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 ...

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