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, December 22, 2009

Not All Roads are Created Equal

As I've been hitting the streets without shoes the last few months I've come to the realisation of some things:

1) Not all asphalt is created equal - some is smooth and great to run on, and other times it's almost an aggregate with a rougher surface that is not so great to run on

2) Cement is a no-no whether clad in shoes (due to the hardness) or barefoot (due to the

3) The white lines on the shoulder are the best road surface to run on - they're smooth and cool and feel good on the feet

4) People still look at me like I'm nuts

The run a couple days ago was a total of 18 miles with the last :20 done barefoot. I really have to figure out a place to ditch the shoes and continue running, maybe going back later and picking them up. It's easier to concentrate on what I'm running around and over without the extra weight in my hands. I picked it up at the end and did some short sprints. For months I was experiencing calf tightness after around twenty minutes but wrote it off to not doing it enough. Then I started experimenting a little more with different styles throughout the run. I was always concerned with never landing anywhere on my heel and all on the ball of the foot and still had the tightness and my calves were very sore the next day (like post-marathon sore). What seems to work better is relaxing the foot and letting it land more forefoot and feel the heel but not until the end. I'm still not landing on the heel but it's doing more work. That seems to be better without the lingering soreness for a day or two.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sign up begins

This Ultrarunning thing is getting more popular every year so I've hit the Visa hard lately and dropped cash on some events. I had to sign up for the Vancouver Marathon a few days ago to avoid paying even more in a few months time. Also there's the ever-present threat about "signing up early to get a guaranteed shirt size". I figure by doing the marathon my speed should be up and if I can wrangle a spot at Comrades I'll be flying (it's four weeks after Vancouver). The goal at the marathon is to bring my personal best down five minutes to sub-2:40. I'm still thinking of the Historic Half in Ft. Langley in February but am finding it hard to part with $68 for a godd*mn half marathon. I might do something that race but my placing may not be official, if you know what I mean (rhymes with "bandit").
I committed to the Fat Dog 100 mile in July. If that doesn't get me out the door, nothing will. The preliminary schedule looks like this:

Feb - Historic Half (?)
Mar - Dirty Duo 25k
- Chuckanut 50k
Apr - Diez Vista 50k(if I get the entry in on time)
May - Vancouver Marathon
-Comrades Marathon 89k, South Africa (hopefully get an application accepted in early Jan, will post when I know, if I don't get in, see below)
June - Australian 100k Championships (if Comrades falls through)
July - Fat Dog 100 mile, Keremeos to Manning Park
Aug - Stormy 50 mile, Squamish
- Tour de Mont Blanc 166k, France
Sep - Spartathlon (ha! just kidding. Not in 2010 anyways)
Nov - 100k World Championships, Gibralter

Pretty big mix of road and trail but might as well be decent at all distances rather than excel at any one distance.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Barefoot Update

The last couple weeks have been cold, and I don't mean just put on a sweater and stop whining cold. I mean it's toque and gloves and, gasp, shoes weather!! I went without footwear as long as I could but it only took a twenty minute walk with the kids after dinner about ten days ago to make me realize some things are best left covered. The bottoms of my feet were bright red from the cold pavement. Plus now there's salt on the road and all I can envision is the soles getting all dried and cracked and peeling, oh, the horror. So I've been sticking mostly to my $8 WalMart water shoes I got in the summer. They don't breathe all that well, good thing it's too cold for my feet to sweat.
I've been out in the Fivefingers quite a bit, nothing epic but enough to keep the muscle memory of running barefoot. The ground in the trails is so frozen right now it's like running on the road. The grass is actually uncomfortable because the frost heaving has left it like running on gravel. I even managed a ten minute pavement stint today. Won't be doing that too much until it rains again, which it's supposed to do this week.
Stay tuned for the 2010 schedule. A little distance, a lot of distance, a little speed, a little travel.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Dry Day!

For the first time in recent memory, like three weeks, I got a shot of vitamin D the old fashioned way and not from the bottle in the cupboard. Yes, the sun made an appearance today and I took advantage with a little minimalist run through the trails and on the road. After my two hour bike ride in the downpour a couple days ago this was a welcome break to go out in shorts and relatively warm weather. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind riding in the rain, it's just more fun when it's not. I was waiting at a red light during said bike ride when I heard someone saying something to me from the car on my left. I looked over and an elderly gentleman says to me, "Are you training?", to which I responded, "Naw, just having fun!". He laughed and waved his hand at me like "Oh, man, you is crazy". This was a great little interlude and made for a pleasant ride. It was the first time in a long time it was a windless ride. Even on the way back home when I usually get hammered head-on was great. I don't know whether it's the fact I'm on more than halfway done at this point or knowing I'm getting closer to being warmer and drier but my morale picks up and I have more energy as soon as I turn around and head back.
Anyways, back to today, I slipped on the Fivefingers and headed to the local trail for a 30 minute loop. Then it was off with the protection and time to toughen up. It was actually great because there was a fair bit of mud which made for some soft terrain but also slippery without the traction you get from shoes. After another loop it was out to the road for the longest barefoot run on a hard surface yet - 20 minutes! Whoo-hoo! It felt pretty good and even now have no discomfort or skin problems on the soles. I'll be building up the time spent shoeless over the winter and maybe even do a race of some sort in the spring barefoot. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Phantom Run

Last weekend was the Phantom Run at the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. The Fam and I thought it would a fun time to volunteer at an aid station. Heather Macdonald is the race director and passed our names on to Lara. She was very nice in letting us operate a family station near the finish line where the 19km and 24km runners would pass by.
The kids have never done anything like this but have seen stations before. Other than the cold toes everything went great and it didn't even rain. I was expecting people to come flying by grabbing cups and flying off again like I see in other races. This was a totally cool experience in that most runners would actually stop and look at our amazing banquet and try to decide what to eat. They'd chat for a minute then carry on. Really low-key and obviously for some they were just interested in finishing.
Oh, it was also a way to get a free entry in the Dirty Duo 25/50km race in March for Carrie and I but it was still a cool experience!!

The finish line:

Our amazing spread:

Super Vollies!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rainy Haney '09

That's my proposed new name for the Haney to Harrison 100k ultra and relay races. Or at least the Rainy Ultra because I've done the relay when the weather's been decent but never for the 100k. It's easy to prepare for this race weather-wise: Plan for rain and anything less is a bonus.
I picked up Denise McHale and her husband, Greg, from the airport on Friday afternoon. I first met Denise in Italy last November (the same weekend as the H2H as a matter of fact) and was soon in awe of her prowess as an endurance athlete. It wouldn't do her and Greg justice for me to try and stumble through the list of accomplishments they have, suffice to say they do some grueling multi-day races over distances like 900km non-stop, usually finishing at or very near the top. Who's crazy now, huh? Denise is actually racing in Abu Dhabi in December. Check out the site: Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge
After the airport the three of us went to the local grocery store that I frequent and going through the checkout, the lady, whom I've talked to many times in the past, immediately, and correctly I might add, pointed out how it was easy to tell that Greg and I were twin brothers. She said she'd seen us in the store before and prided herself on her how good her long term memory was. Denise had gone to get another item and didn't miss a beat when she got back to join in and add to the twins conversation.
After dinner and the final preps we hit the sheets to wake up at 1:30 to the sound of, any guesses? That's right - rain. We loaded up the boat with beer and other supplies we'd need for the race. Long-time crew person and friend, Tracey Shelley, showed up and we shoved off.

It was a dark and stormy night. The rain came down torrents. The captain said to the first mate, "Tell me a story". The first mate replied, "It was a dark and stormy night, the rain came down in torrents. The captain said to the first mate, 'Tell me a story'". "It was a dark and stormy night..."

