Monday, May 25, 2009

Oak Bay 1/2 Marathon - May 24th, 2009

After recently posting that I would not be doing any more races until June, I somehow managed to rework my schedule to fit in this race.
The Oak Bay 1/2 is a fantastic course that starts and begins in Oak Bay, and does and out and back loop along Beach Drive in the Uplands. I was sad a few weeks earlier when I thought I would not be able to fit this run in, especially since it is hosted by my sponsor Peninsula Runners, however things sometime work out for a reason.
I was feeling pretty good with my running the week leading up to the event, but hurt my back the day before the race quite drastically. I was out in Sooke helping my family build a rock wall, and I felt my back twinge when I picked up the very first 66 pound bag of concrete. My back that night was sore and I actually could not really bend over to touch my toes. It hurt to sit up and sit down. At this point, I could only hope that my back would somehow be 100% by the next morning.
The night would be a good one, and I think I actually got 7 hours sleep (this is more than the norm!). However, upon waking up, my back was in no better shape than the night before. I tried to stretch things out, but all I could do was to take a couple Ibuprofen and hope that that would fix things.
I headed to the race in ample time and was blown away to see the setup for the event. There was an awesome start/finish line setup and there were many big runners at the race (the prize money seems to get them out).
I took a light warm-up and quickly realised after about 3 steps that things were going to be really difficult. My back gave me painful jabs with every compression on the road. I was now thinking of maybe not even starting the race. However, as the warm-up progressed I felt slightly better and decided to start the race and just see how things would play out.
The race began with the usual fanfare and I was content to be in the secondary pack behind the leaders. The back pain immediately dissipated and I was, all of a sudden, in this race. The first k went by in 3:30 and I was in a group of familiar faces. Catrin Jones was once again in this race and I knew that she was a consistent 1:24 runner, so I made it my goal to hang onto her. The next couple of k's would go by nicely, and I was actually feeling great. I almost couldn't believe my luck that I was pulling this thing off.
I caught up to race director Dave Milne and chugged alongside him for a k until her said to me, "You are not going to believe this Jeff, but I've gotta stop and take a piss!" I was actually feeling the same thing and was hoping to make it to a regulation bathroom stop, but I thought it would be just as easy to stop and provide some garden hydration to some lucky Oak Bay resident. Dave said, "Here!" and he ducked off into a cedar hedge. I followed his lead and found a nice corner just a few metres ahead. After a good 45 second stop, my bladder was now ready for the next 17k.
I quickly found a zone soon thereafter. I held onto a solid pace and it felt like a comfortable one. I was still on a sub 4 min/km pace, so this was setting me up very well if that pace could ever be held.
At the 10k marker, I was at 39:02. I was now right behind PIH member and master runner, Nancy Baxendale. She was a solid runner and I had always dreamed of one day beating her. The good fortune continued and I was able to pass Nancy at the 12k marker. Catrin Jones was still ahead of me by about 30 seconds, and I thought I had a pretty good chance of catching her as well. My pace was consistent and I was in good standing as I came up to the big hill at the 15k mark. The hill up to the golf course yielded nothing however, as I made no ground on Catrin and lost nothing to anyone else.
I was now really on the final stretch and with the final 4k being flat, I was just hoping to not lose ground. I had started on an ambitious pace, and held it so far, and it appeared as if I was right on a new record time.
Kilometre 10 and 20 would come and go with not much problem and I felt alright. I was wishing at this point I had a bit more energy to hammer out the final kilometre, but there was not too much more high-octane gas in the tank. I did make the final hill though without too much difficulty and began to pick up my legs for the final chute finish.
The final clocking was 1:24:52. This was an unbelievable time considering I almost didn't start the race. In a perfect combination of the adrenaline and the Ibuprofen kicking in at the right time, my back pain seemed to not matter for the race.
The time would be 1 second off my PR.
I finished 18th overall out of 621 runners.
I finished 3rd in my age group.
Shortly after the race, I would meet my family and do the Kids Crazy Kilometre with Teagan and Griffin. The event was perfect, and it was simply an awesome morning for me.
As I write this, the day after, my back hurts again. I think I need to see someone to see if it is muscular, SI joint alignment, or disc issues. With any luck, I will be good to go again in a day or two...I've gotta be good for my next race in 2 weeks.
Update: So I went to the chiropractor and my back was severely out of whack. Things are feeling much better now after a serious adjustment. The pain has subsided tremendously. Thank you chiro Cindy Berna!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Upcoming Races

