Monday, December 19, 2011

Wow, BJ and I have never had so much fun sending out Christmas cards. With this new system we've married the latest in digital solutions with the old school fulfillment of sending a personalized physical card. We love it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

RBC Life Sciences

Eleven years ago a respected colleague and running enthusiast told me about a nutritional supplement called Microhydrin. I was training for the 2000 Boston Marathon at the time, so I gave it a try. My initial interests were in how it improved my energy, endurance and recovery, but I soon realized the amazing overall health benefits of this powerful antioxidant. This opened the door to a world of nutritional supplements from RBC Life Sciences. RBC Life offers an excellent array of science-supported antioxidants, vitamin/mineral and critical support products that address cognitive function, anti-aging, immune support, digestion and fitness/weight management as well other health-giving categories. BJ and I have been experiencing the health benefits of these for over a decade.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I love trail running…hills, escarpments, trees, shorelines, singletrack, jeeproads, etc. The variety of terrain and visual stimuli can keep me motivated for hours. Most of my training takes place in the Grand River Valley along the stretch of trails between Kaufman Flats and Freeport:
The Bruce Trail is also a favourite running/racing venue:

I run 5 to 6 days a week with interval training & speed work on Tues/Thurs and long runs on the weekend. Baseline mileage logs in at 70-80 km/week, ramping up to around 130+km/week in prep for big events. I often enjoy training with the group at Tri City Track Club:
Coached by Peter Grinbergs, and appealing to a broad range of abilities and distance preferences, we train in Bechtal Park, Waterloo Park and Rez S.S. (depending on the season).
My wife, BJ, is also a running companion and my biggest supporter.
Recently I’ve started logging my training at:

In addition to the physical workout, on most runs I’m listening to an audio book. As the miles add up so does my consumption of mentally and spiritually enriching material – completing 50-70 books/year on leadership, management, Word teaching, personal growth, education, history, biographies, language learning, classic fiction…

Running links:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vermont 100 Report

After tasting my first 50 mile trail race in November at the JFK50miler, I was looking for another challenge in that distance range that would fit my summer calendar. The Vermont100K was the perfect fit. Primarily a 100 mile event, with a long and reputable history among ultra events, they added a 100 km category last year. I love the mountains in Vermont. BJ and I spent our honeymoon there 25 summers ago and have visited several times over the years. In 2003 I ran the Jay Challenge, a 50K trail adventure that went over the top of Jay Peak.

Training through the Spring, which included the 50K Sulphur Springs trail race in May, had gone very well. Quite unexpectantly though, there was an interruption in the midst of my high mileage weeks, with just 5 weeks to go. Driving home from work I was rear ended at a red light by a mobile home. I was taken to the hospital on a straight board in a neck brace with a decent case of whiplash. Thankfully, no broken bones or back damage, but initially it looked grim as far as my plans to follow through on this 100K endeavour coming up so quickly. But after prayer and physio I was back on the trails one week later, resuming my mileage and intensity right where I left off.

Friday July 17th, BJ, Matt and I got off to an early start, and had a smooth border crossing at Lewiston, NY. We were well on track to make the pre-race meeting at 3:45pm. We were listening to a great audio book dramatization of Jules Verne’s “80 Days Around the World”. This classic work featuring Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, and how he overcame obstacles time and again to achieve his goal, was a great listen to pass the road miles between Kitchener and Vermont. Little did we realize how his obstacle overcoming journey would parallel our experience that weekend.

When we turned off the interstate to head north into Vermont, that’s when the fun began. The roads are beautiful winding through the mountains, and I thought I’d planned enough time to get us there, but an unexpected sequence of traffic, road closures and detours, quickly amounted to the realization that we were not going to make the meeting.

Arriving an hour and a half late at the race headquarters in a remote meadow hidden away in the hills near South Woodstock, VT, we still received a warm reception and were briefed on what I needed to know before the event. One of the unique aspects of this event is that horses also run a 100 mile race the same day on much of the same course, so precautionary instructions about how not to surprise a horse you meet on the trail (especially after dark) were in order.

