Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rock and Ice Wrap-up

Following a long day of travel on Saturday, we are back home to what we now affectionately call Yarkerknife.

Being away from home for 11 days is a long time. Since Sara and I tend to be homebodies, it made it seem a little longer at times. We were kept busy the whole time of our trip though, with race planning, in addition to writing assignments.

I still have a hard time wrestling with my personal Rock and Ice race experience this year. Feeling fairly confident going into the race, it still frustrates me to no end that I ended up with a big fat DNF on day two. I know that I wasn’t feeling well on the week of the race, with the taper, travel and planning, however I wasn’t too concerned about things. I fully expected that as soon as the race started, I would feel better, just like many other times in the past. Obviously, this didn’t happen as I have been sick since and still feel like hell.

Dropping out of the race on day two of six feels very much like unfinished business. I had a roller coaster of emotions going through my head during the later stages of the race, as I was watching from the sidelines. I felt as though I was on the outside looking in. I’m not one to cherish race souvenirs; however I really wanted one of the Rock and Ice finisher awards handed out when participants crossed the finish line. I found myself looking in the other direction when participants were given this memento upon completion of the race. It’s not about the memento itself, but just what it symbolizes.
As much as my race was such a disappointment and a feeling as though my body let me down, it helped greatly that even though my race fell apart early, Sara nailed her race big time. It was very cool to see all of her hard work come together and that she was obviously getting stronger and stronger each day. It was interesting too that Sara seemed to have the same experience this year that I had last year, in that she felt that she changed and truly became an ultra runner during the course of this race. It’s exciting to think of what’s next for Sara this year. It sounds like a 50 miler may be in the works for later in 2009.
As for me, at first upon dropping out, I thought that I might be able to salvage another race sooner rather than later as my recovery would be that much quicker since I hadn’t competed for the entire six days of the race. That is still a possibility, however I need to get healthy first before deciding what’s next. By the end of last week, I was starting to feel a little bit better …weak still, but better. However, my fever has now returned with a vengeance and with it a sinus infection, sore throat, heavy chest and achy ears. Once again, it’s back to getting healthy before thinking about registering for the next race.

In the meantime, I still have some writing to do about the 2009 Rock and Ice Ultra. Looking at it from a spectator’s perspective is not my ideal way of doing things, but has been interesting none the less. There are so many great stories from the race, and having not been wrapped up in finishing the race, I have had the opportunity to see many of these things a little closer than I might have otherwise.

Rock and Ice is the type of race that really gets under your skin. You form many close friendships with people you have just met, but feel like you’ve known them all your life, from race director Scott Smith, right on down to volunteers, fellow competitors, media and the Yellowknife community in general. The challenge and attraction of this type of race is obviously huge and can be life changing for many once completed.

I have had a lot of people ask me if I am planning to run the race again next year. After the disappointment of this years race, I was unsure how I would feel and what my thoughts would be. At this point, I don’t think that I can leave R&I as a DNF, so if I have the opportunity, I think I need to go back.

I loved the feeling of crossing the finish line last year after three of the hardest days of running I have ever done. I could also see that in Sara’s eyes when she crossed the finish this year and that she had learned something as a runner and felt an incredible feeling of accomplishment. Even though I was only racing for a total of less than two days, I do feel as though I learned a little more about the race and what it takes to run well there which would help me in the future. Whether it’s first place or last place, I don’t really care. I just want to cross the line at the Rock and Ice Diamond Ultra.

And, now a few final memorable thoughts from the race…

Race Highlight:
Sara winning the K-Rock three day race. She nailed it and just seemed to get stronger and stronger as the race progressed. Thinking about seeing Sara come across the finish line in first place and having conquered some very difficult conditions, was an incredible sight and will continue to give me a warm feeling for years to come.

You needed to ask? Obviously, getting sick and having to stop.

The first day of the race consisted of extreme conditions. High winds and wind chills, plus driving snow at times where you were out in the middle of a lake and could not see the shoreline.

Bigger than life people and friendships formed. There were so many nice people who we got to know very well, and too many to name as we wouldn’t want to leave out anyone. Special thanks to Scott for doing everything that he does and for putting this together. The volunteers, especially Elaine for being so kind. Ken, for being a friend at camp. All the media, racers and community. So many wonderful people.

