Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hynerview Challenge 50K Race Report

SOB hill
Hynerview Race Report

On April 22nd we headed down to Pennsylvania for a big trail running weekend. The plan was to run back to back 50k races on the weekend so that I could really test the calf. Before I attempted to run any longer races I wanted to see what my gimpy peg leg was going to do when it got really tired. I managed to find two races with a huge amount of climbing which was a perfect test for the leg. First up on Saturday was the Hynerview Challenge.

As some of you already know I absolutely love this race. The course is beautiful, extremely challenging, super well marked and the RD does a great job of putting on a top notch event. Haven't run this race? You are definitely missing out and its only a 5 hour drive from Toronto.

This is the third time I have been to this race. We drove down Friday and stayed at the same place we have in previous years. The Kettle Creek Inn which is only about 10 minutes from the start line and has a restaurant with good food. It is no frills but decent and best of all the room is also super affordable. I am all for being cheap.

Saturday morning we picked up our race kits and made our way to the start line. Kim and our friend Elizabeth were both running the 25k race while Chris H and I were doing the 50. All four of us have run this race before so we all had a really good idea of what we were getting into.

                                                                        50k elevation profile

The 50k race features 9000+ feet of climb with a lot of single track and a decent amount of technical thrown in for fun. While the huge amount of climbing makes things difficult the way the climbs are laid out ups the Holy Crap factor substantially. There are numbers steep climbs that go on for 1-3km and the downhills tend to be steep and quad busting as well. Talk about fun!

 25k elevation profile

The plan was simple, no racing at all, just run it slow and easy to try and save something in the legs for the next day. I planned to treat it like it was 100 miler and just enjoy it. How long we were out there was not even a consideration.

As mentioned earlier I have run this race twice before. The first time I ran it at a moderate effort as a training run. Last year I attempted to run it in the midst of all my medical issues and it ended up being a disaster. I could not climb, could not breath and ended up turning my ankle at 12km and having to drop out. Okay it was not all bad I got to drink lots of free beer at the finish line.

Off and Running
The race starts off with about a mile of road until you hit the trail head then maybe another mile of slightly rolling single track. We ran this nice and easy and soon were at the first big climb "humble hill". Its steep, its long and pretty much goes on forever. After at least a good 2km of climbing you finally reach the lookout at the top of the hill. Someone told me that they use this place for hand gliding which makes sense, it's a long way down.

  part way up the first climb

 at the top of climb #1

As we reached the top I told Chris that I felt a hundred times better than the year before. It was a tough climb so it hurt but in the way it was suppose to. Also it put a huge amount of stress on my calf with no negative effect at all. That was a huge relief.

For the next few miles everything continued to go as planned. We stayed slow and before long had passed the spot where I had turned my ankle over the year before. I had come to call this place scream valley because last year you would have heard my scream (okay screaming curse word) for a long distance in either direction.

It's here that we saw our first course change, a new section for the 50k runners. This cut out a few kms of running along / through creek beds. The new section was nice but honestly I really loved the creek running so kind of missed that part of the course. Once we finished the new section we were at the bottom of "Sledge Hammer". As most trail and ultra runners know when hills have names they tend to be pretty nasty. Sledge Hammer is long, I was told 2 miles, steep and kind of never ending. After a long climb you are on to the 25k loop which will eventually lead you right back to the top of Sledge Hammer again.

This section went okay, lots of ups and downs. Lots of single track, lots of wondering why I didn't do the 25k. Legs were starting to tire as Chris H and I hit the 30k mark and headed back down that crazy hill.  Turns out running 2 miles of steep downhill is not the break for your legs that you might think. By the time we got to the bottom and turned back into the creek bed  our legs were shot. My quads seemed a bit confused and didn't seem to want to work / run much at all.

 Its hilly in PA

 SOB Hill

From that point on it became a slug fest. Lots of climbing including the infamous SOB hill which is so steep your hands are sometimes touching the ground (oh and keep an eye out for rattlesnakes) then a very long few kms of downhill back to the start of the trail head. By the time we make it to the road Chris H was feeling nauseous which is usually my job so we just kept moving forward until we finally make it to the finish line.

Both of us coming in

 finally finished

I was really glad to be finished and tried not to let it bother me that we were so slow, after all that was actually the plan. We got a cool finishers hat at the finish as well as some barbecue. Kim and Elizabeth also both had hard but decent races and were already into the post run beer by the time we got back.

Kim at the finish

Unfortunately we didn't get a long time to relax as it was back into Chris's truck to drive 3 hours further south for our Sunday race.

