Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sulphur Springs Post-Mortem Autopsy .. Training Update

So it has taken me a few weeks to finally decompress from Sulphur Springs. It was an incredible adventure and a major ultra learning experience for me. My hope is to take what I learned both good and bad and apply this knowledge to put up a better time at my next 100 miler. Yes there will be a next 100 miler as I plan to run 24 hours at Dirty Girls and then do the 100 at Haliburton.

Before I dissect the Sulphur race experience I would be horrible remiss if I didn't mention a couple of things about the race itself. If you want to do a 100 miler you cant go wrong with this one. The race extremely well run and organized. The race director should be commended on this because putting on a race of any kind is no small feat. The trail was well marked, I didn't get lost once and I am a directional idiot. I can get lost in my own apartment for god sake. The aid stations and volunteers were also fantastic, heck they never once mentioned how terrible I looked. I would and will run this race again (hopefully next year).

So here is some of the stuff I learned out on 100 mile trail.

The Good
My fitness level is way up there thanks to the relentless training. I worried that maybe I was not well enough trained but the program I was on prepared me well especially for the hills. I will not curse and swear at the Boston Special training route (and Roger) as much. I will still curse just not as much.

I am a decent warm weather runner ( I kind of already knew that). Even so the heat sucked the life out of me.

I can put up with a hell of a lot of pain.

I have awesome friends to crew and pace me.

Things that went wrong and need to get sorted out.
I started out to fast. Turns out that just like ever other race distance I have ever run going out to fast costs you and it appears that the longer the race the more it costs. We are not talking a little to fast either. For those that run shorter distances imagine if you started out in a 10k 30 seconds faster then your race pace, you get the picture I am sure. Usually this takes me about 3 races to figure out at any given race distance but I am vowing to get this one right next time by purposely going out too slow.

Calorie intake. This was a big problem and the one I am most concerned with. I usually have a lead stomach and until this race never had a problem eating and drinking. That said I never ran 100 miles either. Somehow I have to get better at this for next time. Not sure what I am going to add food wise as my standbys like potatoes and m&ms didn't even want to go down for me. Solid food is a must but I just could not seem to swallow sandwiches effectively. Suggestions are always welcome kids.

Both of these two problems lead to lost time in aid stations and therefore lost time overall.

Other stuff
There is no such thing as an easy 100 miler. Its a long long way.
After 50 miles the second half of the race really is a mental game.... except for all the physical parts.
You can run and almost sleep at the same time but its really dangerous.
When your crew suggests something just agree to it as long as it doesn't involve quitting. They are thinking much clearer then you are.

So at this point I am also back to my normal training again. It seems like it took forever. The ankle problem I had kept me from running for 10 days after Sulphur and made me a DNS for the Kingston 6hr run and maybe thats a good thing. The 10 days off was the longest space between runs in over a year. Its been a slow build since then but I will most likely get in 100+ km this week.

Last week I did run in the Niagara 50k but it was slow and painful. I spent the previous day before the race in bed with a bad case of the flu. Shouldn't have run it but with the car rented and the race paid for I figured I would at least try. I was really slow, it was really brutal and ridiculously hot. I have no idea how I actually managed to finish the race. Great course though and would have been fun if not for the being sick thing.

Next up Creemore 50k.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sulphur Springs 100 Miler Race Report

I thought long and hard about where and how to start my race report for the Sulphur Springs 100 Miler. So much went on before, during and after the race that it's hard to decide were to start. It was one crazy adventure and I am still decompressing from it. A great deal of it seems very surreal.

For those that want the short version. I went, I raced, I conquered. Okay, not really conquered more like managed to finish in a semi upright position. Staggering home like a drunk after last call at the Bovine. For those of you that have a longer attention span or have nothing better to do while you surf the internet at work instead of doing your job (that's right I can tell but we will keep it our little secret) please read on.

In the beginning
There I was Tuesday afternoon the week before the race, minding my own business enjoying my taper, just sitting at work in front of my computer when I felt it. A strange, but very real pain in arch of my right foot. What the hell was that? No freaking way! Something odd was going on with my foot. At first I chose to chalk it up to “Phantom” pain which can come with the taper territory. There was no way that I could have an injury. I had reduced my mileage and tapered properly. My regular 120km a week had become 60, soon to become 10. I hadn't run in 2 days. There was no way I could be injured.
I had taken my pacers on a short night run on the trails in High Park. We see a coyote in the park, is that a good or bad omen? Gregoire steps in a deep gopher hole and hurts his ankle. Mark pulls up lame with pain in his calf from a slight injury he got on the previous Sunday. We are dropping like flies.

