Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hiking And Gunfire!

   Ooops, sorry, just one of those blog post titles which almost forces you to click on the link, who knew I would stoop so low?!
The first 4K was all on sidewalks.
Til they ended...

   Will get to the "gunfire" a little later, if I remember. First, though, the story of my 12K hike today!
   It's Saturday and beautifully sunny and, as I am still not running as per my doc's instructions, I went out on another 12K hike. If you have been reading faithfully, then you will need counselling remember that last weekend I was doing the hiking thing as well, due to having injured my knee running about two and a half weeks ago. This weekend, I simply reversed the route from last weekend.
   Doing this had me hiking
Made it to where the Kains Woods
trail officially begins but
it's still sidewalks
on sidewalks for the first 4K, before I was actually into a forest. Today, my plan was to run through Kains Woods, then zigzag over til I got to Warbler Woods and this would then get me pretty close to home.

   I used the urban poles again today. They seem to work just fine for hiking, although I may need to check into different tips for them, as they don't get a lot of traction once you're actually on a trail.
   It wasn't nearly as warm this week as it was last, and there was a cool breeze, particularly for the portion of the hike out in the open, on sidewalks. Still, warm enough for shorts and I just threw a tee over top of a long sleeve tech shirt. Being cooler also meant that I only used up about half of the water I brought along. 
Ah, where the "trail" part
of the trail begins!
Being such a nice day, I ran into a fair number of people out on the trails. Most of the pleasantries were quite perfunctory but then I ran into a Dad who was out with his two teenage (or early twenties) daughters and we actually stopped and chatted. They looked at all my gear and asked what I was training for! I kind of smiled to myself and just explained the medical end of things and they then mentioned that they'd actually seen me out on the street before they got to the woods. Nice to know that people are paying attention, I guess, although I'm also wondering what they said in the car...
The narrowest entrance to a trail
I have ever encountered. I  put one
of my poles up for reference
and I'd estimate that the entrance
is only about 14" wide. I need
to squeeze through sideways
and my butt and my belly both
touch the posts. I'm not small
but I'm not huge either! Hard
to imagine a heftier person
being able to make it through!

   Last week, I had a bit of an issue with blisters but I neglected to mention the weird rash-like marks on the tops of my feet and toes when I'd finished walking. They looked just like a really bad sunburn but they didn't itch or hurt and they weren't raised up or anything. I had already put down the blisters to the work socks I'd been wearing that day and, after this rash thing, I was pretty sure I was allergic to whatever was in the socks as well. They got tossed.
   Most of my running socks are all the of the no-show variety but I did manage to find a neon yellow pair of Under Armor athletic crew socks and so I wore them today. Quite comfy, no blisters and no strange rash! They're a winner!
Just to prove I was there.
It occurred to me at some point as I was hiking the woods that I'm starting to like it a little too much. Not that there's anything wrong with enjoying hiking but, at the same time, I know that I'm only hiking right at the moment because I'm not
Beautiful trails in Kains!
supposed to run and that pretty soon I'll be back to running and I'm wondering if I'll end up torn between the two. Running is fun but it's also hard,  whereas I always get the feeling I could hike pretty well all day long and still get many of the same benefits. Hmmm....I guess we'll see!

   Oh right! GUNFIRE!! When I heard the gunfire the very first time, last fall, I initially thought it was the sound of hammers coming from nearby construction sites. After awhile, though, and with a little checking, I realized it was just the sound of skeet-shooting from the nearby London Hunt and Country Club, just on the other side of the river from Kains Woods. I
Through the tunnel....
suppose it's nice that they no longer chase the foxes with the horses and the hounds but, at the same time, it's kinda weird to be out enjoying a hike in the woods and for there to be constant gunfire at the same time! Jeesh!
...and into Warbler Woods.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My 12K Hike And A Couple Of Random Pics

