If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Scorched Sole (almost) 50k

Normally a 50k race, this trail run was cut down a few kilometres due to snow at the top of Little White mountain. Snow! At the end of June! What is this craziness?? According to my Garmin watch after the race I had travelled 28.18 miles but it's been known to tell the odd little white lie especially with elevation. After this race it read 7500' of climbing which I think is highly suspect. Anyways, it was long and up, then it was quick and down.
850k of driving, then the run, all in 24 hours. Carrie picked me up from work on Friday and we arrived in Penticton at 10pm at fellow ultrarunner Scott Corsie's house (he now has strep throat). He and his wife, Michele, graciously donated their basement bedroom for us on the night before the run. After a whopping six hours of sleep we were up and heading to Kelowna. Cutting it somewhat close getting there 30 minutes before start time, things were a little tense because Scott, who was doing the 50 mile race and arrived there before us, had locked his keys in his car with his drop bag supplies and was waiting for BCAA. Seeing as the 50 milers started at 6am, we knew he wouldn't be doing that one. As it was he ended up doing the 50k starting about 15 minutes after everyone else.
It was nice to catch up briefly with Bruce Grant whom I haven't seen in a long time, only knowing what he's up to by reading his blog. He formally presented me with my age group prize for the BC Ultra Trailrunning Series a couple years ago: a cool Nathan backpack. Okay he basically gave it to Carrie as I was walking into the port-a-potty for some pre-race business to take care of.
I told a few people that this was only a training run and honestly that's what I did. I knew the course was mostly uphill to the turnaround so I told myself to work pretty hard on the up and to take it easy on the downhills. It truly was a lot of climbing at the start so I tried to keep my breathing as easy as I could and when it got heavier I slowed down even more (if that was possible). At about the six mile mark I blew my nose runner/cyclist-style and felt right after a fast trickle of something come out. I touched my hand to it and, as I suspected, I had a bleeding nose. It seems when I leave the moisture-laden air of the coast to hit the dry interior I get one of these. What was I to do but pinch the nostrils and carry on, right? By now my hand and nose were covered in red and I was hoping I'd hit the second aid station soon and that they'd have something more absorbent than the leaves I was wiping it with.
I arrived at the second aid station sooner than I thought I would, thankfully, and was greeted by a volunteer saying, "Wow, did you fall?" I guess my face looked worse than it was. Luckily they had paper towel and I cleaned up as best as I could. Off I went down the flat KVR trail hoping it wouldn't happen again.
After the third aid station the trail went up again and where it turned into more or less a fast flowing creek coming towards me. There wasn't a lot of room on the sides to run so basically I stuck to walk/running up the middle, picking my steps carefully.
There was one more small water station before the ascent to the top of Little White. I didn't bother filling my bottles, knowing there would be water up at the turnaround. That was a bit of a mistake because I had to start rationing my water after basically walking the next half hour. The trail running turned into more of a post-holing adventure as the snow got deeper and deeper. At this point I thought I was in second place and so was waiting for number one to come down the trail the other way after hitting the half-way point. I guess whoever was in front of me was doing the 50 mile because I reached the post indicating it was now time to start the crazy descent with no one coming back the other way. Now it was time for the taking it easy part.
Again, because it was a training run and knowing that the downhills are prone to hurting my legs, took it fairly easy on the way back. It was pretty fun running back through all the mud and water that I tried to avoid on the way up. It was easier to go right through it than avoid it. Next along the KVR trail again which had seemed flat going the other way but turned out to be a slight incline. It was tough mentally because it was a few kilometres in length with nothing to look at but the long straightaways. I reached end of the KVR and back into the trails which were mostly down again with a few flats thrown in.
Now, at this point I still told myself that if someone passed me now I wouldn't care and tried to stick to that story. I ended up coming in at a pretty relaxed time of 4:33. 2:43 going up, 1:50 coming down. Crazy.
My legs felt really good right after the race, not too knackered at all, which was good because Carrie and I had to drive me back home to go to work that night. Speaking of Carrie, she did the 25k in 3:06 without doing a lot of training the last few weeks.
It was quite a whirlwind trip but worth doing for a training run in a different type of terrain and area.
Thanks are in order to race director Dan Crockett and all the volunteers who did a great job on this low key and fun race. Here are just a few of the 1000 pictures Dirk Handke took of the race:

