Friday, December 21, 2018

Investments

I love my job. I am passionate about my job. I pour my heart and soul into it. Always have. Always will.
Lately, and specifically today, I’ve had some very critical things to do at work. Things that are an investment in our future and critical to our success.
Today I did something important. Something very important. I took the morning off and delayed some work items in order to take my daughter for her beginners (G1) drivers test. I invested in our future. I invested in strengthening the father-daughter bond.
Days like today remind me of what is truly important in life. What really matters, and what can wait.
It was a big day for my daughter today. One of those key life moments. A day that signifies her growth, maturity and independence. One of those days I’m sure she’ll remember for a lifetime.
Thanks for letting me be a part of your big day Chloe. It was a big day for me too.
Don’t let life pass you by. Stop and smell the roses. Don’t miss your opportunities. The other stuff can wait.


And yes, we have another driver in the house!


Running and rambling,
Case

Friday, October 26, 2018

There's Magic in the Backyard

Big Dog Backyard Ultra
(Last Man Standing Event)
October, 2018


This year, 70 runners from 7 different countries congregated in the woods of Tennessee in a little town called Short Creek to be part of something special.

You see, this isn’t just any ole place in Tennessee. This is Big’s.
This is Big’s farm. This is Big’s trail. This is Big’s backyard.
 
The Race Director, Big!
Big is a special dog. He once rescued a man named Lazarus Lake. If you don’t know Big’s story, I suggest you read 'The Big Dog Diaries'.

Big represents everything good about ultra running and the culture of the sport. Actually, Big represents everything that IS good.

Every year, on a weekend in October, Big invites his friends, new and old, to come and play on his trail for as long as they can. This year, and for the 2nd year in a row, I was one of the lucky ones to be part of Big’s backyard party.

Looking down on "Tent-City" from the Big Trail

If you are looking for a race report about the details of racing, lap splits, gear, nutrition, etc., you won’t find it here. There are and will be plenty of great race reports out there that will cover those topics in abundance. The Big Dog Backyard Ultra is about soooooo much more than that.

The Start - Saturday, 6:40am
Big’s is about FRIENDS.
(Friday night camping in the backyard is buzzing with energy)
 
Relaxing the night before the race with Jerry Palmer & Anatoly Ross.
Big’s is about TEAMWORK.
(from crews to fellow runners, there is no shortage of helping hands)


Left to right: Jamieson Hatt, Terri Biloski, Daryl Flacks, Me, Laz

Big’s is about COMMUNITY.
(the Cantrell’s are gracious hosts and they treat all runners like family)

The Cantrells - Photo credit: Susan Brothers Yancy

Big’s is about harsh RULES.
(like the rules in Laz’s pre-race speech…you don’t want him to clothesline ya!)

Laz, armed with his weapon of choice, the whistle. - Photo credit: Michael Anderson

Big’s is about PATIENCE.
(having a plan and executing it is key to success)
 
Bad Mike, Good Mike and Big stickin' to the plan - Photo credit: US National 24hr Team
Big’s is about FUN.
(if you’re not having fun, the “jeerleaders” will remind you to smile)
 
Amiee, Chrys and Gina "encouraging" the runners.
Big’s is about GRIT.
(4.17 miles per hour, how hard can it be?)

The dark, cold night descends on the runners - Photo credit: Lindley Chambers
Big’s is about the overall EXPERIENCE.
(it’s not too often you get to “hang with the tall timbers”…thanks Laz)

Big Doggin' - Photo credit: John Price
But most importantly,
Big’s is about finding LIMITS.

Out of all the loops I ran over the weekend, it is the one I failed on that I am most proud of. My 27th loop is the one I remember most. About a mile into the trail everything fell apart for me. The remaining morsels of vigor seeped from my body, my leg muscles & tendons seized tightly, and my will to push forward dissipated from my weary mind.

I propped up against a tree, then eventually sulked down to take a seat on the rocky ledge. My race had come to an end and I knew it. Another 3+ miles lie ahead of me to get back to the finish line and turn in my timing chip. It was going to be a long, slow walk. For a fleeting moment I contemplated turning around and just walking back towards the start line instead. But the thought of the remaining runners on the trail battling to finish the loop quickly changed my approach.

I wanted to finish the loop. I needed to finish the loop. I knew those last 4.17 miles wouldn’t count, but at that time they were more important to me than the 108+ miles that came before them. They were mine. Alone on the big trail, surrounded by beauty and silence. Trails, hills, trees, fields, sunrise…it couldn’t get any better.

I loved that loop, even though I didn’t. I was hurting, but I was thankful. I didn’t want to take advantage of it. I savored every remaining step of that loop. I was in a bad place and a good place at the same time. I reached my limit (for now).

There’s magic in the backyard…and on that day, on that weekend, on Big's trail, I had found it.



