Monday, December 22, 2008

Running Event Planning - 2009

My recent time off from running has given me much time to consider what I would like to accomplish in 2009 with my races. Obviously there will be much work early in the year to get my mileage and strength up. I will continue to focus on long-distance endurance events. In my opinion, trail is preferable to road. Having a baby boy 2 months ago, and now having a family of 5 will keep me grounded somewhat for the time being. One day, I foresee doing some 'destination' races, but as for now, I am content tackling the local events and the local trails.
In my list of races, the key races will be those long-distance races. I have 5 ultra planned, and that is both ambitious and exciting for a novice ultra runner.

The Nootka Trail will be done this year, finalling finishing the major coastal trails of the Island. I am pretty sure the time will not be as important as just completing it, and enjoying the experience.
The E/B 50k will be one where I attempt to run a consistent 50k distance without walking. This is always much easier said than done.
The 63k Great Walk will take the place of the Kusam Klimb this year. I will hopefully cruise out in front for the duration of the race with Myke Labelle.
Again, the JdF Trail will be done once again in August. I imagine not trying to be a record-setter this year, and hopefully I will be a bit more social this year with the group I run with.
After that, the rest of the year is slightly uncertain. The 56k Great Lake Walk begs me once again. I really hope that if it does happen, then it happens with a little less walking!

2009 Races:

  • Jan-Apr Island Series (I have no idea how many I will be able to do)
  • Mar Nootka Trail 35-40k
  • Apr TC 10k
  • Apr-July GutBuster Series (I have no idea how many I will be able to do)
  • May Elk/Beaver 50k
  • May Campbell River 56k or Oak Bay 1/2
  • June 6 Great Walk 63k
  • July 19 Full Monty 50k
  • July 26 Esquimalt 8k
  • Aug Juan de Fuca 47k (North to South)
  • Sept Great Lake Walk 56k
  • Oct Shawnigan Lake 1/2
  • Nov Bazett Farm XC
  • Dec Stewart Mountain XC 16k

All Systems Go - December 22, 2008

While some days in life you may question how could your day possibly get any worse, there are days which counter this argument, and just end up being great days. Today was a great day.
After getting just over 30 cm of snow over the past 24 hours, Victoria residents were pretty much slowed down completely today.
This rare occurrence meant that the day would be a snow day. And, I love snow. Two things on the agenda now: playing outside with the kids, and shovelling the driveway. After spending much of the morning shovelling the driveway and the entire cul-de-sac, I went back to my door to find two bottles of wine there. The wine was a thank you gift from our neighbors for shovelling our shared road.
A thought came to me while working away. I thought that the snow might mean there would be some other people cancelling to see Dr. Jamie Grimes, and that I could take their spot. Originally, I had been booked for Jan. 5th for my final appointment, but I saw a real opportunity here to see the doctor that was very hard to get a hold of.
Sure enough, there was a time in the afternoon free, so I made the booking with much excitement.
At the appointment, I told him that my last appointment (with a fill-in substitute doctor) was not entirely successful. Dr. Grimes confessed that the fill-in doctor did not have much experience, and that he would Shockwave me for free today as compensation. This was very cool, as these treatments are ordinarily $200 a shot. Cool. The extra treatment could only benefit my recovery, and not harm it in any way.
He also told me that I could initiate running once again, starting in 2 weeks. He also told me that it would be around this time that I would start to notice some improvement with my knee. This was the great news I was really looking for from him. Awesome.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Injury Update - Dec. 3, 2008

At this point the Shockwave Treatments are now completed. The treatments were painful, but hopefully they work. As I understand it, my knee has now been 'triggered' (at the bone and tendon level) to activate a response to stimulate healing.
The chiropractor, Jaime Grimes, has reassured me throughout saying that for my type of injury, I have a 93% chance of a full recovery. Now that the treatments are done, I have 4 weeks of recovery (ie. doing nothing) to let my knee heal. After these 4 weeks, I have a follow-up meeting with him, and pending a positive result, I will be running again on a fully recovered knee.
I expect things to work out. My knee has already showed signs of improvement. At this point, I just have to be cautious to not do too much.
I have Janaury 1st as a target date for my return to running. I hope to be training with the Harriers on January 6th. I hope to race again as early as February.
December will, no doubt, be a frustrating month for me. Waiting is often the hardest part. I have been told that I can remain active, but only in a non-impact way.
As a result, I have crafted a December program involving bike windgates, deep water running, and core workouts. Provided I can stick to this program, and not over-do it at the same time, I should stay in pretty decent shape.
My fingers are crossed that everything works out!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Major Setback - Nov.10, 2008

After taking 6 weeks off from running, I decided to visit the physio just to check in on the status of my knee. It felt like the time off was no help, and my knee still had some pain and some weakness as I tried to do some light running this past week.
I saw Jaimie Grimes yesterday who dealt me some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that he was able to conclusively diagnose my problem. The other medical professionals I spoke to could not. In short, my left patella tendon has been slightly torn at the patella attachment. Every run or deep knee bend puts stress on the connection, thus irritating it, and causing pain. Leaving the problem and continuing to train on it hard could lead to further tearing, not to mention osteo-arthritis. Repairing a bone/tendon connection is not easy, to say the least. The area is not supplied very well by the circulatory system, so healing can often take months and/or years. In most cases, the injury never gets back to 100%.
Jaimie Grimes works at Synergy Health Management. The clinic is one of only a few places in the province that has Shockwave Therapy. For 3 treatments, they can guarantee (with a 93% certainty) that a full recovery will occur in bone/tendon connection injuries. Furthermore, these 3 treatments happen 7-10 days apart, so with any luck, I'll be training again by Jan. 1st. The downside is that the treatment plan is $600. So, if you got the bucks and want a quick fix, that is the way it goes. Needless to say, I signed up for the treatments rather quickly. I am trying not to focus on the negative stuff with the injury or the cost of the treatment, but that has been hard. I am trying to stay positive and hopeful that I will be another success story of Shockwave.
I have my first treatment on Friday.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Off-Season Training - Sept. 21 to Nov.4

I decided at the end of the summer that the GLW would be the last run for me for a little while. The knee tendonitis I had experiencing was not improving, and I was strongly recommended by a physio to take some time off to strengthen.
I had considered doing this in 2007, but I was enjoying running too much to take any time off.
So, my off-season training started.
I consulted my sister and another physio to get a training program in place. The goal would be 'Stronger, not Bigger.'
I have been spending time developing strength in my core, and my legs. I am definitely getting stronger, but only time will tell if, and how it impacts my running. For the time being, I do not think that taking time off from running has impacted my knee issue. It still bugs me time to time, in spite of me not running. This one sure is a mystery.
Yesterday, was the Roaly Victoria Marathon. It absolutely killed me not to take part this year, but I firmly beleive that the training I am doing right now will help me long-term.
It sometimes can be harder standing on the sidelines watching, rather than participating. But, sometimes these things need to be done.
I am also using this off-time to ponder what events and adventures 2009 will hold.
As for now, it is my intention not to race until mid-December, at the Stewart Mountain 10 Miler.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

56k Great Lake Walk and Ultramarathon - Sept. 20, 2008

The weekend started with me finding Sheila's house. Sheila was a friend of my mum's, who just happened to live in Lake Cowichan. Sheila had also done the GLW twice before, so she was able to give me some knowledge of the course the evening before.

After greeting Sheila and her friend, Donna, the three of us drove to Youbou to sign-in and pick up our race packages. When we got there, it was evident that things were very well organized. After we got our packages, we drove back to Lake Cowichan and got to bed at 9 am.

I didn't have a great sleep - and how can you when you have to wake up at 3 am? After sorting out my gear, we bombed to the finishing line and caught a shuttle bus to the start line in Youbou. Riding the bus was fun, and everyone around me thought I was crazy to be wearing just my shortsleeve top and shorts. They were all bundled up.

