Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mutation is a good thing

A Mutation occurs when a DNA gene is damaged or changed in such a way as to alter the genetic message carried by that gene

Mutation, I mean thats what we are all trying to do here, right? Sure we like shine it up and make it seem much prettier by calling it adaptation but lets get honest its just cellular mutation.

If your a newer runner or a more casual runner then you might not have even really thought about it. You are still in that I am going to get fit, get a little faster, live healthy stage of your running and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. You haven't joined the training circus under the freak tent yet and maybe you never will. I say runaway while you still can, runaway as fast and far as you possibly can and then keep running .... oh crap never mind.

For those of you that are already hopelessly trapped under the big top you understand, its all about the mutation. Once upon a time you ran just for fun but it wasn't enough for you was it. Going for a run became "training" which only lead to faster or longer running and better race times. We all know that then leads to more "training". Its the great circle of running.

As a casual runner have you ever really though about what you are actually doing. Maybe you look up to the better runners that you know and think I wish I could run like that. Well mutation is the key. The point of training is not to get stronger or faster or boost endurance these are not training goals. These are side effects of the mutation process. The actual point of training is to cause changes to your body at a cellular level. Thats right, its all about changing the actual make up of the mitochondrion and the cell itself.

The freaks under the "training" tent already know all this. We have read all the books by Nokes, Daniels and anyone else we could find. We are well aware of what we are doing. The fact is that for most of us we are upset that we were not born bigger genetic freaks. No matter how hard we "train" most of us will never run 2:15 marathons, 15 minute 5ks or 16 hour 100 milers. You have to have been really lucky in the genetic lottery for that kind of thing but that will not stop us from trying.

Over the course of the winter I had run easy, rebuilding my base and trying to get some zip back into my legs which I had destroyed during ultra season. With some bounce back I started more serious training upping the mileage and adding lots of hills and speed. There was some improvement but I was still not back to spring 2010 levels. I did not feel like I was in very good shape at all. Yeah I know how can you be running 120k a week and not be in shape. Well there is in shape and then there is in shape (racing shape?). Then I ran a decent ATB even though I didnt race full out. Something was happening.

Then Mutation
In the last few weeks I have seen a huge jump in my own mutation (adaptation) as my high volume of mileage has begin to cause visible changes in my fitness level and endurance. I began to think I might be plateaued forever with what seemed like little forward progress and then something wonderful happened. My easy runs became way too easy. I was running the same pace but my heart rate had dropped way to low. At first I though it must be a problem with my monitor or a weird anomaly but after 3 weeks I figured it must be real. A quick email consultation with coach Roger lead to a rejigging of my approach to the runs. I started running back at my proper / previous easy run HR and suddenly I was running much faster. Last years marathon pace has become my easy run speed. For someone like me that is running mainly ultras this will hopefully translate into some faster times this year.

Mutation, its a wonderful thing.

Watch out Pick Your Poison 50k trail race is coming up this weekend!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Seaton 50 Mile Race Report - My First DNF Ever

Seaton 50 mile race report
It was bound to happen. If you run Ultras sooner or later your going to end up seeing those dreaded 3 letters, DNF, next to your name. At least if you are just a mere mortal like me. There comes a time when circumstances that you can not control, things like injury or weather, come into play and thats all she wrote. The running gods can be oh so cruel on any given day but did they have to save all there wraith for a single ass whipping? Yesterday was either a get all your pain for the season at once or a very bad omen of things to come. One of the 7 signs of the trail runners apocalypse.

Cancel that Pity Party
Okay before you get all bent out of shape you can just cancel that pity party. I don't need it. I feel absolutely no shame at this DNF at all. Zero. Zilch. Nota. If you were part of this 50 miler and are reading this you shouldn't feel bad either. Ran the 52k, same thing, don't feel bad, when the crap hits the fan almost everyone gets splattered by the debris.

Why don't I feel bad? Well the running conditions on what is a tough course to begin with were not optimal for running or walking although they were pretty good for falling, swearing and taking a bath or a mud facial. In the 50 miler 47 people toed the line. 3 people finish. Yes you read that right, 3 people finished. I wasn't one of them but I had 43 other people to keep me company. Lots of DNFing in the 52k as well but not sure how many as results are not posted yet.

