Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Toronto Maraton 2014 Race Report - Alice runs a marathon

Got to be honest here, originally I had no intention of running the Toronto Marathon this year. I had expected to go back to Bear Mountain which is on the same weekend but sometimes things just don't go as planned. Okay really things rarely go as planned.

As it turned out the place we lived in was going to be sold so May 3/4th became stay home and move your crappy weekend. We planned to be done moving by Saturday evening and I needed to get a long run in on Sunday so running the Toronto Marathon made sense. I know myself and there was no way I would wake up and run 40k on my own Sunday so at least the race would get me out to run plus I had a cheap entry through the Running Room.

There was just one rule, NO RACING! I would find someone mid pack to pace and stick to my long run speed.

I met up with a few of the runners that I have been coaching and we shared a cab up to the start line. Two of them were first time marathon newbies and were excited and nervous. Once we got up to the start line I ran into lots of clinic members and a good number of Longboaters as well. Everyone seemed pretty pumped and the weather looked good except for the predicted 35k winds on the Lakeshore, yikes!

One of my runners who was trying to BQ had her watch die before the race start. I ended up giving her my Ambit so she could pace properly and since I was going slow I was not worried about time at all. Soon I found Sarah, another runner I coached, who said she was going to run around a 3:55 - 4 hour race so I decided I would run with her for as long as she could put up with me. No easy task on her part.

Just before the gun Sarah asked me why my race bib said ALICE. I looked down and what the heck it did say Alice. Turns out the race was out of blank bibs and the manager at the Running Room thought it would be funny to get me "an interesting pseudonym".  I didn't mind but was disappointed that I had not noticed it at home. If I had I would have donned the Alice Cooper makeup and run incognito. We lined up in the corral and then we were off.

The Not Racing Race - Go Alice
Sarah and I ran the first few kms at a decent but easy pace effort wise. We chatted and she told me that she would have liked to beat her PB which was just under 3:49 but didn't think it was doable. When I heard this I decided that we should at least go fast enough to give her a shot at it so I picked it up some. There is a good bit of downhill in the first half of the race so now was the time to take advantage.

Since I didn't have a watch I just ran by feel and whenever Sarah called out a split I found a little slow I would pick it up just a bit. I wanted to make sure she ran hard but didn't want to see her burn out in the second half. The race was going pretty good as we turned into the wind hitting the half way point at 1:50. That meant Sarah was on pace for a PB and that I was running way to fast for an easy run. I was right in my junk mile zone, too fast to be an easy run but too slow to be at race pace. That means you are doing more damage to your legs than a training run with no real training benefit you would not get running easy. My legs were getting tired, 3 hours of sleep and 2 days of lugging furniture and boxes around was catching up fast. Might have still been feeling the 50k trail race from the week before in my legs, who knows. I decided I would keep pacing for as long as my legs felt okay and then would back off.

The wind for the next 12 -15k was soul sucking. Looked like the weather guy got it right as much of this section was into 35k winds. I ended up staying with Sarah until the 31-32k mark. She was running great and had lots left so at that point I slowed it way down to save my legs and let her go. Even going slow my legs were beat. The damage was done already which made for a painful last 10k even going extra super slow.

The one great things was all the Longboaters and clinic runners that were out cheering (about half my clinic people were running Ottawa so not racing that weekend). As anyone who has run in Toronto races knows fan support is few and far between. Kind of sad really but for those that came out a great big Thank You.

Ended up finishing in a more painful than necessary 3:58. Sarah ended up just sneaking in under her PB. Way to go Sarah.

Next up Seaton 50k May 10th

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pick Your Poison 2014 50k Race Report

PYP 50k - Pick Your Poison race report
Finally after a winter that seemed to never end the start of the Ontario Ultra season was just around the corner and six months of road training had left me twitching like an addict to get back onto the trails. For two weeks I ran on the snowless trails of High Park and the Sulphur Springs course getting the legs ready for the first race of the OUSER, Pick Your Poison.

