If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another Streak Ends!!

Two days ago, exactly 116 days after Ironman Canada, I got on my bike and rode! I couldn't believe it had been almost a third of a year since I'd been on it. I have been wanting to ride but there never seemed to be enough time. I wonder how I even trained for triathlon all those years.
After taking a necessary twenty minutes just to get dressed for the 1 degree weather, including five layers on my torso (poly undershirt, thermal shirt, long sleeve tech shirt, winter riding vest, rain jacket for the wind chill), leg warmers, neoprene booties, heavy gloves, and touque, I set out. I could just as easily have gone skiing as riding. My computer's odometer still read 182 km from Ironman (the extra two k's from walking it back to the motel, to the car, from the car to our house and there it sat).
I set out down Marine Drive along the ocean which was beautiful even under an overcast and snow-threatening day. The downhill to the beach was heaven, the hills leading out and away were not. Climbing out of the saddle was actually not as bad as I thought it would be, maybe all this running does cross over to the bike at times. In the end I arrived back home with the usual frozen toes but that was the only complaint, other than my butt ain't gonna speak to me for a while. You never forget how to ride a bike but some parts of me wish I had.
A grand total of one hour, twelve minutes, thirty-two kilometers, with a twenty-five km average speed. Perfect winter speeds, and now that it's officially winter, I might even go tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Streak is Broken!!

After nine and a half days, I finally did a cardio workout!!  Sure, I did some weights and core work, but tonight was the first real workout.  Nothing major, just forty-five minutes on the eliptical, not too hard, not too hilly, just a nice mix of everything.  The reason for the gap in training was the slight toe-nail infection and really sore quads.  Add to that the lack of any race on the near horizon.  Add to both the fact that the Christmas treats are out in full force with still a week to go before the big day, and that makes for a perfect storm of gluttony and laziness.
I'm not sure what my last record was for no workouts, must have been after Haney to Harrison in '05 because of the toe beating, but I'm sure it wasn't almost ten days.  It was definitely time to get off the couch and away from the feed trough as after my little stint of exertion tonight, I weighed in at 176!!  Holy crap.  For me that's approaching orca territory.  So close to Christmas I'm faced with a dilemma:  say screw it and keep on indulging and get serious after, or start slowing down now to see if I can find my willpower.  With no event for a month, and that only being a training "race" of 20km, I can, and need, a break.  It's been a long year and this is as good a time as any.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Air Was Heavy

The Sunmart 50 mile Endurance Run came as a bit of a surprise as Canada's Ultra Team Manager, Armand Leblanc, invited a few of us with only about six weeks to the go until the race. I wondered what kind of shape I'd be in after Haney to Harrison the month before this race but when am I ever going to go to Texas other than to do a race? I figured as well a month of recovery was good and the fact that it was ONLY 50 miles and that it was a trail race and not a road event made it more appealing and hopefully doable.
The weather leading up to the race was in the mid to high 20s with no rain which would mean a good, dry surface to run on. When I got off the plane it was like landing in Hawaii - hot and humid. The air was heavy is how I would describe it. Although it was a change from the zero-degree BC weather I left, it definitely wasn't the type of temperatures I was desiring to run in. It's hard to get used to a 25 degree difference in two days. It was great to see team manager Armand and fellow World 100km teammate and uber-runner Jenn again. I also met for the first time the third member of our 50 mile team Glen Redpath, an extrememly accomplished ultra-runner with many 100 mile races (including sixth place at Western States last year)under his belt, and Nadeem Khan, the new assistant team manager.
We got to the hotel via shuttle bus and realized we would need to rent a car as there was absloutely nothing around the hotel but freeways. On Friday we did just that and went to the Johnson Space Center and saw tons of history about the training the astonauts do and have done here.

On Saturday for the race there was no change in the weather, the air was still heavy. It was 23 degrees at start time with more humidity than I care to watch tv in, let alone run. Glen, with all his expertise, suggested we start rally easy for two laps and pick it up on the last of the four 12.5 mile loops. He and I figured that most everyone in the IAU division, seven women and about twenty-one men, wouldn't be used to the conditions. He also knew a lot of the competitors and that they were road, not trail, specialists.

Loop 1 - A Bullet From a Gun

As usual the first few miles felt really easy and there was a pack of around twelve of us staying together on the single track. Glen later said no one wanted to take the lead so there he was, leading the thing about fifty feet ahead. I even enjoyed being in third place at one point but knew there was no way that would continue with a field such as this. It was nice to say I was in the money if only for a few minutes. On the out and back we saw Jenn who was looking strong and scarily not far behind!! This first lap felt great other than the sweat running off everyone like rain. I went with carrying only one bottle the first lap thinking when it got warmer I'd grab two for each lap thereafter. I should have taken two at the start because I was empy after only eight miles so I used the aid stations more than I normally do. About three miles to go was where the approximately 700 50k runners, who started thirty minutes after us, merged with the 50 mile course and hundreds of us tried to get along the single track back to the start/finish turnaround. The 50k runners also used that same turnaround and the congestion both ways was thick. Sort of like fifteen people trying to swim in one lane of a 25m pool - you're going to have contact. The start/finish was where Armand and Nadeem had set up our aid table. Besides doing an awesome job crewing for the three of us, they were also supporting two Irish and two Australian athletes. Loop 1 split - 1:34

Loop 2 - Not going to do what I want to do

I thought I'd be able to this course in around six hours. That equates to about a seven minute mile. Boy, was I ever off the mark. I've never started running out of gas so soon in a race but on this trip I started feeling sluggish after halfway through. I got ahead of Glen and hoped I wasn't going too hard too soon. It surely didn't feel like it. At the end of this lap I sincerely wondered (more serious and worried than any other race) how I was going to finish another two laps. There weren't any long gruelling hills to climb but what there was seemed to get longer and steeper every time. There was also a section of the trail, about two miles, that was mostly sand which felt deeper and deeper every time I went through it. Lap 2 split - 1:38

Loop 3 - #$@% ME!!

1 mile into lap three I crashed for the first time. I managed to save my knees but my forearm broke my fall right on a root or rock causing it to swell nicely but only bleed a little. I managed to smash the big toe on the right foot, the one still with the nail, in the process. Looks like I'll have matching big toes soon. Due to a request for "no more toe pictures", I will abstain from showing the graphic photos at this time. Throughout the race after this I must have tripped eight more times (each one hammering that same toe) and went down one more time giving one knee a nice raspberry. Halfway through this loop I caught up with Irishman Martin Rea. He and his wife, Helena, are amazing ultrarunners. Martin and I stuck together for this lap and half of the fourth. Martin didn't want Helena to beat him and he had cause for concern because she was catching up to us. I didn't want to do another 12.5 metres, let alone 12.5 miles at this point. Lap 3 split - 1:46

Loop 4 - Don't wanna go on no more

I hadn't seen Jenn or Glen for some time and at my last time seeing him before the finish, Nadeem reported Glen was suffering and that, "guys ahead of me were dropping like crazy". I was pretty sure Jenn would make it. I think I was in the top ten around now although the care level of that fact was very low and all I wanted to do was finish. I didn't ever walk except the aid stations on this leg. My quads had that old cramping feeling so I was even taking on Gatorade in an attempt to get more sodium in me. Martin carried me through to about the forty-three mile mark when I told him to go ahead. And go he did. He disappeared in a couple minutes through some winding sections. I was so tired I just kept looking at my Garmin to see how many miles there were to go. The numbers were ticking off so slowly. The bracelet I was wearing that the kids made me for Ironman Canada reading "Go Dad Go" and with a tiny bell on it reminded me of another reason I had to finish. The end of the 12.5 mile loop consisted of a ninety degree turn then a straightaway of grass followed by some pavement to the finish line. The whole distance isn't more than 400 metres. As I came around the corner, there was Martin lying flat on his back being tended to by the corner marshal. I called his name and he raised his head a bit and that was all. As there was nothing I could do to help (only course marshals or paramedics can aid people on the course outside the aid stations) I continued on to the finish. Before we could go see how he was, an ambulance that had picked him up came by. We saw him the next day and he said he remembered nothing about what happened. He received five IV bags and was literally paralysed for hours after he dropped. Thankfully he felt good the next day. As it turned out his wife had a tough last lap as well and even after spending time with Martin where he collapsed she went on to finish as the second female. Jenn finished as fifth female overall, first in her age group. Glen also finished but would have been faster had it not been for the twenty minute break he took lying on a picnic table on the last lap!! I talked to other runners after and everyone said the conditions made for slower times. It was the warmest it had been in the last eighteen years. Of the approximately 225 50 mile racers, around fifty dropped out. The attrition for the 50k was about 250 of the nearly 700 on the starters list. Loop 4 split - 1:56.

