Monthly Archives: June 2015

Mad Trapper NOOTR -Seriously Mad!

First of all, if you haven’t already, sound out the acronym for this race.  Yes, this is the “neuter” race.  My kids still can’t stop giggling over that one.  What the title actually stands for is “Natural Obstacle Off-Trail Race”.  The premise of the race is anything you would normally go around when running through Mike Caldwell’s woods, you instead go through, over, under, up or down.  You don’t run this race; you crawl it, slop through it, slide down it and climb up it.  And believe it or not, you have a great time!

I had three goals for this race:

  1. Not get injured
  2. Have fun
  3. Not get injured

One scratch, one bruise and a big smile later…mission accomplished!

Finishing the race, being greeted by my kids, who finished long before me!

Finishing the race, being greeted by my kids, who finished long before me!

I was heading into this race with a mixture of excitement and, well, fear.  I had seen the video of last year’s race on the Mad Trapper Facebook page, so I had some idea of what I was getting myself into.  I was quite aware that this was well out of what I consider my comfort zone.  But in my last post, Orienteering, ,Trail Running and Life in My Forties, I wrote about how I am spending less time being self conscious and more time trying new things.  This event certainly qualified as something new for me.  Besides, given the fact that my husband and sons were going to do it, I really couldn’t back out.  I have a lot of testosterone in this family to keep up with.

I’ve been to lots of small races where the organizer gives pre-race advice and instructions.  These talks, however, have never said things like, “Go too fast in the creek and you WILL break your leg,” or, “If this sounds like you have signed up for more than you bargained for you can skip it and ask for a refund.”  Actually, I might not mind hearing that last statement when I line up for the Road2Hope Marathon in November!  The fact is, while the course certainly had the potential to be dangerous, it truly was completely manageable if you were smart about your approach.  This was not a course to go all out, though I’m not entirely sure my kids got that message.  Yes, they finished well before me as did my husband.  As for me, I just took it slow and steady and to be honest, was slightly disappointed when I turned a corner and realized I was heading down the hill to the finish line and the race was almost over.  I may pay for this next year, but I think I would be happy if the course was even longer!  (Upon reading this, Mike Caldwell will be  plotting an extra loop for me to complete next year.)  The course was a little under 4 km but it took me an hour and 20 minutes to finish it!

This course had virtually no flat spots.  We were only on trails briefly, most of the time we were just working our way through the hilly forest.  Up, down, up, down, up down.  Forget what you are picturing in your head – I don’t mean running up a 5% grade.  I mean dig your hands in the dirt and try to haul your butt up a hill, using anything you can grab – saplings, roots, rocks, thistle plants (still pulling out splinters).  As for downhills, my quads got quite a break – largely because I did most of the descents on my behind (almost always on purpose).  There were two big mud pits to get through, one of which I did manage to stay upright in, the other not so much.  There were also big rocks to climb over, trees to go under and a creekbed to stumble along.  Often you couldn’t see what you would be doing next, but you know something major was coming by the groans or cursing you heard up ahead.  This was not a serious race though.  We were all told that if you hit any obstacle you weren’t comfortable with, simply go around it.  Using the honour code, you could even tack on a couple of minutes to your final time if you felt appropriate.

Hmmm, am I selling this race yet?  Honestly, from start to finish it was hard work but pure fun.  We grown ups need more of this in our lives; it is so completely opposite of the ordered, safe lives we lead.  We need to get dirty, we need to fall, we need to scare ourselves just a little.  Kids inherently know this, though our current society is doing a lousy job of encouraging it.  While it is going to become tiresome finishing everything last in this family, I was so proud that my kids headed out ahead of me, ready for the challenge.  Shouldn’t all kids be doing things like this?

If I haven’t sold this yet, just a reminder that Mad Trapper races have real food at the end thanks to Mike and his wife Monique.  In this case we had hot dogs, hamburgers, salad, chips and of course homemade brownies.  Seriously.  all races need to have brownies at the finish line.  I don’t care if bananas are full of potassium, brownies make me happy.

