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Monday, July 6, 2015

Reload: What is Ultra Inspired?

When I first got into trail running, the aspect that lured me the most was play. I really enjoyed running through the woods. It reminded me of when I was a kid, hopping on my BMX and riding down the street in Coquitlam to a friend's place who lived on the side of the ravine. We would jump his fence and go trounce through the woods, sliding down slopes, climbing trees and playing Knights and Dragons. We would laugh endlessly.

Al Quinto, Simone and I at top of Shannon Falls on Sea to Summit
(Photo Credit: Gregan Dunn)
Returning to that childhood feeling through trail running definitely reignites that emotional state from my youth. A simpler time where nothing really matters other than the forest breeze on your face, the sound of the pine needles crunching underfoot, and the sunlight shining down between the gaps in the canopy.
I jumped into distance pretty quickly, with the 20 to 25 km long run as a benchmark within a single season, and felt great during those runs. Tired, fatigued, and expended but still laughing. Still ready to go at it again the next day. I enjoyed the shorter races, the 8k to 25k trail events that could take anywhere from an hour to three and a half hours depending on the course. They were challenging, I could redline the fast bits, and they required strategy and endurance. I'm analytical about a lot of things, and it appeased that desire in me to dial in pace, fuelling and technique on a race.

Then came the Ultras. I was so inspired by the concept of running for 50 kilometres or more. Being on the trail for hours, and (for my pace), perhaps 8 or 10 hours on a 50k distance. It was a challenging goal, and one that I knew was just out of reach for me unless I trained for it. I wanted it badly, but the work had to be put in. For those who may not know, my first race Ultra attempt was the Squamish 50 miler which ended badly at kilometre 53'ish of 80k. My mind wanted it, but my body wasn't ready. I have completed two Ultra races, and the distance four times, but always with immense struggle.

Living on the Edge with Marie Boucher and Jeremy Schwab.
(Photo Credit: Jeremy Schwab)
The biggest hurdle I've had is my gut. At times, I feel like it's taken over my life and this blog itself, it's such a monster. It's an issue that seems to evade explanation, and I've seen the gamut of experts, including a Sport's Nutritionist, three Neurologists, two Gastroenterologists, three sport's science PHD's and have received loads of advice from elite, mid pack and back of the pack friends and colleagues.
I've read every book under the sun from Noakes,  Fitzgerald, Daniels and Maffetone, as well as peer reviewed studies on endurance sport's physiology and training effects. If there's a podcast about endurance training, I've listened to it. The tests have been endless, from countless investigative blood, urine, and fecal samples, pipes down the throat, stress tests on treadmills, CT scans, MRI's, and Ultrasounds. There have been some anomalies, each given a different strategy for training. I've listened and adhered to the training prescriptions each time. They all end with IV bags as my body denies the time based exertion and stops taking in fuel and water.

To say it's frustrating is an understatement. In most instances, my legs and muscular strength is fine (aside from the cramping). I know I have to drink and eat more, but it's easier said than done. I can look at my water bottle, and take a sip, and it'll come back up seconds later. Same with calories, no matter the form it takes. It's hard to hydrate the body when that happens even if the previous hours were on point in both calories and ounces per hour. When the switch turns off, there's no turning it back on.

So this leaves me at a turning point. Fact of the matter is I only have so many mass implosions left in me. It's hard not only on my system, but also on my family. I also don't want to end up deep in the back country and hit that point of no return where help is challenging to get. It's not fair to my family or to my running friends to wonder if I'm gonna turn into a Zombie and become a liability.

It's July of 2015. Two years ago this month I completed my first 49km run. I did it on minimal fuel and water, and felt pretty good aside from some leg cramps. My threshold has shrunk, not grown, since that time, hence listening to my body is key. I'm going to pretend like I can't run an Ultra (which isn't too far from the truth) but not lose what it means to me. Inspiration.

My Wife Simone and I
This had forced me to do some soul searching. I'm thankful I can run for 4 or 5 hours and about 25 k with little issues. So that's where I'm going to reload. I am still inspired by the Ultra distance. By the challenges it produces, the adaptation it requires, and the mindset it requires to achieve such feats. The 100k mark is my ultimate goal distance. But not yet. I'm hitting CTRL+ALT+DELETE and resetting and reframing my abilities and get back to a "play" state of mind. I've developed some amazing memories and irreplaceable friendships along this continuing journey, from our running group We Run Mas, to being involved in the local trail running community on a deeper level than I had imagined or hoped.