When we docked in Haney, forty minutes later, it was still coming down like someone (not mentioning any names but rhymes with "god") was really pissed at us. I went to get my race number and it was coming at us like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump describing the rain in Vietnam: "Sometimes it came sideways, and sometimes it even seemed to be coming straight up", as it bounced off the pavement. The tents offered no protection from the wind and water. After getting everything in order it was back to the van to wait for the start.
Amazingly enough when the pre-race meeting started there was no rain or wind and you could even see stars through the clouds. An omen that it might be a good day out there? Ha! The thing I don't like about the start of this race is that I can never say hi to all the people that I'd like to. We always arrive with just enough time to do the necessities and that's it. Plus it's dark and with everyone all bundled up it's hard to tell who's who. I turned around at one point and was surprised to see Kandise Froese, immediately assuming she was crewing for her husband, Darren (Mr. 7:32 himself). I was then surprised again to hear she was crewing for Jack Cook. Wow, this just got a little more interesting.
I hadn't done leg 1 since the changes from last year so I was a bit hesitant to take off but eventually I did. It was very easy to follow the signs and glowsticks. Once up on Dewdney Trunk Rd I knew exactly where I was. I decided this year to go with my super-mega lightweight Adidas CS racing flats for the first half of the race. The hills felt like nothing going up them and I was glad I decided on this. The only problem I had with them in training was they were about a quarter size too small and so the toes felt cramped after about an hour. I had taken out the inserts and cut a bunch off the front so my toes were kind of hanging over them and it felt better. After four hours, though, it felt like they were on a cheese grater and so changed into my Supernovas.
I didn't have to ask where Jack was through the first two stages because I could hear someone behind me blowing snot out once in a while and seeing Kandise going by me often solidified who it was. I was sticking with my "Never Look Back" plan. I try to run within my own means and not worry about who might be coming up on me because if you're going to get passed then you're going to get passed, no use in worrying about it until it happens. I have to work on how to maintain the pace or even speed up in the second half of a 100k. My plan today was to run a little faster each stage than in '07. I was planning on a specific pace and keeping it there so it didn't matter if anyone blew by me, I was doing what I was doing regardless of the outcome. With this in mind I was aiming for a 7:29 finish time.
During leg 3 after the hills I stopped seeing Kandise drive by me and by the time it was getting light Carrie said that Jack was nowhere to be seen. He had back issues once again and dropped out halfway through 3. I started leg 4 feeling a bit low. I think I managed to keep up the pace I wanted but knew it wouldn't last. The race actually felt it went by quicker than in previous years. At the bottom of the big hill on 4 another car passed by and stopped near our van, putting on the four-way flashers. As I went by I asked if they were crew and they said yes, for Brett Larner. I was happy that the Canadian living in Japan doing his first 100k would be having such a good race. As it turned out Carrie informed me that they were leapfrogging quite a distance ahead of him and wasn't as close as I thought. He ended up dropping around 80k due to the conditions.
The rain had stopped and it was quite mild so after I crossed the train tracks to start leg 5 I stripped off my tights and jacket, replacing my racing flats, and donning the headphones. It was strange because this year the music just wasn't pushing me like it had in the past. Maybe the wind, rain, and fatigue were having too much of an effect on me. Every time I had to adjust them in my ears it was difficult because my hands were so bloody cold. Getting through this long flat stage was accomplished by keeping my hat down far enough I couldn't see the horizon or what was really up ahead. Once in a while I'd look up to see how much further to the next turn or curve.
A little ways into leg 6 the rain came down with a vengeance. The wind was no longer at my back and now with only a shirt and arm warmers on my shirt stuck to me and the rain went through me. This has always been a high point for me in the race because I wait in anticipation of race announcer Steve King and his wife, Jean, to drive by then come back and give me updates on where the other racers are. He stopped half an hour later to tell me there was a pack about 4 or 5 miles behind me. That could mean my lead was anywhere from 28 - 40 minutes I figured. I didn't even care if that was enough.
Right before the exchange into leg 7, only with help from Carrie and Tracey did I manage to take off my wet shirt, dry off and put on another shirt and my jacket. I couldn't even do up the zipper on my jacket. I was warm for about another hour then the cold started biting again. I heard it didn't warm up higher than 5 degrees. About this time I started in on the soup and the warmth was most welcome.
The hill on 7 was the hardest it's been in the four years I've done this race. At the beginning it honestly felt like I was running in place and going nowhere. My toes felt good so decided not to change to my size 11.5 shoes on the 11% downside. On the flats to the leg 8 exchange I used my strategy of not looking up at the 2k stretches of road I had to cover after rounding each corner. It was the slowest I've ever run that last leg and don't know whether it was the weather or the cold I'd had for a week before but I just wasn't getting it done. It was yet another death march. I can't explain why but it still felt like it went by pretty quick. Before I knew it I was on the main road and turning onto the last street leading to the little bridge before the finish line. Having never gone this way because it was changed last year I didn't know how much further after the bridge I had to go so didn't get my hopes up. But as I turned I saw the finish clock a mere 100 feet away and 7:49 since I started running. I don't even remember much of what happened next. Must have been the cold but I barely remember hugging my crew and getting changed into dry clothes. Before I knew it Denise was crossing the line. Holy crap she was only twenty-five minutes behind me. She was amazing and ran a race I could only dream of: the night before we worked out her splits based on an 8:00/mi pace to give her an overall time of 8:16. Where does she finish? 8:15 and change. Totally cool. She destroyed the record of 9:09 by almost an hour!! Must have been my spaghetti carbo-loading dinner.
Off next to the traditional pub lunch then to the motel to get cleaned up. After a short nap we went to the awards, then to dinner, thought about going to the after party, decided against it, and crashed hard til morning. Thanks to the super-crew, Carrie and Tracey, for dealing with my "unusual" crankiness during the whole ordeal. It was the most one word answers they've had to deal with. I tell you it was harder to crew on that day than to run it. Plus all the volunteers out there had to put up with the elements. At least we could move to try and stay warm. I reported to Steve King that I had a terrible race and mainly that was due to me not hitting my time goals that I felt I was more than ready to do. The first half was brilliant but things fell apart somewhat after that. Blame it on my cold, the rain and wind or whatever, but I know I have a sub-7:30 in me somewhere and I think a course like this challenges everything a runner can train for: uphills, downhills, and flats. Will most likely be in Gibralter for next year's World 100k at this time so H2H will have to wait until 2011 but you never know.

Check out Dirk Handke's report and photos of the day at:

Dirk Handke's pics

My crew's photos:

This is me doing my "I Dream of Jeannie" impersonation trying to "blink" my way to somewhere sunny. Note my "twin" brother Greg McHale to my left

Judie Wilson a little TOO happy

Hey where's all this rain everyone's talking about??

That's better

At the bridge about to finish

Kandise and I saying congrats to Denise

What a wuss, eh Greg?!?!?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Another Wet One

I'm not a weather-watching freak or anything but I generally like to know what's going to happen a couple days ahead. Now, like everyone else, I know not to take a five-day forecast to heart (or a four-day, or a three-day, sometimes not even a two-day forecast) because it is rarely accurate. So when I looked at the long-term weather a week ago on the internet it actually showed the 7th to be sunny. I fell in to the trap. I actually started thinking that we may not get soaked tomorrow. Of course, two days after that it was supposed to rain. Two days after that we had rainfall warnings up to 50mm Friday and Saturday. I don't know what's easier: preparing mentally knowing it will rain for sure or waking up on the day and finding rain. I think I like to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, then if maybe we get breaks in the rain it'll seem like a gift. This will be my 4th H2H and the 4th to be done in wet conditions. Maybe I do better in the rain, considering some of my other 100ks.
Monday also saw the approach of a scratchy throat, indicative of an oncoming cold. Immediately I started pounding the vitamin D and C, more than normal. The Metric concert on Tuesday didn't help with it being a late night and not enough sleep being had. I've been trying to catch up ever since. Now today I rush around like usual getting my stuff together at the eleventh hour, hopefully not at 11pm tonight.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The List is Out

So after a few weeks of checking the website numerous times a day, the entrants list is finally up on the Haney to Harrison page. It is as follows:

Name City Prov Country
Al Harman West Vancouver BC CA
Andre Kocsis Vancouver BC CA
Andy Bachmann Pitt Meadows BC CA
Austin Crook Seattle WA US
Avery Saunders Edmonton AB CA
Barb Owen Maple Ridge BC CA
Brett Larner Tokyo TO JPN
Cheri Hamelin Maple Ridge BC CA
Dan Crockett Kelowna BC CA
Darin Bentley Surrey BC CA
Dean McMillen Penticton BC CA
Denise McHale Whitehorse YT CA
Dusty Davis Chehalis WA USA
Gary Poliquin Edmonton AB CA
Gina Dhaliwal Mississauga ON CA
Janice Makarewicz Kelowna BC CA
John Hightower Port Moody BC CA
John Seed Maple Ridge BC CA
Judie Wilson Surrey BC CA
Lucy Ryan Coquitlam BC CA
Matt Sessions Burnaby BC CA
Mel Bos Kelowna BC CA
Nik Swain Vancouver BC CA
Renee Caesar Port Coquitlam BC CA
Rob Adachi Mission BC CA
Rob Mackay Victoria BC CA
Robert Jones North Vancouver BC CA
Ron Mayne Langley BC CA
Ron Rillorta coquitlam BC CA
Sandy Thompson Chilliwack BC CA
Scott Donatelli Vancouver BC CA
Shirlee Ross Kelowna BC CA
Stephanie Case Freelton ON CA
Suzanne Evans New Westminster BC CA
Tim Wiens Vancouver BC CA
Tracy Niemier Maple Ridge BC CA