Overall 6:55, 8th place, 1st in age group

Me, Armand, Jenn, Glen & Nadeem

Results for Sunmart 50 Miler

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Sign

Everything was in place for the perfect reason NOT to go water running: waking up and staring at the alarm clock at 5:30 not wanting to get up; finally getting up and having to clear snow off the car to head to the gym; and the kicker - arriving fifteen minutes late and seeing lots of people milling about like they're waiting to have the doors unlocked or something. Turned out they were.
Never in my years of going to that gym have the doors ever been locked at 6 a.m. Many other regulars concurred with me. There is always a night custodian who opens the doors on Fridays at 5:30 even, to let the masters in to swim. All I had to do was go home. What else could have been done? Can't run on the road with my shin bugging me and too late anyways to get dressed and hit the trails. Then again, it was too late to go back to bed once I got home anyways. If I'm going to be tired during the day it might as well be because I did some kind of exercise, not because I got up early and did nothing.
I went back to the car and sat for two minutes too long because someone arrived with a key. Damn it! The only consolation was I had to cut the water running down to forty-five, yes that's right, forty-five minutes instead of my planned one hour. Had I come to the gym on time there is no way I would have sat for twenty-odd minutes waiting. Was it a sign that I should have gone home, or one that I was to strengthen my mental stamina? I guess it's the latter as I made it through the workout feeling like I could do anything I put my mind to after staring at the walls for that amount of time. Of course, maybe I shouldn't have showed up because of the mental scarring of seeing the aqua-sizers show up for their 7 a.m. class....

Got the Western States Blues?

Okay, so my name wasn't drawn. Neither was about 900 other people who were looking forward to it. Is it the end of the world? No. Are there other races out there to do? Most definitly.
It was a bit stressful as the website was updated every three or four minutes still not seeing my name but was happy seeing names that I recognised. John Brooks, who I crewed for at Ultraman this past summer, was one of the last five names drawn in the lottery. Pretty amazing and I'm looking forward to hearing about his adventure.
My interest now is in finding a race around that date that doesn't interfere with other races I have planned. As usual I'm wanting to do every race that I can this year almost thinking for some reason like it's going to be my last. I do have a long-range two-year plan but I still want to pack in as many as I can. May be a recipe for injury, burn-out, divorce - the usual. The event I'm considering is the Bighorn 100 mile which is in mid-June in Wyoming, still plenty of time between that and the Death Race in early August. If all goes well at the DR maybe do the Stormy 100 mile, or the 50 mile at the least, a whopping six weeks out from Spartathlon.

Friday, November 30, 2007

One Day to Go

Not feeling so lucky about getting into Western States. I have mixed feelings as well: If I do get into this one I can't do the Blackfoot 100km Trail Championships in May due to a course I'm taking at work. Shouldn't complain though, no matter what happens I'll get to do one of these races next year. I may also have been bringing bad luck on myself by checking out different running calendars and trying to scope out which races I'll do next year if I fail to get into WS via the lottery tomorrow......

Friday, November 23, 2007

It has to be a record for me losing a nail. Not even three weeks since Haney to Harrison and it fell off already!!  I helped it along this time but it feels like a new toe.  I know last time it was months before it finally came off.  Maybe it has memory from the last time it happened.  I've been through the trails and on the road with no discomfort or pain.  She's as good as new.  

I was worried this would have an effect on the Huntsville race on the 8th of December but I think it will be fine now.  A load off my mind.  Thirteen days 'til the race!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Simon Fraser University has always reminded me of three things:
1) Carrie got her degree from there
2) about fifteen years ago I used to play floor hockey at the school with some buddies who were going there at the time.
3) doing hill repeats on the bike over and over and over when training for triathlon.

I can now add a fourth - trail running up and down the mountain. Over the last few years I would use the hill as a Spring bike strength training tool, usually adding a repeat every week for three or four weeks. I always knew there were trails off to the side but never really had the time to explore them. Where I park there is a map of the routes and they didn't look too bad. Finally a few days ago I made the trek there for the sole purpose of checking them out.

It wasn't the best start to a run because I lost my car key. I take it off the key ring so I have just the one in the pocket of my bottle holder (less weight, you know). I've always had bad visions of losing it and trying to figure out how I would get home. This happens especially when I'm in Bellingham as it would be hours before someone could get down there.
I started running about two minutes when I realized I forgot my Garmin. Back to the car I went got the Garmin, and put my gear bag in the truck for security. I ran to the trailhead and the gps hadn't picked up the satellites yet so I waited and thought I'd look at the little map I brought to double-check where I was going. I go to put the map back and, sure enough, the key was not there. A quick look on the ground revealed nothing. The fourth look through the tiny pocket did the same. I walked back to the car, scanning the ground and seeing dozens of "keys" because every stick, twig, and leaf now resembled it in some way. At the car I thought I may have left it in a door lock or on the roof or on the ground, but nothing. Maybe it was in the trunk where I put my bag? Crap. So back I went along the same path with the same result. At this point I'm thinking who should I phone to come out here? Where is the nearest phone? If Carrie comes it'll be after school, what do I do with the kids? A nightmare was unfolding.

Back at the trailhead I stopped where I stopped before and gave the ground a thorough staredown. I was looking for a key on it's side with the shiny side shouting to me "here I am!!!" so I was amazed when I spotted it in some rough leaves and grass with just the black end sticking up. I guess it had fallen like an arrowhead and landed that way in the thick stuff. Not sure if I could repeat that again as it was like a needle in a haystack. Whew, that killed a bunch of time running but it was a learning experience.

The trails were good with lots of steep technical hiking routes but a fair amount of hard-packed areas that are the Trans Canada Trail. It isn't the biggest area to run in but my thoughts are, next Spring, to come back and do some six to eight hour runs around the University. I figure it would be a good spot to go around dinnertime, get a couple 10 or 12km loops in before dark, then do another four or so in the dark to get used to running with the light through the trails for Western States (hopefully) and others I plan to do.

Eleven days and counting until the lottery. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

To Eat or Not to Eat

I've written before about how I laugh at the people who are VERY strict about thier diet, especially in the weeks or months leading up to a race. I've said that I discovered many years ago (after being one of those people for some time) that I could eat ice cream or chocolate before a race and still achieve my goals and that life is too short to deny yourself some simple pleasures.

I would not really change much about my eating habits before a race or in the taper. I just made sure I was well-hydrated during race week and that I had my share of carbs for three days prior to the big day. I also did try and cut down on the portion size somewhat but it rarely was enough to matter. I eat well at meals but too much of a good thing....

After pretty much any race I did whether it be a sprint tri or half marathon, I would gorge myself afterwards on coke (which I never drink), maybe chips (Hint of Lime Tostitos), and for sure, ice cream in reward of my good time or placing at the race. So in essence I was "going overboard" for a day or two and then settling down to the normal amount of chocolate and ice cream.

It finally hit me after Ironman Canada this year, after again not really watching what I ate or how much in the months before the race, that how can I justify this bad habit of eating just for indulging in under ten hours of exercise? That's what I call this year's Ironman now because it was basically to me a long training day. I wasn't needing a reward, say, for abstaining from eating any kind of junk food for two months before the race and looking forward to it the whole time once I completed the race. It wasn't a carrot anymore that I dangled in front of me to try and achieve my goal. When I had a five hour bike followed by a one and a half hour run during training, I didn't go and pig out becuase I "deserved" it after such a big effort. Why did I feel the need to do this at the end of any race this year?

With this information firmly at hand, and the fact I had gained about four pounds in the month leading up to Haney to Harisson, I decided to try something different. Even with the Halloween candy in the house prior to the race and unlike the previous two years, I stayed away from it for two and a half weeks before the run. I didn't buy ice cream and therefore could not be tempted. I cut down on my size of meals. At the firehall I did the same, usually dividing my meal in half and eating it later or the next day. I even passed on ice cream at work. At work!!! A staple in every firefighter's diet. As it turned out I didn't go to the gym all this time so therefore couldn't get progress checks on how I was doing. I wasn't sure if I wanted to know. Then the day came, two days before the run to be exact, that I went to see what I weighed in at. This was in the evening, after dinner, so I had an excuse if I didn't lose any pounds - it was the meal still sitting inside of me of course. It ended up I went from 175 to 171.8 lbs. It had actually worked. So now I was determined to be even more proud of myself and went the next morning to do a thirty minute treadmill run. I got to the gym wearing only shorts and a dry-fit shirt, no shoes. I was a happy 170.2 lbs. After the run with only a little water I ended up at 169.2. I can't remember the last time I was sub-170. This was awesome.

