Monday, December 20, 2010

The word for the day is NO!

Hello Kids. This blog posting is brought to you by the word No and its close affiliate can’t. Side effects of this post may include crying, whining, bitching, loss of motivation and hair loss. Do not try to read this posting while operating heavy machinery.

NO – I did not get into Massanutten via the lottery; neither did JD so I will not be pacing either. On the brighter side I will put my name on the waiting list and have compiled a short list of late May / early June non lottery based Ultras that I am interested in. Will pick one sometime over the winter.

NO – There is no race report for the Egg Nog Jog. Running this race seemed doomed from the start. First friend (and ride) Gregoire could not go as he had to go to Paris France for a job interview. That’s a good thing although I am jealous that he keeps getting to go to Paris. Then we found out that Kim’s dad was able to come for a visit from out west that weekend. This is also a good thing as we don’t get to see him very often. So we shelved the race but had a much better time with family anyway. I would tell you all about it but is very hush hush.

NO – I didn’t get my full training miles in last week. I ended up too hung over after the Longboat Christmas party to run doubles on Thursday. Thanks to John and Toni for hosting again this year and to Roger for buying me extra beers, which was just what I needed. I find training in December very difficult but still managed to get 100k in last week. I will be happy with that.

NO – I didn’t win the lottery (the kind that they give you cash as a prize), I didn’t find a bag of money walking home and didn’t fart diamonds (I did fart however…. Lots). Opps to much information.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

lottery whining... next .... lets try that again ... revising race history

Okay so I am not going to whine about the lottery for Western States. I didn't get in and since JD didn't get in either I will not be pacing it. It was a long shot and I knew going in that it was not likely the first time around. No problem I will keep putting my name in every year until they get sick of seeing it and I get lucky enough to get my ticket pulled. Turns out that I am only luck in love not in lotteries.

As a fall back both JD and I have put our name into the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 lottery. The drawn is this coming weekend. I hear that its kind of hilly and rocky so just about perfect. I have much better odds of getting in and its a really damn good alternative to WS. I am also making a short list of non lottery alternatives for the spring. Suggestions? The one downfalls of this one is it will mess with my Toronto Marathon plans so if I do get in it will be an earlier marathon for me in the spring.

Last weeks training went really well as I built my long run up to 33km and got 113k in for the week. This week is a much needed and deserved mileage reduction week which works out perfectly with the Egg Nog Jog this weekend.

Speaking of which memory is such a fickle and funny thing. In my last blog I lamented on how I had a bad race at the Jog last year and had not planned to run it again. Strange because when I went back and read my race review from last year I said that "I would run this race again anytime". Weird... this is your brain .... this is your brain on running. Its a good thing I am writing this stuff down because it appears that I might be going senile already.

Friday, December 3, 2010

4000K in the bank ... Last Months Training, Egg Nog Jog coming up.

I officially surpassed 4000k, 2500 miles for you non metric people last Sunday. That pushes me past my running totals for last year with still a month to go. Not as many miles as I had hoped but I lost some time due to injuries so I am very happy with it.

November ended up being a decent training month for me. That in spite of my super cement legs and crunchy ankle….. mmmm… crunchy. I slowly have been building my mileage back up from scratch and ended up getting in 400k for the month. More importantly I am finally starting to feel somewhat normal again with most of my easy runs starting to fall back into my regular pace. Not quite there yet but instead of one good run a week its becoming 3 or 4. I am looking forward to putting some harder workouts back into the mix in the coming weeks.

November was tough for me. Behaving myself is not one of my strong suits. I managed to not race in November. That’s right you heard me, NO racing in November. You have to go back to February 2009 to find the last month I went raceless. Don’t worry though that’s not going to last. Next weekend it will be off to Terra Cotta for the Egg Nog Jog. It will be hilly, it will be cold and we will race the ever popular 10.8 distance because as you all know 10k is just too damn short.

Last year after I finished this race I swore I would never run it again. We ran in horrible weather conditions and the course was, well lets just say it was challenging. Okay actually it was kind of the winter version of hell. You know the saying when hell freezes over? Well it did last year in Terra Cotta. Besides that it was a great race. I bitched and moaned about never doing it again but then in the end all it took was my friend Gregoire telling me he had registered and asking me if I was running it to “convince me” to sign up. Thanks Gregoire? I decided to spread the misery around by getting Kim to sign up as well. Should be a blast, I noticed its sold out again this year.

Ankle is still not right but slowly getting better. Its rarely an issue during runs but I do feel it when I get up over 25k if I am running a hilly route. So of course I have been sure to do all my long runs on the Boston Special route in order to get in as many hills as possible.

There is less then a month left of coaching the Running Room Marathon clinic at Rosedale. I will be hauling my ass over to the High Park Running Room to start doing a marathon clinic there at the end of January. With this location being right in my normal running hood I am going to be able to bring all kinds of torturous workouts and routes to these unsuspecting runners. Crap maybe I shouldn’t put that on my blog some of them might notice. Yeah that’s the ticket, don’t be afraid kiddies sign up now.

Tonight I will be headed out to High Park to run with Longboat as we start up the new training cycle. It’s the return of the every popular Frisky Fridays. I have a feeling this one is going hurt. I expect its going to involve some hard running and me with no fast twitch muscle fibers left after a season of ultra running.

I will be glued to my computer tomorrow morning watching to see if my name gets pulled from the lottery for Western States. I think the email they sent me said I have like a 1 in a gazillion chance. I have made a side deal with JD that I will pace him if he gets in and he will do the same for me. Keep those fingers crossed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Muddy times ..... Training update .... Running Room clinics and coaching

So this week Kim got some awesome pictures or maybe that's awful pictures depending on your point of view that another runner took of her at Haliburton. I remember that it was pretty muddy but had managed to blot it all until now. Anyway here is the photographic evidence and for fun now just pretend its pitch black running by headlamp in the middle of the night with only another 30 miles or so to get to the end of the 100 miler. Talk about fun times.

Last week I ended up pushing my weekly mileage to just over 100k. This week all is still going well and I should be close to 110. I managed to get in 30k last Sunday and my legs felt decent afterwords. Then on Tuesday I went out for 14k easy and could have thrown myself a party once I got done. For the first time in months my easy run felt really easy at my normal pace instead of tired at a slower then normal pace. Could my legs actually be starting to feel normal again? Could it be? I am not going to say yes just yet but all the signs are encouraging.

I have been coaching a marathon clinic at the running room and we are just heading into week 10. It has been interesting to say the least. I have mostly enjoyed it but the clinic is very small and so sometimes there are not very many people to actually coach. Hey did you hear that tumbleweed roll by? No sorry I couldn't hear it over the chirping of the crickets. Of the people that are out regularly there are some good runners and they all are a lot of fun. Some of them even listen to me and think I have a clue about what I am talking about. That is cool, scary and hilarious all at the same time. The clinic ends in January (that's why its small with it being off season, honest its not because of me I swear). Currently I dont have another clinic in the spring as they have a regular marathon coach as opposed to me the irregular coach. Hopefully something will come up tho but if not I will just focus more on Longboat.

This weekend I also start my first classes to begin working towards my National Coaching Certification. Once I get certified they will have to listen to me Mummhahaa!!