I know a few names from this list but most notably and sadly missed are Darren Froese, Rick Webb, and Hassan Lofti-Pour. Darren has run this race a number of times in the past and for me is a great opportunity for a reunion with another World 100k team member. Not that it should be a big deal seeing as he only lives in Victoria but it might as well be on the other side of the world for how often we see each other. He set a PR in England of 7:32. Rick Webb has been on the team a bunch as well and done H2H but a hamstring issue has him not competing in a 100k this year at all. Gonna miss him. And Hassan pushed me to my 100k PR in '07 at H2H by starting out like a rocket and me having to hang on for dear life. Luckily I was able to not blow up before the end. He's had injury issues as well the past few months.
I've been reading a few people's bios if I could find them and also some blogs. By hearing how ready these folks are it makes me a little nervous especially when I look beside me right now and see Halloween candy wrappers sitting on the desk. Damn why does this race need to be AFTER Halloween?!?
We never think we're as prepared as we are. I've done all I can do and by this time next week we'll be in the pub downing some beer. I'm hoping I've done enough but not too much. If my shins hold out I'm sure I'll have a decent time. I'm always trying to beat previous times in any race so we'll see what happens.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Training Update

Since around the lake last weekend I've upped the intensity somewhat. Not every workout but a couple per week. I did another long bike as :10 hard :10 easy and can say for sure that the winds have changed direction back to normal. There's now the usual tailwind going east and the headwind on the way home. Even today I did my hilly bike loop and every time I was facing west it was in my face. Ah, memories of the 4 and 5 hour bikes of yesteryear.
Yesterday was 1:40 on the hilly course pushing fairly hard up each hill whereas before I was just grinding up them. The weather for that was characteristic of the run in November with wind and rain and wet feet. I'd like to say I won't walk any hills at Haney but that *%#@! on stage 7 usually does me in. Great practice. I also did another 2:30 through the Chuckanut trails and that day was wet and windy as well. Lots of mud on the back side (of the mountain and me) made for fun conditions. It was pretty dark in some areas due to the weather. Of course the sun came out as I got back to the car but what fun is that?!
Looking forward to seeing who's on the list of racers. Like the website says, "Coming Soon". Found out a few days ago that World team member Rick Webb, who ran a 7:39 in Italy last year, is still nursing a hamstring and won't be toeing the line on the 7th. He was my inspiration because he kept taunting me with threats of breaking my record at H2H. Still waiting to see if Froese or Hassan will be there.
I didn't take advil before my run yesterday and could feel some pain in my shins for about a half hour. Hoping that the taper and advil get me through the last 100k of the season.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dirk Handke's Around the Lake report

Check out Dirk's report and pictures from the Around the Lake race from Saturday. It's a little wacky, just like him.

Dirk's Around the Lake Report

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Around the Lake Give 'r Take

This 30km run that happened yesterday, the 17th, should have been called "Around the Lake Give 'r Take a Few Big Long Hills Near the Lake". When I saw the topt map of the course from the website it looked like any other trail around a lake. This usually entails a flat course because most terrain near a lake is relatively flat. This course around Cultus Lake was by no means the hardest I've ever done but it had it's steep moments.
It's been a long time since I've raced in the trails and about three weeks since my last trail run. I had forgone a speed session on the road this week because the plan was to add some quickness in the meat of this run. The plan was to go easy up the first large hill to the aid station at 6kms. Then I wanted to pick it up a bit and keep the intensity and heartrate high for most of the race then ease back down for the last few kms.
I spoke a bit with Matt Sessions, who's run this race before and done many editions of it, and asked him as much as I could think about in regards to what the course was like. I guess it's really nice on a dry day but today was a crapshoot because of the continuous rain the day before and this morning. It was supposed to get worse as well. Something like 50mm was to fall that day. Luckily the worst of it hit after I had finished.
The race was off and we had a pacer to show us the way to the first aid station. When two guys passed him after about 4km I knew this would be interesting. Would they slow down or continue to fly like I've seen guys do in the past? I was partially right on both accounts. There were four of us running sort of together up until the first aid station - Matt, Dirk, Devon and myself. Devon and Dirk slipped out of view halfway up the first long hill. After the aid station I left Matt, executing my race plan of speeding up. I eventually caught up to Dirk and Devon. I ran with them a bit and waited to get my breath before politely asking if I could pass. Until I did though, I followed Devon down this very steep, slippery section which had to be a motorcycle path because the path was shaped like a deep "V" with water down the bottom and muddy slopes. We were going down at break-neck (at least for me) speed and I was actually laughing watching and listening to Devon barely keeping on his feet. I knew it was the same for me but it's always funnier seeing it than actually doing it. I know Dirk behind me was going through the same thing.
I finally had a flat stretch to pass and the trail turned more into a dirt road with a gentle downhill to it. I really began moving feeling really strong. There were so many branches hanging down on the course I was doubled over a lot of the times keeping them out of my face. The puddles as well consumed the trails at times and one was forced to try and skirt the edges and find drier, more solid ground. Sometimes there was a deep section with the choice of going straight through the water or do a "Matrix-like" run along the bank while trying to avoid slipping back into the water. Seriously, after an hour I got over the puddle-thing and just plowed right through.
Dirk was flying up behind me and we emerged from the trails to go through a field of knee-high grass with me barely in the lead. I guess I was going a little off course because a woman yelled at us from a ways away to go more to the left. As we curved over that way, Dirk took up the lead and really started pouring it on. We hit some pavement and I stopped to tie a shoe and he hit the afterburners on a long downhill section and it was all I could do to keep him from gaining too much. This quick a pace was not part of the plan but I thought if I didn't stay with him I'd lose him on the second half of the race. The paved road started going uphill and I made up some distance on him. We reached the next aid station and when I next saw Dirk he had his hands on his knees like he was tired and just standing there. I saw another person running up the hill after the aid station and it took until my tiny brain registered on the ground the spraypainted words, "Relay Exchange", that I put it together that Dirk was on a relay team.
You've got to be kidding me, I thought. I went almost all out to stay with him and now he had a woman with fresh energy taking off on the second half while I was withering. It actually worked out okay in the end because this speedy lady, whose name I found out later was Mel, was a great rabbit and made me push myself more than I would have if she wasn't there.
She was running strong up the hills while I powerwalked them. I tried to catch her on the flats but it was only at a very long decent that my flailing paid off and I caught her. We shared a brief word and I kept going.

A shot of me almost hitting the beach section
Photo by Peter Watson

Towards the end I was told to just run along the beach and when I did for a minute or so I couldn't see any of the pink ribbons we'd been following. I looked back to see where Mel was and it took a couple minutes before I saw her behind me and figured I was going the right way. I finally saw the finish tents and was grateful because I was feeling a bit cooked.
Through the finish and straight into the lake I went to clean off my legs and shoes. I dried off and changed and waited for the awards. One of the coolest winners' trophies I've received in any race was this one today which was a hand-carved walking stick made from a Hazelnut tree. At the top was carved a Wood Spirit which apparently every tree has, as the superstition goes.
This was a great, fun race made even better by the weather and mud and great food at the end. I can't believe I've missed this one for so many years. I may be back next year in prep for the World 100k in Gibralter. Of course I should take it a little easier because my legs are still killing me. I guess it pays to do a bit more trail running before I race one.
I can't see H2H being this fun but the weather should be about the same.

One hundred feet from the finish line - notice the still present heel strike, damn!

Me telling Mel how much she helped me keep up a good pace

In need of a lake bath

Ooohhhh yeah

A taste of the rain I missed by only a few minutes

The first and last five pictures courtesy of Vedder Running Club.

The inscription burned on the walking stick

The Wood Spirit

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Training Update

True to my word I've been doing more biking and shorter, speedier runs plus hilly runs. Some highlights of the last couple weeks have been my long bikes that felt really good. I was setting out last week to do 3:00 with :20 hard and :10 easy. After my first twenty I realized it's been a LONG time since I've even done a three hour ride let alone one at effort. I cut it back to 10 and 10 for the remaining of the ride and it went really well. It happened to be on a day when the weather turned and it was cool and windy as hell. Every direction had the headwind. Surprisingly it was a bad headwind going east with more of a tailwind heading home. I don't know whether it's just the time of year and maybe it changes in the spring but when I used to do the long rides I would always have the wind in my face on the way back, sometimes, three hours or more. If that doesn't make you find out what you're made of then I don't know what would.
The other day after Carrie and the kids set off for the Island where Carrie did the Victoria Half Marathon (2:08 on little training, way to go baby!!) I went out for another long one at about 3:30 in the afternoon. I can't remember if I've ever left the house at that time destined to go that long. The weather was cool but sunny with that damned headwind again. At least this time I knew it would be easier on the way back. Although it was a route I've done many times before, this time was different mostly because of the light and basically the way things looked out there. It was like doing a new ride. Plus knowing that it was only the dog waiting at home for me made it easier to keep my mind on the riding. Then on the way home the tailwind made me feel like superman and I flew back just before it was too dark to be on the road.
The running has been good. I've been doing dreaded treadmill workouts, mostly ten minute hill repeats, but also a lot out on the road. The other week was 2:00 for 18 miles at 7:08 pace then right after I did 1:00 at 6:30 pace on a hilly route. It was satisfying to know I could do that sustained speed for a time, not that I'll be doing that pace on Nov. 7th. Yesterday was a warm-up hour of 8.5 miles on a moderately rolling course. Then the real work began when I went out 8.5 miles on a very hilly course then turned around and came back. That was the longest run on pavement until Haney. Going to head down to the trails the next couple of weeks.

