Monday, December 20, 2010

Gunner Shaw 10k - Nov. 27, 2010

After the Juan de Fuca Trail in late August, I intentionally decided to continue training, but with reduced mileage. The goal was to give my body a break from some of the longer stuff, but at the same time, stay in shape so I would be ready to perform well at some of the upcoming shorter distance events.
The reality was that my new teaching portfolio was demanding come September. I had little time to run, with the exception being the TNW and running with my school cross-country team. As a result of being stressed at work, my motivation to run was sucked away from me, and I struggled to maintain my fitness.
To counteract this, I signed up for 3 upcoming races, thus putting the pressure on me to get in racing condition. By October, I was back into things with my speed, and I was ready to debut my new racing flats at the GoodLife Fitness 8k. I was poised for an 8k PB, but when the time came to race that weekend, I injured my back two days before and was forced to cheer Janelle from the sidelines. The injury wasn't bad though, and I was running again solidly by the following weekend.
I decided to pass on other events in the fall like the Shawnigan 1/2 and the Jericho XC Challenge, and focus on the Thetis Lake 20k Solo Relay Run. Once again, I was in good shape but sickness that weekend would force me not to race...once again.
Although I was frustrated by the lack of racing, I knew my training was solid, yet minimal, and I kept things going for much of November. In November, high school XC ended, giving me more focus and time for myself to really concentrate on the upcoming Gunner Shaw 10k race.
Good news. This time I wasn't injured, I wasn't sick, and I was ready to race.

Race Day
I arrived to the race in good time, and was definitely exited to get my competitive vibe back in me. Having not raced this event before, I didn't know exactly what to expect in terms of the conditions and the course, but I could imagine what was out there. This race is notorious for mud and wetness, but this year, it was the packed snow and ice that caused concern from the runners. We received about 15 cms. of snow a week prior, and the trail had a pretty good pack on it. After a good warm-up, I decided at the last minute to go with my YakTrax to race. I had seen Shane Ruljancich wearing his, so I thought I'd be in good company. With 15 minutes to go before race time, I tempoed back to my car and switched shoes. I arrived back just in time for the start of the race, but my heart rate was elevated somewhat from this last minute decision.
The race began and I attempted to not start too fast. I felt like I did this, and was happy with the start. The shoes seemed to be not too bad on the early paved portion of the race, and when I hit the muddy/icy trails I was very happy with my decision. I was extremely surprised to see just how fast everyone was around me. I thought that I would be much faster on the trails than the people around me, but the reality was that I was working hard just to maintain my standing. I was in a nice group of runners (including some of my training group), but as soon as the big uphills came, I really had trouble getting up them. This was atypical for me, and I was slowly being dropped my the pack around me. Gary Duncan surged ahead, as did Irvin Tang, and finally Chris Callendar. I was fine with this, hoping that my second-wind would kick in, and hoping that my shoe decision would give me some kind of advantage out there. My pace did not pick up however, and a few other people passed me as we made our way to the final hills. As I approached the final set of hills, I struggled to complete them, but was relieved to see I did not get passed by a couple of runners on my tail. However right at the top of the hill, I was passed by Mark Ritchie, and as the finish line approached, it looked like I was destined to finish right behind him. However, I felt a finishing kick inside my bones, so I decided to kick it along the beach/water and I did well to pass him.
My time was 40:35...good enough for 37th Place overall.
I was pleased with my overall effort, but was not really pleased to be destroyed my my training group (when I had beaten them all consistently in training). However, it was my first race in ~4 months, so in that regard, it was good to get one under my belt. My decision to wear the YakTrax was a stupid one. I was tired at the start line in my haste to get them on, and looking down at the finish, I only had 1 YakTrax on...and it had slipped. So really, I was running this race in a really old pair of trail shoes with little traction, and the course was on mud/ice. Hopefully next time, I would live up - a little more - to my potential.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Juan de Fuca 47k Epic Trail Run - Aug. 29, 2010