Tim Weins, Bruce Grant, and me

Me with Dirk Handke

Race Director Dan Crockett

Carrie's finish

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Good Couple Weeks

So I've been back at it for a while now. The longest training run before last weekend was 2:30 in the trails. I even made it up to SFU to run the 5 Peaks course finally. I had meant to go up there on race day a few and leave twenty minutes early and run the course twice (a total of 20km). I thought of myself as a bit of a bandit but seeing as I've never "bandited" a race before, I had to consider exactly what the definition is. I've done some searching and it usually ends up coming down to robbing or cheating or living outside the law. Well if I had done that course before the start without paying for it, I don't think any of those would have applied. To me, a bandit is someone who lines up at a race like every other paying competitor, races with them, and uses the supplies at the aid station. I've seen some pull out at the end without crossing the line/timing chip mat. I was planning on being self-sufficient fuel-wise and wouldn't have influenced anyone's race by being so far in front hopefully no one would have caught me. Therefore I would not technically, in my world, not be a bandit.
This past Sunday was the Summer Solstice 25k run on the North Shore that I did as an easy training run. It was definitely harder than I would have done a 25k training run. It's been a while since I've ran over there and forgot how technical everything was: the roots, the rocks, the uphills, the downhills. As I'm 'gradually' building up the mileage so I hopefully don't break myself again, I wanted to take it pretty easy which I did. The crazy part was the steep downhills that took their toll. My foot was sore for a couple days and only today ran 45 minutes since the race. To 'ease' back into it I'll do the Scorched Sole 50k (as an easy training run) this Saturday to make sure everything is good. Or I could hurt myself and be out of Fat Dog and maybe even UTMB. What will it be? Stay tuned.

Friday, June 11, 2010

2 Hours in the 'Nut

Yesterday I returned to the mountain where I started all my trail experiences: Chuckanut. I know people are probably getting tired of me saying that I ran in these trails (again and again) but that's exactly what I did. It's close, no traffic, easy drive, and, oh, yeah, no traffic.
It has been three months since I tiptoed through these trails it felt great. Slow, but great. I didn't know I could shift into such a low gear going up hill. I was going slightly quicker than walking and I managed to keep moving the whole time except for the really steep stuff.
I knew it would happen: today my legs are trashed. No matter how slow I go or for how little time, I can't escape the next day's tragedy that are my legs. It always happens when I'm not in the trails for a while. Kind of like not swimming for a month. It's gonna suck. The running was fun but today not so much. I feel like I've run a road marathon. The only consolation is that I've gone through this so many times before that I can tell myself that in only two or three more outings there will be no pain or suffering. At least that's what I tell myself now.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

1:20 Look At Me Go!

Okay I was going to write the other day about the 1:10 run I did and how excited I was and how glorious it was to be back on my feet. Today, though, I did a whopping 1:20 all on the road with no discomfort or pain or otherwise. Everything was good. Everything, that is, except the weather which was very Haney to Harrison-ish: rainy, windy, but not overly cold.
Doing my 1:10 was the first time in almost two months I've run outside listening to music while running and I realised how much I miss the tunes. I always thought I would never listen to music on the bike but over the past couple months of riding and no running I was a little lonely for my ipod. I would ride out and when I was on the rural roads I would plug in and was quite surprised how well I could still hear cars coming up from behind me. I only got freaked out once when one surprised me. I felt guilty because I was of the opinion that it wasn't safe to ride with headphones and used to think riders like that were asking for trouble. I forgot how boring it can sometimes be riding for hours on end with the same song going around and around in my head.
Anyways, going to try and build up slowly the time on my feet for the next few weeks starting in Chuckanut tomorrow for two hours - less than 10% of what I'll be running for Fat Dog.
On the weekend the boy (Elias) and I drove out to Manning Park to do my trail maintenance for Fat Dog. Little did he (and me actually) know what he was getting himself into. It involved driving to Manning and meeting with about ten people including Heather the race director, driving another 20k down the highway, and another 20k up a gnarly forest service road. My van still hasn't forgiven me for that trip. We walked a pretty rough trail flagging and clearing branches and obstacles. It ended at an incredibly steep decent down to a river that we'll be crossing during the race. Heather says they'll have to go back and make switchbacks and or stairs to make it a little less difficult. No arguments from me. All in all it was a good but tiring day. We even managed to rush home and be ten minutes early for Elias' hockey game. As tired as he was he had a great game.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Old and New Articles about a Comrades Runner

I thought this was a pretty funny story. We've all wanted to do this at some point during a hard race, it's just that we're all not blessed with an identical twin.

TRACK AND FIELD; Deception in Marathon Has Race Officials Seeing Double
Published: July 22, 1999

JOHANNESBURG, July 21— One of the top finishers in South Africa's most famous road race admitted today that he had cheated by running it in relays with his virtually identical brother.

Sergio Motsoeneng, 21 years old, and his brother, Fika, 19, were desperate for prize money, their lawyer said, and gave the $1,000 Sergio won to their father, who lives in Qwa Qwa, a depressed former black homeland, with 11 children. The lawyer added that the family had been on the verge of selling the $85 gold medal Sergio received for finishing in the top 10.

The Comrades Marathon, first run in 1921 by 34 men raising money for a veterans group known as the League of Comrades of the Great War, has grown into South Africa's biggest road race, with nearly 15,000 entrants of all ages. Each year, it reverses direction between two cities, Pietermaritzburg in the Drakensberg Mountains and Durban on the coast.

