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 ...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Long ride with a few stops

The day was scheduled to be a seven hour ride. That's it - only seven. It would be the longest ride since Ramrod last July which covered around 240km. Ian again wanted it to be done as thirty minutes hard, ten easy, repeat, repeat, repeat. Again it's not easy doing that distance too close to home, it's better to venture way far away so as not to be tempted to cut the ride short for any of the numerous excuses I'm capable of thinking up.
I hit the road at 5:15am, fifteen minutes later than desired. There were a few things that arose that prevented me from returning by noon to at least get a bit of family time in before my body shut down for the rest of the day. The temperature was already at 12 degrees. Nevertheless I left with my vest and arm warmers on. It's always a roll of the dice deciding on what to bring. If it's too cold and you're underdressed it's a long, long unpleasant day. Too many clothes and at least you can take them off but now your back pockets look like you're carrying an inflated fanny pack. I usually underdress and hope I and the temperature warm up throughout the day.
I headed out on sixteenth ave once again where I realized it's breaking through the barriers of the common riding grounds that is the hardest. Almost like trying to fly a spaceship out of a planet's gravity - the further out you go, the easier it is. I think it's because the terrain seems not so old and well-travelled. I broke through the barrier somewhere around Lefevre and 40th ave. I headed further east along this road to Sumas Mountain. I thought about it after every set of thirty minutes how it worked that every working set ended in a perfect spot to recover - usually at the top of a hill or a nice flat stretch where I could spin easy and not fight up a hill. Sumas was no exception. I got to the top of the back side and had my easy ten minutes over to the steep 13% downhill back towards Whatcom road where the work began again.
From here I ended up on Hwy. 11 which took me towards the Mission bridge into Mission, obviously. I've gone across this bridge numerous times and every time the scenario that runs through my head goes as such:

"Hello, Mission City Hall, how can I help you?"

"Yes, I am a cyclist that uses your bridge periodically and would like to complain about the condition of the pedestrian walkway on the side. It is completely unacceptable in terms of sand, rock and various road debris that litters the walkway and makes it terribly difficult to cross without serious damage to bike tires. I'd like it cleaned regularly in consideration for cyclists."

"Why, yes sir, we'll get right on it."

That's the censored edition. In my head I'm cursing a blue streak to the person on the phone and myself for going across this dog's breakfast yet again. The person on the other end usally hangs up half-way through my rant anyways.
Then, as my mind often does during long runs or rides, a sort of daydream plays out in my head. In this one I get a flat tire and from afar I see myself screaming in anger as I hurl the wrecked tube over the rail to the river below. Then I catch myself and do not actually throw it over as that would be bad for the fishes. Not ten seconds and two hundred feet from the end of the bridge I flat. It was nothing dramatic or ear-splitting. Just that "something's not right" feeling where you know you need to stop. Doing about 30km I braked slowly and got off to inspect the damage. This was the very first time I had flatted on this set of race wheels (the training wheels have a broken spoke, remember?) that I've owned for eight years. I was choked as these were good tires, too.
It was blatently obvious the cause of the blowout: a one inch screw was halfway into the tire. I unscrewed it and tossed that over the side in anger, thinking my tire was shot. I inspected the hole and it didn't look too bad. I grabbed a piece of plastic and tucked it in between the tire and new tube to make sure the tube didn't poke out the hole when inflated. Luckily the hole wasn't all that big and by unscrewing it I minimized the damage. After ten minutes the repair was done and I rode off leaving the dead tube hanging on the railing as a warning to other riders and the city workers to clean the $%#@ sidewalks!
Of course now I have only one tube left and I can only think that if the repair job doesn't hold or I get another random flat, that's when things will really get interesting. So what do I do to err on the side of caution? Maybe start riding towards home? No, I head even further away from home towards Hatzic. I like to imagine calling Carrie and trying to tell her where I am because she needs to come pick me up about an hour and a half drive from home. I got to Sylvester road and basically did the reverse of the Haney to Harrison route. It was a little tough picking out landmarks because at this section it was usually pretty dark and foggy and raining. Not the beautiful 27 degrees I was experiencing now. I went up the 2.3km 8% winding hill where I remember just following the van's taillights down becuase it was so foggy I couldn't even see the center line on the road. Good times.
Now I was in deep, dark, Mission and I thought about taking my tooth out just to fit in with the locals. Kidding to all the Missionites out there but I did catch banjo notes drifting to me on the wind at spots.
My second unscheduled stop occurred just east of the turnoff to the Justice Institute's fire training ground. I was coming up a hill and at the top was a runner going the other way. It was Barb Owen, someone I hadn't seen or really talked to much since my fundraiser dance last fall. We chatted for fifteen minutes wherein she regaled me with her plans for the future which included: the 24 hour relay for the kids, only doing it solo; the Marathon des Sables next year; the unofficial Badwater crossing next July; and some eighteen-day stage race across the whole of France. What is it people say about me again? Oh, yeah, they say I'M crazy. Think again.
I carried on to the Albion ferry for my third stop but the shortest of the three. We were going with the current so the trip was fast to Ft. Langley. At least any mechanicals would be easier to deal with on this side of the river in terms of calling for someone to pick me up. As I was going to be short of my seven hour ride time, I still couldn't head straight back home. I had to detour to 264th down to 0 ave to make up the time.
When I turn westbound on 0 I hit, of course, the headwind all the way home. It was easier doing the 30 hard/10 easy because it takes your mind off the crappy conditions and gets you home faster too. It was nice going past the beach and back up Marine Drive because I know I'm only fifteen minutes out. I got back with a ride time of, literally, 7 hours and 25 seconds, total distance 209km. Can't wait for the end of this week when I'm scheduled for another. This time Mt. Baker calls for me. I don't think I'll make it all the way up unless I want to log 8 hours and 250km. We'll see. I always forget about the headwind on the way home.