Barefoot update:

Grumpy man at liquor store: "This is a bad place to be barefoot."

Me: "Why's that?"

Grumpy: "There's lots of broken glass on the floor.:

Me not wanting to pursue the matter: "Okay thanks I'll keep a look out."

Manager at grocery store: "Excuse me, sir, do you have any shoes?"

Me: "No."

Manager: "No sandals or anything in your car?"

Me: "No."

Manger: "I'm concerned you could step on glass or something."

Me: "I'll be careful."

Don't these people ever look down when they're walking outside. There's way worse stuff out there.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

England Pictures

Not a whole lot of shots this trip but here they are anyways:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jolly Ole England

I have to preclude this installment with the statement that this trip involved four of the most frustrating days of my life. You see, my plane from Vancouver to Montreal was about a half hour late "because of the lack of the usual tailwind" which left me twenty minutes to run from gate 1 to gate 61. As I was zipping past gate 40-something with my sandals slapping the ground I heard on the speaker that it was the final call for my flight to Heathrow. I arrived in about ten minutes and even asked if my bag would make the flight. I was assured that if I made the flight then my bag would as well. Untruth #1.

I went through Heathrow, then off to Manchester where I stared at an empty luggage carousel going round and round, praying my bag was still going to come out. I went to the desk and was informed that the bag was still in Heathrow. Untruth #2. This was 9:30 am. Not a big deal because it could easily make another :45 flight to Manchester. I jumped on my train to Penrith and arrived at 2pm. I phoned British Airways when I got there and was shocked to hear that my bag had actually not made the jump across the Atlantic and was in Montreal still. It would be sent on the flight set to arrive Friday morning at 6:30. I called a couple times on Friday and it was picked up by the courier around 4pm. 4pm!! I now began the frustrating and seemingly endless stream of calls to the courier company trying to arrange the bag to get out to Keswick. Because I didn't have a readily available phone I was jumping back and forth from our accommodations to the race headquarters.

I was in a "glass half-empty" mood so to cover my ass I bought some running socks and a pair of neutral New Balance shoes at the local New Balance store in town. How convenient was that? I would be able to return the shoes if I didn't use them so kept them in the box for that reason and also I didn't want to try them out and realize that something wasn't right with them. I wanted to be doing the run before that happened. The town of Keswick is a small town but quite touristy and every second store is dedicated to mountain hiking clothing. There were no department stores in the town and it was damn hard to find some underwear for me to use. I found the only store in town that had a super-small selection of the things. It's kind of one article of clothing you don't want to overuse.

The delivery people said they would call Friday evening to see if it could be dropped off before 11pm and I had to phone at 9 where I was told it wasn't going to be out until Saturday even after two days of emphasizing the fact I needed it for Saturday morning.

I had already initiated my plan B of acquiring various necessities for Saturday's race such as clothes, bottles, carbo powder, you know, just the simple things. Everyone on the team was very supportive and offered me whatever they had to help me out. I got a hat and singlet from Laurie, shorts, water bottle and arm warmers from Kandise and Darren, and CarboPro powder from Hassan. Luckily he uses the same stuff because that was a pretty important piece of the puzzle to have. When I thought about it I realized how lucky I was to be with such an amazing group of people whose generosity is second to none. I can't thank them enough because without them I would have been relegated to crewing the race which is MUCH harder than actually running it. Those guys are the salt of the earth.

Race morning saw the arrival of Jenn Dick who lives in Sheffield, about two hours from the race, and who has been on the team numerous times in the past. It was great because she had a cell phone and now I could use her as the contact for the bag to arrive. Bad news was that she didn't bring her charger for it and it died halfway through the race. She did manage to phone the courier guys who told her the bag would be expedited out and arrive around 6pm. Great news!!

Okay enough negative talk about the stupid bag. This was the first Commonwealth Championship and it involved a 24 hour race, the 100k, and two mountain races. The 24 started on Thursday and finished Friday at lunchtime. It was cool to watch the Canadian members in the event because I'd never watched part of this type of race. I can't say I'd be too excited to go around a 1km track for that long. Never say never though.

There weren't many people in the 100k which was very different from the Worlds. The start seemed like a small little quiet social gathering. I planned to start this one slower than Belgium and just cruise. The first few kilometres were mostly uphill and at the top I picked up the speed a bit to take the lead on the downhills. I stayed out front for about forty minutes. I just wanted my short time in the spotlight following the pace car. After this time Darren Froese blew by me quite literally and had it not been for the loops coming up I wouldn't have seen him the rest of the day. He was followed by a couple Brits that I followed for the next 10kms. So this race was 15k out, 7 loops of 5k out and 5k back, then the 15k back to the finish with a slightly different route back. It was nice to be able to see where you were in the overall placings and also give and take encouragement from our Canadian members.

It was a beautiful course along a lake with the weather cooperating giving us an overcast sky but throwing a bit of wind our way. The loops weren't so bad except I soon figured out the halfway point of each 5k and kept track of my times when I passed this point. It never feels good to see the time getting longer and longer until I got to this point. I kept track of when I passed Darren and he was definitely not slowing down like I was. He was having the race of his life. Hassan Lofti-Pour from North Van was another member of our team who sprained his ankle a few weeks back and had run only 4 hours over the last 29 days. Thierry Asslein was the fourth member of the men's team who completed the Tour de Mont Blanc three weeks earlier so I wasn't really in a position to have an excuse not to do okay other than my new shoes and socks.

After the 20km mark I chatted with some other runners and by the sounds of their previous times, 7:20, 7:30, I knew I was out of my league. I started purposely slowing down to save something for the end. I was going to try and pick it up some after the 80k mark but that never actually happened. When I finally finished my seventh loop I tried to increase the pace but my legs were having none of it. I began to check my watch in earnest to do the math that would get me in under 8 hours. When I passed Kandise for the last time before my 15k to the finish, she gave me my last bottle and I asked her if she was going to the finish line to see Darren cross. She said, "Should I?", and I said, "You're damn right you should, now go." Because Jenn had driven her car to that point she was able to whisk Kandise back in time to see the finish. It's not every day you get to see someone from our team pull off a 7:32.

My last 15km were a little painful, especially on the hills that seemed so easy seven hours ago. I was glad to be done and so glad to see Darren at the finish. I gave him a huge hug and congratulated him on an amazing race. From there it was to medical to have my feet looked at and find out why the toe boxes were covered in blood. It turned out to be only some minor cuts that wouldn't stop bleeding that made the shoes look like a horror show. I only had a couple small blisters in between the big and little toes on each foot. Nothing to make me stop running so I was happy for that seeing as I broke the cardinal rule about never running so far in new shoes and socks. After that it was to the massage tent for a quick once over of the legs then off to find my lost bag.

Long story short it was supposed to arrive at the race HQ at 6:30 so when 7pm came around I called the courier company for about the 15th time and they said the guy had been there but it didn't look like anyone was there so he went on with his other deliveries. I was a little choked to say the least. I begged them to get a hold of the driver and tell him to come back but they said once he tries one address he has to continue with other deliveries and now it would be Sunday when he'd come back. Are you kidding me?!?! I was ready to write the stuff off when, an hour later, we were at our hotel and, lo and behold, the driver pulls up with the bag. Just a little relieved.

Sunday was spent looking around Keswick some more and watching the finish of the mountain race. Congrats to the Canadian men's team who won bronze! There was the awards and dinner that night and once that was over we promptly headed over to town again to a pub and played "quarters" until the place closed down. The locals had never seen such a game and were curious as to why we were bouncing coins into our glasses.

Monday was a travel day to Manchester where Nadeem, Laurie, Charlotte, Lisa and her friend Sonya walked about 100km around town. Not a whole lot to see there but nice to visit anyway. I crashed on the floor of Nadeem and Charlotte's room for five hours before the train ride to Manchester airport, flight to Heathrow, and finally the long flight to Vancouver. And, hey, my bag was actually there when I checked the luggage carousel!!!

