the thought of actually being a husky and having to pull a pulk (sled) with my gear in it has also struck me as being strangely fitting.

I felt like I learned a great deal by participating in the K-Rock last year and observing the competitors in the other races. I learned about what I needed to do to get myself through each day and by the end of the race I had the strange feeling of being so relieved to be done, but also not wanting it to end. The only thing for me to do was to go back and experience the Diamond Ultra this year.

Fitness wise, I feel as though I am better prepared than last year. I have had a solid year of training, including a successful debut in my first attempt at a 100 mile race in the Haliburton Forest. Funny thing is, there is so much more involved at Rock and Ice than just fitness. That part intrigues me, yet scares me at the same time. Isn’t that the way a challenge should be?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Snowshoe Magazine

The latest issue of Snowshoe Magazine was just sent out and here are a few of the articles we contributed.

Snowshoe Magazine Interview: Dave Dunham
This is the third in a series of interviews with notable snowshoe personalities that we will be presenting throughout the season.Dave Dunham lives in Bradford, MA and is a pioneer in the sport of snowshoe racing in the Northeastern United States.

Dave has numerous top five finishes at the U.S. Snowshoe Running Championships, including winning in 2001. He is also a race director for three snowshoe races. Dave is a member of the La Sportiva Mountain Running Team and Central Mass Striders.
(Read full interview)

Gear Review: Nathan Storm Pack
Picture yourself out for a long hard snowshoe run or hike, working up a sweat, then trying to take a drink out of your water bottle, but nothing comes out. Drat! It’s frozen solid again. This has continually been a source of frustration for the avid snowshoer.
(Read full gear review)

Also, make a point of checking out my Mom's Call of the Wild article and my sister Debbie's Mountain Hardware gear review.

Training Log: Dec 29 - Jan 4 (2:20)

~ Brutal training log....or lack of. Bad week. Still very sick with SJS. I used to get this rare illness when I was a very young kid, but have been pretty lucky with not getting it for a number of years. If I had some early warning symptoms, I would start on medication and wouldn't get sick. Well, I switched on to a different drug that was supposed to be better and I didn't have to take as long. Unfortunately, this has not worked as I've been sick twice in the past 6 months. Have a doctors appointment for Wednesday, so will go back on original prescription.

Ran just enough this week to keep the streak alive and I'd have to say that these were some of the toughest days that I've had to run through.

Looking forward to next week and hopefully feeling much better.

Week Ending total = 2:20

Mon/29 (:20) Short, but not easy.
Tue/30 (:20) On Cat Trail.
Wed/31 (:20)
Thu/1 (:20) Very weak. Mouth, throat and tongue very sore and swollen.
Fri/2 (:20)
Sat/3 (:20) Ran in Paudyn's trails. Still feeling like hell, but nice to get in the woods.
Sun/4 (:20) Easy run on road from house. Very weak, but felt good to get outside.