Oh ya I did end up throwing my name into the lottery for Western States. With only a 1 in 5 chance of getting in I figure it could take a few years.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Training is a pain the the _________ !

Back to normal training and as we all know training can be a real pain in the ______ ! No not in the ass, as much as some of you want me to say that. In fact I love a nice consistent training schedule. Training has almost never lead to a pain the ass or felt like a pain in the ass unless you count the one time I slipped on ice and landed on my rear. Now that was some pain.

Unfortunately training can lead to pain in just about every other part of the body. Oh my aching back, quad, neck, finger, ear, nose hair are just some of the normal background noise you might hear in our household and thats with Kim not saying anything at all.

On the bright side my feet are getting back to normal and I have begun to rebuild my base while at the same time desperately attempting to not sign up for any races. Its been hard but I managed to take a pass on horror hill and the Hamilton Marathon. I also didn't sign up for the 100 miler at Creemore next week although I desperately wanted to and decided not to run the cross country provincials this coming weekend. I did register for Robbie Burns at the end of January and Around the Bay at the end of March.

Training is going well and I am quickly getting back to 100k weeks. That said its been almost all easy running, tempo and speed work will come soon enough. I am still suffering with a sore ankle that seems to be taking forever to heal. Doesn't seem to get better or worse whether I run or not. Think I will give it a few more weeks and then if its still gimpy I will be forced to see the dreaded doctor.

Should I jump into the lottery for Western States or not. That is really the big question thats on my mind lately.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vulture Bait 50k race report .... OUSER final standings

The Vulture Bait 50K on October 16th in London Ontario is the last of the OUSER races this year. It also spelled my last Ultra for the season. Usually I give a long drawn out blow by blow race report but this time I decided to keep it brief.

Why? Because I am one tired out Ultra runner right now. Even a week or more later I am still too tired to write for pages and pages. Did you buy that? Yeah didnt think so. Okay I am tired but thought I would keep this short because of how the race unfolded for me. I killed my feet, my ankle and my legs at Haliburton and Ottawa. They had not recovered for Vulture Bait (they still havent recovered). My thinking going into the race was just to put in the Kms and enjoy the trail. That plan made total sense until I got to the race and started to hear about how fast a course it was. I began to think that maybe I would run it hard. I could run it hard, that would be okay.

We got to the race early Saturday morning a nd picked up our race kits. Kim was running as well but was “only” doing 25k. Thats amazing seeing how she had run the Chicago Marathon only 6 days earlier. See that craziness is contagious, Kim seems to have caught some of mine. We also ran into Kinga and Stephan who had been kind enough to pick up my Run for the Toad race kit (I DSNed that one), once again thanks guys.

Before you knew it we were at the starting line and off we went. It was a nearly perfect day for running and right away I started to toy with the idea of running this thing hard. That lasted for exactly 11km. My mind was willing but my body was not and as I chugged along the trails I began to question who had poured cement into my shoes. Man my feet and legs were so heavy, unbelievable really. I decided I would except this and just enjoy the run.

This course is very fast (not for me on this day though) and the 50k is made up by running the 25k loop twice. The rest of the first 25k went much as expected from this point on with the exception of my feet really starting to hurt due to the damaged and lack of skin caused by previous races and a RIVER CROSSING. Thats right a river crossing because wet feet are just what I needed at that point in time. By the time I made it to the end of the first loop my feet were &*$#ed. I was forced to sit and deal with them at this point. Time to make the donuts. I lost about 8 minutes or so as I popped a couple blisters, applied some second skin and change into dry socks. Then it was off again.

Second loop went much like the first as I ran alone for the first 5k until finally catching up to Maryka. I had run about 20k with her at Haliburton so I figured I could make her really sick of me by running with her for the rest of the loop. I hopefully didn't drive her too crazy as we made our way around the course. I know that I was making her nervous though as she ran in front and during the last 10k or so I must have stumbled on roots at least 5 times. Somehow I managed not to fall once on the loop, don't have any idea how that happened. We managed to pass a number of people in the last hour of the race and before long we were headed into the finish line. I ended up coming in a little under 6 hrs, Kim on the other hand killed her race doing 25k in 4hrs which is a trail PR for her. If not for wonky marathon legs she would have been much faster.


With the official end of the ultra season the Ontario ultra series gave out there end of year awards. I managed to hang on to 2nd place in my age category (40-49) which is based on the points from you top 6 races. I also ended up 3rd male overall for total points. I got a cool plaque for the age group and nothing for 3rd overall cause lets be honest people third overall is really just the second overall loser HA. Man that sounded kind of harsh when it was not meant to be at all. See the final standings here.

I also was one of around 15 runners to get the Norm Patenaude Award which is given to runners that complete 7 or more ultras in the series. I ended up running 11 out of 12.

Also want to give a big congratulations to Ken Moon who won the Ultra Cup for most overall points by a male and Laurie McGrath who won the female division for like the millionth year in a row. Okay maybe its only 7 times in a row but still.

I am planning on spending the next month recovering and building my base back again. Time to catch up on some sleep.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ottawa 24 hours on the track race report

September 24th / 25th was the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race around the track. It took place in Ottawa on a really great track at the Louis Riel Dome. The track was a standard 400 meter indoor track so no worries about heat, rain, mud, uphills, downhills, bears, sleet or snow for this race.

I really had no idea of what to expect when it came to this race. I have done a number of races this year where I was on the course for 24 hours or longer but they were all trail races. This was to be something completely different as I attempted to run around in circles (literally) for a full day. As a track Ultra virgin I when into this race feeling good about the physical effort that would be required but nervous about the mental challenge that running the same 400 meters again and again might present. I got to say in the end I was pretty clueless.

As those of you that follow this blog know I ran the 100 miler at Haliburton just 2 weeks before this race. In the process I completely demolished my feet as well as straining my left ankle. As I got ready to head to Ottawa both of those conditions had improved but not healed completely. My ankle was still a little tender and my feet while not blistered were still a little raw in places. To be honest 2 days before this race I was still not sure I would be healthy enough to go but by Friday morning I decided to give it a shot.

The plan was to try and run 160km so that is how I would pace the race however I would be happy with 140+. The real factor would be how my feet held up, if they were an issue then all bets would be off.

For most distance races like this Kim and I will take the day before off so that we can drive up, get accommodations and relax but for Ottawa we just couldn’t. That meant that we would not be able to start the 5 hour drive until Friday evening and even then it would be in Toronto evening traffic which is not exactly fun or fast. By the time we go home, packed up the car and got out on the road it was already 8pm.

The drive up went well but slow and we didn’t get into Ottawa until close to 2 AM. Both of us were struggling to stay awake and so when we pulled into the parking lot of the Dome we decided that with less then 6 hours before the start of the race there was little point in getting a room that we would use for 4 hours or so. We opted instead to just sleep in the car. We had a tent but it seemed like way to much effort to set it up.

After a very restful (HA .. as if) sleep we slithered out of the car around 7 AM. Hmmm that’s strange there were still no other cars here. Kim had been told that the Dome would be open at 6 AM. It was after some map consultation that we realized that we were at the wrong dome and that the actual place we were supposed to be was a bit further down the road. In our very sleepy state the night before we had just figured that there could only be one dome on the same road. Man talk about being a dummy. We headed farther down the road and found the actual race venue around the next corner.