After perusing my last few years of running long distance I realized there was always some element of hills and/or speedwork. Not to excess, mind you, but some thrown in there to mix things up some. When I was doing Ironmans these types of workouts were paramount to the run and the bike. I am therefore going to try and incorporate one speed and hill repeat session per week for the next four or five weeks and also a long bike and a hilly bike workout. The long runs will be done on the trails for time, not distance, and will be hilly as well.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

More Barefootin'

The leg is feeling definitely better than a couple weeks ago and I think I might actually be able to finish the Commonwealth 100k. The day after my last 25 miler I did a :30 recovery run with my Adidas racing flats and the last :10 I went barefoot on the road. Later in the day I felt like there were some small abrasions on the pads of the toes and the ball of the foot but it was gone the next day.
So today I was almost home from 23 miles and decided to do the same: :10 of no shoes. Trying to concentrate on form and looking out for rocks took my mind off how the legs were feeling after 22 miles so that was one upside of barefeet.
Was also at the ice rink the last two days for Elias' hockey games, no problems. Plus went to the movie theatre last night sans shoes, much to the chagrin of Carrie and the horror of the other couple we went with. I'll make this thing mainstream yet.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Cure for Shin Splints

Take a few days off running, walk around in bare feet everywhere I go.

Do a couple :30 in the trail or the beach in Five Fingers or bare feet.

Ride the bike maybe :30-:40 a day, to work and back.

Even though I can still feel pain in the shin, run 13 miles.

Two days later run 25 miles (albeit suffering in the last :30 home)

Voila! I'm cured.

What's the deal? Do I really get a mild case of shin splints or is it something else I wonder? I've read that doing light training through the ordeal helps to speed the healing but this is ridiculous. My three hour jaunt today felt fine on the legs, my poor conditioning really showed, though. Probably took on a bit more than I should have but with a little over two weeks to go I needed to test myself. More next week then a week to taper. Piece of cake.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fast and Furious

Back from Ironman last night, congrats to all finishers. Still doesn't make me want to go out and do it anytime soon. Walking around barefoot I was amazed to see a woman start out on the marathon course wearing Vibram's Fivefingers. I wished I had the camera and should have remembered her number to see how she did.

Gary Robbins and Tamsin Anstey from North Van won the mixed division of the Trans Rockies six-day stage run in Colorado last week. Awesome results you two.

Spartathlon participants list for this year is out. No Canadians entered and so my record remains safe for another year.

Tour de Mt. Blanc finished up over the weekend. The fastest Canadian time I could find was 38 hours and change. Most of the site is in French which makes it difficult to do the research.

After walking everywhere barefoot, including grocery stores, I was confronted at Costco today by an employee who said I needed to wear shoes and before I protested said it was "for my own safety as this is a warehouse and there could be glass and pieces of wood on the floor". If I had been quicker I would have mentioned that there's that and worse out in the parking lot and everywhere I walk. He then went on to say it's the same for shirts in that you need to wear a shirt like the old "no shirt, no shoes", policy and it was also a health issue. I asked if there was anything written anywhere prohibiting being shoeless and he said, "no but it's one of those unwritten rules". Bingo I was home free. I then asked if he was going to make me wear shoes and he replied he wouldn't throw me out of the store. Bingo number two. I pretty much thanked him and walked away saying I would watch my step. Vive le pieds nus!!

A brief rant about Costco: Unless you're a family of eight(teen) I don't understand the need to buy such huge quantities of mostly crap. The jars of pickles are too big for the fridge. I was going to buy some bar soap but they came in a pack of 16. Sixteen!! Why do I need to buy two years' worth of soap at one time? I'd rather pay a dollar more for a six pack. Just look into a cart to see what's there then see the corresponding size of the person pushing said cart. Coincidence? A small bag of chips from a regular store turns into one three times as big. Now you have to eat it all once you open it or it goes stale. Wouldn't want that.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What's Happening?

I got an email from Rick Webb the other day wondering what I've been doing because I hadn't written much in the blog lately. The first thing that went through my mind was, Wow, someone actually reads this crap?? I don't know why but I've seemed to have lost my writing mojo. Either that or there really isn't much to write about in my life these days. Any thoughts on how to change that let me know.
Okay, so in the last two weeks:

Did the triathlon relay for the WPFG. My team had a decent swim, about 23 minutes, my bike was awesome as far as I was concerned, 1:04, and the run was pretty damn good at 36 minutes. I think we finished around 2:05 with the transitions. I thought for sure we'd be in the medals when I got off the bike after passing all those people but when we got to the run course I met up with Steve Knoll our captain and he said we were in eighth or ninth place. We finished up seventh in our age group (30-39) and twelfth overall. The competition was awesome and I really appreciated the caliber of athletes at the event. A team from Surrey in the over 50 category won the gold!! I can only say, "one day".

Since then I've been getting back into the running more with a couple 20 milers under my belt. I've also been experimenting with running in less supportive shoes. AND I've been trying out shoes that are a size or two bigger than I've used in the past to try and prevent some of the blackness and toe-falling-offness I've experienced in the past. I haven't done anything too radical or out of the ordinary or bumped up the mileage but yet again I can feel that shin splint feeling in my right leg. Maybe it takes a month or two after a long race to flare up, I don't know. All I know is that I'm not overly disheartened because I've been here a few times before. I know to rest a week or two then I should be back to normal. Saw A.R.T. therapist Colin McKay at Precision Health last week and he didn't get the impression there was anything too bad going on. I'll wait a bit anyways to see if it progresses. Still a month before England.

I found out that Haney to Harrison this year is the Canadian 100k Championship so it's a reason to stay healthy. Six weeks after the Commonwealth 100 enough to recover and do well? All I can say is that I've done worse and I have a bunch of months to recover after the November event.

I'm also trying to figure out what to do next year. I'm strongly leaning towards going back to the trails. More to follow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ultraman and the Grind

Last weekend from Saturday to Monday was the Ultraman triathlon in Penticton. I did this three day event back in 2006 and still it remains one of the biggest highlights in my racing career. The heat was atrocious on day 1 and 2 but day 3 dawned with some respite from the hot temperatures. My day 3 run record fell to Benat Zubillaga of Spain in a time of 6:44, 11 minutes better than my time. Congratulations to Benat. Speaking with race director Steve Brown while we were in town a couple weeks ago, he said that anyone who has not completed an Ultraman must do Canada as a qualifier before they can do Hawaii. This will lead to more people attempting Canada and a better talent pool as well before they go on to Hawaii. I think my overall course record might be in jeopardy over the next few years if this is the case. All good things...

So Wednesday was the Grouse Grind for the Police/Fire Games. There's a reason this event is not called a hike, or run, or walk. It really is a grind. I felt no less intimidated by the whole thing. I aimed to run it like I did the last time - walking.
It went pretty much like the last time around except for two things:
1) they didn't end the race at the little timing station about fifty feet from the top of the trail, they made us run about 300 metres around to the back of the chalet. When I hit flat ground at the top I thought my legs were going to give out when I tried to run. It felt like the first brick workout of the year when you ride hard on the bike then try and run. Jello legs.
2) I finished better than the last time I did it, in 39 and change, even with the extra little run. Plus we started in the parking lot where the gondola is so that added another 15 seconds, I'm sure.

Anyways, I vowed to never run that thing for time again. I'd hike it with the kids but that's the extent of it in the near future.

Now tomorrow comes the triathlon.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Home Again

Got back last Wednesday from an epic training camp up in the interior. It included sitting by the lake, swimming in the lake (with the kids), and eating in true camping/holiday style. I also managed to do some runs and rides.

After my attempt at the Grouse Grind I realised I wasn't going to win the thing come race day no matter how much I trained and didn't really want to change my training too much to accommodate the Grind anyways. No use in going straight up when most of my races are horizontal with a few hills (not mountain climbs) thrown in. I was a little on the fence so when we travelled through Chase (for a wedding), Mara Lake, and Penticton, most of my runs involved some elevation gain. It's hard not to. Most roads that lead away from the lakes or rivers go straight up. I found a great forest service road by Mara that I climbed for 45 minutes without reaching the summit. I was aching to get there to see what I could see. With only one water bottle (now less than half full) and my IT bands not looking forward to all that descending, I turned around. I could have stayed on main highways but figured a bit of rollingness couldn't hurt for Grouse and would help in England where I believe the Commonwealth course is to be somewhat like that. Failing that, it's good to get my legs re-aquainted with hills for H2H in November. I don't need to be starting my hill work with only three or four quality weeks before that. I ran from Penticton up towards Naramat which I'd only ever ridden before, that being in the Peach Classic triathlon. It was cool to be going slower and to have a look at the beautiful landscape (minus the smoke).

I also put in some cool rides while we were away. One memorable one was taking the road from Penticton up to Apex. I did this with a group a few years ago and I didn't remember it being as vertical as it was. When I got to the turnoff for the actual ski area, the sign said 11km. I figured I'd ride up it for ten or fifteen minutes because I knew going back to town would be quicker than coming up. I rode for twenty minutes up and up and up. Again I was dying to reach the top but didn't need to fatigue my legs THAT much. I turned around at 1:25 not wanting to ride more than 2 hours. It took me 40 minutes to get back to the motel. What a ride. Turns out I went up the Apex road only 3.5km in that twenty minutes so it would have been at least an hour to the top. Next time. Another was riding towards Naramata, past Painted Rock, and towards Chute Lake. I didn't quite get there either so I have a lot of ground to cover next time my bike and I are up there.

