Hard and true

In my 50th year I spent a year living at and building a new cottage. It was essentially a race against time as I didn’t start until mid September and had to demolish and rebuild a 600 square foot structure that would keep me safe against the elements and winter’s rage. As in most races I have undertaken, it was a solo effort with long physically demanding days often ending by flood lamps keeping me going until 9 pm or so. Relief from the work was punctuated by walks with my best friend and all around cheerleader, my golden retriever Maddie. The only other pause in my day was running. I took an hour or an hour and half every day to run in the sand dunes of Sandbanks Provincial Park. A glorious and sacred place I have wandered since almost birth and disappear into as much as I can to this day. The sand dunes are massive and I plotted out a course to take me up an down as many as I could find, one after another.

As the fall season deepened and days grew colder and the cottage struggled to take shape, I struggled less and less up the dunes. The intense work was paying off. This non traditional training had no form other than hard work. I felt that this was reason enough to keep plowing through the sand. Hard work would lead me somewhere I felt both with the work on the cottage and in the dunes. I built the new cottage pretty much around the former one and slowly tore the old one out from the inside. Cats, dog and runner started spending some cold nights together, sometimes all snuggled in one bed looking at the stars through missing parts of the roof.

Racing was on hold, though I went to NYC for the marathon but lost that one to Hurricane Sandy, another story. I promised myself that a mostly completed shell of a residence would earn me a vacation in February cross country skiing through Yellowstone and other places. By mid December there was four walls and a proper roof, a vintage Elmira stove and a little Franklin fireplace for heat. No running water, a well had been dug but it would be several years before the water came into the cottage. Everyday I pushed through the dunes, doing repeats of the harder steeper ones. Snow drifted across the sand but the strange mixture felt much as one. The base of home and strength was there. The cross country skiing with full pack all through Yellowstone for a couple weeks and through the Tetons felt strong. I had ample strength wherever and whenever I needed it. These were days of well earned invincibility, winter camping in -30 F was cold but I had the strength.

I came home to the dunes, the best friend and the cats. Around the Bay and then Boston were up soon and a month of skiing rather than running right before the races would be a interesting test of training. 1:54 at the Bay and 2:47 at Boston. Respectable but not defining. Not disappointed at all, rather quite happy. My 40s were ending and those times were satisfying though later I would have my doubts about doing better. The hard work in the dunes wouldn’t blossom until later that year. Summer races went from good to great and then through the next winter even better. I ran less at the dunes and more on the single track in Toronto where I had relocated and returned to work. For the next two or three years I could do no wrong. The Bay became 1:51 and Boston a PB at 2:42 in 2014. Race after race I felt not just strong but I felt I could stalk these races. Come from behind, make my own decisions rather than hang on. 2015 was again strong and true. 1:48 in Hamilton and a Canadian Record for the half in Toronto in 1:13:19 at 51.

The reason I am reflecting on this is I have been spending more time at the cottage and more time in the dunes. A quiet and solo place where hard and true exists for me. As I approach my 60s and I aim squarely at Ultras, most significantly an entry into Western States, I feel that the dunes are the place to find what I will need to get there. A little video below of Barn Swallows keeping the bugs from my eyes and the dunes telling me to work hard.

When running is the only road out

I am not big on sharing stuff particularly very personal stuff. If I were Taylor Swift none of my songs would be about break ups. But maybe this post will do me and maybe someone else some good. There are many moments now when my tinnitus is overpowering. I feel trapped and unable to move forward with very much at all. Drawing, playing guitar and reading are all closed off. Too far away to be accessed. I can’t get past the noise. I feel immobilized and at times in great pain. It can be very distressing to see no way out.

Then there is running. Since I was a very very young child it has been there. Sometimes a little ignored but almost always there. A part of me for much longer than the tinnitus. I know how to get to this part of me. I can find it even in the darkest places, and I have run in some pretty dark places. When the noise is at its worst and I can’t find relief, I fight. I fight to summon everything I have to put on my shorts, an old grey shirt and those perfect shoes. This is the fight, one sock, one shoe, a half glass of milk, a nod to the running gods as I open the door. It is so hard to do this sometimes but once I am out that door, I am free. Within steps I am in full flight and free. The noise chases me but the race is on. Sure, often I hear the noise while I run now, where once I didn’t but the run is stronger. Every part that couldn’t move is now far and away. I know it will break the pain and temper the tinnitus as I fight to get out the door but it still takes the act of actually running to realize the effect.
When I return from the run there is still noise, same strength but it doesn’t have the same effect.

Running has matched it’s intensity and for now I am ok. I feel well even on those rare occasions where the run is tough. I can move on to other things. The motion creates other motion and I move forward until the next time when I know running is the only way out.


2021 Spring Sessions !

Hi Trail Runners



This spring 2021, Toronto TRUE Running is offering two sessions. Toronto TRUE running spring beginner session starts April 27th and the intermediate/advanced start April 28th. Runs begins at 6:30 pm in various locations in the Don Valley.

The two sessions are each 8 weeks in duration. As always runners can switch back and forth between the two groups as long as folks who are in either of the  beginner groups are comfortable attending the intermediate group. This allows for changing schedules and flexibility. The intermediate group does longer runs, minimum 10 k each week with some as long as 14 k. As always there is a limit of 6 runners per group and each session fills up quickly.

Beginner – April 27th to June 15th inclusive – Tuesdays

Intermediate – April 28th to June 16th inclusive  – Wednesdays.

The cost is the same as last year

$100 for returning runners and $110 for everybody else.

e-transfers are best or for past participants payment can be made at the first session.

Please contact me at torontotruerunning@gmail.com or 416-986-4496 if you require more info or have any questions