Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fall Racing and Training 2012

I seem to have next to no time to update my races or my training anymore, so it looks like I will just update things when I am able.
Since my last post, I spent much of the summer training for another JdF Epic tilt at the end of August. The training went reasonably well, but I certainly should have put more mileage in if I wanted to be serious. On the day, a couple elites took part (like Sean Chester) so that aspect of it was exciting for sure. For me, I did the first 22k in 3 hours, a pace that was certainly too fast (relative to my training) and like all long distance events, starting too fast will put you in your place awfully quickly. The second half was miserable, but I hung on to finish the 47k trek in 6:45 this year. It was a shame, as I likely had a sub 6h time in me if the pacing was better. I am confident that one day, I'll achieve this feat, but may take a few more tries to get the pacing correct. The day was awesome though, and the conditions were ideal for a PB. I likely will tackle this again in late August of 2013.
After the summer, I settled into a training program of 3 days/week with my long runs being somewhere between 12-20k - a very minimalist program, but one that really had the primary goal of just keeping my in shape. I did ramp things up a little as I headed into Race 1 of 3 of the Fall XC Series.
On Nov. 11th, I raced in the 20k Thetis Lake Relay. I was stunned to see Simon Whitfield in the race, and I ran very well to come 4th in my division (1:13:33). I was very satisfied with steady pacing, and I made this a priority so that I could perform to my potential.
A couple weeks later, I was in the 10k Gunner Shaw race. This race is notorious for water and mud, and with the crazy wet conditions in October and November, the conditions were as nasty as they have ever been. Once again, I started too fast and found myself in ~10th place after about 3k into the race. When we hit heartbreak hill, my heartrate was much too high heading into the hill and I red-lined pretty fast and was forced to power hike up the top of it. I also spent much of the next 2k in recovery mode, and several runners went by me like it was my first 10k race ever. However, I did find my legs again about 5k in and I tucked in behind running club-member (and top female) Claire Morgan and we flew along the 2nd half of the course. When we hit the "Gunner" hill series towards the end, I charged up some adrenaline and passed Claire and hammered into the finish. While it was not a well-paced race, I did finish with a decent result and was proud of the 2nd half effort.
The final race of the Series was the 16k Stewart Mountain Race - my favourite :). I enjoy the distance and the hills, and much of the Gunner mud and water was still around.  I started the race intentionally slow, wanting to be patient. In the early going, I was behind a couple of runners that I would like to beat, but stayed the course and stuck to my guns. By the time 5k rolled around, I was feeling quite good and made a pass up a slow hill, leaving 3 runners behind me. Another pass at the water station took me to the bottom of the mountain, where I power hiked the majority of it, wanting to conserve my energy for the 2nd half of the race. The plan worked, and by the top of Stewart Mountain I had not been passed by anyone, and I had passed another 2 people just power hiking. The downhill section came, and I was ready for it. I flew along this portion, gobbling up some valuable distance. Nobody seemed to be in front of me now, and I felt like I was opening a good gap behind me. A small little leg cramp at 14k reminded me to stop for water, but it luckily went away fairly quickly. The end portion of the race continued to be good, and I finished having a superb race. Overall, I finished in 17th place. My time was nearly identical to the time I ran 2 years ago in this race, but the event that year was on a shorter (and slightly easier) course.
So the year was a bit mixed. I rarely seemed to get in the training that I wanted to, but made the best of the situation. I did manage to stay relatively uninjured this year, and that is always the primary goal. The end of the year ended very well with 3 solid races under my belt.
Looking ahead to 2013, I am signed up for the Island Series, and will definitely take in 6 or more of those races. I do not know beyond that, and it will likely depend on where I can fit extra training sessions into my daily weekday schedule.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Motivation and Update

