Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Beavers and Bears and Running---Oh My!

   It was a holiday here in Canada this weekend and today was Family Day. Our family, wouldn't you know it, all went our separate ways and I took advantage of the day off (actually, I'm always off on Mondays) to hit the trails once again.
One of the VERY few dry sections!

   It was a balmy 9C (48F) and I was actually able to run in shorts for the first time in a long time! Threw a shortsleeve techie over a longsleeve one and off I went. Once again I bit the financial bullet and paid to park at Komoka Provincial Park. Being a beautiful day and a holiday as well, the parking lot was crammed with people. I've been trying to up the mileage a little lately and this is why I chose Komoka---it's configured in such a way that I can get in extra kilometers without doing a lot of back-tracking.
   As mentioned, it's been pretty balmy for the last 2 or 3 days around here and the firm trails I was able to run on last week had turned into ankle-deep mud for long stretches. I was still glad I had the screwshoes but, honestly, in mud as deep as it was, they made almost no difference. Took a couple of tumbles, fairly typical slow-motion efforts, but managed to land fairly softly (though not gracefully) and am more or less none the worse for wear.
A "beaver spike"---very much
pointier than it looks!

   My original plan had been to run 8K but round about 6.5K the toll of running through thick mud had had its way with me and I walked the last half a kilometer. Prior to that, though, I ended up on a couple of trails near the western end of the park I don't remember having been on before. I took one of them and soon found myself slowed to almost a crawling pace as I navigated fairly dense underbrush. This took me down to the edge of the river and got me on a track that I'm sure only the teenagers who go down there to party ever follow. Along the way, I kept coming across young trees which had been toppled by beavers. I always enjoy coming across "nature" like that but it did occur to me, as I was slipping/sliding/falling along that the last thing I wanted to have happen would be to slip and then impale myself on a beaver spike. At that point, I clambered up the side of the hill leading away from the river's edge and and got myself back on the real trail.
Damaged tree---no expert here but
I was thinking "bear". If you're an
expert, give me your opinion!
On the way out of the park, I came across a large tree which had sustained significant damage from what I could only imagine as a large animal. Whole sections of its trunk had been shredded away, leaving a pile of wood shavings at its base. There also appeared to be some sort of bug infestation in the pulp of the tree. This had me thinking bear, just not sure what other kind of animal might have made the same kind of damage. We really don't normally have bears here in southwestern Ontario but every once in a blue moon (only once in recent memory) one will show up. The consensus, though, seems to be that more and more of them may start showing up as we humans continue to take over their natural habitats. I made a mental note to
"This is nothing but a pile of horse shit, and you know it!"
maybe contact the local authorities about this tree damage.

   Okay, there you have it, my latest running adventure. It didn't go exactly as planned due to the footing. Just being out and about on such a warm and sunny day was its own reward, though, and just the idea that we're on the cusp of Spring (and then Summer!) made the whole afternoon pretty darn nice! Can hardly wait to get out again!
Where the young kids hang
out. And leave trash....

A testament to the muck

Not sure why so many trees are down.
Angry bears?? (giggle)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Off On A New Trail!

   Mondays are one of my days off and, as I have been
bemoaning the fact that I only seem to run on the weekends, I decided to force myself out the door today and try a new trail!
   I headed off to the north end of town to familiarize myself with the Medway Valley Heritage Forest, a London ESA (Environmentally Significant Area). I had heard glowing reviews and thought it was worth a try.
   It was about -3C (27F) and overcast. Overcast is what you get, for the most part, in London these days (although it was suddenly gloriously sunny later on) with a minimal breeze.
Lots of bridges....
There are a whole bunch of entry points to Medway and I tried to find the one which gave me the most trail access. I chose to go in at the northernmost point, just off Sunningdale Ave. 

   What I encountered for the first kilometer and a half was snow-packed to bare multi-use path. This meant I was running with screwshoes on asphalt occasionally, not the best mix. I tried as much as possible to stay on the snowy parts and eventually found myself on actual trail, much of it alongside Medway Creek. It appears that the trail there at one point recently had been flooded, as I found myself running on very thin ice over very wet ground. You could hear the ice cracking as you ran and several times my feet plunged through into icy water past my ankles. Not too pleasant but then I remembered that I Am A
...and boardwalks...
Trail Runner And Will Not Be Deterred, or something like that...