After an agonizing 1 hour wait for everyone to arrive, we were all asked to stand on the start line and sing "Oh Canada". All of a sudden, it felt like we were at a hockey game. At the end of the song, someone over the megaphone yelled, "ready, set, go!" and then we were off.

From what I could tell, there appeared to be about 10 solid runners in the field. 4 of them I knew: Mark Nelson, Rafael Albert, Jackal, and last year's winner, Jason Wellard. As the race began, we all turned our lights on. It was pitch black. All the runners laughed at me having a hand-held flashlight. They all turned their fancy headlamps on. Mark and I headed out infront, expecting the others to join us. They didn't. And so the race began with Mark and I out ahead. This would be the first time ever for me. It appeared as if Rafael and Jason were happy cruising behind us.

Mark and I made good work on the dark logging road. The road had been freshly graded, which may have been great for the walkers, but made it a little too soft for the runners. My light was actually awesome, as it provided some great light. Mark's little headlamp barely shone at all. I realised he probable needed my company, just for my light. As Mark and I came up to the first aid station, I peeked behind us and there was not a sight of anyone behind us. The first aid station was decorated in Christmas lights, and they got excited to see us.

After a quick drink of water, we pushed ahead into the darkness. Not much after that, we entered a clearcut where we heard some animals on the slope. We joked that it may be a bear, but it was more likely just some deer. At the one hour mark, I was quite surprised to hear Mark say that we were at the 13k mark. We were flying along nicely, and it felt reasonably comfortable. I imagined hanging out with Mark for the first 20k, and then letting him go ahead on his crazy pace.

Then one of the craziest things happened in my running life. It sounded like a sudden rushing river upon us. The noise made Mark and I stop dead on the road. With the crashing of branches from the sides of the logging road, we realised that this was an animal making this noise. And then, we stood in awe as about 8 mature elk crossed about 20 feet infront of us. Judging from the noise to our periphery, it was apparent that these were part of a larger herd that had already made its way across the logging road. The last elk took its time crossing the road and stopped right in the middle and then stared at us. I didn't know whether to turn my light off or not. Instinctively, Mark and I backed up a step or two. And then, the elk sauntered off the road, and we continued on our running race.

I felt good with the pace that we were on. I was though, ready to lose my heavy flashlight. It took forever to get light out, and just when I thought about dropping my light, I could tell that we would be needing it up ahead as were went through some serious canopy. However, on the other side of the canopy, I did chuck my light on the ground, and it tuned out to be a great time to do so. (I had prearranged my walking partner, Sheila, to pick up my light when she got to that point.)

We now approached the 3rd checkout at the 20k mark. We checked our watches, and we still were making great time - and we were having a blast. However, I was encouraging Mark to go ahead on his own, as I knew that I was going to go at a slower pace. I also had to make a full stop at this aid station, to hydrate, to take a gel and to take an S-Cap. Mark insisted that we run together, but in a few minutes he was now moving ahead, and I was more than happy for the two of us. It was now time for me to run my own race, and I believed I was capable of doing just that.

At the 28k mark, we actually saw the first kilometre sign marker. This sign marked the half-way point. I was at 2:05, but my pace was certainly slowing with every kilometer. I was okay with this, as I expected to hit another wave of energy very soon. However, this was just positive thinking, as no such wave seemed to hit. My right hamstring was cramping, and when I stopped to pee, my urine was bright yellow. Great. Dehydrated. I needed water badly, and at the 33k aid station I drank 3 cups of water and took another S-Cap. I was hoping that in 15 minutes, the cramping would ease up. No such luck though. The calf would start cramping as well.

As I began the 7 kilometre, 100m climb in the race, I now opted to walk on the uphills. I needed the recovery time for my muscles to get charged back up. At the 35k mark, I would be passed by both Jason Wellard and Rafael Albert. Near 40k, at the top of the hill, another older runner would pass me. I knew that unless I found some energy soon and stopped the cramping, this would be a long finishing stretch. The hill finally ended at the 'Marathon Sign'. 42.2k down, and in a time of 3:40. This would be a crappy time. I was imagining being here by 3:30 at the latest, and I was in next to no shape to even be competing at this point. The only good news is that what goes up, must come down. I was hoping to loosen up on the downhill.

Even on the downhill, I had to stop and walk twice. My muscles were not cramping too badly, and I made it to the 44k aid station in good shape. More water, more gels. Just as ineffective. The good news is that I saw pavement. The rest of the race - the final 12k stretch was on pavement. Worst case scenario, I would walk the rest and hang my head at the end.

The pavement stretch was not much better. It was now a walk/run for me. 1 minute of jogging, 1 minute of walking. Repeat that 60 times, and that was the next 6k. I finally got to Mesachie Lake, and I only had 5 km to go. At this point, I could tell that I was going to finish between 5 and 6 hours. I was gonna do my damndest to make sure nobody else would pass me.

With 3 km to go, a car drove slowly by me and the guy said that there was a bear on the road ahead. He turned his car around and then drove right beside me for a minute. I peered over to the left and saw a large black bear just watching me. He wasn't going anywhere. Sadly enough, neither was I.

I managed the last few kilometers alright, and finished in a time of 5:12. I did hang onto my 5th place finish. I was really hoping for a sub 5 hour performance, but if you were to write a book on how not to do an ultra, this experience would be a highlight chapter. The first half was 2:05, the second half was 3:07. Simply dreadful. However, one must see the positives in all this mess, so here is what I take from this:

I ran around Lake Cowichan. 56k. It is one of the biggest lakes on the island, and I ran around it. I also could have given up many times along the way...and I didn't. I had a couple of amazing wildlife experiences. The elk experience was once in a lifetime. I will remember the first 20k, running with Mark. I will try and forget the rest. In hindsight, I should have taken my Hydropack on this run. I got dehydrated and could not recover. Lesson learned...the hard way.

Now, I am taking 6 weeks off from running. This will be the first period of time I have taken off. My left knee has had tendonitis for the past 6 months. I will spend the time to strength train, cycle, swim and come back even stronger.

I will also take the time to enjoy my family, as Janelle and I await #3 to arrive any day now.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Juan de Fuca 47k Trail Run - August 23, 2008

It is amazing how news can spread. In the span of one month, a run between two friends turned into a massive group event. The event would be a day where 19 trail runners would storm the JdF trail, in some format. When people started signing on, it seemed like it was going to be another epic adventure. When all was said and done, it was not only another memorable adventure for all 19 runners, but it would also be the day where I had the race of my life.
The morning started as planned as Carlos came to pick me up at 6 am. After stopping to pick up Myke Labelle, we then drove to the Thetis Parking Lot to join the others. All the carpooling arrangements were made from that point, and by 8 am, we were at the China Beach Trailhead, our starting point. There, we picked up a few more from our contingent, and by 8:20 we began our trail run.
There were 9 people who were attempting to run the entire distance of the trail. Of those, it was evident that 6 were fast, experienced runners. The plan was for the 6 of us to run together, while the other 3 would form a steady-pace group. The other 10 people that day were doing shorter out-and-back distances or shorter one-way trips.