Regrettably, it has been over a year since my last post. Over the past year, I have been on a self-induced maintenance program with my running. In short, I have struggled significantly to get out more than ~2x per week. It has been hard for me to determine what exactly was the cause of this sudden decline with my running, but there have been a few personal and family issues that have simply made me not motivated at all. Inside, I hate myself for having this feeling. I always prided myself on being Mr. Determination, and all of a sudden last was gone.
After the e2e marathon last June, I essentially took the remainder of the summer off. I was hoping that over this time, my Achilles issues would clear up - which it didn't. I began running a little bit in the fall season, with hopes of entering in some of the Thetis XC events, but alas, getting into a regular training pattern never happened. I did sign up for 2 races in the fall, but due to sickness, I withdrew at the last minute for both.
I was encouraged at the start of 2012 and had some big hopes that a fresh year would wake me up into a new found motivation pattern. Again, this never happened. Life became difficult with some more personal issues, and I basically used running as a stress-relief and a form of escape from some of the other crap in my life.
On a positive note, I used the nice weather in the late spring to inspire me to do my first race in 8 months - the Sooke 10k. However, the race was a bit of a wake-up call, as after the 5k mark, I had to stop and walk due to lack of fitness. The 41:xx time was humbling to say the least. I felt like I was in good speed shape, as I was looking better with my training quality.
Two weeks later though, I ran a solid TC10 in ~38:30, which I was very pleased with. I was now consistently running 3x per week, and even though my distance was horrible, my speed was decent. I then put in a few longer training runs (17k ish) and then entered into the Oak Bay 1/2 Marathon. Once again, I was good with a clocking of ~1:27. Definitely not where I was the previous year ~1:23, but I was satisfied that 3x per week could bring me such results.
My most recent race was the Sidney 5k, done on July 1. I had a solid race and finished 10th overall with a time of 18:20. This reaffirmed that I was in good shape, but still didn't really have the endurance. So then I banged out a couple more distance runs ~20k, and then singed up at the last minute for a Harriers Club Run - 27k in the Sooke Hills.
The group that day was an all-star group. There were 12 guys, who I would say, had an average of 37 min/10k time. These were a pack of studs I was with, and I was just hoping the distance would not kill me. It was also my first run with my Nathan Hydropack in over a year, so I was excited to back on the trails for a lengthy one. In short, the day went great for me, and I was strong throughout. I really enjoyed the social aspect of it as well.
This run coincided with another thing that happened that week. Through the running grapevine, I heard that a fastee from Nanaimo - Jeremy Clegg - was attempting to run the West Coast Trail in record time. I read the report on his attempt, and it sounded all-too familiar, as it was almost a replica of when I did it back in 2007. His time was slightly faster in ~13:30.
I mention these past two things for a reason. These were two pretty big motivating factors for me. I am finally happy to report that I have my running mojo back. I am finally motivated again, and have my sight set on big things.
Last weekend, I went out on Sunday morning at 6am and ran 17k on the Juan de Fuca as a training run. 2h of solo running in God's country brings back the motivation pretty quick.
My goal for the summer is to maintain my speed and now increase my distance. I have made it my goal to run the 47k JdF Trail once again this year, but also know that I need a few weeks of serious distance in me to get me through. It appears as though there could be a couple other people who also may join me in the event, so I am super excited about this.
My running life is good right now, and I wanna just keep the ball rolling and stay healthy. Very excited and proud to say that I am motivated once again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

e2e Marathon - June 12, 2011

My training for this marathon was minimal. Although my speed was good going in, my distance - or lack thereof - was definitely a concern. I had done 2x 37k training runs, but my weekly mileage had never surpassed 60k, sand I had never run more than 4x per week. Therefore, I had no idea what to expect, but my goal was to break 3h, and with that, I thought there may even be a chance of the win if (and only if) the field was super weak.
At the start line, it appeared that the field was indeed weak. There were a few guys who looked serious, but I knew I could only control my race, and so that is what I had to focus on.
The race began, and a young guy with a mullet hammered out to the front. A couple guys behind me joked and laughed at him, thinking that this guy was in for the longest day of his life. I took hold of 2nd place and there was another guy or two that followed me.
By the 3k mark, the young guy was actually now WAY in front, and one guy passed me to put me in 3rd. Again, I was pacing myself well. The only problem was the fact that there were NO KILOMETRE MARKERS. So, while I felt my pace was good, there was actually no definitive way of telling. I hit the beach section and was surprised to feel how soft it was. My previous race here (4 years ago), I remember the beach being rock hard.
The next part of the run was a little mentally difficult. The road was windy, with undulating hills, and it just went on and on. To make matters worse, the road was open, and I was almost hit by a bus at one point.
I was fortunate enough to have my parents in a support vehicle for the duration of the race. They were able to tell me the gap I had on the runner behind me, and also the distance ahead on the #2 guy.
I hit the Long Beach section in good time. While I knew I was tiring, I was not losing any ground on the person in front of me, and I was told I had a 4 minute gap on the guy behind me. So I was in a good space. At the end of this section, there is a fairly large hill which I managed nicely. I was doing well, but also knew that I was ~25k mark only, and I was probably more tired than normal, and I was sweating WAY MORE than normal. I called my parents for much fluid at this time. I drank loads between km 25-32k, because I knew if I didn't, I'd be screwed.
I was very surprised to see that I was catching the guy in front of me, and I eventually passed him ~km 28. I didn't know if he was struggling or whether it was my steady pace, but at any rate I was in 2nd place.
For a brief moment, I thought about the win and asked my parents where he was. To my chagrin, they told me the young 'mullet-man' was miles and miles ahead. Huh - who'd have thunk that from the start line? Not me, and not anyone.
So I felt motivated to stay in 2nd, and the only way of doing that was to stay focused and keep the kilometres consistent. My body was fatiguing, and around km 32 I was now into survival mode. I could feel my body not far away from cramping, so I did my best with nutrition and mental fortitude to hang in there.
At around km 35, I was struggling quite a bit, and knowing that there were some significant hills coming up, I knew it would be a battle in these final kilometres. I was told that there was a guy behind me only around 2 minutes and that he was catching up. Because of my body, I decided to walk up the two difficult hills ~km 37, and that is where I was passed. I was pissed off, but I knew that power hiking up these hills was the smartest thing for me. After the second hill, I bounced back with revenge and was trailing this guy as we headed now into the village of Ucluelet. I was only 2-3 seconds behind him.
As we came to the final hill, I was still struggling with my form and my mind was racing. I had the decision to stay jogging up this hill with this guy, and try and pass him in the final 1-2 km, or do what I actually did do, and power hike up it. I thought I could power hike up it and then hammer the final kilometer, using my speed to beat him. At the top of the hill, this guy was likely around 20 seconds in front of me, but I felt the adrenaline kick in and I felt like I had a kick in me. The only problem was, I didn't know exactly how much further the course was, and a race official actually told me at this point I had 5k to go. But I knew that couldn't be right. I knew Ucluelet well enough to know that there was not even 5k of distance left on the Island here. I decided to make my move. I rounded a street corner and uped the ante. To my complete surprise, the guy in front of me also did the exact same thing. I was now in full spring mode, and although I was catching this guy, there was too much distance to make up. I crossed the finish line in 3rd place, 11 seconds behind 2nd. Mullet-man would win it 25 minutes infront of us.
My finishing time was 3:12:17. Although I did not win, and I did not break the 3h mark, I felt my effort was solid. Considering my minimal training, I had to be proud of my pacing and my fighting spirit. This course is not a PB course, and considering the overall elevation loss/gain and the bending highway throughout, it feels way more like a 44k run.
My time did in fact qualify me to Boston. It also was a 11 minute PB (for what that is worth).
I still feel like a have a 2:5x:xx marathon in me, but I actually detest road events compared to trail events, so I will at some point, go for the sub 3h marathon, but not this year...that's for sure.
So there is my 2011 update. Speed is good. A PB in the 1/2 and the full so far.
Still dealing with Achilles Tendonosis. I am now at 38 months with this. It isn't preventing me from running, but it is a pain that is not going away. I have no idea what to do with this, and have literally tried everything. I am considering taking some time off to figure this thing out. I am actually going in for an x-ray tomorrow to see if I have a stress fracture. If negative, I may be going in for a bone scan. At any rate, I am mystified on how to get rid of this thing, and until I figure it out, all my dreams of an epic trail run this summer are on hold. I will NOT be running the JdF this year. Sad, but true. Hopefully the trail is still there in 2012.