   At this point, there was very little in the way of human footprints but all sorts of animal ones and it was kinda fun trying to guess which animals the prints belonged to (I'm guessing deer and bunny rabbits, for the most part). Unfortunately, the actual trail seemed to peter out into fairly dense brush and I also stopped seeing trail blazes. It's possible I just came to the end of things but usually the end of things is fairly well marked. 
  I did spend some time backtracking and checking things out as I was a newbie on this trail for sure. At one point, I ran onto someone who hiked the trail all the time and he gave me some pointers on better entry points. My biggest complaint today was that I was running on so much multi-use path and when you looked up to the edges of the valley there seemed to be a constant view of peoples' mansions---neither being conducive to the "trail" feel.
...til you get to trails....
Because it was winter and I was running it for the first time, I think I might reserve judgement on the Medway Valley Heritage Forest for the time being and give myself an opportunity to explore all parts of it and in different seasons as well before giving it the thumbs up or down.

...and scenery
   One thing worth mentioning is that I've actually run twice in three days! I was a little apprehensive that my legs would not hold up well running so close together like that. The good news is that the legs felt fine at the end. I took a little extra time to stretch before hopping in the car and I managed to avoid that nasty little leg cramp which had bothered me the last couple of times out. So...woo hoo!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Spring-Like Trail Run And A Weird Little Cramp

   It's getting to the point where I can't wait for the weekend to arrive so I can get out there on the trails again. This weekend was no exception so, after a breaky of bagel, peanut butter and banana had somewhat digested, I headed off to Komoka Provincial Park.
My Komoka parking stub. "15"
and "53"---one's the year I was
born and the other is my
favourite number. I'll let you
figure out which is which...
   The temps were 3 or 4 degrees above freezing today which meant there was more mud than snow on the trails and it almost had that "Spring" feeling to it, which was pretty wonderful. Once again, there were lots of people and dogs out as well. They instituted a parking fee at Komoka back in September of last year and many people in London said they would never go there again. My experience, however, is that it actually seems busier than it did when parking was free. Weird mindset, sometimes!
   My plan for today was to run 7K. This had been my plan last week in Kains Woods but I had changed it to a 6K run when my quads acted up. This week I wanted to make sure I hit the mark. 
The parking lot gets you onto the trail a little closer to the eastern end of the park and that's the direction I headed in. Getting in 7K means a little back-and-forth action on the trails so when I hit the eastern end I simply turned around and headed back to the western end. At that point I still didn't have 7K in so I turned around and headed east again, for about a kilometer and a half, until I hit the 7K mark and then I started walking, Could easily have kept running but cramps and overdoing it seem to be an issue with me so I contented myself with walking. Next week, we'll check into the 8K...
   Did I mention cramps? Last year, the major issue I had with cramps was in the  evening after a trail run in the afternoon----godawful cramps in my thighs. The last two times out,
however, I've had an issue with cramping on the outside of my right ankle and lower shin. It hits just as I'm lowering myself into the driver's seat. Need to get out of the car in a hurry! Today, I leaned on my car, doing stretches and at one point I had my right leg dangling underneath me. The foot was pointed straight ahead but as the cramp took over, the toe slowly started to rotate off to the right. Very strange and uncomfortable. A fairly minimal amount of stretching alleviated the cramp enough so that I could get back into my car. I guess maybe the next time, I'll do a little post-run stretch routine (which I hear you're supposed to do anyway) in the hopes of avoiding some of this.
A little beaver action in this section
and lots more farther on. I know
nothing about beavers but I take
it to mean that Spring is on its
way! (if I'm wrong, don't tell me)
Once again, the screwshoes came in very handy today. Occasionally, if I'm coming down on a rock or a root, I'll feel the beginning of one of the screws coming through. Not in a painful way, but I can still feel it so I might need to come up with something to alleviate that---maybe a strip of hard plastic under my orthotics or something like that. They still work very well, however.

   My biggest issue these days is that I'm really only running once a week, on weekends. It just seems that I'm too tired by the time I get home from work to force myself out there, especially as it's still getting dark fairly early. Am hoping that the longer days will help with that cuz who wants to run on a treadmill?
   The CamelBak is still working wonderfully, as well. So nice for hydration not to be an issue! If anything, I probably need to go to it a little more often, especially if cramps are still a problem, which it looks like they are. And it's not even hot out!
Easier steps!L
View from the top of The Steps.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Nice Little Winter Trail Run!

   Two weekends ago, I attempted a trail run in nearby Kains Woods. Back then, we were in the middle of a thaw and the only actual snow in the woods had turned to slick ice right on the actual trail itself. I was completely unprepared for this and, apart from a little brisk walking that day, it was kind of a bust.
Screwshoes and CamelBak at the ready!

   Saturday, I was back at Kains Woods but had my screwshoes this time. The thaw was also long gone and we had had snow that last couple of days so the trail was snow-packed and trampled down by other runners and hikers. Under these conditions, the screwshoes were amazing---no fear whatsoever climbing or going down hills and I even tried sliding on the odd ice patch I encountered and the shoes held their own.
   It was about -4C (25F) and, for what seemed like the first time in weeks, the sun was shining. The first part of the run was on a snow-covered concrete path which leads down and around a residential holding pond before entering the woods. The wind along the path was a little nasty but once into the woods the wind more or less disappeared. 
Hard to tell, but this trail goes
down at a 45 degree angle, on
a sidehill. Pretty easy to fall off,
especially in the winter!

