Monday, December 12, 2011

Whitby Santas Back in Town 5k Race Report

Thats right you read that title right. No I did not forget the zero after the 5. Thats right I actually hit the road for a short, painful and hopefully semi fast 5k race. Okay so not really semi fast as I have not been training for races that require speed in a very long time. Lets call it hope to run fast enough to not feel embarrassed at the finish line.

Last week I got an email from JD saying he was going to go run a 5k race on Sunday Dec. 11th in Whitby and did I want to come. That email scared me. I am not in racing shape and I haven't run a race shorter then 30km in 11 months. That was an 8k at Robbie Burns last January that was a complete disaster for me. I finished with a massive side stitch and my running form was reduced to a bad impression of quasi moto. Good Times!

I had just started to do some hill sprints and intervals the week before and so I figured I better get on the race course and see just where my speed and fitness are at. I always use race results to set up my paces for the next training cycle so I was going to have to run something short soon anyway, you really cant use Ultra races to figure out pacing. Who knew?

Thing is short races when done right are really freaking painful and even worse when you haven't been embracing that type of hurting by running track or really fast intervals.

Sunday morning JD picked up Kim and I and we headed to Whitby. Its a fairly small race of just over 100 people but that is fine with me. Race conditions were going to be a little challenging as it was sunny but there was a nasty 30km wind coming off of the lake. Did a very short warm up and then lined up near the front with JD and we were off.

Right away it was straight into the wind and would stay like that for the first half of the out and back course. I ran faster then pace for a minute or 2 in order to get clear of any slower runners and then tried to settle in to something resembling an even pace but that was easier said then done. The wind made it hard going very early on.

At around the one K mark I could see that there was 5 or 6 runners ahead of me. My lungs were already on fire and I was working way to hard into the wind for the pace I was moving at. Unfortunately I was gaped with the next runner a fair distance ahead of me. Crap, I had forgotten how important race strategy is in the shorter races which was made even clearer by the guy that was right behind me and using me to do all the work. Not smart on my part. I considered trying to let him get ahead of me and using him but that is so counter intuitive and has its own dangers. Soon we were approaching the 2k mark. My lungs where screaming at me to stop the abuse. The guy behind me passed me and soon had gotten away but in my attempt to keep up with him I managed to pass 2 more people.

We hit the turn around and bang just like that there was no more wind in the face. I saw that JD was about 15 seconds behind me and looked like he was running well. Now with no wind resistance I was able to get back to a steady pace. I saw Kim going towards the turn around and she said I was in third place although I was pretty sure I was in fourth. I could see the next runner about 80 meters ahead of me so I tried to run a little harder to close the gap.

I remember being at 4k, my legs feeling great but my lungs not so much. Who the heck stole all the oxygen, I now remember in a very acute sensory way just how hard 5k races are but I am also remembering why I like them. Weird or what? With less then a k left I can see that the runner ahead of me has maybe padded his lead by another 2o meters or so. I will not catch him so now the game becomes run as hard as you can to get a good time and dont let anyone catch you.

A few minutes later I am across the finish line in a time of 21:10 good for 4th place overall. JD comes in 20 seconds later and Kim finishes soon after with a PB. A good day for all of us.

A few other things:
The course was not certified and appears to have been 4.9k.
I was about 12 - 14 seconds per k faster in the second half of the race when not fighting the wind.
I made some strategic mistakes which I will chalk up to not having raced short in a long time. I let myself become a wind breaker for another runner (he finished second well ahead of me). I also didn't focus on running the tangents in the first half of the race, yikes.

All in all a good day of running now its back to some regular hard quality runs with Longboat to start getting ready for the spring.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Leadville and back to training basics

So if you are hoping to read my posting on my Rim to Rim to Rim ( R2R2R ) I am afraid that its not quite finished yet. That thing is getting written at a slower pace then I actually managed to do the run. It is coming before the end of the week. Honest.

In the intermission for your entertainment pleasure or perhaps laughter or maybe horror I have already begun to line up my major runs for next year. After finishing the run at the Grand Canyon the group of us hung around at JDs condo and licked our wounds. Somehow while basking in our glory we all became somewhat delusional and in this state an idea was born. I am not saying it was a good idea or a bad idea but it was definitely a crazy idea. We all decided that we should run the Leadville 100 miler.

Its 2 weeks since the planting of that little gem of an idea was first brought up and now 4 of us flatlanders from Toronto have paid the money and are all signed up. The race isn't until next August so hopefully I will be back in shape by then. How the heck I am actually going to train for this one is still a work in progress. I live basically at sea level with not a mountain in sight. The race takes place between 9000 and 12,000 ft in Colorado at altitude. Should be a blast. Leadville here we come.

Back to Basics
So with the season finally over its back to basic training. Usually I take a few weeks to a month of low mileage in November but since my injury kind of forced me into 8 weeks of low to no mileage in August and September I have begun the rebuild already.

Last week I put together workout program for both Kim and I that will take us to the start of January. I would call it the base building before the marathon training begins program. It will be a mileage rebuild with lots of cross training thrown in until the miles get up there. I am currently carrying about 10 extra pounds (above racing weight) which the Gods of BEER decided to grace me with over my injury time. Stupid beer, who knew. The plan is to be rid of my extra passenger by Christmas. Its that or become a mall Santa.

Week 1 of training went okay. Lost a run due to a slight hamstring pull but still got close to 50 miles in. That said my longer Sunday run showed me in no uncertain terms that my legs are still not recovered from the Grand Canyon. It sucks when 22km feels like 50km but I expect things will get back to normal in another few weeks.

Hang in there R2R2R report is coming up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oil Creek Race Report

Oil Creek 100 mile race report

Road Trip Again

One thing that has been great this season despite my displeasure at my race results and injury problems has been the road trip. Last year I travelled to a couple of races with people but this year has been peppered with nearly one trip a month over the summer. No matter what ends up happening in the race the trips themselves are always fun, especially when you are in a car full of crazy Ultra Runners. Oil Creek would be no exception.

We picked the rental car early Friday morning, made a quick stop in Mississuaga to get Morgan and Steve, then we were headed to the US.

Drive and border crossing were quick an easy. I was actually suprised how close we are to Pennsylvia. We all knew this was going to be a tough race on a difficult course but everyone was pretty pumped up about it. Some stupid stuff about this will be great to "challenge" ourselves. So easy to say before you have been running for 20 or 30 hours.

I was more worried about this race then any all season. Really I should not have even been attempting it with my leg injury and a sever lack of training time. Stupid injury! It had already cost me at Burning River and I didnt register for any distance at Haliburton or Virgil Crest as I could not run at all. I would have dropped to a lower distance at Oil Creek but this is not allowed (which is fine). I decided long before race day that I would just run as much as I could as I had already paid the money. I hoped to finish but would be okay with getting in 50 miles or so.

We got to Titusville, PA early on Friday afternoon and hit the hotel, stored our stuff and then headed to race registration. Things started out great as both Steve and I won door prizes (free toe socks, sweet). No time to hang around though as it was a 5 am start time. I dont know if you have heard but 5 am is really early.

I slept great and we had breakfast in the room. Steve had the brillant idea of buying a coffee maker. This is bliss for a caffine addict like me. I really wish you could take in coffee intervenously. It would save so much time. Everything seemed to be going fine. We got to the race in plenty of time and Morgan showed me how he taped is leg up for the same injury that I have (he was doing it as a preventive measure). All taped up it was time to go.

At 5 am we crossed the start line and head down the road and onto a paved pathway. This is about the only non trail part of the course that consists of running 3 50km loops and then an extra 7 mile spur at the end. The paved section was nice and flat so the three of us stuck together and tried to make sure we stayed slow. Weather is looking great, maybe 5 degrees at the start with tempatures in the mid 20's expected during the day. It was still pitch black out so headlamps were required and soon we were into the woods and on to single track trail.

Hey look what a suprise we are climbing up some steep hills from the second we hit the trail. Man I didnt see that coming at all. Its quite congested early on but we are in a decent position and keep it slow but steady.

The trail is tough and mostly single track and techincal. Lots of rocks and roots and tripping hazards with long climbs and shorter, not short but shorter, steep downhills.

I look down at my garmin to see that it has shut off. I curse loudly but nobody seems to notice. Maybe my running buddies are used to my foul mouth by now. I have been having a shut down / wont charge problem with my garmin for the last week and it now seems to be toast. I dont need it for distance or pace but do need it for time so that I can stay on my salt and food intake. Piece of crap. Okay thats not true I love my garmin just not the idea of having to buy another one.

We hit a long really nasty downhill with a slew of slippery rocks still wet from the dew and roll into the first aid station at 7ish miles. Its still dark but the station is lit up like main street at christmas time. The aid station is amazing (they all were) and we are quickly out and on trail again.

