When I set up my annual Team Over The Top fall running clinic, those who register know that the goal is to race the Egg Nog Jog in mid December around the hallowed grounds of the Terra Cotta Conservation area. To say it is one of the most spectacular settings (especially in mid October) anywhere is an understatement. As you can see from the photos below, the fall colours and idyllic estate home settings belie the extreme terrain of the 10.8 kilometre race course. I still categorize it as one of the toughest road races in North America.My team started out this morning in perfect running conditions – which seems to be the norm at this time of year. As I tell my runners, do not get used to this. Race day on December 11 will most likely be MUCH nastier! Everyone from young Edison (age 21/2) to expectant mom, Paula, take a few minutes to get prepared. We always do a series of warm-up drills – this is a course that will literally CRUSH you if not physically and mentally prepared.The first 2.5 kilometres require my team to run a series of undulating hills that get progressively longer and steeper. I train them to control the hills up AND down by adjusting the foot action, landing points and visual focus. This helps them keep pace whilst NOT losing too much energy for the rest of the run. You can see in the following pictures one of my team cresting the 3rd of 4 consecutive hills. It’s once again a deceptively beautiful part of the course.Young Patrick in his minimalist New Balance and Sohail in his Vibram Five Fingers crest the 4th hill landing forward and driving strong over the top. By the way, ALL of my runners train barefoot or in Vibrams or in some form of minimalist footwear. Full-on coffins (oversized, thick-soled running shoes are unknown to them!). It’s wonderful to behold my runners when they are in the zone.Of course, seeing Terry and Kimberly guiding young Edison up the 1st series of hills in the running stroller humbles me. I cannot imagine the effort required to conquer the Egg Nog Jog course free-on let alone pushing a 24 kilogram child. This is not only dedication to keeping physically fit BUT it sets a wonderful example of the importance of being active to young Edison. As you will see, he embraces this TOTALLY.The major challenge as always on the course is conquering the Valley of Death II (VOD II). It’s difficult enough to run it once straight up. Try running repeats on it (my team did 3 ups and 2 downs this morning!) without stopping. Good luck with that for the majority of you. Then throw in a mix of backward running up and down,side to side strides up and down (switching the lead leg every 20 strides),forward crossover strides up and down (Kimberly even doing this pushing the stroller!)and, finally, straight on up hill (as John shows, this is actually easy after all of the other drills!).I would be remiss in NOT including shots of young Edison taking on the VOD II, running it downhill pulling his mom and then uphill pulling his dad along with him. They were paced by expectant mom, Paula, who finished the VOD II in fine form. She is a shining example of keeping physically fit to the benefit of your growing baby. Paula joins other TOTT women (Clare, Kerry and KImberly) who ran through at least one pregnancy each with the old coach’s TOTTers. They prove that there are NO excuses for being sedentary…I am also including a shot of Terry showing almost perfect Squat-Scoot form (keeping tight, light, compact and forward) as he completes 6 kilometres of the route. When he’s in the technical zone, you cannot hear him running and he feels virtually no impact forces through his joints. Casey, Sohail, Patrick, Kimberly, Paula, Annette, Silvana, Michelle, Kerry, David, John and all other members are showing the same progress. It is almost magical when a group of them run by you – smooth, silent, efficient.The rewards of finishing include a wonderful sleep (Edison) to a well-earned lean (Kimberly) to an easy cool-down and breakfast delight of some sort (the whole team!). To the coach goes NOTHING – as it should be – EXCEPT the satisfaction of everyone progressing well week by week.Some of you may have run on the Egg Nog Jog course. You will know what I am referring to in the blog. For any of you who CAN get to Terra Cotta, make it a goal to run the course once. Even though it will challenge you to your running core, it will be one of those that you will rank in the top 5 of your greatest running experiences. The coach says you can bank on THAT!!