Wednesday - I did my last run before Sulphur which was a really fun 5k relay race to raise money for the YMCA. I was careful not to race this relay so I kept my pacing somewhere between my 10k and HM pace. I was not suffering from Phantom pain at all, it was real pain, very real pain. I did not sleep well, I was in full freakout mode.

Thursday - more of the same with the ankle being sore as well as the foot. Another sleepless night followed. Man, I am screwed. I talked to a couple of my running buddies. They were all saying things like “you will be fine” and “it will be great”. I knew that I would be attempting to race no matter what, but trying to run a 100 miler when you are hurt already seemed foolhardy.

I am exhausted. I am now freaking out about freaking out. This is ridiculous. We head to Ancaster for the MANDATORY pre-race dinner. Kim is driving and coming for the dinner. She was supposed to run the 25k race, but injured her ITB at the Mississauga Marathon. The physiotherapist tells her not to run on Friday morning. She is not very happy about this. My foot hurts. The hour drive from Toronto takes us almost 3 hours due to traffic and road construction. We are super late for the dinner and night before kit pickup seems out of question. We miss a lane change and now are totally lost. Our printed out google map is so small that there are almost no street names on it. I completely lose it and have a meltdown of epic proportions. It is not pretty. I am mad at everything and nothing all at once. I suggest saying the hell with the whole thing. Kimmy keeps her head and assures me that we will find it and not to worry. Something very strange happens, there is a moment of complete serenity in our car. Kim retraces our steps and gets us back on track. I am saved by my most important crew member long before the actual race. We find the pre-race dinner in time and as we get out of car I realize that my foot no longer hurts to walk on.

The race dinner is held at a banquet hall and is very cool and laid back. The food is actually quite good. I meet a number of people that I have seen out at previous races, but had not met before. I also meet some people that follow my blog. I really am amazed when I meet other readers and bloggers. It seems strange to me that someone is actually reading this. You are reading this. Weird isn't it. The drive back to Toronto is the polar opposite of the drive out to Hamilton. Quick, easy and relaxed. My foot no longer hurts at all.

The race
On Saturday morning we get to the 6 AM race start with lots of time to spare. I have plenty of time to chat with people. I talk for a while with JD and Jamie who are both running the 50 miler. I also chat some with fellow bloggers, John McAllister who is doing his first 100 miler and with stacey who is doing the 50. I met a couple other people who read this blog as well.

The weather forecast is saying that it's going to be a very hot day, but at 6 AM it's cool, sunny and clear a seemingly perfect day for a trail run. I am pumped to get going. I have trained for 7 months with Sulphur as my target race (much to the chagrin of my road running buddies and coach). The prolonged taper has left my legs feeling fantastic and full of jump.

I ran the course last year when I did the 25k version of the race so I am familiar with the route. It is a nice course which is 20k long. I will run this loop 8 times for 160k. The course is not that technical, but is hilly (aren't they all). I have three goals set, 22 hr (yeah now that's funny), sub 24 hr (could happen) and just finish. I have meticulously charted what my paces should be for each loop (getting slower with each loop). I have never run a race longer then 50 miles so I have no idea what will happen to my body past that point. I do know that it will involve pain, but I am well trained. I have told every person I have ever met that I am running this race so DNF is not really an option. I have told my crew not to let me quit unless I need to be taken to a hospital. I am going with the if the bone ain't showing keep on going approach. Let the games begin.

Loop 1 (1 - 20k) – Just how fast can I run this thing.
I am full of energy right out of the gate. There are around 150 runners doing the 50 and 100 mile races. We are tightly packed together at first, but soon the pack begins to thin out. I run alone for awhile and pass a group of runners that I know are mostly 100 milers. I think briefly about whether this is such a wise idea. Most of them put up 50k finishing times very close to mine and they are all experienced 100 miler racers. Time to ignore that little voice of reason. Soon I catch up to Jamie and then end up running along with him. JD finds us a few K later and we run in a pack for the rest of the first loop. I try to stay as disciplined as possible walking most of the uphills and taking gels every 45 minutes. The course seems to be hillier then I remembered.

I am ignoring the voice that tells me I should not be pacing with guys doing half the distance that I am. The voice is telling me to slow down, but I am enjoying the run to much. Shush little voice I don't want to hear about it right now. JD takes a bad spill crossing a wooden bridge during this loop. He went down hard, but bounced back up right away and shook it off. I am sure I will do the same thing at some point in the next 24 hours.