Just out of the aid station I see a sign announcing Switchback Hill (or mountain?). I dont need to guess what that means. We start climbing and we keep climbing for a great many switchbacks. Its no Pikes Peak but its no stroll in the park either. The course has 18,000 feet of climb over the 100 miles.

Coming out of the aid station I end up getting seperated from Morgan and Steve as someone is in between us. I have to wait a long time to get around the guy on the single track climb. We get to the top and start some steep downhill switchbacks He moves to let me by and I move past him but get slightly out of control on the downhill. I try to recover but catch a root and welcome the first face plant of the day. Hello ground, when I said I wanted to check out the trail I didnt mean this close up. I begin to feel some pain in the ankle at about 10 miles but it doesn't get bad and seems to disappear after about an hour or so.

This is how it always starts with the oohing and awing, the joking and laughing, the general merriment. I know it will not last and by sometime late it the day it will become about the pain, the blisters, the falls, the puking, and the darkness. Speaking of blisters I am already getting a nasty hot spot on the back of my heel. Strange as I dont think in all my years of running I have ever had a blister on my heel. I let Steve know I will have to deal with this at the next aid station as we cut through a field decorated with large wooden oil rigs.

We are at Aid station 2 in decent time already 15 miles into the race. A quick look at my foot, not to bad, no need to lance and drain anything, so I apply extra body glide and catch back up to the other guys. I suspect that the blister was caused by a bunched up sock and once I get running again all is fine.

I had started out cold but now at 9 AM its beginning to warm up. The trail is tough but nice and a lot of fun. My legs feel great. All is going well but its a hell of a long way between aid stations and is almost 9 miles from AS 2 to AS 3. Half way between the aid stations the guys start to pull away from me a little. I can see them just ahead but I am happy with my pace so just run along behind them. About a mile from aid station I lose touch with them and they are gone.

I pop out onto a dirt road and get in to AS3 just as the guys are headed out. I grab some food and head back into the woods again. Hey thats weird, its another big freaking hill climb. Half way up this giant hill in the middle of nowhere I look to my left to see a very old run down cemetery. Most graves look like they are well over 100 years old and lots of them are broken. Its a kind of oil drillers boot hill I guess. I wonder if it will be creepy running past it in the pitch dark later that night. I am not to worried as I figure by that time I will be too tired to give a crap.

I hit the 40km mark in 5:45 minutes. I had figured to be about 5:30 so a little slow but not bad. I am on the last 8 miles of the loop that will take me back to the start finish. The trail doesn't get any easier but I don't mind. My legs is holding and I am running and feeling really good. Before I know it I am coming out of the woods onto the road for the 1 mile museum loop where you run through a park that is the location for the oil creek museum. Just as I get into the loop I see Steve and Morgan about 400 meters away coming out of the loop. They are only about 5 minutes ahead of me so I figure I will see them at AS4 which is the start finish.

The loop is kind of cool, mostly grass surfaces and not technical (sweet). You run past a noisy old oil well that is still pumping as well as lots of other equipment then its across a bridge and onto the road. Here I encounter my only moment of confusion as far as course marking goes. There is a large sign on the side of the road. It says AS4 with an arrow pointed to the right which means I go across the road to the other side and down a paved path.

The sign is very clear but to the left I can see flags headed down another paved path and towards the woods. I actually have to stop for a second and thing about this as the trail runner in me is so used to following flags I actually think about going that way. I read the sign again and then go right, cross the road and start down the paved trail. Right away I see another sign pointing me down the trail so I am going the right way no problem. I also feel better as other runners going the opposite way coming back out from the Aid Station are passing me. I soon realize that I am on the same path I started the race on I just failed to recognize it in the daylight. That makes the flags going the wrong way at the turn make perfect sense now.

I come into the start finish 50km into the race at 7:15 just about right on pace. I change my socks and check my blister which is no longer an issue, grab some food from Kim and get ready to head back out. I don't see Steve and Morgan so I ask Kim when they left. She has not seen them at all. Oh Crap. Since they were ahead of me that can only mean one thing, they must have turned the wrong way at the sign (they did).

I head back out onto the course and a mile later I am into the woods climbing again. As I get to the top of the hill I guy stops me to ask if this is the way to AS4. He is going the wrong way as well so I let him know. Its a great day for running and I make good time to my second trip to AS1. I grab some food here. I am a little worried now. I have not been on my nutrition very well at all. Its kind of gotten away from me a little. I intake what I can and am back on the trail again.

Cue the first signs of trouble just after the top of switchback hill. I find my breathing a bit haggard and heavy. Due to past racing experiences I have come to recognize this as the first signs of a nutrition problem that will eventually become nausea. I down a gel and push through the next 7 miles to AS2.

I reach AS2 and Kim helps me try and get some solid food into my stomach. The initial tummy rumblings I had an hour earlier have now become full blown nausea. Its like I swallowed someones washing machine whole. Churn, churn, churn goes my stomach but I get some food into it. Does it help? Hell no!. Kim , like any good crew person, is pushing me to get going so I grab a couple of Rama Noodles and head back into the woods.

Like all of the aid stations as soon as you leave you are into another major climb. I walk the ascent and try my hardest to eat but my gut is doing backflips. Walk, eat, churn, walk, eat, churn, ARRGG! I finally make it to the top of the ridge line but the washing machine has gone from churning to spin cycle. Good god why do I do these things again.

I pop a ginger candy and start to run along the top of ridge. I am incredulous, I will not puke, screw you stomach. Its only seconds later I am bent over, hands on my knees, projectile vomit shooting out so hard that it could probably sandblast graffiti off of a brink wall. About 4 massive retches later I have just about cleared the system or so I thought. I runner passes by and asks if I am okay. I give him the thumbs up. Yeah buddy I am just great. Be careful you probably don't want to step in that giant puddle of ginger ale and noodles.

It is 8.8 miles from AS2 to AS3 and I spend every minute of it sick as a dog. The race has become a disastrous living hell. I need fluids but any eating or drinking is followed by an immediate clearing of stomach. I puke so many times I lose count but I am thinking it is at least 8 to 10 times that I am forced to make an unscheduled stop.

I finally pop out onto the dirt road just before AS3 and promptly puke one last time before I head into the aid station. Even in the dark they can see that I am in big trouble. The aid station people are fantastic though, they get me anything I want and hand me a chair to sit in. I am thinking that I may just drop here as I don't know how much longer I can continue in this state. I sit for 10 minutes and manage to get a banana and some crackers into me. I am starting to get a chill and someone at the station suggests that I move to sit in front of the fire. I know this is the kiss of death. Its drop or go so I manage to get up and head out. I take a package of crackers with me in hopes that I might be able to eat then on the trail.

Into the woods its a long uphill AGAIN!! I go past the old cemetery for the second time. It is not scary in the dark at all. I am to sick to be scared. I would actually relish a zombie attack at this point. If a zombie was chewing on my intestines I don't believe it would feel worse then they feel right now and it might be entertaining.

I crest cemetery hill and a really strange thing happens, like magic my stomach suddenly feels normal. Holy crap, I don't know how long it will stay this way but I will take it. I start to run again.

I run non stop (giant hills excluded) for the next 7 miles. I cant believe it. I pass a number of other runners along the trail. I feel pretty good again. I chalk it up to eating crackers like the ones I still clutch in my hand. I have been carrying them for nearly 2 hours. Mmmmhhhh, my Precious. I don't want to part with them but I am to afraid to eat them out of fear of a return trip to puke city.

I am now totally back and think I will be able to finish after all. I pop out of the woods and onto the museum mile loop. I am ten minutes from the start finish so I decide to toss the crackers. I make my checklist for the next aid station. I will change into warmer cloths, change my shoes, eat and be back out onto the trail quickly. I check the time and see that I will have more then 14 hours to run the last 60km, awesome. I make the turn onto the paved path and see 2 girls from Ontario headed the other way. They tell me that my wife is waiting at the aid station for me with soup.

All is good and stays that way for about another whole minute before the trouble begins. I go from great to gut wrenching nausea in less then 30 seconds. I am forced to stop running and start walking. Why did I toss those crackers? Why?

I slowly make it into AS4. I sit and Kim gets me soup as I update her on my condition. I begin to get the things that I need done at the speed of a giant sloth. I sit next to the heater trying to stay warm as the temperature has dropped to just above freezing which is fine when you are moving but not so great when you are sitting.

Kim is trying to get me to eat and get up and going but I am very resistant. I may not be at puke town yet but I am definitely pulling into the station. I have gotten it into my head that if I just sit for a few minutes and get some food in me I will feel fine again. Don't ask me why I think this. I should know that its wrong headed but in my brain dead state I am refusing to let go of this idea.

I tell Kim to give me the bottle of Pepto out of my drop bag. I take a big swig and then immediately empty the contents of my stomach again. Damn that sucks. Watch out for the sandblaster kids, its out of control. Everything that comes up is a lovely shade of bright pink, how festive.

I continue to get ready to go out. I have lots of time so there is no hurry. Then suddenly there is an EMS guy there. The aid station volunteers have called them due to my puking. What the hell.