Trout Rock Lodge:
Once Sara’s race was over, we had the opportunity to go out to Trout Rock Lodge with the media, in addition to helping at the stage camp finish line. The weather was beautiful and we were shuttled in by a vehicle used by the Swedish military that was a cross between snowmobile, bus and boat. Being at this remote lodge felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. Northern Lights:
We were lucky. I have always imagined what the northern lights would be like and never in my wildest dreams did I picture them to be so beautiful. We had just gone to bed when Scott woke up the camp to tell everyone that they had to get up and see the northern lights. We were treated to a swirl of dancing green lights that connected from one end of the sky to the other. Sara and I walked away from the lodge and out onto Great Slave Lake where the northern lights were so bright and close that it seemed like you could almost touch them. It was incredibly beautiful and certainly something that I will never forget. I was disappointed that I really didn’t get a chance to see much of them last year, but was grateful that Sara and I got to see them together this year.

International Friends:
The first night that we arrived, we met the Italian team of Pietro, Katia, Francesco and Gabriela, and hit it off right away. Even though language was an issue with trying to communicate, we were able to do so and got to know them all very well. It sounds like they are planning to return next year, which will be nice to see them again. There were competitors from a total of 11 different countries taking part in Rock and Ice, making this quite the international field. We got to know everyone pretty well over the course of the race.

Fun times:
It was fun sharing stories with fellow racers. The media was also an eclectic group of individuals who were quick with a joke or story to tell. Some true, some not so much, but all good times.

Sara and I are vegetarians and don’t eat meat. However, when in Yellowknife we were given the opportunity to sample some traditional dishes which included various types of wild meat. All were excellent and while it’s nice to return to our regular diet, it was great to try out these foods that we don’t have a chance to eat regularly. We even made the trip to the world famous Bullock’s Bistro and enjoyed what Reader’s Digest calls “The Best Fish and Chips in all of Canada.” The Arctic Char certainly lived up to that billing.

Each of the races had an interesting story and many weren’t decided until the final day. Congratulations to Mike, Greg, Denise, Liza, Dennis, Shawne, Thom, and of course Sara. Also, congratulations to Phil for fighting it out to the end in the closest race at R&I, and Jenn for gutting it out despite injury and making things close as well. Just completing this race is a victory and a huge congratulations goes out to everyone who did.

We would also like to thank again the following sponsors for supporting us at the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra:

La Sportiva Running Team
Kingston Police Association
Scott Smith (Rock and Ice Ultra Race Director)
Bob Duess/President of Duess Geological Services Ltd (GPS)
PolarMAX (base layering systems)
Outdoor Research (windpants)
Duane Ramsay Alaskan Huskies (pulk design and construction of runners)
Ryan Alford (Snowshoe Magazine)
Jack and Rosemary Spafford
Brennan and Heather Spafford (pulk artwork and support)
Peter and Judy Montgomery
Debbie and Jack McKeown (gear swapping)
Karen Spafford-Fitz & Family (Edmonton B&B)

To read Sara's race report, please click here

Monday, March 30, 2009

Breathe Magazine: The Prized Pulk

Competing in an extreme winter race like the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra requires hard training, knowledge of the north, and a good pulk.

The Rock and Ice Ultra began on March 21, 2009 in Yellowknife, NWT. Participants could choose between the Diamond Ultra 225km six day, K-Rock Ultra 135km three day or the Cold Foot Classic 55km one day race. There is a foot/snowshoe and ski category in each race. Those participating in the Diamond Ultra must pull their supplies for the entire six day race in a pulk (sled).

For a winter race, finding or building the right pulk can be a daunting task. Surprisingly, the frame is the easy part. Many great racing pulks begin with a basic kid's sled before customizing it to specific needs. Some competitors choose to simply tie it around their waist with a rope, but there are other things that can be done to improve performance significantly...

read full article>>

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week of March 23-29 (2:34)

Training Log
Weekly Total = 2:34
Total # of runs = 7
~ Started feeling a little bit better for a few days mid-week, though still weak, but then got much worse with sinus, throat, ear and chest. High fever again for a few days too.

Week of March 16-22 (16:14)

Training Log
Weekly Total = 16:14
Total # of runs = 8
~ Most of volume came from Rock and Ice Ultra before having to drop out with being sick.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rock and Ice Update: K-Rock Results & Diamond update

The third day of the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra has come to an end which also signifies the conclusion of the three stage 135km K-Rock Ultra.

If you have been following the race through this blog, you already know that congratulations are in order to my wife Sara (Montgomery) for winning the women's division of the foot/snowshoe race, in addition to placing third overall. Sara had a great race and seemed to get stronger each day. With the challenging footing, high winds and cold weather, Sara showed great mental and physical strength in finishing the race three hours ahead of the next female participant. Sara won a diamond valued at $2,800 for her efforts which was donated by title sponsor BHP Billiton - she will be flying up to the diamond mine that it came from for the presentation and a tour on Friday morning.

Due to the depth of the snow on the course, Sara had to run approximately 125 of the 135km of the race in her Dion snowshoes. The only time she ran in just her trail shoes was for the first five and then the final five km's of the race; which was on the ice highway.