LOVE hiking in these woods!
   A little over a week and a half ago, I did something to my right knee and have been "on the shelf" since then. I was able to get in to see a doctor the following day and he basically diagnosed me with a muscle strain. He said it wasn't too serious and that I should do normal activities for two weeks, walking for two weeks and then return to light running.
   About three days after I saw him, my knee felt fine. Mind you, I could get it into positions where it didn't feel fine but, for the most part, it felt as though I was ahead of the recovery prognosis. I actually felt as though I could run but why take a chance?
Nice to see the green returning!
   Much of the good weather lately has distressed me as I haven't been able to run in it. Today, however, I decided that I would begin the "walking" phase of my recovery. About a month and a half ago I had bought some hiking boots and have only been able to use them on short walks so today gave me the opportunity to give them a true test.
   I live nearby Warbler Woods and Kains Woods, two of London's environmentally significant areas (ESAs) so I thought that I would hike from my house to Warbler, walk all the way through Warbler and then up Commissioners a bit and then down Oxford a bit til I got to the southwest entrance of Kains Woods. I would then walk to the far end of Kains until it popped out into the Riverbend subdivision and from there just walk home along the city streets.
   I also decided to use my urban poles. Doralyn gave me urban poles for Father's Day almost three years ago and I had yet to actually use them. They're not really designed for trails (hence the "urban") but I thought it would at least give me a bit of a feel as to what it would be like using trekking poles.
   It was a beautiful Easter Sunday, weather-wise, and I ran into a lot of other people enjoying the trails. None of them looked like they were on the same kind of mission I was (with me and my poles and camelbak and arm and wrist bands) but we happily chatted as we passed.
My favourite part of the trail,
going up OR down.
  It was kind of a nice change to be out in the woods and not be running and I noticed even more things than I usually do. At the same time, I was working up quite the sweat and did find myself pretty winded at the end of long climbs. I had the camelbak but didn't bother with the bladder, I just filled up a water bottle, threw in half a Nuun, and slid it into one of the front pouches of the vest.
Lots of these growing by the side
of the trail today. Skunk cabbages?
    Round about 9.7 K, I started to feel a burning sensation on the bottom of both of my feet. At this point, I was about 2K from home and just powered through. Once I did get home, I took off my boots and socks and, sure enough, blisters. As the rest of the day progressed, however, I found I could more and more easily walk on them so, hopefully, no big deal. I think I made the major mistake of wearing a cheap pair of work socks, rather than anything designed for mileage, so I guess this was all part of the learning curve. We'll see how they feel tomorrow, and from there we'll make plans for the next long hike and then, hopefully not long after that, back to running! 

Random Pics

After Easter dinner at the Mandarin,
Doralyn and I and our friend, Louise
found ourselves in the backyard,
looking at the plant life. We heard
what sounded like sheets flapping
in the wind and when we looked up
there were turkey vultures soaring
overhead, looking majestic. They
managed to perch on the tiniest
little branches. We were looking
at them flying around and they were
looking at us, waiting for one of us
to drop dead. I was the most
likely candidate....

This is what Doralyn looks like when
she's eating candy floss at the same time
that you ask her to smile. If you
couldn't tell, she's saying "eff you"
at that exact moment!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Runs and Ruins-A Photo Dump

   Since I (apparently) transitioned over to trail-running at the end of last summer, I have subsequently found myself in places I have never been before, doing things I have never done before and seeing things I have never seen before.
   I have come much closer to the damage done to rotting tree stumps by pileated woodpeckers, the unmistakable mark beavers leave on the woodlands, the high and unreachable  nests of bald eagles and occasionally the sad and lonely passings of the beasts of the forest.
   These things were all new to me but, at the same time, I was not surprised---it's not like I had no inkling of some of the marvels of nature.
   What did surprise me, however, were all the times I ran across the remnants of human life and habitation, half-buried and almost un-noticeable in the woodlands. Pretty well every time this happened, for some reason I felt compelled to to stop and visually document my findings. Many of those pics ended up on these pages, quite a few didn't. The following is a bit of a photo-dump, each with its own description, of some of the ruins I ran into.

I came across these abandoned pipes
at the eastern end of Komoka
Provincial Park. I'm gonna guess
they're still there...

This was by the trail in Kains Woods
and I ran past it a couple of times
before I realized it was actually
there. Bunch of stones and mortar
and also pretty far away from

Not really a "ruin" but definitely
a sign that a human had been messing
with things.

Not even sure what this is, part of a
sewer system? Seemed pretty
old and it was in the middle of
the Sifton Bog.

Ran past this makeshift grave in
Kilally Meadows. Hope it was a pet...