Oak Bay 1/2 Marathon - May 15, 2011

I felt good going into this race, but also went in with little expectations. The Island Series had taught me that no matter how well my training was going, race day can yield different results. I also had begun some longer distance training (up to ~28k) in preparation for a summer marathon, so I knew covering the distance should be manageable.
The race started well, and the rain was coming down hard. I tried to begin slightly slow, and settle into a steady pace. I was excited that around the 3k mark, Chris Callendar jumped out of the spectators and ran with me. I actually had forgotten my watch for the race, so it was awesome having Chris telling me my split times, which were consistently ~4 min/k. Chris paced me to the 11k mark, and then rejoined me around the 13k mark. He would stay with me until ~km 20, and was totally encouraging. I knew my pace was decent, and I was pretty impressed with myself how well I held it together. I was even able to pick off about 3 guys in the 2nd half of the race. I don't think I slowed down at all.
My racing flats did the trick, and I hammered this 1/2 in a time of 1:23:12. It was a new PB for me, and I was so excited that I performed at this level. This, to me, seemed way more consistent with the training I had been putting in. 16th overall, 4th in my age group. Super excited about this one.

Racing and Training Update 2011

Well, and so it goes that actually continuing my blog in 2011 didn't really happen. There were just way too many higher priority things in my life that took up the time. Therefore, I will try and provided a brief snapshot of my year thus far.
The year started off with me racing in 6 of the Island Series races. My goal in 2011 was to focus more on the mid-distance stuff, and leave the long stuff out for a while.
The results (which spanned January through to April) went as follows:
Pioneer 8k - 29:52
Cobble Hill 10k - 38:36
Hatley Castle 8k - 31:38
Bazan Bay 5k - 18:17
Merville 15k - 58:12
Sooke 10k - 38:33
While my times were good and fairly consistent, I was slightly disappointed that I was unable to PB at any of the distances. I was consistently ~45 seconds slower in all the races.
I felt great about my races at Hatley Castle & Merville, but the others felt a little sluggish. I say this because I felt that my training was pretty damn good, especially at the TNWs where I was kicking derriere for most of the season.
However, I did accomplish my goal to do well in the standings, and I was pretty excited to come 3rd in my age group, 38th overall - good enough to win a free t-shirt :).
Next year, it would be nice to perform as I did in 2010, but I think sleep and stress have a direct corrolation with my performance.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gunner Shaw 10k - Nov. 27, 2010