Even though the K-Rock is over, there is still plenty of racing to take place as the six day 225km Diamond Ultra division just passed the half way point. Ottawa adventure racer Andrew Cameron continues to run well and is solidly in second place behind Greg McHale. Greg has built up a big lead over the first three days, which will be tough for Andrew to make up, but in a race like this anything can happen.

Andrew looked in great spirits heading out this morning and it will be interesting to see how things play out in the final three days on the trail.

Liza Pye also looked good heading into day four and just needs to make it to the finish line to pick up her diamond, however you can bet she will be trying to make up ground on some of the male competitors who are currently in front of her.

On a personal note, thanks to Rick and all the people who commented, sent emails and well-wishes after I was forced out of the Diamond race. It means a lot to me and is comforting. Thanks.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rock and Ice K-Rock: Sara wins!

Just wanted to add a quick update in addition to mom and dad's comment on Sara's blog.

Sara is in and had a fantastic race to win the race...and diamond!

Sara just kept getting stronger and stronger. She ran a very smart race, looked just incredible finishing and ran a smokin' day 3. Gawd it was so good to see her.

We're back at the hotel now. After a quick bath, Sara is having a nap before we'll head out for a bite to eat.

I can't tell you how proud I am of how Sara ran. Very gutsy race, which of course I didn't help matters with being sick. She is so tough mentally and physically and I just couldn't be happier for her.

We'll have more time tomorrow to probably put a few more words together.

Thanks to everyone and all of our sponsors for your support.


Rock and Ice Update #11: Start of K-Rock Day #3

Thanks everyone for the comments.

As I said on Sara's blog...
Race headquarters at the Matrix Village were able to patch me through on the radio to the Jennejohn stage camp last night, so I was able to speak briefly with Sara. She said the conditions were very tough, but she was encouraged with how she was feeling, and looking forward to the final push to home today.

I was hoping to catch a media flight out to the stage camp for the start, but unfortunately wasn't able to, so I'll be anxiously awaiting Sara's arrival this afternoon sometime probably after 3pm. I will call in or post results at that point.

The weather this morning in YK isn't too cold, but it's been snowing pretty hard which will make some of the lake crossings very tough. The wind should be at their backs though, which will be a welcome push to the finish.

Go Sara!!!! Can't wait to see you!

As for me...
I had a restless night of sleep with cold sweats but have been able to keep my fever under control this morning with ibruprophen. It was a pretty lonely Matrix Village last night with everyone either on the course or packed up and gone home.

I was glad to have the company of the Matrix Village Camp staff member Ken. Ken is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and just speaking with him for a few minutes, you feel as though you've known him all your life. Kind of a combination of camp manager, father figure, best friend and race mascot all wrapped into one. He is always quick with a interesting story about back home (Cape Breton) or some of the remote places he has been to (Baffin Island and many more). When you aren't feeling well, it's comforting to have someone like that near by.

I've had a bit of a chance to ponder about my race and it still hasn't sunk in that I'm not out there. It started to hit home a bit when I saw the photos on Sleepmonsters. I'll have more time to reflect on this in the next little while. Still frustrates the hell out of me, but looking back at the past week I do realize that something wasn't feeling right. On Wednesday I had an ear ache and scratchy throat but was hoping to just put that down to the flight from Toronto. Apparently it was more than that though.

I'm heading back down to the finish line now for the long wait. It looks like the snow is dying down and the sun is trying to peak through which is a good sign. With any kind of luck I might be able to get out on the course on a snowmobile to see Sara. I'm very pumped for her as she seems like she is in a really good place right now and will be mentally tough as she knows today is the final day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rock and Ice Update #10: Early results

If you have been following the daily updates on www.sleepmonsters.com, you would have seen that the conditions for the first day of the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra were pretty challenging. The temperature on race morning of day one was -25C. Combined with high winds made for very hazardous running conditions. To add to this, we were treated to whiteout snow squalls at times; so heavy that you couldn't see the shore from the lake you were running on.

It's not surprising that a number of people were treated with cold related conditions including frost bite and hypothermia, and the last I heard there were at least 7 participants evacuated during the first day and others decided to drop out after the stage or before the start of day two. Everyone who did get through the first day felt as though they were very fortunate and could only hope that day two was going to be a better day.

Greg McHale and Jason Terauchi-Loutitt took things out hard in the Diamond Ultra six day race for the first four hours of the day, before Terauchi-Loutitt was forced to retire from the race due to exposure to the cold. McHale went on to finish the first day in an astounding time that was 20 minutes faster than his time last year. Andrew Cameron of Ottawa ran a strong stage to finish the day in second place, while I was in third in the male category.

