Monday, May 16, 2022

Canicross Race 3 (and 4!) Nothing But Epic at Keppoch

 So the third race of the MAHDS Spring Season was upon us. Club DogRunnin' put together another race, this time a full day event with multiple disciplines, 2 canicross races, 2 bikejor events and a canitrail event. Originally there was also a scooter race, though due to the weather this was cancelled.

Wait, what? In harness dog sports there are some very important safety rules, and one of those is the heat on race day. People can choose to run or not run in the heat or can be smart and slow down, but often dogs just want to have fun and aren't as good at realizing the consequences of their actions. So we have to be the smart ones at this time and make those choices for them. Taking the scooter event out, also shortened the day to allow us to get the other races in well before noon. As it turns out, the heat started to climb but generally we had some clouds to limit how bad it could have gotten, and we were safely able to deal with the races due to their shorter distances.

Okay, so back to the fun stuff. 

This weekend I signed up to do the Standard Canicross race at 3km, and the Sprint Distance at 1.5 km. As these are trails with lots of twists and turns, the exact distance isn't always easy to calculate, but they were pretty close to that.  

I got up at 4:30 to head off to Keppoch, arriving with enough time before the first race to have a chance to go run the main course as my warm up. 

The course is mostly crusher dust and wide with lots of tight corners. The hills were frequently quite steep. I chose a shoe with a short lug and lots of cushioning.

So as my race was coming up, I met with Val. Val had been generous with her dog Solo at the first race of the year, and was going to be generous again by loaning me another of her dogs (she has three great boys) names Bryce. Bryce is a Eurohound, like Solo. While not as big, he is definitely just as fast.  

Bryce and I took off to the start line, and I did my best to keep him calm. I was going to be going in the second wave of runners, so we lined up behind Wave 1 and waited our turn to get going. 

It's okay Bryce, just look forward to the fun!

Bryce seemed a little nervous and looked back a few times, but as we approached the start line for our start he clicked and was definitely looking forward to get going. And then we were off!

We quickly separated from Charles (he started with us) and headed for the first real test, a tight right, left and steep downhill.

Bryce swung wide to get us around that tight corner

That downhill was crazy fast and I did my best to hang on. And just as fast, another tight corner and up a hill. This continued, and soon we met up with our first runner ahead. Bryce didn't blink and before I knew it we flew by. Where possible Bryce chose to run right on the edge of the trail along the grass, so we didn't have a perfectly straight line between us, but it didn't seem to slow us down.  Much like with Loki in the last race, we hit a blistering 2:47 first kilometer. With 

We snaked along and soon caught our next runner. Again without hesitation Bryce passed on by. We were storming along.

As we came into the open area of the course, I could see Sarah P just in the distance, and we hit a huge downhill section again. Bryce pulled through, not caring about any of the volunteers on the sides. I think He noticed Sarah and wanted to catch up to her. He pulled me up to her in a little over a mile of racing. While it wasn't as fast as I racing the MDR race's first mile, this 4:31 mile on the twists and turns and ups and downs felt a lot tougher. 

As we reached Sarah we pulled along side and Bryce seemed to know Loki and we hung out there for a bit. I welcomed the slight easing of pace he went into, but then he got feisty and off we went, staying just ahead of Sarah but not seeming to want to pull away too much.  

Oooo nice soft grass

Now the thing with dogs and racing is that you can never be 100% sure what the day will bring. And since I am borrowing dogs, I have to accept this even more so. Everything was going great and then Bryce spotted a mud puddle well before I did.  Before I could yell leave it, he was upside down and rolling in the mud. I saw Sarah ease up a bit and then start back up (she could tell we were fine).  

While it seemed like we were in the mud for a long time, it was actually maybe less than 10 seconds before I convinced my buddy to move along and he went to regain the lead.  

We picked up the pace and caught back up, finally passing Sarah with maybe 200m to go on a very loose gravel area.

We crossed the finish line in 9:36 for 3K. Bryce was a giddy boy taking the win. It was obviously not the perfect race but it was the perfectly fun and exhilarating. I know I am a decent runner, but having to work as part of a team is a whole different beast and knowing we could go head to head with Sarah P and Loki the wonder dog was great. 

