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Sunday, September 14, 2014

The End of Ultra . . .



Well the end of 2014 has derailed slightly due to poor recovery from Squamish 50's grand explosion. I've had some good runs, and some not so good runs since then. The hamstring injury subsided pretty quick, but the dead legs and lack of energy have not dissipated quite so neatly.

I dropped distance for Frosty 50 to the 27k, but after a test run on a "Tour de Buntzen" where I did 35k of trails along Sugar Mountain, Diez Vista and the Buntzen trails, the long run ended badly with severe vomiting all the way home and  a passing out on the bed once I got there.

With a distance like 27k, I would want to race it, so the idea of "just getting it done" wasn't in the cards. I actually feel really good with my decision for ending the Ultra season on this note. I plan on doing a lot of races for a lot of years, so a short term hiatus to allow my body to get back to a solid plane is important.

I will be doing some flagging, sweeping, and volunteering for both 5Peaks and Coast Mountain Trail Series, and then racing the Mountain Madness Hallow's Eve 23k at the end of October. I want to be ready for that race and push hard and really dig deep.

I'm seeing a nutritionist at Fortius Sports Centre  in Burnaby, and getting a plan to ensure both my daily intake and race day intakes have enough calories to sustain my active lifestyle of running, martial arts, and generally doing stuff. The initial assessment shows that I'm well short of my daily caloric needs, so eating more, more often and more consistently is one of the goals. We'll see how this translates into the longer distances.

In the meantime, our running group has found an addiction to getting into the high country, and peak seeking, as well as back country explorations have entered the We Run Mas market place! Experiencing nature on this level has produced a lot of emotional attachments amongst our friends, and the positivity and connections have grown very strong. It's a great feeling when as strangers through social media, we now have so many memories that bring us together. Magical in fact.

As far as 2015 is concerned, it's too early to tell what the Ultra plans are going to be. Dialing in my gut issues has been the seven headed hydra. Every time I lop off one head, two more grow  in its place. It's perplexing and a challenging,  both mentally and physically, but I'm up to the task. I have hopes I will find the nutrition plan that will work for me, but know that it may be a long road to get it sorted.

Next update will be October, post Hallow's Eve.


Until then, I'll be running around, climbing mountains, bombing down technical descents, and laughing as much as possible with the people that make me so very happy.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

"I Can Run Faster Than I Can Run"

Recovery from Squamish 50 has been interesting. The monday after, my family and I helped remove some of the flagging on the final 2k of the course. I had plans on doing more, but my right leg was definitely going on strike.

My wife and boys at Smoke Bluffs - de-flagging. 

As far as post race meals were concerned, I was seriously craving spicy food. I ate chicken curry, spicy tacos, thai spiced chicken etc. I think the body learns how to convert calories most efficiently based on the diet upon which you grew up, and I grew up with spicy food. In order to get the nutrients back into the system, that's an efficient way to do it. I have read supporting documentation of this concept, and thus far it seems to hold true in real life experience. Listen to the cravings and feed the body what it wants.

By Monday night I was reasonably sore, and we had a great lunch before leaving Squamish with Sean and Elaine after we did some pool and hot tub. The drive home, we dropped off the flagging at Gary's, and then dove into some much anticipated rest and relaxation. Sitting was aggravating my hamstring tendon, so I made a Float House session for Tuesday, and a physio appointment at Coast Therapy for Thursday.

Float Tank at Float House

Tuesday was rough. The Float House was really cool, and it was nice to just reset the nervous system with the sensory deprivation. I'll be setting up another session in the fortnight.
By Tuesday night, my ability to walk was seriously compromised, and I rested as much as I could.

Then Wednesday morning, I felt great. I could walk pretty much normally with no limp. All the spicy food, rest, and Float session had some impact. My recovery from training has normally been very positive this year, and the post race actions were doing likewise. After the physio session on Thursday, the assessment was I overextended the hamstring muscle and the hamstring tendon causing some minor tearing. We did Ultrasound, active release and IMS on the back of the leg all the way down to the calf. It hurt, but I knew the focus on those areas would draw my own healing into the right places, despite feeling beat up after the physio appointment.

I have a deep tissue massage set up for the 1st of September, and I'll start running again on the final weekend of August.

So, that leads us into Frosty 50k. What do I plan on doing different to prevent the mass explosion that was SQ50 and ensure a great race?
Frosty 50 Banner

Frosty 50 Pre-Race


  1. Recovery: I have to ensure I am injury free before this race. I really wrecked myself at Squamish, and ensuring I have enough rest, active recovery, and muscle therapy leading into the race are important. Float House sessions, massage, pool running and physio, with some active strength exercises are going to be vital. I have the base I need, and the technical ability to run so less focus on that, and more on the other aspects of the sports required athleticism. The We Run Mas support group is keeping me honest on ensuring I don't over reach before I'm fully recovered. Thanks team!
  2. Sleep: I have to ensure I get enough of it pre-race, so the 72 hours before race day will be boring, boring, boring. Lots of movies, and reading, and take it easy at work.
  3. Nutrition: Eat a lot. I normally carb load the 48 hours before, which I did NOT do for SQ50. I'll also ensure I am taking in and monitoring my Magnesium, since that is a major problem for me (I have magnesium deficiency, which plays a role in my electrolyte balance). 