I finish the loop in 2:05. This is way too fast and I know it. I vow to rein it in on lap 2.

Loop 2 (20-40k) – I am slowing down, honest / I am the walrus goo goo g' joob.
I spend less then 1 minute at base camp and am back on the trail soon running with JD and Jamie again. Refuelling is going fine. I am taking gels or cliff shots every 45 minutes or so and carrying my own eload. I run most of this lap with JD and Jamie. I feel really great and am enjoying the trails. I am the walrus goo goo g' joob. I am running like a maniac, a stupid, arrogant maniac. I have somehow forgotten the most important rule of racing... STICK WITH THE PLAN! The longer the race, the more important to stick with the plan early and adjust it late in the race. THE PLAN was made based on rational, logical decisions taking into account training, experience and overall goals. Making up a new plan during the early stages of a race is just foolish. I know this because I have done the same thing before and it never works out well, unless the decision was to go slower than planned and that has never happened in the history of racing, or so I am told. Soon we are on the back half of the loop. Its only around 9am, but it is already getting hot. As we push along the top of the ravine at the 15k point in the loop we are exposed to the sun and it becomes clear that it's going to get very hot. JD at some point asks me if I am planning to kill myself (in reference to the pace I am running). JD and Jamie start with some good natured ribbing about how they should stick around after their 50 miler to see at what loop I actually blow up. We all have a good laugh, but I am well aware that underneath the humour is a kernel of truth that I may not be able to avoid later on. Seriously how much could it really fall apart? HA!

The 25k and 50k runners are now on the course. Some of the aid stations are getting really jammed up with runners. Except for that I really don't notice them. I am in the zone.

Faster than my pace charts again. Finish in 2:16. I tell myself this is good, I know that's a lie that even I am not believing.

Loop 3 (40-60k) – Clearing with a chance of fog, somebody turn off that alarm.
I hammer through the start/finish aid station once again. Up to this point in the race I have been refuelling and hydrating well. Also thank god for salt sticks, I am dropping a cap every hour or so. I run some of this leg with the guys and some on my own (they are somewhere behind me). I am pushing and it is getting very hot out. I take coke and ginger ale and fruit at every aid station as well as my own eload. Its very hot, I am finding it harder and harder to stomach gels. I am getting loopy in the head, just a little, but its starting. I force myself to keep gelling which is not easy. The fog is starting to roll in ever so slightly (no not on the course dummy). My legs feel great, however, so no worries there. Alarm bells are ringing just under the surface as I past 55k. I decide to pay attention to them and slow it down some before I am forced to. I am now wondering if its already too late. I walk the big uphills and run everything else. I run a good chuck of this lap with a guy from Haliburton who is also doing his first 100. We are both worried that we have gone out to fast.

I finish the lap in 2:30 which is in line with what I should actually be running. Much of that is due to my purposeful slowdown, but some is due to the heat. I still feel relatively good.

Loop 4 (60-80k) Its too late to say I'm sorry.
Quick changeover and I am back at it. I ask Kim to start meeting me at the 10k aid station in case I need anything from my drop bag. I also just want to see a familiar face. I am pretty sure a big struggle is coming my way. I am moving slower and I am not getting enough food into me. It is brutally hot. I start doing the sunny day math in my head. It is around 2 o'clock I know there will be no cool down until 7ish. That means 5 more hours in this heat. I try to gel, but give it up as I am sure that forcing it down will inducing barfing. Still hydrating well, but this not eating is worrying. I try to eat some potatoes at an aid station. They are my food fail safe and never fail me. I can only get one piece down, not good. My legs are beginning to tire. I am starting to struggle just a little. During this lap I pass 2 different runners that are limping very badly. I also see a number of faster runners passing me going in the other direction (well ahead of me). Most of them seem to be struggling as well, I guess its not just me.

I finish the loop in 3:02 . I have set a new 50 mile PB for myself something I definitely didn't want to do. I tell Kim to forget about the pace charts from this point forward. She tells me I am doing well and right on my chart times, but I know it doesn't matter anymore. This run is about to become all about the will to finish and I know it. I am forced to sit and soak my head in the ice water from our cooler. The heat is now crippling. I stick a bunch of ice in my hat to keep my head cool. I would keep ice in my hat for the rest daylight running hours. I get an avocado sandwich from Kim and head back out.

