Sunday, November 6, 2016

Back at it again (again)

   After about a month's worth of not running, due to some extreme cramping issues and then about three week's worth of a nasty head and chest cold, I finally made it out again yesterday.
   As I am wont to do lately, I headed to nearby Kains Woods. My plan was to walk there, run 5K in the woods and then walk back. It was in the teens here in London and was simply a great day to get out for a walk/run and a lot of other people had the same idea. This is one of the best parts about running here---meeting other people, even if only very briefly. It's just not quite the same as running into people out on a   neighbourhood road or sidewalk where you meet people on their way to work, or the store, or school. In the forest, you're all there for essentially the same reason, to get away from it all, and it becomes a bit of a bonding sort of thing.
   One of the last times I had spent any great amount of time running through Kains, I had kind of overdone it a touch and had attempted some 10K runs I was not prepared for. Nasty, nasty cramps ensued afterwards. I gave it a couple of days of rest and then tried a shorter distance but found my left quad seizing up after only about a kilometer and a half. Then I got sick. This gave my old legs the recovery time they needed, although I did make it out for a couple of long walks.
   I also brought up the subject of cramping with my chiro, and she suggested starting on a regular dose of essential fatty acids and magnesium. This I've done. My family doctor, after recent bloodwork, suggested iron, which I've also done. 
   So yesterday I walked about 2 and half K til I got to Kains and then I started running. The wooded part of the trail is about 4 and a half K so my plan was to run to the end of it and then turn around and start running back, til my Garmin had me at 5K.
   About a hundred meters into the run, I developed a sharp pain in my right ankle, so sharp that I had to stop and hop a little. I imagined the bones and tendons in my ankle having the following conversation---Hey, what the hell is he doing?! Get out of my way, tendon, you're pissing me off! Up yours, bone, keep it up and you're gonna make me snap! What, is he RUNNING again? Oh crap! Okay...let's just see if we can get him through this ONE MORE TIME.....And at this point, things down there more or less got back to normal!
Now look up, look WAY up...and you'll see a couple of bald eagles!
   I did stop a handful of times to take pics and drink. At one point, I had just finished taking a pic and a young lady who was walking the other way with her two dogs, asked me if I knew that the eagles were back. I looked at her kind of blankly and indicated that I had no idea what she was talking about. Apparently there is a pair of bald eagles who nest across the river from Kains and if you're a regular in the area then you're probably aware of them. Me, I've just started exploring the woods and had no idea about them. They hadn't been seen lately but now they were back and she very sweetly volunteered to backtrack a little and show me where I could best view them. Unfortunately, the zoom lens on my phone was not able to catch the best pic (then again, it's a Samsung, so I guess I should just be happy that it didn't blow up!) Pretty cool though.
   The rest of my run was uneventful. Passed about 20 people out walking in the opposite direction and then, when we all turned around and headed back, I passed them again. Once I hit 5K, I stopped running and then walked the rest of the way. By the time I made it out of the woods, my legs were feeling it. Yesterday evening, however, cramps were really not an issue so I don't know whether it was the new vitamins or me just being a little more mindful. What I really need to realize is that running through a forest takes more of a toll than on the streets. I'll need to remember this. In the meantime, here's a bit of a photo dump from yesterday!
Sometimes hard to see the trail this time of year!

The ever-present Thames River

I've walked past this dozens of times and must have thought it was
a large rock or something. Closer inspection tells me it was some
sort of a man-made thing at one time.

On the other side of the river, you can catch a glimpse of the
London Hunt and Country Club (careful how you say that!)

Brand new boardwalk! They treat us well, in Kains Woods!