We Run Mas aka Coolest Team on the Planet
(Photo by Simone Kumar)
I still love that moment of taking the last few steps to the summit of a mountain top, and seeing the endless views and vistas of the landscape, with only the sounds of your breath and the whisper of the trees. Descending a fast hill, covered in roots, rocks and lined with moss covered trees that witness your passing. Stopping at a mountain stream and rinsing your face, dunking your buff and feeling the crisp, clean water refreshing your senses. These are the things I love about trail running, and despite my Ultra goals for this year escaping into the distance, I'm still running towards it because I have to know what's beyond the horizon.

Chasing the Sunset
(Photo Credit: Jamie Douglas)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


The season has changed. And with the warm weather the leaves turn to deep green. The sun has gone from low on the horizon to its powerful arc high above, sending waves of heat and sunbeams between the trees. The creeks have changed, from raging torrents, to slow trickles. The snowless mountain peaks release their ground water from between the roots.

And so I run. My feet landing gently on the hardening ground, once covered in frost, now becoming firm as the dry earth cracks, beckoning and begging for the sky to quench its thirst with rain. But it does not come. We experience one of the driest Springs in history. The Pacific North West, accustomed to the rain forest humidity, smells more of drying pine, baked soil and endless dust.

The Iron Knee race flows swiftly by. I run it with a carefree approach and enjoy it's undulating rhythm along the Baden Powell trail. It's my third year on the course, and despite my early season goals of pushing, a hip injury has slowed my pace to match the meandering waters of the streams that cross its path. Slow, relentless, and weak but unwavering.

But a few days later, Survival of the Fittest race in Squamish, where the trails have claimed my spirit on more than one occasion, I toe the starting line. Uncertain. But determined. I run and accept the pain of my body not being as I'd hoped. I know the edge of the envelope that will push me to further injury, and stay on this side of discomfort. The heat is relentless but I flow through the trails like a meandering and ever drying stream of water.

We gather a few weeks later. To conquer an epic quest of the North Shore Mountains. The Hanes Valley. Notorious for claiming the lives of the unprepared. It's beauty like a siren's song that lures those within it's fold, never to return. The morning sun rises, and by the time we reach the rocky slopes of the mountain scree, deep in the back country, the sun has changed from a warm greeting to a beastly dragon that breathes down on us and beats its wings with hot gusts that sap the strength of many.

I'm falling apart. The water in my body won't hold. The fuel which I feed my cells won't take. I persevere. Rolling over the rocks and roots and stumps. Moving along the paths with trees that stare down, and have little care for our plight or for our wonder. The stream has stopped. The moisture of the water has all but evaporated. Only the heat remains.

And so I no longer run. There is nothing left. The earth of my being cracks. The systems that generate life and laughter have blown away and I lie there, drought filled. My body becomes my enemy.
Not even water, the giver of life stays within me and I once again fall victim to the place I love the most. The mountain, the forest, and the sun has claimed me once again.

. . . and so I run.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

5Peaks Golden Ears: Race Report 2015

Roll the Butt

The Training plan for this year's 5 Peaks Golden Ears race consisted of the following . . .

Yup, nothing. Zip. Nada. El Zero! My right hip is injured since mid March, so I had logged the following in weekly distance:

April 6-12: Zero km
April 13-19: 43.3km
April 20-26: 17.2km
April 27-May3: Zero km
May4 to Raceday: 4km

April and May was supposed to target 80km weeks, so the training was in a massive downward spiral as my gait and hip mobility became more and more restricted.

So, reset the race plans for May, and decide to just go out and have fun, treat the race like a fun frolic in the woods. I had been rolling the butt and doing rehab to help my cause for a good summer, and wrote off any competitive goals for the Spring races. This turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

The Kumars with Brandi checking in runners
My wife and boys were helping with registration, so we had to be at the park for 7am, which meant a 5:30am wakeup call. A good 3 hours of sleep, and I groggily drove us down to the race.
The race HQ was being set up by a small team of volunteers, and directed by Solana and Jay. Tents and start finish chute, along with the sponsor venues, and the area was turning into a little bit of magic.


The crowds started filtering in, so I grabbed a nice serene shot of Alouette Lake, while my family was helping racers with the growing but well managed line up.

The 5Peaks BC race series has a superb atmosphere, with music, MC'ing courtesy of John Crosby, Distance Runwear and Altra Shoes representation, local mountain rescue, massage tables, and food stations which had De Dutch as a new inclusion this season!

We hung out, spent time with friends, got to reunite with familiar faces and then got ready with a quick warm up as the kids 3K race was taking place. As we were warming up, we saw The Murph doing pickups . . . he wasn't intended to race, but he got suckered in somehow and was getting bib ready.

