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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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Night Running

With the days getting shorter, and the race plans for 2015 starting to take hold, a cardiac inducing panic can set in to long distance running that is hard to escape. Namely, how do I get my time and mileage in with such little time in the day?

Up here in Vancouver BC, sunrise is around 8am and sunset as early as 4pm in the heart of winter. I am not an early morning guy, except on long run days and races, so the idea of waking up at 7am and getting some trail time before the kids are off to school is out of the question. That leaves the evening, which is inevitably dark and cold. Perfect conditions for night running.

I started my night running expeditions during the summer months, with exploration in the safety of clear night skies and temperatures warm enough to get away with exposure if things didn't go well. In the late fall and winter that option changes and gear and supplies, as well as familiarity with the trails is of utmost importance. I've done a fair amount of night running and enjoy it immensely. Your senses come alive, and the forest doesn't so much as "go to sleep" but rather wakes up in a magical way.

So here's what I've learned . . .

Preparation - Overview

When getting out onto trails, it's always important to be prepared, but let's face it, even the most stalwart safety advocate can cut some corners when going on local trails in the bright sun for a short run. This kind of improvisation is not recommended for night running. Ensure you have all your supplies, from food, first aid kit, map and compass, extra layers, and extra batteries for light (which will be discussed in detail later). Always start with fresh batteries. Rechargeable lights are okay, but I wouldn't recommend them as your primary source. It's hard to find a USB or wall charger in the middle of the forest.

Basic Night Running Gear

Reflective gear is a good idea also. When you're running with others, you become a beacon in the night.

Alley with reflective gear
In the cold, I also carry some hot pockets (the warm pads that fit in your gloves or socks). I carry a knife as well, for both security and utility.
Leave a note and let people know where you are going, on what trails, and when you are expected back. Keep in mind that night running is much slower than in natural light, so a 10k trail that takes an hour, could take two to three times as much time depending on conditions.

I also recommend running with a friend and/or friends. There's safety in numbers and many of your apprehensions will disappear, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.

Light - The Source

There are many different options for lighting on the trail at night and figuring out what works best for you is part of the fun. There are reputable brands of light out there (Black Diamond, Petzl, Princeton Tek, Fenix etc) and in depth reviews of battery life, lumens and range. Generally, the more lumens the better with 100 lumens being the minimum you will want at your disposal. For reference, 10 lumens is about the strength of 1 bright candle.

Leona & Serenity - Red Light vs. White Light
There are two basic types of lights, handheld flashlights and headlamps or head torches (as our European counterparts like to say). I use both, with a headlamp on top and the handheld flashlight in my right hand. Both my light sources are disposable battery powered and shine 100 and 120 lumens at max strength. I have used a precharged battery Princeton Tek light that had a huge 260 lumens also on a 6 hour night run, and it was really good, but a bit of overkill for my needs. Also the battery pack on the back of the head was bit heavy, although it did keep the light from bobbing as a counterbalance.

Colin Aldous with the Petzl Reactive Lighting

The nice part of having a handheld is that you can shine the light in a different direction to which you are looking, granting a better circumspect input of the terrain and surroundings. So if my head is down as I'm climbing some steep terrain, I can shine the light to the sides and get a better sense of where I am at. I also find the trinity of headlamp, handheld and eyeballs gets rid of that tunnel vision and eases any nausea that is known to occur with night running. Ensure the handheld has a strap.

If you're wearing a brimmed hat, turn it backwards otherwise the light will create a shadow over your brim and diminish the range of your light. I do suggest wearing a hat, buff or toque to create a barrier between the strap and your head. It assists with light stability and if you're really bouncing along, keeps the light in place. Nothing like having the headlamp pop off your head or drop onto your neck in the middle of a technical downhill in the dark to make things interesting!

Some people use green, blue or red filters on their light. Honestly, I haven't tried this yet so can't really comment, but I am intrigued.

It's What o'Clock? - When to Run

There are three times when you could go out for a "night run": Dusk, as the night approaches and the light fades; Dawn, as the morning arrives and rising sun rescues you, or; Middle of the Night, the Sun has abandoned you, and the only way you're gonna see it is by spending hours on the trail.

For beginners, I suggest Dusk. You can start in the fading light, allow your eyes to get adjusted to the dark, and be back at the car before it's pitch black. Twilight is hard to run in because of the lack of hard shadows (everything washes out), but the comfort of knowing you aren't spending the whole time in a blanket of pitch black is a good place to start.

A Selfie with the headlamp turned off

If you're an early riser, then just before dusk works also. This allows you to start in the dark, and based on your sunrise, run into the light.The benefit of this is you finish your run without headlamps, and you know you're going into a new day. Lots of Ultra races start in this condition also, so it plays well with pre-race training and mental preparation.

For the brave and adventurous, running through the night or beginning and ending in the dark is a fun option. Ensure you have enough battery life in your light sources as you're living in the darkness for the entire outing.

Technique - Where to Shine

Be prepared to fiddle with your light. A little higher, a little lower, a little to the left or right, a little brighter, a little dimmer. A good rule of thumb is to shine the light about 10 or 15 feet ahead, depending on how quick you're moving and the terrain. Resist the urge to shine it at your feet. By the time you see what's coming, it's too late.

Your light intensity changes depending whether you're leading or following

If you are the lead runner, you don't have much to worry about. Set your light to as high an output as you need. Your responsibility is to light as much of the trail as possible.