Up next - Ironmasters race report

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Around the Bay, Beer and Running, Sad news

Around The Bay went fairly well as far as training runs go. I would not call this a race report because I did no racing, just easy running but some observations. There was a great turn out in general as well as a lot of Longboat Roadrunners at the Race.

I had not planned on actually running ATB at all but with Longboat renting a bus for the race and a runner friend giving me his bib because he could not run I decided why not. It was cold but road conditions were good and the sun was out. I find it really hard to put the full winter gear back on when just a week earlier I had been running everyday in shorts but given how nice it was this winter I am going to try and not complain too much.

I ended up running into my friend Ryan Wilson for the second race in a row. For a guy that says he is not running much he sure is signed up for a bunch of races. He was just running it to get kms in as well so we decided to just run along at around 6 minute kms and see how it went.

For the first 20 kms or so I was really glad that I had signed up. Its much easier to do the long run in the cold with thousands of other runners instead of by yourself. Once I got to the last 10km I really just wanted to get finished. I was cold, hungry and getting tired but we kept the same pace anyway.

I did end up seeing a lot of road runners and ultra people that I knew, many using ATB for the same reason I was. One big downer was that once again the bigass hill near the end was not on the course. That kind of sucks as that is my favorite part of the whole course. Ryan and I ran together until maybe somewhere where  around 28k where I briefly lost him. Thanks for putting up with me for 3 hours Ryan!! Ended up running 3:02ish so pretty close to dead on a 6 minute pace.

Lately I have been doing a few of the runTObeer events in Toronto. This combines my love of beer and my love of running perfectly. It also gives me a chance just to run slow with my better half Kim which I dont get to do very often.

These guys have done a fantastic job of putting this group together where you sign up and end up running to local breweries where you often start with a free beer. The only draw back is its becoming so popular that events are filling up in hours after being announced which means if you want to join in you better be paying attention.

At the last event Kim as lucky enough to win a box of Powerbars which I am slowly devouring on running days which don't have a beer at the end.

You can check runTObeer here.

Sad News
Yesterday I was given some very sad news. Richard Leib a runner who I had the pleasure of coaching a number of times for Marathons passed away in early April. Richard was such a nice guy and pretty much always had a smile on his face. He was also one of those runners that is very easy to coach, he just showed up, did the workouts like he was suppose and never complained. Condolences to his family and friends.

Richard Leib (far left)

This past year has been really tough. Kim and I have lost some very close family members, friends and acquaintances. I think more than any other time that I can remember in the past.  One thing that has become clear for me is that we never know how long we are going to be here and healthy enough to do what we want. It's a pretty stark reminder that you should do what you love and live full out while you have the chance.

Next Up : OUTrace Spring Warm Up

Monday, March 28, 2016

Chilly HM and Upcoming Season

Kim after the Chilly HM

Chilly Half Marathon and Pikes Peak Qualifier
Chilly Half Marathon was a big success for Kim. We set a target time of 2:15 which slightly slower than her half PB even though there was really no proper training for the race as Kim hadn't started doing any quality runs in her program yet.

We had a really good day weather wise and the race started off well in the early going. We ended up running with our friend Ryan and I got to spend the first 5km of the race listening to him explain to Kim how Sith Lords are really not as badass and evil as they should be. Seriously I kid you not, my wife is such a geek sometimes.

After that Ryan took off and we settled into a steady 6:20 pace for pretty much the rest of the race. Kim ended up running 2:14:46 so pretty much right on the plan and less than a minute off her PB. Also this was easily good enough for her Pikes Peak qualifier.

As some of you know I am not a big fan of VRpro races and lets just say that I am still not a big fan of their races.  I will continue to try and avoid them in the future that's for sure as I had lots of issues with this race (again). I really don't want to get into details much here but having runners running in the middle lane of the road with live traffic on BOTH sides for the final 5km of a race is a big safety issue particularly when the sweepers on the out and back course have picked up all the cones that were separating our lane from the outgoing traffic lane. Live traffic on both sides and no cones separating the traffic on one of those sides. Golly guys what could possibly go wrong in that scenario.

Racing Season Looking Clearer
The plans for this season are starting to take shape. What I know for sure is I will be running Hynerview 50km, Pick Your Posion 50k and Seaton 50k as training runs for a return to 100 milers. Right now I am thinking I will run 100 miles at Sulphur Springs in May but that will be dependent on where I am at as far as my fitness level goes.