China Beach to Bear Beach (0k - 9k)
I nominated Bob Wall to lead the pace for our group. He had always been great in the past with leading a comfortable, yet pushing pace. The group agreed and Bob took the helm. It was shortly after that it seemed like Bob was trying to win an Olympic event, by absolutely gunning out the first couple of kilometers. By the time we hit Mystic Beach, I had to stop to take a pee, so I did so. After I did my duty, I looked out and saw the other 5 doing the same. It was then that Rafael Albert said, "I had to go pee earlier, but I was afraid to stop, in the fear that I would be dropped." I chuckled and said, "I was thinking the same thing." We then skipped along the beach section and found the trailhead after briefly missing it.
The next few kilometers was spent speeding through the West Coast Rainforest. It was important for us to run any sections we could, as there would certainly be sections later on in the trail that would be not runnable. I was not looking at my watch, but I know we were going as fast as ever, and all 6 of us were having a great time. Shawn Nelson (who had only done the trail once before, and it was a night run) remarked how much easier this trail in the light of day. Along this stretch, I saw my watch hit the 1 hour mark, and it was time to execute my plan. My plan was to take 1 gel and 1 S! Cap every hour, and to have my 2L Nathan HydroPack loaded with a combination of Gatorade and Carbo-Pro. So after taking my first gel and S! Cap, it wasn't too long before we descended down to Bear Beach at Km 8, and I was delighted to see the tide was out. By this point, Shawn had already asked me about our pace, in relation to the last time I had run it. He knew the last time I ran it was in 7:40, and he knew that a faster pace would push him at the course record (which is 7:15). In time, it would be evident that this course record would become the focus of Shawn's efforts.
It was also along this beach that I thought of my knee for a minute. For two months leading up to this day, I had been rehabbing my knee from some pretty bad tendonitis. I had actually done no hills at all in the previous 2 months of training, and it became my duty to ice it every night. My knee seemed 100%, but I did have some Vitamin I in my pack just in case.
Along Bear Beach, Shawn decided to keep jogging, so Rafael, Myke and myself followed, but I think Bob and Rob Mackay decided to conserve their energy somewhat by walking. In fact, I had never run along this beach in my previous two attempts as the running proved to be futile. At the end of this beach section, we found the trailhead again and began the climb.

Bear Beach to Sombrio Beach (9k - 27k)
This is the section of the trail that is called the 'Most Difficult'. The hills are steep and relentless, and there definitely was some mud. However, having done the trail a couple of times before I knew what to expect. After a short while through this section, it was now just Shawn and myself together, and the others decided to not push the pace like we were doing. I was concerned that the pace I was leading was too fast, but I always knew that if I were to run out of energy, that I would then have the option of just walking it in at the end, and have the other slower runners bring me home. This safety net gave me the insurance I needed to keep up with Shawn.
Shawn and I continued to make excellent progress over the bluffs, and we enjoyed our fast small descents when the opportunity arose on a fun downhill. He kept saying how much he loved the pace. In hindsight, I think we actually had fun in this difficult section. Somewhere along the way, around kilometre 16, Rafael had caught up to us and he joined our charge. He informed us that the other 3 fastees were quite some distance back, and I kept telling Shawn and Rafe that I didn't think we had seen the last of Bob Wall, as he is a true distance guy.
Around kilometre 18, I felt my quads for the first time show some signs of fatigue. No real surprise, as the hills in this section are fairly brutal. If it isn't the uphill pressing the quads, it is the downhill crushing them. Shortly after I would feel some very light cramping in both of my quads. I then asked Shawn how he was doing, and, as expected, he said, "Great, you?" I told him that I was feeling great but had some cramping in my quads. I assured him that I would be fine. Complete bullshit. I knew that if I was cramping at this point, with 1/2 of the trail ahead of me, that I was in big trouble.
At kilometre 20, we were ecstatic to descend and finally see the emergency shelter at Chin Beach, which meant that we had a nice beach section - a reprieve from all that hill crap, which was now behind us. The tide at Chin Beach did not look very good, it appeared to me like the tide was coming in, and the tide table I read said that we were supposed to be coming close to low tide. Anyways, after I stretched my quads, I had a PowerBar and some fluids and we walk/ran along the beach chatting for most of the way. The boulders at Chin Beach make it impossible for you to keep your run with your head up and actually enjoy the scenery. I suppose this is why Shawn, Rafe and I missed the trailhead. We ran up to a sea cave and then a sea arch, and then Shawn looked at me and said, "Are you sure this is the way?" The real answer was no, but I saw some footprints in the sand ahead and told him that if hikers came this way, then we are still fine. After wading up to our thighs in the ocean around a rock, and having to do a 7 foot jump off a rocky ledge, I knew that we had missed the trailhead. I urged the other 2 to continue and before too long, I saw some hikers up on the real trail above, and we clambered up a rock to rejoin the trail. Missing the trail actually cost us nothing. The way we went was a little slower, but I believe by going the way we did, that we avoided one of those climb and descents that makes the JdF trail so famous.
On the trail, my thighs now seemed just fine. Soon after we saw two female Harrier runners passing us the opposite way: Lara and Sonja. We high-fived them and continued. We climbed and descended until we got to the highlight of the trail: the Loss Creek Suspension Bridge. This bridge spans about 150 ft. over a canyon below, and I always am impressed at the beauty when I cross this bridge. It also symbolizes another thing: the largest and most difficult climb was just infront of us. I told Rafe and Shawn to prepare themselves for the incoming climb.
The climb was difficult, but we managed just fine. By the top, my quads were cramping pretty badly and I was shocked to go for a drink, only to find that I was out of fluids. This was not good at all. We were still a good 2-3 kilometers away from the Sombrio Waterfall (my intended refilling station), and my body was starting to deteriorate again.
I told the other two that I was hoping to make it to the waterfall without too much problem, but this was wishful thinking. At the top of the hill, there was a nice 1k running section (the only easy running part!), where Shawn opened up a lead on me. I told him that if Rafe and him wanted to go, that I would be fine on my own behind them. Shawn reassured me that I could do it. But it was not easy. After the trail went back to the hilly singletrack, I caught up to Rafe and Shawn again. This section of the trail was ugly: lots of mud, and lots of gnarly roots. I did manage to make it to Sombrio Waterfall though, and I told the boys that I was definitely making a full stop for a water refilling. I also had brought more Carbo-Pro/Gatorade mix, so I did my best to add it in. Rafe filled up his Camelbak as well, but Shawn, I could tell, was eager to get going. However, I didn't rush. I needed this stop. We were only 27k in, and it was looking like I was in trouble. Shortly after, we descended the stairs and make our way to the beach.