Huge thanks again to Val for loaning me Bryce  

Sure Bryce lets go run some more

Post race water cooler chat

Bryce and his sidekick

Race 2 was to see how well I could recover from Race 1, and really it was because I drove 2 hours to do the first race. Might as well have some more fun!  For this race I went to my friend Charles. He has two dogs and wasn't planning on doing this specific race (he did the full distance bike and canicross and the canitrail). 

He said I could have a go with Casey. She's a spicy GSP, much smaller again than Solo and Bryce and Loki. But speed? Oh yass. 

This course was fast and mostly downhill, though with some tight corners, so it isn't all out speed. Casey has been running for a couple of years now and knows what to do. We lined up in the 3rd Wave this time. I actually like a slow start, as I know the dog will make up any "lost time" pretty fast. This course though did require a quicker start as ideally, you want to get to corner 1 first to really take advantage of the width of the course through the twisty bits and steep downhill. 

Casey didn't want a slow start, and felt let down that I allowed teams to get ahead of us even for a moment.  So 100m in we took the lead in our wave.

Through the first 2 corners

Just an FYI this hill maxes out at a 10% grade

What can I say, this race was over fast. I barely could take a deep breath going down the first crazy hill. Then we slowly started to catch teams from the waves ahead of us. All of a sudden the 500m to go sign was in front of us. Casey pulled wonderfully, and kept straight in front of me. Her small size was the opposite of her big speed. Her desire to win is amazing.

We crossed the finish line with a 2:52 min/km pace. She gave it her all for sure. We took the Sprint distance win on the weekend as well. 

I did have the fortune to push myself extra hard as I was only doing the two races. So I didn't need to save any juice for anything else that day. I switched to Event Official for the final event, running the canitrail course to check it out and then working the start line. 

Huge thanks again to Val and Charles for the teammate loans. Huge shout out to Keppoch and Club DogRunnin for hosting the event and doing all the leg work. As an event guy myself, I know what work they put in. And big shout out to all the racers that travel to get to these events. The growth I have seen in harness dog sports over the last 10 years has been amazing. I am sop glad I have been a part of it, even before I could race it. 

Thanks to Val and Bob MacEachern for the photos. 

That's the final race of the Spring as I said, and I had a blast. Highs and lows can happen in less than 3 km, but the highs will always surpass any lows. 

I have a few non dog events coming up, but I'll bask in these ones first and maybe get some club runs in before the weather turns too hot. 

You wanna race me?

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Canicross Race 2 MDR Fast Fox Moncton, April 2022

Well it was two weeks ago that I slipped into a canicross belt and attached a big ole Eurohound named Solo to me for a 3km race in the woods. We had such a great time. Now it was off to Moncton for a big harness dog sport festival hosted by Moncton Dog Runners.

I was super lucky to be allowed to run with Sarah Peel's dog Loki this weekend. He is a young gun, but his brain is all racing and going fast. Sarah helped to organize the weekend's racing, but was able to get out for the events herself as well. So to have her loan me the super Loki was incredibly nice. 

Now Loki did the Standard Distance (4.6km) Bikejor finishing up just as I arrived at the race venue. We was tired but still looked like he wanted to go again. I thought maybe that the 1.5 hours before the next event (the standard canicross) might take the edge off of him. More on that later.

So I signed in, swapped out my shoes for some running shoes and took advantage of some in between race time to pop out onto the course for some recon. The course is tucked into a nice park on the edge of Moncton.  The start is nice and flat crusher dust for about 2 km. At that point things start to get twisty with punchy little roller hills. If you run in Halifax at all and know Long Lake park, it is just like that. This section works its way up through the next couple of kms and finally with about 800m to go, it begins to descend a bit, staying twisty and becoming flat. It is pretty fast.

While there was rain the day before, there were only a few puddles and a few soft spots to contend with, nothing that would make the run difficult at all. The weather on race day was sunny with high winds, though inside the race route, the wind was minimal. Perfect.