I went into this run thinking I was in pretty good shape. After being injured in the late Spring, I fast-tracked into a hefty endurance training program, specifically for this trail run.
In all, 12 runners would show up on the day. 7 from the mainland, and 5 from the Island. This number was somewhat disappointing when you consider the initial e-mail interest in the early summer. It looked like there would be in excess of 30 runners. However, having others around was not really why I was here this day.
The day began early as usual. I was up at around 4 am, and I already had all my gear ready to go. I wasn't overly impressed with my 4 hours of sleep the night before, but when I had a family wedding up in Duncan, what else can you do?
I drove my dad's blue truck out to the China Beach Trailhead, and it wasn't too long before people began arriving. Most of the group left at around 7:45 am. They had chose the traditional South to North option of doing the trail,but I had opted for something different this year. I would be going North to South, and as luck would have it, I would also be doing it solo.
On the drive up to Botanical Beach, we saw bears on the side of the road about 10k along, so that got my West Coast vibes flowing inside of me. I dropped my co-pilot, Jeremy Lawrence, off at Sombrio (he was doing a 25k option run back to China Beach) and then continued up to Botanical. From Sombrio on, the road has been newly paved, and it is nice. Far nicer than the roller-coaster road it used to be.
I parked the vehicle, got my parking stub, and began my run at the 47k marker right at 8:30 am. This was it. This was what I had been training for all summer. This day. And here I was.
The first kilometre was rather simple - a downhill rocky road to sea level. From here the trail cuts South and is more or less flat. I rocked out the first 2k in 9 minutes and I thought to myself that if I could just maintain this pace for the next 45k, I'd have the course record. Haha. Things don't work that way.
After the first 2k, the trail takes on more of a JdF flavour. Hills, stairs roots and scenery. This part of the trail resembles the WCT in appearance. However, I was feeling great in the early going and did extremely well to cover the first 7k in 45 mins, and the first 10k in 1:02. At this point, I remember that Sean Chester last year did the final 10k in 1 hour going the opposite way, so I was happy that I was going fast, but not overly fast.
Soon thereafter, I saw a hiker coming the other way who flagged me down. He told me that up ahead in 1.5k, there was a large wasp nest on the trail. I asked him if there was any way around the nest, but he said no. He said he got stung.
Deep down I have always had a fear of bees. Snakes and spiders, no problem. But bees, I am scared of them. Maybe it is the fact that I know I cannot really outrun a bee.
So continue on, keeping my eyes open widely in case the man didn't know how far 1.5k really is. And then I see another group of hikers approaching. I stop. They tell me that their entire group was stung multiple times, and the lady in their group was stung 8 times. She said they were angry.
So now I am petrified. I got them to describe exactly where the nest was, and within a couple minutes of running, I hear buzzing sounds, and I totally panic. I scream backwards on the trail 20 ft and look up at the trail ahead. I am cold and have goosebumps of fear. I look up and see a small swarm right in the middle of the trail. Looking left of the trail, I see a 10 foot wall of salal. On the other side, a steep cliff. There is no option here but to go through it. My worst fear is about to be realized. So after a couple minutes, I decide on the Usain Bolt approach. I am going to hammer over this thing so fast that I will be stung the least amount of times. So off I go, and I went hard.
I get about 4 feet away from the swarm and then leap over the thing, planting my left foot at the base of the salal wall for extra propulsion. With my eyes shut, I leap over the nest and cannot believe my good fortune. I didn't get stung.
My heartrate is high and the adrenaline is going. But I guide my body back into the rhythm of the trail, and before I knew it I was leaving the trail for the top end of Sombrio Beach. 17k down, 30k to go. And I'm actually feeling great.
Although normally the beach is a welcome relief from the trail, I was anticipating a better time on Sombrio. Although the tide was out, the boulders were slippery, so it forced me to slow right down and travel slowly. I wanted to use the slow pace to refuel, but the footing was so dodgy that it was quite some time before I was able to take in my gels and s-caps. I also had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the South end of Sombrio, and I also was so buddy with my nutrition that I missed the trailhead off the beach for a second.
So back onto the trail I go, knowing that I will stop in just a few minutes at Sombrio Waterfall. I have this landmark pegged as a refueling station, and it did its job well this day. A full stop to load up the Hydropack and dunk my head, and then a few words of encouragement to myself and once again I am off.
Wasp nest aside, the going had been very good so far. But I knew there was trouble ahead. This next section of the trail past Sombrio is bad running, and I knew this new Southerly direction (uphill) it was only gonna be worse.
Yes it was bad, but I faired very well. I coped with the technical part leading up to the old road, and I was able to run the 1k uphill stretch of the road in its entirety. I was pretty bagged at the apex of the climb, but it was certainly fun to travel down this time (rather than up) towards the Loss Creek suspension bridge. I was pretty beat up by the time I hit km 23, but I was super excited to make it to the half way part of the trail without seeing anyone else from the JdF Epic Run. Shortly after though, I saw Ian coming toward me, and I stopped briefly to warm him of the wasp nest at 33.6k. He then told me that he had been stung, as there were two wasp nests around 12 and 13k. Great. I said goodbye, and then saw his running mate Nico shortly behind. It wasn't long before I found the short cut path that led to the ocean, and I opted to get off the trail and get onto the beach. The trail had beat me up enough.
This was, in hind sight, a bad move. The tide was much higher than I anticipated, and the short cut proved to be no time-saver. The sea arch that I would normally go through was now in the ocean, and I was forced to scale some rocks and do a 8 foot leap down off the rocks onto the beach. The beach was soft, but I did get to the top end of Chin Beach without injury.
Chin Beach was slightly better than Sombrio in the sense that I did manage to jog part of it. At the South end, I saw the 6 members of the running group from Vancouver. They were amazed and excited to see me and they took my photo. They asked what kind of pace I was on and I said 6:15. I knew at the half way point I was at 2:55ish (PB pace), but I also knew the chance of me getting an even split was near nil. I felt good, but I was feeling drained, and the worst part of the trail was about to hit me hard in the face.
I left the beach and for a moment I forgot what the trail ahead was like. What is was like was bad. Really bad. Not very runnable, and large elevation gains and drops. I tried my damnedest to cope with the power hiking/run down the switchbacks routine, but simply put, this part of the trail killed me. I felt drained of energy earlier, and this sucked every ounce of energy out of my legs. My hydration was good, my salt was good (I wasn't cramping), but my legs were like Jello. I slowed down with each kilometre, and by the time I hit 14k I was barely jogging.
And then I remembered what Ian had told me. There were more wasp nests ahead. Two lady hikers were coming my way, so I stopped to ask them if they had seen any wasp nests. No they said. Whew. I was relieved. It couldn't be that bad, but I should keep my guard up for the next few kilometres.
I never saw any nests over the next few kilometres. My pace did pick up over that section, likely out of fear, but I was in pretty bad shape when I hit Bear Beach at the 9k point. Normally Bear Beach is a beach I would consider running. But not today. For one thing, the tide was way up, so the rocks I usually go on were submerged. I was forced high up onto the sand and it was just as well, because I was struggling now. Beach Beach is a long stretch of beach, but when you are walking it in the sand and exhausted, it seems even longer.
I was hoping that the beach would revive me. I used the walk to refuel, and I prayed that the Calories would hit me sooner than later. But as I left the beach for what should be a pretty easy section of the trail, I was in the same sad state I was when I entered Bear Beach.
I now had all of 8k to go. And I couldn't run at all. I was that tired. Normally 8k would be a snap, but I knew I was in some trouble, and I knew I was on my own, so I had to take it easy. After all, it is the JdF Trail and most people spend 1 day to hike to Bear Beach.
So I walked. And boy did the kilometres go slow. I wasn't paying attention to the clock, but it took a long time to see the kilometre posts. Every once in a while, I attempted to run a flat section, but my effort was for nought. My head was down, my hands were on my thighs and I was doing my best to finish in one piece. I was bonking and bonking bad. There were some of the longest kilometres of my life.
At kilometre 3, I decided to sit down, as my stomach was a bit queasy and I was in rough shape. I took my final gel and finished off my water. Still no cramping, but zero energy to move the jello legs. It was only 2-3 minutes before I began again, and I was relieved to get to Mystic Beach shortly after.
Mystic Beach was full of people. And the people seemed to give me some energy, at least, for the time being. I got back on the trail again after the brief beach walk and climbed up the massive staircase back into the canopy of the West Coast Rainforest. The route was slightly uphill here, but I felt obligated to attempt another run. This time, I held form and was able to shuffle through the last stretch and through all the hikers/walkers. I made it to the end without stopping and clocked my time at 6:19.
I was happy to be done. This trail is bloody tough, no matter how many times I've done it, or how many different ways I go. It was a tale of two stories for me this day. The first half was incredible, the second half was dismal. Again, I now am in search of answers.
I feel that I had the fitness to continue my pace that I established early on. It was a similar pace to that of last year, but I was beaten by the trail. My hydration was good, my salt intake was good, my Caloric intake or glycogen reserve let me down.
Do not go to a wedding the night before a big ultra. You will lose energy.
Get more sleep. 4 hours per night is not sufficient.
Last year was a pretty good run when I did it in 6:01. This run sucked, and I still got 6:19. So now I am 100% confident that I can do 5:4x if all goes well.
I am keen to redeem myself from this day, and I think I may give it another go in a couple of weeks. My fitness is there, and there is room in the racing calendar for it. I should be able to do these distance events and finish on a way better note than this. I hate finishing a run and feeling sour, like the trail beat me. And today, without a doubt, it pounded me.
Results will come, but I need to focus on consistency/pace/energy throughout the distance.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Man of Legendary Stature

Ultrarunning is not always glamorous. 1 poo stop, 5 pee breaks, and a nosebleed were highlights for my 40k training run yesterday. Ah yes, and a breakfast of Maltodextrin and Salt, taken in 45 minute intervals. The breakfast of champions.
However, at the end of it, it was perhaps the best training runs of 2010 for me. The 40k route took me from Kemp Lake out in Sooke to Leechtown and back. This would be the first time I would run this section of the Galloping Goose Trail, and it is, without doubt, the most scenic part of the trail. The nosebleed came 3 hours into my 3:33 run, and I was fortunate to have Kleenex on hand to plug one nostril while still on the go.
So it was a good one for me. No cramping on a 40k run is a rare event for me. I even managed to run all the uphills, which I think is pretty impressive, when you consider a couple of those uphills I took on in the last 5 km.
I've now only got one final important training run left. I am planning on doing a 90' hill workout this Thursday at Mt. Doug, just to get a bit more quad endurance in me.

The last 4 weeks have been solid though.
4 weeks ago - 4 hours (28k) on the JdF with Sean Chester.
3 weeks ago - 80' (13k) bail out run.
2 weeks ago - 37k to E/B and back.
1 week ago - 40k to Leechtown and back from Kemp Lk.

JdF Trail in 2 weeks. I have decided to go for it, and decided to try the North to South option this year. Looking forward to it.

Now, on to the real reason I am making this post.

Last Thursday, I had the privilege to speak with Gary Robbins over the phone. Although I have never met him before irl, I feel that he and I have much in common, as we share many of the same passions. He is arguably Canada's best ultrarunner at the moment, and 2 weeks ago he set the 75k West Coast Trail Speed Record with a clocking of 10:05. Anyone who truly knows me knows that I am passionate about the WCT, almost to the point of obsession. I was hoping for a WCT Run this year in 2010, but with my injury earlier this year, it never happened. I still have dreams at night of a WCT attempt in 2011.
Although I am not a reporter, I did conduct a small interview with my idol, and I have included this below. The words down below are not exact quotes from Gary or myself, but I was taking notes, so you can get the gist of what we are discussing....

: Before I begin with the questions I have for you, I just got to congratulate you on setting the WCT Speed Record.

: Thanks, it is finally great to chat with you.

: And also, when you did the double (WCT/JdF) back in 2007 in just under 24 hours, most people thought this kind of goal was unattainable. I would like to thank you for being such a great role model and making the impossible seem possible. Although you may not know it, there are many runners young and old new to ultrarunning that look up to you as 'the guy' in the sport.

: Thanks, I think you have me blushing now. It is humbling to know that others are inspired by me.

: Concerning the WCT, I know you left just shortly after 5:30 am at the North Trailhead. Was light an issue at all?

: Yes, a little. For that time of the day, I really should have left about 15 minutes later, but I had pre-arranged when to meet the Nitnat Ferry guy - between 9 and 9:10 am - so I had to get to that point on time.

: When you got to the beach after the first 12k, were you able to use low tide and run in the ocean on the sandstone shelf at all?

: Not really. There were a couple times I went into the ocean, but it was dangerous down there. The terrain was sketchy and the larger rocks were terribly slippery. It was just dangerous, so I was forced onto the beach and the sand for much of it.

: So now you motor along to Km 22 where you encounter the first cable car crossing at the Klanawa River. Knowing how difficult these crossing are on your upper body, and how many Calories it takes, would you consider swimming across the river instead?

: Out of the 5 cable cars, I only took 2. And yes, the cable cars are pretty brutal, but I would definitely not swim across. There is too much to be lost if your body temperature gets too low, or your gear gets wet or something. While it may be slightly slower, it is just safer to use the cable cars.