We spent the next little while drinking coffee and setting up our tent and chair. The track looked great but I discovered it also looked bigger when its inside. Soon each runner meet their official counter, we had some final directions, a group photo and it was time to race.

The race
Not much to report from early on in the race. I tried to make sure my pace was the proper speed for a 160km run. I found that I had to really work on staying slow. I also just kept a very close eye on my hydration, salt intake and food. It was easy to loss track of this as you circled around and around. The first 50k went really well and I was right on pace and feeling good at that point. The mental fatigue I had expected just was not there as I found myself chatting to different people as I went along. Some people were really flying out around the track as there were a lot of really good runners. Laurie McGrath lapped me so many times that we practically had an ongoing conversation.

Kim stayed up until this point and then left to go do a long run on the canals in downtown Ottawa as I continued to circle. I managed to hit the 80km / 50 mile mark at just over 10 hours which was again right on pace. I felt okay but was begin to have issues with my feet. The areas that had been in the process of healing from Haliburton were now beginning to blister. I took 10 minutes at just after 50 miles to lance and drain a number of growing blisters and apply some newskin.

It was also at this point that I made my first appearance on the leader board in 7th place (men) and by 85km had moved to 6th and I was still running well even with my blisters. Unfortunately somewhere just before I hit 90km I began to feel pain in my previously injured ankle. Not bad pain but it was there. Now as everyone that runs long distances knows the best thing to do when you have pain is to run through, it so I did.

The blisters continued their growth over the next 10km despite repeatedly stabbing them with sharp pins while at the same time the small pain in my ankle continued to grow. I hit 100 km in 13 hrs, still right on pace for 160 but now I was aware that I was slowly heading into deep trouble. Soon after this point my ankle became incredibly painful and by hour 14 I was no longer able to run. Any type of pressure greater then a ginger walk became impossible. Continuing to run no longer became a mental challenge. It became a physical impossibility.

At that point I did what every good runner does. No I didn’t quit. No I didn’t cry, okay at least not where others could see me. I started walking and I keep walking. I walked slowly, very very slowly as that was all my ankle would allow but I walked. I figured I am here on the track and it’s the middle of the night so what the heck else was there to do. It was frustrating but round and round I walked that damn track and my blisters continued to grow. They grew so big that I should have given each of them their own name before they demanded it. How big does a blister have to get before it becomes self aware? The more I stabbed and drained them the bigger they got. It was like they were mocking me. No matter though, I keep on going at somewhere around the pace of a dung beetle. Somehow I kept this up until 6:30 am and then my feet would go no farther so I called it a day. Maybe I could have continued for the last hour and a half but I was so slow that I may have only gotten around the track 3 or 4 laps in the time left. There will be no pictures of my feet in this blog posting. I didn’t take any as I found my feet actually too scary to look at.

Post race
Total distance 128km
Place 22/41
2nd mens 40 – 45

After the race they served us up a pretty good breakfast although it was vegetarian (I knew that going in). Then they gave out the awards. Everyone got a photo of themselves running (sorry I cant post it as I haven’t scanned it into the computer), a certificate with their mileage on it and a finishing metal. I also managed to pick 2nd place in my age category.

I actually really liked this race / type of race. It would have been a lot better if I had not been injured but hey that’s the breaks when it comes to running. I didn’t find it a bigger mental challenge then other long races like 100 milers but somewhat different. On the track there is no place to hide.

I will definitely be doing another one of these races in the very near future.

Next up for me is the Vulture Bait 50km on Saturday October 16th.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I designate this week the official week of Crappy

This has been a trying week when it comes to running. For those of you waiting for my race report for 24hrs on the track in Ottawa its coming soon. I am almost finished it but as part of Official Week Of Crappy my computer that it is on will not start and has been sent off to be fixed.... GRRR

I have not been able to train since Ottawa due to blister issues (that have healed) and a reoccurrence of my Haliburton ankle injury, which is getting better but still tender. This is particularly annoying as I am teaching a marathon clinic at the Running Room and cant run with the kiddies. Going to give it another try tonight and see how it goes. Because I haven’t been training it means that my racing season is just about over. I plan to run 50k at Vulture Bait in a week and a half and may still run the Hamilton marathon but these will really be treated as training runs as I start to rebuild my mileage. At this point I just don’t have a fast marathon in my legs so its time to regroup and get to some serious training. Stupid injury ... GRRRRRRR

I was forced due to the ankle issues to DNS (did not start) at the Run for the Toad last Saturday. I really wanted to run this race this year. I could not get in last year because it sold out so early so I registered in April .......GRRRRRRRR

Both Kim and I got our rejection letters from the London Marathon Lottery on Monday. No spring holiday in England for us........ GRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Kim is off on Friday for a road trip with other Longboaters to the Chicago Marathon. I am unable to go for a number of reasons even though I am registered. She will have an awesome time running Chicago. I will grow some scruff, drink Jack Daniels straight from the bottle and mumble incisively under my breath..... GRRRRRRRR

Happy Official Week of Crappy everyone and don’t worry the Official week of Awesomeo is just around the corner.

Friday, September 24, 2010

2010 Haliburton 100 miler Race Report

I had been looking forward to this race for almost a year. Last year I ran the Haliburton 50 miler and really fell in love with the course. It was tough, somewhat technical but with lots of runnable sections, dry (no river crossings) and beautiful. At the end of my race last year I sat at the finish line and watched the 100 mile runners come in, turn around and head right back out to do the 50 mile course a second time. My legs were sore, I was really tired but as I sat sipping a nice cold beer I thought “I can do that” or maybe it was “I want to do that”. Either way I decided right then and there that I would be running the full Monty next time. Now race weekend was finally here.

Got to be honest here. I was really worried about this race for a number of reasons. I had been nursing a knee injury since Dirty Girls which had prevented me from doing much training. I am in okay shape but was in better shape for Sulphur Springs and this course was going to be tougher. If the knee flared back up I could be in for a very rough day.

Kim picked up our rental car Friday morning and after making a quick stop to pick up fellow runner JD we headed off from Toronto for Haliburton. The drive up went quickly although I think both JD and I were excited and nervous about the upcoming 100 miler. JD had some pacers joining him for the night running. Kim was running the 26k race on Saturday morning and then crewing me for the rest of my race. Unlike Sulphur I had no pacers for this one but was not that worried about it. Just knowing Kim would be at each aid station was a great comfort.

We got to the race site without incident and saw that lots of other runners were already checking in. We were sharing a cabin with some other runners right at the start line. This ended up working out really well as we where able to get a good night's sleep and avoid having to camp out in 6 degree weather.

Once we got settled we went and picked up our race kits. You had to get weighed in, have rested pulse checked and pinched tested for hydration. This went really bad for me. Somehow I was 5 pounds heavier then the day before (what the hell), my rested HR was 76 ( should be 50 normally) and according to the nurse I was a bit dehydrated (not according to the color of my pee). Just so we are all clear here I am fat, out of shape and dehydrated. If I wasn't worried about this race before I was now.

Then it was off for the prerace dinner followed by a course update and instructions. Dinner was good but the instructions turned out to be ….. ahhh ….. informative. Seems a beaver had built a dam and rerouted a stream so that it was now flowing down part of the course, awesome. I seem to remember the directions being something like you're going to come to a place on the course where you're going to think that this can't be right, I must be off the trail. When you get to this point you just follow the flags because your still actually on course. Crap what does that mean?! This was followed by a warning that all the rain had left the course very muddy. Man so much for dry feet.