Long out of the woods now---this tunnel takes me under a busy road.
I generally try not to go "into the light" but this is one of the exceptions


Sunday, September 25, 2016


   Yesterday, I ran the trails in  nearby Kains Woods. Ever since I got interested in trail running in the area, I'd been hearing about Kains Woods and thought I would finally give it a try.
   It was a great day for a run with the temps being a little more fall-like than they have been for the last month or so.
   The plan was to run 10k as this is the mileage target I've been aiming at for the last few trail runs. I was just approaching the 5K mark when I started to feel a little tension on the inside of my left thigh. This area has been giving me a little grief over the last couple of months and has been the target of some pretty horrible cramping. When I felt the tension begin, I immediately stopped and did a little flexing, in an attempt to gauge the severity of what I was dealing with. It seemed as though if I ran on more or less level ground, it didn't bother me. If I needed to extend my left leg in a different direction to hit a rock or log in a certain way then that's when I felt it. Eventually I found that the leg felt better if I actually ran a little faster, so this is what I did.
   By the end of the run, however, both of my legs were starting to feel it and I ended up with this very uncoordinated feeling down there---that I would try to get them to move in one direction but then they'd go off on their own little tangent. At the end of the trail, there is some rather steep, rocky and root-infested terrain and having wonky legs made it quite problematic in traversing it. I basically walked the final kilometer. I was then faced with the long walk home, knowing things were just not right.
   Once I got home, it felt good to sit down, but at the same time I tried to get up and move around a little so that things didn't seize up too much. I had been doing this pretty successfully but then made the mistake of taking things a little too for granted.
Yeah, it was right in there somewhere...

   I stood up from the couch and, instead of making sure i was perfectly aligned, I had my right leg slightly extended. As my body lifted off the couch, that leg went into full-blown cramp mode. The pain was excruciating and many curse words were said. I could neither stand all the way up, move, or sit back down again. I had Doralyn fetch me an ice pack and a tall chair so that I could at least take part of my body weight off my legs. The pain seemed to begin on the inside of the knee, up the whole inside of that thigh and then taper out across the top of the thigh.
   It took about 5 minutes to eventually settle down. I walked around for a bit and then eventually sat back down on the couch. I was able to get back up and down a couple of more times but then the same thing happened, lasting another 5 minutes.
   At that point, no more couch for me! I set up the laptop beside a tall chair so that I would be fairly close to standing position as I wrote.
   In bed, things continued to be difficult. I could not move my legs enough to re-position the covers without the fear of a cramp taking over. Today, I am not cramping but my legs feel like they've been through the wringer and definitely feel as though one wrong move would paralyze me again.
   I've spent a fair amount of time researching sports cramps, as a result of the past month and a half or so. What I've found is that there's no real consensus as to what causes cramps. The thought used to be that de-hydration and loss of electrolytes were the main culprits. Recent research has put doubt on whether this is true or not. There is also not a lot of consensus as to how to treat them and/or prevent them. After all the research, it seems that the most likely cause may simply be overdoing it. Muscles get used to contracting and relaxing according to the regular amount of work they're given---if you give them more work than they're used to, they go all postal on you.
   I have certainly been "overdoing it", by my standards! I've gone from running 5K on pavement maybe every week and a half to running 10K through forests (in extremely hot temperatures, I might add) once a week. What's more, for some reason, I seem to be ignoring little warning signs my body's been giving me as I've been doing this.
   Okay, so I think I need to ratchet things down a little! No more 10K's for a bit and just work my way up gradually, possibly running shorter distances a little more often. We'll see how it goes but, right at the moment, I'm just gonna try and get up off the couch one more time!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Trail!: Kains Woods

   Once I became interested in running some of the local trails and after exploring the internet, Kains Woods kept popping up as a great place to hike and run.
   As it happens, Kains Woods is only a hop, skip and half a jump from where I live and I decided that I would give it a try today.
   The closest access point is only about 2 and a half clicks away, right near the Oxford Street bridge over the Thames. I've literally driven past this access point a couple of thousand times without even realizing it was there!
   Due to its proximity, I decided to just walk there. My goal was to run from one end of the trail to the other and then return the same way. This would total approximately 10K and I know that this is about as much mileage as I can handle these days so I wasn't going to run there.
   The Kains Woods trail basically follows the Thames River in a horseshoe shape around the Riverbend community and is classified as one of London's ESA's (Environmentally Significant Area). It's a single path trail which follows a fairly narrow forested area. For the first half a kilometer or so, you can catch glimpses through the trees of where all the rich people live but, after that, it's all forest and river.
   It's a beautiful place to run! You run along deep ravines on twisty paths and then you find yourself on more level terrain winding your way through tall trees. Parts of it are up on a bluff along the river and then other parts take you down to the edge of the Thames. But maybe rather than describe it to you, I'll just do a photo dump! 