As a side note Ian doesn't think I should do the Scorched Sole 50km on June 7th OR the Bighorn 100 mile on June 20th and to rest the leg more. I think I'll skip the SS just because there is a Fun Fair at the kids' school and Hannah has softball that day. I may do a long trail run on my own sometime that weekend or head up to the North Shore for a Knee Knacker training run. I need to test myself somehow but I don't really need to travel three hours each way to do it. The Scorched Sole will have to wait until next year I suppose. Seeing as my flight, entry, and accommodation for Bighorn are arranged, I'm going to give it a shot. At the very least I will walk/run or pull out altogether. I think I'm smart enough to do that now. I think.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

the latest

(Author's note: I wrote this Tuesday night but didn't get the pictures taken until Thursday. Such is life when there's a lot going on)

Wow I looked to see when my last entry was and it was almost two weeks ago. Not that too much exciting has been going on, but I feel I need to update the two or three people who read this.
Okay, where to start? Let's start small and work our way up:

Last week I had my fake tooth/denture/retainer-type thing put in. It feels like the retainer I had after my braces and actually looks kind of real. Thanks to Hannah who says it looks whiter than my other yellow teeth. Here's the pictures:

Pretty cool, hey? Good at parties too.

I finally sent the money off for the Spartathlon entry. My application had been accepted a month or so ago but I thought why part with the cash until I absolutley have to? It's a good thing I didn't wait until the last minute because when I went to wire the money to the bank in Athens, my bank said they needed the address of where it was going to and who was receiving the money. I emailed the Association in Greece to get the address. After another couple emails and a few unanswered phone calls (tough to remember to call when it's daylight over there) I got a response from Mr. Tsakiris who was unsure why I needed the address of the Alpha bank when other competitors had wired the money no problem with the information that was provided on the entry form. That's us in Canada, I said. So, armed with this new address of the bank and the account numbers I went to try again. It took forever. At first they told me the accout number wasn't in any of the many numbers that I had with me. Then they played around with them until the computer was satisfied enough to graciously allow me to wire the cash. The entry fee was 250 Euros which was just under $400. When I got my receipt, it read $440. Turns out they charged me $42 to wire money to Europe!! I barely made it out of there without the top of my head blowing off. I guess the "money" (it's really only electronic impulses) travels to Toronto, then the States, then over to Greece somehow. Still can't see how that runs me 42 bills. The cost of running these races mounts ever higher.

I saw the UBC sports med Dr. Prassad and it turns out he's not 100% sure my shin was a stress fracture but most likely was. Could have been bad shin splints as the "heat" from the bone scan showed up in different places. Regardless the treatment is the same - strength training, calf-stretching, no running for two weeks once there's no pain to run. How can I know if it hurts if I don't run?? Better yet, is it considered "pain-free" if I run for a mile, ten miles, twenty miles without it hurting, or what? The good thing is that it's feeling a whole lot better even from last week. I snuck in a little twenty-five minute trail run the morning before I saw him and although it didn't hurt per-se, I could feel an awareness that something wasn't right. Almost like it did two months ago when I first felt it coming on (and should have treated it then and not been a %$#@ idiot). Prassad said I could see Colin McKay and get some ART (Active Release Therapy) as long as he stayed away from the tibia bone. I did that and if felt GOOD!! I was told I could look into orthotics as well and as the guy who did mine two years ago was out of the business for a while, Colin gave me the name of Noelle Trotter to have her look at my situation. I went to her and she was awesome. She did a video analysis of me walking and figured a couple things out. The biggest one being that, "Why are you running in a control shoe for pronation when you hardly pronate and should be in a neutral shoe?" Well I'll be a son of a....For years I've been under the impression that I pronate pretty bad and need a control shoe to prevent my foot from rolling too much inwards. After comparing video of me to people who actually do pronate badly, I looked pretty good. I traded a pair of trail shoes for neutral ones and talked with Darren Mealing the Adidas rep who will get me some neutral road shoes to use. Could the fact that these shoes weren't letting my feet do what they want to do be the cause of injury? Maybe the old shoes were fine for marathon and Ironman training but once I moved to longer distances they were hindering me. I guess time will tell. Maybe I'll go another year of being injury-free and then have something else happen and I'll be back to square one. Ahhh, this running is so much fun. So Noelle took my old orthotics and has shaved some off and changed some stuff to act like a cushion. She could have told me I needed new, different ones to make a few bucks, but because she was honest and did what she did, I totally respect her and would recommend her to anyone. She is definitely knowledgeable when it comes to feet.