As with all Mad Trapper Races, prizes were for the most part random.  The winning male and female each got first choice from the prize table, and quite surprisingly I discovered I was the first woman to cross the finish line.  Actually it was such a surprise that when Mike started saying the first place prize winner was a running blogger, all I thought was, “Hey, there’s another blogger here, I’ll have to meet her and exchange blogs.”  I picked out a Salomon running backpack which I will be testing on a trail run soon.

Picking up my Salomon backpack.

Picking up my Salomon backpack.

Mad Trapper races seem to be the best kept secret in the Ottawa/Gatineau area, but now that you are in on the secret you need to check them out.  I love the fact that they provide my family and I a completely different racing experience.  Personally I can’t wait for their next race, a women’s only trail run called Power in Pink on August 29.  Be forewarned, if you know me, and I know that you are capable of hiking a 3k or running a 5 or 10k trail (that should be everyone I know), I am going to be hounding you to join this race.  I just have to decide if I am doing the 5k or if I am mad enough to do the 10!

BTW, in an upcoming post I will review the Salomon S Lab  Ultra SG trail shoes that I had a chance to demo during – yes during –  the mud-fill, rock climbing, creek crossing NOOTR race.

Three of the four of us got to try a new pair of Solomon's at the race.

Three of the four of us got to try a new pair of Salomon’s at the race.

Marathon Training Starts Soon

June is a bit of a write off in terms of running for me.  As a teacher it is my busiest month and my most exhausting.  There are report cards to write, a graduation to plan, year end field trips to attend, and lots of organization and clean-up to complete.  I am certainly not complaining, since I am now heading into what I hope will be a wonderful, relaxing summer holiday.  It won’t all be rest and relaxation though, since in a week I should be starting marathon training in preparation for the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon on November 1st.  For the last four weeks I have only run when I wanted too and haven’t even bothered recording times or distances.  I know I have lost much of my endurance over the month but past experience has told me that with work it comes back.  Most of my running was done in orienteering events or on a couple of trail runs.  The fact is I quite enjoyed this more relaxed version of running but I think I am ready to start getting serious again.  This week I will start making a training schedule, which I already know is going to contain 2 very different runs for me each week, but more on that in another post.

One thing I will need to organize is my running playlist.  I have barely used my ipod this month so it will be nice to get back to listening to my favourite music.  One artist who is always on my playlist is Canadian singer David Usher.  Whether singing solo or with the band Moist, his music somehow always manages to evoke emotions in me that sometimes I can’t even name.  I do know that now, however, his song St. Lawrence River, one of my favourite songs of any artist, will most likely bring tears to my eyes.  Yesterday my grade six class, knowing how much I loved the song, rewrote the lyrics for me.  At the beginning of the school year we spent time studying poetry.  It was a subject I had only meant to touch upon until I discovered that my class – all boys – had a passion for poetry.  They were entranced with the work of Edgar Allen Poe and they passionately wrote their own poetry.  They decided to bring the school year full circle by putting words to the tune of St. Lawrence River.  I am copying their words here, mostly for selfish reasons; I will know where to find them when I need to remind myself that in teaching we have the opportunity to open our kids up to endless possibilities and hopefully have at least a tiny influence on the young adults they will become.

Lyrics by my 2015 Graduating Class, inspired by David Usher’s St. Lawrence River:

Poetry aplenty

Your mind can roam boundless.

A picture is formed from the verses on paper

where words harmonize,

unearth all the words that rhyme all together

you make it so fun to learn here.

Caught in the confusion and doubt of the math

you helped it make sense,

I was fumbling through class

like a child in the dark

when our problems all come

I devour your kindness

and the wisdom and knowledge you teach us

in our class.

And I never thought a test could be so fun.

It’s so nice,

to know there’s someone there to help us out

when it’s hard

So we all want to thank you.

So if you happen to see me out on the roads or trails with tears streaming down my cheeks, you know what song I will be listening to, hearing it with words meant for me.


Orienteering, Trail Running and Life in my Forties

The other day I heard someone say she was feeling nervous about entering her forties. As someone who has been there for six years I can honestly say there is nothing to be afraid of, as long as you choose to make the most of it.   What I have found in my forties is that I care less about what other people think and more about what makes me happy.  I’m less self conscious and more adventurous.  I think less of what I can’t do and focus more on what I can do.