Okay so some ultra explaining is in order I think. For those of you that read this blog and are not 100 mile runners, that means you 50kers, marathoners, 5kers and everyone in between, you know those of you that I like to call the sane people, throwing up violently might seem like a good reason to call the paramedics. Well as most 100 mile runners know it really isn't. I know that might be hard to grasp but the reality is that its a common non life threatening issue in the 100.

They ask me if I am okay and I say yes but they tell me that they have to do an assessment once they are called. It turns out the ladies at the aid station are not ultra people but are teachers from the school and kind of freaked out when I violently blew chunks. Not that I blame them as it must have been quite a sight for the uninitiated. To give you a comparison when I lost my lunch at the gate house during Sulphur Springs the guy at the aid station asked Kim if I was okay. She said “Yeah he's just puking”. To which the guy said “That should make him feel better”.

The EMS guy is soon join by a hospital worth of medical people. I expect Dr. House to show up any minute to diagnose this mystery illness. “Hes run for 18 hours and now he is throwing up, we can't explain it. Lets get the whole team on that, stat!” They try and take my vitals but have some difficulty so they ask me to come in the school where its warmer. I reluctantly go as minutes are ticking away.

It takes some time for them to get me accessed. They say that they are worried I might be starting to become hyperthermic (which I am definitely not) and suggest I go to the hospital. Ah, like no. I try to explain the best I can that I am just puking, I am not in serious distress or potential harm. I have run 18 Ultras and 6 different 100 milers. I am not feeling anything I have not felt before. It sucks being sick but its nothing new.

I ask them about my vitals and they tell me that they are right in line with what they should be. I am finally free to continue if I want. I look at the time I have lost, the way I feel which is terrible, and contemplate leaving the nice warm school for 13 more hours of running. I know that as soon as I get back out on the trail it will be back to battling my arch enemy the vomitnator again. Somewhere crouched down, hiding behind a rock he is waiting for me. It is a tough call but I decide to pack it in after 100km.

Post Race
This is definitely the hardest 100 course I have run so far. Its also one of the best races I have done. Hats off to the race director. I can not think of a single bad thing to say about this race, it was outstanding. I will be back again next year for sure.

Although I didn't finish I was not really that disappointed. I was badly under trained for this one due to injury and went in knowing that a full 100 miles was not likely to happen. The great course made the 100km that I did run well worth the trip. We will get this race done next year. You can count on it.

Next Up
Run report on R2R2R in the Grand Canyon

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Oil Creek 100 this weekend

So I am headed down to Titusville Pennsylvania this weekend with a couple of other Ontario runners to race in the Oil Creek 100 miler. I know that you are thinking, Hey I though you were injured? Well yeah I kind of am but the race is paid for and so I have decided to go and run it. This is probably a really dumb idea but I have a great many dumb ideas so its all good.

The plan is to hang in and or tough it out for as long as I can. I would love to switch down to a shorter distance but they don't allow this so I am stuck in the 100. Luckily this is actually the hardest, most technical race of the season for me with a paltry 18,000 feet of elevation gain. Good thing I am undertrained and injured or else I might be worried. Should be a great time. Poor Kim is forced again to sacrifice her long weekend on the alter of my ultra running insanity.

Injury Update
After a couple weeks of no running I have been able to get some workouts in. It looks like what I thought was originally an ankle issue is actually most likely shin splints. Its been a very strange couple of weeks. I feel fine, I run a few days, my leg hurts. I rest, I feel fine, I run a few days, my leg hurts. You get the picture. Even when I do run its short so I have been doing weight workouts and spin classes to try and keep some level of fitness.

This has been as much of a mental roller coaster as it has been physical. I feel great for a few days and start to think about upping my training only to be back in pain where I sulk and wonder if I will ever feel normal again. I have been bouncing between emotional highs and crashing, crushing lows like a 5 year old with a fist full of pixie sticks headed for their next sugar rush.

Oh before I forget spin classes really suck. Its like a room where time stands still. I can get a good workout but sorry it just sucks. I can run all day and never even think about how long I have been running but put me on that stupid bike and minutes become hours. Clearly these bikes are located in some kind of temporal time rift. Who would have ever guessed that the laws of the universe don't apply at the YMCA. Yesterday I biked for at least 30 minutes yet when I looked down at the time only 9 minutes had passed. GRRRR!

Look for the Oil Creek Race Report next week.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pikes Peak Marathon Race Report

Three years ago, actually just after I started running marathons, I did what most long distance runners do. I created my racing bucket list. If you haven't done this yet don't worry you will, its just one of those things runners end up doing. When I created this it included the usual suspects like Boston, New York and London but it also had some races that were off the beaten track. One of those races was the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado. With a reputation as being the hardest marathon in North America no other sales pitch was required to have it make my list.

Two years ago when I began doing Ultra Marathons my bucket list ended up going through some major renovations. I began to care a lot less about running Boston (more about this in a later post) and New York. Western States and UTMB became the must do races however one thing didn't change and that was that Pikes Peak was still right on top of that list.

For those of you unfamiliar with this race its a 13 mile climb up a mountain and then 13 miles back down. That doesn't sound hard enough? Well then you have to take in to consideration that you start at 6000 ft and then climb 8000ft to the summit at 14,115 feet with more then 3 miles of it above the tree line. On top of that its mostly single track trail shared by both the runners going up and back down so collision potential is high.

Since I had never been to Colorado we decided to make this race into a week vacation and so I dragged both my wife Kim and my mother along to participate / observe my never ending quest to do really dumb things. I had managed to talk Kim into registering for the Ascent (13 miles up) which is run the day before the marathon. I mean how hard could it be?

We flew in to Colorado Springs on Friday afternoon. A quick scan of the horizon revealed the monstrosity that we were suppose to run. How did we know which mountain was Pikes, thats easy we just looked for the highest one.

Kim at the Airport

A quick stop at our hotel and then we were off to the race kit pickup. Got our kits no problem but of course no shirt as you don't get a shirt until you finish. Damn didn't I pay for that already. How dare they make me earn it. Expo was pretty small and featured the only disappointing thing about the race. The official race jackets were sold out in my size. Damn dude what the hell. I had squirrel away the cash to grab one of these things. Oh well more beer money for me.

At this point I guess its got to be said. I am very worried about this race but have been trying not to show it. I know that Kim is going to have a hard time as she lost 6 critical weeks of training with an injury. I am also going to be in for a major beat down. My injured ankle is really bad. So bad that it hurts to walk on it. The week I have taken off has done nothing to help it in fact it feel worse then before the rest.

Before we leave the kit pickup I do what I have come to refer to as my "test run". I jog for about 15 meters. My ankle is excruciatingly painful. I can not believe that it hurts so much. I begin to suspect that there will be no race for me on Sunday.

Saturday Ascent
We head down to the start line to see Kim off. She looks pretty nervous but is up for giving the race a try.

After Kim heads out me and my mom head up to the summit via the train. Man its really high. I walk down past the finish line to try and get a better picture of runners coming up the mountain. I only climb down 50 meters or so but am sucking wind like theres no tomorrow. Crap what the heck have I gotten myself into. I have never been at altitude before and if walking feels like this running is going to be really hard.

We head back down the mountain to wait for Kim to finish. Unfortunately she ended up missing a cutoff by 2 minutes and DNFs. Its her first DNF and she is very upset by this (I know all about DNFing grief) but I am so proud of her for even trying given how difficult the course is and her injury issues. Read her blog account of her race HERE

Sunday Marathon
I get up at 5 AM and soon we are on the way to the start line. My ankle is hurting. I am not really sure I can even start the race but decide to give it a try. I know I will be slow and probably do more damage to myself but then I don't want the regret of not at least trying to run. I had expected to run the race in 6 - 6:30 depending on how much of a factor the altitude becomes. I am now going to be running just to make it under the 10 hour cut off. I need to get me that race shirt. Just before I walk to the start line I ask Kim to hang around for 20 minutes after the start just in case I cant run and drop out right away. Then its race time.

The first mile of Pikes Peak is on road and mostly uphill. I know this will be really hard on my ankle so I start out slow and look for something to distract my mind from the punishing pavement. I happen to glance over and notice a runner wearing a Mohican 100 race shirt so I ask him if he ran the 100. He tells me he ran 50 and we chat for a few minutes. It turns out that he is from Burlington, ON. I have somehow managed to find one of only 5 other Canadians running in this race. We talk some more and then I see see the trail head coming up so I speed up a little to get past people before it gets narrow.

Once you are in the woods the real fun begins as you hit the first set of switchbacks and start to climb. They seem to never end and soon I lose track of the number of switchbacks on the way to Bar Camp. Is it 12 or 16 or more, I cant say for sure but its a lot. The trail is not technical but its some of the steepest climbing we will do all day. My ankle hurts but taking it easy keeps the pain at a manageable level. I am in the middle of a long line of runners but slowly things start to thin out some.