: So now you bomb along until Tsusiat at Km 26. Did you find the next section after - from Km. 26 to Km. 33 nasty at all?

: It is a very technical stretch.

: Was the Nitnat guy there for you on time this time around?

: Thankfully, yes. I had phoned him ahead of time, and he was happy to show up earlier than scheduled for me. I gave him a twenty and I was on my way.

: Were the boardwalks slippery at all for you, or were they pretty dry?

: They were pretty good. I know there is usually a heavy mist in the mornings - even on a hot summer day - so they can be pretty bad. I'd say 90% of them were totally runnable. I can't even imagine attempting to run this trail when it is wet. I would never have come close to the record had the weather been different.

: You make it half way, to Monique's Restaurant. Did you stop there at all?

: Yes, it was a short stop though. I ate my trail mix, I filled up my water, and that was pretty much it.

: You now motor along to the Walbran River at Km 53 along the beach. How was that section, and did you manage to ford the river?

: The beach was a little slow going I have to say. Some of it was not very runnable, so it tried my patience on more than one occasion. The river (Walbran) was very high, and I decided not to chance it, so I went up to the trail and did the cable car...reluctantly.

: Along the final 20k or so, there are a few places where you may have thought about taking the beach instead of the trail. Were you able to fast-track along the beach?

: No. It was trail all the way out from the Walbran. I know there are places where the beach may be good, but the tides were not ideal, and the rocks along the beach had already proven to be very slippery. It would have been chancy to take that option.

: One of the most difficult parts of the trail is the final 10k. I know the final 5k for you was really bad, in terms of nutrition, but how did you find the km 65-70 section. You know, the loggy section.

: It is difficult for sure. Very technical, very slow.

: Your GPS showed at the end of the run that the trail was actually 80k, and not 75k. Where was the extra distance on the trail?

: The first kilometre was longish (1.2?), maybe due to the recent storms that the trail had endured. But after that, the kilometre marker were dead accurate for much of the way, until the last 10-15k. The last 5k was more like 8k.

: Was finding water on the trail a problem?

: No.

: Were you disappointed with your 10:08 finish?

: No. I came to set the record, and I did that. Yes I could have been faster, and yes I could have done a few little things differently. However, record set, mission accomplished.

: You have eluded to the fact that running the trail in the other direction may be easier.

: I am 100% convinced that running South to North is easier. Getting that nasty part out of the way when you are fresh has to pay off in the end. Logistics would be easier as well.

: Was your nutrition plan any different than when you do other races (ie. Western States), seeing that this trail is so damn technical?

: No. I use the same nutrition plan wherever I go. I struggled to fuel properly on the trail, and it was my own fault, and I paid dearly for it in the end. I have never bonked so bad in my life. I am used to refueling on the uphills, but because of the terrain, I couldn't really afford to take my eyes off the trail. Then on the flats, I wanted to run them to make up time and speed. The 80k over-distance and my inability to fuel properly (more gels) toward the end caused my bonking. I typically do 3 gels every 2 hours, 2-4 salt caps per hour and real food sporadically whenever I can. I pretty much budget on taking in 300 cal/hr.

: Finally, you know that you were capable of running the trail in 9:30 if everything was perfect. Do you think that the trail can be done sub you, or by anyone?

: Well, the conditions would have to be ideal. I think it might be possible, but the stars would need to be aligned. You would need 2-3 elite guys who are pushing one another the entire way, and perhaps not all of them even finish. The weather would have to be perfect, and the route would have to be the quickest. I think it could be done, but perhaps not for a very long time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Training Update - Aug. 3, 2010

Things have been going pretty well on the training front. I managed to keep up running while on family vacation, and at the same time, get in a couple of longer runs. Since returning to Victoria, I was back on form in the TNW speed sessions, which is a good sign.
For my long runs, I did Gowland-Tod to Glen Lake (28k) three weekends ago. The next weekend I had the opportunity to do a portion of the JdF, where I ran with Sean Chester and completed 28k in 4 hours. And then this past weekend, I bailed on a 36k training run attempt and turned it into a 13k run. I was ok with this, as there is still time for me to get in a few longer ones.
The next two weekends will be critical for me. If I can basically nail two more long (3 hr. ~36-40k) training runs, I should be where I want for the JdF Trail Run on Aug. 29th.
I am still unsure if I will run the distance of the trail, or whether I will save myself for the following weekend at the CR 50k. A decision probably will not be made which race will be my "A" race until the day before the JdF. If I'm feeling good though, it will be hard to hold me back!
In other news, Gary Robbins does a speed attempt of the 75k WCT tomorrow. This is big news in my world. It is what I have dreamed about for the past 3 years, and needless to say, I am jealous beyond belief. However, I admire Gary to the nth degree, and I am really hoping he has a good showing and crushed the record. I think he will do it. Go Gary, Go!
I still have not ruled out of attempting it again myself, possibly next year.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sidney 5k - July 1, 2010

I didn't make the decision to race in this local 5k race until the day before, and as we all know, 5k is not really my distance. However, I have been feeling great in the past couple weeks with my running, and I thought I would use this race to gauge where I was at with my speed.
I had run hard on the Tuesday night previous, so I did have a little concern that I could still be fatigued from that workout, but I was still ready and itching to race.
The field for this race was around 200 runners, and there were a handful of elites, but definitely not quite the field of a typical running race. Looking around, I figured I would fall somewhere in the top 10, but placing was not really what I was after today. I had run this race course in the Spring, and done pretty well to finish with a clocking of 17:42. I also know that on a good day, I could nail a 17:30 on this course. So here we go...
I arrived to the race in good time, and after registering at the table, proceeded to get in a good warm-up. I then positioned myself at the start line, and then soon enough, we were off.
Two fastees took off to the front, and I positioned myself in the second grouping. By about 0.5k, Kevin Searle had pulled ahead of our little pack, and by the 1k marker, I was comfortably in 4th place. I was horrified to see my split time of 3:24. This was bad news for sure - I need to hit between 3:35 and 3:40 to maximize my finishing time. Knowing that I was going too fast, I dialed it back quite a bit over the next kilometre and I let a few guys (including Gary Duncan) go by me. My next split was 3:46, and I was not feeling great about my pacing today. I managed to hold onto my 10k race pace for the next 1.5k, and I kept a 3:40 pace throughout. I was now in a spot in the race where it looked like nobody in front of me was going to be caught by me, and now my efforts were just going to be holding off any stand from behind.
I knew this was not my best race, but when Claire Morgan passed me around the 3.5k mark, I was pretty pissed off. I was initially surprised to see her so far up in the race, but there was a voice inside me that said, "Damned if I am going to be passed by you." It was not the fact that she was a woman, I have no issues with being beaten by women. In fact, I don't mind at all running behind women. However, deep down, I know I am stronger than Claire, so I was going to do my best to stay with her.
In spite of my competitive drive, I struggled to keep up with her. She was flying, and I seemed to be fading. At the 4k mark, she was a good 5 seconds infront of me, and I considered making a move. However, I didn't as I felt that I didn't have a 3 minute+ kick inside of me. I decided to wait to the end...if there was still a chance.
As we rounded the final 500m, I kicked it in and pulled even with Claire on the inside. She sped up, and now it became a battle of determination and guts. I could hear her coach, Paul O'Callahan, barking her to keep up with me, but now it was me who had taken the final stretch by the horns. I drove my elbows and lengthened my stride just to get ahead, and I now could see the finish line and the clock. Paul continued his orders at Claire and yapped out, "Stay with Jeff!", but it was me who used this motivation.
I came over the line right on 18:00, which was good enough for 9th overall.
While this may sound like a good time to the average person, it was kind of a crappy race for me. I went in thinking I was capable of 17:30, and in fact, Gary Duncan (who came 4th) did that time. I still feel that I am as strong as he is, so it still seems that I am not quite translating my training into performance. However, all things considered, it was a decent time, and does provide me with a baseline for where to go.
Lesson learned however...I heard someone say once that for every second you go too fast in the first kilometre of a road race, you will lose 2 seconds with your final result. My first kilometre was 11 seconds out of my range, and in the end, my result was 18 seconds slower than what I did in the Spring. Perhaps if my first kilometre was just a little slower, I would have a new 5k PB. Who knows? I still feel like I race like a novice. More experience is required for sure.
I am not sure what race will be next for me, but there are now many, many races on my radar, and it looks like it could be a very busy August/September for me.
I look forward to continuing my training, pushing myself to the limit, and performing at races to the best of my ability.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Duncan 8k and Training Update - June, 2010