Congrats to Johan Steene of Sweden, champion of the backyard!
Johan Steene, 68hrs 283.3 miles - Photo credit: Jerry Palmer



Running and rambling,
Case

Friday, September 7, 2018

"I Lived in a Chair Under a Tree in a Park for 3 Days"

Manchester, TN
Aug 31st - Sept 3rd, 2018

"Racing The Legends"

This is not your typical race report. Instead, these are some snipets of adventure from 3 Canadians who travel down South to partake in some ultra running fun with legends of the sport. Before we get too far, Jenn get's all the credit for the title of this blog :)

My name is Casey. I'm an average-joe-hobby-jogger from Belle River, Ontario. Our story starts several months ago...

December, 2017:

Casey: "So Francois & I were looking at a race in TN for next year...blah, blah, blah."
Jenn: "So maybe I can crew and walk some laps too?"
Casey: "We're registered!"

 

Thursday, Aug. 30th, 2018:

Francois: "Ya know, if we leave early enough tomorrow we could hit Nashville for some food and beer on the way."
Jenn: "I'm in!"

Friday, Aug. 31st:

Nashville!

Saturday 6:00am, Sept. 1st:

 - Francois starts his 54hrs of loops on the 1 mile asphalt course thru Deadman Park.
 - Jenn and I stay back at the hotel as long as possible to stay out of the heat.

Saturday 11:00am:

Casey: "I can't stand the waiting. Let's go to the grocery store and grab our supplies."
Jenn: "Ok, we can swing by the park and check on Francois beforehand."

Saturday 11:15am:

Casey: "Looking good buddy. 20 miles in and splits are good. How ya feeling?"
Francois" I already have a huge blister on the ball of my foot!"
 - Medical attention ensues.
Casey: "Well, the good thing is you have less than 49 hours to go...haha ;)"

Saturday Noon:

Jenn: "Just checking my weather app and it says the 'feels-like' temp is 102F."
Casey: "It's not the hottest part of the day and it's cloudy. This is crazy!"

Saturday, 4:00pm:

 - A brief rainstorm just finished & I start my 44hrs of running.
 - Francois is 10 hours and 33 miles into his run.
 - The heat is quickly coming back. It's like a steam-bath now.
 - I do a bunch of laps with Bill Schultz and he helps me develop a game plan.
 - Bill points out "the hills" to me. They don't look like, or feel like hills to me.

Saturday, 6:00pm:

Jenn: "Why are you stopping?"
Casey: "Because I want to walk your first lap with you."
Jenn: "I have a plan to walk 2 hours then take a break, repeat, etc."

Saturday, 11:00pm:

Jenn: "I just covered the longest distance I've ever done...14 miles!"
 - Jenn decides to take a break and get some sleep.
 - Francois is at mile 52. I'm at mile 30.

Very Early Sunday Morning:

 - Jenn has knocked out a few more miles.
 - Francois has gone down for a couple hours of sleep.
 - After 2 miles of sleep-running and swerving, Jenn convinces me to get some sleep.
 - 20 minutes later...Jenn: "Case, get up. Time to run!"

Sunday, 8:00am:

 - The sun continues to rise and the minimal shade is disappearing quickly.
 - Francois is at mile 71. I'm at mile 67.
 - Jenn has just completed her very first marathon distance!

Sunday, Mid-morning:

 - Things are heating up quickly.
 - It feels like God has a giant hairdryer & he's blowing it directly onto the runners.
 - Jenn & Francois decide to take a break from the heat and the sun.
 - Jenn & Francois are smart.
 - A few minutes later I'm running with a giant blue-raspberry slushie in hand. You may have figured out by now...Jenn is pretty awesome :)

Sunday, Noon:

 - Francois is at mile 80. He's going slow and taking breaks to stay cool.
 - Jenn has just completed her 31st mile!
 - The "2 Mikes" in the timing tent inform her that 50k is actually 31.07 miles.
 - Jenn completes another lap and she is an official ultra marathoner!
 - Jenn decides she has done enough walking & is going to focus on crewing now.

Sunday, 1:00pm:

 - After 21hrs of running & one 20min break, the inferno has finally worn me down.
 - The asphalt radiates the heat and it feels like walking on the Sun.
 - Jenn convinces me to get in the shade and take a break. She's smart.
 - 30 minutes later, I try to continue and almost pass out.

Sunday, 3:30pm:

 - A 2.5hr break, coupled with lots of fluids, watermelon, guacamole and rest in the air-conditioned building has me feeling better and able to continue.
 - Francois & I decide to head out and do slow laps together until the sun goes down.
 - It's like running in a BBQ out there!

Sunday, 6:00pm:

 - Francois is at mile 91. I am at mile 94.
 - We decide to take a break for dinner.
 - I consume about 5,000 calories of Cracker Barrel.