This year, on June 16, it was the downhill run, which is 89.9 kilometers long (about 56 miles), for which the record is 5 hours 24 minutes 7 seconds. But watching the winner finish is less entertaining than the bitter end of the race. It is considered a great shame to be among the last 1,500 competitors who fail to finish in 11 hours and are ''swept up by the broom wagon,'' sometimes paralyzed by cramps and clawing at the rescue vehicles.

The whole race is covered on national television, and most of the runners finish in the last hour, staggering into the stadium, collapsing at the finish line, crawling or carrying each other over it.

According to an account by the South African Press Association, Nick Bester, a former champion who finished 15th this year, had complained that something was wrong with Sergio Motsoeneng's ninth-place finish. Bester had counted everyone who passed him in the final miles and there was one too many -- and electronic-race records showed Sergio was behind him earlier.

Sergio confessed through his lawyer today after Beeld, an Afrikaans-language newspaper, published pictures of both brothers in the race wearing the same number. They looked very much alike, but their watches were on different hands, and one runner had a scarred shin.

Apparently, Sergio began the race and ducked into a mobile toilet after 45 minutes to change shirts and shoes with Fika. Fika ran the next 30 kilometers, and they changed again at least once. Changing shoes was necessary because microchips in each runner's shoelaces and sensors allowed constant tracking of every entrant. South Africans across the country were able to log on to a Web site and find out exactly where their favorite racers were at any moment.

Clem Harrington, a lawyer who has run in 21 Comrades, said Sergio Motsoeneng was a desperate young man from a poor family. He and his unemployed client, both from the town of Bethlehem, will meet with the Comrades Marathon Association on Saturday to return the medal and negotiate repayment of the $1,000.

This has not been a great year for the Comrades. Motsoeneng is the third runner to be dropped from the list of top-10 finishers. Viktor Zhdanov, from Russia, who finished second, was disqualified after testing positive for ephedrine, and Mahlala (Rasta) Mohloli, the sixth-place finisher and a popular local runner in the same club as as Motsoeneng, tested positive for nandrolone, a strength-building steroid.

The Comrades prize money is so low that it attracts few world-class entrants, but many runners from the former Soviet Union participate and do well.

''This is a tragic story,'' the press association quoted Harrington as saying. ''Hopefully, Sergio will not be lost to the sport because he is a highly talented runner. If he harnessed the energy he put into cheating into rather running the race properly, who knows, he might have finished among the top five.''

'He didn't need to cheat'
Iqbal Khan
May 31 2010 at 01:56PM Get IOL on your
mobile at m.iol.co.za

Sergio Motsoeneng has paid his dues and has started a new life in his road-running career.

The man who finished third in Sunday's 85th edition of the Comrades Marathon was reluctant at first to speak of his antics in 1999 when he was found guilty of cheating after being placed ninth in that year's race.

Motsoeneng twice swopped clothes with his younger brother but was eventually found out after newspaper photographs showed the runners wearing different watches.

"It's been a long time now and I have come through a tough time in life. I have suffered the embarrassment. I'd rather not talk about it as it's in the past," he said on Sunday night after his outstanding run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban's Sahara Stadium Kingsmead.

"I know I should not have done that - I was a young man then and when the idea was thrown at me I went with the flow. It's now history.

"I'm a family man now and I'm a grown man at 33. I realised that one makes mistakes in life. I came through a tough five-year period of suspension and want to look ahead.

"I knew this would crop up again when I got close to winning the race. It has to come back to haunt me but I appeal to all to leave it at that - it's really the past. It's finished and I look ahead all the time."

Cheryl Winn, who was chief executive of the Comrades Marathon Association at the time Motsoeneng was bust, said he should have had faith in his running ability.

"It just goes to show he did not have to do what he did in 1999. He has great ability in running ultra-marathons - his third-place finish proves just that," she said.

Motsoeneng was in his early 20s when he ran the 1999 Comrades and was slapped with a five-year ban by the Comrades Marathon Association. He was also stripped of his ninth place after he admitted cheating.

An investigation was launched after a runner further back in the field complained that Motsoeneng had not overtaken him.

After examining time sheets and data from the computer timing system, race referees initially cleared him of cheating.

The lookalike brothers' plan was only foiled because photographs of the race published in Beeld showed runner number 13018 at one stage wearing a yellow watch on his left wrist. At another stage the runner with that number was wearing a pink watch on his right wrist.

Other photos later revealed Sergio twice swopping clothes with his 19-year-old brother, Arnold, in portable lavatories.

"I was naive at the time. I did not think we would get caught but we did. I lived through hell for the five years - tried to keep my mind on running by helping youngsters and coaching development kids," he said. "I've turned to God and I'm guided by him. I feel I have paid my dues for my mistakes and want to look to the future rather than look back in life."

Motsoeneng returned to road running in the 2006 Soweto Marathon. Last year he finished 29th in the Comrades.