How the hell did I end up not finishing, what mistakes did I make that I can change so that I dont have this happen again. The main and only culprit and cause of the not finishing was weather. Not much I can do about that. I am just not in good enough shape to control the weather yet but I am working on it. Now it is true that I didnt make a live sacrifice to the god of running Saturday morning but we were in a hurry and that puppy was just so cute.

If I could redo this race I would change nothing with one exception. I would switch to the 52k which had been my plan right up until Thursday. Other then that everything when wonderfully. I had fun for more then 6 hours, not so much for the other 2.

The weather was bad, Ted Bundy or Freddy Krugger bad and just plan Charles Manson crazy. How crazy bad? Just keep on reading.

Almost a full week ago I decided that I would not run the 50 miler at Seaton. I have been training heavy mileage for the past month and a half and felt that at this point running 50 miles might hinder my training. The last thing I wanted was to not be able to train the following week as my target race is a 100 miler in 2 months. I had also signed up to do 50 miles at Bear Mountain in May so I figured it might all be too much. I would be run the 52k instead, definitely, definitely the 52k.

Then Wednesday arrived and my morning run felt really great, so great that I began to reconsider. Thursday on the trails for 18k and it was another feel good run. Screw it might as well just run long on Saturday. I saw the dire weather forecast for Saturday, 100 % chance of rain 25-35mm. For some reason this was less of a detour-ant and more of a challenge. No way was I going to let a little bad weather factor into my decision making process.

Saturday morning we were up at 4am. The weathernetwork said 100% chance of rain from 8am to 4pm non stop, high winds, and 4 degrees. I think that it should have said "Danger Crappy Alert" in big bold red letters because somehow I managed to ignore the message I should have been getting.

Kim and I picked up the Zip car and then JD just as it started to rain. We arrived in Pickering with lots of time to spare, got changed and headed out to the start line. Kim would be running 29k, JD was up for 52 and would not fall for my you should go longer spiel, I was stuck with 50 miles. As we stood waiting for the race to start the wind and rain began to pick up in intensity.

The Race
Right from the start I felt really good. It seemed like it was a much bigger start then last year with around 100 runners doing the longer distances ( the 29k started later). As we headed down a field and into the woods for some single track running people started to spread out a little. I have run this race twice before, the 26k version in 2009 and the 52k in 2010 so I have a good grip of most of the course with the exception of a few changes. Things tend to sort out soon after the river crossing and open up a little so no need to press it.

The race plan was simple, run by feel around training pace with the idea of maybe picking it up in the second half just to see where my fitness level was at. I was hoping to run just under 10 hours if all went okay.

We ran along the river bank and in less then 3km we were at the river crossing. The river is around 30-50 meters wide, about a foot deep and colder then an ex wife in divorce court. The steady rain was already making the water muddy so it was hard to see where to step amongst the large rocks beneath the surface. You had to take it nice and slow, hurrah!

Back onto the trail it was some decent forest running, a few big hills and some mud. The trail was actually in decent shape at this point and I made good time. Somewhere along here I began running with Alex who I had seen around at races before but hadn't met. We ran the next 7 or 8k together which made the time pass quickly and we kept a decent pace. As planned I blew through the aid stations as quick as possible on my way out to the 14.5k turn around. Soon I began to see other runners coming back the other way. I counted maybe 8 50 mile runners before I hit the turn around so I was in decent shape.

Then it was back the way I had come. The wind was picking up and was it actually raining harder? I think it was. The temperature had also seemed to drop maybe because of the wind. The next 7km went well but the trails were getting really muddy although you could still make decent time in most places. With 5km left to the end of the loop I started to see the 29k runners on their way out. My hands were starting to get really cold in my rain soaked gloves, I tried to take a gel but had a hard time convincing my fingers to fish one out of my fuel belt.

With the extra runners on the course I was beginning to see that the trail conditions were degrading quickly as the mud got deeper and slippery. Suddenly as I entered a flat low lying area it was like wow what is this. Where the trail had been there was now a small pond about 3 inches deep that had not been there before. No choice but to run right through it and then down the flowing river that ran out of the pond and down a good section of the trail. Man was that cold. Soon it was on to the next smaller pool of water and then the next. If the trail was like this I wondered what river crossing was like.

I didnt have to wonder long and after some sloppy mud running I was back into the river. The current had really picked up and it was up over my knees now, dark and very muddy. Soon I was back on the trail then out of the woods and around the schools track that marked the end of loop one and 29k.