The womens race so far hasn't disappointed those who follow adventure racing and ultra running. Denise McHale and Jen Segger ran side by side for much of the day, before McHale pushed on to gain 13 minutes on Segger by the end of the stage.

In the K-Rock three day race, my wife Sara is running a very strong, consistent race and is leading the women's field, however Fumi Sutoh of Japan and Lisa Brougham of BC are running well, not too far off Sara's pace. Dennis Colburn ran a solid race to lead the men's field in K-Rock.

The start of day two brought renewed hope for everyone after limping into the day one stage camp. The winds had died down overnight, but the temperature had also dropped very low at the remote stage camp, which made for a cold night of sleep in the tents.

After the horn sounded, Greg McHale picked up where he left off, pushed hard from the beginning and build up a seemingly insurmountable lead. Andrew continues to sit comfortably in second place. Denise and Jen picked up their battle where they left off. Sara was looking as though she was getting stronger as her race continued. Dennis Colburn continues to lead the men's K-Rock field.

This is where my race unfortunately came to an end. Fighting a fever, combined with a sore back from pulling my pulk through deep snow, I made the hard decision to drop out after about 24km into day two. I thought about this for a long time before actually pulling the plug, but in the end realized that after popping vitamin I (Ibruprohen) after vitamin I, that things were going to continue to get worse for a while before getting better. I didn't feel particularly good going into the race, which may have been my body fighting a flu bug beforehand. In the end I really had the choice made for me. Very disappointing, but not much I could do.

So, 'Derrick the participant' now becomes 'Derrick the observer'. While pulling out of a race is never easy, at least the consolation is that I can follow the rest of the race from the sidelines and cheer Sara on in her final day of the race.

Now it's time to put this sick camper back to bed and try to get some rest before a busy 'non-racing' day on Monday.

Remember to check out www.sleepmonsters.com for more reports and photos.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rock and Ice - Quick Pre-race

We arrived in Yellowknife yesterday after a nice day in Edmonton with my sister Karen and Family. Thursday was kept busy with plenty of little things around town including picking up camp fuel and a few last minute supplies.

We've met a ton of nice people and had dinner with the Italian team. Very interesting folks, including one person who among other things has run in the North and South Pole Marathons, and one of the other guys has actually summited Mount Everest! Not sure if these are good things to be putting in our heads though ;)

Sara has finished her registration and I've had my gear bag check and passed. I'm able to be an official participant now, so off to register. We then have a press conference, survival training, race meeting, and finally a pasta dinner.

At this point, after all the planning, we are just looking forward to starting to run. The weather is cold at -29C this morning with a strong wind, but is certainly better than it could be.

Will probably be offline for a while now, but may be able to do an update on Monday. Check www.sleepmonsters.com for daily update and photos.

Time to play!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rock and Ice Update #8: Heading North

Training is done, gear has been tested and re-tested, everything is packed and we’re ready to head to the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra on Wednesday. We’ll be flying to Edmonton, staying at my sister’s place; and then heading up to Yellowknife on Thursday.

Before the race, all athletes will be staying in the Matrix Village in large tents right on the ice in Yellowknife Bay. These tents resemble the Gatineau Park Yurts, and are located right next to the famous Snowking Ice Castle. The comfort of the Matrix Village will be replaced with our evening accommodations during the race of teepees and expedition tents stage camps…we will be sleeping directly on top of the snow.

Thursday and Friday will be filled with gear checks, registration and we will also be taking part in the Arctic Response Survival Training. I took the survival training last year and it was well worth it. There were many important winter tips offered that helped during the race. While it was scary hearing about worst case scenarios, it is vital to be aware of what you need to do in an emergency situation. The somber final words we were left with last year were “Be smart. Don’t get dead.” Kind of makes you sit up, take notice and realize that this is an extreme environment and you need to be careful.

What I find really interesting with Rock and Ice is that even with a $6,000 diamond on the line, competitors are not cut throat by any means. The camaraderie among competitors resembles more of an expedition than a race. It’s like everyone is working together towards a common goal of completion. There has been a great deal of sharing of information between competitors already, as many have been discussing different gear ideas and recommendations back and forth with each other. I don’t expect that this would be the same with many other races with this type of purse.

However, having said that, once the gun goes off, the competition is sure to be fierce. Race director Scott Smith has assembled a top notch field for the 2009 race with athletes from Great Britain, Australia, Italy, France, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, Japan and Canada. Skiers, triathletes, adventure racers; combined with trail, mountain and ultra runners are going to make for an exciting race to follow.

