Friday, 31 March 2017

Mega Goose-sized Thank you for everyone who helped make the 2017 Dion Winter Goose Chase a success

 It's a few months late (sorry, I've had a busy Snowshoe racing season immediately following the race - you can read about that in a blog post coming soon - late as well, I'll catch up eventually), but I have been meaning to write this and send it out to thank everyone involved in making the Dion Winter Goose Chase Snowshoe Race such a success.

My Running Club the Cambridge Harriers  deserves a mother-goose-sized thank you for providing the majority of the race volunteers, the course marking materials, and the timing.  I would have had a tough time putting on the race without the help of my club.  Thank you so much.  I'm going to list the wonderful help that I received.  Huge Thank you to my Harriers!
Course/nature center set-up Greg, George, Jen, Alison.
Course Take Down/Clean-up - Kelly, Chris, Steve, Fran V,
Start/Finish  George, Wesley, Greg, Richard
Snowshoe fitters - Ray, Sarah, Jen
Child crowd-control- Joyce B
Marshalls/parking Warren, Jen, Doug, Sandy, Alan, Kelly, Nelleke, Rose, Meghan, Heather, Pat, Joyce V,
Registration Dianne, Michelle, Mirella
First Aid- Richard, Anita, Alison
Drone Pilot - Doug
Photographer- Thanks to Jason Mota for providing free race photos of every athlete - amazing!
Food Crew - Nelson, Fran, Sharon - that post-race food was miles above the usual stale bagel and half-a-banana.  Thanks for all the hard work.  It was absolutely delicious.
Providing course marking materials and promoting the race through social media - Tony Martin RD of Conquer the Cannuck Trail race weekend Also at Shades Mills Conservation Area.

Baden Coffee Company - Our coffee sponsor.  Thank you for providing us your delicious fresh-roasted coffee for the race and for draw prizes.  We got lots of complements about how tasty the coffee was.  Thank

 Carrier Budge Card Company- Thank you to illustrator (and runner) Holly Main for donating  gift packs of running -themed cards to the race. You're amazing Holly!
Dion Snowshoes - Thanks to the title sponsor of the Ontario Running series.  Dion Snowshoes provided the race a complete set of Dion Running Snowshoes as a draw prize for the race.  Also all rentals are Dion Racing Snowshoes.  The best Running Snowshoe out there. Thank you Dion!

 Grand River Conservation Authority - Thanks to Shades Mills Conservation area superintendent Brian Hunt and Andrew Jamieson for all your hard work at Shades Mills to prepare for and support the race.  Always very helpful and easy to work with, thanks for the warm welcome to your park.

 Zon Engineering- Thank you for the financial donation.  It helps a ton with a first-year race, when we weren't sure if we were going to break even.  Thanks for taking some stress away, and for
supporting the race.  Thank you Zon Engineering!

 CLIF Bar - The people at CLIF bar were wonderful in supporting the race with not only full-sized CLIF Builders protein bars for all runners in their race kit,  mini CLIF bars available at the food table,  and packages of CLIF Zbars as draw prizes but they also provided the age-group award prizes of drawstring bags full of CLIF bar goodies for all the winners.  It was fantastic.  The photo below shows the kind of support I receive from CLIF - Those boxes were stacked taller than me!  The people at CLIF are fabulous.  Thank you so much for your generous support.

Running Room- Thanks to Ed Mark for setting up the start/finish inflatable banner and for all the support for the race.  Running Room provided the online registration, the race insurance, and several generous gift cards for draw prizes.   Thank you Running Room!

Spafford Health and Adventure - The Goose Chase Snowshoe Race was the third race in the Dion Ontario Snowshoe Running Series coordinated by Derrick Spafford of Spafford Health and Adventure.  The website and online promotion was through Derrick at SHA.  Also, Derrick guided me through my rookie year as a snowshoe race director, answering my many questions.  Thanks D!  The rental fleet of snowshoes came from SHA.  SHA also provided many draw prizes and goodies for the runners too!

I feel really lucky to be involved with such a generous bunch of people. Thank you so much!

Monday, 27 March 2017

I was an RD this year! -Rookie Snowshoe Race Directing

     This past winter, I had the amazing opportunity to be a Snowshoe Race Director.  The planning was in the works since last summer, and the Dion Winter Goose Chase at Shades Mills Conservation Area in Cambridge, ON became reality on February 4th, 2017.