So far so good. I came in 3 hours 20 minutes right on track for sub 10 hours. Only one more loop of 29k and then a shorter run out to the aid station and back for a last leg of 22k. My legs felt great but my hands were frozen. I downed an Ensure, loaded up on gels and then tried to get into my drop bag to change gloves. I knew it would be cold and raining so I had brought 4 pairs of gloves. Now just to get them... crap. My fingers would not work. It ended up taking me almost 5 minutes to get my bag unzipped, my gloves changed and my bag re zipped and into its protective plastic bag.

Loop 2 - Theres a trail under that there water
As I made my way back through the woods and into the river the rain seemed to let up. A large rock that had been well above the water line was now completely submerged. The current was really swift now. Back on the trail the mud is growing exponentially. My shoes and socks are full of mud that is balling up below my toes. It is mildly painful and really annoying. I know that its only going to get worse.

Most of the out portion of this lap is kind of a blurry mess, much like the trail. The rain became only a light drizzle for awhile and the wind died down some but that didnt help fix the never ending mud bog I was sloshing around in. On a long steep downhill of mud I watched another runner headed back in the opposite direction do a face plant. I ended up kind of mini skiing down the last part of the hill. The ponds at 4k were now deeper with the biggest taking on the features of a lake.

I saw Kim on her way back in just before I hit the 10k aid station. She told me that there was a huge tree down across the trail ahead so when I didnt see the next trail markers just go around the big fallen tree. Sure enough I came to a place where the trail just disappeared behind a massive downed tree. Soon I was detouring around a second fallen set of branches.

I was also beginning to wonder where the heck everyone was. I had not been passed by many 52k runners going back in and so far I had only seen Ken and Laurie out of the 50 milers headed back. Somewhere close to 2k from the turn around 3 other 50 mile runners passed me going back. The rain and wind picked up again and then I was at the aid station.

The volunteers asked me if I though there were more runners behind me as they hadn't seen very many in a long time. Man what the heck was going on. I turned around and headed back in. A quick check of the watch told me 45km done in just over 5 hours. I was right on pace even with the weather and lots of time left to finish. I figure even a slow walking pace will cover each 10k in 1hr 45 minutes meaning I will have lots of time to spare and thats walking. I can still run no problem. My legs felt great. I was still having fun, screw you weather network.

The trail is nothing but mud. The rain is pelting down and it is cold. I try to drink out of my water bottle. My hands are so frozen that I cant squeeze the water bottle with one hand hard enough to make anything come out. I had to use both hands. I am double fisting it, hilarious. I hit the next aid station which will be the turn around on my next loop. As I have made my way back I have only passed a handful of other runners going out. Where the heck did everyone go. I check my watch again I am 6 hours 15 minutes into the race with about 30k to go. With just under 6 hours to the cutoff I am thinking I am in great shape. 30k in 6 hours I can walk it that fast. I dont have to walk tho, my legs feel awesome, thank you high volume training. My hands are kind of screwed tho, damn.

More mud, so much mud, I try to think of anytime in my life I have seen trail this bad. I come up with nothing. I may live in Toronto now but I grew up on the East Coast where I spent lots of time in the woods. I cant ever remember seeing trail this bad. I plug on, screw you weather network.

Its coming undone
I hit the next aid station where Ken passes me going back out. He is a full 10k ahead of me. I grab some potatoes at the station. They have had to put everything into containers. Even though they are under a tent it is so windy that the hard rain is going sideways. The volunteers are great getting me anything I need. I wonder which is worse running in this crap or having to stand around manning the aid stations. Those volunteers are awesome. I ask them if many runners have dropped out. They say there are lots of DNFs and some 50 milers had switched to the 52k. Man you can do that? Oh well too late for me. I make a joke about it only being a little bit of rain or something along those lines. I wish I hadn't made this joke soon enough. Its probably not wise to poke the running gods with a sharp stick when they are throwing everything at you but the kitchen sink. To be honest I really didnt think it could get much worse boy was I wrong.

I head out my watch says 7 hours 5 minutes with 26k to cover I still got time but somehow I lost 10 to 15 minutes in the last section. Ro Ro Shaggy. No worries I will just pick it up.

