Not necessarily in chronological order, but here’s what we’ve been up to…
You know it’s autumn when we can go apple picking. Just me and E this year but the crop was plentiful, the day was lovely and we hauled home about 20 lbs.
A big focus for Marlene all fall was preparing for the JFK 50-Mile Ultra Marathon. Running 5x/week plus did a couple other events as part of the training.
I lucked into this great little running group from MEC, led by the always cheerful, helpful and unstoppable Jonathan. We ran the trails of Gatineau Park, starting at P7, every Saturday morning until the snow came. The run lasts about an hour, with considerable climbing involved. This is a few of us on our last outing of the season, during which we ran every trail off P7, for a total of about 18km.
Some non-running highlights: a visit from Leslie (when I made her suffer the out-of-doors to check out a family fall festival), Nic’s nightly ritual (now abandoned) of doing a dozen or so handstands, Eli as a spy for Hallowe’en, a long-overdue dinner party with John + Isabel + JD + Marcus and Peter, and Nic’s day with me at the Canada Council for the Gr. 9 ‘Take your child to work’ day (along with the other visiting students; Nic enjoyed it much more than he’s showing)
If you’re not much interested in Marlene’s running, now would be a good time to stop reading this post!
I was supposed to run two marathons (42.2 km) and do two 45km runs in preparation for the 50-miler, so I signed up for some events to make those runs more interesting. First up was the Cumberland Fall Colours Marathon on Thanksgiving weekend. But I’d been sidelined with hip bursitis for two weeks at this point, with almost no running possible (even walking was painful). I started some ART (active release therapy), embraced pharmaceuticals (Celebrex) and drove to the far side of Ottawa to give it a try. I knew I’d never manage the whole distance but it was two loops of 21.1 km and I did manage one. It was a gorgeous fall day, perfect for distance running. I was hobbling badly by the end but actually had a respectable finish time (only about 10-15 minutes slower than my PB) and a smile on my face for accomplishing that. No one there to take my photo so had to settle for a selfie at the end.
Two weeks later I was scheduled for my first 45km. Instead I joined up with the Turcanus, Adrian and Daniela, for an 8-hour rogaine (Google it). It’s basically trail running, bushwhacking, climbing, fording streams (using beaver dams where available) all while looking for as many control points as possible. I figured we covered about 35km in the 8 hours. And we won the Masters’ category! Not bad for my first rogaine. Although the Turcanus are old pros at these things, and adventure racing too. They usually go by the team name ‘Vampire’s Night’ (they’re Romanian) so with me we became ‘Vampire’s Night with a Twist’. By the way, I ran 19km the next day, as per my training plan.
We came in with just over 3 minutes to spare (7:56:49). Soaked to the bone. Once it started raining, about 4 hours in (before the ground had been merely damp, except where we were in a bog), Adrian declared with a big smile, “Now THIS feels like a rogaine! I was too comfortable before.”
The following weekend, another 45km on the schedule. Still having hip issues (at this point I was regretting that I hadn’t chosen the cortizone shot, but not in the end). I’d registered for the MEC Gatineau Park marathon, promoted as the country’s hilliest marathon. My friend Carol was doing it too — we had planned to do some training runs together but never managed to, so the race would be our only chance to run together. But Carol is generally faster than me and I definitely was not in top form. Plus a training run is not supposed to kill you. So I told Carol to just go ahead, and I’d see what I could manage. I figured it might only be 10km. But I ran the whole marathon!! It wasn’t even too shabby a finish time — about 15 mins behind where I might have been without bursitis, and only a couple minutes behind Carol. I was so happy! I even walked the 1km uphill trek from the finish line back to the chalet. Oh, and I ran 20km the next morning.
Then a few weeks of tapering (longest run was 19km) until the big event on Sat. Nov. 22. The day dawned clear and cool (just above freezing) but no wind and really perfect for an ultra. The first 23km or so were on the Appalachian Trail, starting at the high school in Boonsboro, Maryland. We ran for a few miles (and up a very long hill) to get on the trail. The trail itself followed a ridge to start, with gorgeous views down to valleys on both sides through the leaf-bare trees. Once off the trail we had a full marathon (42km) on a tow path along the Potomac River. Very, very flat (which I don’t like) and after a while it didn’t feel scenic any longer. Starting running from aid station to aid station (mentally — you don’t want to think about how far the finish line is). Aid stations were 2-4 miles apart and like running up to a Bulk Barn! Crazy selection of real food and snacks. In retrospect I should have been both eating and drinking more.
I drove down to Hagerstown, Maryland, where the ultra was based, with Mel and her boyfriend Darryl — Mel was also running the race and Darryl was our trailside supporter. A role he fulfilled expertly! As a military guy with lots of operational experience he took his role very seriously. I think he was as nervous as we were! And also super happy to see Mel and I come down off the Appalachian Trail together, where he was at his first support station. Darryl had our other runners (non-trail ones), food and even camp chairs. He shouted so loudly at us when we came into view that we had big smiles for the camera.
Photos start with Mel and I in the high school gym getting the mandatory briefing before the start. Because the race started 50+ years ago for the military there’s still a big military/first responders feel to it and everyone who had served or was currently serving stood up to be acknowledged.
On the trail and coming down from it.
The area we were running in is very historical, especially in relation to the American Civil War. We ran past Harper’s Ferry. Darryl took some scenery shots. It would be lovely to visit again (and perhaps only go for a short jog).
After the ultra we spent another day in Hagerstown, and visited a local railroad museum. Then we drove to Spencer, NC (only a couple hours from Raleigh) to spend the night and visit the NC Museum of Transportation the next day. That museum sounded great and Marlene had contacted them to make sure they were open around Thanksgiving — they said they were but something changed and they were closed. Eli was in tears! Also closed was Dan Nichols Park, which likewise sounded like an interesting attraction. A sign at the park gate mentioned something about the state budget causing extra closures. At least we could walk around those grounds.
Marlene initially booked the wrong motel (Courtyard — more $$ and no breakie included) so spent one night there then switched to the intended place, Country Inn & Suites, where we’d stayed before. All we could get was a little suite but Nic was happy with the pullout couch and it was still cheaper than the Courtyard.
In Raleigh, Lois and the boys in front of her residence Preston Pointe. We rented a room there which worked out great. We got to see the grandparents a lot but they didn’t have us underfoot the whole time.
More to come…