Duncan 8k
I ran the Duncan 8k about 3 weeks ago and had a great race. The field was very small, but I took it upon myself to see what I could do, post-injury. Early speed sessions indicated that I was pretty much back to normal, but only a true race would be able to confirm these thoughts.
I took the lead early, and geared up for the long Lakes Rd. incline. It is about 1k of fairly steep uphill, but I knew once I was a the top, there would be time for recovery. As was the norm, Gary Duncan was also in the race, but I led early, and furthered the lead up the hill. By the top of the hill, I was in the clear.
I didn't want to let go of the pace, so I kept rolling along the farm/paved section at the top. I was feeling good, and I had no intentions of slowing down. This was the first race I ever had the lead on, and damn it felt good. I don't race how small the field was.
As I now entered the trail section of the course, I knew I was now in my element. I blew through the trails and then headed back up York Rd. (5k). I felt fatigued going up this short, but steep pitch, but again, I knew this was the final uphill bit, so I just had to bear down.
I hadn't run the course before, but had driven most of it. As I neared the 6k mark, I took a wrong turn very briefly, but my peripheral vision caught sight of a cone and I was again on the correct path. I now relaxed down Timberline downhill to the grass parkway finale. This was not easy, as the ground was soft here, and there was not much rebound from the ground here. This section seemed like a lengthy one, but soon enough I left the trail and headed to the final stretch.
I flew down the final driveway section and crossed the finish line in 30:15. My first win.
30:15 might sound like an average time to some, but I remind them that this course is hilly and also changes terrain significantly. My Pioneer 8k time earlier in the year was around 40 seconds faster, and I'd say that I ran at least as fast on this course, all things considered.
While there is no prize money for this event, nor were there ribbons, or medals, this race did much for my confidence. I now know I am back.

Training Update
Since the Duncan 8k, I have been training hard. My speed is definitely as fast as it has ever been, and I am training back to 4 times per week. Last weekend, I got my distance run up to 20k, so I know my distance is nowhere where it normally is, but I am in a good place now to start adding mileage. Last TNW session, I dropped two young fastees in Mt. Doug Park, and they simply couldn't keep up with me. I know I am no Shane Ruljancich, but I am making it my duty to put in the kind of effort he used to, and establish me as being the front runner.
So, as good things are happening now, I am starting to think about upcoming events. Everyone seems to be asking me what is next for me, and to them I have no answer. I have just wanted to get back into shape, and I know I am finally there.
While the JdF Trail looms at the end of August, I have no other solid commitments, other than training. However, in all honesty, I am ready to get back at 'er.
I have been thinking about the Esquimalt 8k, and also the Half Monty 25k in July. I hope I can get into September healthy, and if that happens, I would not rule out the CR 56k in September, or the GLW 50k.
Long term, I am thinking about going after a sub 3 hr marathon maybe in 2011. I know it is too early to think about 2011, but after missing so much this year, so much seems to beckon.
I am thankful that things are going well, and that options are opening. Hopefully there will be some racing news in the near future.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Back at 'er - May 31, 2010

So you know something is up when I don't do a blog post for so long, Typically, I write a blog posting when I am really emotionally up.
The back injury that I had never really seemed to go away. The past couple of months were filled with continuous waves of hope, then depression.
After 5 trips to the chiropractor to straighten my back out, I then went to the physio to get some rehab exercises to strengthen me up, and to get rid of my low back pain. 5 trips later, I still was not running. Frustrating. It was the first time I had traction done, and that was cool, but the lack of improvement was not cool.
I learned that my back injury was a strained facet joint ligament. I did not hurt my back running; it seemed that some of the furniture moving I did over spring break did it. However, the Comox 1/2 Marathon did hurt it more, and is likely the reason why this injury lingered on for so long.
So 2 months of no running. Water running and spin biking was the diet for a while. And core exercises - thanks to the physio. I actually stayed in reasonable shape for most of the time, but the last few weeks I could feel myself losing my fitness.
Now, my back is about 95%. It basically just took time. More time than anyone would have guessed, but as long as I am back operating as normal eventually, it doesn't matter to me too much. I missed 4 key running events (Sooke 10k, TC 10k, E/B 50k, and the Oak Bay 1/2 Marathon). I did spend time at the latter 3 either volunteering, or cheering on my family who was participating.
I have now been running for the past 3 weeks. I rejoined my PIH running group 3 Tuesdays ago, and I was pretty impressed with how quickly I rebounded. The past 2 weeks at the TNW, I have been literally at the front, so it appears that my speed did not suffer too much from the injury. However, my distance is nowhere near where it was, and I would struggle to complete 20k right now. I did do a 16k training run yesterday (and actually hit 40k in 3 days of running last week), but it certainly was not easy.
So, there we go. I am back.
This weekend, I am taking part in the Duncan 8k - a new event, but one I am looking forward to immensely.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Injured Again? wtf!

Well, after taking some Vitamin I and PBing at the Comox 1/2, the injured back has continued to be injured. Over the past 3.5 weeks of the back injury, I have seen Dr. Cindy Berna 5 times now, and my back has pretty much been realigned.
It has been an extremely frustrating time for me. I feel fine...until I try running. And this recent injury could not have happened at a worse time for me. I am currently registered for 3 upcoming races: the E/B 50k, the TC 10k, and the Sooke 10k. It is peak running season, and I will be dropping out of all 3 of these races.
Dropping out of the Sooke 10k is a killer for me mentally. I have worked my ass off over the past few months getting my speed up and nailing PBs at every distance. I am currently sitting 2nd in my age class and 25th overall in the Island Series, and all of that will be lost when I do not race this weekend.
Emotionally, the past few weeks have been difficult. And the fact that my back is in a constant 'achy-pain' feeling does not help the matter.
However, with every challenge comes an opportunity to strengthen up and rise up to that challenge. I have been staying in shape by doing some deep water running sessions in the pool, as well as some spin biking. No, it is not running, but hell, it is something. I still feel that if I can work hard in this brief non-running phase, I should be able to come back and fit in right where I was.
On a good note, it appears for the time being that my Achilles problem has cleared up. This is what non-running will do with chronic injuries. I am thinking that 3 more weeks of focused stretching, exercise and rehab will put me on a path to being where I was by the middle of May.
At this point, I am not sure what 2010 will bring. I have some ideas of potential biggish events for the summer and for the fall, but again, not sure.
I am awaiting a reply email from Bob Wall, and his ideas could change everything for me in 2010.
Again, I am thinking 3 more weeks of this, and then we will see my return.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Comox 1/2 Marathon: March 21, 2010

