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.