Somewhere around the 4 mile mark the climbing temporarily comes to an end and we are treated to some nice flat trail running and even a couple of small downhills. Its a welcome break that lasts for the next couple of miles. I want to push some but its a no go with the lame foot. I have also started to feel the altitude and the lack of air is causing me to breath heavy. I wonder what it will be like higher up but try not to think to much about it.

Soon enough the climbing starts again as we move through the last mile before Bar Camp. As I turn a corner I look to my left and see a large doe less then 5 feet off the trail. It is chewing a mouthful of grass and staring at me with a who the hell are you look on its face. Its so close I could probably reach out and touch it. Five feet behind the doe is a much larger stag who seems very unimpressed. As I pass by the deer I pray they will not bolt and run me over. I also am thankful that it wasn't a bear.

I hit the aid station at Barr Camp, half way up the mountain, in 2 hours. I am happy with this given my situation. The weather has been great so far, warm, sunny and not a cloud in the sky. So far the trail has not been technical at all but a mile later this all changes. The higher up we go the rockier it gets and straight ahead running shifts to picking you lines and footing. Usually I love this stuff but not when I am gimpy. It makes for tough going. Its also becoming harder to get enough oxygen to my lungs, my chest feels like it is being squeezed in a bear hug. Come on lungs do your thing.

Somewhere before A-Frame the lead runner Matt Carpenter passes me going back down the mountain at roughly the speed of light. Its truly surreal. As far as I can tell he is 8 miles ahead of me already. I don't see another runner descending for a good 45 minutes.

The technical running causes me more pain and I am getting slower the higher up I climb. By the time I reach the A-Frame aid station I am beginning to struggle. I am well below the cut off times but still I feel the wheels could come off at any point in time. If I can just finish this race I swear to god that I will take time off and let my ankle heal properly. Is it just me or is making deals with god a really bad sign.

Within minutes of heading out of A-Frame the trees become short, stubby and increasingly farther apart. Soon I am passed the tree line and into the rocky part of the climb. At first this goes reasonably well or at least as well as it can go when there is no air to breath. At some point after 12,000 ft things begin to get really tough. I am moving slower then I ever though possible, the lack of oxygen is making even basic thinking a major chore and now runners are coming down at me a regular intervals. This makes the technical climbing even more of a challenge.

I ever so slowly make my way up the 16 golden stairs. There are no stairs instead there are switchbacks, the 16 switch backs of hell. I keep thinking I will be at the top soon but every time I look up I can see a winding column of people still climbing. The tempeture has started to cool and a nice cold wind is blowing into my face. I am just thinking about how nice it feels when I hear a race marshall yell out "Thats not a good wind, weathers coming in".

What? I look over my shoulder to see that the clear blue sky has been replaced with dark fast moving storm clouds. Oh crap! I make an effort to pick up my snails pace to a slow death march in hopes of getting off the summit before the storm hits. A couple of minutes before I get to the turn around a runner going the other way yells at me "It gets way easier once you turn around". I have my doubts about this. I am crashing in slow motion and cant imagine that easier is on the menu anytime soon.

I hit the summit in 4:48 turn around and head back down. Two things happen almost instantaneously, my ankle is now in severe pain and I can breath again. The bracing needed to go downhill is putting pressure on my ankle in such a way that it makes things worse, much worse. Yet now heading downhill instead of up I can breath almost normally.

As I attempt to run the 3 miles back to the tree line I can feel the temperature drop and then suddenly I am being showered with ice pellets. They are small but they hurt especially on my bare arms and shoulders. I think about putting on my jacket but don't want to take the time to get it out of my pack. I am racing (slowly) to get back under the tree line before there is any lightning. My leg is not letting me move fast however and everyone and their dog is passing me along here.

I struggle with this very technical portion. Not only do I have to pick my footing carefully but I also have to try and pick footing that prevents me from having to step down any significant drops onto my screaming ankle. This is really tough to do and makes for slow going. I make it to the stubby trees and then into the tree line just as the ice pellets let up and I hear the first crack of thunder.

Now I am beginning to think I might just make it to the end of this race. I have lots of time left to finish and before I know it I am out of the technical section. I pass two search and rescue people taking out a runner on horseback. He looks okay but he is not very happy. Seeing the horses makes me realize just how in the wild I actually am. Then I am coming into Barr Camp.

Its all straight ahead running from here with some very steep downhills but very little technical. I am able to get into a rhythm and begin to run better. I am still slow but thats okay. I see the 3 miles to finish sign and I still have 3 hours until the cut off. I know I will finish this unless my foot falls off. I slow down a little on purpose as I want to make sure I don't fall now and hurt myself more. I am also frustrated as I wind down the switchbacks. My legs feel great and so strong but I cant really use them. My strength is downhill running and I cant capitalize on it. It sucks but I just remind myself that I didn't think I would be running at all.

I head out of the trail and onto the road for the final stretch to the finish. Its downhill and road but I fight the urge to speed up. Somewhere in the back of my mind I have an image of my ankle finally giving out half a mile from the finish line and me attempting to crawl it in.

As I run along I look down at the road and see the word BEER drawn in large pink chalk letters with an arrow pointed towards some people on the sidelines. As I reach them they hand me a small cup of beer which I gladly accept. It is the best tasting beer I have ever had and by the time I down it I am almost at the finish line.

I end up crossing the finish line in 8:01:11.

Post Race
Kim and my mum are waiting at the finish line. With the exception of my ankle I feel great. I pick up my shirt and medal and then we go to the post run area. They have Mr. Sub sandwiches, brownies and beer which turns out to be an excellent combination.

I think I can honestly say that this was one of the best races I have ever run. Every single aspect of this race was outstanding from registration, to aid stations, to course, to post race. These guys really take care of their runners in what must be a logistical nightmare. I cant recommend this race enough. Oh and also its really freaking hard (this years winning time was 3:48).

So is this the hardest marathon in North America? I cant say for sure but I don't know how you could make a race harder then this. I will be doing this one again with the hope of being able to run on both legs next time, although I most probably will be doing the Double (Saturday Ascent, Sunday Marathon).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

No Haliburton ... No Lean Horse ... No Fun ... Injury Update

Okay, I know I promised to post my race report on the Pikes Peak Marathon. Its coming, I am just really slow right now, kind of like in the race itself. In place of the regularly scheduled report is a bunch of other totally uninteresting claptrap. Maybe like me you have nothing better to do with your time and if so I highly encourage you to read on.

Injury has played a major story in the second half of this season. Its cost me time in races and definitely has helped a DNF or 2 along. Turns out that no matter how tough you are or think you are when your body will not work properly you are in for a rough go of it. After a very painful Pikes Peak (more about this in my next post) its become time to deal with this crap.

No Lean Horse
So that meant no Lean Horse in South Dakota for me. Did I make the smart decision and decide not to run this race? Oh course I didn't. Have you not read my blog before this? Have you not gotten a first hand look at my sometimes wonky "its only pain" mentality? Should I repost pictures of my destroyed feet or deer in the headlights expressions during other races?

You might then wonder how I ended up not running at Lean Horse. That answer is simple. They would not let me. Thats right kids I was not allow to register or run. So just how did that happen? Well it went something like this. With a never ending ankle problem and Pikes Peak the weekend before I decided to hold off registering until after I ran up the mountain. Even before I toed the line at Pikes it was painfully obvious that I was not going to run 100 miles at Lean Horse but maybe I could get in 50 miles or 50k.

After finishing Pikes in a state of perpetual limp I though my chances of running at Lean Horse were slim to none. That said we had a hotel booked in Hot Springs so I was still in TBD mode. As the week went on my ankle slowly felt better and by Friday morning a short (like 30 feet) test run was pain free. I knew if I ran any really distance it would start to hurt but screw it, seriously when the heck am I going to be in South Dakota again? I figured I could muscle through 50km on a flat course. I mean I made it 42km on a mountain the week before.

On friday morning we left Deadwood S.D. and headed down Hot Springs with a stop at Mount Rushmore along the way. I figured I would register at package pick up. Honestly I didn't anticipate a problem at all. I mean its not the NYC Marathon for gods sake, its a fairly small ultra. Well I was wrong.

At sometime around 5 or 6 oclock we arrived at the pick up area. I went in, found the person giving out the bibs and asked if I could register. She said she was not sure then asked another guy who informed me that online registration closed on Wednesday. Okay but do I look like I got a computer in my hands here? Seriously you could have knocked me over with a feather at that point. That sound that they heard was my jaw hitting the floor. I mean really is it that hard to take my money and issue me a bib? Really?

In fairness to the race, yes online registration was closed and I really don't know if there was anything on the website about no day before in person registration. Maybe there was. I couldn't find it but I was looking at the site on an Iphone. I have not been able to bring myself to go look again from home. I was pretty disappointed and to be honest just a tad bit bitter about the whole thing. Ultras are usually so accommodating if they haven't hit the cap and I was really caught off guard.