After the Juan de Fuca Trail in late August, I intentionally decided to continue training, but with reduced mileage. The goal was to give my body a break from some of the longer stuff, but at the same time, stay in shape so I would be ready to perform well at some of the upcoming shorter distance events.
The reality was that my new teaching portfolio was demanding come September. I had little time to run, with the exception being the TNW and running with my school cross-country team. As a result of being stressed at work, my motivation to run was sucked away from me, and I struggled to maintain my fitness.
To counteract this, I signed up for 3 upcoming races, thus putting the pressure on me to get in racing condition. By October, I was back into things with my speed, and I was ready to debut my new racing flats at the GoodLife Fitness 8k. I was poised for an 8k PB, but when the time came to race that weekend, I injured my back two days before and was forced to cheer Janelle from the sidelines. The injury wasn't bad though, and I was running again solidly by the following weekend.
I decided to pass on other events in the fall like the Shawnigan 1/2 and the Jericho XC Challenge, and focus on the Thetis Lake 20k Solo Relay Run. Once again, I was in good shape but sickness that weekend would force me not to race...once again.
Although I was frustrated by the lack of racing, I knew my training was solid, yet minimal, and I kept things going for much of November. In November, high school XC ended, giving me more focus and time for myself to really concentrate on the upcoming Gunner Shaw 10k race.
Good news. This time I wasn't injured, I wasn't sick, and I was ready to race.

Race Day
I arrived to the race in good time, and was definitely exited to get my competitive vibe back in me. Having not raced this event before, I didn't know exactly what to expect in terms of the conditions and the course, but I could imagine what was out there. This race is notorious for mud and wetness, but this year, it was the packed snow and ice that caused concern from the runners. We received about 15 cms. of snow a week prior, and the trail had a pretty good pack on it. After a good warm-up, I decided at the last minute to go with my YakTrax to race. I had seen Shane Ruljancich wearing his, so I thought I'd be in good company. With 15 minutes to go before race time, I tempoed back to my car and switched shoes. I arrived back just in time for the start of the race, but my heart rate was elevated somewhat from this last minute decision.
The race began and I attempted to not start too fast. I felt like I did this, and was happy with the start. The shoes seemed to be not too bad on the early paved portion of the race, and when I hit the muddy/icy trails I was very happy with my decision. I was extremely surprised to see just how fast everyone was around me. I thought that I would be much faster on the trails than the people around me, but the reality was that I was working hard just to maintain my standing. I was in a nice group of runners (including some of my training group), but as soon as the big uphills came, I really had trouble getting up them. This was atypical for me, and I was slowly being dropped my the pack around me. Gary Duncan surged ahead, as did Irvin Tang, and finally Chris Callendar. I was fine with this, hoping that my second-wind would kick in, and hoping that my shoe decision would give me some kind of advantage out there. My pace did not pick up however, and a few other people passed me as we made our way to the final hills. As I approached the final set of hills, I struggled to complete them, but was relieved to see I did not get passed by a couple of runners on my tail. However right at the top of the hill, I was passed by Mark Ritchie, and as the finish line approached, it looked like I was destined to finish right behind him. However, I felt a finishing kick inside my bones, so I decided to kick it along the beach/water and I did well to pass him.
My time was 40:35...good enough for 37th Place overall.
I was pleased with my overall effort, but was not really pleased to be destroyed my my training group (when I had beaten them all consistently in training). However, it was my first race in ~4 months, so in that regard, it was good to get one under my belt. My decision to wear the YakTrax was a stupid one. I was tired at the start line in my haste to get them on, and looking down at the finish, I only had 1 YakTrax on...and it had slipped. So really, I was running this race in a really old pair of trail shoes with little traction, and the course was on mud/ice. Hopefully next time, I would live up - a little more - to my potential.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Juan de Fuca 47k Epic Trail Run - Aug. 29, 2010