Sunday, 7:00pm:

 - Francois and I share a few more easy-effort miles.
 - I feel like a new man. The spring is back in my step. Time to run!
 - This race is all about teamwork & adjustments for us.
 - I've never consumed so many fluids and applied so much body-glide in my life!

Sunday, Midnight:

Francois: "I'm at 103 miles, where you at?"
Casey: "I'm at 111, but struggling to stay awake. Can we hook up for a couple laps?"
Francois: "Yup. I'll wait for you at the building."
 - We do 2 more miles together and Francois decides to get some sleep.
 - Jenn is exhausted & has been sleeping in the air-conditioned truck for the past hour.
 - I continue to slog 2 more miles around the track in a sleepy daze.
 - I dive/slide into the tent, lying in a pool of sweat. My eyes shut instantly.

Monday, 5:00am:

Casey: "Oh sh!t, I overslept!"
 - Francois sits up in his chair, tells me to put it behind me and to get going again.
 - We agree to do a few laps together to start. I'm at 115 miles. Francois is at 105.
 - Each of us must have looked like the creaky Tin Man hobbling thru tent-city.
 - A lap later we were both feeling good and ready to work hard, knowing the evil fireball in the sky was soon going to make its return.

Monday, 7:00am:

 - The once minuscule hills now feel like small mountains.
 - The temperature rises quickly and the little pieces of shade are diminishing.
 - I do some quick calculations and focus on achieving a mileage goal by 9:00am.
 - Jenn's enthusiasm and support on each passing lap is priceless and pushes us on.

Monday, 9:00am:

 - I'm now convinced that Satan is running behind me, searing my skin with a blowtorch.
 - The monotony of the loops have finally started to irritate me. ONLY 3 hours left...ugh.
 - Ever run with a pink polka-dot umbrella on a rain-free day? No? You're missing out.

Monday, 11:00am:

Casey: "How many miles are you at?"
Francois: "123. How 'bout you?"
Casey: "I'm at 138. Let's finish it off together."

Monday, 11:32am:

Francois: "Mission accomplished!"
Casey: "You're going back out there."
Francois: "What?!?!?"
Casey: "We aren't leaving time on the clock. We have time for another mile."

Monday, Noon:

 - Jenn, 32 miles. Francois 126 miles. Casey 141 miles.
 - 299 collective miles. Hot. Happy. Exhausted.
Jenn: "Hey guys, I met some people & there's a race in North Carolina we should do!"
 - I think I've created a monster.

"You don't stop running when you get old. You get old when you stop running."


Running and rambling,
Case










Sunday, August 26, 2018

It's More Than Just Running

Over the years, running has given a lot of different things to me. It’s encouraged me to see the world from a new perspective. Running has brought me joy, adventure and peace. It has introduced me to some great people and helped me value friendship more than ever.

For over a dozen years, running has been an integral part of who I am. It is woven into the fabric of my being. Running has been my vessel for deep thoughts and an escape from all thoughts.


My journey in running has added more challenges, thrills, laughs and memories than I could have ever imagined. It has taught me to never take myself too seriously and to appreciate everyone for what matters most, the size of their heart, not the speed in their legs.

My life is good. Really, really good. Running gives me an opportunity to sometimes make it hard. Really, really hard. That helps me appreciate “the good” that much more.


Running and rambling,
Case

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Day on the Avon Trail

Setting the Fastest Known Time (FKT) in 17 hours 14 minutes:

Trip Report (by Jamieson Hatt): What a crazy day this was!!! The day started just after midnight. We met up at the car pool in Belle River at 1:00am to make the trek up to St Marys. But first we had to drop off our stash of food and water at roughly the half way point of the trail. We hid our stuff behind a tree and prayed that no one took it.

Our recon showed us that there was not really options for us to refuel at gas stations or things of that nature. So lets just say our packs were heavy! We arrived at St Marys and started just before quarter after four. We ran some roads and it didn't take us too long before we were off of the road, and onto some different terrain. There were many farmers fields with uneven ground. There were many bush sections and unfortunately, the mosquitoes were just unrelenting. There was also lots of trail where the weeds were very high. This made the trail hard to find sometimes.


We had to really pay attention to the blazes to try and stay on course. All this difficult terrain meant that we did a lot of hiking. We took advantage of the road sections and made up some ground running. On the roads, we also got a break from the mosquitoes which were driving us crazy! Casey had traced out a route on his phone which kept us on course (most of the time). We had to back track a few times. All part of the adventure!


We made it to our refuel stash finally and ran into some amazing trail angels. They were a group just finishing up a hike. One of the fellows was the Avon Trail president. They offered us some bug spray and they also took our garbage from our resupply. We received some good tips from them and they wished us well. It was a real morale booster for us! They were the first people we had seen on the trail all day.


