Sunday, October 15, 2017

Back to 5K! And a Face Plant!

   It's the weekend again and today looked like it was going to be kind of rainy so I took the opportunity to get out yesterday and give it a go at running 5K on the trails.
   Once again I headed to Komoka Provincial Park, have finally found a little place at the far end of the park where you don't have to pay the parking fee so Komoka is now a more affordable option.
Passing through a grassy meadow.
It looks flat but is actually pretty steep.

   There were, however, drops of rain on my windshield by the time I arrived and off in the distance the skies were pretty threatening so I wasn't quite sure how dry this run was really going to be. No raingear with me but it was unseasonably warm so I headed out anyway.
   Once again, I briskly walked the first half a kilometer to get warmed up and then I started a slow run. A very slow run. It was the kind of run where you can actually have a fairly lengthy conversation with walkers as you sort of pass them. Yes, that kind of run.... 
   I am, however, much more interested in accumulating some mileage these days and seeing how my injured right knee holds up. At some point, the speed with which I run will be addressed.
   I ran in Komoka last week and I really didn't want to replicate the same run today so when I reached the junction of the Blue and White trails, I headed off on the Blue. This takes you up and down a few steep sections, so I quickly began to wonder if I'd made the right decision. In the end, though, I figured it was all part of the process.
   I ran with trekking poles once again yesterday, as I'm now accustomed to doing. I got used to them on my hiking adventures this past summer and find that they provide a little more stability on some of the more technical terrain. In my mind, they also enable me to imagine that I am some sort of badass mountain trail runner. On level parts of the trail, I
Some of the scenery at the west (and
less-traveled) end of the park.
simply carry them in my hand. I'm starting to become fairly adept at switching back and forth and moving quickly (for me) up and down rocky slopes. What much of this means is that in a park where most of the people are either walking their dogs or spending romantic time with their significant other, I really stand out. And that's fine, kinda enjoy doing my own thing!

   Just before the end of the running portion yesterday, I passed one of those romantic couples I just mentioned, going the other way. I was about 10 meters past them when my toe snagged on a root and I landed hard. The noise of this (imagine a tree falling in a forest) alerted the romantic couple and they turned around to see me lying there in a heap. They asked if I was okay. I assured them I was and that only my pride was slightly bruised. I also swore them to secrecy and they were fine with that. It was my right (and injured) knee that took the brunt of the fall and I was quite happy to see and feel that there were no ill effects suffered. Good to know, actually, it confirmed in a new and different way that the knee is continuing to heal the way I need it to.
The aftermath. All is well, though!
So my 5K trail run is in the books and the good news is that I could quite easily have continued. The knee is a little swollen today but is not paining me at all and did not pain me yesterday as I ran, so this is good. My plan is to try and incorporate some kind of run mid-week this week so that I end up running more then just once a week. The other good thing that occurred to me about having run 5K yesterday is that it is an actual race distance. You quite often hear people talk about how their 5K run went and it is simply nice knowing that I am once again back to that level. Onward and upward!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Upping the mileage in Komoka Park

Good to be back in the
Komoka woods!
   Yesterday was a day off for me and I took the opportunity to head out to Komoka Provincial Park and get in a bit of a hike/run.
   I've been trying to make sure I get out every weekend and up the mileage each time as I work my knee back into ship-shapeness. I missed last weekend due to a little bit of toe tendinitis which had me limping around and this weekend was busy with Thanksgiving plans so yesterday was the day.
The Steps! A good place to turn
around cuz, if you don't, you
have to run up them!
   It's been unseasonably warm here in London the past couple of weeks and yesterday the temp was in the low 20s (C)---perfect for shorts and a t-shirt. I managed to find free parking at the far end of the park and started my hike/run there. I hiked for half a kilometer and then started a slow run.
The Maples always turn first
   The goal for yesterday was 4K, just adding a kilometer every week at this point. I hiked for the first half a K and then started the run portion. There was almost no discomfort in the knee whatsoever and the 4K went by without incident. I ran as far as the bottom of The Steps and then turned back and continued to run until I hit the magical 4K mark. What made it even more magical was that I really felt as though I could have kept on running (so slow was my pace, likely) so I guess this bodes well for my next outing, which will be 5K. From that point, I just hiked my way back to the car.
Looking out at the changing
colours of the Thames Valley.
   It's starting to become clearer that I can likely up not only the mileage (thank goodness, it's kinda hard to report on 4K runs) but the frequency, as well. Today I feel as though I could hit the trails again and not be suffering too much so perhaps one more day a week is in the offing? We'll see!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I Am Twelve Years Old (Again)