I did another epic ride during our three day heat wave. Went 155k in just under 5 hours but was feeling the effects of the heat and not drinking enough. Ian says to practise eating and drinking more in training or he thinks I'll explode during the Spartathlon. This trip took me to the Tswassen Ferry Terminal then back through White Rock, down zero avenue to the Abbostford airport then returned from there. Had a nice chat with a gentleman who was riding to Cultus Lake to camp for the weekend. We both noted that we were riding into a headwind, and then I turn around to come home and what's hitting me in the face? Of course, a headwind. It was one of those days. I calculated my time to return so as not to be late to get the kids and realized I needed to move. About fifteen k's from home I heard a "twang" that sounded too loud to be a rock skipping off my spoke. I suspected what it was and upon an examination of the rear wheel confirmed that one had indeed broken one. I think that's the second or third one off that wheel so time to get a new one or rebuild this one. It was a good excuse to take it easy the rest of the way.

I managed 45 minutes water running today which after a long layoff was a whole new world of torture. It wasn't overly boring, the muscles and the body just forget how to "run" in water. It's always a tough curve to get back to being water running fit.

Other than that I think I should be back on my leg running within a week. Another long bike awaits this Saturday - 7 hours and probably around 200km.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Surviving the Weekend

So much going on this past weekend to try and keep track of the people in these events. There was the Elk/Beaver 100km in Victoria, Miwok, Vancouver Marathon,the Wildflower triathlon, and the Toronto Ultra. E/B saw Jack Cook, Darren Froese, and Rick Webb, all previous World 100km competitors, go 1,2,3. Gary Robbins now of North Vancouver was 12th overall, top Canadian as first time runner of any 100km race at Miwok even after taking a page from my book and going off course for five clicks or so. Gary Wang, ultrarunner and Ultraman Hawaii competitor, finished the tough Wildflower triathlon in 5:30. Joel and Linda Waithman from the Watermania swim group were there racing as well. The Toronto Ultra saw several previous members of Canada's 100km team running.
Being in the state I was, I couldn't do anything, obviously, so we worked around the house and took a walk to the beach with the kids to take my mind off the race. Sunday was another story. It was my long bike day - 5 - 5 and a half hours. I was planning to meet my mom in Vancouver where she was walking the half-marathon. She figured she would be done in around four hours or 11am. I figured I would get close to the race around 10:30, call her on the cell, and meet her before the finish. I started out the day close to 6am, needing to get in a ton of time in the saddle before I met up with her. My plan was to head east to 264th st then turn around, head to Ladner, down River Rd to the Alex Fraser Bridge, South West Marine Way, then north on the Cypress bike route right downtown.
As I was riding in the first hour I thought that I may be cutting it a bit close by getting to the race at 10:30 and even then I wasn't sure exactly how long it would take me. Things can always come up - flats, dog chasings, missed turns, traffic. I decided to turn around ten kilometers early to get downtown by 9:30 or so.
My workout was to be done as twenty minutes hard followed by ten easy repeated for the whole time. I managed to do seven of these before traffic and lights made it hard to keep a hard pace going without stopping. Once over the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver memories of last year's PR at this race flooded back to me. I remember in 2007 seeing the "25 mile" marker, doing some quick math in my head, and realizing I had to book it to make my goal of 2:45 which I met by ten seconds or so. I was so happy with that race it almost made not doing this year's bearable. Not that I was dying from not doing the marathon, it's just that I've done the full or half so many times that it's a comfortable race.
A quick call to my mom revealed that she was already around the 11.5 mile mark. She was WAY ahead of schedule. This worked perfect because it was literally two corners and I saw her. I rode with her the last kilometer and a half until the marshals stopped me from going further. I say Matt Sessions watching the race with his arm in a sling so had to stop to inquire. He fell while riding the bike and broke his collarbone. Not as exciting as my tooth story, but close. In the meantime, my mom had gone past the point of me following her and I couldn't give her the big congratulatory hug that I was looking forward to. I managed to work my way up to as close as I could get and gave her a wave and she crossed the line in 3:22. Weird that I managed to make it down there so close to where she was to see her finish. I'm proud of the accomplishment. Next up, a 100km walk for her!!
During my bike home I still felt really strong and got back to the 20 hard 10 easy routine until the 5:30 mark when I started slowing down. I got home logging a 6:25, 180km ride. The longest since Ironman last year. Hopefully my cardio is staying up with this mammoth bike schedule I'm on. I guess we'll find out in a few weeks when I hit the trails again. For now I'm resigned to the bike.

Ian suggested it would be better to abandon the Blackfoot 100km at the end of this month. I agreed and have emailed the race director that fact. It's still not an easy decision but probably for the better. This means there's only the 50km in Kelowna before the big 100 mile in Wyoming in June. It's sounding a lot scarier now than two months ago when I was fit and uninjured. Time will tell.