Colin and Jamie were planning on crushing their PR's, so they seeded in the first wave, while Andy Joyce, Al Quinto and I seeded in the 3rd wave. I'm not sure where the rest of our WRM crew seeded, but we represented really well this year on both side of the tape (racing and marshalling, volunteering, and in Craig's instance, walking around with a radio!)

Our countdown hit the GO, and we burst out of the starting chute! Haha, not quite. I literally jogged out of the chute at a high five minute pace. I was going to stick to my plan of cruising this race and playing the whole time. Don't look at the Suunto watch, and just have fun.

Look at me, I'm Racing!!

Andy got ahead and I jokingly said to him, "See you at the water crossing!" which was in the first 500 meters. It traditionally creates a choke point for racers, as comfort levels vary crossing these areas. As the racers around me tiptoed and waited for access to the stepping stones, I just jumped and waded through and ran right into Andy's back. "See, told ya," we laughed.

The first 4k is beautiful moss covered trees with rolling terrain and a couple of more small water crossings. The weather was beautiful, so the levels were lower than last year. Al caught up and ran past me, looking strong as we yo-yo'd. Andy took off, and I lost him for the rest of the race.

I chatted with some fellow runners, like Felix and Kristin and took half a gel about 1k before the Aid Station. I'm practising my gel/water fuelling that Mike Murphy has been advising me on, and it seems to be working.

As I crossed the road, marshalled by Sarah (Volunteer Coordinator for Squamish 50), who seemed to be having way too much fun as a traffic cop. The Aid station was just up the service road after she whistled us through. I stopped at the AS, stretched the hip, drank two small cups of water and dumped some on my head. I waved farewell to the crew there and caught up with Al as we ran up the one mile service road to the base of Incline Trail.

Al, Kristin and I chatted on the first 1/3rd and then we spread out. Felix came past and joked that this was the "recovery" part for me, and he expected to see me pass him on the downhill. I took the climb up Incline with a determined but relatively safe pace, and practiced mixing up my form as per our training session a few weeks back. I walked, ran and power hiked, transitioning to one of the three techniques dependant on how I felt and never staying in one stride for too long. This seemed to work really well, as I never hit any hard burning or leg fatigue but spread out the energy usage across all the muscle groups.

As we neared the top of the climb, I started running and dropped into Eric Dunning trail. The first 100 meters of the technical downhill my legs felt like rubber bands, and then I hit my stride. I haven't been able to run downhill at all in weeks, but here I was - flying and passing tons of runners. It felt great, and I was loose and fluid. I managed to PR my segment for this trail, which was awesome!

Colin at the finish with a PR 

Once we kicked back out on the service road, I dialled it back again, and took the rest of my gel. I rolled into the aid station, said hi, drank two cups of water and splashed another on my head. A few people who I had passed on the bottom section of the last descent passed me on the next climb but I didn't mind as I was just out to have a good old time.

The final climb is net uphill but has some rollers in it, and I weaved my way up at a relaxed pace. I was with one group of racers and, as we neared the waterfall, I started yelling, "De Beer is near! De Beer is near!" A girl commented that I had great visualization skills, and I ran up to a female racer on the Sport course and stopped. I turned around and introduced her to the pack I was with and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Michelle de Beer!" They all had a laugh, I gave Michelle a hug and traipsed up the final knoll.

The waterfall looked refreshing, so I took a dip, splashed my legs and head, dunked both my buffs and enjoyed the cool water. Normally on a short course I'd just push through all these moments, but in an injured non-racing state of mind I took it all in.

Nicole was race sweep and also took a dip in the waterfall!
The final descent came up, and I was still feeling really fluid so I leaped and skipped my way down to the next road crossing. I had to put on the brakes pretty hard at the road crossing, and as I hit the far side of the road my right calf cramped. If you follow my blog or know me personally, you know cramping is normal for me on Ultra distances, but this cramp was more because of hip compensation than anything else. I wasn't too disturbed by it, so dug my knuckle into the muscle, and slowed the pace. Felix and a few others cruised past me, I jogged the final leg into the beach. Kristin caught up and asked if I wanted to sprint in with her, which I declined but I urged her to make up some spots and go for it, which she did.

I literally jogged along the beach, and asked some spectators if the finish line was in the water or that way . . . I seriously thought about taking a detour, but the finish was a couple hundred meters away.
I ran in slow motion style with exaggerated motions across the finish, smiling and happy.