Frosty 50 In -Race

Colin and I at Quest: SQ50
I'm actively releasing my calf cramp
Photo Credit: Jen Mullaly
  1. Start Slow: I was going at what was a moderate pace for SQ50, but even then I could have gone slower. The way I put it with my friends was, "I can run faster than I can run." It's a simple statement, but holds very true. I need to dial it back. I have a history of feeling really good, not "pushing" but not actively "holding it back" either, and then getting hit by a virtual linebacker ten yards from the goal line (I know a football metaphor in a running blog.) I can comfortably run a 4:40/km half marathon pace on flat terrain. So, that effort level taken down a few notches would be closer to a 5:25/km pace effort level (all equivalent exertion here, since pace on trails is irrelevant), and then one more notch down to a 5:50/km pace equivalent. Running a 5:50/km pace for me on flat feels like a crawl, so that's what I'm gonna do. Even if I have to go into a 6:00 or 6:10/km effort level, I'll do that.
  2. Nutrition: Infinit has worked really well for me in training, so the fact I couldn't hold down any fuel in the 2nd half of SQ50 was really odd. I'm used to having stomach issues, but haven't had any since training with Infinit. It's pretty much similar to Tailwind for liquid calories, but it's a Canadian company, and it's customizable, so that's all a bonus. To sate any potential hunger, I'm going to carry a sandwich or try some of Scott Jurek's rice balls (does that sounds creepy or is it just me?). I'll likely take in a little less than a 24oz bottle an hour, closer to 20oz per hour, which ought to get me around 220 calories per 60 minutes +/-. 
  3. Puking: IF I start puking again, I'll cut the race short. I haven't figured out how to recover from this yet. At Diez Vista 50k, I got nauseous but stayed on the dry side of hurling and finished really strong. So my goal is to keep the gut in check as much as possible, and prevent puking at ALL COST! It gets hard to breathe after, and really unravels things quickly for me. So, DON'T PUKE!!
  4. Cramping/Seizing: If it happens again, I'll do what I did at Squamish by slowing down, but I won't push through if it turns to full leg seizing. I have no problem getting a DNF for Frosty. I'm still learning how to manage the sport, and my expectations around it, so I'm thinking of the long game in this race.
  5. PEAK-A-BOO: There are two climbs in this race. The first one is just up and up to 7900', and then down and down. RULE: Do NOT bomb down the first peak. Dial it back, restrain the desire and take it easy, similar to a long run. On the second climb, maintain a steady pace. There are rollers on the top of the 2nd peak, so cruise along at a suitably moderate minus effort. On the 2nd peak descent, open up the legs and see what's left in the tank for the final 8k. I still need to do more course recon and see what different portions of the trails are like as I have run zero of the trails in Manning Park. 


Quest on SQ50. The "Old" Me.
Photo Credit: Jen Mullaly

In summary, my plan is to use the training that I have "in the bank" and be way more careful about my lead in to the race. It's far less supported than most races, as majority of the trails on course are very remote. This means I have to be smart and cautious. As much as I'd like to break the threshold of going from "Survivor" status in Ultra running to "Runner" status, I'm not there yet. I think with a few more finishes, and more experience, time will tell where I will end up falling into the longer distances. For shorter races of 25k and less, I'm definitely a mid-pack runner, and while I did my best to hang in that bunch for the last two Ultra races, it wasn't in the cards. It's a bit of an awakening. The person who went into Squamish 50 was not the same person who came out of Squamish 50. Who that person is won't be revealed until Frosty 50, but I'm hoping he's a lot more savvy! 

SQ50 Finish: The "Not the Same" Me
Photo Credit: Jen Mullaly



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Squamish 50: Race Report 2014

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

All the WRM Racers
The Squamish 50 race has a special place for me. It was the first Ultra at 50 miles that I attempted in 2013 (read the race report here), and it is also the major reason why I have met and developed so many amazing friendships. Ultra running brings people together in ways that are hard to explain. The highs and lows of training and racing is very visceral. It's hard not to feel a connection on a very deep level with the people to whom you expose your deepest self.

This year, I was running the 50k. My original goal was to use the SQ50k to set up my 50 mile plans at Meet Your Maker, but with the cancelling of MYM, I reset the SQ50 as my "A" race of the season, with Frosty 50k as my final ultra of the year in September. My training leading up to the race was solid. I blogged about it here. I felt confident going into Sunday's race and was shooting for a ballpark 8 hour finish time, with hopes of a 7:30 if the day went right.

We arrived on the Friday, and this year I was the Logistical Co-ordinator for the weekend. My job in the months leading up to and into the weekend were to ensure that stuff got to where it needed to get to at the right time. With over 900 racers, 80 kilometres of  mountain terrain, 200+ volunteers, 250 pounds of bananas, 500 pounds of watermelons, and endless amounts of potato chips, cookies, tables, water jugs, oranges, Coca Cola (oh the Coke!) and all the other stuff, we got to work right away on Friday. 

