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 ...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Rollercoaster that has been Miwok

So as some may know I went to register for the Miwok 100km a couple weeks back and was stunned to see that it had sold out in less than half an hour. I put my name on the wait list and, on advice of someone who knew the race director, emailed to see if there was anything she could do about letting any more people in. On the race website it even said for people to email her for "special consideration". I send an email begging for a spot and held off on signing up for the 50 miler in Olympia to see what happens. A week later we get this email:

Thank you all for your interest in and dedication to this beautiful and challenging event. I truly wish that I could accept all applicants into the race, but our park service limit is 250 runners. The race filled in less than fifteen minutes this year, and I will likely go to a lottery system for the 2009 race.

Although I would like to e-mail each of you individually, with over 200 e-mails from runners who overslept, got lost on their early morning run, had a power outage, or could not get through on active.com, it is more expedient to send a group e-mail, rather than make you wait even longer for a response. There was a lot of understandable frustration with the active.com system. We've all had experiences with technological failure in other areas of our lives, and despite my working together with active.com in the weeks before the registration date to forestall any problems, several glitches nonetheless occurred. I will be reviewing all the data in the next week, and the waiting list will be posted by February 1st.

At the Western States lottery, slips of paper are pulled from a box so your entry depends purely on the luck of the draw and we accept that as "chance". At Miwok 100K registration this year, it appears that the moment in time when you clicked your mouse determined whether you got through successfully or not - surely more frustrating that not having the paper with your name on it chosen, but equally random.

So I resign myself to the fact that I'll be doing the 50 miler but still didn't send my entry form. Good thing because a two days after that another email:

Great news - I have been working with the Park Service and they are going to allow some additional spots for the thirteenth running of the Miwok 100K on May 3, 2008.

The e-mail addresses on this list are the top 75 people on the waiting list, in order, out of a total of 289 people on that list. You are either in the race, or in the top 15 on the waiting list and will definitely get into the event when some cancellations occur.

In a few days she'll be sending out a password to us for active.com to sign up. Talk about your ups and downs.
Does the fact that she says the sign-up for Miwok next year will be done by a lottery indicate the craze for this sport or just certain races? I think it's just a chosen few that have gained popularity over the years as being "the race to do" and that there will always be more races that don't sell out and are easy to get into. I might as well do this one while I can then, just in case. Have to change the '08 schedule AGAIN!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Buntzen Lake

