There are various reasons why Pick Your Poison is my favourite ultra. One of them is that it is held only 10 kilometers from my home. Copeland Forest, where it is held was a place of healing for me in the years following the death of my father. I was 15. When the registration opened up on December 1, 2019 for the 2020 Pick Your Poison I registered that very day. The event sells out extremely quickly, and I certainly did not want to miss out. This would have been my 5th year in a row running it.
The 2016 Pick Your Poison was the 1st ultra I had ever run. What an incredible feeling to cross that finish line at 57 years old in my 4th year running. The following year in 2017 I was inspired by personal words of encouragement from Ultramarathonman Dean Karnazes to run possibly my best ever race. In 2018 we had a major snow just 2 weeks before the event. It had not all melted, which made for lots of snow running. And lots of mud. Last year’s event saw a fresh snowfall just the night before. Which made for some challenging running. And some interesting writing material for a blogpost. Who knows what 2020 would hold for Pick Your Poison.
Every year is so much different, but I am sure no one would have guessed global pandemic last December 1st when registration opened. March 12th race directors Trish and Rhonda sent an update shortly after the World Health organization declared a Global Pandemic. Four days later it was announced the race was cancelled. Trish and Rhonda very kindly offered a deferral at no cost the registration to 2021 or a 50% refund. I deferred to next year. Rhonda mentioned to me in an e-mail that there were 210 new e-mails waiting for her the next morning after the cancellation annoucement. She mentioned “the 1st one she opened was mine with my beautiful message”.
Pick Your Poison was also offering a virtual run. Complete your distance of 12.5k, 25k or 50k until July 25th for a pair of those epic Pick Your Poison socks and your name also goes in a draw for one of 80 jars of Pick Your Poison Honey from Orillia Honey. Even with all these wonderful incentives to keep active, I was struggling. There was the anxiety with the pandemic and my two part time jobs ending with the lockdown. But there was also something physical that was causing my blood pressure and heart rate to be elevated that I couldn’t put a finger on. Some days were good. Other days extremely rough.
The originally scheduled day for Pick Your Poison on April 25th came and went. The next weekend on the Sunday (May 3rd) was nothing unusual. Had a cranberry lemon muffin for breakfast and I told my wife I was going to try and go out for a run. I was not expecting to be out for long, 5k at the most. I was wearing cotton socks, cotton underwear. And the “pants” were something a person might wear eating nachos and drinking beer while watching TV.
But that day I felt really incredibly good. What originally was going to be maybe a 5k run became a 10k. And I kept going. I went 15k, and then 20k. Dare I attempt to make this my day for the Pick Your Poison 50k Virtual Run? I had originally planned to do that run in Copeland Forest where the actual Pick Your Poison is held. Being only 10 kilometers away, the terrain is quite similiar, but possibly with not quite as extreme elevation gains/losses.
I took inventory of what I had. A granola bar and a third of a hydration pack remaining of water. Decided to do just a little bit more running, and then head back home to restock. Arrived home at just over 27 kilometers for my one big aid station stop. Refilled my hydration pack. Drank back a bunch of coconut water. And grabbed my salt/electrolyte tablets, as well as some dried fruit. Just like a regular aid station in an ultra, my watch kept running. And 12 minutes later I was back out.
This time out I went on some different trails that included a big out and back hill several times to add some elevation. And the last 10 kilometers I went on the road allowance of the historic Old Penetanguishene Road. This road was built as a supply route between Barrie and the naval base in Penetanguishene during the war of 1812.
Although this run will not go in the books as an “official ultra”, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to run this as a virtual race for Pick Your Poison. These are challenging times for everyone. Race directors like Trish and Rhonda have taken huge financial losses with their cancelled race this year. The virtual races are a way to encourage us runners to get outdoors, keep active while at the same time maintaining our social distancing.
Because I ran this on May 3rd, the mileage does not count in 2 other virtual runs I am involved. I kept putting this off, but on May 6th I eventually registered for the Great Virtual Run Across Tennessee (hashtagged #GVRAT1000k). Because of my unpredictable heart rate I was afraid to attempt this. The 1000 kilometer distance started on May 1st. My bib number is #17983. Which means there was 17982 runners that have had up to a 5 day head start.
My other virtual run is a collaborative effort was Virtual Smiles for Amanda Charity Run. It is in honour of Dr. Amanda Kelsall, daughter of John and Sharon Kelsall who are very good friends of mine. Amanda was killed in 2014 in a motor vehicle accident. She was just a few weeks short of her 23rd birthday. The legacy in Amanda’s memory is called Mission Amanda. Amanda was a runner, and every year a fun run is organized by Women Empowered Unite Communities in Amanda’s honour to support a charity that would be important to Amanda. This year it would have been May 9th, and the chosen charity Lighthouse Orillia Building Hope Campaign. But it was cancelled due to COVID-19. The event instead went virtual from May 9th until May 30th, to see if we could collectively walk, run or cycle across Canada in Amanda’s honour. Unfortunately I ran my 50k for Pick Your Poison on May 3rd, so my 50k also did not qualify for mileage for #AcrossCanadaForAmanda. To keep me accountable (and transparent) while running these virtual events I am doing daily updates (with lots of photos) on my Facebook running page, and my Twitter feed.
It has been a unique year. I sincerely hope everyone is keeping well and keeping active. So looking forward to when the pandemic is behind us and races are once again the norm. I so appreciate all the wonderful race directors and organizations who have created these virtual runs to make the very best of the situation! And to keep us active. Thank you to you all. 🙂