The trail is not much of a trail anymore. Its just mud sinkholes and large deep pools of ice cold water. This has become a swampy bog run. There is no avoiding any of it and I got to make up time so I try to run straight through everything. I am working hard but going nowhere fast. The deep mud almost takes my shoes right off my feet in some places. The portion of trail that had become a pond and then a lake is now a good 6 to 12 inches deep. I wonder about the upcoming river crossing.

I turn a corner to head down a hill and see a critter on the trail. At first I think it might be a beaver but as I get closer I see its big rat like tail. Hello mister possum. He sees me and heads off running down the trail. I chase him for a good 100 meter before he scurries off into the bush. He has a good finishing kick and is moving faster then me. I have seen no runners coming back out. Has the race been cancelled?

Finally a km from the river I see Laurie headed back out. I ask her if everyone has dropped but cant really hear what she says her voice drown out by the howling wind as she races past me. I am in big trouble now and I know it. My hand are completely frozen and have become non functioning stubs. I cant eat, drink or take salt tabs without working hands.

I hit the river and it is bad and definitely dangerous. The water is well above my knees and very swift. The current is strong enough to push me sideways and the water is dark brown. There is no way to see the very rocky bottom. One false step and you will be down for sure. I wonder if that happens whether I will be able to get up or be swept away. I am a weak swimmer and don't do Triathlons due to my fear of drowning. This is not good.

Across the river I begin to run the last 2km into the turn around. Only three km ago I was very sure about finishing but not now. My watch says that by the time I reach the track it will have taken me 2 hours to run 10k and I have to run the same stretch two more times.

I might have just enough time to do it but maybe not. The trail will be even worse. If I lose a few more minutes I will not make it. I could try to make the aid station cut off just to see what happens but I have bigger problem. My hands are bad and I know I am quickly becoming a candidate for Hypothermia. I try to trick myself into not believing this but its no use I am border line there is no getting around it. I cant see 4 more hours of this without serious medical issues being the end result. Even then I most likely will miss the cut off.

I have come well prepared for this race and have a full change of dry clothes to run in but it will take at least 15 minutes to change and get warm. That is time that I just don't have. The race is over for me and I know it as I slowly make my way over the last km to the finish. As I leave the woods one runner passes me going back out. I don't think he has enough time but I hope he makes it (he does just making the cutoff).

Far ahead of me across the field I see another runner. Its Kim and she is just about to finish. She has been out there a really long time too. I circle the track to the finish line where she waits for me. I give the guy at the aid station my number and then we just stand there. I realize he is waiting for me to tell him what I am doing. I let him know I am DNFing, it is so surreal. In my mind I am thinking he wouldn't let me go back out anyway. Kim later tells that he told her I wouldn't have enough time to finish as they watched me circle the track. It was very cool that he at least allowed me to make the right choice for myself instead of yanking me right away.

Post race
I go into the school to warm up. Within minutes I am shivering uncontrollably even though I have wrapped myself in a space blanket I have brought from home. This goes on for more then 2o minutes. I dont have Hypothermia but I am really close. Kim is having the same problem and both of us have very blue lips.... not good.

Someone tells me that a couple of runners ended up going to the hospital (I dont know for sure tho). We finally warm up and eat some post race food. JD was able to finish his 52k (see his report here).

I am disappointed but not upset. I always imagined that I would be super pissed at DNFing but I feel okay about it. A look at the finish board tells me many didn't even get 2 laps in and I got an entire season still ahead of me.

Things I am pleased about. My fitness level is good right now. My endurance is much better then last year so the training is working. My legs where never an issue in this race. My feet are fine, no blisters at all. I had a little issue with the same ankle I injured in Haliburton last year. I thought it was completely healed but maybe not.

I have not and can not describe to you just how bad the course and weather conditions were out there. There are no words that I can write to do it justice. Its like trying to describe to sex to a virgin or empathy to a psychopath. Words fail to convey the truth about the experience itself.

For the most part I had fun in this race right up until the last hour or so. Race organizers and volunteers did a really good job under very tough circumstances. I will be back next year to seek my redemption.

Also sorry about the lack of pictures but Kims hands were to frozen to work the camera. If others post some I will try and put them in a future post.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Voluntary Commitment ...plans just keep on changing

No I haven't agreed to be put into an Insane Asylum (opps I mean mental health facility) of my own free will. Even if maybe, or most probably, thats where I belong. When they finally come for me they will be forced to drag me out of here in a giant butterfly net because I have no intention of going quietly. No sir and I don't care if they do give you all the anti psychotics you can eat and free chocolate pudding every night.