After my run in the Sifton Bog, I was
exploring the old section of Hyde
Park Road. I noticed an open field
which looked as though it had
some kind of a laneway running
through so I went exploring.
I soon discovered I was in the middle
of where someone's farm used to be.
This and the next two pictures
were taken there.

Bits of concrete and a pipe sticking up
out of the ground.

Not sure if this was the remnants
of some kind of well or something.

I came across these concrete steps
while running through the Westminster
Ponds. Not the usual kind of steps
London uses in their environmentally
significant areas. Pretty sure they
were built so that the war vets
could access the Ponds from
Westminster Hospital, back when
it was in service

One of the abandoned buildings that
formed part of the Westminster Veterans
Hospital. In a slow state of decay...
Got off on an unmarked trail at the
western end of Komoka Park. Guessing
it used to be for cattle.

At this point was totally lost in Komoka
Park and was hacking my way
through underbrush and came across
the remnants of an old fence,

Another bushwacking adventure had me
coming across a ladder into a tree. This
was on the outskirts of Meadowlily
Woodsa. Think it might have been
a deer blind at one time.

Probably my favourite thing I've run
across. This was about the size of a large
matchbox and contained the remains
of "Nathan", who I assume was likely
a goldfish. Found this at the base
of a tree in Warbler Woods.

   So there you have my photo dump! I hurt my knee about a week and a half ago, otherwise this would have been a bunch of (likely) boring pics from my latest trail run. Instead, you got these awesome ones!! Hopefully, back to the boring ones soon!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

And Then My Knee Went BANG!

   Since last September, I have been exclusively running trails. Prior to that, almost all of my running took place on the sidewalks and streets of my neighbourhood, here in London.
   I took to trail-running because it felt much less performance-based to me. My only goal out on the trail was to explore, see some scenery and run with ease. As I did this, it felt as though it was becoming easier and easier and that I was able to progressively run harder. I then began to wonder what difference this might have made in my ability to run a 5K on pavement.
   With all this in mind, last night I headed out for a 5K run. I realized very quickly that I was very much heel-striking as I ran. On the trails, for whatever reason, I find that I am very much more prone to heel-striking whereas on pavement a midfoot strike seems easier. When I realized that I was heel-striking, I attempted to switch over to midfoot running.
   Well, I took about three more strides and then I heard a bang. After the quarter of a second it took for me to wonder what the bang was, the pain in my knee hit. I stopped dead in my tracks and then took another couple of very tentative steps before I knew that my running for the evening was done. 
There's that sucker---up near the top.

   I hobbled home (thank goodness I had only made it about four houses away), made it up the front steps and over to the couch. Out came the ice and the Ibuprofen. I then spent the rest of the evening taking it easy, as well as trying to assess how bad the damage was.
   Straining a knee is nothing new to me, a long history of sports has given me ample opportunity to enjoy the experience. What was new, however, was the bang sound! 
   Right off the bat, I was consulting Dr. Google. He, of course, was not encouraging. The only thing that didn't send me into a total panic (okay, I never do that anyways) was the fact that I could quite easily bear weight. I resolved to wait until morning and see how I felt.
   This morning, the knee didn't feel all that good and I knew right away that I'd be seeking medical attention. Fortunately, it was my late work morning and I was able to find coverage so that I could get the day off. Then, fortunately again, I was able to get in to see my family doctor.
   One of the nice things about my family doctor is that he is a young guy with a sports background. Before becoming a family doctor, he ran a physio clinic and was also a massage therapist so I was quite happy to get his opinion. After hearing my story and doing a physical exam, he diagnosed me with a gastrocnemius muscle pull or strain. We agreed that this was better than what it could have been. He also gave me a referral for physiotherapy and if, with their expertise, they think it might be something else then I have effectively gotten a second opinion. On top of everything else, he also suggested that when I get back to running I should perhaps concentrate a little more on dynamic stretching. My pre-run routine, principally done in response to a debilitating PF adventure I had back when I started running, currently involves almost solely static stretching. My plan will be to try and combine that two.
   In the running! This, of course, sucks and I know what a funk it can throw other runners into. I tend to try and remember people I know who can't even walk and would be ecstatic to be limping around with me, if it were at all possible, before I get really too down about it. I also know that the recovery time will go by quickly and by the time I'm ready to hit the trails again, everything will be warm and leafy and green. Can't wait!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Little Barkley Pain With My "Monday Off" Post

   On Monday, I headed out for another of my "Monday Off" runs, this time at nearby Kains Woods.
The real trail starts on the
other side if this pond.