On the Canadian side, look for former national team cross country skier Phil Villeneuve to be the man to beat in the men’s ski. The foot/snowshoe division will be a little wider open, however 2008 champion Greg McHale will be trying to repeat. Ottawa adventure racer Andrew Cameron and former Canadian Mountain Running team member Jason Loutitt will be trying to dethrone Greg.

Liza Pye, also from Ottawa, will be competing for the women’s title in the ski race. The women’s foot/snowshoe race is shaping up to be an epic battle between ultra runner/adventure racers Jenn Segger and Denise McHale. Denise may have the home court advantage though based on her third place finish overall in last years K-Rock three day race at the Rock and Ice.

With a race like this, favorites can sometimes be surprised by competitors with slower personal best times. Add all the competitors from other countries outside of Canada, and things will be very interesting. As race director Scott Smith likes to say, “This is the north and anything can happen.”

The race begins on March 21, 2009, with daily updates and photos available at http://www.sleepmonsters.com/.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Staying warm

Bubba sleeping by the warmth of the fire before we head north for the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra.

Training Log: March 9 - 15 (9:28)

Training Log: The hay is in the barn. Just short and easy runs for the coming week.

Week Ending Total = 9:28

Monday Mar 9
Running 2:00:00
shoes: LS Raceblades/hobnails
(AM) Easy-steady on North trail, Sandpit, Paudyns, Cataraqui Trail to Boundary Road. Freezing rain made it tricky as it was very soft and wet in some places and hard packed and icy in others. Feet wet the whole time. Felt ok though.

Running 45:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(PM) Pulk run on the Cataraqui Trail. Just barely enough snow, but good enough to test out Bubba. Started off easy, then eased into a light tempo run for 20mins. Felt surprisingly good. Need to adjust new belt a little, but feel in a good place now.

Tuesday Mar 10
Running 2:00:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(AM) Good pulk run with Bubba at Frontenac Park. Snow conditions pretty good in places. Ran from Trail Centre out Big Salmon Lake Service Road (which was very snow covered as it's closed in the winter), then out along the north shore to Campsite #3, popped out onto the Lake for a bit along the shoreline, then back the corridor trail before finishing up with a little tour around the Boy Scout Camp. Ran with snowshoes out Big Salmon Road before removing them for the rest of the run. Footing a little uneven at the beginning, which my ankle complained about until it loosened up. Did some more tinkering with the waistbelt and think I have everything good to go now. The trails I was on today were much more technical and hillier than what we'll face at R&I, but was good to throw everything at Bubba for possibly his final test. Got back to the car and was treated to a flat tire....drat! Slow leak, so added air and made it home...barely.

Running 30:00
shoes: La Sportiva Crosslites (42)
(PM) Easy shakeout run on Cataraqui Trail West. Legs a little tired from this morning. New shipment of La Sportiva's arrived. Great to get in a new pair of Crosslites. Was worried they might not arrive in time for Rock and Ice.

Wednesday Mar 11
Running 30:00
shoes: La Sportiva Crosslites (42)
(PM) Very easy run down Freeman Trail to the river. Extremely windy day with temperature dropping. Legs felt pretty good after a couple of strong days, but time to start taking more recovery days now.

Thursday Mar 12
Running 45:00
shoes: La Sportiva Crosslites (42)
(PM) Started off easy on Cataraqui Trail West, then picked it up and ran unstructured fartlek workout. Some solid pickups of up to +/- 1km. Felt good to be running on relatively fresh legs and spinning a little quicker. Nice night and great trail conditions.

Friday Mar 13
Running 1:00:00
shoes: La Sportiva Crosslites (42)
(PM) Nice night. Steady run on Cat Trail West. Legs felt great from light volume during the past few days.

Saturday Mar 14
Running 46:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(AM) Easy run on Cataraqui Trail West. Beautiful day out. Felt good. A little tightness in right hip adductor, but loosened up.

Sunday Mar 15
Running 1:12:00
shoes: La Sportiva Crosslites (42)
(PM) Easy run along Cataraqui Trail West. Very warm day. A little sluggish, but ok. Nice to run in shorts. Won’t be next week at this time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rock and Ice Update #7: Gear Requirements

Training is essentially done and it’s now time to start tapering for the 2009 BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra. We leave for Yellowknife in less than a week. Even though I’m putting less hours into training, it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get prepared for the race.

I sometimes feel that the training for a race like this is the easy part and the logistics and getting all of the necessary gear organized is the biggest challenge. With the lack of winter these days in Eastern Ontario, the days of being able to fine tune my pulk (sled) design have been limited. Luckily, there was still some snow at Frontenac Provincial Park on Tuesday and I was able to take my pulk on one final run and I’m pleased with the end result. Now I just have to figure out how to fit everything I need for the entire six days of racing into it!