The Aid Station Organization Team!
I would also relay and monitor all radio traffic to ensure that marshals were in place, aid stations were stocked, ready and re-supplied and that the supplies were re-organized, sorted and prepped for Sunday's 50k & 23k after Saturday's 50 mile day. It sounds hard, but with the team of Gary (RD), Geoff (RD), Sarah (Volunteer Coordinator), Dianna (Volunteer Liaison) and Amber (Potato Cooking Demon!), things were floating along like clockwork.

Yes, these are real times of the day! I know!!
Friday went by like a storm, and before we knew it, it was 10pm and we had a pre-race, post registration meeting. I got to bed around 1:00 am for a 3am wake up call but didn't really sleep in anticipation of the Saturday event. 

4am Saturday morning: Race Logistics
By the time Saturday came around, I was at Race HQ, multiple radios in hand, my wife gathering AS2 supplies. Majority of the AS Captains picked up their supplies the night before (which was awesome, thank you captains!!). 

50mile race start was set up for 5:30AM, and the plan was rolling along. Through radio updates, text messages and phone calls, all marshals were en route, and Sarah was ensuring volunteers were on the way to the right locations. To make a long story short, Saturday went off really well! The race was solid, with strong showings, and a large number of our friends conquering new distances, and a few of them even doing the dreaded 50/50 (running 50 miles Saturday, and 50k Sunday)! We had a LOT of our friends running across multiple distances, so the energy and excitement was through the roof!

Ellie and Dianna
I did my hand off to John Barron Saturday evening as he was going to manage the day for Sunday, and finished my shift at 9pm. A long and rewarding day! A quick trip to the finish line to see Leona and Emily come in (that was emotional, as Leona was recovering from projectile vomiting, and Emily was emotionally spent). 

Leona 50mile
Photo: Carolyn Kelly-Smith

Andy H 50/50
Photo: Carolyn Kelly-Smith

Spring 50mile
Photo: Carolyn Kelly-Smith

Linda 50/50
Photo: Carolyn Kelly-Smith

Joseph Chick 50/50

Apocalypse Now

By the time I got to bed on Saturday night, it was just past midnight. With only one hour of sleep the night before, and three hours of sleep on Saturday with a really poor day of eating, my setup going into race day was in danger. I felt great waking up at 4am though, and quickly had a small bite to eat, showered, shaved (no race beard this year), and got my gear together. Went through my checklist of Infinit Nutrition, Snickers bars, Ginger and Tums. We were expecting a humid day with higher temperatures than Saturday's race. 

My boys, our dawg, and me
Heading out to the start line with the family was an awesome ride. We cranked the tunes and the adrenalin was pumping. We came into the busy staging area at Alice Lake. The sun was gently rising, which cast a pre-dawn hue to the skyline as it crested the mountains we were planning to conquer. The number of racers was astounding, and we neatly found our friends for the 50k and 50/50 day two.

Ready to Rumble!
Gary went through the pre-race briefing, and then in typical fashion started his countdown from 8 seconds. We were off!

Gary showing us how to do jumping jacks with flagging tape
Andy Joyce, Colin Aldous and I set off together, as we are all similar pace, with minor differences in strengths once the trails show up. A quick jaunt to the trail head, lots of waves and smiles and we start on the first rolling section through Stump Lake. This section is really easy and runnable, and we're cruising along, talking and planning our day. We know we will likely split up at some point, but for now, we were happy to run together and share in the experience. It was Colin's first Ultra, and Andy was back from an injury, so our joy was perceivable to be out there together.

I was leading our little wolf pack, and I kept checking in to ensure we were on a decent and casual pace. "This pace cool boys or too fast?" The response was always affirmative, and we were talking the whole way so no concerns there. We came into the Dead End Loop and up the switchbacks. We had a conga line behind us, but no one wanted to pass. We kicked out into the power lines shortly after and were coming into Aid Station #1 "The Corners" 8km in at 58 minutes. Perfectly on schedule. We didn't stay long, refilled water and were off at exactly 60 minutes into our day.

Running with Colin (L) and Andy J (R)
The cruise down the FSR to the entrance of Galactic, our 2500' climb to the ridge was fun and easy. Temperatures were good, although the humidity was making itself known. We hiked and ran and hiked up Galactic and ended up at the front of another very large conga line of about twenty five racers. I called back several times if anyone wanted to pass, but everyone seemed good with the pace. About 3/4's of the way up, I pulled to the side as the mental pressure of being ahead of that many racers was not a stress I wanted to carry. I pulled back in with a runner from Patagonia, his first Ultra, and we chatted about the course. 