The steep hill from Oxford Street
to the trail access point.

The Rules! Oh, and the warning about
Wile E.

Trail along a deep ravine

Thank goodness for the plank!

Intermittent railings so you don't fall off!

Finally down to the river....

...where some romancin' has been going on! Pretty well gotta be
"Jack and Diane".....

Some more beauty

Ironic that you deface it to save it....

A trail led up past these boulders. When I went to
investigate, I found.....

...a golf course!

Changing terrain

Better than a wooden bridge!

Found this pond at what I thought was the end of
the trail. Apparently I was supposed to run around it.

Lots of rock tumbles, I'm thinking from when they
cleared the land for the subdivision.

Thought this was part of the trail but... led to this.

End of the trail leading up to the subdivision. Time to head back.

Lots of signs steering you away from private property

I met Ron again!! Met him earlier in the year at Komoka. He
mentioned that these trails have been here for likely about 40
years and that he was part of the Association which formed them!

Finally back to the Oxford Street access point. Legs cramping
up nicely, thank you!

Took a short cut underneath Commissioners Road to get home.

Very tropical-looking at the end of that tunnel!
   At the end of the running part, my legs were in rough shape and had actually started to cramp up while running, causing me to adjust my gait and cadence somewhat. Oddly, running faster made the legs feel better. I was wishing I'd maybe driven, because the long walk home was a bit of a killer. And later in the evening, when I went to stand up from the couch, I got this godawful cramp on the inside of my right thigh. It was one of those f--k, f--k, f--k, F--K!! moments my wife has come to recognize all too well. I guess a little bit of work to be done there....
   So there you have it, my first trip to Kains Woods! Best guess is, the first of many!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Back and Forth And Back And Forth On The White Trail

Just some of the scenery!
   I went for what seems to have become my weekly trail run again yesterday, once more at Komoka Provincial Park. It's a big enough park that you can visit it several times and still find little side trails and parts of it you haven't seen yet. So off I went!
   My plan was to run a full 10K and just stay on the white trail. The white trail runs from one end of the park to the other. Any other time I've been there, as much as I have run has been 8K so I wanted to up the mileage a bit.
   My plan was to have gone out Saturday so I had  filled a 1 liter container about 2/3 full and stuck it in the freezer, hoping that it would end up being slushy by the time I went out. Unfortunately, due to rain, I didn't make it out til yesterday and the 1L container now held a solid chunk of ice. I figured it would melt while I ran so I filled it up the rest of the way and headed off.
Half-way done and already tired!
   My real simple plan was to run the white trail from one end of the park to the other and just keep doing this until I reached my 10K. It was a pretty nice day to run, sunny and warm (a little too warm, maybe) and most of the trail had dried up from Saturday's rain. 
One end of the park....
   Being a sunny Sunday, it was also pretty busy. I kind of enjoy it when there are lots of people on the trails, it makes for friendly banter as you pass them. Today, because of all the back and forth running I was doing, I would pass the same groups of people multiple times. It almost gives you the time to build up a.....relationship, I guess you could call it!
The Thames always makes a good pic
   Remember my frozen 1L container? Well, it never melted, at least not all the way, and I very quickly used up all the drinkable water it had in it. After that, the water only came out in dribs and drabs, a little hard to re-hydrate that way!
Love this part
   Round about 9K, things started to seize up just a touch with both of my quads and my left calf. Not sure if it had anything to do with my (lack of) water supply at that point or whether it was just because it was the longest I had actually run in about two years. When you consider the terrain---steep, twisting, root-infested hills with boulders---it was probably the roughest run I've ever had and my lower extremities felt like they had iron rods running though them by the time I got back to the car (wasn't entirely sure I was going to be able to get in the car!)
And a totally un-related random pic of my two sons---Ben
and Bryant, at the World Cup game between Canada
and the Czechs! We won!
   As much as I'm enjoying the trails these days, I probably to need to get back out there on the streets for some shorter runs. Running just the once a week doesn't really do the trick!