I went into this run thinking I was in pretty good shape. After being injured in the late Spring, I fast-tracked into a hefty endurance training program, specifically for this trail run.
In all, 12 runners would show up on the day. 7 from the mainland, and 5 from the Island. This number was somewhat disappointing when you consider the initial e-mail interest in the early summer. It looked like there would be in excess of 30 runners. However, having others around was not really why I was here this day.
The day began early as usual. I was up at around 4 am, and I already had all my gear ready to go. I wasn't overly impressed with my 4 hours of sleep the night before, but when I had a family wedding up in Duncan, what else can you do?
I drove my dad's blue truck out to the China Beach Trailhead, and it wasn't too long before people began arriving. Most of the group left at around 7:45 am. They had chose the traditional South to North option of doing the trail,but I had opted for something different this year. I would be going North to South, and as luck would have it, I would also be doing it solo.
On the drive up to Botanical Beach, we saw bears on the side of the road about 10k along, so that got my West Coast vibes flowing inside of me. I dropped my co-pilot, Jeremy Lawrence, off at Sombrio (he was doing a 25k option run back to China Beach) and then continued up to Botanical. From Sombrio on, the road has been newly paved, and it is nice. Far nicer than the roller-coaster road it used to be.
I parked the vehicle, got my parking stub, and began my run at the 47k marker right at 8:30 am. This was it. This was what I had been training for all summer. This day. And here I was.
The first kilometre was rather simple - a downhill rocky road to sea level. From here the trail cuts South and is more or less flat. I rocked out the first 2k in 9 minutes and I thought to myself that if I could just maintain this pace for the next 45k, I'd have the course record. Haha. Things don't work that way.
After the first 2k, the trail takes on more of a JdF flavour. Hills, stairs roots and scenery. This part of the trail resembles the WCT in appearance. However, I was feeling great in the early going and did extremely well to cover the first 7k in 45 mins, and the first 10k in 1:02. At this point, I remember that Sean Chester last year did the final 10k in 1 hour going the opposite way, so I was happy that I was going fast, but not overly fast.
Soon thereafter, I saw a hiker coming the other way who flagged me down. He told me that up ahead in 1.5k, there was a large wasp nest on the trail. I asked him if there was any way around the nest, but he said no. He said he got stung.
Deep down I have always had a fear of bees. Snakes and spiders, no problem. But bees, I am scared of them. Maybe it is the fact that I know I cannot really outrun a bee.
So continue on, keeping my eyes open widely in case the man didn't know how far 1.5k really is. And then I see another group of hikers approaching. I stop. They tell me that their entire group was stung multiple times, and the lady in their group was stung 8 times. She said they were angry.
So now I am petrified. I got them to describe exactly where the nest was, and within a couple minutes of running, I hear buzzing sounds, and I totally panic. I scream backwards on the trail 20 ft and look up at the trail ahead. I am cold and have goosebumps of fear. I look up and see a small swarm right in the middle of the trail. Looking left of the trail, I see a 10 foot wall of salal. On the other side, a steep cliff. There is no option here but to go through it. My worst fear is about to be realized. So after a couple minutes, I decide on the Usain Bolt approach. I am going to hammer over this thing so fast that I will be stung the least amount of times. So off I go, and I went hard.
I get about 4 feet away from the swarm and then leap over the thing, planting my left foot at the base of the salal wall for extra propulsion. With my eyes shut, I leap over the nest and cannot believe my good fortune. I didn't get stung.
My heartrate is high and the adrenaline is going. But I guide my body back into the rhythm of the trail, and before I knew it I was leaving the trail for the top end of Sombrio Beach. 17k down, 30k to go. And I'm actually feeling great.
Although normally the beach is a welcome relief from the trail, I was anticipating a better time on Sombrio. Although the tide was out, the boulders were slippery, so it forced me to slow right down and travel slowly. I wanted to use the slow pace to refuel, but the footing was so dodgy that it was quite some time before I was able to take in my gels and s-caps. I also had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the South end of Sombrio, and I also was so buddy with my nutrition that I missed the trailhead off the beach for a second.
So back onto the trail I go, knowing that I will stop in just a few minutes at Sombrio Waterfall. I have this landmark pegged as a refueling station, and it did its job well this day. A full stop to load up the Hydropack and dunk my head, and then a few words of encouragement to myself and once again I am off.
Wasp nest aside, the going had been very good so far. But I knew there was trouble ahead. This next section of the trail past Sombrio is bad running, and I knew this new Southerly direction (uphill) it was only gonna be worse.
Yes it was bad, but I faired very well. I coped with the technical part leading up to the old road, and I was able to run the 1k uphill stretch of the road in its entirety. I was pretty bagged at the apex of the climb, but it was certainly fun to travel down this time (rather than up) towards the Loss Creek suspension bridge. I was pretty beat up by the time I hit km 23, but I was super excited to make it to the half way part of the trail without seeing anyone else from the JdF Epic Run. Shortly after though, I saw Ian coming toward me, and I stopped briefly to warm him of the wasp nest at 33.6k. He then told me that he had been stung, as there were two wasp nests around 12 and 13k. Great. I said goodbye, and then saw his running mate Nico shortly behind. It wasn't long before I found the short cut path that led to the ocean, and I opted to get off the trail and get onto the beach. The trail had beat me up enough.
This was, in hind sight, a bad move. The tide was much higher than I anticipated, and the short cut proved to be no time-saver. The sea arch that I would normally go through was now in the ocean, and I was forced to scale some rocks and do a 8 foot leap down off the rocks onto the beach. The beach was soft, but I did get to the top end of Chin Beach without injury.
Chin Beach was slightly better than Sombrio in the sense that I did manage to jog part of it. At the South end, I saw the 6 members of the running group from Vancouver. They were amazed and excited to see me and they took my photo. They asked what kind of pace I was on and I said 6:15. I knew at the half way point I was at 2:55ish (PB pace), but I also knew the chance of me getting an even split was near nil. I felt good, but I was feeling drained, and the worst part of the trail was about to hit me hard in the face.
I left the beach and for a moment I forgot what the trail ahead was like. What is was like was bad. Really bad. Not very runnable, and large elevation gains and drops. I tried my damnedest to cope with the power hiking/run down the switchbacks routine, but simply put, this part of the trail killed me. I felt drained of energy earlier, and this sucked every ounce of energy out of my legs. My hydration was good, my salt was good (I wasn't cramping), but my legs were like Jello. I slowed down with each kilometre, and by the time I hit 14k I was barely jogging.
And then I remembered what Ian had told me. There were more wasp nests ahead. Two lady hikers were coming my way, so I stopped to ask them if they had seen any wasp nests. No they said. Whew. I was relieved. It couldn't be that bad, but I should keep my guard up for the next few kilometres.
I never saw any nests over the next few kilometres. My pace did pick up over that section, likely out of fear, but I was in pretty bad shape when I hit Bear Beach at the 9k point. Normally Bear Beach is a beach I would consider running. But not today. For one thing, the tide was way up, so the rocks I usually go on were submerged. I was forced high up onto the sand and it was just as well, because I was struggling now. Beach Beach is a long stretch of beach, but when you are walking it in the sand and exhausted, it seems even longer.
I was hoping that the beach would revive me. I used the walk to refuel, and I prayed that the Calories would hit me sooner than later. But as I left the beach for what should be a pretty easy section of the trail, I was in the same sad state I was when I entered Bear Beach.
I now had all of 8k to go. And I couldn't run at all. I was that tired. Normally 8k would be a snap, but I knew I was in some trouble, and I knew I was on my own, so I had to take it easy. After all, it is the JdF Trail and most people spend 1 day to hike to Bear Beach.
So I walked. And boy did the kilometres go slow. I wasn't paying attention to the clock, but it took a long time to see the kilometre posts. Every once in a while, I attempted to run a flat section, but my effort was for nought. My head was down, my hands were on my thighs and I was doing my best to finish in one piece. I was bonking and bonking bad. There were some of the longest kilometres of my life.
At kilometre 3, I decided to sit down, as my stomach was a bit queasy and I was in rough shape. I took my final gel and finished off my water. Still no cramping, but zero energy to move the jello legs. It was only 2-3 minutes before I began again, and I was relieved to get to Mystic Beach shortly after.
Mystic Beach was full of people. And the people seemed to give me some energy, at least, for the time being. I got back on the trail again after the brief beach walk and climbed up the massive staircase back into the canopy of the West Coast Rainforest. The route was slightly uphill here, but I felt obligated to attempt another run. This time, I held form and was able to shuffle through the last stretch and through all the hikers/walkers. I made it to the end without stopping and clocked my time at 6:19.
I was happy to be done. This trail is bloody tough, no matter how many times I've done it, or how many different ways I go. It was a tale of two stories for me this day. The first half was incredible, the second half was dismal. Again, I now am in search of answers.
I feel that I had the fitness to continue my pace that I established early on. It was a similar pace to that of last year, but I was beaten by the trail. My hydration was good, my salt intake was good, my Caloric intake or glycogen reserve let me down.
Do not go to a wedding the night before a big ultra. You will lose energy.
Get more sleep. 4 hours per night is not sufficient.
Last year was a pretty good run when I did it in 6:01. This run sucked, and I still got 6:19. So now I am 100% confident that I can do 5:4x if all goes well.
I am keen to redeem myself from this day, and I think I may give it another go in a couple of weeks. My fitness is there, and there is room in the racing calendar for it. I should be able to do these distance events and finish on a way better note than this. I hate finishing a run and feeling sour, like the trail beat me. And today, without a doubt, it pounded me.
Results will come, but I need to focus on consistency/pace/energy throughout the distance.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Man of Legendary Stature