Once my new found friend and I reached the mountain river at the top, he carried on and I took a moment to fill my "splash" bottles from the stream. I was using the Salomon soft flasks as dousing water to keep me cool as I tend to overheat on hot days. Colin and Andy were about a minute ahead of me, but well out of sight. Evannah and I ended up together and she was looking strong. We traversed the top of the ridge together, and once we hit the rocky trail, I passed her in order to keep my flow on that type of terrain. If I go too slow on rock-bed trails, I tend to turn my ankle, so I skip along the top of the stones kind of parkour like. My breathing was steady and I was still at a low heart rate, so all good. I passed a few people, as expected on the downhills, and then hit Upper Powersmart, a black diamond rated trail and one of my favourites

I'm feeling great, super fluid, strong legs, and in the groove. I float down the trail breathing light and passing a lot of people. My nutrition was holding tight, and I was a good third bottle into my fuel, so right on target with 260 calories per bottle. I catch up to Andy, and shortly after Colin. We kick out of the first section together and jaunt up to AS2 "Word of Mouth." Colin shows us a war wound, as he had crashed on the Powersmart descent before I caught up, and he has a gash just below his knee. As we leave the aid station, and drop into the Word of Mouth trail network, Andy jokes that the only place he's gonna slide is through the finish line. Seconds later, he takes a dive, but Colin catches his arm, preventing any major concern. We have a chuckle at the irony, and as we cruise along the single track, Colin says "I don't plan on any more spills." To which I respond, "What's the fun of that?!!" Oh, perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut on Word of Mouth. Just after the Wormhole split off, there's a simple little drop, and as I lead us through I catch a toe (Andy heard the crunch and thought I broke my foot) and go down hard, all in less than a second. This is a first, since I don't crash - ever! Yet, here I was, sprawled out on the trail. Unfortunately, the way I went to brace my fall put a huge amount of force on my right leg, and as I roll over to prop myself up, the entire right leg seizes up, from hamstring to calf. Colin and Andy are concerned, and I tell them to get out of here. It's a race, not a long run, but they won't leave. 

Evannah catches up, and stops also. Dammit people, go run! I look right at Colin as my leg is still fully seized and tell him to go, I'll see him at Quest. He takes off and Evannah follows. Andy takes about ten steps, then turns around and says, "I'm not leaving you here." I realize he's telling the truth, so I fake it. I know he's not gonna skedaddle unless he sees me get up, so I get up. I take a breath, tell him I'm gonna walk it off, and then he seems satisfied. He takes off and the second he's around the corner, I lean against a tree and jab my fingers into my leg to get them to release. (As I write this on Tuesday evening, I definitely tore something since I can't straighten my leg and my hamstring tendon is twice the size it should be.) 
Slowly but surely I am able to walk, then run, and I carry on into Quest. I arrive shortly after Colin and Andy, who seems perplexed that I came in so quick. My experience is that if a cramp can get moving again, then it feels better, so that's what I did, not knowing that the damage was greater than I first assessed.

My son Paris stretching out my cranked leg. Lucien with the pep talk!

My wife and boys are the Quest Aid Station, along with many other friends who were crewing for their own respective families. It's a major hub, and also the halfway mark for the race. While the back half of the course is much harder due to the relentless changing of terrain, I'm right on time for an estimated 8 hour finish. I've done training runs in the same trails from 36k to 47k so I'm planning on 4 hours for the back half to finish line! I express that despite my uncharacteristic wipe out, I'm having the best race of my life! 23 of 50k in the bag!!

As an aside, I did notice that my watch was paused!! Dammit, I must have hit it on a bottle swap coming down from the peak, so I decide to reset it at Quest so at least the back half will be accurate.

Buffet. Yum. Still feeling good.
A quick peruse of the buffet, a snickers bar to sate a bit of hunger (Saturday meal plan was coming back to haunt me), and bottle refills and I was off. Jen Mullally and Spring were there to cheer, and I rolled down the road, a couple of high fives and then the boring ass climb up Mamquam road. I speak to Chris from Ultralive TV who was live video updating the race on Saturday and running Sunday. He goes off into the trailhead up Legacy, and then my stomach starts to turn. This is an exposed, and very hot section of trail and I literally go from feeling good with some right leg pain to feeling like a bag of crap in about six seconds. My pace drops immediately, and Lisa Oswald-Coates cruises past me. No problem, slow it down, dial it in, stay cool, and slowly drink your calories. Nope, not happening. The first heave of the day is pending, and the lack of sleep and pre-race nutrition is catching up to me.

Andy: Radler Power - Take I

Andy H: Radler Power - Take II
Andy Healey cruises past, this being the second day as he completed the 50 mile on Saturday, and I realize I'm probably moving slower than I think I am. I don't feel like I'm bonking. I don't have listless legs, over riding fatigue or anything like that, and my fuel up to that point was good. I just feel, "off." It's the only way to describe it. Even plain water is making me gag! Another 50/50 runner comes up on the Legacy to NorthSide Connector crossover; it's Ginger Runner Ethan Newberry. He's looking focused and just after he passes, so does my stomach. I puke on the fire service road. Yes, it has begun! The Squamish 50 devil has latched onto my back and is dragging me down with every step. Let's continue shall we . . . 