If you're running behind someone, there's a couple of options, but do NOT shine your light on full beam as you will cast a shadow of the runner in front of you, in effect negating their own light.
60% of max is good gauge, and then you can go slightly higher or lower based on the proximity to each other. The closer you are, the less power you need, and the further you are, the more power you need.
When following, it's also a good idea to point your light further down, so you're hitting no higher than the lead runner's waist at the highest point. This ensures the aforementioned shadow is minimized while still giving the lead runner the benefit of some at foot illumination.
Another trick when following is to angle your light on your head slightly to the side by about 10 or 15 degrees. You'll still get the benefit of lighting the trail ahead of you, and if you're using a handheld, then that light source can fill the dark spots created by your primary light.

 Where Are We? - Know The Trail

When you're starting out, ensure you know the trails. Begin with reasonably flat, non-technical terrain that you've run before. For night runs, I prefer out and backs; such as a climb and descent on the same trail. The reason this works so well is that you control the time. If you want to go out for a two hour run, then run out for an hour, and then back for an hour. Simple. Make whatever adjustments required if there's elevation or challenging sections. For the most part, the difference whether greater or lesser is manageable to deal with.

Be Trail Aware!
Loops work also, especially ones where you can create shortcuts if needed to get back sooner. For example, if you're planning a specific loop and it's taking longer than expected, you can shortcut along another well known trail and ensure you hit your time goals.
Unless you're racing, then distance is secondary to time. Setting out to do an "18k night run" is a fool's bargain and can end up with concerned family members and Search and Rescue being sent out when you miss your estimated finish time.

Have a map of the trail, and know trail names, junctions (both marked and unmarked), trail markers and landmarks. Keep in mind that the trail will look vastly different at night. Missing turns, taking routes that look like trails but aren't, and getting "turned around" are all likely to happen. be prepared to take your time, and only continue if you are certain of the direction.

Pace - Turtle Power

Don't expect to PR any segments on Strava. Wow, that hurt to write that sentence.

Ain't No Records Being Broken Here!

Sight lines are limited, and  your overall pace will be very slow compared to day running. Take into account the above notes of paying attention to trail markers, and signage, and the number of stops you take will also increase. Pace is irrelevant at night unless it's on a race day. Enjoy the sounds of the night, the silent air, and really get in tune with the experience. Night running had a huge impact on my transition from road (which was shortlived anyway) to trail. My pace addiction went out the window, and getting tuned in to energy output and effort is really easy at night.

Elevation - Climbs Get Easier, Downhills Get Harder

For most of us, downhills are faster than uphills. That stays relatively true with night running, but be prepared to experience fatigue on the downhills and a more relaxed state on the uphills.
As I mentioned in a previous post on climbing, going uphill in the dark is awesome. Why? Because you can't see how high it is. The incline disappears from your field of vision very quickly, leaving you with a 15 foot arc of light which leads you into never never land.  Your breathing and your steps are the only things to keep you company. The top of the climb meets you when it meets you, and the monumental task of going up is nary a worry for the majority of the tunnel in which you travel.

And Bears. And Cougars.

The inverse is true for downhill. I tend to fiddle with my headlamp angle a lot more on the downhill so I can run as fast as possible and still be "in the light."  The ground approaches and disappears quickly, regardless of how fast you're going, and the space behind is swallowed into a black pit of nothingness. It's exhilarating and a serious rush. Depending on how technical the trail is, your primary goal is not to fall flat on your face.
The concentration and mental fatigue can accumulate quickly, much like lactic acid in the brain, as you focus on the quickly manifesting and dissolving reality before you. If you know the trail, and have run it multiple times in both bright and dark conditions, speed can come, but always at a price. Things seem faster in the night, so the payoff is huge regardless.

The Elements - Weather You Know It or Not

Summer time night running is very different than Spring, Fall or Winter running; mainly because of the respect it deserves. It's normally cooler at night, and even more so in the wilderness. A balmy afternoon can turn into a sub-freezing evening very quickly. Be prepared, and check the weather reports. Being on a mountain, in the dark, in a volatile weather season can be disaster. In Vancouver, North Shore Search and Rescue is very active plucking under-prepared or unlucky hikers, runners and adventurers in the colder months.

Caution and Preparedness is your friend
A sudden drop in temperature, a mistaken turn or a downpour can all suddenly change the amount of time you are exposed to the elements. I wear Icebreaker merino base layer gear religiously, and have mountaineering shells for wind protection, a thermal blanket, and merino wool toques and gloves. While moving, it may be overkill, and stores neatly in my pack, but if someone, including myself, was injured, a 30 minute or 3 hour wait for rescue in the dark under changing conditions is a bad place to wish for a blankie and a teddy bear. Add to that the potential for shock, hypothermia, and dehydration and you're asking for trouble. Now, don't get me wrong, night running in the winter is awesome, but follow the old adage of better to have and not need, than to need and not have!

Time on Feet - Training 

As a training tool, night running is perfect to prepare you for the travel race, or ensure you have a strong base for the Spring season. It's a great way to spend time on feet, and minimize the distance and pace goals in training. The discussions at night also tend to take on a different seasoning. Most of my night runs have brought me closer to my running friends. The moments of silence are noticed, not ignored, and the conversations tend to be deeper in meaning, less trivial (although your mileage may vary).

In summary, get out there and give it a shot. Night running is something you can really fall in love with, and its rewards far outweigh the risks. For ultra running, night running is an integral part of the majority of distances in the 50 mile + range if you're a mid to back of the pack runner. Getting comfortable with it's nuances is not only an enjoyable part of the work of trail running, but one that can ensure you success.