Ultrarunning is not always glamorous. 1 poo stop, 5 pee breaks, and a nosebleed were highlights for my 40k training run yesterday. Ah yes, and a breakfast of Maltodextrin and Salt, taken in 45 minute intervals. The breakfast of champions.
However, at the end of it, it was perhaps the best training runs of 2010 for me. The 40k route took me from Kemp Lake out in Sooke to Leechtown and back. This would be the first time I would run this section of the Galloping Goose Trail, and it is, without doubt, the most scenic part of the trail. The nosebleed came 3 hours into my 3:33 run, and I was fortunate to have Kleenex on hand to plug one nostril while still on the go.
So it was a good one for me. No cramping on a 40k run is a rare event for me. I even managed to run all the uphills, which I think is pretty impressive, when you consider a couple of those uphills I took on in the last 5 km.
I've now only got one final important training run left. I am planning on doing a 90' hill workout this Thursday at Mt. Doug, just to get a bit more quad endurance in me.

The last 4 weeks have been solid though.
4 weeks ago - 4 hours (28k) on the JdF with Sean Chester.
3 weeks ago - 80' (13k) bail out run.
2 weeks ago - 37k to E/B and back.
1 week ago - 40k to Leechtown and back from Kemp Lk.

JdF Trail in 2 weeks. I have decided to go for it, and decided to try the North to South option this year. Looking forward to it.

Now, on to the real reason I am making this post.

Last Thursday, I had the privilege to speak with Gary Robbins over the phone. Although I have never met him before irl, I feel that he and I have much in common, as we share many of the same passions. He is arguably Canada's best ultrarunner at the moment, and 2 weeks ago he set the 75k West Coast Trail Speed Record with a clocking of 10:05. Anyone who truly knows me knows that I am passionate about the WCT, almost to the point of obsession. I was hoping for a WCT Run this year in 2010, but with my injury earlier this year, it never happened. I still have dreams at night of a WCT attempt in 2011.
Although I am not a reporter, I did conduct a small interview with my idol, and I have included this below. The words down below are not exact quotes from Gary or myself, but I was taking notes, so you can get the gist of what we are discussing....