     I was excited to bring snowshoe running to Cambridge.  The majority of the snowshoe races in Ontario are a few hours away, so the thought of a snowshoe run in my hometown was wonderful.  I teamed-up with Derrick Spafford the organizer of the Dion Ontario Snowshoe running series, and my race was part of the series.  This was really helpful because being part of a series helped with things like web exposure, registration, insurance, prizing, and Derrick patiently answered my MANY questions about putting on a snowshoe race.

    It was an interesting winter to organize anything that depended on snow, since we got very little snowfall.  Leading up to the race I was stressed.  When I was in the initial planning stages of the race, a few pessimistic individuals would say things like, "Good luck with that - we don't get enough snow here".  They were remembering past winters where there was very little snowfall.  But we do get snow.  There are winters were we just get dumped on!  I was hoping that this would be one of those winters.  But nope.  As the race approached we had absolutely no snow.  I was hoping so hard that the pessimists would be wrong and we would get enough snow to have a snowshoe race.  7 days before the race it began to snow and it continued to snow all week leading up to the race.  We had enough snow!!! I joked that as an RD, I control the weather, but the race date fell on one of the few weekends that we had snow.  So maybe I do :)

     The week leading up to the race, I was consumed with the details of the event.  I was doing many snow dances, as the snow kept coming down.  On the Thursday before the race, a City of Cambridge Outdoor Labourer strike happened, and it was all over the media that outdoor parks in Cambridge were closed.  I started getting emails wondering if the race was cancelled because of the strike.  Luckily I was using a Conservation Area not a public park, so the race was unaffected.  Phew!

     My husband Greg (and co-race director) was able to tweak the course at the last minute, and we could use the back trails for our race.  This changed our original plan of a double loop course, to a single loop - woo hoo!  Greg marked the course on Friday morning.  I had the opportunity to run it Friday afternoon, and I was so impressed by the course Greg made.  It was a rolling course of mostly double track trail through the beautiful forest.  He was even a bit mean with the last large climb in the final kilometer of the course.

    Race morning, I got to Shades Mills just before 7am and ran the course to make sure the markings were up and everything looked really good.  I was full of nervous excitement.  As I ran I was hoping that I had remembered all the important things and the things that I forgot wouldn't matter.  Soon the Nature Centre was buzzing with people before the start.  The Registration crew was busy getting everyone checked in.  My food team was busy prepping for the pancake breakfast and making pre-race coffee.  My amazing husband was gathering the marshals and having a meeting with them to direct them where to go.  The start/finish was all set up by Ed from Running Room - the inflatable banner looked great.  Time ticked away,runners gathered. I bounced from place to place making sure all my volunteers were good, and the runners were set to go.



The start was funny.  Everyone was gathered under the Running Room inflatable start/finish line to hear the final instructions from Greg and myself.  Since I named the race the "Winter Goose Chase" I had chosen a male and female runner who I thought would be close to the front and the other runners can chase them down.  Well, I chose Greg to be the lead male runner, and I had no idea who to pick for the female to be chased.  I asked my friend Jen to internet stalk the women who were registered to get a feel for some of their race times.  Jen told me that Vicki Zandbergen had some speedy times earlier in the season, so I approached her and asked if she would be my lead female.  She was surprised that I asked her, but said OK.  They were given shirts to wear with the words "GOOSE" and "GANDER" ironed on.  When I was making the shirts, I mixed up the genders and made the male shirt the "Goose" and the female shirt the "Gander".  Oops :) Luckily both Vicki and Greg didn't mind.  I apologized to them at the start during my little pre-race speech.  Soon after I was done talking, I checked with my timing crew and they were ready to go, so I counted down and rang the cowbell and the runners were off!  As I watched the pack dash off into the woods, all I could think was, "Everyone have fun and find your way back!"

 It wasn't too long before I could see the lead runners approach the finish.  It was Greg and Jeff Rowthorn running neck in neck.  In the end Jeff edged out Greg by a second at the finish.  Jeff is our next year's Gander - Congrats Jeff!  On the women's side, Alison Douma won the race, and our Goose Vicki was 2nd.  Full Results can be found here  Every runner finished the race, many with big smiles on their faces.  It was a lot of fun watching everyone run in.