Its my fault that I didn't preregister but that doesn't make me feel any better or any less bitter. That didn't last long though. The next day we headed back to Deadwood for a huge classic car event. Live music, 20 - 30,000 people, restored muscle cars and 2 dollar beers in refillable glasses now what could be better then that.

Okay I lied I am still really %#&* bitter about this but in the end not running was probably a good thing given the continuing Ankle Saga.

A trip to the Doctor
Once home my ankle felt better, until I ran that is. Soon it was more ankle pain and time to head to the doctor because supposedly doctors know stuff. I am skeptical about this but was willing to try anything at this point. After the poking and prodding and xrays and scans there was a small glimmer of hope. No fracture (I was really worried it was a stress fracture), some tendonitis attributed to the injure and a suspected partial tendon / ligament tear.

That means rest should cure all. I can still run as much as the pain will allow.

No Haliburton

In an effort to get this thing healthy again I pulled the plug on running anything at Haliburton. I had though about a slow 50km or maybe pacing but I am trying to be smart. This sucks as I love running Haliburton, its exactly the kind of trail I enjoy running on most of all.

That said I have got to get healthy. The Oil Creek 100 miler is in 1 month and I am worried about being healthy for that. I am also very concerned that I will be sadly out of shape for what is by all accounts a tough 100. My mileage was low to near non existent in August as I recovered from Burning River and battled injury. I don't foresee running again for 4 -6 days and then I will be forced to keep the mileage low. I will try and do some biking / elliptical at the gym but its not the same.

Next up the Pikes Peak Marathon Race Report

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pikes Peak Marathon this weekend ... Injury update

On Friday morning Kim and I will board a flight and head out to Colorado Springs for some Mountain Madness. On Saturday Kim will take on the Pikes Peak Ascent and then on Sunday I will run (I use that word lightly) the Pikes Peak Marathon.

I might have to pack some adult diapers because at this point I am on the verge of crapping in my pants. This seemed like a great idea when I first signed up. What an awesome idea, start at 6000 feet, climb 13 miles to 14,115 feet and then turn around and run back down. I mean how hard could that be there is only one uphill and one downhill on the entire course. So the one hill is the entire thing but I just ignored that part.

Then I ran Bear Mountain which is a speed bump compared to Pikes and that was kind of hard with no where near the sustained and constant elevation gain. Oh and just to make it all the more interesting there is that whole above the tree line, at altitude, 40 percent less oxygen thing that I will be experiencing for the first time. For those of you that dont live near Toronto that means my altitude training takes place at 100 ft. above sea level. There are no mountains here although I did lots of hill running. The closest thing I did to high altitude training was sitting in the cheap seats at the Skydome. I didnt even bother to go up to the top of the CN Tower.

So why did I pick this race. Am I crazy ... well yeah kind of but that wasn't it. I got it into my head that someday I wanted to run some of the more well know US 100 milers. Leadville and Wasatch are two that immediately come to mind but besides the running 100 miles they have another component that adds to the difficulty level for a flatland runner like me. They are run at high altitudes. Now I am not stupid (stop laughing), just crazy so I figured I would run something shorter at altitude first and see what that feels like. Running the shorter marathon distance seemed like just the ticket. Worse yet I have dragged Kim into this kamikaze mission as well.

At this point my biggest worry is not the climb its actually the 13 miles of downhill on shared single track trail with runners going in each direction. The downhill is always the running that beats the legs up badly and this downhill is going to be a quad buster for sure.

Injury Update
My run at Pikes Peak will be made even more difficult as I am currently nursing a bad ankle. As some of you already know I turned my ankle at the Limberlost 56km run a month ago. It gave me some issues at the Burning River 100 but felt okay a few days after. The next weekend I ran at Dirty Girls with a plan to put in 40 -80km but stopped at 40 when the ankle began to hurt. Last week it felt great even during some hard hill work but then on Saturday I aggravated it at Canada's Wonderland. Apparently it didn't like all the roller coasters and water park.

I was forced to shut my sunday run down after just 3km as a precaution. That is not good. Its feeling better but not healed yet. I will not run this week and hope that it feels better before Sunday. Just to be clear I could run right now but I want to get this thing as close to 100% as I can.

The original plan was then to run something at the Lean Horse in South Dakota the following weekend but right now the distance is up in the air. Whether I attempt 100, 50m or 50km will all depend on how the ankle fares this sunday.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Burning River 100 Miler Race Report

So it's official. I hate Ohio. I am serious, Ohio sucks. Not the people of Ohio, they are actually very nice, just Ohio itself. The state motto should be changed to "Come to Ohio and be Roasted Alive" or maybe just "Ohio the State that Sucks". Okay enough complaining and now on to race report.

We headed to Ohio Friday morning. Kim had rented a van and our small group of 6 (4 official racers) managed to meet up and head out of town before 9 am. The drive down to Akron was mostly uneventful but lots of fun. Traveling with a group of other Ultra Runners who by the very nature of their sport are a little bit off center (that is as nice as I can word it) is hilariously entertaining, inspiring and somewhat scare when you come to the realization that you actually fit in with these people. Its like you all have a date with the executioner but will pretend its just another normal day.

Nobody is willing to give anyone a break. For instance while we were stuck for an hour in line at the border one of our group needed a bathroom break badly. Unfortunately for him you cant get out of your car so he had to grin and bare it. Do you think anyone would give the guy a break. Hell no, for some reason the car conversations kept coming back to how others had been in similar situations, talk of rain showers and my personal favourite, Steve talking about installing sprinkler systems. Sweet.

Soon enough we were pulling into the hotel and checking in. Stayed at a great hotel right next to the finish line so making it back to your room after the race would not be an epic struggle. We all headed up together to race registration and the pasta meal which was actually decent. The race swag was a really nice hoodie. Awesome.

Later we head back to the room for a pre sleep beer. Since we were catching the bus at 3 am it was going to be a very early night for us. That was the plan. Unfortunately for me I went to bed at 9:30ish but could not sleep. If you have read my blogs before you might be aware that every so often I have bouts of insomnia. This has nothing to do with racing, I just have trouble sleeping for a few days then everything goes back to normal. Usually this doesn't coincide with a race but it has twice this year (at this race and at Bear Mountain). Unlike at Bear Mountain I had slept well the night before so was not that concerned. Then it was up at out to catch the bus to the start line. Sweet.

By the time the bus got to the start line I was feeling nervous but excited. I felt good physically and was raring to avenge my DNF at Mohican. My injured ankle felt okay and since this was a point to point course I would only see each rock, root and hill once. My little nagging internal voice that warns of impending danger was mostly silent but not totally mute. There was no long diatribe, no constant narration, just on little word. Hot.

Shhhhhh..... that was last time. I know I dont do well in the heat but I learned some lessons at Mohican and I was now used to the summer temperatures. This was going to be fine. How bad could it get.

The Race
Once the race started I stuck with a small group of Ontario runners early on. We had all planned on running around the same pace to start so it was not much of an issue. This group consisted of myself, Steve, JD, Stephan and Gailanne. The first 10 miles were all road which was mostly easy going. I really had to work hard to rein myself in here. It was not easy to stay slow and maybe I should have just opened it up a little faster but that is such a hard call. Its not wise to kill it early as you may pay for it later on. I felt good as we reached the polo fields aid station. I was hot already and it still wasn't 7 am. I would have to watch the heat closely.

The next section is mostly horse trail and tow path. It goes well, I feel good and am running just a little slower then the pace I wanted to but I am trying to take the heat into consideration. Somewhere along this next 9 mile stretch the group starts to break up. JD drops back and Gailanne disappears. I rumble into the Shadow Lake station at around 19 miles. All is good. Kim is there to give me bottle refills and more gels. My nutrition has been excellent so far. Steve and I take a little longer at the aid station then Stephan and by the time we head out he is already gone. It is scorching hot now but so far so good. I wonder how Ohio is not a desert waste land. It is so damn hot here.

Steve and I continue to run together for the next few hours. I dont see Kim during this time as one aid station has no crew access and for some reason she is not at the other one. No big deal as the aid stations are really good. I hit the 25 mile mark in 5:05. This is 20 minutes slower then expected but not to bad. I expected to lose some time adjusting for the heat. During this section Steve and I see a doe and two bucks all eyeing each other up. The bucks both have huge antlers. Looks like there is going to be a fight over a girl soon. We also see an ambulance and the police at a road crossing. Later on we hear that a runner got hit by a car. After the race JD would tell us that he ran with the guy later in the day. The runner that got hit went to the hospital then came back and reentered the race but eventually dropped. See JDs race report here.

Somewhere along here I have begun to struggle. The heat is becoming a big issue for me ...AGAIN. Steve is slowly beginning to pull away. I tell him to go and not to worry about it as we are all running our own race. I am just glad that we were able to run together for as long as we did. My ankle is also beginning to hurt. Although it felt okay going into the race this was not entirely unexpected and as long as it didnt turn my stride into a limp along I was not going to worry about it.