Sombrio Beach to Botanical Beach (27k - 47k)
The beach could not have come at a better time. The beach was not runnable, which forced us to walk. This gave my body a much needed recovery to absorb the water and I also took the time to chow down a chocolate protein bar. In the distance we saw Shawn's parents, and they were completely surprised to see we had arrived after 3:33 of running. They didn't expect us for at least another 45 minutes. No doubt, we had made superb time thus far. So fast, I was excited and concerned at the same time. Sombrio beach proved to be a struggle though. There was deep seaweed on the shore, and the rocks were very slippery. On a number of occasions, we slipped. We had to be very careful to not sprain an ankle. We did survive and I quickly looked back along the beach, looking for the other guys behind us. I didn't see them...and I was surprised at this. We found the trailhead with no problem, and began the grunt.
Now at the 30k mark, it would be easy to get excited and make a charge for the end, but if you know the trail at all, you would know that this is impossible. This section of the trail is simply nasty. Very little of it is runnable. And the mud. It is hilly, rooty, and very muddy. There are tons of little drops and climbs that just wear you down.
I knew coming into this section, I wasn't feeling particularly strong. My quads were not cramping anymore for the time being, but my experience told me that I still needed more recovery time, so I told myself that I was just going to walk the next few kilometers. I knew if I could get to Km 40 with any steam at all, I would still post a good time. I also figured that the other guys would catch me by then.
I battled through the mud and hills. I definitely was not going fast by any means, but I was covering ground, and my body was not deteriorating. I was challenged mentally to persevere, and this would be the very first time that I was now completely on my own on one of these adventures. Shawn and Rafe were long gone infront of me. I knew that, unless these guys bonked severely, they were going to beat the course record. I was not disappointed at all not to be with them; I was very proud that they were going strong, and I was glad to be part of their adventure this day. At the 33k mark, I saw some hikers and they laughed at me as I went by. I knew this would be my last chance to fill my Nathan Pack up, so I ensured that I had enough to get me through.
To my delight, I hit the old logging road at 35k with still some legs left. I had made it through the toughest section. I was not cramping. In my previous two runs of the JdF, I was completely in trouble with muscle problems at this point. Not today. I was doing ok. And then to my total surprise, I saw Rafe jump out of the bush. He smiled and said that he had some, "body issues to deal with." I asked him how he was doing, and for the first time, he didn't look great. He told me that he was struggling somewhat. Hey - been there, done that. He didn't feel like running, but I encouraged him to run the old logging road with me, because I knew that it didn't last long, and we ran together for the next 5 minutes. Rafe then disappeared behind me. I didn't intend on dropping him, but I figured now that we were only 10-11k to go, that he would find his way just fine. I also still figured Bob Wall and the others could not have been too far behind now at all. Rafe was a strong runner, and he would be fine.
Then it happened. Only once before had this ever happened before to me on a run (at the 2007 Oak Bay Half). Just when I thought I would get more fatigued and fade, I managed to find another level and pick up steam. I ran the running sections well, and power hiked up the tough bits. My body seemed to be in a happy place. I was in a groove, and I was picking up around each corner. I wished Bob Wall was here to see me now. I was flying. Or at least, it felt like it for the time being.
At the 40k mark, I was ecstatic. I only had 7k to go now, and much of it was easy boardwalk. My time also looked great. It was at this point that I realised just how good my time was. I figured that with a good push to the end, that I could actually break 7 hours.
So, I continued with the steady pace. At the 42k mark, a female hiker said to her partner, "Here comes another runner dear." Then she said to me, "Keep going, the other runner is only 5 minutes infront of you." What! I couldn't believe it. Could it be true that Shawn was that close to me? I pushed the tempo even more trying to catch him. I had visions that we could cross the finish line together. At the 43k mark, I saw two more hikers and I asked them, "How far infront is the other runner?" The guy replied, "Oh, about 10 minutes." I felt a little deflated. It was clear that either the first hiker didn't know how to tell time, or that Shawn was putting in a great finishing kick that those Frontrunner Westshore boys are known for.
A couple times on the boardwalks, I slipped and have my calves cramp on me slightly, so I knew that I was definitely fatigued. But, as you watch the last few kilometer marker go by, it certainly became encouraging. Finally I made it to the Botanical Trail road, and I saw a sign that said 1k to the parking lot. I rounded the corner and actually started running up the hill. I didn't make it very far, but I walk/ran the last uphill to the parking lot in disbelief at my time. I came to the parking lot and crossed at 6:25. I screamed in celebration. Carlos was there with his camera, and Shawn was there with his parents. They were all amazed at our achievement that day.
This was the run of my life. I ran fast. I ran smart. I was patient when I needed to be. I used my experience of myself and the trail to my benefit. I shattered the old course record of 7:15.

For the first time, I kicked ass on an ultra.

  1. Shawn Nelson 6:15 (Course Record)

  2. Jeff Hunt 6:25

  3. Rafael Albert 6:33
  4. Myke Labelle 7:48
  5. Rob MacKay 7:48

  6. Bob Wall 7:48

  7. Geoff Palmer 8:10

  8. Matthais Schoek 8:50
  9. Don Peterson 8:50

Other runners:

  • Carlos Castillo (28k), Cynammin (28k), Cheryl and partner (14k). Out and backs.
  • Nico Verrier (30k) - China Beach to Sombrio. 6 hours (on a sprained ankle).
  • Shane, Garth, Sonja and Lara (30k) - Sombrio to China Beach.


  • Thanks to Nathan for getting me my Hydropack 2 days before the run. It was awesome.
  • Thanks to Carbo-Pro for helping me with the distance.
  • Thanks to Carlos, as always, for transporting everyone and cheering us on!

Esquimalt 8k - July 27th, 2008

I have had tendinitis in my left knee for the last two months. I believe I sustained the injury from the North Coast Trail, and it hasn't gone away. The hope is always that these things just disappear, but alas, this injury has needed serious attention. Nevertheless, I have continued my training while doing some knee rehab at the same time. In all likelihood, I will need to take some time off from running in the fall to recondition myself.

Because my sponsorship allows me free entry into the Esquimalt 8k run, there was no way I was going to pass up taking on this race. The course is a hilly 8k race, that doesn't feature a tremendously deep field, but does have some star runners in it. Because the race also falls in the middle of the summer, some key runners do not take part, as they have summer plans.

My family came down with me, and I arrived in time to have a suitable warmup. Chris Callendar was there, and I warmed up with him. All my focus and attention was on my knee, but it seemed to be fine for the moment.
As the race began, I felt good, and felt loose. The knee, would give me no pain whatsoever during the race, just showing what adrenaline can really do. The course winded down a large hill, and I knew that for every hill that we went down, we had to come back up. I also had no idea what pace I was going, or what my splits were, as I had no watch on me. My plan was simply to follow Chris Callendar as best as I could. And, that I did very well for the first 3k. At about the 3k mark, Chris and a few others sped ahead as we entered into the DFO area. At 4k, Ming would pass me in an expected move. My pace was still good, and there were not too many people ahead of me in the race. I figured I was in about 20th place.
The course did not get any flatter. It basically went up, down, flat...then up, down, flat...etc. As I made my way towards the 7k mark, Ming was now way ahead, but I was gaining on Chris and another runner close to him.
I could hear my family cheering for me at this point, and at the same time, I caught Chris. I knew he was struggling, and I was prepared to take full advantage, having never beaten him before.
However, he would stick to me for the rest of the race, and in the end, he and I would finish strong and finish together with a time of 31:23. The result was 15th overall, and 4th in my age group.
I was thrilled with the result, and the fact that my knee was a non-issue on race day. Later that night, I would once again, be icing my knee though...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kettle Valley Railroad: 16k Traning Run, July 4, 2008.

I do not normally put anything other than race or event entries, however, this run would be a memorable one. While visiting with my sister in Penticton, she invited me to do a portion of the Kettle Valley Railroad. She is currently training for her cycling, so it was a great fit for her to be on the bike, and me to be in my runners.
After making our way up to Summerland, we then went inland until we were in the mountains. The area was extremely dry: only pine trees and grass seemed to grow. Dust and sand was the predominating feature on the ground.
After we got out of the car and my sister assembled her bike, we were off. The intent was to cover 20k, and I was of the mindset that the trail was going to be heavily-travelled, and similar to that of the Elk-Beaver Lake Trail.
Well, it didn't take me any time at all to figure out that this was no walk in the park. The ground was extremely soft, and for the most part was like running in 4-6 inches of sand. It felt very similar to some of my beach run adventures. Needless to say, this was going to be way harder than I thought.
We also could have picked better conditions. The temperature was 27 degrees, the humidity was 40 percent, and we began our trek at 1 pm. Rather dumb, in hindsight. However, I managed to spin my way to about 5 min kilometers for the first 3k. This took way too much energy. Ineffective to say the least.
My idea of having a support biker with me was also out of the picture. My sister was behind me considerably, and I figured she was saving her energy for some interval work that may lie ahead. I would soon find out that she was struggling worse than me, and she had by this point crashed twice.
At the 6k mark, my sister had now caught up, and the trail showed minor signs of improvement. We were travelling through Trout Creek Canyon, and it was a slow uphill the way out. At about this time, I decided that my 20k run would be a 16k run, by doing a 8k out-and-back.
At the 8k mark, I checked my watch: 41 minutes. I smiled, and then turned around to begin the second half.
The second half was much easier, now going downhill slightly. The heat was still an issue, but I stuck to the shade wherever possible.
Upon return, it was a 1:20 sand training run.
Afterward, I looked at this run in a positive way and chalk up two things for experience.
1. Provided you have great family support (and I do), being on vacation does not mean you have to stop training. You can train
2. This run gave me a little insight to how some of those hot, long ultras work. Low humidity, high heat, flat, dusty and sand all made this someone similar to ultras like the Scorched Sole, Death Race, etc. I am certainly impressed with anyone who finishes those events, regardless of their time.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Kusam Klimb - June 21, 2008

(Thanks to Randy Duncan for the photos!)