We headed back to the cabin where I ate some chocolate chip cookies (I am fat already so what does it matter) and then went to bed. I got an excellent sleep and when I awoke to hot coffee and a warm living room I was very glad to not be in a tent. As we all got our gear ready there was a lot of talk about how fast to go out, etc. I just kept telling myself stick to the race plan don't be changing anything now. We all took our time getting dressed and then headed out to the start line. Time to get down to business.

The Race
1 - 40k Just getting it going
The race started and we all headed out in the dark. The first 6k is on gravel road and even though it's dark you can still run it without a headlamp. I hooked up with Stephan Miklos who was planning on running the same pace that I was so I decided to stick with him for a while. Soon we were off the road and into the woods. It was light out by this point and although the race had started in cold temperature (I had gloves on for gosh sakes) it was already a bit warmer and really good running weather.

As we circled the very tough section of the course know as the Normac trail it became clear early that the course conditions were going to be difficult. At many points we hit deep mud and what I can only describe as a swampish mess (ha swampish …. I just made up a new word). You did your best to dance around the crap which was semi-successful but I already was wondering how much dancing I would be doing after running for 15 hours.

The first part of the race seemed to fly by. The course was very tough and by the time we hit the beaver dam at around 20k my feet were already wet. The beaver dam pond overflow ended any thought of keeping dry at all as there was no choice but to run through the ankle deep mud and water. Yuck.

Stephan and I continued to run together and it was nice to have some trail company. I felt really good aside from being wet. I was gelling and taking my salt tabs as well as hydrating regularly so no problem there. I had not gone out too fast so that was good. Even more encouraging was that my knee was no problem so far. I had worn a brace as a precaution and it seemed to be doing the trick.

Before I knew it we were at the 40k turn around. Time to this point was 5:10 just about right on pace for a hopeful 26hr race.

40 - 80k Slight bump in road
I got some food into me, downed an ensure and then headed back in the direction I had come. Stephan had been quicker at the aid station and had headed out faster then me. I got back into running mode and headed off into the woods. I saw JD coming the other way. He was around 2k behind me and looked strong. Things seemed to be going well. Its funny how fast that can change.

I can't tell you actually when but at some point between 40 and 50k my left ankle started to bother me. Hey that's new, no history of that at all. It was annoying but manageable but I began to have another problem. For some reason I began to get a very negative narrative running in my head. I went over to the darkside. All aboard , TOOT TOOT next stop Negativeland soon to be followed by Icantdoitville. This was really strange I mean you expect to have some mental battles but not this early in the race and not when you are still feeling semi strong.

I decided the best way to deal with this was to just keep going and not worry about pace or distance at all. Just keep working it. Man I had forgotten just how hard this trail was. I got to say that it is easily the hardest trail on the OUSER race circuit. Good thing there were some very runnable sections. Oh ya did I forget to mention the mud. Much to my chagrin some of the more runnable sections were now dotted with muddy shoe sucking bogs. At one point I stepped on what looked like a semi solid place and my leg sank up to the top of the calf.

I ran this next 40k alone only occasionally being passed or passing someone. My legs were still feeling okay but I had begun to notice that my wet muddy feet were beginning to bother me somewhat. I don't often have foot issues and I might have changed my shoes if not for the fact that my spare pair were at the 40k mark and I was running in the opposite direction. My feet would become a running theme for the rest of this race.

On a lighter note I attempted to take the last salt tab that I had in my fuel belt. First I dropped it in the mud but once I picked it up and wiped it off it looked fine to me. Talk about your 5 second rule. Then in my attempt to swallow the tab it ended up going down sideways and sticking in my throat. No worries I puked that sucker right back up. Hurray something new, my first time vomiting on the trail. I am no longer a puke virgin. No I didn't pick the salt tab back up and try to take it again, lets get real. Okay maybe I did think about it for a minute but I was kind of delusional by this point in the race.

At some point during this section I came out of my mental funk but my pace was suffering. I made the 80k mark in 11:48, 30 minutes slower then planned but so it goes. Not great but not a disaster.

80-120k Second time out, the big struggle
It's just after 6 pm as I came into aid station 2 and was greeted by some familiar faces. Kim was there with hot soup waiting. Allistair M. was also there hanging out as he was pacing someone. I felt okay but my feet hurt. I grabbed my headlamp and headed back out. Kim would be moving from aid station to aid station as I moved along the course to provide support and her awesome sweet potato soup. It was so nice to see friendly faces and it picked me up for a while.

I would like to say that carried me through the night but soon I was back in the woods and the real struggle began. My ankle was a problem but my feet were deteriorating fast. It was dark, it was muddy and I was alone. I focused on just getting to the next aid station. I was making a running motion but was going very slow as my feet were screaming at me with every step. In the dark there was no way to avoid the mud and water. I began to wonder if I could make it. I was going so damn slow.

Runners began to passing me. I passed nobody. At aid station 3 Kim told me that Steve had dropped. That kind of scared me. Out of the people sharing our cabin he was easily the strongest runner. I just tried to keep going, up the hill, down the hill, through the mud, through the mud, through the mud, up the hill. Damn. I also began to hear a lot about bear sightings. It seems that many runners had some run in with bears on the trail. Nobody had been eaten yet. Not good, that meant the bear might still be out there and might still be hungry.

I was beginning to see other runners coming back the other way some looked strong while others were struggling just like I was, of course they were well ahead of me. At around 118k JD and his pacer caught up to me and passed me. I told JD that my feet were really bad and that I didn't know if I was going to have enough time to make it before the 30hr cut off. He told me that I had lots of time and not to drop that I could make it. To see what JD really thought check out his blogging about his race including our encounter here.

I spent the next 2k doing the math and rolled into the 120 mark at 20:45.

120k – 160k How much pain can you take?
Kim was waiting for me at the turnaround. I told her that I was in really bad shape and that I didn't think I could make. I knew how slow I was because of the feet and if I got any slower I would not make the cutoff. She was great and encouraged me to continue. I had some soup, considered changing shoes but honestly I figured I might not be able to get my swollen feet back into a pair of shoes. I told her that I would run until it got light out and re-assess. I though how crappy I would feel if I ran 98 miles and then missed the time cutoff. Time was going to be the overriding factor now. This was something that I never expected at all. Zombie shuffling while on the bubble is a scary proposition.

The run from the aid station 7 to aid station 6 was 10k. I ran it alone trying my best to keep some kind of faster then staggering pace. I could see a couple just ahead of me and they were walking. I was running (?? sort of ??) yet I was not making any ground on them. There was some really runnable areas in this 10k but not so much for me. I finally caught and passed the people just in front of me. He had stopped for a bathroom break, she didn't look impressed at all (note I don't think they finished). I made some kind of little joke about them walking faster then I was running. She gave me the dead pan face so I got the hell on down the trail. For a minute or 2 I almost ran fast.

