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 ...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pre-Death Race

Just a last quick thought on the Knee Knacker:
I think the year was 2001 and I was up at Penticton to watch the Ironman and ultimately sign up for '02. We were waiting in line to get a table at a breakfast eatery after the athletes left on their bikes. There was a guy in front of us wearing a shirt with all these sharp, jagged lines on the back and upon closer inspection I read that it was the Knee Knacker trail run elevation profile. It was with the utmost awe and respect I stared at its 8000' of climbing and descending and although I didn't talk with the owner of the shirt, I commented to those I was with to look at the dude's legs. Dropping below his shorts line were skinny, knobby knees and below those were huge calves that screamed out years of development on the trails. Below THOSE were the most prominent achilles tendons I've ever seen. It was as though the ridges of the tendons reached the middle of his foot. I thought again with the utmost awe and respect what it must take to develop such running attributes. All I had were skinny, knobby knees with no calves and your average, waiting to be pulled any time, achilles'. It was a moment when I realized how "crazy" someone must be to attempt such a race and I never would have believed that I would compete in it one day, my aspirations being triathlons. Even when my friend Evelyn did Chuckanut a few years before me, after hearing about it, I believed that only those schooled in masochism would do an event such as that. I guess it's all relative. When I started running, a marathon seemed as far as the moon. At the finish line of my first triathlon, I was like a baby in terms of knowledge in the sport of triathlon. An Ironman (me not even aware there was such a thing as an Ultraman) was but a dream years in the future. Subsequently the Canadian Death Race has loomed on my radar for more years than an Ironman did but there was always interference not allowing me to enter. Maybe the lure of it was the trails beckoning me. It seemed again like an impossibly difficult and ambitious race, something to be feared just at the mention of the name. After years of conditioning and thousands of miles, a marathon, Ironman, Ultraman, 100 km, and 100 mile all fell before me. Of course there are further distances than that. Those I've done mere sprints in the overall scheme of things. Whether I do things that are "crazy" in terms of distance to almost everyone who inquires is yet to be determined. I had to walk/run 100 miles before I attempt 152, just as a half-iron preceded a full. The Death Race to me represents a test of endurance but also speed and I hope to not only complete this but to actually race it like I never have before. That's not to say I'll do as well as I want (have I ever?), but I only want to feel that I gave it my all and hope things come together in this last long run before Greece.

Now, again, how not to taper for a race is spend three days in Las Vegas in 40 degree heat eating too much and drinking too much (only one night, really). This was first time there and it was mind-blowing in terms of the size and decadence of the hotels and casinos. Those who've been there know what I'm talking about. I planned to run while there but when it's 30 degrees at 8am I didn't think it would be very beneficial. I would step outside from the air-conditioned casinos and love to feel the heat but then five minutes later it felt like I was standing beside an idling bus engine wondering why my scalp felt on fire. I don't know how anybody could live there. Anyways, after my massage today I have to say my legs have felt the best in weeks, mostly due to the three day layoff. I did a small 40 minute road run today and I'll go out in Alberta (no worries about heat there!!) on Thursday and Friday before the race. My only desire is to feel fast and if it turns out I go fast then that's all the more better. I have a time goal as usual but will keep it to myself for now.

I got the official email invite to attend the World 100km Championships in Italy this November. More to follow later on that. I'll post Vegas pics of the wedding reception we attended one night there (the drunken one) if they end up being suitable for publishing. 12 hours of driving, here we come!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Heck of a Run/Hike

How to NOT taper for an extremely difficult (at least to me) 50km:

1. Ride for 5 hours last Sunday
2. Take Monday off due to being wasted (see #1)
3. Drive to Osoyoos for a funeral then come back home at night (with 9 hours on my ass I should be rested, right?)
4. Get decking materials delivered Wednesday and work on it that day plus Thursday
5. Go to the Cultus Lake waterslides on Friday with the kids and make approximately thirty trips up the stairs to get to the slides (good quad workout but not the day before a race)

Things I would change about the week - none.

Yes I've finally admitted that I may have scheduled too many races this year with not enough recovery in between. Most of the 'A' races have been ones that I've never done and I therefore wanted to do well at. However since my shin splint issues I haven't regained my fitness and am having trouble being rested for these events and also to get ready for the next ones.