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Another Trail-running Weekend!

 It's the weekend so I decided I would try and get in another long(ish) run at Komoka Provincial Park!
   Hydration's been a bit of an issue this summer on my trail runs and while I have been looking at hydration vests they are still pretty low on the list of things I think I can spend money on right at the moment. What I did do was ask the boys if anyone had an old backpack they weren't using anymore (which they did) and I figured out a way of carrying extra water in it. Just took a large drinking bottle, filled it part way with water and then let it freeze. Just before I set out, I filled it to the top and discovered it fit very neatly on its side in the bottom of the knapsack. Found another little pocket for a small sandwich and then headed off!
Found a backpack to use but then
made the mistake of leaving it
on the table for too long! I also had
a pile of change stacked nicely---
wonder what happened to it...?
   Unfortunately, with all this extra prep, the one thing I forgot was my Garmin. If I'd been any farther away from home I would have just made do but seeing as how home was only 5 minutes away, I whipped back there and got it. After some preliminary strap-adjusting with the backpack, I was off.
   The park is big enough and I am new enough to it that there are still some portions of it which I have yet to explore. This was my goal yesterday. 
   Part of the attraction with Komoka is that many parts of it still seem pretty pristine and un-traveled. Obviously because there is a path you know that people have been there before but in many places I ran in yesterday the path was so overgrown that it was hard to imagine any regular traffic ever went through there. It was not an easy run!
   I started from the parking lot and headed west, toward the old parking lot. From there I continued west almost to the boundary of the park. Part of the issue I was having yesterday was that there were thunderstorms in the forecast and although I left in the sunshine by the time I got to the old parking lot and there was an opening big enough to see the horizon, there were some pretty ominous clouds not far off.
   I continued running toward the clouds (which didn't seem all that intelligent) until I was running on trails I was totally unfamiliar with. I wouldn't say I was lost exactly but as the trails are notoriously poorly marked I really wasn't sure if I was on the white one, blue one or orange one. Given the look of the sky and the forecast, I took whatever trail which looked like it was headed back to where I'd parked. Finally, I ended up back in familiar territory, amazingly to me, and I now have a slightly better understanding of that end of the park.
    The hydration angle worked out perfectly. I still wore my Fuel Belt armband bottle but every time it got empty I would just stop and refill it from the larger bottle in my backpack. A bit of a pain in the butt but way better than having to make trips back to my car or ration my water. 
A reminder that the seasons are changing
   The signage in the park is really starting to bother me, as far as knowing what trail you were on and where it headed. Even the online trail maps are inconsistent with one another. Some of the plastic trail blazes are so faded that it's actually hard to tell what colour they are. I suppose when it was a free park it seemed like only a small inconvenience but now that people are being charged for going there, it just doesn't seem right! I really am contemplating contacting the people in charge to see what perhaps could be done about it. I'm not even sure how you do a trail map but I would be more than happy to help out, if there's anything I can do.
   On a side note, it was not a particularly busy day in the park----I suspect the overcast conditions conditions and the weather prognosis had something to do with this. I did pass by a couple of other runners, however. One was a younger woman bounding along the pathway quickly. I really wanted to give her a fifty pound bag of cement to carry (giggle) and the other was a one-armed man (who I wanted to high-five but I couldn' we just nodded).
Ominous clouds but still a pretty pic!
   I'd been planning on running maybe 9K yesterday but the weather played a little part in changing my plans. It had started to rain at one point so I cut things short at 7. I was still exhausted however---so many hills and rough terrain! I do find that I'm really enjoying the trail running so much more than on the streets and am at the point where the prospect of running 5K in my neighbourhood is becoming less and less appealing. On top of everything else, other runners' blogs I follow just seem to make trail running seem so much more badass!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Longest Run Ever? And Hydration Issues!

   Okay, so yesterday I made sure the Garmin was properly charged and headed off yet again to Komoka Provincial Park. On my last run there I'd had a specific mileage goal but the Garmin crapped out on me mid-run, so I was not quite sure what my mileage was that day.
Every fifty feet or so, you could
take a pic like this!