I am not going. Can you imagine how many laps around a small rubber room it would take to complete a 100 miler. Running 24 hours on the track would be nothing compared to that. On the other hand the chances of getting attacked by a bear go way down.

Commitment Time
I have been really torn over what to do about racing this year. I am told that you cant run every race in the world in a single season. Also I keep hearing that you need to recover after races sometimes for WEEKS. Who makes up these rules anyway. The laws of physics and biology should not apply when it comes to running. I say ignore them! What you dont acknowledge cant hurt you.

Oh wait thats what I tried last year. I am going to try to do things a bit different this year. Please stop laughing I am trying to type this with a straight face.

So the last two months I have been training hard and racing very little. I decided to shelf the Peterbourgh HM, the Slainte and the Red Rock Marathon (all road races) instead cranking the training way up to get ready for Ultra season. I would love to run both road races and trail races but it really became clear that I cant do both effectively. Not when it comes to going really long.

So some of this season was already set in stone and still is. The Mohican 100, Pikes Peak and Rim2Rim2Rim are written in stone. I was still dithering about some spring races and build up to the Mohican. The big question was whether to race a marathon for a BQ or not. Running a marathon is one thing but racing it is another. If I race it for time it means a taper and recovery so I lose at least 4 weeks. Is Boston worth it? The answer for me is a resounding No.

That decided I figured time to commit to a racing plan. I will still run the Toronto Marathon (May 16th) but as a long training run. Instead I signed up for the 50 miler on May 7th at Bear Mountain. Its suppose to be really technical and hard. I like the sound of that. With the plan of running 53k at Seaton this coming weekend and 50k atPYP April 30th I should have lots of long trail runs in the bank before my first 100 this year. I will definitely be running something at Sulphur Springs at the end of May could be 50k or 50 miles or ?

Sulphur Mud Run
Speaking of Sulphur Springs I headed out to the race course with JD on Saturday afternoon to get a long trail run in. Thanks for driving JD. It was a beautiful sunny day and a great run. We managed to get somewhere around 36k in. The trail was still really muddy in places but it was still a great run. Loops are suppose to be 20km but with changes in the course we must have missed something because we ended up short on each loop.

Next up Seaton 53km trail race.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

March Training, Last Weeks Training, OUSER Warmup

This is what training for March looked like. It ended up being a very good month. The info is kind of boring but maybe there will be more excitement later in the blog, then again maybe not. Remember to cover your mouth when you yawn.

March Stats
Days run - 28
Days off - 3
X training - 8 weight workouts at the gym
Longest run - 40km
Highest mileage week - 100 miles (160km)
Total mileage - 596km or 370 miles
Races - 30km Around The Bay

If you are interested in what my training looks like you can click on the Attack Point bar graph on the right hand side of my blog. That will take you right to my running log at AttackPoint. Oh and that is also boring but in its own special way.

Last weeks training
After a good recovery week and 30km race it was back to normal training. Time to make the donuts. The week worked out well with me getting the mileage back up to 155km with a decent hill workout, tempo run and back to back long runs on the weekend. This is the first time I have ever done back to back long runs. I got to say it was kind of hard. Saturday it was trails at the OUSER warm up (more about that in a minute) for a 3 hour 15 minute run. Then Sunday it was time to take the Running Room Clinic out for a relaxing, hilly, 3 hour 24 minute run. Can you say time for a nap.

OUSER Spring warm up
The trails are coming, the trails are coming. Don't look now but here comes Ultra season. Kim and I headed up to Creemore with JD for the Ontario Ultra Series spring warm up. Pierre did a great job of setting up the course. It was hilly, it was snowy, it was tough. Talk about a fun time. Its the first time I did this event and will be back again next year. I managed to get a couple of loops of the course in before heading inside for pizza and beer. Even though a good part of the bruce trail was still under snow it was awesome running. It was also nice to see a lot of people that I have not seen since the end of last years ultra season.
Sorry no pics but you can go to westgreyrunners blog to see just how snowy it was.

I also got up to some racing shenanigans by floating the idea of running 100 miles at Burning River in July. Now there are 3 of us signed up with maybe more to join in. Let the games begin.
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