The Nine Layers of Hell

I struggle to get out of the exposed trail, under the rising sun and ever increasing humidity. The longer I stay here, the more difficult my strategy to deal with it will become so I try to hammer through until I reach the long tall trees before Climb Trail. The stream I wanted to dunk in is dried up, so I curse it, and move on. As I approach a mountain bike bridge that goes over the trail, I see two runners who have already descended Angry Midget helping a female runner who bailed on the bridge and was cramped up and couldn't stand. I offer assistance, but they say that they have her. I don't know what happened to her after that, but she looked rough. 

Just before I go under the bridge, I see my Patagonian friend! Okay, things are falling into perspective. In about 6k, he has gained an hour on me in distance. Crap, how slow am I going?! I try to hustle, but anything faster than a trot and I feel sick. Not nauseous, just not right. It's very odd, and I realize my day is unraveling. It's gonna be longer than I expected, so I reframe my mind to deal with a 4 1/2 to 5 hour back half instead.

Climb trail arrives and I'm getting passed. I start to have issues staying centred on the trail, and am weaving a bit back and forth, so I try to stick to the upside of the mountain so I don't slip on a switchback. Candice Ridyard comes up as I sit on a rock in the blazing sun and asks how I'm doing. Thumbs up, but I feel like shit. We have a quick chat about the next section, I mention the false downhill before you climb again, and she disappears into the forest. Puke number two decides to make an entrance and it's violent. Whatever was in that forceful cleansing sets off a chain reaction of cramping up and down my right leg. I'm now hobbling up climb trail with a seized leg that is also rapidly cramping, and I can't take in any water, or fuel (liquid or otherwise). Not good, since I know that dehydration was my bane last year, and I have to do whatever it takes to avoid that to ensure I get to the finish line.

I reach the top of Climb Trail, and there's the course marshall there. I sit down on a stump and let my stomach settle. I love Angry Midget, but it's steep and fast to get into AS4, so I don't want my gut wrenching on the way down. She checks in on me, I set my watch for a 2 minute countdown and breathe. Down I go. I make it halfway down, stop, run some more and remember that our friend Shanthi is course marshall on the road kick out. I race down to her, and hear her signature, "You ROCK!" 
I ask her if she has a phone and if she can text my wife Simone that I'm way behind schedule, but her phone died. Quick hug and I take off down the road to AS4. I need some help.

I roll into the aid station and David Appleby, who was AMAZING as transport team David/Jeff on Saturday, is the captain there for Sunday. He gives me a hard time in just the right way, but also takes excellent care of me. I get a chair, try some coke to sip, and sit near the bushes to ensure that I have a safe place to hurl if that happens. I stay at AS4 for 20 minutes. David kindly uses the radio to contact Sarah Newman-Thomas to text my wife, since there's no reception in this area. Yea, I used my official status to use channels to communicate, but I was okay with it. I was SO far behind my goal pace that I knew my other friends would pass me at some point if this didn't get fixed.

I take off down Fools Gold and move through the Darwin's Crossing portion of the course. I'm at km 34, but I feel like it's twice that. There's a valley that connects STP into Bonsai and the temperature is sky rocket high at this point in the day. The wheels fall off completely in this valley. I puke my way up the trail, stopping every 30 or 40 steps. I count this whole section as one puke for the record. By the time I get into the shaded trees, I'm totally done. Exhausted from puking. Unable to drink anything. My mouth tastes like bile. My legs, now both sides are fully cramped. My left quad cramps so hard that my kneecap gets sucked up into it and I can't bend my leg. I sit down on a rock, completely spent. How did this happen? I've run further, faster, and with harder conditions self supported. Something about race day at SQ50 has it in for me. I lean back and close my eyes for a second and I just want to sleep. I have a thought. I could just sleep here. Forever.

Into the Belly of the Beast


I quickly open my eyes, and realize that if I don't get up now, I won't. I yell at myself, "Let's go fucker! MOVE!" I snap to my feet, my left leg still locked with my knee cap doing it's own thing and single leg hop along the trail. It's magnificently the most ungraceful thing. There's a set of rocks before this section goes into a downhill, and I won't be able to go down it with my leg locked, so I lean against a tree, and start massaging it into "relaxation." I keep repeating, "relax, relax, relax." Finally, after a few minutes, the quad stops being seized and I go downhill before it changes its mind!

I make it about half way down and I have to stop. My legs are cramping like crazy, and although my quads are not locked in place, my entire legs are rippling up and down, and I'm worried I'm gonna take a dive on the technical single track. As I walk, stop, and then stop again, I hear a couple of runners coming down. A woman I don't know and then it's Elaine! She looks really good, and I'm super stoked to see her. We talk a little and I try to stay with her for a bit. It's good to have her company, and although I know she'll drop me soon, it's reassuring to know I can get through this technical section without exploding.

Elaine Killin' it!
Before the trail kicks out onto the service road, Elaine takes off, and cruises into the distance. I walk the service road, trying to keep my legs from seizing. Cramping I can deal with, but the full seizes are brutal and feel like an iron rod has been impaled into your muscles. I'm dumping water on my head and face constantly, since if I'm not drinking, at least I can try to stay cool this way. 
A couple more pukes on the FSR and I'm on my way into AS5, the final stop before the finish line.