The fact that my shin splint pain flared up for the first time all year in the week before Haney also was a kick to my butt in thinking that a few less pounds may help that as well. Funny though I felt nothing during H2H or in the days after that would indicate they are coming back or that I have another stress fracture. I will alter my training somewhat before Texas though, only one short road run a week, long stuff in the trails, and either treadmill or eliptical workouts. Maybe even the dreaded water running once a week.

I think if this experiment had gone the other way or I hadn't seen much in the way of movement in the scale, it could have had disastrous effects in that I may have kept eating the same way as before. I wasn't a total angel during my seventeen days or so, I think I had two regular and two small servings of ice cream, a few Halloween goodies (okay, a lot on Halloween night but they were right in front of me, what could I do?), and some of my niece's birthday cake. Other than that, junk food was pretty much absent. Since I had all this will power before the run I now know I can do it again and will for races if not all the time.

I now feel okay having been rewarding myself this week for that "long" period of abstinance.

Monday, November 5, 2007

H2H 2007

As you can see in the video it was a dark and stormy night when we started. Okay it was dark, but only slightly drizzling and technically it was morning. It was still pretty chilly and the number of shorts-wearing runners was shocking. I was decked out in toque, gloves, rain jacket, pants and I was still cold. I guess a few of us were colder than others and in a hurry to warm up because the pace set in the first few legs was pretty scorching. All four men from Holland were present: Darren Froese, Rick Webb, Bruce Barteaux and myself. Darren was a bit late to start the race but blew past the group after two kilometres to take the lead. A newcomer to the 100k was Hassan Lofti-Pour who won the Stormy 50 mile went with Darren and shadowed him for quite a while. I could see them off in the distance as Darren had a reflective vest on and Hassan had a flashing light on the back of his toque. I knew we were going too quick and said that to Carrie and Tracey, a.k.a. The Crew, after an hour of running at this pace. My goal was to run a steady 7:30 per mile pace all race and whatever happened, happened. It was dumb of me to keep these guys in sight as it's a long day and you definitely slow down later on. To what extent is never known until it happens. For me it's around the start of the sixth leg. We were doing sub-7:15 for the first three legs.
I was trying to slow down but I was nervous about being too far behind in the latter portions of the race. I never wanted to "race" after running 70 or more kilometres so I kept the guys within about a km ahead of me. Hassan's crew vehicle was taking time splits on me quite often so I knew he wasn't too far ahead even though I couldn't see him. I took it easy on the hills, keeping my breathing under control and not going anaerobic, knowing my legs would be better for it later on. Saying this, it was on a hilly leg 3 that I made up some ground on Darren, who had been passed by Hassan about thirty minutes prior. He stopped for some aid from his wife, uber-crewer Kandise, and I went by him.

The three of us maintained this order until just after the start of the fourth leg when Hassan mistook an H2H marker indicating go straight as one telling him to go left. Sure it was dark and drizzly but I went by the same sign and I would swear it said go straight. There was even a cul-de-sac sign at the beginning of the side-road he took but obviously didn't see and lost about five minutes going out and then coming back to the route. In this time myself and Darren had passed him. This must have demoralized him as Carrie and Tracey saw him trying very hard to make up this time lost and I think it cost him overall in the energy expenditure. It was reminiscent of 2005 when three of us turned right instead of a left and lost about ten minutes once we turned around and got back on course.
I felt crappy last year halfway through leg 4 but this year I felt great until the start of leg 6. It was wild how we didn't see daylight until around 8am this year because of the time change being after the race instead before. Leg 4 which is usually in daylight was so shrouded in fog and darkness that I had to run on the center line just to make sure I didn't go off the road. I was worried about making a wrong turn because you couldn't see more than maybe twenty feet in front. I had the girls drive about that far in front of me and I just followed the van's taillights.

From this point on the course was pretty flat and uneventful and I was glad to get rid of the headlamp as it finally got light enough to not need it. Darren's Kandise was also looking after another runner and we were kind of checking on him periodically to make sure all was well with him. Halfway through leg five the girls went back and saw him and were back up to me pretty quick. I asked how far behind he was and Carrie said about five minutes.
*Author's note: I love Carrie very much and in no way do I mean any disrespect but it has to be known that she is not the best at judging time and/or distance. More on this later. Just remember Darren was "five minutes" behind me.*
So I'm thinking five is not very many minutes at this point in the race and fatigue was setting in. I had to still push it though to maintain the lead and try and pull ahead a bit. Around here as well I felt some discomfort in my left big toe. I've lost both nails on the big toes so I knew what this feeling meant. I think it happened on some steep downhills on leg 4 when I was in poor form and jammed the toe to the front and top of my shoe. I could feel something wasn't right. Of course, on leg 5 I didn't want to stop and lose time because it wasn't really hurting. I made up my mind to change to a larger-sized shoe on leg 7 just before the long 11% downhill because it was here in '05 that I ruined this same toenail the first time.

Right at the end of leg 6 was where I saw Steve and Jean King by the side of the road. This is what Steve does when he calls this race: He leaves Penticton around 4am and arrives at this point in the race to greet the first place runner (me for the past three years) and it's a carrot for me because I know he is going to check the time splits on the runners behind me. He always is inspiring in his words so I look forward every year to seeing him around this point. Off he went down the route behind me and as much as I love seeing him, the longer it takes him to come back, the farther anyone is behind me. He came up after a while in his van and reported that I had a twenty-seven minute lead on Hassan with Darren two minutes behind him and looking strong. I breathed a sigh of relief that I could back off my pace some as I had some room with the time difference between us. I asked Carrie after the race if, back on leg 5 when they checked on Darren's position, the "five minute" lead I had was a "running" five minutes or a "driving" five minutes. She confessed that it was indeed a driving five minutes and we had a little chuckle.
At the top of the fog-laden hill leading down to the flats of leg 7 and the start of leg 8 I stopped and changed shoes with my frozen fingers and descended at a brisk walk for one kilometre.
After the flats started it was pretty uneventful and definitely not pretty. I struggled to maintain the pace I wanted but knew that I was close enough I didn't have to totally kill myself (thankfully). Near the finish Carrie and Tracey parked the van and we all ran hand-in-hand through the finish chute, celebrating the great job that they did looking after me all day.

Darren followed in second, Hassan in third and Rick in fourth. Congratulations to all the finishers.

Once again I had intentions of hitting the party afterwards but 9pm equals a 20-hour day for all of us and we just weren't into it. Thankfully the ultra awards are at 4:45pm and we can go crash after that. I can't express enough thanks to my crew and to all the crews out there who cheer us on in the pitch blackness for hours and hours and do such good jobs to insure we cross the line.

My toe was indeed trashed at the end of the race like I knew it would be. A trip to the doctor on Sunday confirmed that it was getting infected so I'm on a cycle of the anti-biotics once again. As I sit here writing this my foot is up on the desk to relieve some of the swelling that has been occurring over today. I'm sure it will be fine for Texas in four weeks........

Haney to Harrison 100 km Ultra

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Hat Came Back

The hat that they handed out to the Hawaii Ironman finishers in 2004 was by far the best running hat I have ever owned. It's a Headsweats and I wouldn't recommend any other hat on the planet for running in. Not that I receive anything from the company to make me say this, it's just something I believe in. I've used a lot of different hats and for the most part they all work but when the rain comes down, it feels like you have a soaked cat sitting on your head. Who needs all that extra weight when running for hours? Think about how much extra stress that is on the legs for each and every step. You take all those steps over several miles and it causes tons of extra force impacting the legs. With Headsweats hats it's like you're not wearing anything at all. You're naked running over the hills and through the meadows. In the rain it feels non-existent.

I ran with the one from Kona for a couple years in the heat and rain and was never happier. Then came the dark day: A certain domestic animal (not mentioning any names) took it upon herself to chew a piece of it off, making it her own in the process and also rendering it impossible to do it's job (which is essentially to rest on my head). After the horror had subsided, I was off looking for substitutes. There were none. I couldn't come across any that had adequate vent panels on top to let out heat and not absorb water. Nothing compared to the weight. I was Yin without Yang, Donny without Marie, soup without crackers. I decided to keep a look out on ebay which never really turned into anything. Then at Ironman Canada this year I came across the line and went to receive my finisher's shirt which came with a hat this year. Amazingly it was a Headsweats!!

