Running on the dead

Hi Everyone

During my year off from regular life I had the incredible opportunity to trail run all over the world. One such place was in the desert on Africa’s Skeleton Coast. Namibia is amazing country with phenomenal wildlife, vast barren landscape and extremes (see photos below). One of the first places we explored was Sossusvlei National Park. A vast desert with the largest sand dunes in Africa. The sand is multi-coloured but primarily a deep red.

One part of this amazing region is called the Dead Vlei (pronounced flay). A short deep sand drive and then a hike over a few dunes to a landscape which is breathtaking.

We wandered through this weird world and me being me , had to run up the big huge dune beside it. I figured, wrongly, that I could zip up the monster in a few minutes, hey it’s like the dunes in Sandbanks near my cottage only slightly bigger. Slightly is the wrong word but that was what I was thinking. I am stupid. Very stupid. I mean running up sand dunes is kinda my thing. My best results have come off long periods of that kind of training. P.S. go to Sandbanks and run the remote dunes, do it, do it often.

So up I went and then after a few hundred steps I went plunk. Breathing ridiculously hard and feeling equally moronic I struggled painfully up and up and then a whole bunch more up until the top. I honestly thought, no hyperbole here, that I was in trouble. I couldn’t catch my breath. A few photos later, see below, I crashed and slide back down the dune to my wife, the ever patient Nancy. I mean to be fair, it was eight kazillion degrees and I had missed a few runs and….. ok again fairly stupid am I. Runs in Africa were few and far between. All day in our truck driving through incredible national parks and remote wilderness combined with camping each night in areas surrounded by every kind of amazing animal gave me little opportunity for running. Lots of roaring lions at night, no lie, really. I did get a bunch of runs further up the Skeleton Coast which were spooky and amazing.

The YouTube links to 2 videos of the whole messy run. I love the way Nancy encourages me as I am dying and that in one video you hear “told you so”. Also I appear really tiny running because the dune is massive. Also if you watched all of both videos you are amazing because most of the time I am seemingly barely moving. Thanks for your interest, my wife couldn’t sit through all 5 minutes of both and you did.

Running through my life

Hi Everyone

So the Yorkville 5K was the past weekend. The race was great and a lot of fun and all that stuff. It was nice to some folks I hadn’t seen in a while. It was nice to race for the first time in a long time. All that was very cool.

So the staging area and race area was at Jesse Ketchum Public School. I told my wife about some of the work I have done at the school, I work for the school board. The school is a great old inner city school which hasn’t changed much over the years, I love old schools with the thin strip hardwood floors and the cleaning smell. Jesse Ketchum is also where I first went to school. I went to the daycare there as well as part of kindergarten. I learned to play chess and had a best friend named Godfrey. I can easily close my eyes and see me on the blue mats at nap time or in the playground. Much of it is exactly the same. My brother used to ask on most days how many hockey cards I had won in flips or knockdown or closest to the wall. On most days it was quite a stack.

This past February I lost my mom. She was nearly 94. She was, as almost every mom was or is the greatest person who ever lived. Everything she ever did tasted great, made me feel great or was just another ordinary everyday miracle. One of her bits of magic was that from time to time she would pick me up from school and we would walk home. My mom didn’t drive and walked everywhere. The walk home was along Berryman St where there was a tiny penny candy store with a glass display, where for only a few pennies, you know me I am in the 50 + age group, you could buy a paper bag full on spearmint leaves, strawberry marshmallows etc. By the time we walked home to Ottawa St the bag was empty and my dinner was never spoiled. Those days didn’t happen often but enough so I keenly remember them.

One day, my kindergarten teacher called my parents to come into the school for a meeting. She told my parents that all I did was run around the classroom. My mom turned to me and asked if that was so. I told her yes and said that that’s what we were supposed to do. The teacher quickly corrected me with a “No, we are not supposed to run around the class and thats why mom and dad are here, it needs to stop”. My mom looked a little concerned and said ” Lawrence, stop running around the classroom, run around outside, perhaps in the woods”. So that’s what I have been doing ever since. I added the woods part but hey it is a trail running blog so I have licence.

My mom came to see me not long after that, win the 100 m dash in grade school and so many more races after that one. So mom, that Canadian 5 K 50-54 Championship is for you. In the place where it kinda started I thought of you at the finish.



What keeps me running when I am running

Hi Everyone

Yesterday,yesterday it was when I started writing this post, I ran 28 K on the trails. It was hard, very hard. It was the longest run in a while and the longest on the trails since last year. It was an out and back from my house to Pottery Rd and up on the trails to Sunnybrook Park. Out and Backs are much harder than loops especially on the trails. You know the hills that you will have to go back up and you will be so much more tired than on the way out. I counted about 15 major up the whole side of the valley type hills. 8 on the way back. I believe that when I do hill repeats each one is worth more than the one before and the 9th or 10th is worth so much more than the first few. So this sort of logic also applies to long runs with lots of hills, each one harder and worth more than the one before it. This is one of the things I think about when I run. I think how this run is helping me, how the hard work is worth it. I take a bit of joy at the top of each big hill and try my best, no matter how tired, to take some joy in the strides I take away from the tough hill. I didn’t give up, yay me. I use the word “Nice” when I crest hard sections. I talk to myself, I like that there is most often no one around and I am able to be there on the trails by myself and communicating honestly about my running almost out loud. Sometime I think about treats, imagined or real that I will have “earned by running today”, usually imagined. Sometimes I think about how hard the Pottery Rd hill will be and then I dash that thought from my mind by immediately substituting in the ” You get up it everyday and you will today” thought. Yesterday on this very run I took a pretty awesome fall. I caught a root on a decent downhill slope and went crashing into the trail. Nice scrap on the arm and right knee. I lay on my back for a moment looking up through the forest canopy thinking “How did that happen and how badly am I hurt ?”. A fall happens from time to time, probably about once every 2 months or so on average. I often think about each section of the trail like a familiar friend, I know every bit so well, well except for the root I caught. It is comforting to cover and push through each section that is part of me. I do think a lot about how my body is feeling, How fresh/tired I am feeling, am I starting to breakdown ?

Everyday in a certain special part of the trails I take a few moments to remember a best friend in one of her most favourite places. Sometimes I see a friend or mountain biker I recognize and that is always nice. You smile at each others effort and resolve.

Mostly I try to stay in the moment of running. Most days I come up with some part of trail running that might be useful in the trail clinics. Like yesterday, which is not the same yesterday as when I first started writing this post, someone(s) left a ton of garbage on the trail at the bottom of a tough hill. Fortunately there was a box which I packed all of it in and then I thought I would just carry it all up the hill to where there is recycling. As I began running and carrying, I actually wondered what I might learn from this. I learned that running without being able to move my arms was incredible hard and made me wonder more about the function of arm motion in trail running/running. The box was fairly heavy and I also wondered about core strength and how important it is in running.

So these are just some of the things I think about when I am out on the trails. It isn’t auto pilot like road running though sometimes I probably should pay more attention to the trail and avoid wipeouts like yesterday which isn’t yesterday anymore.