Even my dawg was pooped!
When I come in, my wife and kids are there.They get to work, refilling water, offering me food, and seeing what I need. Dianna, Sean and Joseph Chick are also there, and offer reassurance. I sit down, my kids help change my socks (my feet look rough with trench foot, which is also a first, since I've never had foot issues.) Another racer has a bottle of pickles and kindly shares a couple of pickles with me. I fill the one bottle with water, and a soft flask with coke. I then take a 5 minute nap. 

When I open my eyes again, it's not better. I haven't woken from a bad dream. I'm at km 40 (a distance I have done multiple times) and in the worst place both mentally and physically of my life. NONE of this happened in training. My preparation coming into this race was dialled, and here I was, potentially fighting cut off and maybe not even making the finish line. Such a weird reframing of my goals. I told myself I would drop. I would drop from the race, but it wouldn't be here. It HAD to be at the finish line. I would drop at the finish line; that was the goal.

Best Aid Station We Run Mas Crew!
When I went to stand up, my legs had other ideas. My legs seized up so badly, my boys and Sean helped me to the hood of our car that was parked beside us and I leaned against it. The pain was so intense and there was nothing I could do about it. So I cried. It was all I could resort to. I was out of questioning why this was happening, or what I could have done, or what I had left to do. There was no use in analyzing any of it. I just had to experience it, accept it and allow it to happen. This Ultra had turned from a race where I wanted to achieve some time goals to the deepest emotional experience I had encountered in my life. It was no longer about the race, or making cut off, or proving anything to anyone. It was about surviving and just moving forward. Just one step after another.


I left the aid station and gave my phone to my wife. I didn't want an out. I didn't need the option to call and ask for help. The final few km from the finish line was too easy a place to get picked up and call it a day, so I removed that choice from my temptation. I went into the hellish final two climbs of Seven Stitches & Mountain of Phlegm. I continued to cramp, puke and have full leg seizures throughout the whole part. I was light headed, and shortly after Alanna passed me, Barb Wilkins came up. I tried to tag onto her, but couldn't keep up. Just before the final push up Mount Phlegm, my left foot seized and contorted into the weirdest angle, dropping me into a bush as I was stepping down onto it in a half trot/run. It took a few minutes to unlock, I crawled on all fours to the course marshall at the bottom of the final ascent and leaned my head against the rock. It was a steep slope, and he was gently cheering me on. I took a hard swig of coke from the soft flask and went up the hill. 

On the way down Phlegm, I looked at my watch. What time was cutoff? It was 4:32pm. Could I run the final 4k in 28 minutes? I started pushing with whatever I had left. It was more like run ten steps, walk twenty, but it was progress. I puked beside some boulder and rock climbers, apologized and kept running along Smoke Bluffs. I saw Carolyn, asked her about cut off, and she gave me some ice cold water. I was out of the trails and had a couple of road sections, and a park trail to get through. I walked it in to the railroad tracks, saw Sean and Jeff along the way, and then heard the cowbells. You can never have too much cowbell!

I ran along the road towards the trees to the finish line with all our friends cheering in. The finish arch was there and I ran straight into Gary's outstretched arms. It took me two years to get to that moment. It didn't matter that I missed official cut off by just over five minutes. Squamish 50 brought out something in me that I didn't know I had. And for that, it will always hold a special place in my heart.


Sarah helps carry me away. IV bag and two more pukes coming!

Official Time: 11:05:02.6
Placement: 204th (missed cut off)
Pukes: 11 (9 on course, 2 at finish line)




Saturday, August 9, 2014

SQUAMISH 50 Training Report

Well, the Squamish 50k race is only NINE days away. I've been very silent on the training blogs this year. Here's why:

Red Flags . . . Everywhere!!
1. I've been focused on the actual training, both mental and physical and didn't want to distract that with ideas of what was happening versus what was really happening (does that even make sense?!)

2. Summer is mad busy. Work is stacked with events at the restaurant, plus staffing, schedules and lots of other moving parts, plus my kids are off school and they're fun to play with, and then there's the training of course. Time was spent on all those things and I didn't want to impose the blog into that scenario.

Squamish Back Country: Sky Pilot Ridge
Photo Credit: Leona Shaw
So what's been happening to date? Well, I managed to get WAY more elevation training in this year than last year. I focused on climbing, climbing and more climbing. Very little flat running. Breaking up the types of runs (Fartleks, Long Slow Distance, Climb Focus, DownHill Focus etc). No two runs a week were the same. I did whatever I could to break up the style of running or the focus of the run.

We Run Mas Going Up Galactic (aka The Big Climb for #SQ50)
I also went back to the same routes every few weeks, and saw HUGE gains in performance. For example, I did a "recovery" run on Thursday around Buntzen Lake that was easy effort for me. Well, after uploading to Strava, I broke two PR's and was only a few minutes off my PR for the whole circuit. I barely broke a sweat on that run, so HUGE confidence boost there and measurable signs of gains in efficiency and speed.