   The plan for the day was to run 7K---3.5K into the woods and then head back. At the turnaround point, I pulled out the Mars bar I'd tucked away and consumed it while I took a couple of pics of the river. The Mars bar was kind of in homage to my x-country skiing days back when I was in my twenties. I always made sure I had one with me and, partway through the afternoon (and I thought I had earned it), I ate it. Bit of an energy boost on top of everything else.
   Just past the 5K mark, my quads started to give me a little grief and I decided to maybe aim for 6K instead of the original 7. The last kilometer would have been all uphill as well so I was fine walking it! At this point, I am quite okay with upping the mileage extremely slowly---last summer, when I discovered trail running, I think I overdid it, constantly fighting debilitating post-run thigh cramps. Not this year, if I can help it!
Once again, the woods were fairly alive with people, even more so than two weeks ago. Lots of people walking dogs and even more runners than usual, people who actually looked like they knew what they were doing!
   I finally made it back to the car and everything was fine til I actually got halfway in and then all of the sudden had this cramp down the outside of my right shin. I got back out of the car as fast as I could and stood on the leg until the cramp expired, just a couple of seconds. I very gingerly got back into the car and thins were fine after that. That's all I need, a major cramp attack while driving!
   The CamelBak continues to work nicely. It's not something I even necessarily need on a 6K run in cold temps but I'm just trying to get used to running with it and so far, so good. Always nice to be able to take a quick sip without stopping!
   At this point, my plan is to try and get out every weekend, I feel like I've been properly winterized and I can't imagine anything really holding me back. And now that "Roll Up The Rim" is back, Spring's just around the corner! Whoop!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Solid-Footing Kind Of Weekend

   Last weekend was my first opportunity to try out my new CamelBak but, run-wise, I unfortunately had to cut things short due to unexpectedly icy conditions. So not much actual running last weekend.
   This weekend, I was all set for another run but we've had some fresh snow over the last couple of days and the temps were down around -3C so I wanted to be a little more prepared for the elements when I went out there.
Spent some time screwin' around
and then I headed out~
To this end, I found myself some hex screws, got my oldest and least favourite kicks (Nike Pegasus, if you really wanna know---I actually like them but I like the others more), and I drilled some screws into the bottom of them. Didn't feel like dragging out power tools or anything and found that a ratchet and socket did the trick quite nicely.

   Today I headed to Komoka Provincial Park, being somewhat content to pay the $5.25 for two hours of run'n'fun time there, no big deal. There were quite a few people there, way more than I expected, but I was the only one (that I saw) who was there for running the trails. Running into other people while I'm out is one of the things I enjoy about trail running. Lots of dogs, as well, mostly on leashes...

   The screwshoes worked awesomely. The first part of the run was fairly level so difficult to gauge their effectiveness. Once I hit the hilly spots, though, I found they made a huge difference. So much easier to run when self-preservation is not the foremost thing on your mind!
   This was my first trip to Komoka since early Fall and it seems like a whole different place in the winter, surprise, surprise! I ran there a fair bit back in the summer but with all the leaves now gone and with the ground snow-covered, many of the landmarks successfully disguised themselves and I'd have to stop and re-orient myself quite often. It's also a different experience when you can see so much more deeply into the forest---it gives you a totally unique perspective on the terrain and where you are in it. Pretty cool, actually.
The Steps--good time to turn around
I only really wanted to run 5K today, so I started on the white trail and ran west til I got to 2.5K and then I turned around and headed back. This 2.5 K took me right to the bottom of The Steps, a rather imposing (especially when you're tired) wooden structure which takes you up from the edge of the river back to the top of the valley. I briefly contemplated conquering them but....no. Quite happy to turn around there and head back.

   Part of the reason I only wanted to do 5K is that there were a couple of times in the summer I "overdid" it. Bad cramps ensued and, also given that I haven't really run in almost 2 months, it seemed like 5K was a good target. There was a little more walking on the way back but I figure I ran well over 4K and I'm happy with that.
   Afterward, I felt none the worse for wear. Knees were a little sore and the Achilles were letting me know about it a touch. Cramping was not an issue, likely at least due partially to the fact that there was not the same fluid loss as there might have been in the summer.
The Thames--much higher and faster
in the wintertime

   Best of all, fitting my shoes with screws has made it that much easier to contemplate getting back out there again. Knowing that footing will not be an issue gives me little excuse for not putting in more mileage than I might have otherwise. What I need to do now is suck it up when it gets dark and get out there on the occasional weeknight. Not going to get much accomplished by running once a week!
Just really pretty

Monday, January 23, 2017

Testing The New CamelBak

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This past Saturday was my first chance to hit the trails in this new year. Up until then, I had had this miserable cold and godawful cough and it's only been in the last couple of days that I thought I might be able to get out for a run and actually survive. I've also spent the last three weeks on the couch and feel so much better now that I'm back in my own bed.
Me, feeling a little more badass

   This then was also an opportunity to use my brand new CamelBak! We had ordered it online as my Christmas present back in early December and then watched it sit around in Auckland, New Zealand for almost a full month. It finally made its way to London, Canada a week ago today, to my great excitement (my wife thinks I'm very easy to please...)