Finish Line Post Jog

I glanced at my watch for the first time just to stop it from tracking any further and quizzically checked the time on the official clock. I think I was within seconds of my last year race!! What the cheese. I was on a shopping trip to the mall on this race, window shopping and chatting with the neighbours and I almost PR'd?! Right on! I think I have a new race strategy.

WRM Kids

Lianne finishing her first trail race (spent).
Gregan, Michelle de Beer, Me
Colin, Me, Craig (w Radio), Al, Andy J.

John and I have a shirtless hug thing going on!

Joseph with a photo bomb of Paris' photobomb of my wife, all being photobombed by a shirtless guy in the background.

Post race festivities were amazing, with tons of food, friends and laughs. We headed to the water after a good while and shared our experiences with each other, and then my family and I had a burger BBQ on the beach. What a superb Saturday. From the race itself, the organization, the feeling and all the fun that was had, it was a definite highlight and a great way to kick off the 2015 season.

Official Time: 1:26:20 (only 18s slower than last year!)
Official Placing: 97 out of 242
Strava File Click Here

Up Next: Iron Knee 25k in two weeks!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eagle Mountain Adventure: Trail Report

Me, Colin, Craig, Al
There's been two items on my bucket list for a really long time. One: to summit Mount Beautiful and run the Lyndsay Lake Loop, and Two: to explore the single track trails above the Powerline on Eagle Mountain in Coquitlam.

I knew there were some awesome mountain bike trails on Eagle that are kind of a secret and not well used since they're loosely marked and quite extreme in some areas. A couple of the trails show up on Google maps, so I set out with some friends to go see what we could see.

Heading into the trails with no real set destination, course intent and the freedom to let the day unfold is always extremely fun. Being in new territory is "relaxing" since you interact with the trail and the terrain as it comes to you.

We were prepared for 3 or 4 hours with at least 5 hours as a backup and started at 9:30am from the Equestrian parking lot in Buntzen Lake. Al, Colin, Craig and I set out up Eagle Trail switchbacks to the powerline where Al was having some flashbacks of his Diez Vista 50k experience.

After we hit the lookout, we headed east and found a trail head. It wasn't much of anything - no markings, quite grown over, and very unassuming. Then, a few steps in, and whammo! Jackpot!! We hit a huge fallen tree that had notches on the trunk for grip that led to a tight little bridge on an incline of about 30%. The trail went up and up, and after some time, saw some guardians along the way, of which Happy the Dwarf seemed to be the leader (see the video linked to the bottom of this trail report). The trail known as "Full Pull" would be amazing as a downhill experience, but the climb was also super enjoyable.

Love Creative Signage!

I was using my gel and water fueling strategy today, and felt great on the climbs for the whole day. We reached a lookout that was jaw dropping, but then Colin deflated that balloon as he cheekily pointed at Eagle Peak and teased Mount Beautiful in the mix. Fine, he was right. Let's push the day and get to Mount Beautiful with a Swan Falls descent. Our day just got more interesting.

Colin Wasn't Impressed .  . . He Wanted Peaks! (pictured is Craig)

We headed up some small jeep access roads and hit a connector to the top of Halvor Lunden trail. Our way to here was circuitous and the simpler way would be to do the reverse of our route (Swan Falls ascent and Halvor Lunden descent) or a HL out n Back. Doing the mountain bike trail exploration first is fun, but added almost two hours to our excursion.

We got onto the Lyndsay Lake trail network and followed the most direct path. We started hitting snippets of snow, and enjoyed the environment immensely. We all mentally adjusted our timelines as we knew 5 hours would be more likely for the outing (We ended up being out for 5:59:24).

Lyndsay Lake

As we left Lyndsay Lake, a sign said "Eagle/Mount Beautiful Peak 2.8km." Well, that 2.8k was a long hike! Super steep, with lots of ankle deep or mid-shin snow that made for exhilarating, albeit pace stifling, travel.

Once we got through Hemlock Pass which is a gulley between two peaks, the profile was amazing with little look outs all over. We were approaching full stoke levels!

Craig coming out of Hemlock Pass

The summit of Mount Beautiful was something else. The day was perfect and clear and we could see for miles in 360 degrees. Mount Baker to the South East, and Diamond Head in Squamish to the North. Diez Vista "peak" to the west looked like a speed bump in comparison to the elevation we were at. We took our time and took it all in, staring out over different viewpoints and absorbing the wonders of nature in our backyard.