I decided to drop the Seymour Hill Climb for the Games this week. I read the fine details and noted that it wasn't exactly a climb all the way up from the bottom to the top of the mountain. The course is only 3km long and on the steepest part (9 or 10%). With the triathlon two days after that, I rather would go in feeling a little stronger without those 3km in my legs. I must be getting old, I know.

My plan for the rest of August is to simulate the weeks I had prior to going to Belgium. This time I'll start with a 60 mile week then a 80 then try for the 100 again about three weeks out. For some reason ever since Belgium I don't feel that effortless pace I had when training for it. I thought I was just fatigued from the race and giving blood after but it's been slow to return. I'm hoping I can get it back. On a high note I don't have nails on the first two toes of each foot anymore so that won't be a problem for England or H2H. One less thing (actually four).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reality Check

Just so you know: I'm doing some events in the World Police/Fire Games at the beginning of August. The events I'm doing are:

Grouse Grind
Seymour Hill Climb (bike)
Triathlon Relay, bike leg

Now, I don't know what I was thinking when I signed up for these. How was I going to fit in training for these events when I've only been road running with a minimal amount of biking? I also forgot Carrie was doing a course for work in the first two weeks of July which limits my time to get out as well. We're also busy the last two weeks of July which leaves very little time. Not that I'm making excuses, it's just the way it is.
I guess I thought a little bit of running up Grouse would get me in shape for the Grind. Was I ever wrong. This year has been strictly a road running year. Not a lick of trails. None. How I thought I could just go out and do a 2.9km, 2800' climb without any background trail running, I don't know. Anyways, yesterday was my wake-up call. I went to North Van to run the route at 7am and was surprised to see how many cars and people were already there. All levels and types of people were there: the recreational with pants, casual shoes, and polo shirts, the hardcore with ipods and outfitted with all the gear, and some in between. I was equipped with one handheld water bottle and my trail shoes I haven't worn in about a year.
I started out running because it doesn't get all that steep for a few hundred feet. My running lasted all of two minutes. Yes, 2 minutes. I should have worn my heart rate monitor but I wouldn't have been able to read it with my blurred vision. It must have been off the charts. I had this pain in my chest like a bad cold and was spitting out that stuff that has that coppery taste (ew!). FYI: I had this weird chest-cold-like cough the rest of the day. I didn't run anymore of the route. I passed a lot of others who were struggling like me. Most of them had their head down, were breathing hard, and had a zombie-like look and walk about them.
All the way up I thought about how, as soon as I got home, I'd be withdrawing from this event. Why would I put myself through this when I have no chance of being competitive and won't help in any other area of my training. In fact it is taking away from my regular training time and working different muscles I don't need for running on the road. Then I thought, what the hell, I can walk this thing just for "fun" in the Games. I was grateful the gondola was running at 8am instead of 9 so I didn't have to claw my way back down. My splits:

1/4 - 12:30
1/2 - 22:00
3/4 - 33:00
top - 43:30

I think I could take off a few to break the 40 minute barrier but we'll see. I might get up there a couple more times but that'll be it.

That same afternoon Carrie and I took the kids out to Whonnock Lake in Maple Ridge where the triathlon is to be held. They went to the beach and I went around the course on my bike. In a word: HILLY. What is it with me and these events?? I have to do some track races.
It was actually a great course and I'm looking forward to it. It took me 1:13 but that was 1) after the Grind, and 2) being unfamiliar with the course. I'll get out there again and do it while fresh. Must get in more miles!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Belgium Night of Flanders

Held in the West Flanders area of Belgium, this was the 30th edition of this race. Along with the 100k there was a 10k, marathon, and 100k walk happening simultaneously. The 10k went a different direction so we never saw them but there were plenty of marathoners and open 100k runners.
I thought before I left how in all my travels and connections I've never been delayed or late to any destinations. This trip was not to be as smooth as past ones. Fellow teammate and friend Judy Wilson was leaving on a different plane from Vancouver about half an hour after mine but we both connected in Heathrow to fly together to Brussels on the same flight. We decided that I would wait at the gate in London for her to arrive.
My plane left the terminal on time but within minutes it was announced we were going back to drop off a passenger with medical issues. Of course they had to offload the baggage for the person as well so that took a few minutes also. In all we left an hour late. I was wondering what Judie would be thinking when she showed up at our gate in Heathrow and I wasn't there.
Arriving to Heathrow I ran to catch the bus to take me to the proper terminal and get another boarding pass. I asked at the counter if my bags would make it on the next plane to Brussels and she phoned someone to confirm they just made it. Now I had to do the same. I ran to security and the metal detectors and waited an agonizingly amount of time. From there I sprinted down some huge escalators, just caught the train to the right gate, took the next sets of escalators two by two (they each must have been four stories worth of climbing) and at the very top turned to see Judie waiting at our gate. I raised my arms, totally out of breath, in triumph like I'd finished the 100k already. Things always work out somehow.
Having not slept on the plane as usual, I could barely stay awake (okay, I didn't stay awake) on the train to Lichtervelde. It was a hot hour and a half sitting there but we finally arrived with no telephones in sight to call our contact to pick us up and take us to Torhout where the hotel was. A little mini shuttle bus showed up and the driver was apparently looking for five Mexican runners but figured we were close enough and took us to the hotel. We made it fine and met up with some other team members there.
I was rooming with Vladimir Banas, whom I was with in Italy as well, and team manager Armand LeBlanc. As usual I was extremely tired and crashed around 10pm but was up at 2am then again for good at 4am listening to the ipod. I hate traveling that direction for that reason - I can never sleep the whole night.
On Thursday we went and drove around Torhout and had lunch. The athlete's parade was supposed to start at 7:30 but when we showed up at 7:20 we found that everyone had left on the route already. We went in the direction we figured they would have gone but found no one so we went to the hall where it finished up and where the pasta party was. The parade finally showed up but by then we'd staked out a table close to the food. It didn't matter anyways because we ate alphabetically by country.
In a way it was nice that we didn't start until 8pm Friday night because usually the night before the race is crazy trying to label all our stuff and figure out which aid stations to put everything at. This time we had all Friday to leisurely get organized. It was still a bit chaotic around 5pm but that is our way.
Over to the start we drove and eventually met up with everyone else. Right on time the gun sounded and the night began. I'd been running sub-7 minute miles in training and feeling good so I started out fast but comfortable. It was a place I'd never been before: I could see the leaders for the first hour or so and was with the second pack for quite a while. The first of five laps was almost 23km with the next four being around 19km. It was only 20 degrees but felt hot when the wind wasn't blowing. My goal this race was to go under 7:30, something I've come within 9 minutes of in the past. My ultimate goal was to be under 8 hours so I could qualify for the World team if I choose to run again next year. Everything felt awesome until around two and a half hours when my quads tightened up a bit but I knew it wasn't going to be a big deal. I did slow down a bit though.
My first lap of 23 km went by in 1:34 for a 6:35 minute per mile pace. The next lap of 19 km was done in 1:24, 6:51 pace and my marathon time was 2:58. A quick calculation (and laugh to myself) saw I could finish under 7 hours but I knew this pace would never last. It started getting dark by the third lap and there was a few lights set up with generators in the places that were out of town. Much like Winschoten two years ago the people of the two towns we ran through came out in force for much of the race. In the town centres there were huge stages set up and music blaring all night. I couldn't believe the amount of people partying until all hours. Often I'd be running through these squares having to dodge the drunks walking on the street.
By this time I found out that Jack's back problems had acted up and he was walking. Jen and Rick were also out due to stomach and hamstring issues respectively. I passed Darren Frose's brother, Don, on the third lap while he was contending with recurring achilles' problems. Not boding well for the team times. At the end of the second lap I started keeping track of my 10k splits to get a better idea of my speed and how much I was slowing down.
On the fourth lap I was sticking with a runner from Belarus. We didn't say anything to each other the whole time, it was just understood that we'd run together. I saw him at the beginning of the race ahead of me because he has a pretty unique running style. I ended up catching him on the fourth lap when he was doubled over throwing up in town. I figured he was done but not long after he was right beside me. Whenever we'd go through an aid station he'd catch up soon enough. One time he stopped for a bathroom break and I thought for sure I wouldn't see him again but twenty minutes I heard his footsteps again. He was feeling bad on the fifth lap because he kept hitting the bushes and going slower. I was doing the math and figured I could still break 8 hours even at this pace if nothing else happened. Then on the last lap something happened: Darren caught me around 88km and kept on going.
Up until then I was content to cruise in with this Belarus runner and even continued with him for a few minutes after Darren went past. Then I started thinking if Darren was right there, Vladimir from our team could be right behind HIM. Not that I'm out to beat my fellow teammates, I just wanted to make sure I'd be able to run in Gibralter next year if I wanted to. I tried to explain to my shadow that the guy who just went by was Canadian and we had to speed up. Nothing was getting through and I did feel bad as I took off after Darren. I found out this guy finished in 7:58 so he still had a decent finish to the race.
I figured I had spotted Darren about half a km. I could barely see him up the road especially through the less-lit areas. Maybe because I'd been running a little easier than I thought I had the energy to bridge the gap in about five minutes. Now we had around 7 km to the finish. I didn't know what was going on in his mind as we ran side by side, I figured it would play out however it did and I just went with it.
We were definitely beyond "conversational pace" because we didn't say too much to each other. I think we were both hoping the other would say we should slow down. I had cruised past a runner from Norway en route to catching up with Darren. Darren had said he just wanted to beat that guy because in Italy he'd shadowed Darren for a good part of the race letting him set the pace and had beaten him in the end. Darren wanted his revenge. However around 3km to go we heard footsteps and I was even a little shocked to see this guy go past us because he looked beaten when I went by him twenty minutes prior. Anyways, I was hoping Darren would take off after him because I wouldn't have minded to slow down somewhat. We let him go and finished off the race at our torrid pace coming in together at 7:50 in 39th and 40th places. Maybe next year he'll get his revenge.
This 100k was probably the best I've felt mentally and physically. I had no stomach issues or foot problems other than I could feel some toenails protesting towards the end of the race, nothing new there. I was in the race mentally the whole time and was concentrating on my 10k splits. The last 10k with Darren pushing me was 47:39, the fastest since the 40-50km split.
A first for me as well - I was able to drink beer after the race which is something my stomach doesn't usually let me do after an event like this. It was a bit odd drinking at 6 in the morning but we had been up for 24 hours after all.
The next day started at noon after a brief sleep. We went to Torhout again to get our medals and t-shirts and watch the awards presentation. After that was dinner and a walk-around in Brugges, about twenty minutes outside of Torhout. The next day we all went our separate ways, some of us going home and some on to visit areas of Belgium. Myself, Armand, team member Bruce Barteaux and his wife, Bonnie, set out to see some of the war memorials in the area.
We went through France to Dieppe, Arras, and Vimy. Then to Ypres, Belgium, and did our own tour of the area. Tuesday was off to Brussels overnight then catch the plane home. I would recommend anyone going over to that area to see some of these old battlefields and cemetaries. There is so much history it would take years to see it all. I'm grateful to have visited these areas and pay respects to those who enable us to have the lives we do now.
Of course when I flew to Frankfurt I found out there would be more delays: there was only one runway operating so we were 90 minutes late leaving. This meant I'd miss my connection in Calgary and I hoped Carrie would check the flights. Luckily I called her in Calgary and she said that she had seen my flight had left, she just didn't know I wasn't on it. I got on another flight and eventually landed two and a half hours later than I was supposed to. What a relief to get home.
Coming up next is the World Police Fire Games at the end of July/early August. I'm doing the bike portion of the triathlon, the Grouse Grind, and the Bike Climb up Seymour mountain. I don't plan to really train for any of these, I'm just going out to do them. I may do the Grind once a week but that's about it. I need to get back into the running and stay healthy for the Commonwealth 100k in England on September 19th. Our Canada team has a good chance to podium with this one.