The paved trail leading
to Kains Woods.
   I drove to the nearby Kains Woods, parked, and began a brisk walk to the start of the trail. I had brought along an empty water bottle stashed in one of the front pockets of the vest just to see if it would get in the way of my arm as I ran. This was not really an issue but I did find that my arm action tended to squeeze the bottle out of its pocket but it could very well be that a full bottle and a tighter cinch will fix that. I also found that I needed to extend the straps to their limit, just to get them done up. What I have is the Camelbak Circuit, so not the largest hydration vest and I am a large man (hopefully getting smaller!) The overall fit, however, was quite comfortable!
...but ice was a little different.
Mud I could have handled...
We've had quite a warm spell here in London the past few days and almost all the snow has disappeared.
Because of this, I was under the assumption that the trails would be reasonably clear but, alas, this was not the case. The trails had been used while the snow was still there and consequently were packed down. The recent thaw had done nothing more than turn them into wet, slippery ice. The only white stuff in the whole forest was on the exact same spot I wanted to run on. Had I known about this, I either
A small animal skull, attached
to a tree. It probably meant
"go no further"...
would have worn more appropriate footwear or I simply would have stuck to the streets. I have had a couple of horrendous falls due to ice this winter and the prospect of any more greatly distressed me. So gingerly I stepped! I actually managed to run just off to the side of the actual trail up until the forest seemed to close in on me and I basically turned my run into a hike. Still, it was wonderful being out in the woods and be able to wear shorts, no less! Can hardly wait for spring!

What in blue blazes?!

Down by the Thames

Ran on that boardwalk
into the forest, returned
by a different route.

Running up the side of a hill.

The obligatory coyote warning

The afternoon was not without incident...
One missing Yak Trak---they
probably went through the

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Coughing-My-Lungs-Out Blues!

   Well, we're already into the new year and I would love to be able to describe to you all the snowy running I've been doing but the fact of the matter is...I can't! I've actually been sicker than a dog (not sure where that expression comes from) since about Dec. 31, as the woman who was sitting right beside me in the movie theater that evening can attest to.
   What started out as just a small tickle in my chest progressed rapidly to full-fledged, gut-wrenching hacking attacks that are still ongoing (but somewhat diminished) as we speak. I've spent the last four nights on the couch so that Doralyn, my wife, could get a little sleep and basically have slept sitting up because any time I lie down my lungs start to whisper to me (they sound kind of like elephants, trumpeting from afar) and this always leads to another attack. Got bad enough that I even followed my wife's request that I visit the doctor.
   So, there has been no running. This has been okay because when you can't even imagine running you don't miss it all that much!
   I did engage in some running-related stuff over the holidays, courtesy of receiving a CamelBak  hydration vest from Doralyn, a Running Room gift card from my son, Bryant, and a Sport Chek gift card from my stepson, Keenan. 
Hopefully it's left New
Zealand by now!
   After my trail-running experience this past summer, the CamelBak became almost a necessity. Running trails meant being out much longer and prior to that I'd been getting by with an armband bottle. This more or less had been doing the trick while I was only doing 5K runs but was problematic out on the trails. I had my water run out on me a couple of times before I got wise and started carrying a larger bottle in a backpack. This, however, necessitated constantly stopping, removing the backpack, etc. Hence the need for the hydration vest. Oddly enough, we ended up searching all over the internet for the one I wanted and ended up having to order one from New Zealand. And, a little sadly, it is still in transit!
Running Room commercial?
Should I have been paid for this?
   With my Running Room certificate, I went out and bought CamelBak bottles I`ll be able to use in the front of the vest. Then, with a little left over on the card, I was able to pick up some socks, some Nuun, a lock (in case I accidentally actually use my gym membership) and a couple of protein bars the cashier threw in. Good stuff.
And should Sport Chek
pay me, too?
   Then it was on to Sport Chek. There, I was torn between putting the gift card toward hiking boots or trail running shoes. Couldn't find the shoes so bought myself a pair of Merrell Moabs. My wife and I have talked at length about hiking the trails in the London area so this was kind of what I had in mind. If not for being sick, I would have used them by now!
   Hopefully, the lungs will mend soon and I'll actually feel like running!