We have registered for the Pikes Peak Ascent in August and I plan to run 100 miles at Lean Horse in South Dakota the following weekend. I fully expect to also run Dirty Girls, Creemore, and Haliburton if my legs are feeling good. Not sure about distances but I expect that I will do semi long to longer distances.

The last race of the season has already been decided as Kim has signed up to run 50km at Oil Creek again this year and she is super excited about this. It was no easy task to get signed up as the registration was open and closed at random  for short windows of time in order to try and keep the servers from crashing. When I say short I mean short, I am guessing 3 -5 minutes. I will return to OC as well to try and get myself another 100 mile finish there. Both of us really love this race. The course is beautiful but it's a tough one particularly so late in the season and the 18,000 ft of climb can
be challenging.

Oil Creek 2014

Current Training
My current training as I work my way back from injury is going about as good as expected. I have settled into 100km weeks which feel fairly comfortable now although I'm not yet at the 120 - 130km volume that I usually like to be at.

I have not started quality workouts yet as I wanted to be careful upping the mileage however starting last week I have added some very hilly runs on the road. I also returned to the trails for the first time since the injury. Nothing gets me back in shape quicker than running some hilly trails. Things went okay on the trail but I got a lot of work to do. The uphills were not so bad but I found that I was having to think a little bit about picking my lines instead of it just happening naturally. I was horrible on the downhills though but I am sure that will all come back soon enough.

Still slow and still got some weight to get off but progressing so I can't complain. Bring on the summer.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Here is a short update on the follow up after the discovery of my DVT and my attempt to get back into shape. Most of its good news but also there is some not so great news.

In December the Hematologist that I saw about my calf told me that she suspected based on the blood work that my clot had become scar tissue in the vein and so the symptoms that I was experiencing were most likely not going to change. That meant that if she was correct the swelling in my calf would always be there due to the restricted blood flow. Also the tightening up of the calf when I walk or run would also be with me for life. Good grief.

The good news is that she is also a marathon runner so at least I felt like I was talking to someone that actually got how big a deal this was for me. She also cleared me to start running as there was no worry about doing any further damage to the leg. I was put on blood thinners for the next three months with a follow up after that.

I immediately put together a schedule to rebuild my mileage, a slow realistic build up to begin to get my base mileage up. I also really needed to get rid of the 25 pounds that my friend Mr. Beer had given me over the past 6-8 months of inactivity.

Week 1 of running consisted of  two 4km runs during the week. In all seriousness these may have been the most difficult runs I have ever done in my life. I was overweight, out of shape and my calf was a maddening painful ball of hate. I have not been this heavy and also this out of shape in at least 10 years. I was breathing like a freight train while running so very, very slowly and at 4km I was completely spent. Adding to this was a great deal of frustration as I had no idea if my calf would get better or worse as I went to longer distances. The reality is that I began to think distance trail running might be a thing of the past.

Oh yeah, one other thing, I forgot just how hard running can be. Man this running thing is tough sometimes. I found it hard at the end of week 1 to even imagine that at some point in the not so distant past I enjoyed going out for my runs or would enjoy going out for runs in the future.

Here is where I count myself extremely lucky. I have the good fortune to have a fantastic support system of  other runners in my life. My wife Kim (who is also a distance trail runner) was unbelievable over my down time and also dealing with the assholiness that came along with the aggravation and depression that I was feeling. Besides Kim my co-coach and running buddy Chris H. was great at helping to get me out for daily runs as were a number of other runners that I had been coaching last year. They were all kind enough to run really slow and listen to me complain about how out of shape I was.

Last week I had my follow up with the specialist. As expected the vein is scarred which happens in about 30% of all cases. The cause of the original blood clot is unknown which I was told is the case in about 50% of patients. They have no reason to expect that there will be a recurrence and I no longer need to be on blood thinners. That's great but still with a calf that will probably never feel normal it is a bit scary.

Last week was also my first week of getting in 100k of running for the week as well as my first long run over 30k. Everything seems to be going okay so far and I have managed to shed 15 of my beer pounds. Still I am trying to be careful and so far am sticking to building up the base so no quality runs yet and not a great deal of running on hilly courses which are usually a staple of my training. The plan is to begin adding more climbing over the next few weeks including some step mill or stair workouts. If all stays fine I most likely will ease back into tempos/hill repeats in 2 or 3 weeks.

 If things continue as they have been I should be in pretty decent shape by the end of April. To celebrate we will be headed back to Hynerview, PA to run the 50k with the hope of getting into 100 miler shape by mid May. Thats the hope but we will see how it goes from here.

