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.

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.


this is it


Our spring trail groups are now complete. 6 wonderful weeks of exploring and finding out who we are. Before we conclude though, this Tuesday we will be doing our first ever trail “race” I thought that a challenging “Barkleys” style 7K would be a chance for a little fun and to explore ourselves just a little bit more.

So a little reflection on the spring groups in this our second year:

I thought the trail groups were about learning to run trails but they weren’t. I also thought the groups were about sharing a place I hold dear with some other like-minded runners but it wasn’t. Maybe the groups were a chance to find out about a way to expand one’s running universe and bring something to running that isn’t usually there, adventure. But that wasn’t it either. In the classic film, “Field of Dreams”, Ray is trying to unravel the mystery of the voice and he thinks he has it solved when he sees his father as a young man and he says “it was you” and the Shoeless Joe says “No Ray, it was you”. It seemed to me that so many people in the group were saying in one way or another that “I” sure enjoyed the experience we shared as a group and everything we tried but what “I” really liked was what I learned about myself. The trail groups were about adventure, skills, a new way to experience running and friendship but I came to realize it was just as much about each runner finding out about themselves. We all wonder who we are. We all ask ourselves “what am I capable of?” That was what this was about. I saw something change in each one of us. Another step (ok a lot of steps) in finding the confidence and belief that we are capable of more than what we believe. I didn’t know that what was really going on, when we were climbing steep hills and descending even steeper ones, was that we were finding out that we could. I heard over and over again that ” I never would have tried this” or ” I can’t believe I am doing this” but then “I never” became I DID and “I can’t believe” became I BELIEVE. I watched trepidation become confidence time and time again. Without being too dramatic or overstating, it wasn’t just running and discovering trails, paths, uphills, downhills, creeks or hidden ravines it was a chance to discover just who we are.

I really want to say thank you to Sean, Shakil, Anastasia, Martin, Peter, Giselle, Anthony, Eric, Marty, Carolyn, Sherlita, Janice, Jarmila and Jennifer. This year was very special. I look forward to our “race” and also our last get together fun trail run on Wednesday June 22nd.

Summer groups are starting June 27th. This summer, Jennifer Faraone and I will be running a 5 week trail clinic series on Monday nights. The groups start at 6:30 p.m.and the location is the wonderful single track running trails in the Don Valley. There are just a few spots left. If you are interested please see the sessions page at