After connecting with officials and other runners we headed into Woodstock for dinner at a local restaurant. At a table next to us we met a couple of ultra running veterans who were here for the event. They had run this course previously and were here to serve as pacers for 100milers over the final 30 miles of the event. One of the guys turned out to be Errol “the Rocket” Jones, "patron saint of pacers" known for his encouragement and strategies to help runners finish their ultras. He was full of encouragement and advice that got me even more inspired about the adventure I was about to experience. When we got back to our motel room I googled him and discovered a number of interesting hits on him including an article in the April 2009 issue of Runners World about a crew's plans and report on aiding their ultra runner in the Wasatch 100.

A unique feature of the 100km race was the start time. The 100 milers started at 4:00am, but the 100K didn’t start until 2:00pm. This was a logistical decision to help manage the aid station traffic. It meant that I didn’t have to worry about when I awoke in the morning and allowed me to have a relaxed start to the day, unlike most races where you have to pull yourself out of bed with a sleep deficit in order to get to the start line. the place we were staying was right on the Ottauquechee River four miles outside of Woodstock, right near one of those classic covered bridges that are so common in Vermont. We decided to go and explore this bridge and the river mid morning. As it turned out this was part of the 100 mile course and we happened to be there when the front runners came through. We spent an hour or so hanging out there and cheering on the runners. What a unique experience, to spectate at an event that a couple of hours later I would be in the fray running with. Again we were privileged to meet a couple of seasoned ultra runners who happened by this same location to spectate. One of them was Jerry Garcia, a previous winner of the Vermont 100 Mile, and the other, Don Allison, is the editor of A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning and previous publisher/editor of Ultrarunning Magazine. Visiting with them I picked up more valuable first hand ultra running advice.

After this we went for a bite to eat and then headed to the race start. I left with lots of time to spare (1 1/2 hours) but wanted to drive by Camp Ten Bear, to show BJ how to find it. She and Matt were going to meet me there between 7:00 and 8:00pm with my headlamp, a dry shirt, shoes and most importantly moral encouragement. This is at about the 52k point in the race. Time started to get a little tight and I decided to take some back roads to get to the start at Silver Hill Meadow. Man, is that a remote location and hard to find when you don’t have a detailed map and are trying to approach it from another direction. Panic…we got badly lost and now I was racing the Jeep down narrow forested back roads just to make the race start. We went down several wrong roads, but finally got there at 1:52 (race starts at 2:00pm). I still had to get my race number on, use the outhouse, etc. and on top of that found out the start line for the 100K was up the hill a km or so. So here I am running to get to my race on time. This was crazy!! … but part of the drama of the weekend. So what’s another km of running when you’re about to run 100 (the same thing happened to me at the JFK in November – the start line in the town of Boonsboro is 1 mile form the staging area, and I had to run that to make it on time :>)… I thought of Phileas Fogg’s experience later.

Finally…we’re off. Weather conditions were perfect. Blue sky, not too hot or humid. There were 3 of us that went out at the front for the first hour or so at a comfortable 6 min./km pace. One of them that I ran with for quite a while was the other Canadian in the race, Real Perriard from Ottawa. We enjoyed sharing some of our personal running adventures that led us each to this event. We had a fair amount in common…almost the same age, similar running ability, our first 100km race, I was from Ottawa, we both had eye challenges, both knew Ray Zahab from Ottawa…

Real stopped at Camp Ten Bear 1 to wait for his wife (he had arrived ahead of what he had told her) so after about the 15K point I was running alone in first place for the next 3 hours. I was feeling fresh and like I had the optimal pace going. I was steadily passing tired 100milers who would often respond in a startled manner thinking I was a fellow 100miler who had found some kind of new zippity-do-da. I had to explain that I was “just running 100 km, and that I was still ‘fresh’ because I’d only been runnning for 3 or 4 hours” (at this point they had been running for 16 hours and already covered 100k). They cheered me on. One of them kept it in context for me… “don’t forget 100k is still a long way, too” (because this was primarily a 100 mile event with 250 100milers and only 20 or so 100k’ers, the significance of 100K seemed to get overshadowed, thus my remark ‘just 100K’)

Refuelling on these long races has been my biggest challenge. After about 4 hours my stomach has had tough experiences taking in food and sports drinks, which are greatly needed to power you through the miles ahead. I thought I had had a good start in this race, working the Heed and nibbling fruit, pieces of LeClif bar and feeling strong, but then somewhere between 3 and 4 hours, while trying to swallow some Endurolyte capsules, my weak gag reflex let me down and I unceremoniously deposited everything that had been in my stomach on the side of the trail. I walked it off and then started motoring again, but I now knew I was in trouble of bonking if I didn’t get some kind of fuel intake. But it wasn’t to be. By the time I reached Camp Ten Bear2 (52K point) I was quite weak. BJ and Matt were faithfully there to meet me and help me regroup for the next 50K. I weighed in and was down 5 lbs from the start, not surprising for how I felt. I was beginning to be overtaken by a few other 100K runners.