Shoe choice was tough for me. My fast On Cloudventure Peaks from the last race were too aggressive for the crusher dust, road shoes were probably okay but maybe not grippy enough. I had an older pair of Salomon Sense Max Pro and opted to use them. A low lug and some cushion seemed like a reasonable choice. 

After what seemed like forever, it was approaching race start time. So I belted up, found Sarah P and hooked up Loki. We went for a light jog (as she suggested) with a few sprints and headed to the start line. 

If you have never seen a canicross start it is fierce looking. I got to start 1st with Sarah beside me (2 up start). Soon the time counted down and we were off. 

I purposely held back a little and eased into the start with Sarah getting a much better jump off the line. After a few hundred meters though we caught up and passed back into the lead. Loki was on fire and away we went.

I didn't bother to look at my watch because it didn't matter.  I just ran behind Loki and let him set the tempo. And he was fast. I did look at my watch after the first kilometer and we ran through it is 2:45. Dang, that was fast. I thought, well that can't last, at least for me it can't. I figured I would soon become a bit of an anchor for this boy.

He is a smooth dog for that speed though. He let me do the running and just elevated that. The leash / line never strayed from just taut. We cruised through kilometer 2, and our average pace was still 2:53 min/km. Then we began the hilly section. I felt like we slowed, but in general we didn't. I guess the downs made up for the ups in this case. Kilometer 2 and 3 were both run at a 3:03 min/km pace.

This dog was focused on going forward. I think it also helps that he had just raced this course 2 hours before and this was his home turf. I saw a few glances at a couple of squirrels, but nothing to worry about. 

Kilometer 4 we slowed. I'll take the blame. That was done at a 3:15 min/km pace, though it had the biggest elevation gain in it, so let's say that's to fault there. With now just 600m to go, the course heading slightly down to a flat finish, I thought, let's go for this Loki (because I couldn't use words). We picked it up a little, and crossed the finish line hard. Our finish time was 13:55.

Doing the math and allowing for some extra slowing down would have still had me finishing a 5km race at a sub 15:30, almost 2 minutes faster than my personal best. 

That was an amazing run for me. Loki was a great running partner. I wish I was faster for him. 

 After the finish Sarah got to have a post race photo with us and all her amazing dogs that got to run in the event. Notice that Loki barely looks tired. 

I got to then watch the sprint distance races, which included canicross, bikejor, and scooter. 2 Dog scooter is crazy to watch. 

I was able to take the overall win and we had a nice little podium picture. It was great to share the podium with Reanne and Krista (and Astrid).  The medal was awesome and I have a spot for the special medals where this will hang.

Club photo time with Club Dog Runnin'. I don't get out with the crew enough since their training times and mine commitments haven't always worked well together, but they are an amazing group. 

Is MDR trying to earn top spot for post race cake over the Halifax Movember Run? I mean, they do have flowers. Also a chocolate / vanilla mix cake? Dang.

It was a worthwhile trip up to Moncton for sure. The win is great, but I love an event like this one. Lots of opportunities, success measured in personal achievements, and dogs. Lots of dogs. 

Next up we head to Keppoch Mountain, and you should consider checking this sport out, May 14th.  

I meanwhile have to work on strengthening my body to run at these speeds. Seaside Chiro has been doing wonders on keeping me lose and ready to run, and I have added back some work with Anita Connors at Beaverbank Physio, as she finds little extra ways to allow me to take advantage of the speed I am being offered. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Canicross Race 1 - CDR Rust Buster 3K, April 2022

 I'm a little late getting to this one, I guess I am out of practice writing race reports! 

A couple of weeks ago now I took part in my first official in person canicross race. I did one official virtual race last season, but that was it. 

For a few years now I have been helping the local harness dog sport scene in the Maritimes by serving on the board of the MAHDS, which serves to oversee harness dog racing's growth and safety. My role outside of the board had been mostly hosting events for other racers. After last year's 50K Ultra challenge, I wanted something new this year, so short and extremely fast it was!

First off, I didn't race with my dogs. They are 4 lbs soaking wet. Instead I borrowed a trusty new friend names Solo from my New Brunswick friend Val Michon. Solo is a big 80+ lb Eurohound and he can move. Val had a new dog in her stable and was going to run with him for this event. 