   It's September now and, right on cue, the weather has turned a little cooler and a lot of the crushing humidity has disappeared. It was still a warm 24C when I set out but it was a much nicer run than any of them lately.
   Had to pay a little extra to park as I was planning on being out for about three hours this time around and you have to pay for either 2 hours or 4 hours, so, $7.50 later, I was on my way! (exorbitant, I know...)
   I was determined to explore a couple of new trails when I came across them and so I did. The main trail at Komoka is the White one and you can see most of the things you might want to by sticking on it. There is also the Blue trail and I set off on it when I found it. After being on it only a short time, I then came across the Orange trail branching off of it and decided that I would see where it took me. It was a fairly short little trail and all it did was take me back to a part of the Blue trail I'd already been on so I filed this away for future reference.
The old parking lot. Kinda sad but
some great memories!
The Blue trail ended up taking me back to the old parking lot we used to use before they implemented the new pay system. I don't really miss it as it was a mess of potholes. Yesterday, it just looked a little sad. I then headed back until the Blue hooked up again with the White and I just stayed on that for the rest of the afternoon. My goal was to exceed 5K on this run and I did that fairly early. My next goal was to make it to The Steps. The Steps consist of a winding set of wooden landings which take you down to the Thames River, enabling you to run more or less along the river for a ways. There are 60 steps in all (I counted) and they make for kind of a refreshing change in your run or hike. Depending on  where you are in your run or hike, they can also be a little daunting. I've been up and down them several times and had promised myself that one of these days I would run up them, thinking this would be way off in the future. Yesterday, though, I decided to run up them, likely because I knew I was near the end of the running portion of my afternoon and would be able to recover afterwards.

Cool tree just off the Blue trail. Has
obviously been a meeting area. as it
is covered with carved messages.
   Well, I didn't exactly bound up the steps but I did manage to get up them, running. I briefly thought I would need to just walk the last flight but knowing this would take away from the accomplishment I forced myself to finish the thing off. Thank Buddha there was a bench at the top or I likely would have fallen in a heap! I'm kind of glad that there were no other people around at the time or likely the paramedics would have been called....
   The last time out, I'd gotten a little hungry so this time I brought along a sandwich to eat, my plan being to eat it at the top of The Steps. At the top of The Steps, however, I felt more like puking than eating so left the sandwich tucked away.
   At this point, the Garmin told me I was just shy of 8K so when I got back down the steps I started running again until I hit 8K and then I just hiked the rest of the way back, as had been my plan. 
One of those messages
   The park was busy, it being the weekend and all and I saw even more people than usual. They come in all shapes and sizes--- young couples, families with kids (some with babies in slings), people with dogs, older men with full backpacks, and the occasional runner. There is a rule in the park about dogs being on leashes and, unfortunately, this gets ignored a little too often. It is a little disconcerting to be running around a corner in the forest, only to come face-to-face with a couple of unleashed, large dogs who are strangers to you. Their owners are never far away but this doesn't alleviate the mini-tension which sets in. I always stop dead in my tracks when I see dogs, even the ones on leashes, until they pass. I was running in my neighbourhood once when I passed a couple with their dogs on leashes and thinking I was safe, did not give them enough leeway. In his excitement, one of the dogs suddenly leapt up on me, tearing a hole in my shirt and breaking skin. So I am extra wary of dogs! Most people with dogs in the park, though, have them on leashes and go out of their way to restrain them as runners or other hikers pass. One of the couples (with an unleashed dog) actually had a GoPro attached to its collar. They say it makes for a pretty interesting video and I must say I'd be interested to see the trails from a dog's perspective!
A creek beneath a bridge. I was VERY
thirsty at this point and the water was
SO clear and cold-looking....
   Okay, at this point, a little about my hydration fails. Until recently, in my 5K runs around the neighbourhood, I've been able to get away with a using a Fuel Belt 7 oz. arm band bottle. Unfortunately, this doesn't cut it for being out in the trails for three hours. I hate carrying anything when I run, so what I've been doing lately is bringing extra water in the car and then returning to the parking lot to refill the arm bottle. This is almost never convenient. I also find that I start to get hungry when I'm out so now there's a need to carry extra stuff with me. At this point, it seems almost inevitable that a hydration vest is in order, just which one? And can I afford it? Hmm...
A memorial bench, for a couple of
obviously well-thought-of hikers!
   Possibly coupled with my hydration fails, I actually started to cramp up yesterday, during the walking portion. At one point, I was walking up a steep, root-infested hill and realized that my right foot was not always going exactly where I was aiming it. Upon investigation, it seemed as though the muscles in that leg were not contracting properly. I was also getting the odd little twinge and I knew that I was borderline full-on cramping so I adjusted myself accordingly and became more mindful. At that point I was nearing 10k altogether and 8K of that had been running through a hilly forest. This is way more than I've done lately and not far off as much as I have ever done. And, if you factor in the terrain, it was possibly my longest run of all time so maybe a little cramping was in order! 
Once again, The Steps. They always
seem to make a good pic. I had just
run up them and had to sit for a while
before even being able to take the pic...
   Later that evening, after much re-hydration, a full-on cramp in my left inner thigh did take hold and I was in a fair bit of agony for about 5 minutes, til it settled. Lots of expletives, you should have been there! Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of contradicting info on the internet as to what actually causes cramps and what some preventative courses might be. My best guess is that yesterday it was a perfect storm of hydration issues and plain overdoing it. Will try and be a little wiser next time!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Running Up North, Running Down South