    Today (which will be yesterday  by the time you actually read this) I decided to give running yet another go and, once again, try to up the mileage just a touch.
   I gathered up and donned all the usual running accouterments and just before I left I gave my wife a kiss goodbye. As I was getting set to walk out the door, she looked at me, giggled, and said "You look like you're twelve!"
Me, doing my best impression
of a twelve-year-old!
At my age (not twelve) I've kind of gotten past the part of caring a whole heck of a lot about how I look anymore. This goes as much for street clothes 
(I believe grey goes with anything) as it does running attire. Notwithstanding all this, her comment gave me pause. I'm sure she saw me more as the young boy headed out to baseball practice or perhaps joining the Scout group or maybe even headed off trick-or-treating. I get it, I really do. Even the people on the street give me funny looks occasionally so when I finally hit the forest I do feel a little more at ease (although there was that time I was hiking through the woods and came across this young family whose three-year-old looked at me like I was Bigfoot and quite often the other hikers are wearing flip-flips and I'm dressed like I was running the Barkley Marathons but I digress...) 
This tree fell in the forest (across
the trail in Warbler) but I'm not sure
if anybody heard....
   Back to what matters. The simple plan was to make my way back to Kains Woods via Warbler Woods and run a slow 3K. Due to some right knee issues, I've very gradually been upping the mileage, having started at 1K and then 2K and today up to 3. You may have noticed a pattern and quite likely will be able to guess how far I'm running next week! The knee, which had been feeling awesome the last couple of days decided to feel not quite as awesome today (which is now yesterday) and I wondered if being out on the trails with it was even a good idea. Like a lot of other times, though, when my knee or perhaps another body part is feeling kind of iffy before or at the beginning of a run, by the time I'd run a couple hundred meters everything was fine. And because this all happened yesterday, I can tell you that the knee still feels fine today!
At the end of 3K's worth of
running. They don't want you
to go this way, so I didn't.
I'm not sure if global warming is the issue or not, but even this late in September we are in the midst of a heat spell that rivals easily anything that occurred mid-summer. Mid-thirties now for several days in a row. Somehow or other, I did not take this into account with my hydration and, in spite of the fact that I was wearing a hydration vest which could have accommodated two chest bottles and a bladder, I set out with only one chest bottle. Huge mistake! With the extra little bit of running and ending up just that much farther away from home, I didn't have enough water to see me back. Because of this, I ducked out of the forest as soon as I could just to avoid the extra labour and walked back along city streets, thinking that if anybody was out with a hose I might get 'em to either spray me or fill my bottle. Well, no such luck. About half a kilometer away from my place,
Cutting out of Kains Woods early.
Not a lot of fun, traversing
those large concrete blocks...
though, I did run into a house where they were watering the lawn and the sprinkler was mercifully spraying the sidewalk at the same time so I walked back and forth in it for a bit and it was heavenly. Yet another lesson learned. It was the same kind of a mistake that a twelve-year-old might have made...


Monday, September 11, 2017

I Ran TWICE As Far!

   I had a little free time yesterday afternoon so I thought I would head over to the nearest trail and see if a little running was in order. 
 I more or less did the exact same thing as I did last week and headed over to Kains Woods via Warbler Woods. My goal was to try and add a little extra mileage this week as the last time out I had run a paltry one kilometer. To be fair, I am really experimenting with my right knee these days and any sort of mileage is just a bonus right at the moment. In light of this, I actually doubled the kilometers this week and aimed to do two, yes, a whole two kilometers!

   I hiked briskly through Warbler then got back out on the streets til I got to Kains. Once I got to the three K mark I started a slow run.
   The one difference between this outing and the last was that I didn't feel any real pain in the knee right at the beginning and didn't have to make up my mind as to whether this was actually a good idea or not. Not only that but when I hit the 1K mark and then ran through it I didn't have the feeling that I was in dangerous territory---in fact I felt like I could have run a lot farther! Right from the get-go, the knee felt strong and good. At the end of the running portion, I found a log to sit on and munched a couple of granola bars I'd brought along. Very briefly, the knee protested when I stood up and started to walk again but after a few feet the pain disappeared.
   Today, I can tell that I was out running yesterday. It's a kind of discomfort that I'm actually appreciating because it's the old discomfort, the aches and pains of a body that worked hard as opposed to a body that's broken! And that's good!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

On The Trails Again And Some Actual RUNNING!