The list of gear requirements for Rock and Ice is extensive, but due to the harsh environment that we will be racing in, it is vital.

Mandatory gear items and equipment include:
- Emergency shelter (bivy sac or four-season tent)
- Sleeping bag with a temperature rating of at least -30C (it was -40 in 2007)
- Thermal groundsheet (Therma-rest or closed cell foam - we will sleep directly on the snow)
- EXTRA toque or balaclava (heavy weight)
- EXTRA mitts or gloves (heavy weight)
- EXTRA insulating socks (heavy weight)
- Complete set of wind breakers (Gore Tex is NOT recommended in this climate)
- Appropriate underwear, outer wear and footwear for temperatures 0C to -40
- Head lamp with extra batteries (battery life is reduced in cold weather)
- Sunglasses (extra dark lenses are recommended-snow blindness hit R&I in 2008)
- 1 litre thermos
- Water bottle
- Toiletries
- Route map
- GPS and extra batteries (2 sets)
- Food for 6 days (energy bars, energy gels, dehydrated foods, etc)
- Cook stove and fuel
- Pots and pans
- Cutlery and utensils
- Weather-proof matches
- Foot racers must pack snowshoes even if not planning to wear them

Mandatory survival kit must include:
- Whistle
- Emergency Space Blanket
- Candle or ‘canned heat’ (emergency heat source)
- Fire starter
- Glow Stick

This is all in addition to the gear we will be wearing, plus any other items we may want to bring.

It’s a fine line between having too much gear and dragging the extra weight unnecessarily across the frozen tundra or going ultra light, but risking not having enough. With the weather in Yellowknife currently in the -30C range, I know what way I will be leaning.

Snowshoe Magazine Interview: Tom Sobal

This is the final installment in this season’s series of interviews with notable snowshoe personalities.

Tom Sobal is a true pioneer in the sport of snowshoeing, and was snowshoe running long before it became the popular winter activity that it is today. Tom has accomplished many extraordinary feats, both on and off the snow, including running the fastest marathon ever recorded on snowshoes. Tom’s passion is very evident and has inspired many in our sport...

read full interview > >

Monday, March 9, 2009

Training Log: Mar 2 -8 (10:56)

Training Log - The goal for this week was to recover a bit from the previous week, while still continuing to get some solid days in. Will continue to get some good days this week, but back off on the overall volume. Time to start thinking about extra rest and recovery.

Week Ending Total = 10:56

Monday Mar 2
Running 1:45:00
shoes: LS Raceblades/hobnails
(AM) Great run. A little sluggish getting going, but felt quite good after about 45mins. Had planned to go a little shorter today, but found a very sweet new trail that wound through the woods north of the Sandpit and was fun to play on. On the way back, I ran over the ice on the marsh to connect to the north end of Paudyn Trails. Was a little nervous on the ice, but seems very solid. Pretty cold north wind today.

Running 47:00
shoes: LS Raceblades/hobnails
(PM) Cold north-east wind tonight. Ran steady on Cataraqui Trail West. Felt pretty good. Ankle a little stiff, but not where it was bothering me before, so all is good. Tested out new Outdoor Research Pursuit Pant. Really nice. A little bit lighter and more breathable than the OR Vert Pant, but possibly not quite as warm. No zips on the bottom, but nice tapered fit.

Tuesday Mar 3
Running 40:00
shoes: LS Raceblades/hobnails
(PM) Easy recovery day. Nice run with Sara on the north trail and over the ice on the marsh to Paudyns. Will be sprinkling a few more light days into the mix now between longer sessions.

Wednesday Mar 4
Running 2:00:00
shoes: LS Raceblade/screwshoes
(AM) Beautiful morning. Ran north trail to Sandpit fence-line loop, back through marsh to Paudyns, along Cat to Boundary and home. Felt very good. Steady run. Last few miles sub 7min pace and felt comfortable. Ankle a bit stiff at start but loosened up.

Running 35:00
shoes: La Sportiva Skylites
(PM) Easy run on Cat Trail West. Pretty icy still in places and probably should have worn hobnails or screwshoes, but was anxious to run in lighter shoes. Very nice on the soft cinders before hitting the ice.

Thursday Mar 5
Running 1:01:00
shoes: LS Raceblades/hobnails
(AM) Nice day out. Ran Cataraqui Trail West on soft ground with the occasional icy section. Felt a little tired today from yesterday, but not bad. Left knee feels like I whacked it somehow, but don't remember. Weird.