: Before I begin with the questions I have for you, I just got to congratulate you on setting the WCT Speed Record.

: Thanks, it is finally great to chat with you.

: And also, when you did the double (WCT/JdF) back in 2007 in just under 24 hours, most people thought this kind of goal was unattainable. I would like to thank you for being such a great role model and making the impossible seem possible. Although you may not know it, there are many runners young and old new to ultrarunning that look up to you as 'the guy' in the sport.

: Thanks, I think you have me blushing now. It is humbling to know that others are inspired by me.

: Concerning the WCT, I know you left just shortly after 5:30 am at the North Trailhead. Was light an issue at all?

: Yes, a little. For that time of the day, I really should have left about 15 minutes later, but I had pre-arranged when to meet the Nitnat Ferry guy - between 9 and 9:10 am - so I had to get to that point on time.

: When you got to the beach after the first 12k, were you able to use low tide and run in the ocean on the sandstone shelf at all?

: Not really. There were a couple times I went into the ocean, but it was dangerous down there. The terrain was sketchy and the larger rocks were terribly slippery. It was just dangerous, so I was forced onto the beach and the sand for much of it.

: So now you motor along to Km 22 where you encounter the first cable car crossing at the Klanawa River. Knowing how difficult these crossing are on your upper body, and how many Calories it takes, would you consider swimming across the river instead?

: Out of the 5 cable cars, I only took 2. And yes, the cable cars are pretty brutal, but I would definitely not swim across. There is too much to be lost if your body temperature gets too low, or your gear gets wet or something. While it may be slightly slower, it is just safer to use the cable cars.

: So now you bomb along until Tsusiat at Km 26. Did you find the next section after - from Km. 26 to Km. 33 nasty at all?

: It is a very technical stretch.

: Was the Nitnat guy there for you on time this time around?

: Thankfully, yes. I had phoned him ahead of time, and he was happy to show up earlier than scheduled for me. I gave him a twenty and I was on my way.

: Were the boardwalks slippery at all for you, or were they pretty dry?

: They were pretty good. I know there is usually a heavy mist in the mornings - even on a hot summer day - so they can be pretty bad. I'd say 90% of them were totally runnable. I can't even imagine attempting to run this trail when it is wet. I would never have come close to the record had the weather been different.

: You make it half way, to Monique's Restaurant. Did you stop there at all?

: Yes, it was a short stop though. I ate my trail mix, I filled up my water, and that was pretty much it.

: You now motor along to the Walbran River at Km 53 along the beach. How was that section, and did you manage to ford the river?

: The beach was a little slow going I have to say. Some of it was not very runnable, so it tried my patience on more than one occasion. The river (Walbran) was very high, and I decided not to chance it, so I went up to the trail and did the cable car...reluctantly.

: Along the final 20k or so, there are a few places where you may have thought about taking the beach instead of the trail. Were you able to fast-track along the beach?

: No. It was trail all the way out from the Walbran. I know there are places where the beach may be good, but the tides were not ideal, and the rocks along the beach had already proven to be very slippery. It would have been chancy to take that option.

: One of the most difficult parts of the trail is the final 10k. I know the final 5k for you was really bad, in terms of nutrition, but how did you find the km 65-70 section. You know, the loggy section.

: It is difficult for sure. Very technical, very slow.

: Your GPS showed at the end of the run that the trail was actually 80k, and not 75k. Where was the extra distance on the trail?

: The first kilometre was longish (1.2?), maybe due to the recent storms that the trail had endured. But after that, the kilometre marker were dead accurate for much of the way, until the last 10-15k. The last 5k was more like 8k.

: Was finding water on the trail a problem?

: No.

: Were you disappointed with your 10:08 finish?

: No. I came to set the record, and I did that. Yes I could have been faster, and yes I could have done a few little things differently. However, record set, mission accomplished.

: You have eluded to the fact that running the trail in the other direction may be easier.

: I am 100% convinced that running South to North is easier. Getting that nasty part out of the way when you are fresh has to pay off in the end. Logistics would be easier as well.

: Was your nutrition plan any different than when you do other races (ie. Western States), seeing that this trail is so damn technical?

: No. I use the same nutrition plan wherever I go. I struggled to fuel properly on the trail, and it was my own fault, and I paid dearly for it in the end. I have never bonked so bad in my life. I am used to refueling on the uphills, but because of the terrain, I couldn't really afford to take my eyes off the trail. Then on the flats, I wanted to run them to make up time and speed. The 80k over-distance and my inability to fuel properly (more gels) toward the end caused my bonking. I typically do 3 gels every 2 hours, 2-4 salt caps per hour and real food sporadically whenever I can. I pretty much budget on taking in 300 cal/hr.

: Finally, you know that you were capable of running the trail in 9:30 if everything was perfect. Do you think that the trail can be done sub you, or by anyone?