The proof is in what I am choosing to do with my time. It started when I was 42 and I took up running, having never run before. Then I started entering races, despite being someone who has always dreaded the nerves that go along with competition. Last year I took swimming lessons when I had barely been in the water for decades. Last fall, as my kids grew more and more enthusiastic about orienteering I decided to give it a try too. I kept going with it this spring and now the entire family will be heading to the Maritimes to take part in the Canadian Orienteering Championships. (By the way, there are no qualifications to enter the Championships, hence the reason I can take part!). When registering I had a choice between the Open classes and the Competitive classes. My instinct said go Open. My 20 year old or 30 year old self certainly would have registered for Open. In an Open class I would be less likely to get lost, have a DNF, finish last or just generally make a fool of myself.

The 46 year old me signed up for Competitive. There is a very, very strong chance I will come in last in all three of my events. I’m not saying that to be modest. It is just reality. And I’m not saying I won’t be pissed off with myself if/when I end up in that bottom spot. But it won’t be the end of my world. It will, I hope, be an amazing experience. Hell, it’s not like I will be competing in National Championships in any other sport!


Yesterday was further proof of why my forties are different.  Months ago I signed up for a women’s trail running clinic sponsored by MEC.  I couldn’t get anyone else I know to sign up so off I went on my own.  I’m sure in my younger days heading off to a sports clinic not knowing anyone would have filled me with a nervous dread.  But I approached this day excited to learn about trail running. More than anything I wanted to learn a few tricks to help me avoid falling on my face when straying off the pavement!

When I think about how much fun I had at the clinic, I can’t help but think of how much I would have missed if, because of worry over not being good enough or not wanting to go alone, I had just skipped the whole thing.  The fact is it didn’t matter if I was a bit of a newbie on trails or that I came alone. I spent time with a group of women who all want the same things. We want to learn, we want to be fit, we want to be outdoors, we want to have fun and we want to make ourselves be the best we can possibly be.

The clinic started with a warm up run and then we were split into groups with leaders.  We then spent some time working on technique on some rocky, tree branch laden trails, up and down the ski hill. I learned to stay low, choose a path and get my feet off the ground quickly to avoid roll overs and tripping. When we were asked if any of us wanted to have our awesome guide Annie watch our technique down a rocky, steep path I jumped at the chance. Sure I could fall on my face in front of the other 22 members of our group but remember that less self conscious part of being in my forties?  The pay off was finding out my technique and form were spot on.  Between the jumping over rocks, having fun on the trails and getting a compliment, I was feeling like a kid again!

If that wasn’t enough, it soon became time to go through mud!  After several informative and inspirational speakers in the lodge, it was time for a 40 minute group trail run. We were told there would be no cheating by going around the mud. There was even a camera there, so there would be proof if you didn’t slop your way through. This was no ordinary camera though. Dave McMahon of Natural Fitness Labs was filming us for his soon to be released IMAX film about women in sport. Nor was this a common mud puddle. This was shoe sucking, over your ankles, remarkably stinky, black mud. I was quite happy to run through it but also quickly realized that my shoes were perhaps not tied tightly enough to resist the suction. I was more than relieved to come out with my Salomons still on my feet.


Two of my fellow runners with the mud to prove they were trail running!

Two of my fellow runners with the mud to prove they were trail running!

A great clinic and great food?  How's that for a perfect day!

A great clinic and great food? How’s that for a perfect day!


There is lots of running advice out there but if I could add one thing it would be to step out of your comfort zone and step into a lifestyle that makes you smile.  Getting older has its perks; you see things from a slightly different perspective allowing you to embrace that which might have scared you away.  Once you do so, there is no looking back.


Average Runner is Now on Twitter

I am (slowly) entering the world of twitter.  Help me out on this social media journey and follow me at @averagerunnerK

This blog has led me to new running friends, let’s see if twitter does the same.  I’m also open to suggestions of good ones to follow!

This picture doesn't quite capture the true "Volt" colour of the shoes.  My kids did ask if they would glow in the dark!