Shortly after Camp Ten Bear, there was a ¾ mi. steep climb up Heartbreak Hill on a bumpy, wet jeep road. It was dusk at this point and it was time to turn my headlamp on in the woods. I had no energy left to run this hill. It became a long, slow, dark, slippery climb with abundant thoughts of ‘how will I ever cover another 50k?’ ( I still couldn’t stomach anything but water and didn’t know if I could turn it around). The top of this hill came out on Caper Hill Rd. which I had been on earlier that day trying to find a short cut to Silver Meadow, only to get lost. For what seemed like about a half an hour, ever since leaving Camp Ten Bear I’d run (actually walked) alone seeing or hearing no one. Then, as I traversed Caper Hill Rd, I heard the voices and sounds of two runners coming up behind me. I didn’t look behind me but could tell they weren’t moving much faster then I was, and that on any slight incline they were walking just like me. I heard one, in an animated coaching voice, encouraging the other not to quit, to keep putting one step in front of the other, etc… still they were a little ways back and with out turning around to see who it was, I recognized the voice of “The Rocket”, who I had met the night before. I hadn’t seen him at Camp Ten Bear, but it turned out he was there waiting to pace his friend Captain Kirk over the last 30 miles of his 100miler. Kirk was one of the other guys who had been at our restaurant and he was running the Grand Slam Series -four 100 mile races in one summer.

As I entered the woods at the end of the road I stopped to greet them. It was great to have this encounter with The Rocket after just meeting him the night before. Even though he was on assignment to personally keep Kirk moving towards the finish line, I also tapped into his “can do” attitude. “Dave, you can do this. This is uncharted territory for you. You are interested in finishing 100k aren’t you?” It struck me how he used the word “interested”. Quite funny, actually. A guy like me doesn’t train intensely and build my summer plans around an event, spend some decent cash, and drive the better part of a day to get there, just because I was “interested”. No. I was on a mission.

I had anticipated an 11 or 12 hour finish (projected from my 8 hour finish over 62k in Nov. at JFK). This had been a realistic expectation based on my training, but now that the wheels had come off, it looked like it would take me the better part of the night to bring this one home, if I didn’t shut down altogether. I knew there would be hills, but these were Vermont hills; the climbing was relentless (9000ft over 100k). But the spirit in how The Rocket addressed me was an infusion of hope and encouragement and helped me get over being hung up about the time and to focus on finishing…whatever it took. Thanks Errol.