This race would be short and fast. 3k long but it included access roads, deep mud, rolling twisty hills and rooty sections. In some areas this would be close to canitrail racing (canicross on technical single track). 

I went out for a reconnaissance and warm up run to explore the course. It was going to be a fun run for sure.

After choosing my shoes (super grippy On Cloudventure Peaks), I got harnessed up and met up with Solo, so we could have a little bonding time. 80lbs of determined dog is not easy to control, but he was pretty good at not just towing me around too much.

As race time was getting close we all started to line up. While some canicross races are mass start, most are on tight paths and go in a time trial like fashion, with either 1 or 2 races starting at that same time and a small gap before the next start. This race was a 1 up start with 15 seconds between runners. I was starting 11th.

The excitement was growing, the dogs were howling, and the runners were starting to take off.

Soon my time came and I was off. A quick zip for 100m up a dirt path and then onto an access road for a moment where you can really gain some speed. I peaked out at a 2:35 min/km pace for a bit then settled into an easy (?)  3 min/km pace through twists and turns and mud. I quickly started ot catch and pass other runners and Solo was flying.

I knew we would be fast, and assumed I would catch a couple of people per kilometer, but wasn't quite ready to have worked my way up to the 6th place starter with 1.5km. Now, this is when things got "fun." The 6th place runner was Val and Solo was very happy to see her and decided he wanted to run with her instead. Ah, dogs, you just can't always plan what they will want to do. 

I kept running, though his heart wasn't in it as much. Finally we got far enough ahead that he started to pick it up again and we were flying. But then we ran into Sarah W, and while she was totally willing to let me pass her and Eddie, Solo didn't want to be rude. Finally I convinced Solo it was good idea and we took off again. 

Our final 1.5km was not as fats as our first 1.5km on the race, but the good news it wasn't for a lack of fitness. We both had a lot more to give. What we lacked was training as a team, and this sport is about being a team. Some dogs will pull anyone with no issue, some dogs won't pull anyone but their training partner. Solo just needed some more time with me I think to build that trust level.

We crossed the finish line running hard, which was great and made me happy. My 3K on a dead flat no turns crusher dust trail last year was a 9:30 with Asil (she's one of those run with whoever let's go kind of dogs). This run on a a twisty turny, muddy, hilly, rooty, course was a 10:08. And considering the last bit wasn't us working at our best, I am happy with that result. We did have to wait to see who won the race because it was a time trial start. Ultimately we did by just a little bit over Sarah P and Loki.


That mud on my shoe was actually Solo's foot print. I did say he was a big boy. 

Next up is the canicross race in Moncton. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

2021 The Year in Review

 So  2021 has come and gone. Another year with COVID restrictions and limited in person events. So one could easily have decided to cut back on things and just be, though I decided that wasn't for me.  

The year started out with some speed skating at the Oval. Luckily our oval is outdoors, which is bad when the weather sucks, but during a pandemic, it is great. 

And while I kept running all winter, I also took up a cycling challenge to virtually ride the coast line of Nova Scotia. Put on by Route 541 (which hosts other virtual fundraisers) this allowed you all year to get the ride done. While I didn't finish first, I did finish in the top ten and managed to get the over 2000km done in a few months on the indoor bike trainer. 

In April, during what should have been Trail Cleanup Day and World Litter Run Day, we had a lock down. While we couldn't gather, I could at least hit the trail and make sure to do my part. I committed to a bag of garbage from our trail a day. And while I didn't keep a daily litter run going (like Luke does), I do commit to picking up some trash when I can to keep my neighbourhood and our trail clean. 

I continued with skipping when I could and one the weather warmed up I took to the lake, often with Craig for our weekly swims. But the bulk of my year was running. And while I still committed to my monthly 5K time trail of a sub 18 minute run (which I managed to do), without a proper race on schedule, I decided to start training for a Fall Ultra Road Marathon. This was the Valley 50K. While it was never certain that it would be run, I figured the worst thing to come from this was a good solid training block of fitness I could use at some other time. 