After making all the pre-event arrangements, I picked up my buddy Myke Labelle at Peninsula Runners and then headed North, up the Island. Our next stop would be Mill Bay, where we picked up another friend, Buddy Bhander. Now that the car was full, we drove up to Campbell River, which is where we would stay that night.
Bob Wall was excited to see us when we arrived in Campbell River. I gave him the usual hug, and stared in awe of the guy who had run over 100k last weekend, in a cancer fundraiser. The first thing we did was to set up our tents. My tent went up easily, and Myke and I then watch Buddy set up his 9 person family tent. The tent was large enough for a regulation game of basketball inside.
Once we were setup, Bob made arrangements for us to go to dinner. At the Riptide Restaurant, we would be joined by two of Bob's running buddies: Rob Fontaine and Steve Spiers. We had an excellent dinner, and the banter kept us enthused throughout.
We then said our goodbyes, and Bob took us for a post dinner walk, nearby at Elk River. This is the site where Bob hosts the CR 50k trail challenge race. We had a beautiful walk, but then we all felt tired, so we drove back home, got our gear ready, and went to sleep.
My sleep was not a great one. I woke up at 4 am with a nosebleed, so I spent the next hour trying to resolve that. At 5 am, we all were up, and it was time to get a move on.
It was about a 1 hour drive to the race start in Sayward. There were already a ton of people there, and most of them looked like serious trail runners. Within a few minutes, I scoped out who was there for the race, and it was definitely apparent that it was going to be an elite field this year. Furthermore, the Frontrunners Westshore gang (Nick, Mark, Shawn and Josh) was there, so there would easily be 4 people who would beat me. It was around this point that my expectations had changed of possibly finishing top 5, to just wanting to finish top 20.
After we picked up our race numbers, it was pretty much time to start the race.
It was a 23k trail race. Most people had told me that your finishing time would be pretty much bang on your marathon time. I would make it my goal to finish sub 3 hours.
The race began with about 2 km of pavement. The usual suspects headed out infront, including Myke. However, as expected, the pavement did not last very long, and we made the turn onto Bill's Trail. The trail started out steep and I had been forwarded that the Klimb was difficult, steep and long. It was not very long before all the runners had adapted to a power hike, rather than a run. The trail begins pretty much at sea level, but over the next 1.5 hours, we would make our way up to 5000 ft. This was the hardest climb of my life, bar none. It was steep. Very steep. The steepness ranged from being able to power hike, to pretty much using all 4 limbs to scramble up the trail. After a while, it was apparent that there was just no end in sight to all this climbing. It went on, and on, and on. It went up, and up, and up. This trail would make the Grouse Grind look like child's play.
Up ahead, I could see the red shirt of Myke waiting for me. No doubt, he had struggled to keep up with the fastees at the front. He asked how I was doing, and I said "Ok". I also looked at him and said, "Isn't this insane?" I wasn't lying when I said I was doing fine. The heartrate was high, the sweat was pouring off me, but I was up to the challenge. Deep down, I knew I was a solid climber. Myke, on the other hand was struggling. He commented that he was having a difficult time mentally staying in it. I knew this experience oh too well, from my past adventures. After about 15 minutes or so, I left him behind and kept on going. I then found my way up to the next guy and climbed with him for a while. His name was Peter, and he was a master from Port McNeill. He had said that he had done the trail before, so I asked him if we were half way up yet. I was actually joking when I said this, as I figured we must be close to the clouds, and close to the top. He replied, in a serious tone, "Probably not quite half way yet." Oh my God, I thought.
I persevered on, and eventually the trail came up to a magnificent lookout. Peter stopped briefly to take it all in, and I passed him. Soon after, the trail showed signs of snow, and it wasn't long before the trail flattened out a tiny bit, and we were running again, completely on snow.
The trail came out to Keta Lake. The lake was frozen over, so the trail, now marked exclusively by pink flagging tape, went around the lake. As we got to the other side of the lake, I followed a set of footprints, as I had been doing much of the way now, but quickly realized that there was no pink flagging tape, and there was nobody around me, at all. I searched and searched for pink flagging tape, but when I did not find any, I actually went back along my footprints in an effort to ge the trail again. After about a minute, I noticed flagging tape at the top of a hill. I b-lined it and dug in my toes into the crunchy snow and made my way up the hill. I then saw Peter and another climber who I had passed much earlier now infront of me. Damn. I figure this mistake had cost me 2-3 minutes. This hike up the hill was to the summit. I passed one of the guys up to the summit, but Peter was now right infront of me. There were two yellow shirts at the summit, and these were the checkpoint guys. The guys said, "It's all downhill from here". Thank the lord. Now the fun could begin.
And what fun it was. The ascent was steep getting up here, and the decent would be no different. I looked down and saw ropes, lots of them. Peter went quickly down the course, and I followed him. At this point, my gloves were on and I was ready to use the ropes quickly and effectively. This however did not happen, as I stopped and stood amazed at what Peter just did infront of me. Peter was now acting like a human tobaggan, and he was using the ropes and his hands to guide him down the snowy hill. I tried to run down the hill, but fell, and in no time, I was now a human tobaggan as well. The marks in the snow would indicate that all the trail runners had slid down the hill, some clearly more effectively than others. Peter was going at a crazy rate for an older fellow. However, when Peter got off course and veered into a tree well, I took the opportunity and slid past him. The ropes didn't last long though, and before too long, I was running quickly in the crunchy snow, following the flagging tape as best as I could.
This is where I think I made excellent time. I was totally flying now, and Peter and the others were well behind me. I could hear a rushing creek on my left, and I had to make sure not to get too close to the icy river. At this point, I saw a red shirt ahead of me. This guy was walking, and it was Nick Walker. As I passed him, I asked if he was alright, and he said yes, but I had never seen Nick walk before, and I had actually never passed him in any race or training run.
I sped ahead and I saw another checkpoint at Raccoon Bridge. I stopped momentarily to have a drink of water and Gatorade, and then flew ahead on the slow downhill. The snow slowly gave way to a real trail, and I could tell now that we were now on an old logging road. The logging road had many, many river crossings on it, and I just did my best to blast through them. It wasn't too long before I saw another runner ahead of me. This guy was Shawn O'Toole, from Ladysmith and he was running at a great pace, but slowed down significantly at the river crossings. I caught him up, and the two of us ran together for much of the next few km.
After a while of cranking it out on the slow downhill, I saw another checkpoint, and I stopped again to get water and Gatorade. Shawn did as well. The checkpoint guys said that we were in 15th and 16th place. I was thrilled hearing this.
We continued on at a great pace, and it wasn't long before we both passed another guy. We didn't chat to this guy much, as we were busy trying to find our breath most of the time. We now had been running for 2:10, and I thought to myself it would all be over soon enough.
We then saw another guy walking ahead, and I was in disbelief to see it was Mark Nelson. When we got to him, he joined us in our jog, and he began to tell us how fatigued he was. The reality was, that all of us were tired now, and to continue running was bloody difficult. The trail was a slow downhill, which sounds easy enough, but every 50m or so, there was a natural river/drainage dip in the logging road, which pulverised the muscles every time we went over them. Mark then said "Stand aside!", and we ran on the side, and watched Nick Walker fly right by the pack of us. Clearly, Nick was just fine, and he had intentions of making up significant time on the last stretch of the course.
Shortly after, Shawn and I left Mark behind and we continued on ahead. I wasn't sure whether to try and pass Shawn or not, but my body was starting to cramp and I knew I was on my last legs. At the final river crossing, there was a ladder, and I sped past Shawn and took to the ladder first. On the other side of this river was the final checkpoint, and they said that we had 3.5k to go. Again, I could not believe it. I figured we must have been almost done.
As I passed the checkpoint, I heard the guys radio blaring that someone had finished and broken the course record. Later, I would find out that last year's champ, Shane, would repeat as champion, and do it in an amazing 2:23.
After a short last stretch of trail, the course hit pavement and I now was just hoping to bring it in. Shawn passed me, and I said "Good job buddy, I'm done". He replied and said "The race isn't over yet." But it was for me. As we made our way down the pavement, I turned my head and saw nobody coming from behind. This was good, as I could have been passed by a fast slug at this point. At the bottom of a hill, there was a sign saying 0.5 km to go, and I was thrilled. I figured we still had about 2k to go (judging from the last checkpoint call), so I momentarily considered hammering the last bit, in an attempt to catch Shawn. I decided not. Shawn would finish ahead of me by about 10 seconds, and I would finish in 2:50:41. I finished in 13th place (out of 320)!
I was ecstatic. This was the hardest race ever, and I had a great one. I had beat many solid trail runners, and had established myself as a genuine trail racer. Would I do it again next year? Only time will tell. Right now, I am as sore as I have ever been from any running adventure. I can tell that it will be many days before my body will be 100%. But, as the kids say, it's all good.