I was feeling pretty good leading up to race weekend. My sleeps had been great, which was a nice change from the norm. I was still on the edge of fighting off some kind of cold, but I was on the way to recovery for sure, and all it really was was just a minor lingering nighttime cough.
I had spend the previous weekend installing laminate floor into our TV room, and ended up with a bit of a sore back from the whole ordeal of moving furniture around. I actually went to Dr. Cindy Berna, my chiropractor, on Thursday to realign my back, as I knew it was off kilter somewhat from whatever I was doing on Wednesday.
I woke up on race morning with a sore back. It wasn't too bad, but I was feeling like today was going to be a great race day for me in spite of it. I got my gear ready, had a giant bowl of cereal, and then rendezvoused with my running clan to carpool up to the race.
Our first stop was a pee break at Mill Bay, and when I tried to get out of my seat in the back of the minivan, my back throbbed with pain. I have no idea where this came from exactly. To make a long story short, when we got to the race my back was in terrible shape, and I was in noticeable pain. I still thought that I could just 'run it out', and after multiple attempts, the pain was barely manageable. Each step compressed my back and shot jolts of pain around my low back, on the right side. I now decided that the only way out of this mess was to take an Ibuprofen, and just pray that it did some kind of magic. I am not exaggerating when I say that I actually thought of not starting the race due to the pain.
So, I began my hunt for some Vitamin I, as I do not carry any with me for any kind of short runs. I do always have a couple in my Nathan Hydropack, but I didn't expect needing any. After much ordeal, I was lucky enough to have Shane and Sonja (fellow Harriers) give me an Ibuprofen. I went to the water fountain and popped one pill down - the time was 13 minutes to start.
My only hope was now that the Ibuprofen would take effect almost immediately. It did not, of course, and a few strides in before the race only confirmed how much pain I was in. I did start the race however, and I fully expected to drop out before the 1k marker.
I lined up behind training mate, Gary Duncan and just hoped to follow him until (a) the magic of the Ibuprofen kicked in, or (b) I dropped out.
The race began, and I followed Gary as best as I could, in spite of the pain I was in. I was a little surprised I could keep up to him in spite of the pain. And it was painful. I was a little slower than I probably should have been, but I my legs were turning over and I was running.
Then, at the 3 minute mark, something remarkable happened and I felt a quick wave of energy go from my head down to my heels. As this wave of energy passed through my body, the pain left my body. I took a few strides of pain free running and actually spoke out loud and said, "What the hell?!"
The first kilometer passed by in 3:45, and I actually felt like I had a chance of finishing this race, as long as the pain was gone. Either the magic of the Ibuprofen or the indestructible feeling you get from racing had aided me, and done so at a pretty damn good time.
I still felt like it would be a slow race for me, as much of my early energy had gone into the stress of the back pain situation and trying to figure out what I was going to do. I basically just needed to relax a bit and start to enjoy things. Finishing the race would be a small miracle this day, and now I thought it was possible.
The next couple kilometres went by in relatively slow fashion, but I actually was still maintaining a sub 4 minute pace per kilometre. I knew that if I could do that, then my chances of finishing the day without a totally embarrassing time would be good.
I had to finish this race. I needed this race for my Island Series points, and I was determined to have the required 5 races in to qualify. I also was really hoping for a good day. With my last 2 races (Orcas Island 50k & Bazan Bay 5k) kind of falling apart, I wanted this one so bad.
Gary extended a bit of a lead over me in the first 5k but he wasn't more than about 30 seconds in front of me. I figured that as long as I kept him in sight, I would do reasonable.
The hills at kilometre 6-9 didn't phase me too much, as I knew what to expect this year. Last year these hills were surprising to me and took the wind out of my sails completely.
I was satisfied with my 10k time of 39:58 when I passed the marker. I thought to myself, now all I need to do is maintain what I've done, or better, and I'll have a good day. The only problem with this is that I literally have never negative-splitted a course before. Could this be the day?
The wind at the turn-around spot was pretty nasty, but again, I was just looking to hold my pace against the odds. I then headed past the 11k marker and toward the last big hill on the course. I knew once I climbed this hill, I would be on a slow downhill for the next 3 kilometres.
I climbed the hill well, and then angled my body forward to embrace the downhill. I felt pretty good here, as did the group of 3 runners around me. I actually had been trading spots with a Campbell River runner, named Bryan Crerar, for much of the race. He and I seemed to be on the exact same pace. I made it down the hills alright down to the 15k marker, and I was still very slightly below a 4 min/km pace - I think I had about 30 seconds to spare. Bryan meanwhile started to fade over the last kilometre, and he was definitely tired.
The only problem now is that I felt like I was starting to tire. This part of the course is basically flat, but because the prior few k's had been a slow downhill, it gives the feeling that I was now on a slow uphill. I also felt my calves getting tight, and the last thing I needed were calf cramps.
Fortunately, there was an aid station coming up, and I did stop briefly to take a mouthful of Gatorade and a cup of water that went on my head. I hadn't planned on stopping at any of the aid stations, but I had to finish.
With basically 3k to go, I could feel some excitement rush through my bones. I still happened to be slightly under PB pace. Gary Duncan was still visible, and he now seemed to be almost within striking distance. Another runner just behind Gary was also suffering, and over the next kilometre, I was able to reel him in. The final 2k of the race are pretty easy. It is just a boring, flat run along a farm or two. I just had to keep my energy alive for just a tiny bit longer.
At the 20k mark, I knew I was in good shape. Don't get me wrong, I was suffering, and I was definitely pushing my pace to the max. I knew that the final kilometre here could very well determine whether or not I land a PB. My final kilometre had to be fast, and fortunately, it was a slow downhill to a flat finish. I tried to summon my adrenaline glands to activate, and I was able to make a final push to the finish line. I crossed the line at 1:23:36, which would be good for 25th overall and 2nd in my age group. It would be a 41 second PB for me, on a day that I was pretty certain that I was not even going to be able to make it through 1 kilometre. The result was superb, and although I do think I have the potential to run a high 1:22:xx on a good day and on the right course, this result was excellent (Gary did finish 30 seconds infront of me). What went from being a miserable day, turned into something magical for me.
After the race, I took full advantage of the post-race smorgasbord. I also waited with my Harriers group for the awards ceremony and then took the long drive back home. As I sat around, my back was in complete pain again, and when I got home, I realized that my upper body was a good 2 inches bent to the left. I was hoping that a trip to the chiropractor would fix all that. As I write this, it is now 3 days after the race. 2 chiropractor appointments later, my back is still not 100%. It is better, and I am far more mobile than I was, but this back thing seems to be fairly serious. The timing could not be much worse, as I am supposed to be peaking this week and next for the upcoming E/B 50k race in early May. With some luck, I will be running again, pain-free. No more moving heavy furniture for me for a while.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bazan Bay 5k: March 6th, 2010

I was keen to see what kind of a 5k time I could land, seeing as my speed has been much improved, and the Bazan Bay 5k course was apparently PB material. The week leading up to the 5k, I was actually in pretty miserable shape in terms of my health. Although I wouldn't classify myself as being sick, I was definitely fighting off being sick and was not 100%. Adding to this was the fact that I hadn't been sleeping very well at all. Typically I was getting to bed at around 10:30 pm, and then up at 4 am for good. I was feeling very stressed about my coaching job, as my Badminton Team was heading for the Provincials, and I was not only coaching but organizing the entire event. And although you may think, "it is only badminton," when you consider that I was the only person organizing the 16 teams of 16 people who were coming here for a top-level tournament for 3 days, it all added up to a fair bit of stress for me. In the end however, the tournament went well, both from my own team's performance (5th) and also from an organizational standpoint. I barely stayed healthy though, and for the second time in my life, I lost my voice for the better part of 3 days.
I only managed 2 days of running in the week prior to the 5k, but on race day, I was still feeling like I had the speed and the drive inside me.
I positioned myself on the start line, and once again, it was apparent that track athletes and triathletes filled the top portion of the field. It was also cool for me to see Simon Whitfield in the race as well.
As the race began, the pace was fierce, and I did my best to find my 5k pace. Only problem was, I really had no clue of what a proper 5k race pace was. I knew it was faster than my 10k pace, so all I did was gear it up a notch form that. I felt pretty good through 1k and was content with my position in the race. Simon Pearson was slightly ahead of me and Gary Duncan was slightly behind me, so I must have been where I should have been. At the 1k split, I was horrified to see my time of 3:15. I immediately thought of taking it back a little, but I still felt good, and thought it was only a 5k race, so I held the blistering pace. At this point, I was not really passing anyone but was simply holding my own and following master runner Lucy Smith. I thought about passing her before the 2k mark, but held off the urge, knowing that the pace was definitely more that what I - the Gordon Head ultrarunner - was used to. At the 2k split, I was at 6:44 and Lucy started to pull away from me. I remember wondering at this point why the hell I had chosen to wear a singlet. I was not warm, and by the time I was, the race would be over. My arms were actually numb, and I couldn't feel anything from my shoulders down. Dumb ass. I really only wore the singlet because it was lighter than the t-shirt, and I figured it would make 2 valuable seconds difference.
I now saw the top runners coming back at me (Simon Whitfield leading the way) and I knew that the turn around was coming up. My pace was slower along this stretch, and I now realized that my start was way too fast for me. No surprise. My race plan was to run "balls out", and hopefully hold it for 5k. I think my 3k split was around 11:00, and I had now rounded the turn-around and was trying to stride it out home. The race course was, in fact, perfect. Flat and boring. Perfect PB material. Basically this was like a glorified track event. And I don't do track.
I continued to struggle somewhat between 3 and 4k, but once I hit 4k I could hear Gary Duncan breathing on my back. I was determined not to let him beat me. If I was beat by him, then today really was not my best. I stayed ahead of him for the next 500m, only to have him and another master pass me. I then cushioned myself behind them, and then passed them both with 200m to go. The intent was to stay infront of them for good, but as we rounded the last corner, both of them surged by me, and I didn't have any gas left in the tank to keep up with them.
I crossed the finish line at 17:43. It was good for 52nd overall, 9th in my age group, and a PB for me at the 5k distance. Although these were all good things, it was a pretty poor run for me. The pacing was poor throughout, and I felt not very motivated on the flat course. I should have been able to go low 17's on this course if all was well, but today was just a mediocre day.
Next up for me is the Comox 1/2 Marathon on March 21. Hopefully it will be a good day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Orcas Island 50k, Feb. 3rd, 2010

I was feeling great heading into this race. My confidence was high, after nailing PBs in the 8k and 10k just a few weeks prior. And although I know a couple of road races mean nothing when it comes to a distance trail event, I was feeling really good with my training and felt like I might be able to pull off a top 10 finish at this race.
This race would be my first big ultra (and, I know, it really wasn't that big). But it was a destination event for our PIH group coming over from Victoria. The group was excited, and we certainly had some great runners coming over for this one.
The training for this race started in mid-December, pretty much after my family returned from Hawaii. I spent quite a few chilly mornings getting in my long runs. One such training run I will remember for quite some time will be the Cowichan TCT training run I did with my brother-in-law, Jason. It was a dark, frosty December morning, and the temperature was -1. My Camelbak froze, and I had to work hard not to freeze myself. Ah, that was a good one for sure.
I had peaked my training at 40k, and did so 3 weeks prior to Orcas. I think my final 4 weeks went something like this: 36k, 37k, 40k, 35k. My weekly mileage hit 80k+ at its peak for 3 weeks. Although most ultra guys would say that this is about 1/2 of what weekly mileage you require, it was alot for me, and all things considered, I was feeling pretty good. I had even thrown in a couple 90 minute Mt. Doug Gutbuster sessions into my training, just to get the hills and mud in. So bottom line: I was feeling good, and felt that I did everything I could to be prepared for this one.