I wrote about this race previously, and my other running exploits on the blog. While the Ultra was the highlight of my running year, the toughest / funnest / craziest was Craig and I running the Rum Runners Relay by ourselves. 110km in total with 60km for me in one day was a tough go, and probably harder than the race but in the end worth it. 

Finally, I managed to host 2 in person running events. One canicross event and my Movember Run. Both fundraisers and both big successes. 

I was lucky to be an ambassador for Nuun Hydration (electrolyte drink), which was a key tool I used in my run training. I was also an ambassador for Balega Socks. I love socks and good quality running socks are certainly worth it. Balega were great to have on board to help me get to the finish line of my events with my feet staying together (trust me, I have had poor sock choices and horrid blisters before).

Support for my athletic year came from friends at Sportwheels and Aerobics First and of course the BLT Runners. I love to help them give back to the athletic community as much as I can. 

And now the numbers:

Running: 3201 km. This was actually lower than last year. Now I will say I really cut down on how many weekly kilometers I was doing after my Ultra. So November and December were significantly reduced. Otherwise I probably would have been much closer. Of course all this goes to show that it isn't super high mileage you need, but well planned mileage.

Cycling: 4180. Down a little bit as well. I went cycling heavy to start the year with the virtual event, then mostly used it as a cross training and of course the weekly Sportwheels rides I host. I always want more cycling, but alas there is never enough time. 

Swimming: 11253m. Another drop, but I think overall my swimming was much better this year. Again, while I wanted to get in the lake more often, run training really takes it tole on you and I didn't want to be hitting the lake tired. 

Other: This would be skipping, walking, skating etc... 483km and almost 90 hours. 

I am not going to commit to anything specific for the coming 2022 season. One thing I would like to do is get training again for a fast 10km run. Maybe it will be a virtual race, a time trial or perhaps something in person. I am open to all options. 

Have a great 2022 every one. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Rum Runners Relay 2021

So I am a little late getting this blog post out, but better late than never. 

Craig and I chatted earlier in the year about possibly doing the Rum Runners Relay as an adventure run this year. The Rum Runners Relay is a Nova Scotian relay race with 10 legs that covers about 110km from Prospect to Lunenburg. Usually done in teams of 10, this race was not held the past 2 years, as the logistics of crowds during COVID in this kind of race made things tricky. As well, the big fun of this race is the social aspect. Take that away and it certainly is less of a fun day.

Last year I thought about doing this but Craig hurt his foot. This year we chatted about it, but the timing was tricky. Ideally it would have been held in September as it usually is, but I was close to tapering for my first Ultra Road race. Then I had a couple of half marathons in the weeks that followed, then the Movember Fun Run I host each year (which Craig ran in). Finally we had a date, November 27.

So we got up bright and early for the traditional 6:30 AM start. I feel I was about 70% recovered from all my racing. Craig was all healed up, but certainly had not been running really long distances in awhile. Forecast called for occasional showers, okay temperatures, and a fairly tough headwind for much of the day. 

We packed the car full of clothing changes, some food and drink got it started.

Craig went first for Leg 1. It was dark, so he was lit up. The weather was great until a few minutes after he began, at which point a big tail wind came in (nice) and a downpour (less nice).  

As the rain let up, the sun started to creep out, and Craig finished up Leg 1 crossing the finish line.  

Our goal was to keep well below the 6 min / km cut off time that Rum Runner allows for each leg.  Not much time for pleasantries either, as we passed the figurative baton, took a picture and began the next leg of running. 

Leg 2 was much nicer than Leg 1, and a bit shorter (about 4km shorter - though I would make up for this lack of distance later).  I had a brief sprinkling of rain but just enough to get damp, not a full soaking like poor Craig had.

Leg 3 is always a blast. Around 11km but with significant amount of down hill, it is fast. The trick today was holding back. Still, Craig took advantage of the free speed. Also I think it rained on him again.

Leg 4, the long one. 17km but generally flat. The head wind was strong here as this leg is quite open on the coast line. I switched shoes and socks. I tucked a small soft flask of Nuun into my belt as well, because we were not doing water stops.  

The temperature was climbing, and really I could have been in shorts here, but I certainly wasn't uncomfortable. 

So 2 legs in for me and 25km and I was starting to feel tired. Uh oh.

