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Discussion: Did you follow along on a map the whole way?

in: Bash; Bash > 2016-02-13

Feb 14, 2016 1:57 AM # 
If so, I'm impressed! Mrs. Gally knew you would not get lost and I figured you would send out the search party.
Feb 14, 2016 2:07 AM # 
Sounds like an interesting day out there for all involved. Good on everyone for getting out into the woods on a crazy cold day. Why don't y'all come back for a run when its not -100C and we can show you around properly.
Feb 14, 2016 2:57 AM # 
Yes! AdventureDog would love to meet Goose. Maybe some other dogs and their people could join the party.

I didn't follow the map although I'd looked at the 15K and 25K maps to get the approximate course layout. I was usually alone after my late start so I had nothing to do but watch for ribbons and scrape ice from my goggles. There were a number of places where I felt insecure - ribbons spaced out farther than they'd been in other places, turns I almost missed, etc. You couldn't just relax and run. Admittedly, it's a really big job to mark three courses for a trail race in a place like Durham.
Feb 14, 2016 4:17 AM # 
Hey Barb - It's Dennis, Christine and I were manning A.S #3 on the other side of the road (furthest Aid Station from the start of the race in the woods). I was somewhat involved in the race today, helping with the loop on the west side of the road (Walker Woods section) and some of the volunteers.

I had actually written a longish reply to your report, it tried to explain what may have caused some of the confusion today, but after having Christine read it we both agreed that your experience was yours and my words do not change it.

Instead I'm going to take what you mentioned (if you do not mind) and it combined with my experiences and tomorrow have a chat with the RD to maybe help with any future ones she does (Christine and I have ideas).

As you said it was a beautiful day and on our end, no one got injured, I did not have to use my sled, blankets or sleeping bags to pull someone out and the snowmobiles that were on hand sat idle all day.

On a side note, I was curious as to what the other Aid Stations looked like or how they functioned, I know what the Safety Plan called for and knew where I was located I wanted way more than it wanted. We had pretty much everything you mentioned that you did not see... hot chocolate, warm broth (2 kinds although the thermos cracked on one of them), water that was not frozen and as you looked for; plenty of cups, cookies, brownies, gels, chips, pretzels, you name it, we probably had it! as well as maple syrup shots! (those were good!) toboggans, down blankets and sleeping bags if necessary. I tried to think what I might have wanted had I been doing the event... actually the only thing someone asked for that we did not have was coke! totally forgot coke, but I never use it!

Anyway, as you said, there were some oversights, and mistakes for sure, and as a first event in such conditions it was tough. But as you also said, it was a beautiful day and I saw more smiles (and hanging icicles) than frowns but I had a limited selection of people but a good experience for the most that I saw.

All told we were out there for over 6hrs! my fingers are still tingly as I write this at 11:10pm, hopefully they are better tomorrow work will be interesting if I can't feel anything.

Hope all is well with you and 'Bent.

Feb 14, 2016 5:38 AM # 
Hi Dennis, it was great to see you and Christine out there! Sorry I couldn't stay to chat when I saw you. It got cold to stand still for more than about 30 seconds and I was eager to get moving.

As I said, the volunteers were rock stars since they didn't need to be out there on such a frigid day; they were doing it as a favour for us. I think the race could have been organized more tightly but that doesn't diminish my respect and appreciation for everyone involved.

My only suggestion re volunteers is that people working near junctions need to be shown how the race course works since some runners, including 'Bent and me, were misdirected. And if they're not 100% sure, don't guess. In my case, if the volunteer hadn't been so insistent that the marked course was wrong (which it wasn't), I would have been fine.

If you'd rather email me to chat further, that would be great. Compared to a lot of people out there, I had a relatively uneventful run - although there is some effect on everyone when you know that the "race" part of the event isn't legit because so many people have taken variety routes.

At your aid station (the best equipped one), I thought I saw hot drinks available but when I asked a volunteer if there were cups, they didn't offer me one and I couldn't see any. I had icicles on my eyelashes and half-fogged goggles so unless they were bright red and sitting in plain sight, I doubt I would have seen them. From what you're saying, it sounds like I could have found a hot drink if I'd persisted. But it was hard to talk much with a cold face (maybe the volunteer didn't understand my question?) so I gave up and figured I would just head out and drink from my Thermos. Half a km later, I learned that my Thermos had frozen up. So the run from 16K to 22K was a long, thirsty one. But your cookies were incredible!

If there's a lesson to be learned, maybe it's that aid station volunteers need to proactively explain what is available, speaking to tired runners as if they are 5 years old. :) That probably happened earlier - and it happened at most aid stations - but I was so far back in the pack that maybe the speech wasn't being given by the time I arrived - or maybe people thought that someone else had already told me about the hot drinks.

I didn't spend much time at other aid stations but I think yours was the only one serving hot drinks (as it turned out - damn!) No one offered warm drinks but I think some aid stations may have used stoves just to keep water from turning into ice. I did have a maple syrup shot at one of them and two wonderful homemade cookies from yours. (And I wish I'd taken more.) I carried my own food so that was bonus. I was hoping to get warm-ish liquid from aid stations. The only liquid I drank was ice cold, and I didn't need to be chilled any further. Also, I once had palpitations triggered by drinking something really cold so I normally avoid it. By the finish, I was pretty dehydrated because I couldn't get much of that water down.

As an event organizer myself, my main safety concern was that so many people went off course and wouldn't necessarily have known how to get themselves to the nearest aid station or road in an emergency. In summer, it just annoys racers if they lose the course or get sent in the wrong direction but in winter, it is much more important that people are able to follow the route, especially since cell phones don't work well in cold weather. Bombproof course markings reinforced by well-placed volunteers (we had those today) need to be part of the safety plan.