On that note, the second of three races in six weeks was the Knee Knacker on the North Shore. The way the leaders took off I thought for sure I would see at least a couple of them in a few hours, them having gone out too hard. I never saw them after fifteen minutes. I thought I was taking it easy on the first huge climb up Black Mountain but I felt thrashed halfway up, shades of Bighorn. Once I hit the top there I felt somewhat normal again and puttered through the snowy, muddy forest. Some sections I saw nothing but mud in front of me with a pink ribbon on the other side indicating that that was indeed the route I had to take. Seeing as there were other footprints through the muck I jumped in and across it. It almost took too much effort to look for a way around the stuff.

There was an eventual decent into the Cypress Mountain parking lot aid station but it was short lived as we went into the forest again for a very technical section. My right knee has been bugging me since Bighorn when I run for more than ninety minutes and it acted up around here. Still unsure what it is.

After arriving at the Cleveland Dam we had to make our way up 500m of roadway to the start of the Grouse Grind. There was only a couple hundred metres before we veered right taking a slightly less hilly route up. From about the three hour mark whenever I'd walk a steep section, I made myself run once I reached the top. I figured that if I kept walking when it levelled out these walks would become longer and longer and I'd never finish. I remember getting to the final major aid station and someone saying that there was five miles left with a bit of an uphill included. Then about a half hour later at a road crossing someone said I had four miles to go which couldn't have been right. A third person later said two and a half so I counted on that one being right (hopefully). I'd never run this last section and the steep part in the middle kicked the crap out of me. Then on one of the final downhills I could hear the finishing line announcer and thought I could make my goal of 5:30 having ten minutes to do so. Of course it wasn't to be as there were a couple nice walkable uphills before the final decent into Deep Cove, then a flat section to the finish. I was eight minutes over my goal time but had such a great feeling of accomplishment when it was over.

This is an abridged version of what we saw on the run because it would be too hard to describe all the stream crossings, views, hills, rocks, roots, stairs, volunteers and aid stations we came across. Just to note that it was an amazing experience that I'd love to do again one day.

As a side note Gary Robbins suggested I try Injinji socks to help prevent my toes getting thrashed and blistered. I've used them minimally in the past and on a whim pulled out the only ones I have and gave them a try on race day. I also tried a double taping method of my big and little toes instead of the usual single wrap. Maybe it was the socks or the lack of big toenails but whatever it was my feet survived admirably. The right had a small hotspot but the left had no discomfort whatsoever. I could be on to something here.

As a side note to the side note, Carrie reminded me that she, too, uses Injinji socks and has been trying to persuade me to use them more for quite some time.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sweet, Bitter, Sweet, Bitter, Sweet, Bitter, Sweet, Bitter, Sweet

On Canada Day, Mike, Ryan, Kevin and I went to run the first half of the Knee Knacker course to familiarize ourselves with it for next Saturday. It was to be a quick 3 - 3.5 hour run along some beautiful trails. It was, as the title suggests, sweet and bitter.

Sweet - Actually getting out on the trails ten days after Bighorn with the feet feeling good again

Bitter - The first huge climb up 3000' in a five km stretch, including scrambling up huge boulders as far as the eye could see

Sweet - Getting to the top of this climb and appreciating the amazing view of Horseshoe Bay and the Gulf Islands

Bitter - Continuing on and running into crazy amounts of snow, sometimes hard-packed and six feet deep in spots, and not
being able to find the trail in between the markers on the trees. Also Ryan going over a bridge, losing hand-held
bottle with car key in the pouch into a river under a patch of snow.

Sweet - Finding Ryan's bottle and key and retrieving it after only fifteen minutes of fishing for it with a stick

Bitter - More snow and finally descending to dry ground but missing the Skyline trail turnoff

Sweet - Getting back onto the trail after a stretch on the road and running back to Cleveland Dam, appreciating this view as

Bitter - Heading home after a 4:30 run/hike and finding the Ironworkers Bridge closed due to a distraught teen standing
outside the rails. Waiting for six hours while they tried talking her down

Sweet - Enjoying the sun while waiting, having the police incident end successfully, making it home finally and getting an hour
in of Kick The Can with the neighbourhood kids

As a side note I can confidently state that the record will NOT be falling this year at the Knee Knacker. There's way too much snow to be making time like that.