A link with pictures will follow soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Update from Belgium

Just got a call from Darin. He had a good race and is feeling good overall. His time was 7h 50min and came in together with team mate Darren Froese. The only problem is his feet. Once again, the road took its toll and has thrashed his toes. Joy. We were just getting used to his somewhat 'normal' looking feet! No matter though, we are proud of Darin for finishing so strong. Congratulations to all Team Canada members, too!

Now he's going to tour the country and check out some war memorials ... hope he doesn't get sand in his chocolate or chocolate all over the statues!

You can check out all the splits here: IAU News

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Countdown Begins

Roughly eleven hours until takeoff and as usual I'm still running around getting stuff together. Thankfully everything I need is somewhere in the house, I just have to dig it up.
As far as being ready for a 100k race, this is maybe the best I've felt and most confident of a good time I've ever been. I can't remember when, or if, I've trained only for a 100k race without any triathlons thrown in or done too many races leading up to it. There's been more of a balance for sure this year when it comes to life and running and I feel better for it. Even if the race is a bust I wouldn't change anything leading up to it.
The website for the race is Night of Flanders or at Live Updates from IAU which shows the race course and a bit of info on the event. It starts at 8pm Belgium time which is 11am Friday our time. Hopefully my body will not be adjusted to the time change yet and will think I'm doing a mid-day run. Normally an early morning start in Europe means my body thinks it's midnight so we'll see what happens.
I'll try and post something when I'm there.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I don't know how I managed but the totals are in: 101.5 miles

Mon 25th - 4mi on treadmill wearing 5 Fingers shoes, :30

Tue 26th - 24.5mi with a :30 beach run in the middle, 3:00 (7:25/mi avg pace)

Wed 27th - 32.25mi dead flat on Mud Bay out to Tsawwassen and back, 4:00 (7:22/mi avg pace!!)

Thu 28th - 18km bike to work, :35
- 8.25mi to softball field, :58

Fri 29th - 10.5mi to work, 1:17
- 18km bike home, :35

Sat 30th - 18km bike to work, :35

Sun 31st - 10.5mi run home, 1:08 (pb for running home)
- 10.5mi run to work, 1:09 (pb to work) + 1mi barefoot on treadmill as cool down

Not exactly sure how I'm keeping the pace up when being tired and the weather so warm. Too bad Belgium is at night and can't benefit from all this heat training.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Born to Run video

I got an email from Sara Eagle of Random House publishers with a link to a Youtube video made by Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run:

I'm amazed at the mileage I've put in over the last couple of weeks without any real problems (knock on wood). I did 24 miles yesterday and 32 today and feel good. I've tried to straighten my back more (like he does in the video) when I'm running and getting my feet to land flatter and under my hips more. I've been able to run faster just by doing this. Most of my long runs have been around 7:50 - 8:00 per mile but I averaged yesterday's 24 at 7:24 and today's was 7:22. Go figure. Ran the first two hours today without music to start getting into Belgium-mode where they don't let you have ipods during the World events.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Big Week

Last week was my second biggest mileage week ever.  Unlike last August when I did 95 miles over only three runs - 41, 35, and 19 - I spread it out a bit more and did shorter ones.  I never usually post my weeks but thought this one was cool as it was more well-rounded than others in the past, and I felt great!

Mon - run 4:05, 31 mi
Tues - run :30, 4 mi barefoot on beach
Wed - bike to work :35, 18km
            bike home :35, 18km
Thurs - run to work 1:22, 10.5 mi
              run home 1:17, 10.5 mi
Fri - run :35, 4 mi barefoot on beach
         bike to work :35, 18km
Sat - run home from work 1:17, 10.5 mi
         run to work 1:17, 10.5 mi (tough one)
Sun - bike home :35, 18km

Total:  running - 10:15, 81mi
             biking - 2:20, 72km

I feel surprisingly well after a "big" mileage week (for me).  This one coming up is hoping to hit 95 - 100 miles if all goes well.  Then three weeks of taper and all should be well (in theory).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Born to Run

I'm reading Christopher McDougall's book, Born to Run.

It's about the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico who run in sandals for sometimes days at a time - for fun.  It's a great read and this is my favourite quote so far:

"You can't muscle through a five-hour run; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it."

We've all been there before, haven't we?!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Yaaaaayy, they're here!!

Today I picked up from my Washington mailbox my new Vibram Fivefingers.  I got them off ebay so I was hoping the size was right.  They measure a little different than normal shoes.  You have to stand against a wall and stand on a ruler measuring the distance from the wall to the end of your longest toe.  It wasn't my first choice of colour but for $50 U.S. with free shipping ($80 + tax up there) I couldn't really be too picky.  

I wore them around the house for a couple hours then walked to school to get the kids.  Some of the other kids there laughed at them thinking they looked pretty weird but I knew they were actually jealous.  They'll be wearing them in a few weeks, you watch.  Anyways, I thought they might be a bit tight in the toes but they seem good.  I even ran a little bit and they felt okay.  The plan is to walk in them for a while then try some light trail or grass running.  


Fellow World 100km team mate, Jen Dick, sent me some photos with a bit of a story: 

The parents of one of her friends in England (Jen lives there as well) had gone to Greece last September for a holiday.  They happened to be in a little town called Sparta on the 30th and noticed a running race was going on.   They hung out near the finish line watching the participants complete the event.  Her friend's Dad managed to take some photos of some of the finishers and showed them to Jen when they returned home because they knew she is an ultrarunner and thought she'd be interested in looking at them.  Here's what he took:

He just took these random photos of me and showed them to someone from England who happened to know me.  Weird, eh?  