   This was supposed to have been the summer I really got into trail-running. I got a bit of a taste of it at the end of last summer and vowed that I would get into it full-time come this summer.
   I actually ran trails most of the winter long (it was a reasonably mild winter here in London) and felt that I was well on my way to enjoying an awesome Spring and Summer. 
   Unfortunately, these plans got a little de-railed back in May. Wanting to see what marvelous benefits my winter training had wrought, I attempted to go run the streets in my neighbourhood. My knee popped on me about four houses down and that was it for running. My doctor told me that walking would be okay, so that's what I did. Started easy and then got into it with a vengeance and ended up hiking about 110 kilometers worth of the Thames Valley Trail in the month of July.

   I also spent a great deal of time  on my knees in the  backyard, laying stepping stones and border rock. What with all the hiking and kneeling, my right knee never truly had a good chance to recover.
   Lately, though, I've managed to take a break from all this and my knee ended up feeling much better. So much so, in fact, that I actually decided to try and go for a short trail run this past Thursday.
   My plan was to hike through nearby Warbler Woods and then on to Kains Woods, which are more or less adjacent to each other. Once in Kains, the plan was then to run for at least a kilometer and see how I felt.
   Well, I started to run and it did not feel good. Had a fair amount of pain in the knee and after about a hundred meters I shut it down. In my head, I began this list of all the medical stuff the knee was going to require and especially began entertaining concerns that I was now dealing with something chronic, as opposed to temporary.
   And then I remembered almost every other time I had ever gone running, especially after a layoff. My knees always hurt. And even though they always hurt, I persevere until gradually things loosen up, parts fall into place and I end up running just fine, thank you. It occurred to me then that this might be what was happening. I decided to give it another shot and, sure enough, after a little bit the knee came around and ended up being quite workable. I ended up running for the allotted kilometer and then returned to walking briskly. I had set my Garmin when I walked out the door and as soon as it hit 5K I turned around and headed back the same way I came.
The entrance to Kains Woods. Took my
trekking poles for the hilly, hiking parts.
While I was running, I pretended they
were spears.....*giggle*
The right knee seemed fine at the time but I knew that the telling part would come the next day. On Friday, however, the knee continued to feel good (well, as much as a 64-year-old knee can) and I had no issues with bending, kneeling or using stairs. Woo hoo! 

   So now the plan is simply to do this a little more often and up the running portion of it by small increments. I also still have the option of seeing a PT for the knee, as I do have a referral, if at some point it flares up again. Perhaps a little hard work mixed with
optimistic caution will get me trail-running next summer! We shall see!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Recap: End-to-End on the Thames Valley Trail

   Just about a week ago, I hiked the last remaining section of the Thames Valley Trail. It had taken me slightly over a month to complete the 110 kilometer trail and involved nine separate hikes, averaging about 12K each.
   When I began the quest, I really had no time frame in mind---all I really knew was that I wanted to get it done by the end of the year, as doing so would make me eligible for the Thames Valley Trail End-to-End patch. The thought of walking the whole thing was a little daunting, both distance and time-wise, and this would be my first real experience at hiking so I wasn't at all sure what I was getting myself in for.
   As you can imagine, it was quite the learning experience. It seemed as though every time I set out I learned something new which would better prepare me for the subsequent hikes.
Sample of a map and some of
the directions (hope no copyright
The first section, from Southdel Road to Sharon Creek, started under threatening skies and stayed that way right until I got about 2K away from the end and the heavens opened up. I had brought a rain jacket with me but it barely covered me with a backpack on and did nothing whatsoever for my legs. I was wearing shorts and I don't mind wet legs but what happened was that all the rain water flowed into my hiking boots. My boots are Merrell Moabs and are waterproof. This is only really good, though, if the water is on the outside. If the water is on the inside, it just stays there. After that first hike, I made a trip to Canadian Tire and bought waterproof rain-gear, both tops and bottoms. And, of course, it never rained again! I also got eaten alive by mosquitoes on that first hike and so purchased insect repellent with Deet. Hopefully this would also provide protection from ticks, as this has been a particularly bad season for them.