I'm probably not going to do the first Diez Vista training run on Jan. 27th because of work so I thought I'd try a little exploratory run out in that area the other day. I haven't even run out in Port Moody since the DV race in '06 so it was like a brand new experience. Ian's program entailed a 2:15 run which I thought would be doable out around Buntzen lake. Armed with a fuzzy map of the area printed off the computer, I started running from the Equestrian Parking lot on the south-east side. Having only the map to go by and an old hiking book that indicated one loop to be about 25km I thought this would be perfect. What I didn't realize was the altitude this one was at and the complications therein.
Starting up it was basically like the Grouse Grind - nearly impossible to run. I would estimate I did 90% walking up this trail. To make matters worse, it got to be all snow but because it was frozen, you could walk on it but had to careful to avoid slipping. There were footprints in the trail which made it easier to follow and get traction but stepping in some of them. The only other saving grace was the little orange tags nailed to the odd trees to indicate where the trail went. I don't know how many times (here and on the other trail I went on later) that I had to stop and actually look for those tags because the trail was not identifiable by just looking at it. Sometimes after thinking I'd gone the wrong way I would look behind me and hopefully see a tag on a tree which meant I was on the right track as you'd see those ones coming back on the trail the other way.
After climbing and climbing (sometimes grabbing on to trees and literally climbing) for a bit it was my stubbornness that kept me going. I always like to know roughly where I am so if I ever plan another trip down the same road I know what kind of terrain and time it takes to cover it. On the map there was a lookout so I thought to make it to there at least. All I could see as I looked up was more and more mountain, never clear sky like you were reaching the top or anything. I reached the lookout in thirty-one minutes, covering about a mile and a half and there waiting were three hikers taking a rest, all decked out in winter boots and gear with backpacks. They looked at me like I was from another planet. I asked about the trail and if I was at the lookout on the map. Indeed I was and now that I knew where I was I was happy. Of course, the planned route would have to wait for another couple of months because there was still another thousand feet of elevation to be gained before reaching the top of the ridge and some level trails. As it was all snow now, I knew it wouldn't get any better further up. Time for a quick descent taking only half the time it did going up.
Now I was back on the Buntzen Lake trail going north towards the tip of the lake. It was a good little rolling path. At the north end there was lots of flooding from the weather over the last week. I made it around the dam and got to the start of the Diez Vista trail traveling the opposite direction of the race. With my "running" time of 1:10 so far, I thought I should be able to take the trail to the south end of the lake in time for my 2:15 goal time, which would also leave me lots of time to get the kids from school. On a map by the north end it indicated the trail to be 8 miles round trip, allow for 5 hours to hike it. That meant 4 miles and 2.5 hours one way. Piece of cake.
Like the first trail I was on this one goes straight up for the first thirty minutes or so. Again it was hard at times to discern the trail and whether I was on it. A lot of time was wasted looking for those orange tags. At least in the race they had pink ribbon tied to trees once in a while to let you know you were on the right track. I was glad hitting the first Vista because I could see on the map where I was. An extremely bright spot of this whole day were the views from various parts of this trail. With not a cloud in the sky it was amazing what you could see at 2,500 feet. The snow got bad again but was still runnable in spots. When I eventually came to a Vista with a little tiny sign stating "Vista no. 1" I was thrilled because time was getting tight and I knew I'd be heading down soon. On the map there's a little trail leading off this one heading south-west that says "to Sasamat Lake". I knew I didn't want to go there but after a bit of running I was going down some steep areas and kind of heading in that direction, away from where I wanted to go. It was still a trail because of the orange tags but I thought maybe I missed a fork and by mistake I was going the wrong way. I decided to back-track a bit and see if I missed something. This was all straight up hiking and after ten minutes I stopped and tried to clear my head. I figured if I kept going on the marked trail, even if I was on the wrong one, it would lead to Sasamat or at least a road or other trail and I could get more info on where I was. So I turned and went in the original direction and after a couple minutes saw what looked like a trail going down to the left, towards the south end of Buntzen and where I wanted to go. I jumped down it and although it was very rugged and probably 60 degrees, it still kind of looked like a trail. I could find no orange tags in front or behind me and I have to say I was getting worried. I didn't want to come to some cliff and have to claw my way back up this vertical stretch. I kept telling myself, "this looks like a trail, this has to be a trail". Funny enough I eventually stumbled across a path and could see an orange tag on a tree in both directions. I must have cut down the mountain and run into the same trail I was on when I first turned around thinking I was going towards Sasamat. Elated, I head off in the direction of Buntzen.
After descending for a while, I came to a fork with signs indicating a trail to get to Sasamat. This was that little path I could see on the map. Lesson learned. By now time was REALLY getting tight so my pace quickened, much to the dismay of my quads. I wiped out three times (good ones, too) in my haste to make it back to the car. I finally made it to the lake shore and the floating bridge. At the north end there were signs stating that the floating bridge (where I was now) was out of service due to flooding. I was looking at it and it didn't look so bad. The fact there were no signs or barricades blocking my way over the bridge, I decided to give it a go. At the other side where the bridge meets the land there had to be two feet of water as far as I could see into the forest. Crap. Do you jump in, suck it up and hope it's only a short distance to dry land or go around? I decided on the smart thing to go around. Back at the road it was 3 km to the car which I did at a 6:15 mile pace.
I left the parking lot at 1:35pm and got to the kids' school at 2:26. Perfect.
Lessons learned: Always know where I am and get a cell phone. Probably not going to happen on either count.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The North Shore