Our packs were full again and we were ready to tackle the second half! We were hoping the trail got easier, but it didn't! More farmers fields, more waist high weeds, more mosquitoes. We knew the tougher our day was, the more we would be relieved we would be to get to the end. And even though it was really tough, we really did enjoy ourselves. We just kept moving and made up some time when we could. We even went for a run along side some friendly dairy cows. The actually ran with us! It was a fun moment in our journey.


We realized that we would not be finishing in the time we wanted. It didn't matter though. The lesson here is never underestimate how tough the trail can be. It really did throw a lot at us. Our feet were wet the whole day! We finally finished up our last trail section and we knew it was just roads to the finish. My aunt and uncle had agreed to pick us up in Conestogo and give us a ride back to our vehicle in St Marys.


We rounded our final turn and we saw them. What a relief! We got to the rock and took a few pics. What an amazing, tough day!


I'd like to thank Larry and Carol for helping us out and giving us a ride. They were great and had water and snacks for us too! They made the logistical part of this adventure much easier on us. We appreciate it!!! And thanks to Casey for driving up and spending all the time creating the route on your phone. We couldn't have done this without it. Time to recover until the next one!


Running and rambling,
Case

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Greatest Investment

I took this candid of Jenn watching the sunset on our last night in Santorini, and it got me thinking...


Love is the thing. It’s is the only thing. It is all things. 

Invest in love. It will pay you back immeasurably. However, if you truly, deeply invest, you will not seek a return.

Love is a promise. Love takes grit. Love needs fierce determination. But love is worth it.

There is no greater feeling in the world. It can make your pulse quicken. It can make you calm. It can make you giddy with laughter. It can make you whole.

Love will expand your horizons. Love will make a better version of yourself. Love will challenge you. Love will comfort you.

We crave love. We want love. We need love. We are meant to love. We love uniquely.

Love requires persistence and unwavering effort. But when you work hard at it, love comes easy.

Invest in love. Truly, truly invest in it. Put everything you got into it. Don’t give up on it. Work on it continuously and relentlessly with fervor and passion.

Love. It will be the greatest investment you ever make.


Not always running and rambling,
Case

Monday, May 14, 2018

Tennessee Stroll

Tennessee is like a 2nd home to me. Jennifer and I have vacationed there every year for the past 20 years, sometimes multiple times a year. While the draw of the beautiful land and mountains is obvious, it’s the people that have me hooked. Yesterday, I ran the Strolling Jim 41.2-miler in Wartrace, Tennessee. It was the 40th running of one of the great American road races and directed by the amazing duo of Steve Durbin and Lazarus Lake.

Pre-race in front of Laz's Old Truck
The weekend started with a long drive Friday night after work. We arrived in time to get about 2 hours of quality sleep, in the van in a parking lot, before it was time to get ready for the race. There was not a lot of happy people as they all claimed to need to see a chiropractor immediately. I reminded them that we were “building memories.”

The race was amazing! I won’t bore you to death with the details, but I will say it is the most beautiful road race I have ever done. The hills never stopped and Mother Nature gave us a little taste of everything including perfect running weather at times and some humidity and torrential downpours at others.

Go time!
Being with my friend Tim Davidson and seeing him have an amazing race that he worked hard for was the highlight of my run. Things got pretty rough from mile 22-28 but he dug deep, never gave up and rallied for a strong finish and his best ultramarathon performance, so far...his best days are ahead of him.



Finishing The Jim, Canadian-style!
Can’t thank Blair Layng enough for joining us this weekend, taking care of us during the race and of course having those ice-cold beers waiting for us at the finish line (literally). And his Canadian moose hat had all the runners smiling all day.

After a quick clean up it was time to enjoy some awesome post-race BBQ (and a few more beers) and wait for our fellow Canadians to come in. I had a blast chatting with other running friends and meeting a bunch of new ones. Again, it’s the people that have me hooked!

Post-race laughs with Laz.
Francois Brule, Gord Lachine and Pam Dawson came through the finish line a few minutes under their goal time. By the looks on their face you could tell they really had to work hard to get that one...and I could tell how happy they were that I had talked them into doing such a flat, fast and scenic race...LOL. I think they were dehydrated and just not thinking straight.

Gord, Pam & Francois finishing The Jim.
The day ended with Case and Alexis Cantrell welcoming us into their home for the night. We had some dinner, shared some beers and laughs while watching the Preds v Jets game. That “Southern Hospitality” thing you hear about, it’s 100% real. Can’t find nicer people.

Super-thankful they don't have to sleep in the van again.
Thanks again to Alexis and Case for welcoming 6 stinky Canadians into their home and providing us with warm showers and great night’s sleep. Oh, and an extra special thanks to The Burrito for cooking an extra awesome breakfast!

It’s the people.


Running & Rambling,
Case