Friday Mar 6
Running 1:26:00
shoes: LS Raceblades/hobnails
(AM) Nice run with Taylor. Ran from the Murphy's to the skidoo trails. North with loops through the Bunny Hut (Hunt Camp) trails, Camden East trails before trying to connect to the Hodgen's trails. Got a little turned around and post-holed quite a bit in places, but still a great run. Taylor got his legs pretty scratched up by the deep crusty snow, junipers and brambles as he wore shorts. Think that was the only way I was going to hurt him in a run:)

Running 40:00
shoes: La Sportiva Crosslites (41.5)
(PM) Very warm run with Sara on the Cataraqui Trail West. +12C. Most of the ice on the trail is melted now. Felt great to run in shorts and with no socks in shoes again. Don't expect it will be like this in Yellowknife in a couple of weeks.

Saturday Mar 7
Running 1:00:00
shoes: La Sportiva Crosslites (41.5)
(PM) Relaxed run on the Cat Trail with Sara for the first bit. Trail was bare and soft. Ran the last half of run fairly hard in places. Felt good. Mild day, but started to rain part way through run.

Sunday Mar 8
Running 1:02:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(PM) Great run in shorts on Cataraqui Trail West. Soft footing. Took an extra day for a little more recovery and hope that we get the snow tomorrow so I can get out for a good pulk run. Bubba is anxious to run. Legs felt well rested and didn't want to stop.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Evolution of Bubba

Bubba has changed a great deal from his early days of running with me, as you can see from the photos here and here.

It's been very interesting playing around with the design to try and find the best set up for my needs at the Rock and Ice Diamond Ultra. It has taken a lot of trial and error, but I am finally at the point where I think I am happy with Bubba...and hopefully Bubba is happy with me.

I kind of expected that it wouldn't be as easy as just getting a sled and hooking it up, but didn't realize it would be quite as detailed with all the little changes.

It all started with just the sled, but then I soon realized that with a heavier load, there was more resistance. The answer was to add runners or skis. I opted for dogsled runners and received guidance and help installing them from local dogsledding guru Duane Ramsay (Willy, Cody and Jesse's Godfather). The runners made a huge difference in the way that the sled tracked on the snow by preventing it from swaying from side to side, which also put less strain on my lower back. I am surprised how much easier it pulls now.

Next was to figure out a pole system. I started with a double pole system, but soon found that it caused some lateral sway as well. I received some great tips from Geoff Roes on how he built his pulk and switched to a double pole system that was clamped together.
I'm still tinkering with the waistbelt and how to attach the rope securely to the sled, but these are minor things at this point that will come together fairly quickly.

The finishing touches on Bubba came from Brennan and Heather who provided artwork, poems and inspiration that will be with me for all six days of the race.

Heather's poem...

Brennan's artwork...
And now it's almost time to go play!...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rock and Ice Update #6: Fine Dining in Yellowknife

Cold weather endurance racing requires a totally separate set of rules compared to races in the summer. The temperatures at the sub-arctic latitudes in Yellowknife pose risks of frostbite and hypothermia. While it is vital to manage sweat effectively, it is also a lot more work for your body just to stay warm. Then throw in the fact that at the Rock and Ice Diamond Ultra you're pulling a 30 lb pulk (sled) behind you, making your body work harder still. Plus, you’re doing this for six days to cover 225km, making all of the effects cumulative. The bottom line is: you need to consume a heck of a lot of calories.

The countdown is on until we head north, so I'm now trying to fine tune what I'll be dining on for the six days of the race. Most athletes at Rock and Ice rely heavily on dehydrated camp meals in the evening. They are quick and convenient with just having to add hot water. Camp foods have improved a great deal in terms of taste and nutritional value over the past few years. Of course, pasta meals work great, but I also found it helpful last year having something with a bit more protein like a rice and bean combo. I usually found that two packages of camp-food were adequate each night. Instant potatoes are also good if you need something extra. The packages usually say ‘good for two servings’ but that is a little misleading as you are burning so many calories during the race. Adding extra chunks of butter to meals is another way of boosting caloric and fat intake. I am also planning to take cheese curds with me this year. Other things that I will include in the evenings are chocolate (ie. Rolo pieces are easier to break off when frozen and can be sucked on) and nuts. Macadamia nuts are awesome as they are very high in calories and fat, and have the added benefit of being very lightweight. Hot chocolate is also a nice treat in the evening after a cold day on the trail.

For breakfast, I will go with instant oatmeal and soft wraps with peanut butter/honey. On the third day of the K-Rock race last year, I found that I needed some extra calories, so had a pasta breakfast and ended up having my best day of the race. Another good reason to pack some extra instant meals.

Fuel during the actual race is vital. I will eat a lot of the same stuff that I would normally eat during any other long race. I’ll use energy gels regularly; warming them up in my mitts before eating. Sports bars don’t work well in the winter as they freeze up and are impossible to eat without breaking a tooth. Granola bars (Nature Valley type) are good long burning forms of energy and are easy to break off pieces in the cold. You could also suck on pieces of chocolate, but I found that alternating between gels and granola bars work quite well. If I find that I needed something more substantial, then I’d eat some Macadamia nuts or have a soft wrap with PB.