I grabbed a couple of these pictures off of Scott Turco’s blog.
He also ran into The Rocket later that same night and credits him with helping him finish his 100 miler. He has a great blog on his experience with great pictures of the very sights I saw, but didn’t have a camera to capture. After an initial period of running some dark single track with Errol and Kirk I got ahead of them and didn’t see them until the next aid station- Seabrooke 60K. I had found a chair and parked myself in it. When they arrived and Kirk saw me in the chair, he gave me a firm warning…“beware the chair, Dave”. I caught some temporary relief in the chair, then I went and leaned on a fence in the dark trying to get my bladder some relief, but it was stubborn and was shut down until later in the night. The Rocket and Kirk went on ahead of me and a couple of more 100k runners overtook me and went off into the dark. I managed to get moving again for another 3.5km and pulled into the next aid station –West Winds/ Spirit of 76 (63.5K) This was quite the set-up -lights, music, lots of people, and laid out like a finish line, with flags and banners everywhere. This was a turning point for me. My eyes scanned the ‘buffet’ table for something that might appeal to my gut. Gingerale!! That was it. Why hadn’t I thought of that earlier? I sat down and drank a cold can of it and then filled my fuel belt with some more for the road. After several hours of only being able to nurse water, finally I was in the mood for something that had some sugar and began to settle my stomach. This became my staple beverage for the rest of the night. Since then I’ve done some more study and reading and realized that many others have had success with ginger to settle their queasy guts.
Two aid stations later I arrived at “the Cow Shed” -74K point, another warm and hospitable spot along the course. It was around midnight and I still had 26k to go. I was feeling better and I knew I would finish but that it would take me until 4:00am plus. I had told BJ back at 52K around 8:00pm that I wouldn’t be in before 2:00am. I didn’t want her and Matt waiting for me for hours at the finish line, so I sent a message through the radio guy at the Cow Shed to the finish line. Tell them “#406 will be in sometime after 4:00 am and to go sleep in the Jeep and I’ll find them whenever I get in”. There, now I could run through the night in peace with that off my mind, trusting they wouldn’t be worried about me. I’ve never appreciated aid stations so much in my life. Every other race I’ve done, I’ve just run on through. In the back half of this race I decided to take my time and engage the great rural Vermont hospitality. These faithful souls opened up their yards, sheds, barns, and stayed up throughout the night to serve crazy guys like me.
Bill’s, at 82K, was another great stop. Another weigh in. I was up 2 or 3 lbs since the weigh in at 52K, evidence that I’d managed to take in some fuel. As I was sitting enjoying some chicken broth and solid food, two other 100K guys arrived. They were tracking everything with their GPS and became quite concerned when it seemed they had missed the last aid station. I was quite in control and enjoying the night at this point; not moving especially fast, but definitely on a mission and determined to finish. The conditions were exceptional. A clear sky full of stars was sparkling over the Vermont hills when you’d come out of the woods into a clearing. There were some breathtaking vistas in a couple of places when you’d crest a hill at significant elevation in an open meadow. Between 3:00 and 4:00 the moon came up through the trees and into the sky-a shimmering new crescent that added to the memorable images of the night. The course was marked with glow sticks hanging from trees just close enough together so you could see the next one before you started to wonder if you were off course. The single track and narrow Jeep roads through the forests are quite an impressive experience under these conditions. I have an excellent Petzl headlamp that does an awesome job illuminating my way, and I have done a certain amount of night running, but always on trails I knew very well. Running the Vermont 100 course through the depths of the night for the first time became a spectacular adventure for me.
As the night wore on, the Eastern sky became lighter and I realized I was going to see the sunrise and still be running. That turned out to be an awesome set of images that will stick with me. That same cloudless sky that I saw the red/orange glow over the hills in the west 8 hours earlier now produced a stunning reciprocation of beauty over the eastern hills.
With less then 4k to go, just past the Sargent’s aid station, I missed a turn in the course. I wasn’t seeing glow sticks anymore. I was running a nice downhill stretch of paved road overlooking a small lake. I had a steady running pace going and as I got further down the hill there were no reassuring glow sticks in sight. I’m thinking, “Great, if I’m off course and have to retrace my steps, I’ve just added another hill to the campaign”. And so it was, I retraced my steps about a half km and found the glow stick where I missed the turn. So between this extra km and the extra running to the start line, I probably ran a 102k course :>) The encouraging thing was that I ran with strength back up that hill and all the rest of the hills to the end (there were still many to go in that last leg). That last stretch in the growing dawn of the day was a positive experience and I knew I still had many more miles of capacity in my legs. For future events I will solve the intestinal fortitude limitations and go to the next level.
At 5:41 am Sunday morning, 15 hours and 41 minutes after I embarked on this adventure, I cruised across the finish line healthy and victorious. Matt and BJ had been faithfully waiting, never giving up on me. Unfortunately they never received the message I had radioed to them. But I was home now. It wasn’t all pretty, but I had met some great people, captured some incredible memories, and my love for trail running has only grown richer.
That night we drove back to Kitchener and finished our adventures with Phileas Fogg, who also had an incredible adventure that weekend, going around the world in 80 days and reaching his goal in spite of many obstacles. Our drive home was smooth and on track for an ETA by midnight. But just to throw in one more obstacle to overcome, the border crossing was crawling at a snail’s pace and added an extra 3 hours to our journey. Hey, no big deal after the endurance adventure I had just experienced. And I was now on holidays for the next two weeks.

The next day I headed up to the Bruce Peninsula for 2 glorious weeks. I got in some great trail running and kayaking and my recovery has been awesome. I have to take August off after some eye surgery (vitrectomy), but I look forward to a great autumn of trail running, forever free from contacts or prescription lenses.

As for the Vermont 100…an awesome adventure, great memories and I’d do it again.