At around 29 miles I am back on unshaded road briefly and then onto a tow path along a river. It is long, gruelling and there is no shade and no way to get away from the baking sun. I am fading already what the hell. The 3-4 miles of tow path seems like it will never end. I am torn should I walk it to save energy and avoid heat exhaustion or run it to get back into cover sooner. I opt for something in the middle and by the time I hit the station rd. aid station I am hurting. I try and get in and out as quick as I can. There is an attempt to get some real food into me but I find it hard to even get down some water melon.

I am back on the trail. I walk some, run some and think about making it to the night and hopefully cooler temperatures. My race is not in jeopardy yet but hitting a dark patch this early is troubling. I have run enough of these to know I will bounce back if I hang in but thats easy to write and hard to do. What worries me the most is that usually the 25 to 50 mile mark is when I make good time and gain some insurance against the tough and slow night running. I am always slow during the night so I really need to put up a decent 50 mile time.

Somewhere around 35 miles JD catches up with me. He is looking like he is in good shape. We run together for a while and then I fall behind. I am incapable of pushing in the heat. I walk some and run as much as I can. Is time standing still, nope its just me barely moving, time is ticking away. I think my running has come to resemble Steve Austin in the Six Million Dollar Man. My legs and arms are moving but I am not going anywhere.

I finally arrive at the Ottawa aid station. Kim is there to help me. I change my shirt and shorts in an attempt to get something dry on and avoid the ineveitable chaffing that is bound to happen when you run soaking wet for hours and hours. JD is just leaving the aid station as I get redressed.

The next 9.5 miles are the hardest and slowest of the race for me. I am in full heat exhaustion mode before I get a mile in. I end up walking for a very long time. In the end my race is lost here although I dont know it yet. So many hills thats what I remember most, many hills and stairs what the hell is up with that, lots of stairs in the middle of the woods. A large number of people pass me during this section. As late afternoon becomes early evening the temperature begins to drop ever so slightly and I am able to start running again.

I arrive at Boston Store almost an hour and a half behind schedule. I am half way to the finish but have to spend more time trying to cool my core temp down. I know I need that time to run but if I dont cool down it wont matter anyway.

I have been doing the time math in my head for the last mile coming into Boston Special. Its not looking good. I tell Kim I am worried about the cutoffs. There are time cutoffs at every aid station. She tells me I have lots of time and not to worry about that at all. I know she is not saying that to pacify me but I also know that she is wrong. There are many things I do well during races and many things I dont do well but one of the things I am really good at is time math. I am able to take into account how I feel, what I am capable of and get a very accurate picture of things. It is clear to me that I am going to be right on the bubble later tonight.

I head out for the Boston Store loop with a hat full of ice. My legs are tight from sitting but once I get them going I run this section well. I pass a number of people that had left me for dead on the last section. I try to run hard here as I know I need to make up some time. I make great time but the hard running causes me more heat related problems.

Once I am back into Boston Store I know I must get out fast again or I will end up losing all the time I gained running hard. A quick head soaking and some food and I am up and off again. Not so fast Spiderman! The minute I stand up I am bowled over with a huge wave of nausea and light headedness. I am forced to sit down again before I face plant. It will take me another 10 minutes before I get control over the dizziness and am able to head out.

The next section to pine lane is gruelling. Some technical running over very root stew trails then some massive down hills with more &%$ stairs then up hill with more stairs. It is finally getting dark and cooling a little. By the time I hit the pine lane aid station it is night and I am really badly chaffed. I track down some Vaseline to try and protect my sensitive parts which are kind of feeling like peeled grapes at this point. I need to change again but there is no crew access here so I will have to wait until the next station.

Then its back the way I have just come as you run back along the same trail. That means another struggle with both up and down stairs. I really am not liking these stairs one little bit. Its cooler now but the chaffing is killing me. Maybe I should ditch the shorts and run naked. Will they DQ me for that? At some point the trail becomes road. I should be able to make some time here but my unit rubs every time I try to go fast. Oh my god that is painful. Finally after what seems like an eternity I reach Happy days.

It is not so happy for me. I am only 35 minute under the cutoff here. I change my shorts again grab some soup and head off. I really need to haul ass now. Lucky for me fear is a great motivator. Unlucky for me the next section is really tough. I run very hard here but the terrain is beautiful and the trails weave along and between huge rocks. In the dark my headlamp makes everything blend together. The rocks are dull white, the roots are dull white, the sand is dull white. I slam the crap out of my toes on rocks many many times in the next hour but I run fast anyway. Then its into relentless hills, lots of climbing. I pass 15 people between the 2 aid stations. There are lots of bushes rustling, coyotes howling and strange animal nosies that I am not familiar with. Does anyone know what Bigfoot sounds like? I finally see the hills from the sound of music. You know the hills in that stupid movie well these are exactly the same but I can assure you I do not have a shit eating grin on my face like Julie Andrews when I run up and down them.

In at Pine Hollow I discover I am 30 minutes ahead the cut off. I have not made up any time at all even though I hauled ass. At this aid station you do a short 3.3 mile loop before coming back to the station. I ask Kim what the cutoff is then what the distance and cutoff is a the following station. The answers are not good. I tell her I dont think I will make it to the next station but will try. Just as I am about to head out for the short loop I see JD coming in from running it. He is an hour ahead of me. I tell him I am racing the cutoffs. He looks shocked. He asks Kim when the cutoff to the next station is. He suddenly realizes that he really doesnt have as much time as he though.

I head out on the short loop. Its really hilly, I mean really hilly oh yeah and more stairs. What the hell! I run as fast as I can and emerge out of the woods in decent time. I am 25 minutes ahead of the cut off. The times seem to be getting more aggressive and the mental fatigue of chasing the cut offs is beginning to wear me down.

I get the rocks out of my shoes and then head back out. I am fairly sure that I will not make the aid station in time but I got to try. I have sworn to never pull out of a 100 mile race again. If I miss the cut off so be it.

I grind through this section but I am slow. My earlier panic running has worn me down to nothing. 4 miles into the section it becomes clear I will not make it in time. Once the reality sinks in every ache and pain in my body makes itself known. I slowly make my way over the last 2 miles to meet Kim at Cover Bridge.

They are waiting for me there. They know I am coming as Kim has been waiting as well. It sucks that I am not going to finish but I did all I could to stay in this thing. No shame in timing out but that is little comfort. JD is just leaving the aid station minutes after I arrive. He will manage to make it to the end.

Post race
Everyone in our group besides me manages to finish although much slower then anticipated. I decide that Ohio sucks. Will I ever complete a race in that state?

As far as the actual race goes I got nothing but good things to say about it. The organization and course was excellent. The aid stations and the volunteers were outstanding. The weather well what can you say. I will most likely return to this race in the future.

BTW out of a field of 315 there were only 150 finishers. Also in looking at the splits it appears that only 5 other runners went longer then me and didnt finish.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Limberlost Race Report ... Injury and Training update .. BR 100 next weekend

Limberlost 56k race report
This is going to be a short race report because this ended up being a short one for me. I have begun to feel that if Charlie Brown was an ultra runner this is the kind of season he would be having. You know the kind where whatever could go wrong will go wrong. How did I become the hard luck peanuts character anyway when usually I share more in common with Snoopy.

We headed up to Limberlost on July 16th. I would run the 56km as a last long run / training run for the Burning River 100 miler. Kim was running 28km as she ramps up the distance for her upcoming Pikes Peak Accent. I ran this last year and really love the trails here. Challenging and somewhat technical but also really beautiful.

It was a nice sunny day, great weather although it would end up getting very hot. Before you knew it we were lined up and ready to go. My plan was simple I would run the first 14km loop moderately fast, loops two and three easy and the fourth loop hard to finish it off.

The first loop went well. The trails were as nice as I had remembered from the year before. I ended up running with Stephan M. for about 7 km then dropped off a little as he was moving just a bit to fast. My HR was higher then I wanted but not to bad and I ended up finish the loop in 1:35 minutes right on schedule. A quick refuelling and refilling of the bottles and I was back out again.

A couple of km into the loop I noticed my stomach was a little unsettled, not a big deal but it did give me a small eureka moment. I realized that my nutrition problems the last few races are more then likely caused by the ensure I was taking. I ran using ensure in long races last year but never in really hot conditions. I now believe that heat + ensure = stomach issues for me so if I am right this could really help at Burning River.

I was feeling good now, it was hot but manageable and I was cruising along totally oblivious just like the Titanic until wham, I steamed head long right into the iceberg. Running along one of the flattest non technical areas on the entire course I stepped on something (no idea what) and rolled my ankle over badly before hitting the ground face first. I got up quickly nothing seemed broken but my ankle was hurting. Not so bad I couldn't run at all on it but bad enough. For #&*% sakes!!