The downside was it was adorned over every square inch with Ironman trademarks and simply a billboard that screamed, "I did an Ironman, revel in my accomplishment!!!" I have worn it a few times just because it is so comfortable. I'm not a big fan of wearing any things Ironman but I made an exception for comfort.
So the other day I got home from work and it took a minute and a few subtle hints from the family to look over on the counter, but when I did, there was my hat!! Like something out of a movie where the hero returns after years of being missing, never expected to be seen again. This wasn't the chewed up, disfigured abomination that I had to discard, it was a brand new, tags on, Kona 2004 Ironman hat.

Carrie had contacted Headsweats without my knowledge, probably in an effort to get me to stop whining over a stupid hat, and after communicating with Matt, he found one and mailed it out to us!! I am amazed once again at her level of care and concern for my well-being.
I am now more ready for H2H as this is a most valuable piece of equipment. Rain or shine I will not whine.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fuelling the Run - the night

If success could be measured by the amount of work that goes into an event, this one would be the benchmark at the top end. All the hard work that went into this night -the planning, organising, auction item-searching, shopping, talking to people - was directly proportional to what we got out of it - watching people be in awe of the fantastic display of auction items, seeing old friends, having many of the people that I care deeply about in attendance. It started out in it's infancy as a fundraiser but turned into an evening with friends out to have fun and share this night with us.

The day of the dance was hectic to say the least - the prep, getting food together, watching updates of Ironman Hawaii, setting up the hall - but it all fell in line at around 6:58pm.

I can't say enough thanks to all those who came to the hall Saturday night to share a magical evening. As well, I was very impressed at those who donated items to be auctioned off with great success. Everyone was amazed by the amount of items we had and the quality of them all. The highlight for me was receiving my award from Steve King and Ferg Hawke towards the end of the night. As I've rarely seen Steve outside of races it is always a special time when I do.

Huge thanks go to Tracey who, without her, couldn't have made this happen. The amount of legwork to get everything together was staggering. Also to Carrie who put up with the stress of me running around for four weeks to get things done and my asking her to do tons of work along with all she normally does.

I can't believe there are still people coming up to me to donate even though they couldn't attend. As I said in my little speech that night, with every race I do I'll have every one of you with me out on the roads and in the trails. You are all my crew.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fuelling the Run

The day is finally here. All the prep is done. All the hard work is finished. Just enjoy the day. They journey is the challenge, the night is the reward. Must start off slow, not too many drinks too soon. Pace myself. Slow and steady. Breathe. Save the energy for later in the night.
The morning is when will I feel really good, like I could be doing more or even start drinking. Can't do it, have to be strict and focussed.
The afternoon will bring times of stress, it's okay, we've practised this over and over, the time to shine will come. Still must resist indulging too much but can have a few beverages as a reward for all the work. Everything will be set up and it's almost time to relish in the accomplishment that is this event.
Evening will arrive and that is the time to pick it up and show what we can do. We'll feel the fatigue but it's no time to slow down now. Now is the time. Something inside will scream, 'Go, go, your time is now!!' And we will. Why else do we hold back for so many weeks? Just for these few hours that is 'our time'. Now we go all out, hold nothing back, not worrying about tomorrow or how our heads will feel. These times come around very seldom, and we must embrace our passion.
Bottoms up!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Borders, Baker Lake, and Bears

It's funny how when I'm running these days I or doing a race my mind is filled with what I want to write about on the blog when I'm done. Sometimes I play it out from the beginning of the day, the beginning of the race, or at a certain point somewhere out there. Of course, when I'm done the race or back home, I forget a lot of what happened there,almost as if I wasn't supposed to remember every detail, that the overall feeling is sufficient to re-live the race. If I was at the three hour mark of the Baker Lake 50km race right now I'd be thinking, "Christ I wish I wasn't over an hour from the end still!!"

Judie Wilson, an accomplished runner, ultrarunner, and Ironman, and I headed out to cross the border around 5:30am on Saturday to get to the race start about 130km away. We got to Peach Arch crossing and saw the line-ups at 5:45 and were shocked and amazed at the line-ups going south. A quick listen to the radio indicated up to an hour wait at that border and the Truck Crossing. We made the decision to head over to Sumas where the wait shouldn't be as long.

We only waited twenty minutes there but the slower backroads didn't spit us out to the I-5 at Bellingham until about 7:10. I said to Judie that I was pretty sure we weren't going to make the start in time as we had roughly 80km to go still. I almost pulled the pin and suggested we just go to Chuckanut and do a few hours through those trails. After some discussion we figured we'd might as well keep going and whatever happened, happened.

On the smaller roads off the highway there was a car right on our tail even as we approached extremely ticketable speeds on those backroads. We laughed as we figured it was another car of Canadians held up at the border and we were right. As it turned out we arrived, shouting "The Canadians are here!!", only twenty minutes past the start line. After just barely catching the race director heading up to the turnaround to give him our extra bottles, we quickly got dressed, lubed up and band-aided up (okay, I did), we headed out only thirty-one minutes behind the leaders. I've had bad dreams like this before where you arrive late or something holds you up and can't start a race but this is the very first time I've ever missed a start. I've come oh so close in the past but always been there when the gun sounded.

Judie and I started together on the 2km or so of roadways but she sent me off on my own once we hit the trailhead. Of course the weather was ugly, not quite as ugly as the race two years ago, with socked-in clouds and a bit of drizzle.

It took thirty-six minutes to catch the first runners, which turned out to be a pair of ladies on the trail, one of which heard me coming and quickly stood, pulling her shorts up after her pit stop. I covered my eyes and said, "I see nothing", and "we're all trail runners here". The next few bunches of people commented either we had started slow or started the race late. In the few seconds of passing it was relayed that, yes, four of us started late, we were on Canadian time after all!!

About 4km from the turnaround the land flattens so I decided I needed to make up some time and booked it. At the turn I quickly exchanged bottles and flew again (too fast as it turned out) the other way. Time at the half - 2:07.

It was fun seeing the same people on the way back as they all had comments to add and everyone could spare at least a "hello". At around the spot where I knew I had 1:30 to go to the end the energy started to dwindle. I think I forgot how much running in the trail takes out of me and didn't bring enough CarboPro 1200. Had to ration it too thin. The hills on the way back were reduced to me climbing them with baby steps, just waiting to hear the footsteps behind me of those who had raced smart and not blown everything on the flats. It was eerily similar to how I felt in the race in '05. Not much energy, looking at my watch every couple minutes not to see when to drink, but to calculate how much suffering there was still to be had. Crazy enough, though, I passed four guys on this last hour or so of the run.

Finally the trail ended and I got onto the forest road again. Of course I would have been more than happy to slog my way to the finish, but no, there was someone at the trailhead who had to tell me that the second place guy was a minute and a half ahead of me. Second place?!?! I didn't really keep track of my placing at the turn or on the way back so was surprised to learn I was that close to the front having started late. I was a little (okay a lot) disappointed the was the race had gone so far because I really wanted a shot at the prize the winners of the open and masters divisions get - a cool stuffed "Baker Bear". Two years ago I missed out on it by a few minutes and it killed me that the second place guy might be in my age group and I'd come up seconds short to my bear. As it was I saw him close to the finish but could only put a minute into him before I crossed the line in third. After a congratulations I asked him his age which was 47. Then I found the first place finisher and it turned out he was 43!! Whoohoo I won my division and so received the coveted Baker Bear for my troubles.

It was so nice of Don the race director to explain to me, even though I totally understood, that it would be unfair to take away the title from the first place finisher even though my time was seventeen minutes faster overall than his. Unless they had timing chips they had to go by the clock time. It's such a great race and a fun trail to run on that I didn't mind at all. As it was, Judie would have been the second place woman and won her division as well if it weren't for those holiday shoppers heading south. I hope to come back next year.

Baker Lake 50 km Trail Run

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Gentle Reminder

It usually takes only one run a year to remind me that I can't, no matter how long or short, do any sort of run in the morning without hitting the bathroom before I go out. Today was that run.
The body has a funny way of adapting to doing things at a certain time of day, each and every day. It does not like to be out of it's normal rhythm of things. It likes to show the brain once in a while who's really in charge.
I was in a hurry to get a little thirty minute jaunt in before the kids went to school. Out for fifteen minutes I went, planning to turn around then and head back. At the turn I realized I may have gone about five minutes too long. Wasn't sure if I'd make it home. Lots of bushes nearby but they were mostly in people's front yards.
If I slowed down a bit, the feeling subsided somewhat but meant it would take longer to get home and there was something that wasn't going to wait that long. The faster I ran produced more jostling and bouncing and made that "something" want to happen that much sooner. It was a predicament. This isn't one of those "mind over matter" or "push through the pain" moments, this was an occurance that was going to happen whether I liked it or not.
Needless to say I made it home but it was close. Very close. Did I mention it was close?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Little Half

Sunday was the Rotary Half Marathon. I had planned to make it my steady run of 13 miles at around 1:30 for a time. Whatever the reason, add together a bunch of runners, a race number, timing chip, and a cool day and I can’t switch off the competitive part of my brain. After running about ten minutes though, my body shut it down right quick. Was it a lack of speed work, too much long stuff, tired from the night before, too much ice cream?