I got to aid station 6 in an acceptable amount of time leaving me 7 hours to go the last 30k. Kim was waiting for me there and I was a bit snippy towards her I think. I was getting kind of grumpy. There were also another 5 runners at the aid station including JD. I chugged an ensure and then JD asked if anyone was heading out. I said me and so we started to leave but just as we did Derrick Spafford showed up so JD said he would catch up and I headed out. I didn't mind as I knew JD would be moving faster then me. Well wouldn't you know it. In my haze I ran right past the turn into the woods and ran an extra 200 meters down the road. Damn dude what the heck. I headed back and could see other runners going into the woods. I was so embarrassed that I was able to actually run fast enough to catch up to them.

Suddenly I went from a lone wolf to part of a merry band of 6 runners. This group included JD, Maryka and her pacer, Scott and Dale. We were not a very fast group but we were a very determined bunch. Somehow I was able to keep up with them as they all struggled along. Its crazy but shared misery can be very inspiring. I knew if I dropped out of this group before we made daybreak I would be toast so I just focused on staying with them. Soon we were at aid station 5 where Kim seemed very happy to see me running with other people.

A quick transition at the aid station and then we were back into one of the toughest parts of the trail. At the beaver lake / dam all attempts to avoid the mud went in vain, its not like my feet could possibly get any wetter anyway. As we neared aid station 4 the sun finally came up and we were done with the night running. Before long our little group began to break up and spread out. I came into aid station 4 just as some of the others were leaving. Kim helped me get in and out of there quickly and with 15km left I now began to actually believe that I might make it.

I made slow time to aid station 2 but now with 11km left I was almost done. The good thing was the last 6km is all road. The bad is that I still had to run the toughest part of the race, 5k on the Normac trail. I left the aid station telling Kim to meet me at aid station 3 and headed up the road and into the woods. All the people I had been running with were now out of sight and it took me forever to run the half km to the trail head.

Then something really weird happened. I got really really pissed off. I was mad at my race, mad at the trail and furious at my feet. I was actually yelling at myself out loud at one point. I think I might have gone just a bit crazy. I was yelling things at my feet like “come on you loser”, “smarten the hell up you $%*#”, etc. (insert curse words that you deem appropriate).

Then I started running really fast, faster then I had run in at least 20 hours. It was crazy stuff, I caught up to and passed Maryka and her pacer. I think they figured I had totally lost it. I just hammered up and down the hills of the Normac like some crazed rabid furry forest creature. I was picking up time and then what the hell, suddenly I had to do what bears do in the woods, immediately. Damn and I was making such good time. I ran off the trail and tried not to think about the bear sightings on the Normac. Last think you want to have to do is fight a bear with your pants down.

Then it was back on the trail and out onto the road. I was still super angry and as I passed aid station 3 I just yelled at Kim to meet me at the finish I was not stopping for anything.

The mind is one powerful and nutty thing. I was somehow running fast on the road, somewhere very close to marathon pace. Note to self remember to get angry more often. I was able to hold a quick pace for the next 5km only slowing down in the final kilometer. Final I could see the finish line. I don't think I have ever been so glad to see the finish, I actually started to get choked up. Then I was done.

Post race
Final time was 29:07:30.
Place 27 / 53

I was much slower then I expected but I really don't care. This is by far the hardest race I have ever run and even now don't know how I managed to finish. My feet were destroyed. Below is a picture of my shoes because I felt that pictures of my feet might be to much for some readers.

Morbidly curious about my feet. Go here to see the pics.

Picked up my second hundred mile belt buckle which somehow made it all seem worth while.

Once again Helen Malmberg put on an excellent race this year. I cant recommend this race enough. I have also decided that I no longer buy the beaver dam story. I am thinking maybe race organizers built the dam themselves in an effort to make this race even harder. If they didn't then I expect they may have flown the beavers in and set them about there business. I sense a dam conspiracy here.

24 hours on the track this weekend

Briefly against all my better judgment or lack there of I am heading off later today to Ottawa to run the Sri Chinmoy 24 hr Transcendence race. This will be 24 hours of running on a 400 meter indoor track. I think this may officially push me into the Your Crazy category. I am kind of worried about this one.

The good thing is there will be no mud, hills, bears, beaver dams, rain or running in the dark. The bad thing is although my legs feel good 2 weeks after the Haliburton 100 miler my feet are still tender from the beating they took there. I expect may blister problems on this one.

Poor Kim, I am dragging her all the way to Ottawa. I get to run, she gets to spend her weekend watching me kill myself. Man what a trooper. I am hoping for 160k on this one but it will all come down to how my feet hold up.

Oh ya I should have the Haliburton race report up later today. Its very long and brooding (big surprise).

Good luck to everyone at Scotia this weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dirty Girls 24 HR Race Report -My 1 year Ultra Anniversary

This was my second year running the dirty girls trail race and marked one year since my first official Ultra race. Last year I ran the 6 hour event where I somehow managed to get in 50km. This year the plan called for running the 24 hour event in preparation for the Haliburton 100 miler in September. My hope was to get in about 140k but more importantly to fix the issues that plagued me during my first 100 miler at Sulphur. The plan was to make sure I figured out my nutrition and to stick to my early charted paces instead of running to hard early.

We headed up to the race site in Mansfield on Saturday morning with are friend Gregoire who was running the 30k as his first official trail race. Welcome to the darkside Gregoire. Kim was also running the 6hr race with plans to do around 30k. Weather was great but called for the possibility of rain early Sunday morning.

I was already familiar with the course from last year. It consists of a 10k loop made up of single and double track trail with some challenging technical areas. I actually really like this course as it suits my running style. This year the course had a few minor changes from last year and one really big one. The course was going to be run backwards. No we didnt run backwards we ran the course in the opposite direction from previous years although at some points I began to feel like I was running backwards.

The Race

Things started out well as the 6, 12, and 24hr runners headed out across open field. I felt like I was going so slow as others started to stretch out the pack. I just keep thinking about Sulphur and tried to keep it in check. For some reason my garmin didnt seem to be working as I could see pace and time but distance seemed to be not working. I was a good km into the race and it still said 46 in that damn box. What the heck. I had hoped to run some early with JD but had lost him in the crowd at the start so that wasn't going to happen (strangely I didnt see him the entire race). Soon we where into the hills, I had forgotten about them.. .how strange.

As I made my way up a short gravel road at the 3k mark I could see another part of the course which looped around and then goes back into the woods. There were a number of runners that are usually around my pace running together on this part of the course and they were actually already far ahead of me. I decided to time myself from the spot I was at to the spot where I had seen them. After taking all the twists and turns through the woods and then back around a discovered that I was a full 6 minutes behind them. Was I going that slow? Should I speed up? The little voice said stay with the plan cause changing it last time didnt work out at all. I would make it my mission to listen to the little voice this time no matter what.

I checked my Garmin again, still it didnt seem to be giving me the right distance data. What the heck. I looked closer. Oh crap, somehow I had switched menu set and was looking at the wrong info. I couple of clicks and I soon had the proper distance showing. Man talk about stupid. This is what happens when I drink less then 3 coffees in the morning.

Soon I was running by the 5k aid station that was being manned by Stephan and Kinga Miklos. I stopped for a Heed bottle refill and then was back on the trail. Soon I had hooked up with Rick who I had been talking with at Creemore (he had suffered as much or more then me there). He was running one of the shorter races. We ran the rest of the loop together and soon I was back at the start / finish line. First lap was 1:15 which was 5 minutes slower then planned but that was fine with me. I really wanted to not be too fast early on.