   I combined the following two sections as they were shorter and also tacked on an extra bit from the first section, because I had missed a turn near the end and wanted to be able to say I'd walked the whole thing. This was part of a tactical error on that day and I later on found myself in some reasonably serious trouble as I'd totally miscalculated the water I'd needed. It was about 34C (93F) that day and substantially before the end of the hike I found myself feeling dehydrated and sick to my stomach and out in a forest with no true way of getting help in a hurry, if things got any worse. I did
Marriage of humans and nature
eventually make my way out of the woods but by this time thigh cramps had started to set in, making it a very gingerly trip to my car. HUGE learning experience here, both about fueling and hydration and what your body is (or isn't) capable of. The result of this, and of hikes to come, was that I spent some time musing over the safety issues of hiking solo. There are numerous times on the trail when a slip or a trip might send you tumbling into some rocky ravine and I often imagined myself at the bottom of one of them, tangled in underbrush and unable to reach my phone. I think hiking solo may continue to require some careful consideration.

   On subsequent hikes, I learned how to marry the maps and the guidebook a little better, how to keep my hat on my head, how to keep my food cooler, how to be patient and wait for the blazes to appear, and how to check both sides of the road for trail markers.
The badge and the guidebook
   The end result of all this is that I did finally get my End-to-End badge! I contacted the Thames Valley Trail Association, gave them a link to this blog so that I could certify that I'd actually completed it, and was able to pick up the badge from Paulette Renaud, the Association's Activities Director, just a day later. Also had a wonderful chat about the Trail while we were at it!
   Where I go from here, hiking-wise, is kind of up in the air. There is no shortage of amazing places to hike here in Ontario, if you are so inclined, and perhaps I'll check some of them out. Doralyn is not a hot weather person so maybe once fall arrives the two of us might be able to get out and do a little exploring together.
   One of the things I do need to do, though, is get back to running. This was to be a trail-running summer for me but that was derailed back in the Spring when I did something to my knee and the doctor said WALK. The knee, for the most part, is starting to feel better and I think it's time I started thinking about hitting the trails once more!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hiking the Thames Valley Trail: Section 15-Highway #7 to St. Marys

   Woo hoo! I. Am. Done!
   Today, I completed the final section of the end-to-end Thames Valley Trail! It's taken me about a month, but I finally finished all 110 kilometers, from south of Delaware, through London and on to St. Marys.
   Doralyn (my angel) followed me to the end point in St. Marys, where I left my car, this morning and then drove me back to the last spot on the trail I had finished, which was on Highway #7, near River Valley Golf and Country Club. I then needed to traverse the bridge over the river. The bridge is not really designed for pedestrians, however, and I waited until there was no traffic coming my way before I started across. As it turned out, I made it most of the way across before a car came along and I was able to hop the guardrail at the last minute.
   The first section takes you toward the golf course and then actually on to the course itself before you get to the little side trail. The guidebook actually recommends watching out for stray golf balls (which I did) and I even found a couple, which I threw onto the first tee box I passed.
   After the golf course, the trail essentially follows the Thames River all the way to St. Marys, with a brief bit of highway walking as you get into town.
   It was a brutal kind of day, in some ways. There were some parts of the trail which did not appear to get much traffic and were overgrown. This made the going a little tougher but the worst part was, with all the vegetation underfoot, you were unable to tell where the holes and the uneven parts were. Came close to rolling my ankle several times.
   Possibly the worst aspect of the day were the spiders. The path was inundated with them and they strung their almost invisible webs right across the trail, generally at waist and face height. After awhile, I got into waving my trekking poles in front of me as I walked, just as a precaution. In the car afterwards, I was still yanking cobwebs off me!
   The trail itself was tough, yet quite beautiful in spots. Lots of hills to climb and tree trunks to either go over or under. Plant life was amazing and lots of wildlife as well. The weather was warm at 26C (78F) and there was a nice breeze, so, all in all, a great day!
   So here we go with obligatory photo dump because, once again, I walked the walk!

Quick pic of where I left off the
most recent section

And on to the start of the final section!

Headed to the golf course.

On the course, walking parallel
to one of the fairways

The ever-beautiful Thames.

Spotted one deer venturing out into
the river and by the time I could
get my phone out for a pic there
was a whole family!


Pretty rugged-ruggedly pretty


Kinda hard to see, but there's
a thin, electrical fence here


Look carefully (unless you're
afraid of spiders...) These
were all over the place.

A nice flat, fairly spider-free section

And then, out of nowhere, an old
abandoned camper. Blanket
on the line, firepit, jacket. But
no road to get it there....

Ah, the crossroads. Always nice,
knowing where to go!

No idea what this used to be!
The highway back into St. Marys

Me, at the end of the Thames Valley Trail!