Making Plans on a 35k Run
Photo Credit: Elaine Fung
This last Monday, Alanna, my wife and I did the Galactic climb and Powersmart descent as our final long run distance, ran into a MASSIVE bear only 12' feet away. There's speed training for ya!
Our We Run Mas group runs have been superb, plus I got to be a pre-sweep for Cypress 5 peaks (running with 100 flags is interesting!) and although I'm not a high mileage runner, I feel really good going into Squamish50 this year with the variety and freshness that the training season brought.

My Wife at the Peak of Galactic (pre-Bear Encounter)
So why so much progress? Several reasons:

1. Experience: Last year I just tried to stack the distances week to week, and inevitably got tired, hurt or lacked consistency. I have way more to look back on and really paid attention to the feedback I was getting from one run to another.
I don't follow training plans. Matt Fitzgerald's book was a huge help in relying on my feeling to get things done. Little golden nuggets, like Erik Bjorklund's trail advice of, "It's training, take care of the little issues as they happen. Forget the pace, forget the finish time. Worry about those on race day. Don't let a sore this or that get away from you in training." That was the essence of what he said, and it stuck with me. I have no problems stopping on a training run, stretching something out, loosening up a shoulder, or changing the route to ensure an ankle or other wiggly bit doesn't get aggravated.

Squamish 50 Course #SQ50
2. Worked on the Weaknesses: I really focused on my weakness - Uphill. In a previous post, I discussed this in detail, and the benefits have been compounding. Hills that were once non-runnable to me have now become runnable, and sections of long ascents also are less of a burden and far more enjoyable. I also tackled some really steep, extended climbs which put once monumental efforts into perspective.

Charles, Colin and I on Sea to Summit Trail
3. Speed: I chose my spots and really went fast on certain training runs. In the past, I used to treat all my runs as fast tempo paces. This limited my upper limit, since the legs and cardio were too taxed to get into the upper limits of my full velocity. By relaxing on the "recovery" sections, and allowing myself to run comfortably for extended periods, my speed portions were screaming fast. I was tapping into the mid to high 3 minute per km paces, even on technical terrain. Granted, not for very long, but ability to go there was a sign that my regular efforts were developing efficiency, strength and synergetic output.

Paris: 1st Race = 1st Place (in age cat.) @ 5Peaks Cypress
4. Discomfort Through Racing: I've become fine with being uncomfortable. The threshold for pain has increased, and this has allowed me to dig deep where it mattered. The single-most beneficial tool I did to achieve this was my race schedule. I raced a lot this season (9 races in total since last year's SQ50 attempt). Racing allows you to push a bit more, even if you're not going for a PR or an A race effort. The rules change just a little, and this in turn brings a more primal energy to the fore. The secondary aspect to this is that I was always training for something. With a race always 3 to 6 weeks away, I had no excuses and always had my eyes on a prize. The specifics of the races also allowed me to focus on the aspects of that one event that I wanted to focus on and conquer.

A text chat between Kevin and Justin sums it up!
5. Nutrition: Last but not least, is fuelling. I was open to anything and everything to rectify the stomach issues of nausea, puking and calorie deficit. That open minded desperation led me to Infinit Nutrition, and it has been one of the biggest impacts on my endurance training. It allowed me to focus on the other aspects of my training without worrying about the ticking time bomb that was my gut to take me down. It's a staple of my run requirements, and the one time I ran out of product, the differences were huge. With it, I feel great, energized and recovered after every run. I'm sure I'll have moments of "regular" gut issues from heat, hard efforts and other such things, but not anything like what would sideline me before.
I also had a chance to run with Darcy from Infinit on his vacation out west, and we kicked up some dirt on the North Shore, which was a blast!

Sky Pilot Ridge, Squamish Back Country
Photo Credit: Leona Shaw
I have one last climb on Sunday (We're doing Diez Vista from Sasamat  Lake up, then down to Buntzen, then up again and then down to Sasamat again). It'll be a low energy output elevation day with super smooth and easy downhill. Then it's beer, junk food and beer for the rest of the taper week. 50k Race day is on Aug 17th.

We Are Puny!
Photo Credit: Leona Shaw
I also have the pleasure and honour to be the Logistics Coordinator for the race this year, so the whole weekend from Friday to Monday will be jam packed with helping manage the guts of putting on such a crazy event. Working with the whole team has been awesome and eye opening. Hats off to Gary, Geoff, Sarah, Dianna and all the volunteers who are involved (including our running group). It's an immense undertaking, but one that has proved fulfilling in rounding out being a part of the trail community. iRunfar, live streaming cameras, Ginger Runner and a few other media majors are gonna be on hand too, so that's gonna be choice!

Post 35k Long Run Picnic
So, next blog report will be a Squamish 50 Race report with behind the scenes action on the planning and execution also! I'm feeling great about my personal race day, and can't wait to run with so many friends on my A race of the season!!

We Run Mas
"Dysfunctional Family"


Thursday, July 3, 2014

RACE REPORT: BUCKIN' HELL

Okay, so this race report is way overdue.