The next few laps when really well. I ran most of the next 50km alone with the exception of running a half loop with Paul Chenery who I was just behind in the OUSER standing and who I hadn't gotten a chance to run with before (mainly because the guy is usually way ahead of me in races). I keep my refueling on course and keep my aid station stops quick. I was also right on pace and felt very strong as I headed out for loop 7.

Well as they say nothing lasts forever especially when your running for an entire day. Sometime during the early part of loop 7 as I cruised along a nice flat section of trail I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. It disappeared for a few seconds only to return in as a throbbing ache that was soon to become my constant trail companion. For those of you not familiar with my right knee its my bad knee (the one with no ACL). It hasnt been an issue for a long time but does occasionally show up to cause me problems, usually when I am least expecting it.

The knee continued to become more and more of a problem over the course of the loop and I knew this was not good. By the time I got to end of the loop it was very sore but with 80km already run I really wanted to get my belt buckle (you needed to run 120k). I let Kim know about my knee as she fed me homemade sweet potato soup. I had been smart enough to bring my knee brace with me so I threw that on and headed back out.

The plan now had to be changed. I would no longer worry about pace and conscientiously slowed down a far amount. Now the rest of the night would be about getting in my final 40 k run while doing as little damage to my already sore knee as possible. I tried to keep in mind that I had the Haliburton 100 miler coming up in 3 weeks and if I was not recovered I would not be running it.

To be honest it soon became easy to go slow and after another 20k I may not have been able to go any faster on my run / limp even if I had wanted to. The uphills and flats were okay but the downhills were completely trashing me. On the positive side I did have plenty of time to get my Ks in even while I was doing the inch worm which is officially slower then the zombie shuffle.

The night running went slowly by and I made prolonged stops at the start/finish and 5k aid stations. Sometime just before dawn I saw what looked like reflective tape on someones camel back. It was so strange because as I grew closer I realized the runner didnt appear to be moving at all. Final when I got within 10 meters I realized that it wasnt a runner at all but the eyes of on of the biggest deer I have ever seen in my life. The deer shot me a look, of disgust as far as I could tell, and then bounded off the trail and into the woods.

By the time the sun came up I was tired as hell and on my last loop. I was so glad to see the light after spending almost 10 hrs running alone in the dark. I ended up hitting 120k at the 22:30 mark and grabbed something to eat from Kim. I sat in a chair at our little finish area pit stop and tried to decide if I wanted to go back out. I didnt think I could get a full loop in but they counted part loops and I figured many people may have stopped as soon as they reached belt buckle status. I really didnt want to go back into the damn woods so I sat for 10 minutes thinking about it.

Just when I had almost decided to say screw it the skies opened up and it began to pour rain. I pulled my rain poncho on but the water kept flowing down the back of the chair, pooling on the seat and soaking my ass. I figured that does it and headed back out onto the course to put in another 2.5k. Not much running here just a slow walk in the torrential downpour. Come on who doesn't like a long walk in the rain. I will tell you who, that would be me. Then the race was done.

Post Race
I got my belt buckle and ended up finishing 10/39. Total distance run was 122.5km. Also got a random door prize of a subscription to trail running magazine (thanks Diane).. Good thing too as my subscription had almost run out. Now if I just learn how to read I can do more with it then just look at the pretty pictures.

Lots of good and bad in this one but overall positive. I seemed to have figured out my calorie intake and eating issues. That meant gels early then a combination of ensure, sweet potato soup, potatoes and strawberries. Also lots of salt tabs and heed / eload for as long as I can take it. Oh ya and dont forget the many cups of coke. I also seemed to get my pacing in check until I got hurt. On a down note the knee issue was a surprise and I was somewhat disappointed that I didnt get in my minimum of 140k done. I think I would have if not for slowing to preserve the leg but that makes it no less aggravating.

Lastly I am officially a Spazz. In the first 8 loops I stubbed my toe on the same small tree trunk 7 times. Seriously I kid you not, 7 times, and the one time I avoided it I was so distracted thinking about how I avoided it that I tripped over another rock 10 seconds later. Once again its never smart to have a party / celebration in your head while your running trail.

Once again this year Diane put on a great race. Dirty Girls was one of my favorite races last year and will rank right up near the top again this time. Great trail, great organization and a buckle to boot what more can you ask for. Finally just for the recorded the reversal of the direction that the course was run from previous years definitely made this race much harder then the year before. Its funny how just running a trail the other way can change it so much but there ya go.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rain Delay almost over time to get blogging

Wow have I ever gotten behind in my blogging and race reports. Honestly its not my fault, there was nothing I could do. It's the marshals fault, they don't give you computer access in the witness protection program. Okay so maybe I wasn't in the program, maybe I was just trying to avoid Mr. T.. I heard that he was looking for me after all the mean things I said about him.

Actually I have been away from the blogging for the last month due to more “real” life issues. First off there was the whole getting married to Kim, wedding in Halifax which was great fun but kept us both very busy. At the same time I was forced to make a change in the career department which just added to the chaos. Added to that were 3 ultras and well you get the picture.

Don't worry now I am back like that chatty ultra runner that gets behind you on the trail and just will not shut up. Oh crap that really is me. I should be able to catch things up here over the next week.

Watch for my Dirty Girls 24 hr race report to be posted later today or tomorrow. I also should have my Haliburton 100 miler report up next Monday. After that its all up in the air.

I am still debating on whether to run the 24hrs on the track in Ottawa on September 24th. Would like to do this one but it will probably come down to whether I can find a ride and make things work logistically.

Oh ya. Happy belated Birthday Kimmie!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Limberlost 56K Race Report - a little redemption

“Oh Limberlost race report where Art tho?”
I promised JD that I would be quicker with this report than the last one. After he dropped Kim and I off from the race I am pretty sure he yelled out the car window “ Don’t take a month with this blog”. Well it hasn’t been a month but it must be getting close so here goes (by the way JD is always great getting his posts up quickly, see his report here).

We got up bright and early on July 17th to get ready to head out to the Limberlost trail race. That’s right another 3:45 wake up call all in the name of fitness and self induced pain. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed while Kim looked a little tired to me. My sleeping schedule the last few weeks has been pretty messed up so this was almost a normal wake up time for me, not so much for Kim.

JD showed up to pick us up just before 4:30 for the 3 hour drive up towards Huntsville. Thanks for the ride JD! I think both of us were pretty nervous about this race after we both put in such bad performances at Creemore. I know that I was kind of freaking out over my sudden rash of poor racing performances. We made great time and arrived at the race nice and early. The race was easy to find but we still got slightly lost as our GPS sent us past the race and down a logging road, around a big loop, back to where we started and then recalculated to send us down the proper road. It was really strange, technology rules, sort of. After arriving we spent the next half hour chatting with other racers. Both JD and I were doing 56k, which was 4 loops of the 14km course while Kim was running the 28km race.

Things began well off the starting line with a 400 meter run down a gravel road and then right into the trails. It was very hectic going for the first few KM with the 14, 28 and 56k runners all starting together and us ending up on single track trails very early on. I didn’t mind that much and used it to try and keep my pace in check although I always worry about this kind of crowding on the trail. It becomes very easy to catch a root or roll an ankle when you can’t see the trail directly in front of you.