I saw at the beginning Darren Mealing and Danny Groening were a ways ahead so thought I would catch and run with them for a bit. That was the brain again telling the body to do what it was not willing to do. It seemed easy at first but I figured by the time I actually caught up to them I wouldn’t be able to say anything anyways from being out of breath so that was another reason to watch them fade away in front of me. The volunteers at every corner were young kids with lots of enthusiasm. They were great.

I basically settled into a manageable pace albeit faster than I wanted to go but not so fast that I’d be dead for two days after. The second half of this race does undulate quite a bit and this year being my second one I knew what to expect. I finished the last three kilometres faster than the other eighteen with a finish time of 1:24, four minutes slower than last year but satisfied with a hard, steady pace. Congratulations to Graeme Wilson who won in an impressive time of 1:11.

Most importantly, I felt great the next day and the one after that for my first trip to Chuckanut Mountain since a year and a half ago. That’s another blog entry though.

Rotary Half Marathon and Ekiden Relay

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall is Here

Last week I did my first long training run in the dark since probably February. It took me right back to that time last winter.
I left at around 8:20 and meant to be back by 10:00 to watch Rescue Me (can’t help it you know). Took my headlight and reflective stuff and wasn’t really dressed for what I found out was the cold. Did not realise it was so chilly already at this time of the night. I guess due to the fact I ran mostly in the day during the summer to try and get ready for the Penticton heat (totally not necessary this year), I hadn’t been in the dark for quite a while. I could even see my breath in the beam of my light. Maybe it was my brain being cold and not able to function properly, or just my body feeling like I didn’t want to run much further, but I for some reason thought if I ran out 40 minutes and back 40 minutes then it would land me right back home at 10 pm. Of course I had 1 hour and 40 minutes to run and should have run out 50 and back 50 so when I got home and the clock only said 9:40 I knew I screwed up. Not a bad thing because the knees were feeling like I’d run three hours.
Although it is much nicer running in the light and the warmth of an evening in the summer, the fall/winter has it’s own allures. I like the winter training as it reminds me of when I first started training for my first marathon while still living in Cloverdale. The kids were still very young and I was not able to get out during the day so had to go out once they were in bed. It was damn cold those days and sometimes I’m surprised that I kept it up. I love the smell of the cold air. I’m no voyeur but I love running past people’s houses and seeing their homes all lit up and looking cozy inside as they go through their evening routines.

I also love how obvious it is that my headlamp throws off invisible light the way some cars seem to not notice me even though my light surely must be blinding them. I have it angled so it can’t hit them anywhere but square in the windshield. Usually if I’m driving at night and I see a red or white solid or blinking light on the side of the road, I may not know exactly what it is, be it runner or walker or cyclist, but I know enough to give it some room. Believe me I’ve tried every variation my headlamp has to offer in terms of red or white light, blinking or just solid. Nothing works on a consistent basis, or it could be that most drivers don’t give a @#%! about runners/cyclists in general. These are the drivers whose mirrors graze your shoulder if you’re not paying attention, night or day.

I’m renewed with my running and am excited about moving in the dark again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

IMC 2007 race report by Dave Simcox

The weekend of the race arrived with me feeling ready and relaxed. I was certainly prepared for the big day and was relieved to be starting off injury and pain free.

One 12th of my race crew, my wife, came down to the park with me at 0530. I have never seen such a line just to get body marked. I have body marked myself at other events but generally IMC goes well. Not this year. Made it through in about 25 minutes and had a good chat with a fellow from back east.

In the transition area I checked over the bike and added a few items to my gear bags. Of course the bathroom break is inevitable. The lines were at least 30 deep all around so I put plan B into action. I suspected there would be a shortage of bathrooms, there always is. I walked back out of transition, hopped the fence into Gyro Park where there were potties a plenty. A quick hop back over the fence and the whole thing was over in 5 minutes. The other option would have been to save it for the swim but I would like to maybe sell my wetsuit some day.

I made my way onto the beach at 0640 to quickly find my family lined up along the fence, all 12 of them decked out with green Dave’s Race Crew t-shirts. We hugged and high fived and chatted a bit. Then I gave my mom in Edmonton a call on the cell. These are some of the greatest moments that Ironman has to offer. It gets emotional standing there knowing these people have given up 3-4 days to show they are behind and beside you all the way.

The warm up was next so I waded into the water, stopped to put my goggles on only to discover I am standing beside a good buddy, Darin Bentley. All those thousands of people and I stand along side Darin. We were both shocked and happy to see each other. Darin finished 1st in last years Ultraman Triathlon. We kept it brief, as I wanted to get a 10 min swim in. After the short warm up I came back up onto the beach to wave at family and stand for the anthem. I new this might be my last IMC so I just turned around several times to look at all the people and to take a moment to reflect on how awesome it felt to be standing there only minutes away from an event that I felt so blessed to take part in. There was no anxiety or worry just excitement and relief.

The swim was chaotic at the beginning but I have personally never felt more relaxed. You could really feel this year, the total presence of all those extra swimmers. Especially when they were kicking you in the head. It didn’t thin out till I rounded the first turn. After that there was plenty of open water but still many swimmers near by to catch a draft from. I exited the water feeling better than ever and still managed to pull off a PB in the swim.

The T1 was smooth and flawless and my quickest to date. No chatting. Just get in get out.

Out onto the bike and that really cool ride down Main Street makes you feel like you are doing something kind of special. I maintained a solid average pace of 35k or so all the way to Osoyoos.

Nutrition was not going to be factor as it has never been an issue. A flat tire on the other hand can have a way of spoiling the moment. I felt there was something not quite right with my tire about 1 km out of Osoyoos. If you have ever ridden tubulars you will understand what I am talking about. You hardly know the bloody thing is flat. The ride feel is a bit off but not that much. Plus your head is saying no, that’s not a flat mate just keep peddling. Well you probably could, but not overly wise. All those friendly faces going by and there I am frothing at the mouth on the side of the road. Actually, it didn’t faze me too much at all until I yanked the flat off only to discover the valve stem broke off inside the carbon wheel. OH, OH! All that adrenaline and excitement was just too much for that poor little valve stem. I have never done this before and was pretty sure I wasn’t carrying a tool to fix it. I did however stay at a Holiday Inn Express once. Anyway I managed to route around for a stick to jam in the hole in the wheel to get the busted stem free. Then to the task of putting the other tire on. No problem there, I was back in the race. I know time flies when you are having fun so I am not sure how much I gave up in that little exercise.

Richter Pass seemed like a nonevent this year. Cool day with lots of support along the way I guess. Down along the backside of the hill, I stopped by the Bike Barn vehicle to have my tire pressure checked, sure enough only 40PSI. Can’t do that on a clincher or you would be saying pinch flat all day long.

Then those nasty rollers came and so did the wind. The best part about this portion of the race for me is seeing my family cheering me on at every hill.

I can always tell we are in for some serious head winds when those big metal road signs are hanging on an angle, towards you. I just went t into the fetal, I mean aero position and peddled on. I was maybe doing 20k/, not fast enough to set any records today. I may have sworn a couple of times, maybe. You just have to keep telling yourself. “Well this Ironman Canada for you. What did you expect?” After making the turn toward the out and back turn around the pace was good again with the tailwind. I remember this guy going the other way say to someone, “when are we getting out of this wind tunnel?’ After picking up special needs it is like heading home now. This was the slowest and most challenging section of the day. Brutal wind. At one point 4 riders in front of me were actually tilted about 25 degrees to the right, just like those infamous shots from Kona. The ride through Ollala and up Yellow Lake was not easy but it is here where I start taking notice of all the riders passing me that I will very soon be passing on the run. Happens every year.

Speaking of running, there is no better site on the planet for me than the archway into T2. Bike be- gone. I quickly changed and headed for the exit only to realize just before the timing mat that I forgot my Carbo Pro in the bag. No worries. Just run back and grab your bag. Where is my bag? Oh, in that pile with 500 other bags. Three volunteers searching and finding nothing so I walked over to the other side of the heap and there was my bag. Oh well. Could have been worse.