Chemainus 5k Twilight Shuffle - June 17, 2008

I never would have entered myself in this race, had it not been for my running club, the Prairie Inn Harriers. When the club announced that they had rented a 15-seater van to drive to and from this event, it seemed like a great way to spend a Tuesday evening.
I caught the bus and headed to the back. I was a little surprised to see Chris Callendar (a running buddy of mine) on the bus, but clearly he had the same idea of taking the bus to the carpool location. The transportation worked out great, and in an hour, we were at the race.
I saw my mum there waiting for me, and I went over and gave her a hug. I was very excited that she would be here to cheer me on. Support is always great.
The first thing we had to do was to register. Normally, I register well ahead of time, but this race was not on my radar at all until the free ride came up. A 5k race is totally not my cup of tea either. In fact, this would be my first 5k race. It would also be the first time I would wear my Harrier singlet.
The registration was a complete gongshow. There was a massive line for registrations, and the two ladies at the front doing the sign-in were completely overwhelmed. It took 45 minutes to get my race number, and this allowed me a solid 10 minutes for warm up. Needless to say, the warm-up was not ideal.
I placed myself on the starting line. Everyone was ready to go, but it appeared as if nobody was in charge of actually starting us. From somewhere, I heard a "ready, set, go", and then we were all off. The fastees took off right away, and went at a pace I had never seen before. I let them go, and began to focus on my race.
The weather was good, but it was definitely windy. The course had some hills, but nothing too severe. They had advertised the race as being flat and fast, and I didn't really see either of these two things. The race went went in the initial stages. I seemed to be going at a steady pace, but I was surprised to see that there were no km markers, like in most races. There was no way to tell what pace you were really going at.
At the half way point, I looked at my watch and could not believe that the run would be over so quickly. I had never gone for a run this short. My body didn't know what to do.
On the way back to the start/finish area, I got passed by 3 people, including Nancy Fedoruk, and I was not impressed. After a minute or so, I passed them back, and then in the final stages of the race, I started up the big hill. Being a good climber, I knew that nobody would catch me. I did though, have my eyes set on catching one or two people ahead of me. One of them was Chris Callendar - a guy who was definitely faster than me, but boy would I love to beat him...just once.
Well, I didn't beat him, as he had the same thought in mind - but he did catch the people infront of him. I finished in a time of 18:18. This was a spectacular result for me, as I am not a short distance road guy. It was a placing of 31st position (out of 536). A new PB was a great feeling, but I am definitely not making the switch to being a short distance guy. No way.

Oak Bay Half Marathon - May 25, 2008

After a great warm-up, I took the start line of the Oak Bay Half Marathon. The year prior, this was probably on of my best races, as I ran strong from beginning to end, and finished sub 1:25.

Therefore, in order to better that result, I would need a very special day. The night before, I had a dream that I ran extremely well, and posted a 1:23 clocking, so I actually went into this race feeling that it was possible.

As the race started, I felt loose and as always, I just wanted to make sure that I started conservatively. And I did. I let the relay guys speed ahead, and I nailed my first couple K's right where I needed to. It was about that time that Gary Duncan passed me, and this had just become a phenomanon that I was now expecting, as it happened every single time.

After the first 10k, I was right at 42 minutes. This was about a minute slower than what I wanted, but I still felt like I could get a second wind on the way back, and hammer it home for a new PB.

At the 12k mark, I passed my family, and it was totally exciting to see them holding a "Go Daddy Go" sign. This kept me inspired, or at least, for a while. As I rounded the turn-around, I could feel the jump in my legs seeping out. I knew unless that second wind came quickly, it was not going to be my day. For much of the way back to the finish line, I was alone in my running, which definitely did not help things. With nobody to push me, and with my legs starting to feel some residual fatigue from my training runs, it was not a superb finish. As I made my way up the last hill, I could see my watch read the finishing time I got last year. I was close, but not close enough. In the end, I finished with a time of 1:27:39. It was not a superb time, but it was definitely decent. When you consider that the North Coast Trail was done two weeks prior, it was a sound result. A 17th place finish was a fitting result for me.

The highlight for me this day, however, would come shortly after. We entered Teagan in the 1k Kids Krazy Kilometre, and she loved it. How proud I was to see her in her first race. She did well, and loved every second of it. I think her mum and dad were more excited than she was.

At the end of the race, all the kids got a finishing medal. Teagan would wear the medal solid for the next two weeks, and even to bed.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

North Coast Trail Run - May 10, 2008

This is the story of Jeff Hunt and Bob Wall's epic 60k Trail Run of the North Coast Trail. The run was completed on May 10th, 2008 (Opening Day), and it took them 11 hours to complete it.
Wow. What an adventure.

Before I begin this post, I know many people will be reading this report trying to gain information about the trail, either for hiking, camping or running purposes, so I will try and deliver all the information I know from my recent experience. I would also like to thank my family, Peninsula Runners , Prairie Inn Harriers Running Club , and Cape Scott Water Taxi for their support with this recent running adventure. Most importantly, I would like to thank both Strategic Forest Management and the Northern Vancouver Island Trails Society who spent the last 10 years fundraising and constructing the trail. Without their efforts, there would simply not be a trail.

The Adventure:
I left Victoria on the Friday at 7:20 am loaded with my gear. I wanted to get on the road before any sort of rushhour traffic would hit. I made very good time, and with Bob's directions, I found his place in Campbell River. Along the way, I had been eating and drinking as much as possible. By the time I got to his place, he was waiting outside, and greeted me with a large hug, as did his wife, Tammy. The first thing I said to them was "Where is your bathroom?" My bladder had been full since Parksville, and I was pushing it to make it to their house. After relieving myself, I helped Bob load up his gear, and before to long we were off. We made a quick stop at the local running store in Campbell River, so that Bob could pick up a pair of running shorts. Apparently his old ones had holes all in them, and he wasn't about to run in half a pair of shorts.
The drive up to Port Hardy took 2.5 hours. I actually could not believe how quick it was. The road was better and much straighter than I had imagined, and with no campers and logging trucks along the way, it was an easy trip.
The first thing we did was to check into our beautiful hotel in downtown Port Hardy, the Seagate Hotel. The lady at the check-in seemed to know that we were the runners coming into town.
Apparently, we were big news in the city. After picking up some dinner at the local cafe, Bob got on his phone and got in touch with George from Cape Scott Water Taxi . Bob had previously spoken with George, so all the arrangements had already been setup. George was also involved with the local newspaper up there, the North Island Gazette, so the first thing George did after the introductions, was to interview us. After the short interview, George told us that he would be taking us to the Shushartie Bay Trailhead for free. He also gave us 2 new maps of the trail, and 2 promo shirts of his business. What a guy. If everyone was as nice as George, I didn't mind hanging around in this city!
Then George said "Wait until you meet Babe, she wants to see what trailrunners look like."
I said, "Who is Babe?"
He replied, "She's my wife...and she is quite something."
So we hopped in George's truck and went to the local pub, called "Babe's".
I figured it out immediately - his wife owned the pub....boy, am I smart or what.
When we walked into the local pub, it was pretty easy to tell which one was Babe. She was the one who was about 40 years old, wearing a miniskirt so short that you would expect to see it on a 20 year old. After we were introduced, George gave us some beers on the house and we chatted for a small amount of time. The playoff hockey game was on at the time, so I was really only half focused in on the conversation.
By this time, it was getting late, so we double-checked our starting time and finishing time for the next day. George was probably as excited as we were to be doing the trail. He kept saying "This is so great you guys!"
We got back to the hotel, got our things ready for the big day, and went to bed at 8:40 pm. We had to be up at 5:30 am, and from experience, we both knew we would need all the rest we could get at this point.