The trail was really nice and well maintained but even early it seemed to be ever changing. I wondered if the course would be tough and found out soon enough. Right around 2k we hit the first really big hill which was a tough climb followed by a great deal of technical trail along the side of a lake. It rolled up and down as it snaked along the lakeside.

I have to say this course was beautiful, maybe the nicest trails I have ever run on but also deceptively tough. I have tried to figure out just what made it tough and I think that what it comes down to is that you just never seem to have anywhere on the course that you can make up time. In most races, especially loop courses once you know the course you know there are areas that you can conserve and other areas where you can really open it up and make up some time. With the exception of the brief road section at the start / end of the loop there was just nowhere like this. I found myself working hard almost all the time.

It was very hot in the early going and by 5k I was soaked. The course had great tree cover so you where not in directly sunlight very often but it was still hot with the humidity a whooping 97% at race time. There was a stiff wind occasionally but it was of little benefit.

The first loop went really well and somewhere around 6k I hooked up with Stephan M. who was running around my pace so I decided to stick with him for awhile. I hydrated and gelled as planned and as we came into the end of the first loop I was feeling really good.

Loop 2 – Here comes those aching feelings
We both headed out for the second loop together I tried to not torment Stephan too much with my ramblings. All seemed to be going good and I was on pace. My past race problems where briefly forgotten but not for long. Somewhere around 20k I began to slip. My legs were suddenly very heavy and I could really feel the heat. How could I be feeling tired this early? Oh wait I know maybe it has something to do with my stupidity (doesn’t it always). What stupidity you ask? Come on you know your asking. Well that would be the running the 10 miler Acura road race full out the weekend before. Hey what can I tell you I sometimes believe the laws of physics and the rules of recovery just don’t or at least shouldn’t apply to me. Yeah I know they always do but I keep forgetting. That’s what happens when you get old you conveniently forget important things that might save you from yourself.

I made a conscience decision to let Stephan, who was running well, go and try and adjust my pace. Even though I know why I was slowing some because of the last few races and the Creemore implosion I was getting paranoid about my race judgment or lack of it. I ran the rest of this loop conservatively but still felt okay about it.

Loop 3 – Grin and Bear it
I headed out for loop 3 slow and just got slower and slower. It was hot and I was struggling physically but even worse I was struggling mentally big time. I remember thinking oh no I am slowly headed towards another crash and burn, what the hell. I can remember going up the big hill 2km into the loop and thinking my god I have another 26km still to run, how is that possible. At 8km I spent a good deal of time thinking about what I would call this blog entry. Titles such as “How I became a 5k race fanatic” and the more simple but direct “Suckage” came to mind. My favorite though has to be “Lost: my race mojo, somewhere on the trail at Sulphur Springs. If found please return, reward offered no questions asked.”

This loop was a struggle and I was passed by a number of runners. Right around the 7km mark a guy passed me and soon was about 50 meters ahead. I watched as he crested the rise of a small hill just ahead of me and then something very strange happened, he came running back down the hill towards me. I began to think that’s odd, the guy is going the wrong way until he got close to me and then said that thing you never really want to hear, “BEAR!”.

What? Really, oh crap. He told me there was a bear on the trail right over the rise. It was so strange and somewhat surreal, a kind of okay what now moment. On the one hand I really wanted to see the bear, on the other hand I really wanted to not get eaten like a runner sandwich. I also figured I would be too tired to run away with any kind of speed at all. We decided to give the bear a minute or two to move on so we waited and then headed back up the hill. The bear was gone. I got to say I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to see it lumbering back into the woods. As I made my way around the rest of the loop I wondered if the bear would reappear during loop 4 to carry me off into the woods never to be seen again like those kids in the Blair Witch Project (it’s a true story don’t you know).

With 2km left in the loop a guy and girl passed me. I don’t know why but this really pissed me off. It really had nothing to do with them but getting passed here really irked me.

I finished loop 3 feeling tired, grumpy and wishing I could drink the beer in our cooler right then and there. My loop time was really slow. Kim was at the turnaround having finished her race and I had to sit down and try to empty the crap out of my shoes. They were full of all kinds of debris and I lost about 3 to 5 minutes here. No more running without gaiters.

Loop 4 – Redemption?
I headed out for this loop with the objective to just run as well as I could, enjoy it and finish. I ran along through a trail that I was now very familiar with. Once again I can't even begin to convey to you just how gorgeous this course was. I was running alone, nobody in sight ahead or behind. It was up the big hill again and then along the lake for the last time. At some point I realized that I felt really good and was, do I dare say it, running well. I remember thinking okay just go with it don’t question it and so I did.

As I ran through what I now called the "bear zone" I heard cracking branches behind me on the trail... Oh no. I looked back but there was no bear in site, instead I watched as a large dead tree branch fell from the sky and smashed into the trail 20 meters behind me. Wow that was close, this part of the trail is kind of scary. I pondered this as I keep my eyes peeled for large furry creatures. Then I heard cracking again but this time it was right in front of me. I stopped dead in my tracks and just in time as another huge dead branch fell 5 meters in front of me and shattered into many peices. If I had not stopped I would have took that one right in the head. Ah the forest is such a fickle place. Don't worry though I have a very hard head.

The KMs clicked by and I felt better than I had in 3 or 4 hours. At the 8k point I passed someone and then caught someone else. At the 9.5k aid station I caught up to the guy that had seen the bear and we left the station together.

I was still feeling good and it was freaking me out. This is how things had been early in the season for me (minus my crappy loop 3). In April and May I had been running well early and finishing very strong. Could I have rediscovered my Mojo? I made a decision here to just let loose for the last part of the race and run with reckless abandon. I quickly dropped the runner I was with and before long had passed another. With a couple km left I could hear people up ahead and soon I saw them. It was the couple that had passed me last loop and left me in a very grumpy mood. Now they had done nothing wrong and actually seemed like nice people but I decided that I would make them the bane of my existence. I would catch them and crush them. So I did, quickly catching them and leaving them behind. I used the thought of them maybe catching me like a cattle prod in the ass and ran the last few KMs at a very painful pace. Then I was done.

There was some good and bad here but mostly good so lets start with the bad. My time was slow relatively speaking. I was maybe 30 minutes slower then I should have been but it is what it is. It's amazing how tentative you can get when you are wallowing in self doubt. Also once again I didn’t run well in the heat.
The good far outweighs the bad. I believe I have pulled my sorry ass out of the funk I have been running in and that makes me happy. My time was slow but I ran really well late in the race.

The event itself was awesome with difficult but amazing trails that were well marked and diverse. The organization was top notch from the prerace registration to the aid stations to the post race food. The only thing they might want to think about changing is staggering the starts for the different races and also maybe add a 50 miler. Also some kind of finisher medal or token would be cool as I like shiny metal. This race will definitely be on my calendar next year.

Next up Dirty Girls 24hr trail race this coming weekend.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Creemore Vertical Challenge 50k race report - A crash and burn of spectacular proportions

Well here it is. I am finally getting around to writing up the race report for the Creemore Vertical Challenge 50k that took place on July 3rd. It seems like this race was a very long time ago now, but the memory of it is quite literally burned into my brain forever. I would like to tell you that it took me so long to write this because I am really busy (which is true) or that I was not sure what to write here (kind of true),but that would honestly be a lie. The reality is I was not anxious to put any of this down on paper. Nobody likes to write about how they suck. Nobody wants other people to read about how they suck. Then again I run Ultra Marathons so at some level I must enjoy some aspect of beating myself up unnecessarily.