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Miwok 100k

This race is renowned for it's beautiful views of San Francisco and the ocean from it's highest points. We, on this day, however, saw none of it. The weather called for a 30% chance of rain and cloudy conditions. It got a little worse than that.

I flew down to Oakland the day before the race and was met by John Brooks, fellow Canada Ultraman finisher. I actually crewed for John at the Ultraman two years ago. In return, although not necessary, he would pick me up, let me stay at his house, and crew for me along the race course. One of the first things John said to me was if I had any poison oak soap. Never even knowing there was such a thing I said no. I guess there's a bit of the stuff out on the course but it doesn't react with you until a couple days afterwards so after the race you shower with this stuff. I did just that and still have no effects, thankfully, because it doesn't sound like much fun if you get a lot on you.
We went to his place and met his terrific wife, Maureen, kids Cody, Austin, and Wyatt then went to get some stuff for dinner. They were commenting on the rainy weather being more like February than May and that they never got this much rain around this time of year. Figures.
I went to bed at the decent hour of 9pm for the early wake-up of 3am. The downside to getting free room and board in Oakland was that it's about an hour drive to the start line in San Fran. The weather was looking better first thing in the morning as I could see the lights all the way across the bay but that's the only view of the Golden Gate I got until after the race.
I borrowed from John an old long-sleeved cotton shirt for the start of the race because beint the optimistic me, I only planned on wearing a short-sleeved tech shirt and shorts, rain or not. I spoke with some people (okay, three people) after they had done this race last year and the consensus was that you could definitely do this course in just road running shoes, it's that non-technical. Cool says I. I was in my basically brand new Adidas Supernova Glides with 57 miles on them and they looked as clean as they did coming out of the box. I looked around and saw others in road shoes so I didn't feel at the time that I'd made the wrong choice.
We started at 5:40 barely in the light on the beach. The surf sounded cool, we just couldn't see it. I had heard that you had to go hard for a couple hundred yards to a single track section so as to not get stuck behind some slower runners. The single track led up a nice section of hill to a paved road that wound up forever and with no wind I started to overheat in the cotton shirt. Off it came and I wrapped it around my waist. John said to just chuck it when I was done with it but I couldn't throw someone else's stuff away after I borrowed it.
I was feeling good and didn't stop to refill my two water bottles at the 6.2 mile aid station. I have to honestly say even when I re-read the course description now I can't remember exactly going along the trails that are stated there. I remember the aid stations and some of the trails, but I never really knew where I was all day. I'm just going to hit the highlights and try to give the reader an idea of some sections.
At the Muir Beach aid station, 16 miles, I saw John for the first time and he refilled everything and made sure I was doing alright. I think he even said I was only ten minutes behind the leaders but I doubted that. I remember coming out of a forested section at about three hours and noticing that it was raining. It didn't stop after that until an hour to the finish. Thirty minutes after that on Coastal Trail I missed a right turn and did a harsh trip down a 'steeper than the steepest section of the course' for about ten minutes until I realised that I hadn't seen any flagging tape for a while. With it being so windy and foggy I didn't really look up all that often for fear of going head over heels. There was a guy a minute or so behind me and I was wondering where he was. I stopped a couple times but he didn't materialise out of the fog. I decided to walk back up this monster and if I ran into this guy then I was on the right track. I didn't run into that guy. Crap. I eventually go to the top and saw my mistake. I knew now that any chance of doing well was probably over but as this race was meant mostly to be an experience done at an easier pace it only bothered me for a short while. I tried to control my speed but I was working up a good sweat even in the rain and wind. On this ridge there was only a narrow goat path cut in to the side of the hill to follow and with the horizontal wind and rain and fog it was tough to see anything or anybody.
I got to Pan Toll at mile 21 and told John of the screw up. He was great helping me with stuff I can't thank him enough. The next section was a lot of forest with more of a technical feel to it so that made it go by quicker and before I knew it I was a the Bolinas Ridge station, mile 28. I almost didn't refill my bottles all the way up until someone told me it's quite a lot of rolling then a steep downhill to the next one so I grabbed more water. It's a good thing I did because I was getting slower and slower and drinking the same amount so the time between aid was increasing. This rolling section had a ton of big puddles along the way by I could mostly go around them and avoid total soakers. It was before the steep downhill that the leaders started passing me coming back from the next aid station (we turned around at the bottom and basically reverse the whole course minus a little bit). When I could see the next station at the bottom of the hill a girl in a red jacket passed and I thought that could have been Nicola Gildersleeve who will be in Belgium next month at the World 100k. She's from North Van and I've never met her, only seen pictures from races but it was hard to tell what everyone looked like all bundled up and wet. At the bottom (Randall Station) I found out we were more than halfway, 35 miles. I grabbed my first solid food, PB & J and a piece of banana. Didn't go so well on the steep uphill.
I caught up to the red-jacketed girl and it turned out to be Nicola. We chatted for a bit until she needed a nature break and I kept going. The next time I saw her was at the finish but it was a sad reunion as she retired at Pan Toll due to hip problems. She'll be up there in Belgium for sure. It was before Bolinas Ridge again that I started feeling the effects of only wearing a t-shirt. I envied the people coming past me in coats and gloves and pants. I thought at the station if John was there again I'd grab my Wet Skins jacket. It would be bulky and heavy but better than nothing. When I got there he wasn't. A woman asked what I needed and I said a coat. She offered the one off her back but I said I couldn't take that from her because she had to stand out in those conditions but at least I was moving. She then said she had a rain poncho so I jumped on that. It was brand new out of the tiny package but that monster unfolded into a queen-sized piece of material! It went to my mid-thighs but as soon as I took off I knew it was the best thing in the world. I honestly think that poncho saved my life. Knowing that the exposed ridge section was coming again and the wind would blow right through me I needed something.
Not to be disappointed the wind and rain was brutal going back the other way until we got into the forest again. I made a mental promise to be a bit more prepared for the next race. If there had been sections of high elevation I would have had more but the highest this race got was around 1600'. I took two advil around the 5:30 mark and when 7:30 came around was going to have two more to ease some knee pain but when I went to get it from my water bottle holder's pouch, they were was basically the consistency of tooth paste. Maybe that was a sign I didn't need to take it. That or I should have put them in something to protect them from the rain.
At Pan Toll again someone mentioned how good my poncho looked and if I'd had the time or energy I would have explained how good this XXXL piece of kit was working. Although at one point on the ridge it blew up over my head making me stop and sort it out. John wasn't here either having to shuttle some runners to the finish area. There was only an 80% finish rate this year, the second lowest ever.
It was around this point with 13 miles left to got that my mental state started to go. I was doing a fair amount of walking on the hills and only going moderately faster on the downs. I was determined to keep going but at the same time I didn't want to wreck myself for two weeks, or longer with an injury, and miss out on the training for Belgium. That was another goal for this race - don't fall and twist or hurt something! Another annoyance: My shorts were so wet they were clinging to the insides of my thighs and, 1) impeding my legs going forward while running, and, 2) chafing like you wouldn't believe. I felt like I had a mini-skirt on and I kept hiking it up so I could move forward. Thankfully it stopped raining soon after and my shorts eventually dried out enough to stop rubbing.
At the Hwy 1 station, 54.7 miles, John was there and thankfully we exchanged outerwear, me getting his yellow running jacket that actually fit. A first for me - I had to make an emergency pit stop at this point. Never in a trail race have I had to squat in the woods but there I was, paper towel in hand, that's right, paper towel, ten feet into the bush. It seemed to rejeuvenate me and I could sense the finish.
The final aid station was at 58 miles and they said there that it was two miles up then all downhill to the end. Those two miles were really, really, really tough. Steep suckers and I could barely walk up. After that, though, I started on the down and once I could hear the finish line it was gravy. I could actually see the ocean as well because the fog had lifted slightly. So nice to finish and sit down. My legs felt pretty good all the next day and even with my road shoes I had not a single blister or hot spot. Are my feet actually getting used to this?!?!
A tough day had by all but great to be done and with most of my goals accomplished:

No new or aggravation of old injuries
Use this race as one of the qualifications to getting into Tour de Mt. Blanc next year

I wanted to finish between 9 and 10 hours and had I not gone off course I might have. Maybe next year.

I have to thank John and his family for putting me up for the weekend and Jim Stewart for getting me down to San Francisco. Also the CarboPro powder, 1200, and Thermolytes are still doing the trick.

Me at the finish looking cooler with John's jacket on

Nicola and Peter at the finish

Tia Boddington and me at the finish

Wow there really IS a bridge around here!!