I had a good night's sleep, as did Bob. We triple-checked we had all the gear we would need. I had the 1.5L camelbak, bear whistle, running gloves, 2 Cliff Bars, and 7 gels. I didn't bring my cell phone, as I was told that it had no chance of working on the trail. I ate a last minute banana, and then we were off to the dock.
We arrived to the water taxi dock at 6 am. George had the engine already fired up. He was keen. When we were ready to go, George informed us that we would be having 4 more people on the boat.
The four people were from Strategic Forest Management, and these were the people who actually built much of the trail over the last 2 years. They took one look at us and said "You guys are the runners, eh?" We then introduced ourselves.
The 45 minute water taxi to the start of the trail was filled with questions back and forth between us and the four guests. We learned that they were going to the trail for the opening ceremony. They had a BBQ, fruit platter, etc. and were going to be transported to Cape Sutil (at the 17k mark), for a grand opening of the trail. Apparently dignitaries were being flown in later that day. With any luck, we would actually be running right through their ceremony.
We tried to find out as much info about the trail as possible from the trailbuilders, but all I remember hearing is them saying "It's a harder trail than the West Coast Trail." They were also in disbelief that we were actually going to be running it. They called us crazy. The comment didn't even register.
We finally got to Shushartie Bay after a smooth ride on the boat. The conditions seemed excellent. Overcast skies, not too hot, not too cold, no rain, and no wind. I looked around at the bay and said "Where is the dock?". One of the trailbuilders said "It hasn't been built yet."
George navigated the boat up to a big rock, where Bob and I jumped out of the boat. We went up to the NCT Trailhead sign and took the ceremonial photo. We waved goodbye to our friends, and then the run began.

Shushartie Bay to Skinner Creek (0k-9k)
The run didn't actually start with a run however. The first 1k of the trail was basically straight up, climbing in elevation about 200m. There were ropes to assist us climb up the steep embankments. We didn't use all of them, but in some circumstances, they were necessary.
The trail was definitely mucky. It took all of about 10 minutes to get my feet wet. Much of the first section went through bogs. I think there were at least 8 of them. Oh and another thing: bear scat everywhere. Some of it fresh, some of it not.
Some of this bog portion was boardwalked, but it was evident that much more boardwalk was definitely required. The trailbuilders clearly still have much work to do.
The trail was definitely new. Trail running along moss, salad stems, and vertical pointy sticks made it slow going. It also was not flat, and not straight. We mucked along at a reasonable pace, but we were slightly behind a 10 min/km pace by the time we finally found Skinner Creek.

Skinner Creek to Nahwitti River (9k-12k)
It was a welcome change to find the beach. To our surprise, we saw the water taxi ahead in the ocean, and as we ran by it, the people on the boat cheered like we were finishing a race. Unfortunately, this was not the case. We had really just begun.
The beach stretch did not last long, and at the end of the beach we saw the orange buoy, indicating where the trail access was. We stopped for a moment, had our first Cliff Bar, and then used the rope to climb back onto the inland trail.
It wasn't too long before we were on the beach again, and this time, we found the beach not runnable. The beach was like pea-gravel, and everytime I took a step, I would like down 6 inches. It was clearly just a waste of energy to try and spin through this beach stretch.
However, we made it to the Nahwitti River in good time, and I felt that our pace had definitely sped up. There was only one problem now: how to cross the river?
Nahwitti River to Cape Sutil (12k-17k)
We had heard the day before coming up to Port Hardy that one of the cable cars had actually not been erected yet. So here we were, at the river, and it looked pretty deep. Bob and I spent some time figuring out how to ford the river, and where exactly would be the best spot. Without any further discussion on the matter, I said "Screw it", and then started walking through the river with a pole in hand. It wasn't too deep (up to the lower thigh), but the water was ice cold, and Bob started shrieking like a little girl saying how cold it was.
After crossing the river, we then had the next arduous task of actually finding the trail again. We saw no flagging tape, and no buoy to lead us the right way. I took the map out and had a good look at it. It seemed a little unclear to us where the cable car was going to go exactly, so after some discussion, we began to bushwack inland to find the trail. This really was our only option, as the creek bank was extremely difficult to travel along.
The bushwacking experience made me think of the trailbuilders. It would have been a nightmare trying to carve a trail through the rainforest. Salal, 8 feet high; rotten and wet logs; deep, spongy moss made the bushwacking awful. After a while, I questioned whether we were actually headed the right direction at all. After 30 minutes, and almost turning around, Bob found the trail. Thank God. We had just been slowed down majorly, but we were on the right track.
The next section of the trail was much of the same. Some beach (not runnable), and some trail. The trail was a real scramble, and the map actually marks this section at the most difficult on the trail. There were many high headlands to cross, and it reminded me of the Juan de Fuca Trail...except steeper. At one point, the trail was so steep, that it seemed it was a 90 degree climb and drop. I took a photo of Bob coming down one of these slopes.
After a while, we eventually saw the white sandy beach of Cape Sutil, and again, the water taxi was out there with more people on the boat. Again, they cheer us on when they saw us. The white sandy beach was runnable, and it was stunningly beautiful. I joked to Bob that we were now in least for a few minutes.

Cape Sutil to Irony Creek (17k-24k)
This stretch of trail never seemed to end. Although only about 7k, it was now getting psychologically difficult to maintain excited about the trail. This section of the trail, on the North end, was more exposed, and by this point, some wind had developed, and it was now raining. The few times when we did stop, I got cold.
In this section, you hit about 10 different beaches, all not runnable. The beaches ranged from the pea-gravel type to the large boulders type. The rocks were all coated with a black algae, which made some sections very slippery.
On top of the difficult conditions, Bob and I were almost out of water. With the exception of Skinner Creek and the Nahwitti River (which was tidal anyways), there was no water at all. We tried desperately to maintain a solid pace, running when we were able, in order to get to Irony Creek. This was one of the few times I saw Bob struggle somewhat. I could tell he was genuinely concerned about his water supply, and I think he was slowing down a little. I have rarely seen this before from him.
It was hard to tell where exactly we were on the trail too. There were no markers to tell you how far you had travelled. A few times we pulled out the map and estimated where we were. In all cases, we thought we had gone further than we had.
At last, we rounded a point, and heard the sound of a rushing river. This was good news.

Irony Creek to Laura Creek (24k-35k)
We made a full stop at Irony, taking on Powerbars, gels and reloading our Camelbaks. It was evident from the river why it was called Irony Creek. The river was brown, not from being dirty, but from being high in iron. We drank til it hurt and Bob seemed like a new man after that river.
We got on our horse again. There was a nice hard-packed beach following Irony and we nailed the 1k stretch in about 5 minutes. Before too long, we hit Strandby River. This would be the second cable car crossing, but unlike the first time, there actually was a cable car in place. Bob and I pushed away a sign that read "Under Construction, Do Not Use", and we reeled in the cable car. The blue rope was brand new, and the pulled system had not been broken in yet. Needless to say, there was a great deal of friction. Our shoulders got a real workout, just pulling the thing up. We hopped in, and then expected a fun ride across. However, this was no Disneyland. The blue rope was bulky and sticky, and we had to pull ourselves the entire distance. It was hard work; especially when you consider how much upper body strength I have (or don't have!).
On the other side of the river, a nice trail awaited us. By nice, I mean not too steep. It was still not terribly runnable. As usual however, the trail did not last long, and eventually we found ourselves on the longest stretch of beach on the NCT.
We had 7k of straight beach, and absolutely none of it was runnable, in spite of our efforts to find any sign of hard-packed beach. In hindsight, this ended up begin the most difficult part of our adventure. 2 hours straight of trying to run on a beach that was not designed for runners. The only excitement in this stretch were the bald eagles that flew overhead, and the dead sea-lion that Bob nearly ran over. This was definitely a low-point in the run for the two of us, and we were now popping gels whenever we could.
When we did eventually come to Laura Creek, I felt like crying I was so excited. I knew that the end of the NCT portion was near, and this meant that the easy Cape Scott Section was just around the corner.