Yesterday was the first trip ever to run on the North Shore. I've never run there I think only because I've never been up there and was a little leary of going through those trails alone. This was an "organised" run to be done on part of the Dirty Duo course for the March 1st race.
I showed up first with a pack of mountain bikers heading out soon after I arrived. A few minutes later two cars showed up with two people each and it turned out this was the group doing the 25km run for those racing in the 50km portion of the race. There was Simon, Sarah, Magnus, and Erin. We started out moving slow as Sarah, the one with knowledge of where we were going, was feeling sick yet still took us around the trails. It was good because I have to do more slow running to not burn out after two hours running as I've done in the past. The trails were marvelous - rugged, soaking wet, and beautiful forests. It was like a Hollywood movie where someone is lost in the harsh wilderness. The trails were very different from Chuckanut so I was glad we weren't flying along. There were lots of uphills and downhills and it made for great training. We cut the day short as we were all soaked and most of the group hungry and wanting breakfast. That was fine by me as I now knew more about some of the trails and could come back on my own to explore more. I liked it so much, when I got home I ordered online a map for the North Shore trails. In a few weeks when I'm not working there's more organised training runs so will be back to cover more ground. Totally looking forward to heading up there on my own as well.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What is This Sport Coming To?!

As I am only a baby when it comes to time spent as an ultrarunner I am learning things at a quick rate. The latest being that some ultras are filling up and selling out faster than you can click "enter" on the computer. As good friend John Brooks wrote me today in consolation, "ultrarunning is what trathlon was like six years ago". And he's right. I used to MAIL in entry forms for my triathlons before internet sign-up became so popular (and profitable for some online companies) with the only worry of them getting lost in the mail. I would check online or phone the race director days later to make sure my entry was received. Internet sign-ups have definitely made life easier is some respects, but not all.
When I wrote the last blog entry stating that my race schedule was subject to change, I didn't think it would be changing this soon. I woke up today knowing I'd be signing up for the Mikwok 100km race in May and that it sold out in three days last year. "Sign up early", the website said. Well apparently the registration started a bit early this year and by the time I wandered to the computer at 8:30 (thirty minutes after the race went on sale), it was all over but the self-ass-kicking. How could I be so stupid? With Miwok being a tune-up for Western States and how popular that race is becoming, I should have known it was going to go fast. Even for the Chuckanut 50km in March sold out in two and a half days. I registered at 8:30 a.m. the day it opened up and was still the 92nd person to sign up. The thing I've loved about ultrarunner the past couple of years is the fact that they are smaller venues, people-wise, than triathlons. I guess with the numbers of longer-distance runners increasing, there is more demand for the races with only 250 - 350 or so spots. Not like Ironman who accommodate 2,500 or more with their cash-grabbing ways. Of course there can't be 2,000 or more runners tramping through certain parks or trails as there would be nothing left save for something resembling a battlefield from WWI.
Strangely it wasn't like the world was ending. I wasn't overly upset other than Mr. Brooks and I were going to run side by side as we haven't seen each other since Ultraman last summer. There are so many other races out there that another can easily take this one's place. I will mail off (that's right, mail) my entry for the Capitol Peak 50 mile race on April 26th, three weeks after Diez Vista and one month before the Blackfoot 100km. The extra week can only help me be more recovered for it. Miwok was only going to be a good training run for the 100 miler in June.
Anyways, as it was my fault for not dragging myself out of bed earlier (I'm on holidays for goodness sakes!!), I will use this as a learning experience for the next one. For all the people who didn't get into Western States on the 28th of June, the Bighorn may be a poplar alternative like it is for me. You can bet when the Big Horn 100 opens up on February 1st I'll be there early at the keyboard, visa card in hand.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Official '08 Race Schedule