Long and hot and straight and flat.
   We spent this past weekend at my brother-in-law, Rob's, cottage on Lake Chemong, in the Peterborough area. This has become a bit of an annual affair, sort of a family reunion involving my wife Doralyn's siblings and their families. As it always seems to fall near the end of August, it also gives us the opportunity to celebrate Oma's (my mom-in-law) and Keenan's (my stepson) birthdays!
   We were up there from this past Thursday to Sunday and I took my running stuff with me, just in case. On Friday, I was hemming and hawing (in my mind) about whether I should go for a run or not when my BIL James came along and convinced me to do so, along with him. James has taken up running in the past year and is very dedicated to it. 
James, and the ever-faithful Phoebe!
   We, along with James' dog Phoebe hit the road leading away from the cottage and up to the main highway. This had us going uphill for about a kilometer but at the top of this we then hit the highway and turned right, where things then leveled off a bit. I knew that I was holding James back a little and by mutual accord he would occasionally run on ahead at his own pace and then circle back. We did this a couple of times and then headed back to the cottage. The nice thing about the first uphill portion was that it meant a leisurely downhill run to get back home. At the end of it we had totaled 5K (with James running a touch farther than me) and we both felt we had fulfilled our exercise commitments for the weekend!
Back to Komoka Provincial Park
and the ever-faithful Thames
   We got home on the Sunday and on Monday I decided to hit Komoka Provincial Park (I know...again) for a trail run. The last time out, I had run into a situation where I'd run out of water part way through the run so this time I took extra. I hate carrying anything when I run and my armband water bottle simply doesn't carry enough so what I did was take along a frozen water bottle and leave it in my car. I then headed out and ran to one end of the park and headed back to the parking lot where I refilled my armband bottle and then headed out again, in the opposite direction. 
   I wanted to run more than 5K and was aiming for 6 or 7 and so I just went along my merry way, keeping my eye on my Garmin. At one point, though, I looked down and the screen was blank! The friggin thing had died on me and at that point I had no true idea how far I'd run or still had left to go.
"The Steps" in Komoka. From the top,
they look like a joyful carnival ride. From
the bottom, they look like a horrifying
torture device...
   At that point I figured I would just run to some kind of a landmark and then try and figure out my mileage using MapQuest or something later on. I did this and then decided to simply walk back to the parking lot. 
   I have become pretty enamoured of trail-running lately. No traffic, no pavement, no stoplights, no blazing sun! In spite of doing my running in Komoka pretty exclusively lately it always seems like a different adventure with different things to see. The people you run into are all really nice, as well! Mainly hikers for the most part with the occasional other runner thrown in. And you do feel just a touch more badass while you're doing it! I do need to work on the hydration, though, an armband bottle used to do it for me but out on the trails it really doesn't cut it anymore. Hip bottle? Hydration vest? Hmmm...