The trip down
I was lucky enough to get a ride from my father-in-law early Friday morning to our group rendezvous point at the PIH Headquarters. My running friends were there, and after a brief wait, we piled into the club van (aka "Harrier Carrier") and set off for the Tsawassen ferry. I spent much of the time on the ferry loading up in the buffet. I knew that after this meal, there likely wouldn't be much opportunity to really pile in the Calories. So I did.
After arriving on the mainland, we drove toward the boarder, and we were pleased to only have about a 5 minute wait heading across. While this was great news, our other car - the car carrying the rest of our running group - was asked to pull over. The problem was that Carlos Castillo did not have a Canadian Passport...only his British one. They eventually did get through, but it took about an hour. One hour for us to hang around a Subway Restaurant and visit.
Eventually we were off, and after a brief stopover in Bellingham to pick up a few organic groceries, we made our way to the Anacortes-Orcas Ferry terminal.
Things were now getting exciting. There were piles of cars loaded with runners in the ferry lineup. In fact, the car right in front of us had a licence plate from Utah that said "I Run Far", and a bumper sticker that said "Western States 100 Miler". And when the guys stepped out of their car, I could tell that they didn't just buy this for show. They had earned it. They looked professional. Top to bottom in Montrail gear.
The ferry trip over to Orcas Island was memorable. The ferry had the heat cranked up to 40 degrees, and after spending a solid 45 minutes attempting to complete an impossible cat puzzle that I am sure was missing most of the pieces, the cards came out and we all partook in a classic game of "Asshole".
We finally arrived on Orcas Island and then drove around to where I would be staying. I was amazed at how long it took to get from one end of the island to the other. It was only 11 miles, but it sure did feel like forever. At this point, I was ready to be at my destination. And finally, we found the lodge, and my group dropped me off (the rest of my PIH group had rented a house, and I had opted for the lodge).
I quickly scanned around and asked the guys in the lodge if I was actually in the right place, and they confirmed it. My immediate impression was that things looked a little disorganized. I couldn't get into my cot right away, as the organizers were still figuring out who was going to sleep where. But eventually, I was assigned a cot, and I also had first dibs on picking out a race shirt.
I found my cabin, and peeked inside to see what kind of accommodation $40 would get you for 2 nights in these parts. Well, let's just say it wasn't the Howard Johnson. It actually was Camp Thunderbird all over again, except in my cabin there were 7 bunks (14 people). Things were going to be very cozy, as it was pretty tight in there. I was just hoping that nobody was going to snore. That would not be good.
Soon after, Jason arrived (and this was the reason I was staying at the lodge) with his group. I was in the middle of making Kraft Dinner using the camp's kitchen. I remember carrying out my heaping dish of KD right past all these ultra runners to sit down next Jason to wolf it down. I was a little embarrassed, as my dinner probably cost me all of about 89 cents. I am pretty sure no other big ultra dudes were eating KD that night. A few of the other runners gave me a look like "Is that really Kraft Dinner? What are you, like 8 years old?"
Anwyays, I took comfort in the fact that my body was used to eating this crap, and while one may laugh at me for eating such crap, I have learned that ,"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Bottom line: it works for me.
Jason and i must have spent the next hour watching a small film that the organizers had put on for entertainment. The film was about some Greek runner in the 80's, who actually was the founder of ultrarunning. It was very interesting, and in watching it, it confirmed to me what I already knew: that ultrarunners are mentally unstable. This Greek guy was a total nut.
Jason and I went back to the cabin and got to sleep around 9pm. Surprisingly, most of the other 12 people in our cabin were also in bed by then. We all knew we had a big, bold day ahead of us.