Loop 5 (80-100k) Dream-state / Use your Illusions / Into the darkness
The sandwich doesn't work out at all. Its dry and I have trouble swallowing it. I only get a bite or two down. I was planning on running with music this lap, but forgot my ipod at base camp. Crap. Runners have thinned out on the course with mostly just the 100 mile runners left and we seem to be few and far between. This is the farthest that I have ever run in my life and I am fading, but I keep moving forward. I am still running the downhills and flats, but at a much slower pace. I am also now having stomach issues. There is a big old giant hole in my gut and the heed and eload just seem to slosh around in it. No food will be going in anytime soon and staying down that's for sure. I consider making myself vomit and starting fresh, but the heat makes losing any fluids seem like a bad idea. I picture myself bent over vomiting for the next few hours on the side of the trail. This doesn't help my gut at all. Somewhere around the 5k mark I break the cardinal rule of distance running and begin to think of how far I still have left to go. I begin to believe that this might not be possible and slip over into the dark side. I am seeing the same hills, trees and roots over and over again. I have begun to hate each and everyone of them. I think I may have actually swore at a few of the hills. I manage to reach the 10k aid station and see Kim. I am really struggling both physically and mentally. I eat some M&Ms and fruit. I am sure its apparent to all that I am on the edge. They tell me to eat some cucumbers at the aid station. I do, they are soaked in vinegar. The aid station people tell me the vinegar will help balance the levels in my blood or something like that. I figure they have seen all kinds of crashing runners so they must know what they are doing. Kim tells me that Gregoire and Mark (my pacers) have arrived at the main base camp. I get back to running. I am losing too much time at the aid stations, but it can't be helped. My visit with Kim has pulled me back from the darkside, but my stomach is a big problem. Along the road a car stops and some guy asks me for directions. I tell him I don't know I am not from around here. He drives away. When he first pulls up I am hoping that girls will jump out and offer me a ride just like in a ZZ Top video, but no such luck. I would quit if the ZZ Top girls asked me to. The next day I am not even sure that this actually happened, but Kim said she saw some car stop beside me as she was driving out from the aid station.

At the 15k aid station, except for my stomach, I am feeling okay. It's starting to cool off as well.
I finish the loop in 3:39 still standing. Said hello to Gregoire and Mark. Kim told me that JD had finished the 50 miler okay and people were starting to DNF in 100.

Loop 6 (100-120k) Into the actual darkness
I grabbed my ipod for this loop. Pacers are not allowed on the course until 8pm so Gregoire talked to the race director and got permission to join me at the 10k point. I grabbed a grill cheese sandwich and headed out. I hoped the sandwich would help with my stomach issues, but I could not swallow it down at all. I ended up only eating a bite or two. Darkness started to set in quickly and I was soon running by headlamp. It had cooled, but was still warm. I had not gotten any real food into me in many hours and the heat had beaten me to a pulp. I slowed down even more, but enjoyed the darkness and solitude. Just me and my tunes. I hit the 10k station and met Kim and Gregoire. They had soup there so I had some and it did just the trick. We had to wait for it to be heated so lost some time, but I didn't care I had to get something into me. My stomach calmed down and Gregoire led me back out onto the trails. It was nice to have someone to run with, even if it was at a very slow pace. I was feeling better and grabbed more soup at the next aid station. This 10k went pretty well. I asked Gregoire if I was in last place yet. He laughed and told me that I was right in the middle of the pack and since he had shown up, there were a lot of people dropping out. He said that the standings had just about flipped upside down from early in the day with many of the leaders being forced to quit. Apparently going out to fast and overheating had been a common theme for the day. We didn't see much wildlife except for raccoons which Gregoire felt was a rip off. Finally, just before the end of the loop, we saw our first deer watching us from the woods. This made Gregoire's day, errr night.

Finished the loop in 4:08, but time was no longer a factor for me. My goal was to just make it to the finish and with my pacers now on the course with me I felt my chances were pretty good.