   I was a little conflicted as I left the house. I knew I would likely be out for about two hours but I also knew that the Barkley Marathons would be reaching its time limit while I was out and I strongly desired to find out if Canada's Gary Robbins was able to finish under the time limit. Unfortunately, they were also calling for heavy rain shortly and I wanted to avoid that, if I could. I made the decision to head out anyway, knowing I would have the phone on me and could check social media when I wished.
   I was thinking yesterday that I wanted to hit the elusive 11K mileage mark if I possibly could. This had eluded me (again) this past Saturday and I really wanted Monday to be the day I got there.
Honestly, my 220-some-odd
(some-even) pounds barely
fits through this gate! lol

   It's been pretty mild in London the past few days and this meant running in shorts again, which is always awesome after a long winter. The first part of the Kains Woods trail, from the entrance I used, involves almost a kilometer's worth of multi-use trail which winds its way past a subdivision and then around a large collection pond. You then need to squeeze your way through a narrow post opening so that you can access the wooded trail portion.
   Technically, Kains Woods is just one long trail from end to end and as I got to the start of it there was a sign indicating the trail was closed. This was a little disconcerting but the sign was vague enough in its wording that I just ran past it and kept on going. The plan was to reach the end of it and then turn back until I eventually got to the 11K. 
My favourite part of the trail.
The rain started falling almost right away, just a light rain and nothing which gave me pause. In the beginning the legs felt pretty good. I was a little worried because on Saturday I was totally exhausted after my 10K run in Komoka and I'd only had the one rest day in between. There were quite a few sections where I was able to "let it all out" for extended periods and it felt great. Eventually the legs began to feel a little worse for wear and round about that same time the rain really started coming down and I turned around before I reached the end of the trail and headed back, still running. 

   Not sure if my hard running did me in or not but at 6.5K I decided to just walk it in. I took this opportunity to check on the Barkleys and found out that Gary Robbins had finished but had been six seconds late. Six seconds! This deflated me.
Just to prove I was there!
As I walked back I found it hard to imagine the pain and the effort he had undergone only to fall short by this amount. All I could think of was the thousands of opportunities he would have had to have saved six seconds, here or there. Honestly, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it.
  Once I got back to the car, I had a chance to see some of the video of his return to camp and it was absolutely heart-breaking, getting me all choked up as I sat there. Later, after I'd gotten home and even more so on Tuesday after all the fallout, to find that not only was he six seconds late but had also gotten disoriented by fog and had not gotten in the proper mileage, I felt better. Sort of. Mainly, though I was full 
Through the trees, and across
the Thames, the fabled London
Hunt and Country Club. (be
careful how you say that...)
of awe at both Gary and John Kelly, this year's sole finisher, and all they had accomplished. 
As I was sitting there in  my car, the irony of me stopping after 6.5K and a little bit of rain compared to what the Barkley competitors had endured was not lost on me. I then remembered what the 10K had done to me on Saturday and it only cemented in my mind the the true nature of the athleticism and mental strength Kelly and Robbins possess. Well done, gentlemen!!
Another of my fave parts!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

White Trail Only! (Almost)

   I headed off to Komoka Provincial Park this aft, primarily in an attempt to get an 11K trail run in.
May have been a sign...

   My plan was fairly simple---I was going to stick to the White trail, the one which runs through the park end-to-end, until I got my 11K in.
   It was about 6C when I actually got running and I had overdressed just a touch, could have done with one less layer. I knew I was overdressing, but I have this crazy need to be warm when I start running and am happier divesting myself of garments rather than the other way around. I also passed by fairly close to where I was parked and could have done a quick change but I never really was that uncomfortable.
Steep, muddy, rocky...
The reason why I'd planned just to stick to the White trail was that I've had the tendency lately to go exploring little side trails and then eventually finding myself, machete-less, trying to hack my way through underbrush and thickets to get back to any kind of marked trail. This has derailed my mileage plans several outings in a row now. This then the reasoning behind my "one trail" plan today.