The run started with my legs feeling great. Again, that trip up Main Street says it all. Carol and the gang were a km or so up the rode and at their usual spot near Skaha Lake Campground. It always strikes as real weird feeling leaving that aid station. It is like you are out on your own now. But then I remember I have a whole bunch of people to catch so better get to work here. It is not much for some but I do take some pride in only being passed once in the first 13km. This young gal with a War on ALS shirt went by. I shouted out Way to go Blazeman. (John Blais). She new what I meant and waved. I teared up. You get thinking about yourself and you lose sight of the sacrifices others have made along the way. If you do not know the story check it out. My race was back in perspective again. Ironman does that when you least expect it.

I made the turn around in just under, 2 hours. Saw a buddy Steve O. from NSTC there so we chatted as I walked for a bit. I ended up walking up the hill out of Okanagan Falls. The last two encounters with that hill I ran but this time my legs just said walk. Like I didn’t really have any input in the decision. I just walked. If I was going to walk some then it was going to be a fast walk at least. The trip back was windy and difficult at times. I found the best thing mentally and otherwise was to walk quickly through the aid stations even though I had my own water bottle and Carbo Pro. I did this until the campground again where the family was waiting. My brother-in law from Richmond and his hunting partner made a surprise appearance bringing the total number of fans up to 14. How good is that?

With just 5 miles to go I had a sudden #1 urge for #2. There was this lone man in his yard cheering folks on so I stopped and asked with humility if I could use the washroom. He was very gracious and escorted me into the where I met the wife but I was not in much of a state to chat at that point. After a short pit stop we shared some pleasantries and I was off. Sometimes you meet people in the weirdest places and at the strangest of circumstance.

I want to go back for just a moment. At mile 19 there is this fellow standing by the mile marker cheering people on. He then appears at mile 20 holding the marker overhead and yelling the usual stuff. I wasn’t paying much mind until he kept showing up at subsequent markers along the way. I couldn’t figure out he was getting by everyone. I was just thinking about getting across the finish line in under 13hrs, when I see this guy again at 2 miles to go. He sees me and shouts out “Hey Dave, 2 miles to go man. Keep that pace and you will just beat 13hrs, but you gotta keep going hard man. You can do it.” How did he know about my sub 13 plan? I have no idea who he was or if he even existed at all for that matter. Even if my family had not been there that day oddly enough at that moment I knew I wasn’t doing this alone. If there can be angles in the outfield, why not at an Ironman? I felt good but tired heading into those last 2 miles and crossed the line at 12:58 and change. A PB. Go figure.

I mentioned a tear or two being shed on the run after reflecting on John Blaise and the legacy he has left behind. I actually wept a few other times that day. Standing with my family at the swim start and calling my mom on the phone I was overwhelmed by their love and support. As I headed up Main Street on the bike my mind was flooded with thoughts of my buddy Jack, who should have been there that morning had he not been killed training for this very race. I shed a few more tears for him that day. Then the finish line with everyone around. I hugged my wife and was thankful for all her patience and support. I never would have attempted a third IMC without her. Thanks Lucy.

Thanks Sean and Tar-lee for putting together a terrific training plan that kept me motivated and on track the whole way. Best swim and run to date but I am afraid there is no hope for me on the bike. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Thanks to my great family and friends for all the encouragement and help that made IMC 2007 one to never forget.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fueling the Run - October 13, 2007 - Elgin Hall, Surrey

Click on poster image for bigger picture and more details ...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Holland '07

I wrote this on the plane ride home while the memories were fresh and the leg pain dreadful every time I stood up. As the old saying goes, "If it was easy, everybody'd be doing it"

Here I though Korea was a fast and furious trip last October when I was there for five days. Now I was off to Holland for four days (after the time change). Left home at 8:30 Wednesday morning and arrived in Amsterdam at 6:30 Thursday morning. Then there was a three hour train from the airport to Groningen and finally another to Winschoten where the race was to be held. Of course then I misssed my shuttle to the registration hall called "De Klinker" (no joke, it's a theatre for operas and musical shows) and set out to find a phone to call my ride. I walked around with my two heavy bags until I found a phone but couldn't get it to work as I needed to dial another '0' in front of the number, but didn't know that. By now I was in total frustration wondering what I should do when a lady walked by and, seeing me in my obvious state, said, "Are you searching somezing?" I told her my story and she was kind enough to take me to her husband's office where he called the shuttle for me and arranged to have the them pick me up at his office there. He was also doing the race on Saturday as part of the 10 x 10 relay. How nice everyone was here!

Got picked up and went over to De Klinker (that name never got old the whole trip, trust me) with Herman, another super resident of Winschoten who had lived in Canada for a couple years a long time ago. We chatted and left for the hotel when two others showed up from the UK. There wasn't much to see around the hotel, it was kind of in the middle of nowhere. Everyone from the team showed up as the day went on and it was a reunion of sorts as several people there were also in Korea. There were the competitors: Darren, Jack, Rick, Bruce, Jenn, Marianne, and Paula. Support were: Armand (team manager), Tommy (team doctor), Kandise, Bonnie, Carl, and Marie. We had a team meeting after dinner and that was the end of my thirty hour day.

Darren and I had arranged to get up at 7 am to do a quick run but when I woke up and looked at my watch it was 9:30! Haven't pulled a twelve hour sleep for a long time. That day we drove to Groningen to do a bit of shopping but as it's not really a tourist destination there weren't many souvenirs to be found. That evening ater dinner was the athlete's parade which I enjoyed because, especially here, the streets of Winschoten were lined the whole way with people cheering all the countries' athletes. With a little prep for the next day we were off to bed.

The weather on race morning wasn't that cold but overcast with a steady drizzle and windy. It was perfect for Darren and I, both from BC, seeing as we hadn't seen much of the sun this summer and we couldn't have been happier. Kandise and Armand went ahead of us in the van with our supplies but I didn't realise I couldn't see them before the start to pick up my water bottle and belt and grease up my feet. They were at an aid station across town from the start where the bus dropped us off. I would have to grab it as I went by the first time.

Darren and I started near the back of the "corral" where the athlete's were and we were reminded how few Europeans subscribe to the use of deodorant. The group was made up of 100km, 50km, and relay runners. I was glad we started behind so many people so I wasn't tempted to go out too hard with the fast guys (and girls). Darren went out ahead and was looking strong the whole day. We would pace each other a bunch of times then he'd go ahead, then I'd go ahead and on the run went. I stopped the second time I saw Kandise to lube up the old toes, which took about 90 seconds. Enough time for me to go out too hard after that where I caught up to Darren again in about six kilometers. Hoped I wouldn't pay for that later. The weather couldn't decide what it wanted to do. It was drizzling then got sunny, then cloudy, then rain again. Oh, and it was windy the whole time. Mostly straight on headwinds. Even though the route was sheltered mostly as we went through town , there was still some open areas that hammered us.

The great thing about this course, unlike Korea or the Elk/Beaver 100s, was that it wound through the town with so many twists and turns that you didn't have it memorized until around the 7th or 8th lap. No stretch was longer than a kilometer which was awesome too, it kept me on my toes and didn't lull me into boredom going down a three or four kilometer straight run.

Then there were the crowds. This was an event like I've never been to. Not only are there people in the streets, they're on their front lawns in chairs, at tables, under tents. It's a huge carnival. It's not like other races where people come and go or move around like a marathon or Ironman, these folks were glued to their chairs and did not move for the whole race. If it rained they got umbrellas but stayed put. The landscape is not like our wide streets at home with sidewalks everywhere, these were like narrow back alleys with brick houses on each side. And they cheered. A lot. It was an amazing and uplifting feeling when I could hear "Go Canada" (pronounced Cah-Nah-Dah). There was a paper distributed with the runners' names so as you approached a group, they'd quickly look up your number and yell your name. After a few laps they weren't even looking me up, they knew the Canada singlet and cheered half a block away. It was a Mardi-Gras. There was "Orange Street" that had the trees on the sides wrapped in orange paper, streamers and flags and tents and signs (the biggest actually saying "Orange Street"") were all in orange. There were kids here even handing out cut-up oranges but the 100k runners weren't allowed to take any aid from anyone but at the designated stations. There were a lot of "sponge stations" set up by the local kids. As I watched other runners use them, the little kids would chase them and pick up the used sponges off the ground and put them back in the same bucket of water along with dirt, leaves and sweat from the runner. I decided it wasn't hot enough for a recycled sponge.

Another section had to have a hundred small wooden cut-outs of four foot tall cartoon moose in all different colours. I still don't know the significance of that display. Along this same stretch were flags up and down the streets above us with ribbons and streamers and balloons and bands playing. Of course as the laps accumulated, we got more tired, more in need of support, the more drunk and boistrous the spectators got. At some areas you could smell the beer from the pubs and at tables in yards. Made me want to be done so I could join them. There was one group who would sing "O, Canada" as Darren and I ran past - every time. There was also a group of young teens who shouted, "Ya, Canada - Southpark!!"