Loop 7 (120-140k) Something goes pop in the night.
I sat in the aid station and tried to get some more soup into me. I also changed into long sleeves as it was getting colder. Mark paced me for this loop. He is doing a pod cast of the race and recorded some stuff on the trail. I am afraid of what is on those tapes. I will post a link to the podcast once it's done.
After sitting my legs were really stiff so we walked some at the start of the loop. At some point I asked Mark how long it had taken us on the loop so far. When he told me I was totally freaked out at how slow we were. I tried to pick it up some and we slowly worked our way through the loop. I continued with the eating soup trend. Mark did a great job dancing between keeping me going, talking and letting me focus with silence when needed. My running pace was now a normal person's walking pace. Much of this loop is lost to me now as I was way past exhaustion. Somewhere towards the end of the loop, as I worked my way up a hill, I felt something pop on the top of my right ankle/lower leg. I really hurt bad. I actually said “what the fuck was that” out loud. After the race I couldn't remember when that happened or if I actually did say anything out loud which kind of gives you an idea of my mental state. After checking Mark told me where and when it happened (around the 135k mark) although he didn't know it was my ankle and I didn't volunteer that information. At the time this pain soon faded into the lump of all the other pain in my body. Just after the 15k point we passed another runner and his pacer. He was at the side of the trail barfing like crazy. In my own pain I realized that at this point in the race most would be just as bad off as I was. There is no such thing as an easy 100 miler.

I hobbled in finishing in 4:53 so slow I may as well been walking backwards.

Loop 8 (140-160k) Are we there yet / Just don't pass out.
Small rest at base camp. Legs are toast, but head out for the last lap with Gregoire. Even when I try to run I am barely moving. My quads are crippled and I am in nutrition deficit big time. Uphills become easier to take then downhills. I take solace in the fact that each part of the trail I leave behind me is the last time I will be seeing it. I am running on nothing but will power, fear of failure and Gregoire's encouragement. We see a bunch of deer which Gregoire loves. I am too tired to care. As we stop at each aid station for the last time, I find that they are shimmering and swimming before my eyes. I am totally out of it. Just keep going and don't pass out becomes my internal motto. After the 10k aid station I can no longer run at all. My ankle that went pop and my quads will not work. I want to run, but I physically am not capable of such an enormous feat. I am in a death shuffle, but still moving forward. I will finish, now it's just a matter of when. Gregoire does a tremendous job of keeping me focused on moving. He tries to keep me eating, but I am resistant. At the 15k aid station I eat a pile of oranges and melon. I think Gregoire might start dancing he is so happy. I think that's awesome. I cannot manoeuvre the downhills at all now and in the last 3k I am forced to step sideways down the hills. Someone on the trail asks me if I am okay as we pass (a non-runner). I think I might have grunted at them. We get to the last aid station with 1 mile left. They offer me 4 strawberries that they have left which I eat with reckless abandon. Gregoire makes some joke about me eating the strawberries and being from the east coast but I can't remember what was said. I make a joke about the person asking me if I was okay on the trail. Of course I am not okay who the hell is okay after running 99 miles? We head off for the last mile and the last trip up the hill known as the Gulch. I tell Gregoire I am not so worried about the uphill, but very worried about the downhill on the other side. A runner passes us and I lose a place in the last mile. This pisses me off, but I can't do anything about it. I am physically incapable of preventing it. I struggle up the hill and down the other side. Then we are headed into the finish. I come into the end. It is surreal beyond description. Other runners are applauding I want to run the last 100 meters, but can't do it. I finally cross the finish line and am so happy.

Post race
I get my first ever belt buckle from the race director and then find a chair in the shade where I help cheer in the last runners that are still coming in. I am so happy to be done, but also so grateful for all the support that I have from Kim, Gregoire and Mark. While I sit and drink a beer I chat with Helen M., the race director for Haliburton. She asked me how my first 100 was and if I will do it again. I tell her that I am already planning to run the 100 at Haliburton. She laughs and tells me that usually it takes a couple of days after a runner's first 100 before they decide to do it again. I know that this will make my road running buddies shake there heads (later that week my friend Rob Campbell tells me he will not speak to me or Kim again until I come to my senses, I think he is joking but maybe only kind of).

If you are still reading this then you should really stop slacking and get back to work.
Final Finishing time
Place 31/61

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Contest Winners .... Successful First 100 Miler Finish at Sulphur Springs

Sulphur Springs a Success
I was able to successfully finish my first 100 Miler at Sulphur Springs over the weekend. Finished 30th overall in 28:21:07. Now I hurt, seriously, really really hurt.

A huge THANK YOU to my fellow Longboat runners Mark Stoller and Gregoire Bonhomme who guided me through the last incredibly difficult 50k. Also Thanks Kim for all the help crewing and taking care of me all day. There is no way I would have been able to do this without your help and support.

I should have a full race report up in the next couple of days.

Contest Winners
Who won some of my Crap?

Greg (who follows me on Networkedblogs)
Tara at

Congrats. Please email me so I can ship this stuff out
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