Work schedule, kids off school, and all the other real life situations as delayed the update, but here's the skinny . . .

Buckin' Hell is a race put on by the super stellar and rock star team of Geoff Langford and Gary Robbins who direct the Coast Mountain Trail Series! Their significant others, Amber and Linda are both behind the scenes wizards also, with Dianna C. as the volunteer coordinator.

The course is brand new for 2014, and in one simple word, it's EPIC! Hands down the most challenging 21.1k distance I have ever run. There's a 15k option also, which is nothing to shake a stick at (or "at which to shake a stick" for the grammar police out there).

Alanna and I ready to represent the back of the pack!
The course takes place entirely on the Mount Seymour side of the North Shore, follows the BP up, then down singletrack to the base of the Seymour Grind, then back up Old Buck trail to the Deep Cove lookout on top of Seymour before descending 3 Chop back into Deep Cove start/finish line.

There were some seriously fast people towing the line on this race. Ellie Greenwood (she won a little race called Camrades in South Africa last month), Chloe Gendron, Jackie Muir, Graeme Wilson, Oliver Utting . . . you know, gals and guys that eat hills for breakfast. It wasn't a huge field, and I was expecting to be taking up the back of the pack on this run.

The weather was perfect, and after the quick countdown which started at 4, 3, 2, 1 we were off. I felt really good on the first ascent and section to Quarry rock, practicing my new found uphill muscles and technique.
Chris Thorn has the moves (photo credit: Solana Klassen)
 I fell into stride with Chris Thorn, and we wove our way up BP to Mushroom trail, passing our friend, field marshall and Altra ambassador Elaine Fung who was rocking a guitar to the tune of "Stairway to Heaven".
Before descending Dale's into Forever After, I tightened my laces and then dropped into the singletrack. I'd not run this trail before, and the signs that read, "SLOW DOWN" were aptly placed before rock shelf drop offs that you had to go down to continue. I ran this section with a lady named Maiggen who had mountain biked these sections, so her savvy on the ups and downs was good to have. We went up the Seymour grind together also, and I felt great on that climb. Fresh as a daisy.

Hi-Five from Andy (photo credit: Solana Klassen)

She split off at the 15k junction, and Solana and Andy were there to direct me up the Ol' Buck. The climb was long. And then it kept going. Before reaching the top, I saw Chris and David Appleby coming down the trail heading to 3 Chop. Both looked super fluid and very strong. Despite my slower pace than them, I also felt strong, despite having run out of fluid for the last 30 minutes. I emptied my backup ziplock of Infinit Nutrition on the climb to get ready for the aid station at the top.

Top of Seymour...need water

Dave Papineau (who recently robbed my Sugar Mountain descent on Strava - damn you Dave!!), yelled at my family who were waiting for me at the top that I was coming. My fam is awesome, always supporting me and my friends on runs and races. My boys ran with me to the buffet, and I filled up on water to mix with my fuel. The view was amazing. At this point, the total elevation was close to 4000' feet! Yup, no wimpy elevation for this little run! (It finishes with 4300' feet total gain.)

I took off, feeling really good and headed to 3 Chop, also a new trail for me to explore. It's crazy. Straight down the mountain, huge drop offs and mega technical. Going down 3 Chop is not for the faint of heart. No joke. Later I found out that a number of 21k runners (including Dave A. who wiped out on this section) and much blood was spilled by many.

David A. knocked his head down 3 Chop, still rocked the course!
Colin Aldous (married to Alanna) marshaled the Indian River Road section, and I shared my disbelief on the descent.
The return to Deep Cove was fast and furious as I know the trail section really well. I moved along at the 80% effort on this race (I had a 10 hour shift at work after, and 7 1/2 long run the next day setup with zero chance to sleep Sat night) and ran into the finish line feeling really good.

Short shorts for the win!

Coming down Dale's

Deep Cove Descent (photo credit: previous three shots CMTS)



The course was super fun, and had about 33 centimeters of flat terrain. It's not for the meek, that's for sure, and I would consider it an advanced 21k trail run. To put it in perspective, my flat 1/2 marathon PR is 1 hour 41 minutes; compare that with the finish time below. Gary says he has plans to have this be a part of a proposed 50k in 2015, which is definitely on my to do list if it manifests!!

The final details:

Official Time 3:24:10 
Placing: 32nd place out of 38 finishers (40 starters)

Strava Report Click Here

After some exciting finish line festivities (with a NKOTB karaoke by Gary that is to this day is stuck in my head), a hand stand that won me a hat, and other such jovial shenanigans, we headed out as I had to work.

This is a must do race for me. It's hard, fun and challenging. Everything I like about trail running.
Plus I WON this race entry for a caption contest so that was extremely rad!

PS: I had an awesome long run in Squamish the next day with another 5,000 feet of climbing.
PPS: Our friends Spring has decided that she's going to become an elite athlete. Something has clicked with her, and she's destroying the trails with a 4th place female finish in a solid field!

Spring and I; it's a short short face off

Up Next: More training before the Squamish 50 in August!