Al Looking West towards Vancouver (That's Diez Vista on the bottom left)

The Boys, Looking North East

Looking North towards Dilly Dally and Squamish

Once we were ready, the way down was initially tricky to find, and we slid down lots of small snow banks in an almost "tele-ski" manner. Once we ht the Dilly Dally/Swan Falls junction, we took Swan Falls. It was slow going, and not very runnable as not only is it extremely steep and unforgiving (slip on a fast descent and it could be game over in some areas) but also my hip injury (it's locked up but recovering) wasn't up to the constant jumping and drop off impacts. I had to consciously land on my left leg, which was in essence like single leg hopping down a mountain. I was agile but muscular fatigue was setting in. Thankfully the nutrition plan was holding up, and aside from one moment of hunger at the peak, I felt energetic all day.

This is the angle of Swan Falls Trail! Eep

One of many rope sections of the day  . . . hardcore!

About 3/4 of the way down (did I mention how steep it was?) we hit the main falls, and cooled off. a few more rope descents, and some torn shoes for Craig, and we kicked out onto the Buntzen Reservoir. We walked to North Beach, Colin took a swim, and we ran back to the Equestrian parking lot with a nice push at the finish.

I was super stoked to have knocked this one off the bucket list, and was excited with the detour to Mount Beautiful Peak. It's a challenging trail system, and one that relies on giving yourself enough time to complete (which we did). We did run low on water, but fresh snow melted into handheld bottles remedied the shortage at the top of the mountain.

The Strava File (Click the Link)

There's still some additional exploration to do on the Eagle MTB trails, so I'll be heading back there in the weeks to come!

Here's a video of the day as it unfolded. This Summer is gonna be awesome!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Race Report: Cap Crusher 13K 2015

A return to Capilano Canyon with Coast Mountain Trail Series first of the season Cap Crusher, the race that went so well last year but had the small issue of me going foolishly off course, required redemption.

Ready for Redemption!

The course is excellent, zig-zagging and with a constant mix of up and down, and mini-loops. In fact, it's quite bewildering, and any time I've tried to recreate it on my own, it's next to impossible.

It's a fast race, where you can't let off the pedal or your average pace will suffer with a slower end time then expected. I was shooting for (as I do every year) faster than last year, with a goal of 90 minutes.

To prep for the race, mileage through the winter was really good with lots of climbing available due to little to no snow pack, and mild, springlike weather. I wasn't concerned about being under trained, and the Cap Crusher was going to be a training race regardless; a nice way to kick off the season and get into the "competitive" frame of mind. I had even gotten in some speed training this year, with tempo, fartleks and track intervals.

David, Jeff K., Chris L., Me, Barb, Joanna, Gregan's Hand

The bonus this year, a couple of school friends who I had reconnected with, Jeff K. and Chris L. were signed up, so that added a new element of fun. Also, our WRM running friends were either racing or volunteering, so the party atmosphere was lining up. My wife and kids were helping with registration, so we were going to arrive early.

The weather that whole weekend was miserable and wet, but somehow, come Sunday, the skies cleared, and despite being cool, the rain clouds refrained from ruining the fun.

After getting bibbed, and standard pre-race briefing, the 13k runners lined up while the 8k runners staged behind for a 15minute staggered start.

My race strategy was to run the hills, float the downs, and maintain a tempo pace/effort on the flats (of which there are few). We bolted off the start line (I had a mild watch start issue as I locked it too early but fixed within seconds), and then pushed a high 3 minute pace across the Cleveland Dam to get into the correct pack. The first climb happens within 200 meters, and I ran up with a nice pace. I could see my friend & training partner Jamie (who kills hills) up ahead, and managed to keep sight of him all the way to the peak, although he had solid uphill effort going.
Technical Uphill (Photo Credit: Brian McCurdy)
Jamie, Well Ahead of the Mid-Pack (Photo Credit: Brian McCurdy)
I got jammed up on the downhill with slower runners, and attempted to pass, until we kicked out into the rolling section to the out and back. Our friends were marshaling all over the course, so there was a constant cheer and support squad at every turn and junction!

The out 'n' back is a good time to settle into a race rhythm, and I ran a low 4 minute pace on the way out, and low 6 minute pace on the way back as it drops and rises by 60 meters elevation. I was happy with that.
There was a girl in front of me who kept dropping me on the flats with a faster base pace, then I'd catch her on the up, then she'd drop me . . . this reeling in and out kept up for a good half of the race, and she kept me at bay. When we finally zoomed left here, zipped right there, bolted up that way, and whipped down this way, the stairs arrived. I had been pushing hard on the ups the whole race, and then these stairs clobbered me. The misty air of the canyon was playing with my asthma a bit and breathing on the way up the stairs was slower than I wanted (a touch over 30 seconds slower than last year). I lost my nemesis on this section.