What I can't say enough of as well is the support our crews gave us. Everything from simple high-fives to babying us when we needed it. Special appreciation goes out to Kandise from me who had a bottle ready every time I went around and would offer suggestions on what to eat or drink when she knew I wasn't thinking straight.

I had another one of those times mid-race where I think, "How can I go on and finish this thing when I feel so bad?" (at 40km). What makes people go forward when every step hurts and we'd love to do nothing but stop. I think we reach a certain plateau of pain that hopefully doesn't get worse, only manageable. I do everything I can to tell myself to go on. I do a lot math to figure out my splits and if I can go under eight hours. At 70km I knew I was on a good pace to a PB. All I needed to do was stay at or under five minute kms. With one lap to go Kandise gave me my Canada hat and I set out into the winds for the final trip around. Getting greedy at the 98km mark I figured I could break 7:50 and managed to run just under. Had I known Darren was less than a minute behind, I would have had us come across the line together for a great picture as we both had PBs.

When I was done the legs felt so bad just walking that you couldn't imagine having to run anymore, even if the race was longer. That's the way I felt at around the 60km mark but still kept moving forward. Maybe it's the mind counting down the kms for the body until it can stop.

After a hot shower and cheering everyone in, we wrapped it up and went back to the hotel. No medals, no finisher's t-shirts. Just the runner and their race. Happy or sad it always feels good to finish - and eat ice cream.

Run Winschoten

Ultraman Report 2007

After a tough IM I was ready for time to rest before Holland but it was not to be. Tracey and I volunteered to crew for Ultraman as this race is a special one. After a bit of regret for saying I’d do this, due to other commitments and the need to rest, all negative feelings were dispelled as we found out we’d be crewing for John Brooks who did the race last year. John was a great competitor last year and an even greater person. We knew it would be an honour to crew for him. Once I got up to Penticton I felt like I was in another world with only the race to focus on.

I got off work Friday morning and we drove up right after. Pretty tiring driving that distance twice in one week. We tracked down John and our other crew-mate, Candise aka Candy, that day and went over some pre-race stuff like nutrition and equipment, then it was off to bed for him and some beer drinking for us.

5 am came early and we all met at Skaha Lake for the start of the 10km swim Tracey was paddling for. Lots of unfamiliar faces were there - crews and athletes from last year like the amazing Toni Barstis along with her husband, Dave, who was doing the race this year as well. Also there were Ferg Hawke, Steve King of course, Gerard Charlton, winner of the ’05 race, and a host of others. I think because of the relay this year there were more spectators and people a the start which was exciting.

When all the paddlers were out of sight I went for a quick 90 minute run, the first since Ironman six days prior. The right calf was still so tight I didn’t know if I should keep going or not. It settled into a steady ache that was manageable but I wasn’t happy about it. As I went down East Lake Rd. I shadowed the swimmers and their kayaks. It was very peaceful watching them go down the lake with me. I ran back to the start, got the car, and headed down to the swim finish with about ten minutes to spare as the swimmers were coming out.

Candy and I got John’s gear ready for the next evolution, a 140km bike ride. He exited the water in 3:50, beating his last year’s time by thirteen minutes. Nice line Tracey!! We got John on his way then headed out after him in the van. It’s been two years since I crewed and as hard as it is, it’s the same amount of fun that I remembered. Seeing the other crews and talking with them is great while waiting for the athletes to come by. Everyone was so nice and friendly which epitomizes this race.

John was doing a great job staying relaxed and steady but needed to be reminded to spin up the hills instead of attacking them. The weather got warmer but there was no wind like the weekend before at Ironman. Nevertheless John started getting cramps in his legs going up Richter Pass and needed the girls’ massaging at the top. It got worse on the rollers when he stopped for another break and basically fell screaming with leg cramps into the chair we set up for him. I actually thought to myself, “he won’t get up from this, he’s done.” We still had more rollers, and out and back and then the climb up Yellow Lake. We figured out at that point it was probably the copious amounts of Advil he took before and during the swim that weren’t allowing water to his muscles. After another rub-down he set off slowly and managed to get back into a good rhythm. He managed a good ride from then on in (albeit with a few too many “chat-stops”). His climb up Yellow was stellar - very steady and strong. He rode down to Christie Beach with a time of 6:12, seven minutes faster than last year. A new Day 1 record for him.

The next time he was feeling a bit tired but with no Advil we figured it couldn’t be as bad as the cramping the day before. The first big excitement of the 273km bike day was coming back to OK Falls around 90km when Jenn Dawkins almost got attacked and eaten by a HUGE bear at the side of the road!! Whew was she lucky! Then there was the flat front tire John had but didn’t realize it until after he’d finished climbing “the Wall” - the hardest, steepest section of the course. John’s a real stats guy, always wanting to know how far he has to go to the next section of the course. Being from the States we were always trying to convert the kms quickly to miles for him and sometimes my guesses as to the distances were underestimated. Even though he didn’t have a bike computer, he seemed to know and call me on my bullshit estimates.
Near Hedley he was getting pretty low in the blood sugar department so an excellent decision (one of many) from Candy was to go ahead and get him a ham sandwich. We tore ahead, dropped off Tracey in Hedley and screamed back to John. He got his sandwich not long after and basically ate the meat and left the bread which was fine because salt is never a bad thing in endurance racing.

Past Princeton was when things slowed down and John became concerned about whether he would make the cut-off time of twelve hours. We were wanting him to beat last year’s time but quite frankly we had the cut-off time in our heads as well and he needed constant reassurance that he would make it. Goes to show how important the crew is for the mental wellness of the athlete. He did so much on his own though because he’d been through it before and knew what he needed to do. It sucked though when he said he felt like he was going faster than last year but the time wasn’t reflecting that. He finished in 11:25, somewhat slower than last year’s 10:44 but just as relieved and grateful to be done.

Unfortunately Tracey and I had to go home that night and couldn’t stay for the double-marathon run the next day. So after more than twenty hours driving in two days we had another four and a half to go. On the run the next day John blasted out a 10:44 run, with help from Cam and Barb, beating last year by almost an hour even with stomach issues. It was sad to see the end of Penticton for a while. It always feels like end of summer after Ironman and Ultraman and I guess it is, back to the responsibilities of real life. Summer may be almost over but the base training for next year’s running starts as soon as I can walk again after Holland, so it’s not all bad. We definitely missed an exciting finish as the difference between first and second place this year was a mere 19 seconds! And between third and fourth it was only 3 seconds! Congratulations to everyone on their race.

I could probably look back at the last two years’ Ultraman report endings and they would mirror this last paragraph. Suffice to say it is a most magical race that brings people from all over the world to a little place in the Okanagan Valley for three days that they’ll remember forever. Can’t wait for next year.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Ultraman 2007

Tracey & I crewed this year for John Brooks, Manager of USA Today. Here are some pictures of our 2 days with him. Report to follow soon ...

Ultraman 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ironman Canada 2007 Race Report

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." - Benjamin Franklin

I'd like to say I was as jubilant when I crossed the line last Sunday as I was back in 2002 but I'd be lying.  It was a difficult day and I was truly glad to reach the finish.  I think it wasn't new to me anymore and therefore found it not as exciting as five years ago.  I feel like it was a great personal accomplishment time-wise, it just didn't feel the same emotionally.
The whole week leading up to the race was unseasonably cool with a great deal of wind coming off Okanagan lake during the day.  That didn't bode well for the bike on race day.  Saturday and Sunday were very calm on the water first thing in the morning, very opposite to the previous days where it was quite choppy when doing our last few swim workouts.  I treated the day more or less as a long workout.  I know sometimes people will say to do that just so you stay calm and not to burn yourself out or get too anxious about things.  Whereas I used to get up before an Ironman around 3:30 or 4:00 to eat, I got up at 4:30 and ate about 4:45, the same time before any race I'd done this year.  I tried to keep the same routine.  I walked down to the start in the dark with the music playing on the ishuffle and eventually wound my way to the body-marking line-ups.  It was quite long but, hey, it was only 5:20, lots of time to get everything done.  So I was close to the front and removed the headphones to get my shirt off to get me marked and the first thing I heard from someone in line was, "Man, you'd think they would have more body markers with all these people doing the race", in a real downer tone.  I thought to myself that that guy has started his day out very poor and was only wasting energy on something he couldn't control.  With just about 2500 athlete's registered, there were line-ups for everything all week - picking up race packages, buying clothing and merchandise, the carbo dinner, port-a-potties, the awards dinner, and picture pick-up to name a few.  Like I said before, there was lots of time to get everything done.  All we really had to do was pump up our tires, drop off the special needs bags and dry clothes bags, stand in line for the bathrooms and then swim. 