On Saturday April 26th I headed up north of Barrie with Chris H. for the 9 AM race start. Kim was nursing an IT Band injury from Around the Bay so decided to be smart and rest it.  Chris was running 25k while I was in for 50k of hilly goodness.

We arrived at Horse Shoe Valley Ski Resort nice and early only to be met with an unexpected treat. There was a tonne of snow still on the course and I mean a tonne. It was a little startling given the clear trails at Sulphur but apparently Northern Ontario gets more snow than we do. I guess I knew that  but given this is the 5th time I have run this race and every other time out there was little to no snow it was surprising.

Snow on the course
We grabbed our race kits, which contained a nice race shirt and a bottle of fresh honey, chatted with other runners and then headed to the start line. There were some last minute race instructions from the RD and a quick up date on course conditions, something about snow on the course, and then we were off.

PYP is a 12.5k loop course which has a little bit of everything. There is some wide groomed trail, a good deal of  technical single track, some jeep / logging road, open field running and even a small bit of pavement. Oh I almost forgot there is also the hills, lots and lots of hills, with each loop coming in at around 2000 ft. of climb and 2000ft of decent. You got to love that.

Loop 1  0 - 12.5k
I came in planning to run semi hard my first loop, take it easy for the next 2 and then pick it up in the last one. With my goal race being Mohican in June I really just needed to get some decent miles in on the trails. Chris and I ran together for most of the first loop but it became clear pretty early that a hard first loop was not the way to go. The course was slow due to the snow and my ACL less knee does not do well running in the snow. After a few km I fell into a decent but moderate pace and ended up just using the first loop to get a feel for the course.

Race Start

Some sections were clear and very runnable others not so much. I would guess there was packed snow on around 30 - 35% of the course but the rest was relatively dry and not much mud at all. At some point I lost Chris and ended up finishing the first lap in 1:29 much slower than expected but okay given the conditions.

Loop 2   12.5 - 25k
I stay at the start/finish aid station for a minute or 2 waiting for Chris to show up but I don't see him so I just take off. It's a bit of asphalt and a quick turn onto jeep road which is clear and very runnable. Soon you it hit a little short section of technical running and then are out onto wide groomed trail. This is all snow covered and slow going. The jarring is already bugging my knee and my feet are wet but besides that things are going okay. I bump into a number of other runners that I know during the loop although most of them are doing the 25k and I end up running parts of this section with different people.

Eventually the snow gives way to some nice clear technical single and double track before reaching the mighty ski hill climb at around 5k. Its long, its tough and the snow make it even harder. I plod along eventually catching up to Andrew H. who was kind enough to pace me for a loop at Sulphur last year and who I keep running into at short road races (which is kind of weird). We cruise along together for the rest of the loop. I end up running 1:33 for loop 2.

Loop 3   25 - 37.5k
Just as I finished 25k Oliver F. arrived at the aid station at the same time. I met Oliver during my first 100 miler at Sulphur where he was also running his first. I can remember running together for a while debating whether we had come out too fast (I had of course). I had also seen him at Leadville last year where we both ended up DNFing.

As it turned out we were running around the same pace so we just ended sticking together. Oliver was running to get Ks in and not racing either so it made sense to cruise along with each other. We chatted about upcoming races and bitched (but only a little) about what had happened at Leadville. I told him I was going back in 2115 or 16 as for me that race has become my White Whale. He told me he would come crew and pace me if I wanted....SWEET.

How Leadville has become in my mind

With the 25k runners done we saw nobody else on the course until we hit the big ski hill at 5k. Way up at the top of the hill we could see 2 runners going through the aid station. They were about 3 minutes ahead so we decided to try and run just fast enough to catch them before the end of the loop. By the time we hit Mount Evil (see prior PYP reports) we had closed in on them and quickly passed them at the next aid station.