Coming In For Some PED's (aka Asthma Puffer)
 I ran through the aid station (which is also the start/finish), and quick hit of the puffer from my wife, and I was off. High fives and shakalakas to the friends and family, and back into the trail network. I was running with no fuel or water, and for some reason I was thinking there was a water station at the hatchery. There wasn't, and in hindsight I should have run with a small 4 ounce bottle. I was parched, but no matter, run on!

The final climb approached, my legs were definitely fatigued, and I got an ounce of water from a fellow racer. More psychological than anything else, but it revived my mental energy.

I knew the final climb was steep, so I pushed hard, and got some heckles from Chloe and David A. who remarked that he was amazed I was still on course this year! Yes, getting off course on a Gary flagged race as I did in 2014 is a shameful thing and one I likely won't live down. Good times.

Another racer, Chris Sheehy and I hit the top together and I was determined to pass not only him, but anyone else I saw on the final descent and along the dam, so I turned it up and dug deep. Somewhere along the way, my shirt came off too. The final 500 meters was a fast interval pace, and I dialed in 4 racers on that stretch! Interval training helped a ton to get into that discomfort on tired legs.
My Mum Catching the Finishing Push

So with glorious nipple tape, and not much else, I finished my second Cap Crusher and clobbered my old time by 8 minutes and 26 seconds. Super stoked about that.

The post race festivities were fun, with tons of prizing, including shoes, packs, beer and other gems. I had a chance to catch up with friends about their race and volunteer experience, and congratulate the Murph on his win.

All in all, another stellar experience by Geoff Langford, Gary Robbins, and Dianna Christopoulos and the whole CMTS gang.

Up Next: 5 Peaks Golden Ears and the Squamish50 30k O-Run!

Official Finish Time: 1:28:33 (48th out of 108)
My Strava File
Official Race Images Courtesy of Brian McCurdy

Miruna, Kat, David A, and Me

Banana Selfie


Friday, January 30, 2015

Looking Ahead . . .

It's been awhile since my last post, and much has happened in the interim. Training cycle slowed down, work picked up, and now the training cycle starts to ramp up again as 2015 is taking form.

I believe that "resets" are necessary for endurance running and high impact sports.
Maintaining the running volume, intensity and mental focus over an extended period of time can lead to many issues, not limited to adrenal fatigue, mental burnout and over training. To that extent, I personally did very little for most of December, and in turn January has been a reinvigorating experience.

When I reflect back on last year, I realized that some of my final posts had a very dull energy to them, which may have potentially (and wrongly) given the idea that my 2014 was a "bad" year. It can't be further from the truth. I completed my first official Ultra finish line (Diez Vista 50k), absolutely crushed my Iron Knee 24k PR by a whopping 26 minutes, crewed and paced friends at Van100, climbed multiple mountains after learning how to run uphill, and improved my technical downhill technique throughout the year. Our running group grew but maintained its intimacy and remains the biggest motivator for me personally to make progress and mark every moment of this stage of my life.
I logged a lot of miles, a lot of laughs and a ton of irreplaceable memories. Even my Squamish 50 race weekend was filled with support from friends, amazing developments as the Logistics Coordinator, and I dug deeper as a human being than I ever had before.

Chillin On Mount Seymour

So looking back, my 2014 was fantastic! And I may not have realized that fact had I not exhaled in December and granted myself the time to realize just how good it was.

So here we are, looking at 2015, and a few realities have set in. Foremost of which is I and many of my friends are no longer "new" to running. I started in 2012, so am going into what I call my intermediate stage of running. In the the competency grid, it would be the "consciously competent" box. As a group, we're discovering our own personal paths; what works in training for us individually, and what changes are required for the upcoming season. My nutritional consults with Ashley Charlebois at Fortius Sport Center in Burnaby, along with a rack of tests with their Sports Science Doctors, had revealed some physiological reasons as to why my crashes were happening outside of training loads. So by all accounts, the path is being tweaked, fine tuned and modified to set up greater success.

WRM Anniversary Run 2014 - Year Two

My race season this year is very focused. I'll partake in a few tuner races for fun (5 Peaks Golden Ears, CMTS Cap Crusher etc), and have my A races set out also. The sidebar on the blog will be updated with those goal efforts and dates.