: Well, the conditions would have to be ideal. I think it might be possible, but the stars would need to be aligned. You would need 2-3 elite guys who are pushing one another the entire way, and perhaps not all of them even finish. The weather would have to be perfect, and the route would have to be the quickest. I think it could be done, but perhaps not for a very long time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Training Update - Aug. 3, 2010

Things have been going pretty well on the training front. I managed to keep up running while on family vacation, and at the same time, get in a couple of longer runs. Since returning to Victoria, I was back on form in the TNW speed sessions, which is a good sign.
For my long runs, I did Gowland-Tod to Glen Lake (28k) three weekends ago. The next weekend I had the opportunity to do a portion of the JdF, where I ran with Sean Chester and completed 28k in 4 hours. And then this past weekend, I bailed on a 36k training run attempt and turned it into a 13k run. I was ok with this, as there is still time for me to get in a few longer ones.
The next two weekends will be critical for me. If I can basically nail two more long (3 hr. ~36-40k) training runs, I should be where I want for the JdF Trail Run on Aug. 29th.
I am still unsure if I will run the distance of the trail, or whether I will save myself for the following weekend at the CR 50k. A decision probably will not be made which race will be my "A" race until the day before the JdF. If I'm feeling good though, it will be hard to hold me back!
In other news, Gary Robbins does a speed attempt of the 75k WCT tomorrow. This is big news in my world. It is what I have dreamed about for the past 3 years, and needless to say, I am jealous beyond belief. However, I admire Gary to the nth degree, and I am really hoping he has a good showing and crushed the record. I think he will do it. Go Gary, Go!
I still have not ruled out of attempting it again myself, possibly next year.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sidney 5k - July 1, 2010

I didn't make the decision to race in this local 5k race until the day before, and as we all know, 5k is not really my distance. However, I have been feeling great in the past couple weeks with my running, and I thought I would use this race to gauge where I was at with my speed.
I had run hard on the Tuesday night previous, so I did have a little concern that I could still be fatigued from that workout, but I was still ready and itching to race.
The field for this race was around 200 runners, and there were a handful of elites, but definitely not quite the field of a typical running race. Looking around, I figured I would fall somewhere in the top 10, but placing was not really what I was after today. I had run this race course in the Spring, and done pretty well to finish with a clocking of 17:42. I also know that on a good day, I could nail a 17:30 on this course. So here we go...
I arrived to the race in good time, and after registering at the table, proceeded to get in a good warm-up. I then positioned myself at the start line, and then soon enough, we were off.
Two fastees took off to the front, and I positioned myself in the second grouping. By about 0.5k, Kevin Searle had pulled ahead of our little pack, and by the 1k marker, I was comfortably in 4th place. I was horrified to see my split time of 3:24. This was bad news for sure - I need to hit between 3:35 and 3:40 to maximize my finishing time. Knowing that I was going too fast, I dialed it back quite a bit over the next kilometre and I let a few guys (including Gary Duncan) go by me. My next split was 3:46, and I was not feeling great about my pacing today. I managed to hold onto my 10k race pace for the next 1.5k, and I kept a 3:40 pace throughout. I was now in a spot in the race where it looked like nobody in front of me was going to be caught by me, and now my efforts were just going to be holding off any stand from behind.
I knew this was not my best race, but when Claire Morgan passed me around the 3.5k mark, I was pretty pissed off. I was initially surprised to see her so far up in the race, but there was a voice inside me that said, "Damned if I am going to be passed by you." It was not the fact that she was a woman, I have no issues with being beaten by women. In fact, I don't mind at all running behind women. However, deep down, I know I am stronger than Claire, so I was going to do my best to stay with her.
In spite of my competitive drive, I struggled to keep up with her. She was flying, and I seemed to be fading. At the 4k mark, she was a good 5 seconds infront of me, and I considered making a move. However, I didn't as I felt that I didn't have a 3 minute+ kick inside of me. I decided to wait to the end...if there was still a chance.
As we rounded the final 500m, I kicked it in and pulled even with Claire on the inside. She sped up, and now it became a battle of determination and guts. I could hear her coach, Paul O'Callahan, barking her to keep up with me, but now it was me who had taken the final stretch by the horns. I drove my elbows and lengthened my stride just to get ahead, and I now could see the finish line and the clock. Paul continued his orders at Claire and yapped out, "Stay with Jeff!", but it was me who used this motivation.
I came over the line right on 18:00, which was good enough for 9th overall.
While this may sound like a good time to the average person, it was kind of a crappy race for me. I went in thinking I was capable of 17:30, and in fact, Gary Duncan (who came 4th) did that time. I still feel that I am as strong as he is, so it still seems that I am not quite translating my training into performance. However, all things considered, it was a decent time, and does provide me with a baseline for where to go.
Lesson learned however...I heard someone say once that for every second you go too fast in the first kilometre of a road race, you will lose 2 seconds with your final result. My first kilometre was 11 seconds out of my range, and in the end, my result was 18 seconds slower than what I did in the Spring. Perhaps if my first kilometre was just a little slower, I would have a new 5k PB. Who knows? I still feel like I race like a novice. More experience is required for sure.
I am not sure what race will be next for me, but there are now many, many races on my radar, and it looks like it could be a very busy August/September for me.
I look forward to continuing my training, pushing myself to the limit, and performing at races to the best of my ability.