 One of the things that people really liked about the race was the post-race food.  We served a pancake breakfast with all the fixings.  The smell of the nature centre was amazing....when really it should have smelt like stinky snowshoe smelled like delicious fresh roasted Baden Coffee and fresh pancakes.  After everything was over, I had a plate of those pancakes, and a cup of amazing coffee and couldn't believe that I had pulled it off.  30 of the 46 runners registered had never tried snowshoe running before the race.  They had such a positive experience, that I was asked many times if I would organized a Winter Goose Chase Snowshoe Race again next year.  Yes! Mark Saturday February 3rd, 2018 in your calendars for the second Dion Winter Goose Chase Snowshoe Race!

      The big thing that I learned here with my first Snowshoe Race directing experience is that I wouldn't have been able to pull off such an amazing event if I didn't have the help and support of many fantastic people and companies.  I have listed them below, but I will post a very specific Thank you email as my next blog post.  Such fantastic support.  I am so thankful.

And finally - The Cambridge Harrier's Running Club - provided so many volunteers.  Best running club ever! Thank you.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Guide Running - Running OFSSA Cross Country at 36 years old

     This is one of the posts that I wrote, then life got busy and I forgot about it.  It was one of my favourite running experiences from last year, so I thought I would post it - a few months late- sorry :)

     One Monday in late October, I received an email from a friend from teacher's college.  She was emailing to ask if I would like to be a guide runner for a visually impaired athlete at this weekend's OFSSA Cross Country Championships at Trinity College in Port Hope.  It didn't take me too long to respond with a huge and enthusiastic YES!!!

     Running OFSSA is a big deal.  I was lucky enough to qualify as an individual and compete at the OFSSA Cross Country championships in my last year of highschool, and here I am, 18 years later, running them again - this time as a guide for the W. Ross Mac Donald XC team.

     The guiding experience was a fun one.  I had the impression that I would be running at a very casual pace.  I was wrong.  I was paired with an athlete who warned me that he runs his first kilometer WAY too fast and sometimes he pukes during his races.  Both of those warnings came true :)

    We blasted out of the start at 3:50/km pace.  We were flying.  I was running slightly ahead of my athlete and describing EVERYTHING to him as we ran.  I described the elevation, the ground surface, the turns, and the athletes that we were approaching or passing.  It was a lot of talking, more than I'm used to.  I was thinking, "Crap, at 3:50k's I'm not sure I can continue to talk through this race".  But my athlete slowed a bit, and settled into a pace that I could talk thought (thankfully for me).

     With just over a kilometer to go, we came to the "big hill" on the course.  I described it to my athlete as we approached. At that point in the race, my athlete was very tired and the thought of a massive climb was very discouraging, so I added some encouragement to my constant talking to try and help him out.  At one point he slowed right down and said, "How much hill is left".  He was in the middle of the climb, so I told him about 100m.  He groaned and stepped to the side and puked.  I don't know if this was insensitive, but after I asked if he was OK (and he said he was), I asked him if he could walk and puke - we could hear the finish line at this point!!  He started to move forward - which greeted with cheers from me, and we crested the top of the hill.  The course opened up, and the finish line was in my sight (I happily described this to my athlete).  He put on his final push to the finish. We crossed the line.  I'm not sure of the specific details, but it looked as though we were the first guided pair to finish.

   After the race, my athlete asked if I would guide him for his track races.  I said yes (although I need to work on my speed and bring my spikes with me for my next race with him).  Guide running was such a rewarding experience.  It was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  Keeping a running commentary for someone who is moving quickly is a challenge, but a challenge that helped an athlete run his fastest cross country race of the season. I'm so proud of him.  I'm looking forward to more guide running fun in the spring as track season approaches.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Racing a Snowshoeless Snowshoe race -The Dion Ignite the Night Snowshoe race in Morrisburg

     What happens when you're signed up for a snowshoe race and there's no snow?  You run anyway! The Dion Ignite the Night Snowshoe Running race on Saturday January 21, 2017 turned into a regular-shoe running race and I joined the 135 people, to run a very wet and muddy trail/road race through the beautifully-lit Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ontario.

     On the way, my husband and I stopped and met my coach and the Dion Ontario Snowshoe Running Series coordinator, Derrick Spafford to pick up some race supplies as we were passing by.  Derrick gave me a light to borrow for the race.  A super-bright running light that goes around your waist Ultraspire Lumen 600.  I've never seen anything like it before, but I was excited to give it a try.  I haven't raced at night since my attempts at the 24 hour distance, and I love running at night, but I was a bit worried about my little headlamp's ability to light up my surroundings enough to feel confident out there. No need to worry!  As you'll read below, the Ultraspire Lumen 600 did a fabulous job of lighting the way.