Having a laugh with Solana
I'm bringing speed training back into the mix for 2015 for a couple of reasons. One, I like running fast. It's part of the thrill for me, and I enjoy charging down the trail for extended periods of time. Second, if I can grow my top speed, then my 70% effort will be relative to that effort, allowing me to do so for a longer period of time. I'm using pace charts and effort targets based on the Furman Institute method for two runs a week; intervals which will start in February (yay 4:01 pace/km repeats!) and then a mid week Tempo run that sits anywhere from 4:20 pace/km to 4:44 pace/km for 5k to 9k periods, not including the necessary warm up, cool down and strides. I had some of my greatest gains in overall running form, efficiency, lactate thresholds and top end speed with this method, so another push in this area is exciting. Speedwork, when done with a controlled program has the benefit of making you a better overall runner, so when you dial down the pace and intensity into the long distance, factors such as form, posture, and technique don't fall into the "Ultra Shuffle" trap.

Sometimes we need rope!

For long runs, the plan is to get as high as possible . . . elevation and peak bagging. Not only will this generate some great views and opportunities to explore, but as a secondary bonus ensure that hill training both up and down are factored into physical adaptation. Getting to local peaks and enjoying the wonder of our local natural mountain ranges is world class, and to deny that experience would be foolish!

My first A race for the season is going to be the Mountain Madness Iron Knee 24k, which is a course that I love to race (and which will also be modified this year due to rockslides in the Seymour River). A race of that distance is a speed session for me, and I want to push hard for the entire time, which if the profile and route are similar to previous years ought to be about 2h:20m to 2h:25m for goal time. Speed and efficiency will be the key for the gains that I'm looking for.

WRM Group Run to Norvan Falls
Ultra A race will be Squamish 50k again. I'll make sure I don't compromise my race as I did in 2014 by ensuring I get enough sleep and pre-race nutrition. I recently purged my gut of H. Pylori with a two week hit of HP-Pac which was a likely culprit for many of my gut issues. If that was the magic bullet, then I expect to see huge gains in my endurance effort with the ability to actually take in fuel throughout a long day. In the meantime, I'm doing one or two calorie deprivation runs to work my metabolic efficiency, and have been fine up to 4 hours with as little as 8 ounces of water. Pre-run I take a 6oz drink of Vega Energizer, and post run Vitargo S2 for recovery. I keep a peanut butter sandwich with me to alleviate hunger but haven't had the need on anything less that 4 hours, and on 5 to 6 hours a couple of small bites is doing the trick. As the volume increases, small adaptions built on this system with an increase in calories per hour will be the key to my Ultra goals. For Squamish 50k, I'm shooting for 7h:30m. Bring it!

On the Upper Lynn Loop

Adventure A race of the year will be Coast Mountain Trail Series Sky Pilot out in the Squamish back country. It's an epic new endeavor and I have zero time goals for the race, since the full course has yet to be completed. It has steep climbs, ladders, ropes, and other factors that makes it a true single day adventure race. Where else does an 18k mountain race have expected finish times in the 6 to 7 hour range! Exciting. It will be late in the season, so the number of peak ascents that I will have accomplished by that time will be good experience and groundwork for the race day.

Mentally, I'm on point for the challenge ahead. Twenty years of martial arts training has a nice crossover with warrior spirit and perseverance. I'm reading (or perhaps a better term would be "meditating on") Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings, which plays well to both my running and kickboxing. Breaking down goals to achieve small successes and in turn confidence to achieve larger, more daunting tasks is all part of the process.
I've always enjoyed the challenge and experience of Ultra running and, if anything, have the problem of being too excited for races! Dialing back some of that excitement on race day to prevent the adrenaline dump will be a mental goal for me without losing any of the passion along the way. More like banking the excitement and letting it trickle charge throughout the day versus dropping the emotional hammer in the first 30 minutes!

I'll be doing some gear reviews this year on the blog, largely because now I have actual opinions on stuff. I didn't feel like I could do products justice in the early stages but with a couple of years under the belt, and real world experience, product reviews will be based on that reality. Race reports will continue, as well as a continued sharing of knowledge from podcasts, interviews and reading. There's some smart people out there, and my thoughts on their own personal philosophies will be shared.

Me and My Girl
 Until then . . . go out and crush some trails!!

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Strava Ed Kumar

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"Why I Run"

This installment has guest bloggers! I asked some members of our running group a simple question  "Why do you run?"  Here's some of their answers.  

(Edits were only made for grammar and layout.)