Hydration in the cold can also be a very difficult thing to master, as water bottles freeze up easily during the race. To prevent this, I will use an insulated water bottle cover and put one of those convenient ‘instant hand warmers’ in the bottom of the cover at the start of the day. This should provide enough heat to keep the bottle from freezing.

My six days of meals on the trails near Yellowknife might not sound like fine dining, but you can bet that the thought of that first pizza and beer at the end of the race will be enough to inspire me to get to the finish line as quick as possible. And speaking of fine dining, the World's Best Fish and Chips are reported to be served at Bullock’s restaurant in Yellowknife. I didn't get a chance to try their arctic char last year, but I'm told that it's so good that I will be tempted to turn in my Vegetarian badge.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Training Log: Feb 23 - Mar 1 (18:37)

Training Log: Great week of training. Just what I was looking for. Got some really solid runs in with overall pretty high volume. Really great block of training specific to Rock and Ice as the seven day period from last Sunday to Saturday (Feb 22-28) I got in just under 21hrs of running. Very pleased with how I felt and recovered from this too. Will take a few days easier now.

Week Ending Total = 18:37

Monday Feb 23
Running 1:32:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(AM) Ran with pack to Paudyn trails, then a couple of loops on snowshoes. Beautiful day. Trails in great condition. Ran steady. Felt surprisingly good after long run yesterday.

Running 49:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(PM) Snowshoe run with Sara on Paudyn trails. So nice in there now with the new snow.

Tuesday Feb 24
Running 1:40:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(AM) Beautiful sunny, cool morning. Ran with a pack on north trail to Varty Lake, then back along Cat trail to Boundary Rd. Brought snowshoes, but trail was nice and firm from sunny days and cool nights, so didn't bother wearing them. Felt good. Was only going to run 60-75', but didn't want to stop.

Running 42:00
shoes: La Sportiva Slingshots
(PM) Easy snowshoe run with Sara on Paudyn loop. Great trail conditions.

Wednesday Feb 25
Running 3:00:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(AM) Great run. Ran with pulk on trails to parents, then down through the woods to the snowmobile trails as far as the bridge under hwy 401. Turned and then back to parents. Hitched a ride home with them. A beautiful day and felt awesome. Pulk worked great. Very pleased with the pole system and just a few more minor adjustments.

Running 37:00
shoes: Nike Frees
(PM) Warmed up with Sara before her tempo run, then ran first 20mins of tempo with her. Felt good. Used Colebrooke road loop. Very mild day. Legs felt surprisingly good after tough pulk run this morning.

Thursday Feb 26
Running 1:27:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(AM) Steady run at Lemoines. Footing great with packed snow. Felt quite good after yesterday and ran at a good clip in places.

Running 45:00
shoes: La Sportiva Wildcat
(PM) Easy run with Sara on Cataraqui Trail West. Getting very warm and the trail is turning to slush. Felt well recovered. Planning to take tomorrow as a light recovery day, which works out well as it's supposed to be a very wet day with lots of rain.

Friday Feb 27
Running 1:12:00
shoes: Mizuno Wave Rider
(AM) Rainy run. Blech. I hate +4C and the rain. Worst conditions possible. Trail was disgusting so had to stay on the road. Ran to Yarker, then Cutler Road, Curl Road, CE Road loop. Pretty windy in places. Felt ok when I got going, but too much road. I hate the road. I hate road shoes. Bring back the snow!!!

Saturday Feb 28
Running 5:08:00
shoes: LS Raceblades/hobnails
(PM) Great run on Cataraqui Trail from just east of Perth Road Village, out past Hwy #15 and back. Planned to run at Frontenac, but with the rain, melt and freeze up, there was no way. Nice to get some colder weather training in. Great to run the section along Opinicon again; just beautiful. Saw a Bald Eagle a couple of times. Ran with a backpack. Picked it up and ran fairly hard in places. Very good to get this in after a big week.

Sunday Mar 1
Running 1:15:00
shoes: LS Raceblades/hobnails
(AM) Nice easy run with Sara on north trail to Varty Lake and back through Paudyn Trail. Trails were very icy, but hobnails worked great. Warmer than yesterday. Legs a little tired, but felt like I could have kept going.

Running 30:00
shoes: LS Raceblades/hobnails
(PM) A nice easy shakeout run with Sara along the Cat Trail West. Footing was nice as the ice had melted and we were running on softer cinders. Legs still a little tired, but could have kept going.