The race
Warming up for a long race like this is really just a matter of trying to stay loose. Mentally I tried to check myself into the fact that I would be out there for the better part of 6 hours. The weather for the day looked perfect - no rain, and not cold.
I assembled myself onto the start line in about the second row. I originally was hoping for a top 10 finish from this race, but after seeing the sponsored elites in the first row, I changed my mind and just went out there, trying to have a strong race. I didn't see Jason, but I put myself beside Rafael Albert (we have a history together) on the start line.
The race began, and as expected, the fastees zoomed ahead, and I tried to ensure that I found what was a comfortable pace. I did just that, and figured that I was in about 15th place. The course was fantastic in the initial going. It was singletrack. Not too muddy, and not too challenging, but there were hills for sure. In fact as the first few kilometers whittled away, we went down some significant switchbacks, only to have a large powerhike to get back up them. I was passed by a couple of guys, and I also passed a couple runners myself. The race was early, but I was feeling superb.
At around the 10k mark, there was a very large hill that we had to powerhike up. It took a few minutes to get up it, and it gave me a chance to look back down the switchbacks and see who was behind me. I could hear a guy behind me chatting away about his recent experience at the 100m Hawaii HURT event, so I knew there were people close by. I was relieved to see the top of the hill arrive, and now the trail gave way to a more open fireroad. Slow downhill was the theme for the next few kilometers. I was surprised to see how fast people actually ran in a 50k. I checked my watch shortly after, and it was right on 1 hour. I began my recovery walk: took 1 S-Cap, 1 Gel and plenty of water. Just like training. One guy sped by me and asked if I was alright and I said yes. I guess he thought I was in trouble, but I was actually just fine. I just happened to have my mobile aid station on my back. I was pretty disappointed to have a pack of about 6 guys pass me though.
I took to my pace again, and the trail continued on the open fireroad for quite sometime. As we got closer to the lodge, the trail diverted back onto singletrack and followed a river. Again, the trail was rolling here, and I actually recall that there was next to no flat on this course.
I could see the paved road on the left, and I knew that we were close to the first aid station. I had caught up to the pack of 6 guys now, and was right behind them as we ran across the grassy field toward check point #1. We were now 16k in. The cool thing for me is that in coming to this check-in, there is a small out-and-back, so you can see exactly who is infront of you. I ran toward the aid station, and a girl read my number outloud, and I did an immediate 180 turn and carried on. Everyone else in the pack of 6 had stopped for supplies, but my thinking was that I didn't need an aid station, I had it on my back.
Because of my quick turn around, I now found myself in 8th place. I can say this with confidence, as I was counting the people that had done the turn around already. Still no sign of Rafael or Jason, but I figured they were hot on my heels. As I carried up the singletrack, I followed the signs and now went left. As I did that I heard Jason's voice say, "Go Jeff, yeah!" I was pretty much out of breath, and didn't really have time to stop and ask him how his race was going, so I carried on.
Once again, I still felt great at this point. I was now in a good place in the race, and all I had to do was continue a comfortable pace.
The course now took a devious turn to the right, following some powerlines. I say devious, as the trail went pretty much straight up. Memories of the Kusam Klimb came over me, but I was up to the task, and held my own on the steep slopes. I actually was reeling a guy in with my powerhiking, but I had heard from people before the race that this hill was a killer. And killer it was. It continued up and up, and if you could imagine a bulldozer making a path straight up under powerlines, uprooting stumps and broom bushes...well that is what it looked like. Because it was so open here, I actually could see way, way up infront of me and catch sight of another runner way up ahead.
I battled through and was right on the heels of the #7 runner when something awful happened. I felt my left calf cramp up. I was shocked and actually laughed in disgust. I checked my watch, and it read 1:45. I stopped and took 2 S-Caps, 1 Gel and plenty of water. I then carried on (at a slower rate) hoping that this was, in fact, nothing. The cramping didn't subside unfortunately, and not only did I lose sight of the #7 runner, but I was passed by the #8 runner. This was not good.
As I kept climbing up the hill, the calf eventually began to work itself out, and I was beginning to get hope that I would be alright, after having taken my 'emergency' cramping supplies. And just as I was feeling good again, the other calf started to cramp. Oh shit. This was not good. I took more water and walk-ran my way, and eventually got to the top of the mountain. Both calves were in trouble now, but I was very hopeful as I saw the top. I knew that once the climbing had ended, I would be using different muscles than my calves, giving them a much needed break.
I arrived at the top, and was pleased to see that the trail went back to singletrack. The trail was spectacular here, and it was wooded (it reminded me of the JdF). There were a group of 25k runners here coming up, and we were obviously going the other way than them, so it was a little tough to share the trail, but we did it. Most of the 25k runners cheered for me as I sped along.
My body was once again on form, and I caught up to the #8 runner. The windy downhill was good for my body. At least I thought it was left hamstring started to cramp. Oh shit. I took another gel, another S-Cap and more water, and I knew now I was in serious trouble once again. I carried on but went on with a slower pace. A couple guys passed me, but I was more concerned now about staying in the race, than cracking a top 10 finish. I still had hope that the dark times would come to an end, and that my body would bounce back. I was now around 2:30 for elapsed time.
As I ambled along, my other hamstring started to go. This was very bad news indeed. I wouldn't classify these cramps as 'deadly' cramps, but they were of a serious nature. I walk-ran for a bit, and didn't care that I was being passed by a handful of people. I needed my body to recover, and recover quickly from this nightmare. As the downhill ended, the trail arrived to the edge of a lake and we took a left turn. I was now in a full-fledged walk-run program here, in an effort to simply survive. I grinded my body around the lake trail and caught sight of Des Bazzett ahead of me. He was in my club, but did the early start. As I jogged by him, he said ,"You look great, you're like in 12th place!" I turned to him and said, "Thanks, but my body isn't doing too well." I continued on around the lake trail, and then I was very surprised to see the front two 50k runners zoom toward me. One of them looked at me, waved, and said, "Good job!"
I assume that by seeing them means that there must have been another out-and-back. In actuality, these two top guys were actually lost and had taken a wrong turn. Nevertheless, these guys certainly looked stronger than me. My cramps were coming and going every minute now, and the walk-run was turning into more of a walk. I succumbed to my body and simply walked now...hoping, praying for something positive to happen.
After walking for quite sometime and getting passed by another 2 guys, I finally reached the end of the lake. There was a yellow sign that said "50k first time left, second time right." Perhaps this is where those two top guys went wrong? (we had passed this sign about 12k in) Anyways, I walked to the right. My 4 muscles were cramping badly now and my walk resembled that of a penguin. I was now at the 3 hour mark - 30k in. I walked on for two minutes now considering of actually dropping out of the race. I had just passed a point where I could take an early exit back to the lodge. The cramping was not subsiding and I still had around 20k to go. Of which, I knew there was a significant uphill about to hit me. Thoughts danced through my head. I then finally made up my mind. I was done.
In some ways this was an easy decision, but in other ways it was the hardest decision ever. I had never dropped out of any race. I knew that if I had to finish this race by walking the last 20k, I probably could manage. There was also the slimmest of possibilities that my body would somehow have a miraculous turnaround. And what of my family, and what of my running friends? How would they react to my dropping out? By giving up, I was admitting failure. I hated that thought beyond belief.
However, my body was simply not responding this day. I had tried everything to change the circumstances, and it was not happening. My family and friends would have to understand. Yes, I could walk/stagger the last 20k, but what would be the point of that? 50k races are not supposed to be done this way anyways. I decided that although the trail had beaten me this day, I would leave the race on my own terms, and perhaps be back another year to get my revenge.
So, I took the left turn at the yellow sign and headed back for the lodge. This would be my walk of shame. I had about 3k of walking to the lodge, and wouldn't you know it, the cramping stopped not too far after I passed by that yellow sign.
About 20 minutes later, I was at the lodge and I reported to the finish line to let them know of my DNF. I kinda expected to see a couple others who had done the same, but when the volunteers wrote my name down on a separate piece of paper, I was smart enough to understand that I was the only one thus far.
I headed into the lodge and found my running friends (who had done the 25k). They were all surprised to see me, but were extremely supportive. I did get my own pickings at the food table, and I did get the first shower back at my cabin. After my shower, I grabbed a beer from my back, and used the time to come to terms with everything that went down.
After my shower, I went to the finish line to watch the 50k runners come in. It was, after all, a spectacular day weather-wise.

The Aftermath
Perhaps the hardest thing about my decision to drop out was seeing everyone else finish, and the smiles on their faces when they did so. In fact, when the 12th place runner finished, I could not help but blurt out, "I was right behind that guy the whole way!" Damn, that was hard.
I watched both Rafael Albert and Jason Oliver finish, and I went over to congratulate them both. They both had a good day, and they definitely showed me up, proving that "slow and steady wins the race."
When I got back home, I was thrilled that my family was totally supportive. I wasn't exactly sure how Janelle would react to my DNF, but her reaction was golden. She said, "I suppose you'll just have to go back next year and do it again."
As great as this was, I spend the next couple of weeks really thinking about things. From the ferry ride home that day, the DNF result and the failure had put me into depression and put severe doubt in my mind.
Was I built for long-distance events?
Did I really have enough time to train properly for these events?
Was it unrealistic to think that I could run a strong 50k for the entire duration?
Should I just concentrate on shorter-distance events?
Will I continue to fail at this kind of distance?
And the biggest question of all: "Why did I cramp that day?"
These questions still plague my mind. I still don't really have a concrete answer for that final question. I know I am capable of great things, but I am pretty certain that I don't really have the time to put into training for these things. Sure, I have determination beyond belief, but it is pretty unrealistic to think that 80k of mileage per week at the peak of my training is adequate for 50k events.
So now what?
I am signed up for a few shorter road-races coming up, and I will focus on those. As for the long stuff, and all my 2010 epic plans, I am on hold until I get my confidence back. For the time being, I have lost this confidence, and I have lost quite a bit of my will and desire to attack these long distances.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cobble Hill 10k - Jan. 24th, 2010

I had no idea what to expect this race day. The past two weeks have been intense for me, with a weekly mileage of 80k+ for both weeks. This for me is about as high as I have been before. With the training for ultra distance, it has been a bit of a crapshoot to perform well on the short-distance road events at the same time.
On Thursday, I headed out early for my weekly long run, with the plan to cover 40k. I headed to E/B, attempting to do 4 loops. This was supposed to be my peak distance run leading up to the Orcas Island 50k, which is now only 2 weeks away. The first 3 loops went well, but at 33k I felt my knee tweak so I stopped immediately. It was in fact nothing, but I felt being cautious in this circumstance was wise. I did jog 2k of it back, so I covered 35k.
The next day, I felt exhausted after yet another crappy night of sleep. I took Friday and Saturday completely off, in hopes that I could land a PB at the Cobble Hill 10k.