So, the training has been going reasonably well since the 50k race. I have had some time (during the recovery) to firm up my races for this year. The events I have signed up for are consistent with my goals I set at the beginning of the year. I was mainly using the 50k race earlier this month as a test to see if I was up to snuff for a full year of ultra events. Check.
So now the summer will unfold as follows - all these events are confirmed:

June - Great Walk - 63k
July - Hurricane Ridge Tour (PIH)
August - Nootka Trail - 40k
August - JdF Trail - 47k
September - Great Lake Walk - 56k

Over and out. Time to continue to train!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Elk/Beaver 50k Ultra - May. 2nd, 2009

I was pretty excited for this race, as I was considering this to be one of my "A" races this year. The training has been going very well this year so far, and I was hopeful that a 4 hour goal could be achieved.
However, as well as the training went leading up to this race, I came down with a nasty chest cold and cough for the taper portion of my training. Therefore, other than one 20k night run, there was next to no running in the last two weeks before the race. I kept telling myself that this wouldn't really matter, as the endurance base had already been built.
Race day came, and I was happy with the sleep I got leading up to the race. I was also content with my diet and hydration, so I was as prepared as I could have been.
I arrived to the race in good time and spent my warm-up time getting familiar with some of the formalities of the race. I learned that the picnic area at Beaver Lake was used by the runners to line-up all the gels and drinks that would be consumed over the next few hours or so. So I lined mine up next to Rob Mackay and Don Peterson's.
It was nice to see a few familiar faces at the race. I am always in awe of how friendly and supportive the running community always seems to be. It truly is quite rare to see anyone who exhibits any sort of negative behaviour. After some small chat, we lined up loosely for the start.
The race began and unlike most of the shorter distances, there was no vieing for position, and there was no hammering off the start line. Instead, people seemed to break off into pairs and chat along the way. In these races, it is imperative to find the correct pace. For me, finding this pace can be difficult. I have learned that my body loves to sit back into a 42-43 minute per 10k pace. This is not good when you are running shorter, faster races, because if I lose focus, I slow down. It is also not good for ultra events, because if I lose focus, I tend to speed up - especially early on.
My goal pace was to hit 46-47 minutes per 10k loop of the lakes. I latched onto Matthias Schoek from the start because I knew he was attempting to do 45 minute loops. Things were comfortable early and we hit the 5k marker right on 23 minutes. So far so good.
The weather was ideal. No wind, no rain, no sun, overcast skies. But I did begin to sweat a little after about 5k or so, and I suspect this was because I was used to running in slightly cooler weather (or I was still a little bit sick).
After the 5k mark, Matthias seemed to kick it up a gear and I let him go. I was not going to be a fool and push myself in the least this early in the race. I had done this before in distance events, only to pay the stiff price in the end. At about the 6k mark, I now had caught up to Keith Wakelin and I ran with him for the remainder of the first 10k loop. I got to know him quite well in those 4k, and I was very satisfied when my first loop ended in 46 minutes.
I found my gear and grabbed a quick gel and a swig before I headed out for my 2nd loop. Keith was taking more time than I was, so now I was flying solo in the race. I could see Matthias ahead of me by a minute or two and I could also see Rob Mackay - the 50M leader just ahead of me. The goal now on this 2nd loop was just to replicate the first loop over again in 46-47 minutes. While the pace was consistent, my body was giving me signs that a bathroom break was needed. So at the 15 mark, I stopped briefly to ensure that a comfortable race was going to be had. I also forgot that I should be taking an S-Cap every hour, so again, I stopped at the 5k water station to get this done. The 2nd loop would be comfortable and the time would be almost exactly that of my first. I was now at the 20k point, and feeling fine.