   For the most part, the plan worked out okay. When I got onto the White trail I headed east and ran to the end. This had me running down a couple of steep, muddy (rain and snow lately), and rock-infested slopes. Then, of course, I had to turn around and then run back up them. The last time I'd been to Komoka, I'd avoided this section of trail mainly to not have to deal with these hills. Oddly, going down them is the worst part, due to the muddy rocks and gravity's tendency to fling you hazardously forward. Going back up is no treat but at least if you fall you stay right there.
Flat! Yes!

   At this point, I was headed back west and ran all the way to the other end of the park. This was pretty uneventful but also included a couple of truly steep and muddy climbs. Having reached the end, I turned and started running back, headed east. 
   Soon I found myself back where I had started from and, to get the mileage in, I had to start doing it all over again. Shortly after this, though, I screwed up with the plan. In an attempt to avoid the two steep and rocky hills, I took a side trail. It was also marked as "white" so I wasn't technically deviating from the plan. As has happened to me so many other times, though, the trail petered out and rather than simply backtracking, I went overland through thickets. The running stopped at this point and I was never really able to get myself started up again.
At the end of the trail...Lego!
I had put in 10K's worth of running and was pretty satisfied with that. I walked the rest of the way in and finished up at 11.5K.

   I was exhausted.
   I have only been this tired and in this rough a shape once before since I started trail-running and that was back last summer. Then, though, it was hydration. Today, it was the extra mileage and the hills. And the thickets. Briefly, I am sure, I'm missing running on pavement....
At this point, I was walking and
really didn't feel like bending over.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

"Return To Meadowlily" or "There Will Be Blood"

   I am almost too tired to blog. So I think I might go and have a nap and come back in a bit, okay?

   Okay, so it's now a little over two hours later, I slept a bit, made a coffee, did a couple of crosswords, filled out a work form and now I'm back to the blog. Lucky you!

   A few weeks ago, I ran the trails in Meadowlily Woods and found an intriguing trail that I didn't have time to fully explore so today I thought I would go back there and give it another go.
   It was actually hovering in between 9 and 11C and this meant I could actually get away with shorts and one less layer on top...hooray! I might have regretted the shorts a little later but I'll get to that in a bit.
Once again, downed trees
make things difficult!
   It rained quite a lot yesterday so once again I found myself dealing with the odd muddy patch, no big deal. One of the worst things about Meadowlily is that there are four or five streams you need to ford (hop across) and a couple of those streams are at the bottom of very steep ravines. I imagine that in the middle of summer the ravines are not a major problem (it is trail-running) but when they are coated with mud and almost straight down, the getting up and down is actually quite treacherous.
   I quickly got to the spot where I had turned around in my previous visit and then just kept on running. My thought was that the trail would take me right out of Meadowlily and then along the Thames but I eventually came to another large ravine and the trail I was on seemed to simply circle back. This was not my plan.
   I scouted the ravine, looking for the best place to get down, and then finally managed to make it back up to the other side. There, I found no clear trail to follow, marked or otherwise. I did find myself in the middle of a large, cleared area, that had remnants of fencing around it. Not quite sure what used to be there but I was still looking for running paths so I ventured out of it and then down toward the Thames river. 
The large, open area. Remnants
of fence were here and there
so it was used for something
at one time.
   I then found myself walking along the river bank. It was the part of the bank which is underwater whenever the river is at its highest. It's actually quite eerily beautiful there, many large, moss-covered trees and the flow of the water that used to be there has the grassy undergrowth matted and lying parallel to the river bank. You also get quite a collection of human junk which has been swept there from upstream.
I Am A Trail-Runner!
   I eventually figured out that I would not be running along the river bank and so I made my way back through the thickets, back to the open area and then back into the forest. Hiking through the underbrush did quite a number on my legs and little bits of me cursed not wearing long pants but this was at least temporary.
   Along the way, I found myself a semi-sturdy stick to assist me with the ravine crossings and made a mental note that, if I go back there sometime, I will need another.
A whole section of riverbank was
festooned with snail shells
   I had hoped I would find another trail along the river and, if I'd been able to find one, my plan was to get 11K done. My trail-running distance goals have been thwarted with some regularity the last few outings so I only managed about 7K today. I still need to find a way to get the miles in without constantly running back and forth on the same trail. Part of the problem is that I insist on "exploring" and this generally gets me into places and situations I really don't want to be in---following deer trails, crawling through thickets, etc. I need to learn to STAY ON THE TRAIL. At least, for the most part...