Race Report:
I arrived to the race in good time, and was satisfied with my warm-up. I put myself in the second row and was lined up behind the Westshore Frontrunner Boys, and beside training partner, Gary Duncan (the guy left in the photo). The race started, and I picked my place in the pack. The pack eventually dispersed somewhat over the first kilometre, and I was at 3:30 on my first split. So far, so good.
I had heard very little about this course. I had heard from some of the talk last year that the course was fairly flat (and fast), with some rolling hills. I also heard in the warm-up from someone that there is a little bit of a hill at the 2k marker. At this point in the race, there was a downhill that took us to the 2k marker. I tried to not go crazy down the hill, as it appeared that there was a 180 degree turn-around right at the bottom. I pivoted around the turn-around and posted another fast kilometer. Now I began the uphill, and I tried to take it in stride. I could have gone crazy here, really making a move, but there was no point in that so early in the race. I just held my own pace and eventually got back up to the top of the hill and cruised again along the flat. At the 3k mark, I was right on 11:00.
The course then appeared flat for the next 2k. During this time, I didn't feel especially enthusiastic, and a few runners past me. I began to feel a bit sluggish and felt my body trying to reside in a half-marathon training pace, rather than a 10k speed event. I kept trying to keep myself engaged mentally and kept trying to remind myself that I was racing here. Eventually, I meandered my way to the 5k marker, and I was very disappointed to get there in 18:50.
I knew now that I was going to have to work hard to get under 39:00 for the run. It was a bit weird though. I still was ahead of a few fast guys for sure, but it seemed that we were all going slow. Was the course marked long today or were a bunch of people, like me, having an off-day? It didn't make sense. Although my time didn't seem very good, I knew my effort was decent enough. And at the 6k loop back, the leaders were not really that far infront of me.
I completed the loop around and searched for a 6k marker, but didn't see one. At around 6.5k, I was pleased to see the course do a slight downhill, and I was hoping I could take advantage of it. I still felt strong, and I did my best to speed up, and recover at the same time. At this point, I was passed by Simon Pearson (the guy right in the photo), and he turned to me and urged me to stay with him. I think it was friendly trash-talk, but I really couldn't hear what he was saying. All I know is that I made it my goal to stay with him as best I could.
And I did. While he was infront, I wasn't planning on letting him go. I took advantage of the downhill distance and kept Simon around 10m infront of me, letting him drive my motivation and adrenaline up. At the 8k marker, I was right on 30:00 and it looked like I could have a good finishing time, provided I could stay strong and provided there were no surprises in the course. The last 1.5k was a slow downhill/flat, but surely this good fortune could not last. I actually tricked myself into thinking that I may have an outside shot of doing 2 final 3:30 kilometres for a 37:00 finish. Ya, right.
The course then took a left turn and went into a forested section. We were still on pavement, but the road went rolling down then up, then down again. I felt like I was still hammering along, and before I knew it, I was at the 9k marker. I didn't even think to check my watch. Simon was still only about 10 seconds infront, and I now had thoughts of closing that gap. I felt like a had a last push in me, but I didn't want to make a charge too soon. I knew there must be racers fairly close behind me, even though I couldn't hear anything. The last kilometre was not downhill anymore, and in fact, it had parts of being slightly uphill. This fact took away my desire to charge after Simon, and besides, it appeared as though he was now speeding up to the finish.
As I rounded the last bend, I could see the finish line in the distance and I added a little extra drive to my arms and a little extra knee lift to accelerate me to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 37:18.
This time would be a PB for me. It was a solid race for me, and for one of the first times ever, I actually ran faster in the 2nd half of a race (negative split). 1st half- 18:50, 2nd half - 18:28. I would finish 6th in my age category, and take 32nd place overall in a field of just under 600 runners. This would be a PB of 1:38 (my previous best was a TC 10k run in 2007 of 38:56).
I was definitely pleased with how the race unfolded. I think that there were parts where I could have gone slightly faster, but realistically, I don't think I could have gone a whole lot faster on this course on this day. With nailing a time of 37:18, it makes me think that if (a) I ran in the Vancouver Sun Run and (b) ran in racing flats and (c) didn't do ultra training at the same time that I actually am capable of running 36:xx. Pretty crazy thought.
Now, I look ahead. I am in the taper phase of my ultra training. Orcas is just less than 2 weeks away, and I hope that I have done enough long-distance training to survive the distance. I will go into that event with no expectation of time, or placement. I am just wanting to enjoy the race, stay strong throughout, and survive the distance. Should be fun.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pioneer 8k - Jan. 10th, 2010

It was surprising to me how excited and nervous I was for this race. My first main goal of 2010 is nailing a decent Orcas Island 50k event, so I initially treated this 8k road race as just a short tempo run in my overall schedule. However, as the race grew closer, I started to think that I had the ability to really nail a solid road race time.
My speed improvement at the TNWs, coupled with the fact that my fall season was one of serious improvement made me think that this day would be a PB day. But the hard part for me was knowing to what degree my improvement was, and what kind of splits I should have for an 8k. In one sense, if I started too fast or hung with the wrong runners, my race could be an ugly one. On the other hand, if I went too slow for the first bit, making up the time could be very hard, especially when you consider that I have never really negative-splitted any kind of race.
The day before the race, I came up with 3 finishing times. My A time for this race would be to go sub 29, my B time was to get 29:30, and my C time was anything that was 30:00+. I was fully expecting a PB on the day, and anything less than that would have been very disappointing.
I arrived to the race in good time, and I was especially excited to have Janelle and Teagan there cheering for me. I was really excited to see just how excited Teagan got...for a race that didn't really involve her at all. What a wicked family.
After pinning on my race number, I took to the roads for an adequate warm-up. It was then to the start line, and I wedged my way into the mass of runners. In all, nearly 800 runners would participate. And not just any runners. The cream of the crop was at this race, and it looked like I'd need a sub 29 to crack the top 50 in the field.
The race began, and I was simply just lucky not to fall down. Feet were flying everywhere, and I took to the left edge, where there was a tiny bit of room. I quickly found my stride however, and settled into a relaxed pace. A whole pile of runners were infront of me, but I was firm in my belief not to start to fast - especially when you consider that the first kilometre is mostly a slow downhill. As the race went on, the runners spread out somewhat, and as I rounded the first bend, I saw Janelle and Teagan cheering for me wildly. My 1k split was 3:15. Soon thereafter, I could hear the footsteps of Gary Duncan behind me, and I was pretty determined to stay with him - or ahead of him - for this race. Looking at his recent results on this race, he has been a consistent low 29:00 guy, so I knew I should be around him. The course flattens out for another 1.5k, before you round the Brentwood Bay intersection and start up a long, slow uphill. I was comfortable on the flat, and was at the 2k mark at 6:55. On the uphill, I held my ground as nobody passed me, but at the same time, I passed nobody else. People all around me were now in their groove, and there were a few with the same groove as me.
After the uphill, the course turns right for a long, slow downhill that I'm sure some runners take full advantage of. At this point, I was determined to hold some kind of a pace, as this is the section of the race 2 years ago where I slowed right down. However, not to be this year. My pace was maintained and I was quickly approaching the half way split. I saw my coach, Bob Reid, at the clock and he announced my 4k half-way split time of 14:30. It didn't take me any more than a second to figure I was on a 29 minute pace. Awesome race so far, and I felt good.
The course then goes on a slow up for about 200m, and for the first time, I felt my pace slow down a little. I told myself just to push myself over the bump, and then I could relax on the down after. I did just that. My 5k split was 18:12...and I was thrilled. I just did my best 5k time ever. Only problem was: there was still 3k to go.
What I remember of the 5k to 6k stretch is that it was a bit of a struggle for me. The course is basically flat here, but I knew my pace had slowed a little, and I fully expected a runner of two to go by me. At the same time, the front runners were now coming back the other way on the opposite side of the road, and I caught myself a couple of times spectating, and losing the focus on my own run. I didn't happen to record my 6k split, but I knew it wasn't stellar. At the 6k turn-around, I found a bit of adrenaline in my body and upped my pace. Perhaps it was the fact that I knew there was only 2k to go. Perhaps I knew I wanted to post a really good time. Perhaps it was because I didn't want to be beaten by Gary Duncan.
Just after the 6k mark, in spite of my upping my tempo, I was passed by two runners, one of whom I recognized as Kevin Searle. He was a great runner, and to finish with him would be an accomplishment in itself. I stayed with the two runners, and figured I maybe able to get them on the home stretch. As we rounded the last corner just after the 7k mark, I wanted to push hard for the finish line (and I did have it in me), but I resisted the temptation. I still thought a burst at this point was too early. I still could see a slow hill infront of me for the next 500m, so I just sat behind these two guys. I now could see the finish line up to the right, and for those of you who do not know the course, the finish is on a pretty big 100m gravel hill. I rounded the corner and prayed that I had enough gas to take over these two guys. Just as I was about to gun passed them, one of them - Jerry Loeb - beat me to the punch and hammered ahead. I sat back and watched him kick, and in that moment of sitting back, it now put me out of reach of catching him (and Kevin for that matter). As for my final hill, it wasn't terribly pretty, but I did survive without getting passed. I crossed the finish line at 29:38.
The time was a good one. It was a new PB for me. It wasn't the A standard time I wanted, but it was close enough to my B standard. I beat Gary Duncan by about 15 seconds, and many other solid runners. Overall I finished in 62nd spot, but that actually doesn't mean that much when you consider that the field was stacked.
I figured I could have been 10-15 seconds faster this day. If I could have been a little more focused at a couple of key points in the race, then it could have happened. As for getting sub 29, this would require far more work in shorter distance training. However, I am an ultra guy, and I prefer the long stuff. When you consider that I had done a 37k training run just 72 hours before this event, perhaps my 8k time was really good. Who knows? All I know is that I ran my ass off, and recorded a 5k & 8k PB.
Now, my distance training continues. I have 2 more full weeks of training ahead in preparation for the Orcas Island 50k. Staying healthy and getting in some quality sessions is vital at this point in the training schedule.
I am signed up for the Cobble Hill 10k race in 2 weeks, so this will be my next event. I may be lined up for another big PB that race, but perhaps not: I will be doing a 40k training run 3 days before that race. These conflicts have been I am determined to perform at both the short and the long distance stuff.