Before we begin my tale of the horror and woe we might as well get the good stuff out of the way. This is a great race, just not for me on this particular day. The organization and race director are outstanding, really could not have been better. I never got lost once which is saying something for a guy that can become confused in his own front yard. Once you complete the race there is a nice river to sit in while you enjoy your race provided beer and pizza. The swag included an excellent technical shirt and a hand painted clay metal if you managed to finish. I highly recommend this race, but sign up early as its capped at 200 people.

Okay so on with the show.

We rented the trusty zip car once again and picked up fellow runner and Blogger JD before heading out of Toronto and towards Barrie. The forecast called for a sunny conditions with temperatures climbing above 30 later in the day so we knew it was going to get hot. JD and I were running the 50k while Kim was “only” running the 25. We made it to the race with lots of time to spare so we set up our base camp and got ready to roll.

The course is a 25k loop that is run twice and consists of a lot of country / gravel roads with fields and trails mixed in. In talking with JD and others who had run this race before I was well aware of what to expect terrain wise. I also knew that this would be a very hilly run after all it is called the vertical challenge. You would think that would have prepared me for what was to come, but knowing and doing are two very different things.

THE RACE (also know in our house as chris's personal 50k fiasco)
Everyone got lined up to go and, at the firing of the race directors shotgun, we were off. The plan for me was simple and basic. Run a more conservative pace for the first lap and then crank it up for the second. The first few K are run on mostly single track trail along the river which helped me keep my pacing in check. By the time we hit the first road section I found myself running along with a number of other runners that I have seen at other ultras and I know are close to my pace. It was warming up, but still not to bad as we cruised through rolling hills and then over a beaver dam and back into the woods. At this point I felt really good and was confident that I was going to have a good day.

Soon it was back out onto the road and up a massively long hill which my garmin said was 2.2k, yikes.

I still felt great as I flipped positions back and forth with a small group of other runners for the next few km. Just after the 10k mark I ended up hooking up with another runner, whose name I do not know, but who was running the same pace so I spent a good portion of this loop running with him.

It was getting hot by 15k, really noticeably hot, and I was becoming aware of the fact that the majority of the course had no tree cover and no shade. I wasn't worried too much as I had been very diligent at hydrating, gelling and taking my salt caps.

The first loop went by fast and I ran it really well as far as I can remember, but holy crap were there a lot hills. I had been told that we go up and down the escarpment twice a loop but, this can't be right. My calculations say its more like 4 times up, 4 times down each loop not including the “little” rollers.

I cruised into the start / finish line at the end of my first loop in 2:30 which was right on pace and feeling great. This was not to last.

You know when you are watching a horror movie and an unsuspecting teen who is alone in the house or in the empty school locker room / shower area hears that noise. You know that distant noise from the basement where for some unknown reason the lights no longer work. You know that teenager that heads down those stairs even though 3 of their very close friends have all been horribly killed and dismembered by some unknown psychopath and yet still suspects nothing.

That was me as I headed out for my second loop totally oblivious to the dangers that were lurking around at the bottom of those stairs. “Hello is there anyone down there? This isn't funny guys.”

I headed out and the first couple of Ks went fine as I sailed through the single track trail and back out onto the road. Soon I was back on the first long stretch of road and it was here that the trouble began. It was really hot, when did it get so hot? A small group of runners that I had been battling back and forth with began to pull away from me. Not one or two of them, but all of them and it wasn't because they were suddenly getting faster. I was starting to slow, but was still okay. Unfortunately that didn't last for long. By the time I had reached the top of the really long hill I had previously visited only a few hours ago I was struggling and in big trouble.

I spent the next few K pushing and trying to make sense of my condition. Yeah I know it's hot but PLEASE. How can I be falling apart at only 32k? I eat 32k for breakfast. From here on out it became a slugfest. I just got slower and slower with every stride. Just before 40k Stephan M. caught up to me and he seemed to be running well. He told me that he had gotten his second wind and was going to try and ride it out. I managed to run with him for 300 or 400 hundred meters and I know that he was trying to get me to latch on so I could get back on track (thanks Stephan it was very much appreciated) but it was not to be. I knew I was crumbling and didn't want to slow him down so told him I was walking the next uphill and to go on without me.

Oh boy the next uphill was just nasty. The sun beat down, there was no shade and the 800 meter trek was steep trail that was semi washed out in many places. A number of runners passed me as I slowly dragged my ass up the incline. Even worse was it was one of those hills that you think you can see the top of, but then when you get further up it, there is just more hill and when you get closer to that rise there is just more hill. By the time I got to the top I was officially Bonking. I was having trouble running even the flats and it was pissing me off. My legs actually were doing fine, but my heart rate was red lined and I was barely moving. I was badly overheating. I began to consider something that I had never considered before, I began to seriously think about packing it in at the next aid station. I really was not sure that I could actually finish this race.

More people passed me as I made my way along what seemed like a never ending, unshaded, country road that was baking in the sun. Up ahead I could see the heat shimmering off of the road. I was no longer racing, I was just trying to survive. This was so frustrating as I had been running really well earlier in the day and I have found myself usually running my best in the last 10k of 50k races.

As I came into the aid station with 8k to go I saw JD running with Kinga heading out in the direction I had just come probably an hour behind me. JD looked like I felt and I wondered if he would be able to finish the race. I knew I must look bad as well. JD told me later that I didn't have my usual look of focus and intensity that he has seen in the past. See what he had to say about our encounter and his race here.

The last 8k are a complete blur of stumbling along and trying not to quit. I didn't want to walk I wanted to crawl under a small shrub or into a gopher hole and just disappear. I was passed by just about everyone and I didn't care (YIKES). Nothing could make me move faster. The roads were hot, but crossing the fields were even hotter as the long grass just bounced the heat right back into your face. I no longer wanted to quit the race. I was now feeling that quitting running long distance might be a better choice. Why the hell do I run these things... ridiculous.

Then I was finally at the finish line where I had to sit down immediately before gravity helped me find the ground with my face. I sat there and tried to rehydrate as both my calves began to cramp severely. Later we moved to another shady spot away from most people so that if I was unable to control my incredible urge to puke that I could be less of a sideshow.

Post Race
I ran a time of 6:08 which is officially my worst 50k time EVER. I spent the next couple of days trying to figure out what happened. Yes it was hot, but it was hot for everyone and although most people's times were slower, they were not that much slower. I did all the little things right and executed right. I have had bad races before, but I have always been able to easily identify what the problem was (I was out too fast or didn't hydrate, etc.). That just was not the case this time. I don't know, maybe I just have forgotten how to run.

On a brighter note Kim ran a great 25k race so at least someone was happy.

Am I going to stop running these crazy ultra races? Not a chance. Will I do this race again? Yeah most likely next year. This Saturday we will be in Huntsville for the Limberlost Challenge 56k. I guess I will get a chance to see if I suck, have forgotten how to run or was just having a bad day. Hey do you think that its too late to switch to the 14k?
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