Up next - pacing Kim in the Chilly Half Marathon on Sunday.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Seriously Scary Stuff - a WTF Moment

Three weeks ago I sat in the ER at St. Joesph's hospital and had one of the scariest and somehow bizarrely surreal experiences of my life. I had given my test results to the doctor and as he read them he asked me "Do you know what this is?"
"Yes" I did, unfortunately.
"Do you know how lucky you are to still be here?"
 No reply from me as my brain tried to grapple with what was going on.
"You might think your unlucky because you have gotten a blood clot but actually you are very lucky."
And so my year of running hell continues.

Its been over 8 months since I posted here, wow. I would like to chalk it all up to laziness but the truth is I have not felt like talking about running AT ALL. This past year has been highlighted by health issues and been pretty much a disaster. Every time I thought I was about to come out of it I got hit by another bombshell.

Western States was a disaster and it was all down hill from there. In the next few weeks I will be retracing my steps and putting up an couple of posts on exactly what went on all spring, summer and fall. I expect that maybe the most boring series of posts in the history of the internet but I want to get it all down somewhere. The hope is that I will be able to look back at it all at some point down the road and be glad I am past it.

So here is the short version of what is happening right now. After not being able to run since the summer I was given a preliminary diagnosis of Compartmental Syndrome in my lower left leg which seemed really bad at the time. That means surgery and probably 6 months minimum off. Definitely not good but it could be worse. Well turns out it was worse.

I was sent to get imaging done so I would have those tests to give to the specialist I was going to have to see. What those test revealed was that what I really had was Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). You can read about it here. Essentially a large blood clot in my left calf. It was chronic meaning it went undiagnosed for most likely months. This might have started last July but maybe it goes all the way back to March.

From the doctors office it was straight to the ER where they started DVT  periodicals. That meant a visit once a day to the ER for multiple injections of blood thinners into my stomach for 8 days until the oral medication could take effect.

It ends up that a DVT a very serious, sometimes fatal condition (death rate is 1 in 9). Its most dangerous in the first 1-10 days as a piece of the clot can break off and go to the lungs. During that time I didn't even know I had it which is why I was lucky that it didn't turn into something worse.

So where does that leave me now? I can start exercising again so I began to ease back into things with a couple of 4km runs this week. With any luck I will be able to build things back to where I used to be as a runner but that will be a slow process. It certainly doesn't help that I am now really overweight and completely out of shape. I will be okay to run as long as there are no more complications. How long and how far is another question which I have no answers for at this point. The hope is to go back doing all the things I did before but right now there is no way to tell for sure. Next week I hope to get a little bit more information when I see a Hematologist.

One of the issues is that I don't really fall under the categories / risk factors that usually cause this to happen. Was this related to my breathing issues earlier this year? None of the doctors are sure but all my tests (heart, lungs, blood, etc.) came back normal. Maybe that was viral, maybe that was Over Training Syndrome (OTS) or maybe the two things are related. All I know is that at least there is a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Running Again, Looking for Pacers, ATB this Weekend

Finally I am back to running again. The calf is not 100% so I have to stay away from hills and trails for now but at least I am able to run. I expect I should be totally back to “normal” in another week or so. I am trying really hard to be smart and sensible about things but the trails tempt and taunt me every single day when I run past High Park. Man this running thing has to be the stupidest sport ever.

So with a return to running I can begin to allow myself to think about all my upcoming 100 mile races. I have already secured a pacer to run with me for the last 50 miles of Western States. Norman Nadon from Running Free Orangeville and Race Director for Chase The Coyote has been kind enough to offer to drag my ass through the Sierra Nevada mountains.

I also have coaching and running buddy Chris Henderson coming out to Utah to pace me for part of Wasatch. Karen Pride, fresh off of racing the Canadian Death Race, will help get me through to the finish as well. I have run with both of them before and they have seen me at the end portions of other 100s so they already have a good idea of what to expect.

I don't have anyone officially lined up to run with me at Vermont but because we are driving to this race I am fairly certain I will be able to drag a few of my coaching clients out onto the trail with me. Kind of gives them a chance to torture me and get back at me for all the ridiculously hard workouts I keep giving them.

That leaves me looking for pacers for Leadville AGAIN. Why I have so much trouble finding someone to run with me here is odd. I mean they have legalized marijuana in Colorado, that should make this pacing gig a no brainer. Okay seriously if you are interested in running (or walking slowly) in the mountains on August 22nd let me know. As an added bonus I all but guarantee that there will be bacon. Pot and bacon, together, seriously, thats like the biggest incentive ever.