Some constructive ideas to address this: I'd make it mandatory to carry the course map. Maybe I'd add some simple signage in the terrain, e.g. "E2" that would correspond to a location marked on the map. Better yet, add a few kilometre markers and "1K to Aid Station" signs for reassurance. If there had been a "1K to go!" sign at the place where the volunteer biker and group of runners insisted that we were in the wrong place, that would have solved the problem. Put arrows at the harder-to-see turns, doubled ribbons at all turns. Use a different colour of ribbons for different race course distances. Where they overlap, hang both ribbons together. Send a pre-race email with info on trail traction conditions and a description of how the course markings will work.

It truly was a fun day to run in a beautiful forest and I think the event is loaded with potential. Everyone made it back to the finish line in one piece. I hear there were nice scarves as "finisher medals" for earlier runners. It is a shame that the results will be random though. It turned into a fun run for most runners, whether they knew it or not, and I'm sure the RD would want to fix that - or turn it into a fun run for real, which would be fine.

Sorry if you felt that my critique of the race reflected on you and Christine in any way. I certainly didn't intend that - and I knew you would read it. :)
Feb 14, 2016 12:58 PM # 
Good morning Barb, I'll shoot you a message a bit later but for those that are reading this I'll reply with a couple words. You're points all make sense to me and I agree, that is why I feel it might be good for me to share them with the RD. I know you well enough to know you were not criticizing just stating facts and offering suggestion.

The irony is we came home with so many cups and to boot some bright red shot glasses for the maple syrup that we'll have enough for the next 2 family bbq's!

Talk soon!
Feb 14, 2016 1:06 PM # 
Osteo, thanks so much for being there. We really appreciated the cheerful volunteers in frigid conditions.

When I arrived at your (very well marked) aid station I was in third and in pursuit of the next runners. I would have loved a drink, but the volunteer couldn't get me one quickly so I just took off rather than waiting for them to find a cup. I sadly never had time to peruse the selection of goodies, but I don't eat on a race this length anyway.

I think Bash covered most concerns. Clearly, single-colour flagging tape isn't sufficient for 3 races on a complex trail network. Arrows, distance signs, different colours for different courses, race map carried and accurately informed race crew would help. The race crew need to be able to distinguish which course the runner is doing by the bib number or colour.
I wish I had the map when the volunteer sent me back around the South loop- that would have helped. Partly my responsibility- I decided it was too cold to carry a map in hand. Definitely signs are needed when the course re-encounters itself. "25K return --> " "<--15K". Also would help to see distance or direction signs, so we'd know that we'd doubled back when we accidentally missed a turn and hit markers again.

The Canadian Ski Marathon mans aid stations all day down to -40 for thousands of xc skiers. They have Coleman stoves with big pots of drink and soup, ready to scoop at CPs and the finish.
They also have bonfires and propane space heaters when it's really cold, but I understand that's very hard to do in a conservation area.

The CSM has a big budget of course- I'm just using it as an example of cold weather race support. Other ski loppets also have ready-to-grab cups of warm drinks.
Feb 14, 2016 1:48 PM # 
The bright red shot glasses of maple syrup were a nice Valentine's Day touch!
Feb 14, 2016 1:52 PM # 
Oh, so *that* was what was in those. Wish I'd tried one.
Feb 14, 2016 1:55 PM # 
Delicious! I had one at AS2. And I wish I'd asked *Osteo* if there were cups instead of the other person!
Feb 14, 2016 2:08 PM # 
I kinda wish I'd hung around a bit at Osteo's aid station. Didn't even recognize anyone, but we were all bundled up and I was in a hurry.
Feb 14, 2016 2:21 PM # 
haha! Ben't, I did recognize you... sorta! Yup, I had one of those shots of Maple Syrup, they were so cold and sweet! it was like 'crack'!!

I agree on your comments as well, Im just finishing an email to Barb that you can read. We thought of a small bonfire but didn't even ask for permission, I can only imagine the scalding we would have gotten had we even asked!

I actually had a thought of bringing in a propane tank with one of those dish heaters, but no one had a dish heater ...

Feb 14, 2016 2:29 PM # 
Total respect for the volunteers in those conditions!!
Feb 14, 2016 3:06 PM # 
Shots of maple syrup? Canadia jokes just write themselves!
Feb 14, 2016 3:28 PM # 
A few pic's
Feb 14, 2016 4:15 PM # 
That's a nice photo collection.
Feb 14, 2016 7:19 PM # 
Yes it is! Thanks!

Cristina, you are just jealous of our -40 wind chill and delicious snacks from the forest. Come back and give us a hard time about national jokes when Donald Trump is gone. ;)
Feb 14, 2016 8:12 PM # 
Definitely jealous. You won't be laughing about Trump after he gets Canada to build a wall to keep you guys out!
Feb 14, 2016 8:25 PM # 
I'm saving up my Canadian dollars (aka "U.S. quarters") to pay for that.
Feb 14, 2016 10:48 PM # 
Forgot to mention- there may not have been warm drinks at the finish, but the Rumble recovery drink they gave out was tasty and lactose-free- and not frozen solid. I was pretty dehydrated and glad to be able to drink one as I can't have chocolate milk.
Feb 15, 2016 1:28 AM # 
You guys are all very supportive. Getting lost in -40 windchill and thus running longer in those conditions than needed is not in my opinion, very smart, and certainly something I'm glad I declined to be a part of at the last minute. Based on my experiences working outdoors in cold like this in Northern Ontario and Northern Alberta, I'm very pleased to hear everyone got out of the woods safe and sound.

This discussion thread is closed.