I saw Tracey doing body-marking after mine was done so went over for a pre-race hug. 

Not much was said as it had all been covered in the last few days.  I handed in my bags, pumped the tires, hit the bathrooms and didn't really have a lot of time to just take in the moment like I usually do before a race.  I had planned to just sit and listen to music and get my head in the game but it didn't happen.  Before I knew it I was in my wetsuit doing a warm up swim. 

The pros were off at 6:45 which left 15 cold minutes standing in the water waiting.  Natasha and I were side-by-side and I have to thank her for convincing me to stay in a spot that was in-line with the buoys to prevent extra meters swimming.  I told her that THIS was where the washing machine happened and we were going to get pummeled.  I tried to sound strong and agreed to stay there instead of off to the side but inside I was cringing like a kicked dog.  I feel bad because as it turned out I had the swim of my life and she was the one with the panic attack on this day.  I haven't had very good experiences in open water races this year as those who read this blog can attest to.  I was VERY anxious and apprehensive all week leading up to this.  I figured once this swim was over it was all downhill.  I had even pre-apologised to Tracey about how my swim time was going to suck.  I saw Brent Cyr and we shook hands and wished each other well.  Dave Simcox also walked by and we shook hands and said good luck.  Dave lost a good training partner earlier this year after colliding with a person on roller blades so I imagine he had a lot on his mind that morning. 

We left a small space in front of us as a cushion to start off easy.  For some reason I had a good ten or twenty easy strokes and got my rhythm right away.  After that it was just a matter of speeding up and settling in behind someone's feet.  It was going so well that I changed the "angry" music in my head to "My Perfect Day" by the Cranberries.  It kept me relaxed and actually enjoying the experience.  It seemed every time we got close to a buoy, everyone closed in around me to get as close as they could.  On a couple of occasions I could have hit them with my elbow (the marker buoys, not the other swimmers).  Same with rounding the corners where they had houseboats sitting - it was a mad rush to get as close to them as we could but once clear it was smooth sailing again.  I only got hit straight in the goggles once but several times was whacked in the back of the head by the same guy on three strokes in a row.  That's when I was the better swimmer and stepped aside.  It was a tremendous feeling getting closer to the shore and when you can hear the announcer you know you're close. 

I ran out of the water and checked my watch quickly and saw that the time of day was 7:58 meaning I had broken an hour on the swim, something I'd wanted to do since my first Ironman!!  That brought a smile to my face and after the wetsuit strippers almost dislocated my ankle getting the suit off, I ran past Tracey where she even checked her watch in amazement.  Swim time 59:20, 104th overall, 23rd in age group, three minutes faster than '02.

There were so many chairs in T1 for a change I had a huge choice where to sit and lots of room to put my stuff everywhere.  The volunteers were so good in both transitions, doing everything and getting anything you need.  Can't say enough about them all over the course.

I found my bike and saw Mom and Dad and Steve and Bonnie on the other side of the fence wishing me well.  It's so cool heading out onto main street with the streets lined with people cheering you on.  The road down Skaha was nice due to the lack of headwind that was soon coming.  It felt so effortless that I was surprised to have made it to Osoyoos in and hour and a half only.  Then the work began on Richter Pass.  We had a bit of a headwind off and on going up but the climb seemed manageable on this day.  All the way up here as well were pockets of cheering friends and family of athlete's which is why I think it seemed so easy.  Trish from Peninsula Runners was in her usual spot cheering the riders on.  We actually had a good speed going down the other side so I figured we were going to be in for a long ride to Keremeos due to headwinds. 
After the rollers it was the dreaded flat section to the out and back turnoff where all riders encountered their worst fear - wind in your face the whole time.  It wasn't a nice gentle breeze either, it was like driving through a tunnel with your windows down having a big semi-truck beside you needing new mufflers.  Deafening.  It was tough for me because there was no one in front of me so I couldn't gauge whether I was gaining or losing on anybody.  Just like a training ride it was tough just keeping your head down and slogging along.  It was here that fatigue started to creep into my legs and back.  I was stretching every few minutes which was a big distraction from staying in the aerobars. I finally hit the turnoff for the out and back and was met with a tailwind out to the turnaround and the special needs bags.  I hadn't used as much of my CarboPro 1200 as I thought I might so I didn't even stop to pick up a new bottle. 

Once I got headed back to Yellow Lake there was the %$@! headwinds again pretty much all the way to Yellow Lake.  Once on the climb however, there was nothing and I was climbing strong, mostly in the aerobars.  This section is just like the Tour de France where there are people lining the roads making a little cheering tunnel for you to go through.  Unlike the Tour riders, I heard everything they were saying and took as much strength from it as I could.  Everything from "looking good", to "almost to the top", to "great spinning", and, my favorite, "Nice arms" to which I responded I would gladly trade them for new legs. 

From here there was literally no one in front of me all the way back to town. It was the loneliest part of any race I'd ever done.  A big hello to Damien from Peninsula Cycles on this section.  More headwinds past the Penticton airport and then all the way down Main Street.  The crowds once again got me pumped up and I started looking forward to the run.  Bike time 5:16, 59th overall, 10th fastest in age group, three minutes faster than '02 (there's a trend here).

The run this time made you go through town then towards our motel near the Sicamous boat.  It was here that I finally saw Carrie and the kids for the first time that day.  There were high-fives all around and then I headed out of town.  I saw a bunch of people including Jim from the Cactus Club Cafe (who has agreed to sponsor my trip to the Netherlands.  Thanks Jim!), now off to OK Falls!

At first I didn't even feel like running.  I thought about how I was possibly going to complete this course feeling like this.  I kept up with the CarboPro I had on my water bottle belt and it gave me the energy to move forward.  We had a tailwind again which made for warm temperatures when the sun peeked out the few times it did.  When I got to around eight miles I kept telling myself only five more to the turnaround, then four more, and so on.  It got a little easier at this point and getting to the halfway point was cool as it was right where Day 1 of Ultraman ended last year.  I started getting hot spots on the bottom of my toes around here and wondered if it was because of the brand new shoes I was wearing (gasp!!).  I know, never try new equipment in a race but these Adistar were familiar to me and they never got any worse, I didn't even end up with blisters. 

All the way back I just kept thinking of finishing and stopping.  Nothing else.  It was CarboPro and Pepsi that kept me going.  There were two guys in my age group that passed me but I didn't have the killer instinct to try and go with them.  I had picked up the pace towards the end of shorter races this year but I think I was afraid of cramping or blowing up and not being able to salvage anything from the run.   I didn't want to walk in the last few miles.  I saw Peter and Dave Burns at the Skaha marina on the way back and that gave me more fuel to keep going.  Then it was Jim again where we turned off Main street and I knew I was almost home.  On the final stretch I took a couple looks over my shoulder and was alone by about 100m.  I felt I could sprint this section if I needed to.  I didn't see anything on that last bit except the finishing arch.  Breaking through it felt like I'd done a long training day and I just needed a rest.  There were no fireworks in my head, no, "I can't believe I've done it", just a deep satisfaction of finishing a hard day.  I didn't know until Jason from Calgary told me that Rob Neidermeyer had given me my medal.  I don't think I even looked at him.  Run time 3:23, 57th overall, 9th in age group, 13 minutes faster than '02.  Overall time 9:45, 29th overall, 4th age group.  Proud of that. 

We watched many friends come past us later at the last run turnaround before the finish but the cold wind coming off the lake drove us back to our room to see the rest on TV.  I did manage to get out around 11:30 in time to shake Steve King's hand as he came by; him overcoming some serious issues to get through the race.  The lunch we shared in town earlier that week was the highlight of my whole Ironman trip this year.

That was my sunset triathlon for I don't know how long.  Maybe I'll be back for the 30th anniversary...

Now I have to say thanks for the many people having a hand in my best Ironman ever:
Of course the list tops out with Carrie, Hannah and Elias, always understanding and accepting of me leaving early and getting home late; Paul Williams and everyone at Peninsula Runners; Lorne from Adidas; Keith at North Shore Athletics who, with Lorne and PR, got me a spot to compete in this year's race; Ferg Hawke and his generous supply of CarboPro products that powered me through this and other races through the year; Tracey and her wonderful swim coaching and even better friendship; all the swimmers at Watermania that made a tough thing easier to get out of bed for; and finally anyone who wished me well through the year and cheered me on at races.  It was a great time.  
Thank you.