Around the Bay
This Sunday is Around the Bay. I have a good group of runners that I have been coaching that will all be running the 30k race. I will be pacing someone as racing is out of the question due to the wonky calf. Should be fun regardless although I am super disappointed that they were forced to take out the big hill at the end of the course due to construction. I think this is the 7th time I have run this race and I have somehow managed to have fun every time. Now if we just get decent weather it should be a great weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Running frustrations, a slight reprieve, more running frustrations

All I can say is wow what a frustrating February and March it has been when it comes to my running. Things had been going so great in my base training until I got the flu in January and since then its been like I am trapped and blundering through a really bad Monty Python skit.

After I got mostly over the flu in January I just could not seem to shake off the cough and lack of energy. I was slow and lethargic even though I was putting in normal base effort. By mid January it was pretty clear that running the Beast of Burden 100 was not a good idea. Honestly I just didn't have the energy that it was going to take me and I worried how much it would end up beating me up for my spring training. I made what as it turns out was a good call and went for the DNS however unfortunately the right call didn't help me as much as I had hoped.

At the end of January I made trip number 1 to the doctor where they gave me a puffer and what I can only call a patronizing attitude. That was on the Friday and two days later I headed out to meet my coaching clients for a Sunday long run. Half way up the hill coming out of the humber valley on Bloor Street my run was reduced to a walk. I could not run at all as I could not breath. Air seemed to be going into my lungs yet failing to make it any farther. What the heck! I walked to the flat area at the top of the hill and tried to run again but same thing. So much for the long run but it was really cold out and I figured maybe that was an issue. Yeah I know thats a total lie to myself, we all know it but it made me feel better in the moment.

Two days after I headed into the gym figuring I would jump on the dreadmill where it was warm, dry and there would be not hills in sight. First attempt I lasted less than 2 minutes before I had to get off breathing like i just ran my 5k pace for 10k. I was incredulous, I walked around the gym in disbelieve until eventually ending back at the treadmill again. I know I stood there for a minute or two sizing the damn thing up like a sparring opponent. If anyone was watching I would have looked kind of silly to them for sure. I figured back on and just go really, really slow. Take 2 lasted less than 60 seconds, what the @%&#.

The next day it was doctor visit # 2 for a second opinion. They put me on a stronger inhaler and antibiotics with suspected bronchitis. I did not attempt to run for 10 days in fact walking up stairs or the escalator in the subway was leaving me winded. After 10 days I headed out for a slow run planning to pace Kim. It was a disaster, I could have sworn that I heard some yell “Ice-burg Ahead” but probably not as I was moving so slowly I could have easily turned the ship away.

I am now totally freaking right out and I mean right out. Seems being able to breath is somewhat important for a runner. Is there something seriously wrong with me (okay bit of a trick question). I stop calling myself a runner and think about taking up smoking right away. Kim must be a saint because I know that I am miserable and must be a great deal of fun to be around, even the cats avoid me.

Back to the Doc for trip # 3. He comes in and he looks like he is about 12 years old which makes me realize that I am getting old faster than expected. He tells me to do nothing and give it 4 more days over the long weekend. I put my smoking experiment on hold for the time being and wait it out.

After the 4 days are finally up I head out for a easy run. Holy crap I can run, not back to normal mind you but at least I can run and breath at the same time. I am so glad to be able to run even if every day it is -25 and the footing is terrible. Time lost to bronchitis ends up being 18 days, damn thats a long time.

I join some of the Longboat guys on Saturday morning for a short run. Its snowing and footing sucks but I actually run my normal easy run pace and it is easy. Hallelujah, finally let the serious training begin again.

Here we go again
Hold on, not so fast buddy. I feel fine after the run and head back home. Sometime later in the afternoon I feel some soreness in my left calf. No big deal, happens all the time to us old dudes. I go back to a more normal running schedule and all is fine for 3 or 4 days except for a bit of discomfort in the calf. Then after my end of week runs the calf sudden gets really angry and apparently hates me as it becomes very sore. Not sore (just tight) while running but really sore when not running.

I try to run through it for a few more days but its clear I need to get it back to normal or there will be no serious training especially hill training. As I type this its day 7 of no running. The good news is I could probably run on it right now but I am giving it an extra day or 2 to play it safe. With any luck the next time you hear from me I will be complaining about how the weather sucks during my runs or some such thing.
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