Laura Creek to Nissen Bight (35-43k)
The was still 8k to go. It was too premature to get excited about completing the difficult NCT portion. However, Bob had estimated that we were 2k further than we really were, so this last stretch seemed longer than it was. Shocker.
To my delight, however, the trail finally was a little easier in this part. We had kissed the beach goodbye for good, and we were back onto semi-decent trails. It was now evident as well, that a few other people had been though this section, likely doing overnight hikes from the West end of the trail over the past year. Having said that, we never did see anyone on the entire trail.
In addition, as we got closer to the finish of the NCT portion, more boardwalk surfaced, which quickened our pace. We eventually made our way down some stairs and dropped into Nissen Bight. I saw the back of a large sign, so I thought this was it. As it turns out, it wasn't...quite.
We took a rest on the beach and pulled the map out. We saw that we had to get to the other side of the beach (800m) to officially finish the NCT extension. Again, we took some water, some gels, and then sped across the hard-packed beach to the signpost. We now had the NCT trail done. The sign indicated 15.2k to go. Easy. Piece of cake. Yeah, right...

Nissen Bight to San Josef Bay Trailhead (43k-59k)
I was hoping that this trail would be like the yellow-brick road from the Wizard of Oz, and it actually started out this way. The trail was fairly flat, and dead straight. I joked with Bob that this trail was just like Elk/Beaver back at home.
Bob by this point was in strong condition. He wad been waiting for hours to finally get his legs going. On the other hand, I was now starting to struggle with keeping my pace. On a couple of occassions, I felt dizzy (low blood sugar), so I took a gel and walked for a few minutes before I was able to continue.
I was actually impressed however, that I held it all together. My experience of knowing myself and what my body is like under extreme distance supremely paid off this day. The clock now showed over 10 hours of running, so this was going to be some accomplishment.
The trail deteriorated somewhat after 49k, and I had to dig deep to find the courage to battle through. But I did.
There were kilometer markers along the Cape Scott Stretch. Every 8-9 minutes, we would count down the kilometers, and by the time we saw the number 3, I knew it was all over very soon.
A short while, it was all over. Bob and I broke through the trail at the same time, exaclty at 11 hours of running. My fist was up in the air as we took the last stride. I looked at Bob and we shook hands. Another adventure complete.
By this point, George was in his truck honking his horn. He ran out of the truck and hugged us. He said, "I can't believe you guys just did that."
Babe was with him as well, and she was also smiling ear to ear. Bob asked them if they had been waiting long, and they said "not really". I then said, "I hope you didn't get bored waiting for us."
George then looked at Babe and said, "we found something to do while we waited." Babe kinda smirked at him and hit him cutely, with a look of guilt all over her face.

The Trail Conditions:
The trail is about 50% beach and about 50% trail.
The beach sections range from white, hard-packed sand, to large boulders, and everything inbetween. The two white sand beaches that you cross (Cape Sutil and just South of Laura Creek), and the one beach at Skinner Creek are hard-packed and were very runnable. The rest of the beach sections were not runnable at all. They were all pea-gravel or small boulder beaches, and often, had black algae on the top which made the conditions extremely slippery.
The trail sections were, in two words, mucky and spongy. Much of the trail goes through bogs. I would hazard a guess and say that there are about 20 in total. When not going through the bog, the trail is either a mucky, messy scramble up or down. Scrambling through the trails would be the best way to describe how you would get through much of it; backpack or not. This trail will introduce you to ropes. There are probably about 50 ropes on the trail to help you with the extreme elevation change. Not all of them we used; but in some sections, it is the only way up or down.
The trails are brand new, so that comes along with many pros and conns. The plus side of the new trail is that there is not as much mud as there will be after a year or two. And although there is a fair bit of mud on the trail, it is forseeable that eventually the mud on this trail will make the mud on the West Coast Trail look like a walk in the park. In addition, the new trail offers more traction than one that gets worn out. The downside of the new trail is that it was slightly harder to figure out exactly where to go. The flagging tape helped us greatly, as did the buoys in the trees along the beach sections. We actually only got lost once, which means that the trail is very well-marked.

Comparing it to the West Coast Trail (WCT) and the Juan de Fuca Trail (JdF):
I have completed the WCT 3 times, and the JDF 2 times, so I have the unique position to compare the trails, and give you my opinion.
- The JDF is 47k and the WCT is 77k (ladders included), so this 60k trail is pretty much inbetween in terms of distance.
- The JDF has its scenic points along the tops of headlands, and across two amazing suspension bridges. The WCT is unbeliewvable in terms of scenrey, and no wonder it has been named the worlds #1 hike. The NCT has some viewpoints, but is not much of a scenic trail. It is a hikers' trail, rather than a tourist trail (if that makes any sense).
- The WCT is an easier hiking trail compared to the other two. I know the ladders and mud are hard, but the other two trails are harder with the continuous elevation changes. The NCT is actually just like a longer JDF trail, with some extreme slopes that are not seen on either of the other two trails.
- The JDF is often wet, the WCT is usually wet, and it is forseeable that the NCT will always be wet. I know I did the NCT in May, but I cannot possibly see this trail ever being dry; any part of it.
- In terms of running the trails: The WCT is still the hardest, due to its length, but the NCT is pretty darn close. The JDF is definitely easier than the other two.
- It was extremely surprising to me that there were virtually no bridges on the NCT (in spite of it being very wet). There were also no ladders, and there were very few rivers. I think in total there were only about 8 rivers we saw. The issue of lack of potable water resembles that of the WCT, and finding decent water in the late summer could be hard.

Extra Information:
1. For those of you looking to plan a hike or run on the North Coast Trail, you should contact WildCoast Magazine and buy a detailed map for $8. You can also buy these maps in Port Hardy. There are a couple of Internet sites that have maps, but the online maps are very poor compared to the $8 one. It is definitely worth the money.

2. You will need a water taxi at the East end. You should either phone Cape Scott Water Taxi and pre-arrange a charter, or you should phone them for their schedule. For 2008, they have a regular schedule to leave Port Hardy at 8 am every morning for the months of July and August. Their rates are $80 per person. A group of 6 or more will drop the price. This price may sound expensive, but it is a 45 minute ride. It is actually a good deal, especially compared to the $185 to do the West Coast Trail.

3. Cell phones do not work on the trail. They do not work at the San Josef Bay Trailhead either, and I don't remember seeing a pay phone there. Plan accordingly.

4. At the San Josef Bay Trailhead, you will either need a ride to or from there. I am 90% sure that there is a shuttle system setup for July and August. I do not know who is in charge of the shuttle system, but again, the guy at Cape Scott Water Taxi did know more information. You can probably phone the Information at Port Hardy and get some details.

5. At the time of our run, there were no kilometre markers. This disappointed me tremendously. That is one of the great things I liked about the JDF and the WCT. The website said that the kilometre markers were in place, but they weren't. It was hard, at times, to know exactly where we were.

6. There is an overnight fee of $5 per night on the trail. They have boxes at the two trailheads, and I think this payment is done on the honor system. I would strongly encourage all hikers, kayakers and nutbar runners to support the trail in whatever way possible.

7. There are two ways to hike the trail: East to West, or West to East. It doesn't matter which way you go, as both ends have great campsites. However, if you are planning on running it as an ultra, there is only 1 way to do it: East to West. This is because it only makes sense to start with the water taxi, as finishing with it means that you have a very good chance of missing any scheduled time.