I ran along slowly for the next 6km trying to see if the ankle would numb up or the pain would recede but no luck. It was slowly getting worse. At 25km I knew that the writing was on the wall. I could run slowly and still finish the race. I had run fast early and even walking I could get in before the cut off. The only problem with that was my ankle would be far worse for wear. I decide to shut it down and ended up walking the 3k out to the start / finish line.

Man this sucked. I felt really good except for my ankle which was only kind of hurt. I decided to take some time, tape the ankle up and see how it felt. After I got it wrapped I headed back out for a third loop. It felt no better then before. I contemplated continuing but I had a lot of time to think about things as I walked out the last part of my second loop. This was suppose to be a training run. If I kept going there was a real good chance I would hurt myself more and it might end up costing me my goal race at Burning River. I decided to error on the side of caution ( wow I know how unlike me is that!) and shut it down for the day. I turned around and walked back to the start finish.

Kim had a really good race and seems to be over her heel injury. Way to finish it strong honey.

Training / Injury update
Its a week later and now I know I made the right choice. My ankle is still hurting some but is improving every day. I got about 35 miles of running in last week and it was only mildly sore. With almost no running this week during my taper I am hoping it is fully recovered by race day.

I am really looking forward to the Burning River 100 this coming weekend. After such a tough go of it at the Mohican a little redemption is hopefully on the menu. Its looking like its going to be a hot one but hell it is July so what can you do. We will head down Friday with 4 other Ontario runners so should be a blast. Misery loves company.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What does failure teach you anyway

After a couple of weeks of decompressing (read sulking) from my DNF at the Mohican I thought I would try to figure out what I learned from that experience. This ended up being no easy task. You always hear that there is nothing that leads to future success better then past failures and the lessons learned there. Although I do agree with this for the most part I would argue that success leads to future success better then failure does. That said some things must be experienced to be truly appreciated. If that wasn't true I wouldn't run these 100 milers I would just read about them and watch some videos. Mission accomplished.

Optimist or Pessimist
I think what you take away from a race / performance like this depends on how you see the world. There are those that see the glass half full (what went right) and those that see the glass half empty (what went wrong). Then there are people like me who just see half a glass. I think that to give an honest evaluation you got to take the good with the bad so here is what I learned.

1) I really suck running in the heat.
I should have learned this lesson last year after Niagara and Creemore but the message seems not to have gotten through. I just don't run well in the heat at the start of summer. I seem to do okay once I adjust to the heat later in the summer but I suck during that adjustment time. I tend to melt down quicker then the Wicked Witch of the West in a thunderstorm. Luckily this is solvable so its sauna training next April for me no matter what race I am gearing up for.

2)Volume training works for me
All the many many miles that I put in over the winter actually did work for me. True I basically had no life but hey something has to be sacrificed on the alter of extreme stupidity so human sacrifice it was. The higher mileage did work for me just not in the way that I had anticipated. Logging the extra miles I expected to run my next 100 milers in a faster time as I would be able run stronger later in the race. Unfortunately I didn't actual run much faster due to stomach issues. Still I think that it will pay off speed wise in the near future when I don't end up spending a lot of time at aid stations puking.

What those many miles did do for me though was speed up my recovery from long races and protect me from injury. Last year I got injured in all 4 races that I ran that were over 100km. Nothing serious but still they caused breaks in training that I didn't really want or need. This year so far no problem and my legs have bounced back really quickly after races.

As an added bonus my wife still talks to me ..... sweet

3)Focus and proper prep is everything for me
My lack of focus going into the Mohican was probably the biggest mistake I made. After being so sick at Sulphur I think I got tentative on this one. Going into a race just looking to finish does not work for me and on the few occasions that I have tried this it has gone badly. I need to come out fairly hard and push early to get my head into the game because if I don't I never will find a groove. Even with races that are being used for training runs I try to run hard for a while early before pulling back. If I don't the run has and will become an epic disaster for me. I become a runners version of the Hindenburg, going down in a huge burst of flames.

My prep was okay for the race with the exception of one big mistake. I did not instruct my crew properly on what to do if I decided to DNF. After running five 100 milers and 24 hour events over the last year I had began to take it for granted that I would just push through no matter what. The thought that I might DNF never really even crossed my mind. Talk about arrogance especially for a guy that runs middle of the pack times but thats the truth. The idea that I might drop was never even a consideration until I decided to drop.

In my first few races Kim (and pacers if I had any) were told to not let me drop unless I required an ambulance. I told them to do everything possible to make me stay on the course until race officials pulled me. After a number of successful races I stopped giving these instructions so when I actually decided to drop I left Kim in a really bad position. She wasn't sure what she should do. By the way this in not a criticism of Kim at all. I blew it by not being clear on how the situation (which she had never been in) should be handled. She took me at my word that I had to stop running. Nobody should take me at my word, ever.

4)Nutrition whats that all about
Okay pretty simple, I had my nutrition down to a science. Then at Sulphur I had major stomach issues. At Mohican I stayed on my nutrition pretty good for most of the race but aid stations were problematic later in the day. I had stomach issues again but I think this was mostly due to heat exhaustion. It wasn't the same kind of nausea I had at Sulphur. I think my nutrition is solid but I guess I will find out for sure at Burning River.

I am also going to pick up a camelback with extra pockets so that if I run into another situation where I am not getting what I need for food from aid stations that I will be able to carry more of my own nutrition.

5)DNFing when you can still keep moving is bad
Should be self explanatory but really isn't. I had no idea that dropping would have the effect on me that it did. I was a second guessing, grumpy, pissed off, pain in the ass, miserable guy for weeks. I never want to feel like that again. In my only other DNF there was no issue for me, when 46 out of 49 runners have to drop due to insane weather you know that there was really no choice involved. This time it was a choice based on getting into a dark place and then convincing myself not to keep going as I wouldn't make the cutoff anyway. Now I do think that I probably wouldn't have made the cutoff but who can say for sure. If I had kept going even at a zombie shuffle pace and got pulled from the course I guess I would know and there would be no second guessing.

When I DNF again (and it will happen as thats just part of running ultras) I am going to be sure that there is no other choice.

Limberlost this weekend
Will be running 56km at Limberlost this weekend as a last really long run in getting ready for Burning River. I ran it last year and it was some of the nicest trail I have ever run on. It will be 4 times around the 14km loop for me. Going to run this with the same approach as PYP, loop 1 hard, loop 2 and 3 more laid back, loop 4 try to crank it up again. Should be a blast.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mohican 100 Race Report - Meltdown in Ohio

Well now, this race definitely didn't end up going as planned. It's the same old story with Ultra Marathons and especially with 100 mile races. You can train your ass off, plan out everything to a tee but in the end it often comes down to the day, the course, the adversity and the uncontrollable. This race feature all of these things and more.

I am going to try and stick with the facts in this report. You know the what, where, when, why stuff. Hopefully next week I will be able to do a follow up post digging deeper into the some of the things I learned from the race about myself and running hundreds. After all nothing teaches you more about success then the occasional failure.

I had been looking forward to this race for months. This was my first non Canadian 100 mile race so I was totally stoked. I had lots of mileage under my belt and had run the 100 at Sulphur Springs 3 weeks earlier. You know what they say nothing gets you ready better for a 100 miler then running another 100 in "training". Okay maybe only I say that. My legs felt great and completely recovered.

A week before the race I began the ritualistic weather watch. At first things were looking really good but by Tuesday mild temperatures in Loudonville, Ohio had changed to hot and humid. Each day the predictions got worse and by Friday morning it was calling for 29C with humidity making it seem like 40C. I was thinking maybe I should pack oven mitts into my drop bag.

On Friday morning we picked up JD and headed down to the US. The drive was fine and uneventful. We got to the motel we were staying at and checked in. Nice little place, basic but decent which was fine by me. We dropped our stuff off and headed over to race registration.

Registration was quick and easy but the same can't be said for the pre race meal. We ended up standing in line for almost an hour to get fed which caused us to miss the first part of the pre race meeting. On a positive note there was free beer so at least we got to drink while we waited. Free beer is always awesome as far as I am concerned.

The next morning it was up bright and early. Steve B. had arrived late that night so he hooked up with us at 4 AM and we all headed out to the race start.

Originally I had planned to run this race with the same approach as all my other races. That meant start off running not to fast but right on the edge, push a little early on then settle in. By the time I got to race day I had reconsidered this approach. A bit of honesty here, I was worried about the weather / heat. You might even say I was becoming mentally obsessed about it. I really let it get inside my head which is awful stupid. I mean the weather is the weather and with out my Pinkie and the Brain weather controlling machine I was not going to be able to do anything about that anyway. At the same time I was worried about what had happened at Sulphur. It was a very rough race for me and I think that as JD mentions in his blog I was a little gun shy. I am after all not a big fan of barfing.

