My personal best 5k course

If you are looking for a flat and fast course for a 5k personal record, look no further than Maritime Race Weekend in Eastern Passage.

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Sunofa done-ofa

Before the start: Me, Mark, Shane, Dave, Erin and Stacey

Any fellow runner has probably heard me utter some version of “I have no interest in running a marathon” over the past few years. It has been my unwaivering mantra.

So when I signed up for Salomon Sunofa Gunofa trail race in Five Islands Provincial Park, my goals were modest. This race is not about time, it’s about stamina. In this last-person-standing format, runners complete a 5.7km trail loop starting every hour. Your race is done if you time out, or don’t start the next loop. My goal was based on my history of running as a non marathoner. My my longest-ever training run was 27km with Heather in April 2017. She will tell you that as we came down the Chain of Lakes Trail to finish that final kilometre, I swore to her I would never run a marathon. So based on my modest history of endurance, I set a goal of 5 loops which if met would be my longest run ever at 28.5km.

Shane, Mark and I decided to check out the course before the race, so off we went to Five Islands Provincial Park on June 23.

With Jodi before we made our way.

When we arrived, by sheer coincidence it just so happened the event Race Director Jodi was there and he offered to show us the loop. This was great because trying to figure it out on our own would have been a bit harder, and also good because Jodi had made a slight change to the route due to high tides.

For practice we did 3 loops and stuck with the actual format of leaving on the hour. I wanted to test out the balance between effort and recovery time to figure out my race day approach. On the first loop we walked up all the hills and only did a very light jog on the way back down and came in at 50 minutes, leaving 10 minutes rest. The rest time felt a bit rushed, but this was partially due to us having to get gear out of the car. The second loop was a bit faster at 45 minutes, which left 15 minutes of rest time. The rest time was nice, but was the extra effort worth it? Last we tried a harder effort and came in at 37 minutes. For this one we still hiked up the hills, but going down was a good hard effort, and we were wiped at the end. The extra rest earned was clearly of no value.

For race day, I printed off my splits on a paper to take with me so I could keep an eye on my progress to make sure I was tracking properly. I figured the 50 minute option was probably the best, as I would have my gear already set up at base camp.

One of the unique aspects of this event for me was the fact that I needed to eat during the race. I packed an assortment of food after taking advice from runners who have done ultra distance events including this one. My cooler included cold pizza, bacon, bananas, granola bars, Gatorade, and potato chips.

Stacey, Mark, Erin and I drove up together from Truro the morning of race day, and when we arrived were greeted by Shane and Dave who had stayed the night. We set up our base camp including some nice windshield decor.

As the start time neared, Jodi gathered everyone together and reviewed the rules. Already the atmosphere seemed different than other races. People were totally relaxed at the start. There was no nervous energy, jumping around, or intensity. Just a bunch of friendly people ready to settle in for the long haul.

The first loop would be the most crowded. So I decided to get out in front, but because I intended to go fast, but simply because I didn’t want to be stuck in a long single file line on single track. My first loop was just under 48 minutes. Perhaps a bit too fast, but I was glad I got out in front.

On the second loop I didn’t get out in front, and regretted it. Stuck behind many runners, my first kilometre on the second loop was almost 14 minutes, which according to my test runs was nearly 2.5 minutes slower than my slowest loop. In the end the second loop was just under 53 minutes and left limited rest time, which I didn’t like. So from that point onward, I made it a point to go out closer to the front.

Throughout the event I ran with lots of different people including people I knew already and people I just met. As I went on, I started to reflect on how the format was way more social than any other race I’ve ever done. Since it’s not about time, people are not going all-out, and are more capable of carrying on a conversation with those around them. This was turning out to be the most social race I have ever done, which was very cool.

Dave, Mark, Shane and I during a rest period.

The rest breaks were kind of neat. Throughout the run, with a lower effort my heart rate stayed low which means I was burning fat as a primary fuel source and my body was not in any kind of distress. This made it easy to eat, which I actually looked forward to – I guess running for hours helps you maintain an appetite.

As the day went on, I quickly got to my five loop goal and was still feeling pretty good. So I carried on to loop number 6.

One of the more challenging aspects of the race was a lack of a porta potty in base camp. Not a big deal for number 1, but for number 2 this presented a challenge. The solution was a park outhouse along the final stretch before the end of the course. The picture below is from our training day, but on two occasions I decided to make a pit stop during the race, and dubbed it “Poop on the loop”.

I made it up to 8 loops for a total of 45.4 km, an accidental marathon, and decided to pack it in. My legs were getting to me even though my heart was fine. Interestingly, I only spent a little over 1-minute out of the elapsed time of 7 hours, 50 minutes in heart rate zone 1. The rest of the entire race was all below zone 1. Taking out breaks, moving time was 6 hours, 36 minutes for a moving pace of 8:43/km. Time for a beer!

Me, Stacey, Mark and Erin after I was done.

But Shane was still going.

Shane still goin’!

He made it to 10 loops, tops in our group. Shane’s trail running prowess was really apparent on this day. Not only did he do the most running in our group, he also really impressed me with his downhill competence. Shane and I were together on many of the loops, that is until we hit the downhill sections. Shane’s footwork on downhill trail running is impressive and I simply could not keep up. Mark also had a great day. His goal was 3 loops and he ended up doing 6. Super impressive.

The winner was a guy named Steve Reeves, who did 24 laps (meaning he ran overnight) for a total of 139.2k. More impressive was the fact that his last lap was ~36mins!

I will definitely do this event again. It was loads of fun and totally unique.

Results: Nova Scotia Trail Running

Aren’t penguins supposed to be slow?

Photo credit: Halifax Road Hammers

This blog entry is really late, but in a way it’s fitting because me signing up for the Penguin Run was also really late. Held in Enfield on June 2, I’ve had my eye on this event for a few years. It has a long-standing reputation for being a fast course and having a competitive field. Early in the year I pencilled it in on my 2018 race plan, but a couple of months ago I found out I would be headed to Switzerland for work in the week leading up to the event. So I didn’t register, worried about the affects of jet lag from being overseas Sunday to Thursday, a 5-hour time difference. Continue reading “Aren’t penguins supposed to be slow?”

Moosed ’18

Me with BLT Runners Tom, Heather, Stacey, Ian, Pat and Marg.

Though the tradition of the Moose Run goes back 26 years, my first was only 2 years ago. After a single go at the challenging 25km route in 2016, I knew I’d come back, and did. This year was my 3rd. It’s called the Moose Run because of the big Moose statue looking upon the Atlantic Ocean along the route.

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