Don't they look sad in the back of our Prius?!  The poor, unused rental fleet of Dion Racing Snowshoes
   We arrived at the Upper Canada Village well before race time to unload some supplies, put up some banners, and tetris the (unneeded) rental fleet of snowshoes into the back of our Prius - we are bringing them to the next race in the series The Dion Brighton Snowshoe Running Race - hoping that there will be enough snow.  Greg and I enjoyed wandering around the little pioneer village, and we were looking forward to speeding-around that place in the dark.  The 10k race was a double loop of a 5k course.  I really like looped courses.  I settle into a nice pace on the first lap, check out the course and figure out a place where I'm going to push on the second lap. When I get there on lap 2, I increase the pace as much as I can, and hold on for dear life to the finish :)

Upper Canada Village - all lit up in the fog - beautiful!

     It was nice and dark when the Race Director Gilles Parisien called all the runners to the start line.  He started the race and we were off!  The race wound around the Pioneer Village which was fully-lit with thousands of Christmas lights (soo pretty!), before it turned off onto grass/trails/muddy-goo around the Upper Canada Village property.  The course was mostly-flat with a few climbs at around 2/7k, and a few short road sections.  I started the race off at a comfortably quick pace and settled in with a group of 3 men who were running the same speed as me. It was really dark and foggy, and it was hard to see very far ahead.  Gilles used reflective course marking, but because of the fog, we could only see a few meters ahead of us...with our headlamps.  My waist light (Ultraspire Lumen 600), was fantastic at casting a wide light at our feet.  It was so good at doing this, that the group of guys that I was with stayed really close because they were using my light to see!  I had pulled ahead of my husband at the beginning (he is better at remaining in control at the beginning of races, and I have trouble controlling my enthusiasm and usually go out too hard). I was expecting him to come up on me and pass me as the race went on. I was soaked from early on in the race, so I was just blasting through puddles as I ran -so much fun - I highly recommend you try that :) As I came to the top of the last climb, I was ready to push to the finish.  So was the group of guys I was running with, and we surged to the end.  I finished in 42:00 for 10k.  9th overall and I was the first woman to cross the line.  Greg finished soon after in 11th with a time of 42:23.  I was thrilled with my first snowshoeless snowshoe race of the 2017 season.  I held a steady pace and was able to kick at the end with some energy left. 

    I was given a unique award when I was called up for my overall female award in the 10k.  I got a medal made in the blacksmith shop of the pioneer village -cool!  Also, I got a really pretty sterling silver Rembrandt Charms snowshoe necklace from Pommier Jewellers in Cornwall (big thank you Andre at Pommier Jewellers!)

     We had a nice drive back to our hotel in Kingston, listening to awful 90's flashback songs on the radio - "singing" loudly to Vanilla ice's "ice ice baby" was a real treat :) Once at the hotel, we flipped a switch and had a roaring fire in our fireplace and drank some celebratory beverages.  Snowshoeless race #1 down, the Dion Brighton Snowshoe race is next week, and then it's the Dion Winter Goose Chase Snowshoe Race - where I'm the RD!  Alright everyone, I need your best snowdances!!!

Me and the winner of the women's 5k race - posing with our overall female awards - Rembrandt Charms Silver snowshoe necklaces from Pommier Jewellers in Cornwall

The Women's top 3 and top master in the Ignite the Night 10k race
     More thank yous:  
  • Thanks to the Race Director Gilles Parisien and his team of volunteers for putting on a fantastic event.  I had a great time, and I can't wait to try it again (maybe on snowshoes next time). 
  •  My coach Derrick Spafford for the encouragement and preparing me for the race (and the fantastic light to use too).  
  • Dion Running snowshoes - I wish I could have done the race on my Dions.  
  • CLIF bar for the CLIF bars, CLIF builders bars, CLIF shots, CLIF shot bloks and CLIF organic trail mix bars, that I use in my training and racing.  
  • Greg - another fantastic quick trip away.  Thanks for everything you do to help me be the runner that I am.  You're all kinds of amazing.
  • My parents - the kids love their "sleepovers with Grandma".  Thank you for being so supportive of my running.

The medals and the necklace prize (they even look like Dions!).  Rembrandt Charm Silver Snowshoe necklace was a donation from Pommier Jewellers in Cornwall, Ontario

After the race in our cozy hotel room.  There may be wine in those mugs.