Kelsey Bragg

I met Kelsey in 2012 during an orientation run for Squamish 50. At the time she was building distance and has since run and completed several Ultras. She has two awesome dogs, who can whip past you like thunder and lightning, which isn't their real names. - ek

Kelsey - From Facebook

"I grew up in the Yukon, we didn’t have malls and fancy movie theatres.
If we wanted to be entertained, we had to go out and find it. I was nine years old when I first went out for a run.

"As if what I was doing was some sort of secret mission." - Kelsey

"I had been watching my friend’s mom go running all the time and she made it look easy and fun – plus she was really fast! It was the dead of winter, and I didn’t know any better, so I put on my whole snowsuit and winter boots. I stepped out the door without telling my mom and dad what I was doing as if what I was doing was some sort of secret mission.

A Not Nine Year Old Kelsey - From Facebook
"I sprinted as fast as my nine year-old body would allow. Three blocks later I was out of breath at the top of a hill feeling both dizzy and thrilled with this weird feeling that was new to me.
Though I was tired and extremely hot from all those layers, I couldn’t wait to try again. Eventually my mom and dad bought me all the running gear a nine year old girl needed, and sent me off to run with the ski team. I can’t imagine life any other way. Run on!" - Kelsey

Jerome Wasilieff

I've known Jerome since grade eight. He was one of the "rocker" kids, and kinda sort of hung out until graduation when we lost touch until a couple of years ago. He's done some shorter distance trail runs, Tough Mudder and a half marathon. We haven't lured  him into the Ultra distances  . . . yet. - ek

Jerome at Diez Vista/Buntzen 5 peaks "Dude, that wasn't a 'hill!'"
"I hated running. Ya, I HATED it. I played and coached football for a combined twenty years. Which meant everything we did was designed to make us quicker inside of twenty yards.
Sprints till you puked.

Hills till you collapsed. 
Not Fun. 

Oh, and I had asthma that came on because of my allergy to grass. Yea.

"I could run again and it felt GOOD!" - Jerome

"As time went on I had injuries. I broke my left leg, broke my left foot, tore my left Achilles and up wrecked my left knee. All to the point of walking with a permanent limp by the time I was thirty-five.

In Winning Style - From Facebook

"My wife got me off my ass and moving again. Six months of physio on that left leg combined with a personal trainer and the limp was gone. Not only that but I could run again and it felt GOOD! Actually it was awesome. Then I reconnected with Ed after a short break of twenty years and he showed me trails. You had me at "knees bent and arms out." - Jerome

Dianna Christopoulos

I met Dianna through Squamish 50 and the Coast Mountain Trail Series. She's the volunteer coordinator for CMTS and liaison for Squamish 50. She's always smiling unless she's going uphill, and is a monster on the downhills. She has a trademark on the phrase, "Makes my heart happy!" - ek
Dianna "two thumbs up for trail running!" - photo from Coast Mountain Trail Series
 "Two years ago when I ran my first full road marathon, I crossed the line in exhaustion and pure joy that I was finally finished and then it happened, I hated running. I never wanted to do it again. 
I told Steve, a friend, that " I quit running." 
For six months I didn't touch my runners; didn't even entertain the idea of running. The thought of it made me angry. I had lost my best friend to cancer that year and training was consumed by my emotions and nothing made sense. Why the heck would anyone want to do that again. Trying to train for your first full marathon and watching your friend die of cancer doesn't seem fair or right. 

"It wasn't until a friend told me to try Gary Robbin's Bucking Hell race which was either running 10km down, 10km up - or both - so I immediately signed up for the 10km down, what the heck did I just get myself in to?! Made my way to [Mount] Seymour, got my hug from Gary (we may have danced in the pouring rain), and then off we went. I was home... the trails were something else. 

"I run because our trail community is something unique." - Dianna

  "I loved every second of it and couldn't wait to do it again. Who wouldn't love running downhill in the pouring rain bouncing off the trails, laughing every second of the way. Fast forward six months and I was toeing the line of my first 50km. It wasn't easy, there was a lot of doubt and  it wasn't pretty due to injury and exhaustion but there was no way I was going to back out. Crossing that line of my first 50km was unreal and humbling. I don't really know how to sum it all up but it was something that only I felt; every runner has a different experience. 
Diann Jumping for Joy! - photo from Facebook
"I run because I can. I run because as a kid I was never told or taught to go beyond my limits. I run because I embrace the doubt that I create in my head. I run because I want to prove to myself that I can. I run because our trail community is something unique. I run because it makes me happy. I run because I feel at home with the people I run with and the places it takes me. I run because it fuels the fire within me to push beyond my limits. 

"Well that was hard to write in 3 paragraphs!" - Dianna