By now my legs were getting tired, my knee was becoming very unfriendly, and I was in no mood for a snow cone. Ended up finishing the loop in 1:38

Loop 4   37.5 - 50k
The first part of the loop both Oliver and I seemed to get that "almost done" feeling and picked up the pace some. Honestly I think I was just wanted to finish quick and get to the hamburgers. Once again when we hit the big ski hill we could see people at the top so we ran a little faster with the plan to catch them in the next few kms.  Once again we passed them just before Mount Evil. This time it was a bit different however. I knew one of the runners Kim V. and when we passed her it was clear she still had lots of energy left.

She ended up falling back some but was still in sight most of the time. That meant that my plan to putter along into the finish was out the window. Thanks for keeping us honest Kim we thought you were going to pass us for sure. Soon it was down the last big snow covered ski hill and into the finish where I picked up my finisher socks and made a bee line for the burgers. Loop time was 1:36.

Post Race
Final time was 6:18 which was not the 5:50 I had planned for but not bad given the conditions. Once again RD Adam Hill put on a great race. I always have fun on this one. Special big thank you to Carlos Vicens. for sticking around and giving me a drive home.

Next up Seaton 50k on May10th

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Out of Hibernation

In my mind I look like this

This is probably more accurate though

Over the last few weeks it has become clear that it's finally safe to come out of my self imposed hibernation and get back to some running and blogging. Don't get me wrong I still ran all winter but holy cow did it suck a great deal of time. Snow, ice, -25, snow, -30, ice storm, -25, snowy ice, pretty much sums up the entire last 4 months. It was easily the worst winter for running in the 7 years that I have been doing serious distance. Nobody wants or needs to read about that and I really didn't want to write about it either.

Well thankfully thats done and now its time to get back to some serious running and training. I have started to ramp things up and the last 3 weeks have been solid (100k, 115k, 125k) although I am a little behind where I like to be at this time of year.

Whats Coming Up
This years running schedule is starting to take shape. There some changes and some maybes but the spring at least is becoming clearer. First the bad news. I had to drop from the SD100 in June. I was pretty disappointed but work made it a no go this year. I will get out to California to run this in the next few years though unless I decide I hate running, trail and sunshine. I might go for it next year depending on what fate the Western States Lottery Gods have in store for me.

The biggest goals for the summer are to get my WS qualifier in and to make sure I have my 8 points for the UTMB lottery. That ends up playing into race selection in a big way. I have decided to run the Mohican 100 as my goal race in the spring and the Oil Creek 100 as my goal race in the fall.

Some other races that I am running most likely will include.
PYP 50k (yeah it was last weekend, race report will follow shortly)
Seaton 50k
Cayuga 50m
Creemore 50k
Limberlost 56k or NFC 50m in Collingwood (same day but will run one)
24 or 48hrs at Dirty Girls
Haliburton 100 or Woodstock 100 (if I have my WSQ it will be Hali)
Virgil Crest 50m or 100m

Maybe races:
Burning river 100 (depends on how Mohican goes)
The Bear 100 - might do this race instead of Virgil, will be a work / money decision
Sulphur Springs - 100 is probably not a good idea, 50k and 50m are sold out. Might end up pacing someone. Have done the 100 the last 4 years so will be strange not to run it.

Coaching and RDing
The running room marathon clinic that I coach ends this week although some of the runners will be racing at Ottawa in 3 weeks. The clinic went well but the brutal weather was a big deterrent to some, particularly first timer newbies.

I will be helping with the next clinic in June but I am also going to start coaching more runners privately which will include weekly group runs. I expect to have the website up for that in the next week or 2.

I am also in the middle of putting together a new 50m / 100 mile race. It will be held in late October or early November. The last couple of years there has been a 100 miler in Creemore which will not be happening this year so it seems like a good time to start up a race. The former Creemore 100 (and current Creemore 50k) race director has kindly offered to lend a helping hand. Thanks Pierre! Yes I realize that will mean more hills. I hope to have the course details confirmed in the next month and the website up in early June.

Good luck to those running the Toronto and Mississauga Marathons this weekend.
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