I stopped again briefly at my gear and headed out for loop #3. As I began this loop, I saw Rob Mackay still just ahead of me. I decided at this point to go after a quicker lap time. I thought if I could get to the 30k marker with a 45 minute loop here, I could bank some valuable time for the miserable 5th loop.
And the plan nearly worked. I kept Rob in my sights and at the Hamsterly Beach section, I could see Matthias only about 2 minutes ahead. I felt good and thought I could reel him in a bit. At the 25k point of the race, I was still doing great and I started to tell myself to start counting down the kilometres. Things continued great until about the 29k mark when I started to feel a slight tightening of my right hipflexor and both calves. This feeling came as no surprise, as one enters these races to have a battle with adversity. The 3rd loop ended fine though, and my lap time was again, almost identical to that of the first two (even though I felt I was going faster).
The fourth loop now began and right away, I knew this lap was going to be slower. My body was getting tired and muscles were now beginning to get heavy. I was alright with this. Things had gone very well so far, and I was now making it my goal to get through this loop without cramping. I took an extra S-Cap at the rowing boathouse in an effort to stop any tightening. It didn't really work, but I was still trodding along decently. By the straight-section along the back of the lake, I could hardly see Rob Mackay and I would guess he was now about 1k ahead of me. I survived the loop without cramping, and I was now at 40k. The lap time would reflect what was going on, and it took me 50 minutes. And although things seemed to be going South, there really was much to be positive about here.
The crowd was telling me "only 1 loop to go - that is nothing", and they were right. I could do 1 loop easy, even if I had to walk. But, I had no intentions of walking it. I had done well so far. The clock was showing 3:10 and I was at 40k. If this were a marathon (and one could easily argue that 40k of the lakes is similar to a 42.2k marathon road course in terms of timing) I had just got a marathon PR.
I made it my goal just to get as far as I could without walking now. I told myself that even a slow jog is way faster than a walk. And with that positive thinking, I headed out for the final loop. And while I would love to finish this story telling everyone that I hammered the final loop in 45 minutes or less, the reality is a bit of a different ending.
I made it to the 43k point before I had to finally stop and adopt a walk/run agenda. My calves were cramping up pretty regularly and my IT bands had been giving me issues for about the last 10k or so. I was able to get through the next few k's by walking for 2 mins and then jogging for 2 mins. I was actually surprised that I still lapped a few people in this time.
However, just as I passed a lady at the 47 marker, my left hamstring cramped as hard as a rock and nearly took my body down to the ground. I stood still and held my leg, writhing in pain. The lady jogged by and asked if I was ok. I nodded painfully and she said, "Stretch it out. You got salt caps?" I nodded again and spent about 2 minutes escaping the cramp.
It is funny how I was so close, yet so far at this point. I focused on my breathing and began to walk for a minute. I then tried again to jog it on home, and it seemed to work if I focused on my breathing. It definitely wasn't pretty, but I was now again into a walk/run pattern. I actually caught back up to that lady I saw earlier at the 49k point, and at this point, I was determined to just ensure I ran the finish. As I hit the final stretch I could see my family cheering for me near the finish. I took my daughter's hand and ran the final 20m with her.
The race would end successfully in a time of 4:10:55. The last loop definitely was not pretty, but there was much to be proud of. When the results came out, I had finished in 5th place in the 50k race (and 2nd in my age group).

My lap times were as follows:

Lap #1 - 46:47
Lap #2 - 46:42
Lap #3 - 46:43
Lap #4 - 50:08
Lap #5 - 60:35

Total: 4:10:55

Now I spend some time recovering and contemplating my next race.