This was my first and maybe biggest mistake. I walked into this race and approached it to tentatively. Bad, Bad, Chris. At the time I called it being cautious but that was a lie I was telling myself. I can not run races and be tentative AT ALL. Some people can do this and it works for them. It never, ever works for me. Not ever. I have to run controlled but aggressive early or I never find my rhythm.

I decided to run with JD and Steve since I was going to take it easy early and was just running to finish. Steve who is a much faster runner then both of us was doing the same thing. I also thought this would be fun (which it was). The thought of not finishing never really entered my mind.


Some video that JD shot on the run.

We lined up at the start and were off. Here all three of us made another crucial mistake. We lined up way to far back in the pack. The 50 and 100 milers all started at the same time and since we were planning to run easy early on we thought we place ourselves accordingly. Man were we wrong. Within 5 minutes we were into the woods on single track behind a massive traffic jam.

The going was slow on this 6 mile section. Lots of climbing so it would have been slow anyway but it was really slow at this point. It was becoming apparent very early that this was going to be a tough course. We climbed and climbed, some downhill and more climbing. Almost no flat running in this section of mostly single track trails. The trails were beautiful but difficult and the line ahead of us didnt allow for much running at pace when we did hit the few flats and downhills.

As we hit the first aid station it was already brutally humid and hot even though it was not 7 am yet. I was soaking wet and looked like someone that had just had shower with their cloths on. I dont think I have ever sweat as much as I did in this race.

A quick refill of the bottles and we were back on the course. Now 6 miles into the race we were finally getting a little bit of running room so we got on pace. Another decent section of the course which was almost all single track, some technical running, lots and lots of hills but a few more runnable sections then the last area.

It was hot but I felt good. The three of us joked, chatted and amused each other, great stuff. We gelled and took our salt tabs every hour like clockwork. Then we were into the second aid station. Man was it getting hot. I found a bucket of ice water with a sponge in it and soaked my head. The cold water was like a jolt of electricity zapping me back into the moment.

Onto the next 6 mile section (almost all the aid stations were about 6 miles apart on the 27 mile loop) which was a slower more difficult trail. The most beautiful but also the hardest to run this section included a slow decent down stone steps to the base of a waterfall, a tough technical run up and along an overgrown creek and a crazy climb straight up where you had to scale the hill by using the roots of trees like a ladder. Oh and dont forget those hills, lots and lots of hills.

At the covered bridge aid station we quickly refueled, filled the bottles and headed out into the next section of the course. Lots more single track but fewer hills this is probably the fastest part of the entire course. We initially made good time but about 4 miles out we ran into the back of a huge line of runners. There was not really anyway to pass people without expending huge amounts of energy so we joined in with the conga line of maybe 20 other runners and worked our way to the next aid station.

Its now mile 23 and even though its only around 10 am the heat is unbearable. The conga line arrives at the next aid station. I am overheating and seek out the ice cold water and sponge. A walk in freezer would also be great but I know thats not going to happen. I see the bucket but to my horror there is no ice in the water. It is only mildly cool and doesn't do the trick for me at all. We head back into the woods having managed to leapfrog over most of the conga line at the aid station. We are still all in good spirits, the loop is taking longer then expected but the course is tough.

The next section of the course turns out to be the hardest of all. The first 3 miles are okay and as we head towards the area called the private property section a runner heading back the other way gives us a dire warning. "Be careful and take it easy on that section" he says.

This section is brutal with as far as I can remember 6 major climbs and the same number of very steep downhills. Its relentless, slow and the only flat section is through a field where you are totally exposed to the sun. The heat is really taking a toll on me. My heart rate is very high for the effort I am expending. On some of the last hills my breathing is becoming shallow and hard.

We finish the loop, change our shirts, get a little food from Kim and head back out with 7 hours gone in the race. This is much slower then anticipated ( I was expecting maybe 6 hours for the loop) but still not a worry. My legs feel great, the breathing was a little bit of a worry but after refuelling I feel fine.

We move along at an okay pace our second time through this section. We are now into the afternoon and its scorching hot. I start to think that I might spontaneously combust, bursting into flames at any moment. We pass a runner sitting on the side of the trail who is totally out of it. Another runner is there checking to see if he is okay. We stop to see if there is anything we can do, there isn't so we move on.

I am seeing less and less runners on the course now. Some of the 50 milers might be done but still the herd is obviously being culled by the weather. Soon we are back to the water fall and root climb. I am fading, suffering a slow death. Its like being roasted slowly on a spit over an open fire. Roasted Chris basted with warm chocolate gels seems to be the special on the menu.

The three of us nearly run out of liquids on this leg even though we all carry 2 bottles. Finally we make the covered bridge and refuel. I am in big trouble now. I am still sweating but I have been panting like a dog for more then an hour. My breathing is quick and shallow. Nobody says anything but we all know what this means. Its heat exhaustion and the beginnings of hypothermia (which can lead to heatstroke).

We are back out on the trail for the next section. Its very runnable and we do okay but are slow. I am still panting, JD is beginning to getting dark and Steve is starting to worry about the time. I am desperately hoping for a bounce back. We make it into the aid station at around the 48 mile mark. Its about 5 o'clock and I know that the sun will go down soon and hopefully give me some relief. I am still sweating (a good sign) but am starting to feel nauseous. I have been looking forward to getting food at the aid station. I need solid food here. I am out of luck. There is only grazing food here. There are not even sandwiches made (which I cant eat any more of anyway). I get some melon into me but I know its not enough. JD wants a sandwich and we waste 10 minutes waiting for them to make him one.

Back on the trail for the 6 miles of the loop we try to make good time running all the flats and downhills. I am getting worse, starting to get dark and really suffering. Steve is pressing and I am having a hard time keeping up. JD is faltering as well. We all know that at the present pace and night coming cutoff times are starting to look like they might become an issue.

Steve tries hard to get us to bear down but its no use. I know I am only going to get slower. I might make it but then again I might not. Both JD and I tell Steve to go ahead as he is much stronger then us at this point. He doesnt want to do this and fights us on it. Finally I tell him that I can't live with him DNFing because I am to slow. He finally reluctantly agrees to go and soon JD and I are running alone.

The 2 miles of brutal hills on the loop nearly kill me. We decide that we will stop at the start finish for as long as needed to rebuild. This ends up taking us a long time but we both are at least able to get back out on the trail. We have 16 hours to run the 23 mile loop twice. Thats doable even at a slow pace but its going to be close. I need to get this loop done in 7:30 to be safe.

Its getting dark and is a little cooler. I feel okay and the panting has stopped as we head back into the woods. Strangely my legs feel great. The second we step back into the woods the humidity hits us like hammer in the face. Things go okay for the first hour. We run all the flats and downhills but it doesnt last. By hour 2 I am panting again and working hard to keep from puking. I feel sick in a totally different way then at Sulphur and a sure that the heat is to blame. I fight the urge to clear the decks because I don't want to lose the food I took in just an hour ago. We are forced to walk until the next aid station. I tell JD I am feeling better but now he is having problems. He is also worried there will be no real food at the next aid station. This is making everything really dark. I try to quell his fears.

We make the aid station and JD is right. There is nothing but 50k pick pick food and sandwiches. Nothing hot or substantial. I have never seen anything like this before. I had just got my nutrition sorted and now it will take another hit.

Now I don't want to whine to much about the lack of proper ultra food at most of the aid stations but this was a real problem. I am not a picky eater but I don't think that I should have to be worried about there being proper food at aid stations as a runner I have a lot to worry about already. 20 hours into this race I have seen no soup (expect from Kim), no potatoes, no solid hardy stuff like chicken, lasagne etc.. Now usually this is not a problem for me as I have crew but there was only crew access allowed at two points during the night. That means 12 miles between crew points. If you are not going to feed me then you should at least make it so my crew can. That said obviously some runners were able to deal with this so there you go.

We are back out on the trail. Somewhere at around 3 miles later I am so sick I am doing everything I can not to vomit. Oh shit suddenly I have a new problem. My sexy fun parts are burning like they have been lit on fire. From no chaffing to this is 2 seconds, what the hell. I can barely walk. I will have lube and fresh dry shorts once we get to Kim but that doesn't help me now. I have no choice so now I am forced to run / walk with my hands down my shorts protecting my tender part from rubbing.

I am in a really bad state physically. JD is bad of as well. As we get close to fire tower where Kim can meet and feed us we start to talk about dropping. It seems like a totally reasonable thing to do. It will be borderline whether we will make the first cutoff time at the end of this loop. I convince myself that I cant make it so why try. Yes kids my mind has become mush.

We see Kim and tell her that we are done. Soon we are back at the start line and officially DNFed.

Post Race

Less then 2 hours after I drop I begin to regret my decision. I think this will plague me for a long time to come.

Steve is able to finish and collect his belt buckle. Congrats man way to stick it out.

The course was really great, I mean really great and easily the hardest I have been on in my short ultra career. I hope they will either bulk up the aid stations they have, add more or both. I will run this again next year as I have not taken my defeat very well at all.
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