It may be "Official" but I still reserve the right to not sign up, drop out of, jam out of, or simply add or subtract events at my discretion. See links on the side page.
As a training day for the Diez Vista 50km in April there will be a 20km run on part of the course on Jan. 27. This will be a good refresher as will the 28km shorty on a different part of the course on Feb. 24th. After the 20km "race" in January, the family will be heading down to the Orcas Island 50km in Washington. It sounds cool because there are cabins for the runners to stay in and families are welcome. The Monday after the race is President's Day in the States so most entrants would go there on Saturday and stay two nights.
Two weeks after Orcas Island is the Dirty Duo 50km on the North Shore. I won free entry to this race from the Haney to Harrison back in '06 and couldn't do it last year. I emailed the race director and she is graciously honouring the entry for the '08 race.
Two weeks after the Dirty Duo is the Chuckanut 50km in Bellingham. I did this race in '06 but missed the sign-up for '07 with huge disappointment. I loved it so much that I do most of my trail training around the course. There's a great mix of hills and technical trails. It's actually less time to get there to train than to drive to the North Shore - just jump on the I-5 and I'm running in forty-five minutes.
April 5th will see me at the Diez Vista 50km in Port Moody. I did this one in '06 as well but knew I wouldn't be in shape to do it last year. At the finish I steadfastly stated to anyone who'd listen that I'd never do this race again. It was a very hard but a few hours later when the pain subsided I was looking forward to doing it again. Hence the need to do those two training runs on the course to get used to it again.
Here's where it gets interesting: I was planning to do a 50 mile race in Washington on April 26th but the Miwok 100km in San Francisco on May 3rd sounded even better. Even I think that it would be too much to do both on back-to-back weekends. A lot of big names usually show up at Miwok so if they do I can really get my ass kicked to put everything into perspective. I should have accommodation secured through Gary Wang, an Ultraman Competitor and numerous finishes at Western States, so that's a good thing. I got my mom an entry into the Vancouver Marathon, walker's division, for May 4th so would be nice to be back and see her finish. It would mean a quick turnaround but I'm pretty used to that. There was also a 12 hour race on the 17th that I was going to use as prep for the 100 miler. I would rather do the Blackfoot 100km in Edmonton that I couldn't do last year because it was too soon after the Vancouver Marathon. It's on May 24th this year so I'm hoping there's enough time in between Miwok and this one to be competitive.
June 7th (I assume) is the Kelowna Scorched Sole 50km. This would be a good little bout of speed work before the Bighorn 100 mile on June 20th and 21st in Wyoming. After not getting my name drawn in the Western States lottery I looked for another one near the same date as I had much of my race schedule drawn up around WS. Bighorn is also a qualifier for the Hardrock 100 mile which is touted as one of the hardest 100s there is. '09 perhaps.
Depending on another lottery gamble, I will do the Knee Knackering 30 mile in North Van on July 12th. This has interested me for a few years but never thought I'd be able to do it or it conflicted with other triathlons I was doing. It also climbs 8,000 feet which sounds like a lot of fun!!
August 1st is the the Canadian Death Race. A 125km trek near Grand Cache, Alberta. This is a race I've wanted to do for at least six years but again triathlon led the way in priority for me. I might do the Stormy 100 mile or 50 mile race after the Death Race but not sure if it falls on the weekend after or two weeks later. This may or may not happen, depends on what coach Ian has to say.
All of this work culminates in a huge, unsure-if-I-can-finish, crazy, yes crazy even by MY standards, 246km Spartathon in Greece. Not sure why I want to do this race on the road but the goal is to be the highest finishing Canadian ever. Not sure how many have even started but as far as I know only one Canadian has finished the race in its 24-year history.
Just to finish things up nicely I'll holiday in Italy for the 100km World Championships on November 8th.
Whew, I'm tired just writing all this.

A Need For Speed and Other Observations

Participated in the 8km Resolution Run that Peninsula Runners puts on every Jan. 1st. I say "participated" because I was only racing it for the first five minutes when my breathing got so harsh I had to slow myself down to keep from hyperventilating. I felt thoroughly out-classed. I think more contenders were out this year (or I'm just getting old and slower) as there were tons of guys who took off from the start and just kept going, out of sight. I had nothing to answer with. Having done nothing you could vaguely call speed work since the summer I guess that's my excuse. I can't use the hungover excuse because I didn't touch a drop last night. I finished thirty-two seconds slower than last year and twenty-three back of '06 but felt like it would be two minutes when I crossed the line. Maybe I should drink the night before a race.

The sign-up for the Chuckanut 50km opened today. I registered online at 8:30 and was the 92nd person to do so. Are these trail races starting to be as popular as some road races that fill up in hours or even minutes? Hopefully not or I might have to find even more obscure events to do. As of 2:37pm there are 174 people registered with a limit of 350 being imposed.

Do toe nails have memory? Seems like every time I traumatize one it falls off quicker afterwards. The H2H one was less than three weeks and now the Texas one jumped ship today without any argument only twenty-four days later. Now I have matching big toes (send requests for pictures). I didn't feel any discomfort from the run today and then after the ocean dip it decides it's ready. Oh, yeah, we also hit the ocean at noon today, part of a three year tradition with the family. The kids did not do it this year save for the ankles but Carrie, sister Karen and myself took the plunge to clear the cobwebs for the start of another year.