No time to think though. Craig took off on Leg 5 which is the shortest though the one with the two hills. At 3.8 km it seems easy, but the first hill is crazy steep up.

And the second one is a crazy downhill one to the finish. Craig opted to give it a little oomph on this leg for fun.

For most legs there is roughly 40-60 minutes of rest before the next person has to run. Between Leg 4 and 6 I had about 17 minutes of rest, so really it was a straight forward 28 km of running for the two legs. Leg 6 starts go up up up. Then you run a rolling terrain of up and up until you reach the top of a decent climb and have a few kilometers of fast finish. 

Again, more sun for me. Yes, there were a few brief rain showers but nothing too crazy. Leg 6 offered much better protection from the wind as well, which was nice. 

Craig set out on Leg 7. Another shorter one at 9 km, but don't get too excited. This one has some of the worst hill climbs. 3 really big climbs on tired legs. In November it wasn't as bad temperature wise, but during September, this is often one of the hottest legs as well.  

Somehow I didn't get a good hill picture of Craig.  I did get to the end of the leg though and noticed the softflask I had put in my belt had decided to empty its contents down my back. So I managed to find a place to get changed into my second pair of tights and a new pair of socks. I stayed in my favorite shoe, the On Cloudflow though. It was still doing great.  As I got over to the finish line, Craig came zipping in. The finish here is nice and speedy, and I managed to just get the finish line down in time!  

Now in fresh dry tights, I set off on Leg 8. Getting started on each leg was getting tougher. The body would stiffen up while waiting for the next leg. You would want to eat and drink but not too much. I knew Leg 8 would be tough (it is the second longest leg and again, spends a lot of time on the open coast line, so heavy wind).  

After a couple of kilometers and some bad road shoulders, I had to take my first walk break up a steep but short hill. Running was just slow enough that a short walk made more sense. 

For the first time, I was getting thirsty on the run, so I knew I was well into the dehydration territory. A few more walk breaks up some steep hills were needed. I was well past marathon distance now and I will say, starting the day at maybe 70% recovered from previous racing in the weeks leading up to this was taking its tole. 


Craig was now on the cusp of marathon distance heading into Leg 9. While he had run longer in some events the previous years (last person standing type events), these usually were done at a very slow pace with less consistent running pace. 

He sent me to the start of Leg 10 because I needed all the rest I could get. And of course it started to rain. How tired was he? He didn't notice the rain.

Craig finished up Leg 9 and it was certainly pushing his limit that day. The poor weather, the start and stop nature, and just coming back from an injury with little solid base buildup had hit. He did awesome pushing through all that. His marathon split was 3:29, without any marathon training.

I won't lie. Going into Leg 10 after what wasn't a great Leg 8 didn't feel mentally great. We still had tons of day light (I put on my Noxgear vest just in case) and the clouds were clearing, so that helped. I had been sipping Nuun electrolyte drink while waiting for Craig to finish, so I hoped to be better hydrated. Also Craig was going to stop at a couple of key points to offer a drink on this leg and make sure I didn't take a wrong turn. 

I planned on a run walk strategy to finish things up, and I did use it a bit, but not as much as I had planned. Craig was stopping every 2 km to give me a drink, and frankly, when I would see him I would run. The walk breaks were not many, and as each kilometer ticked away, mentally I was able to get it done. 

I was well into the high 50km range (well beyond anything I had run) as I entered Lunenburg. I passed on the final drink stop which was literally 0.5 km from the finish and pushed through. The school was in site! 

I rolled in and stopped the clock with a personal distance of 59.2 km and a total time of 4:52 (marathon split of 3:18). Craig ran 49.7 (in way more rain than me) in a total time of 4:16. Our average pace was 5:03 and we hit a 9:09 on the clock for almost 110km.  

Per tradition of Rum Runners we stopped at Subway for subs and pop (not cold subs and warm pop this time).  

It was great spending the day with Craig and doing this adventure run. Neither of us are big fans of the giant runs, so this may be a one off but it was worth doing to see out the year on a high. I feel sorry for Craig's family using the car after we were done though. 

Go BLT Runners.