Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Running the Chuckanut Mountains: A lesson learned over a year later


From the Ridge looking to the north east. A long way down.

In 2013 I took part in the Knee Knacker, a race I said was "THE HARDEST RACE".

On Tuesday, I think I may have figured our why I made that run so hard on myself, let alone how hard the course was on me. My brother-in-law Sean and I made our way down to Larabee State Park to do a 21k run in the Chuckanuts, with the focus on running up Rock Trail and along the Ridge Trail.



My legs felt like crap from the get go. On about 5 hours sleep, I thought it was my own fatigue. I just could not get them going. I was actually running in pain. That was until the 6k mark of our run, when I stopped, took off my Zoot compression calf sleeves, and stuffed them in my Nathan HPL20 hydration kit.

Let Freedom Reign!! Making it to the top sans lower leg encumberments.

My legs were free. I could actually feel my muscles move, uninhibited. Something that I take for granted on every run I am on. After removal, I felt like two lower leg casts had been removed from my legs. I could actual run without pain.

I remembered the same pain for 50 kilometres at the Knee Knacker. I would not be having it this time. I ditched those infernal things early. I have friends who run in calf sleeves. I thought the sleeves  might be one of those types of things to enhance or make my run more efficient, faster. But no. Those bastards are now solely for recovery, if I feel like it.

And often, I do not feel like wearing compression for recovery. It is just not my thing, save for the rare occasion that I pull our my knee high Sugoi socks.

21 kms. Another beautiful run in some of the best trails around! The profile is sweet!

The old mantra of do not try anything new on race day would have been something that I should have heeded over a year ago on the morning of the Knee Knacker. Instead, I flipped it off, squeezing into my calf sleeves, and trying to get to the finish of the hardest race I have ever done. I made that race even more uncomfortable that it needed to be.

My calf sleeves are ready for the trash. They are not for me.

Note to self: Never try anything new on race day. No new shoes, no new clothes, no new nutrition. Nothing.

And, the Knee Knacker is still one mutha of a race. Damn hard.

And, never, ever, wear calf sleeves while racing or training.

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National XC Championships is November 29th, followed by the Deception Pass 50k!!

Life is good.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

2014 Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon


One year ago, I posted a PB at the Victoria marathon, cracking the 3:10 BQ threshold for my age category, and thus, earning a qualifier to the 2015 B.A.A Boston Marathon. Just last month, I was accepted into the marathon and will be travelling in April. However, the two pronged goal last year was not achieved: earn a qualifier, and run the marathon in under 3 hours.

I had another chance this thanksgiving to do just that--go quicker than I have ever over 42.2kms. The Victoria Marathon was my 7 marathon since 2011. So far, I have raced Vancouver 4 times, Kamloops once, and with this one, Victoria, twice. Of them all, I have to say that Victoria is a challenging, undulating course--but perhaps my most favorite of all.

Signing up with Cathy Noel at the Vancouver Marathon Expo back in May helped me have a goal to work towards for October. However, plans became derailed, and I was left with barely 6 weeks to get ready from the start of September. In fact, I managed to get about 4 weeks of steady training in for this one. Illness and injury have a way with messing with an athlete. I think also I was a bit complacent with my training, hoping that less may have been more, and relying on my bike fitness to get me through.

A couple of things I have learned:

  • biking does not help running, or running faster;
  • in order to run faster, one has to train with specificity, and rack up some huge miles.

These are obvious. Yet, I ignored both of these. I biked, I ran less. I did not focus enough to make this my fastest marathon yet. And although I did not focus enough, I still had the same goal that I have attempted to accomplish for the last two years: run sub 3. Foolhardy, really.

I suppose this is where insanity might start to take hold. I feel like for 2014 I am spinning my wheels a bit here. I had hoped to get under 3, but when you do not invest enough in the bank, you cannot expect your body to return what you need--My ROI was smaller than I had hoped for. I may have broke even, but I wanted to go big!

Me, Philip, Sean, and his shorts. Those were an ironic birthday gift last year from me to him.
Apparently, he was paid may compliments on the course, with a number of folks welcoming him to Canada.
The race started off great. I met Franco Dotto at the start line, and he and I stuck together all the way to Cook St. I was ticking off anywhere from 4:09-4:19 min/kms consistently. This was where Franco and I parted ways. At 4km, I had to pull over for a nature break--something I had to take care of before the race, yet I thought I would be fine. I wasn't, but I managed to get back on course with Franco about 45 seconds in front of me. In fact, I could see him ahead of me for much of the first 2/3rd of the race. At the half, I was feeling comfortable, meeting 1:31:25. I was really happy with my pace, even though I knew that the race was going to get harder as the miles ticked by.

I managed to catch Franco at 25kms. We ran together until 28kms, when I said to him that we had 1 hour to run 14k/h--something I was convinced we could do. 4 kms later through 32, I was feeling like a star, and decided it was time to push the pace. The last half of the course are undulating, seeming to go uphill more than down. It was taxing physically. My pace slowed, my stride length shortened. I was losing time and pace. I could not keep it. I was a victim of my own lack of training. I had pushed too hard, and was no longer able to keep speed. Was I trying to catch Franco for too long? Did I not run my own race? What was happening was not what I wanted....

300m to go. Feeling like a sack of hammers.
Effort in, effort out. I had not done enough long runs/tempo/interval training to keep a steady effort. And, I think I sabotaged my own race plan by pushing the tempo and getting caught up in the time goal, as opposed to running conservatively and letting the race play our before me, letting the race happen as opposed to trying to control the race with my speed and ability. I was rattled, off my pace, and hurting.

At 40kms my clock read 2:57. with 9 or 10 minutes left, I could still run in under 3:10, finishing with a 3:06-3:08--another BQ. My body would have nothing of it. I rounded the final corner to see the signs--800m to go, 600, 500, 400......I saw Noah and Lori-Ann on the side and ran over to high five them, stared down the road clock ticking by. I would not get in under 3:10.

Ratbagged by the end. An earned medal for the effort.
I settled for 3:10:22.


And for that, I am not terribly disappointed.

Former neighbor kid down the street Jordan Cramen running a PB! Nice work buddy!
Here is why.

I ran the marathon under prepared. I know how to do this well. I think of the Knee Knacker in 2013--my worst race ever in terms of how I felt and what that ultra did to me. I think I lost a couple of years off of my life after that one. Now, that is not to say that is what happened here. Not at all. Three days on and I feel back to normal, save for some body fatigue. Legs feel great, save for some muscle tightness.
Lor, Noah, and me. Two other kids were MIA.
I am heartened to know that with a small amount of training, I can complete the run with the time that I had. It all went to hell later in the race. Knowing that, I have about 5 months to prepare for Boston, using the last two months of training as a springboard into some serious specific speed and endurance work.

2.5 hrs at tempo! Awesome! My moving time does not equal my elapsed time...
Curbing beer consumption, a number of races that I enjoy doing through the spring, and focusing solely on Boston may be what helps me to run strong, confident, and allow me to run without hitting the wall hard at the end. Or if I do hit the wall, I can at least not bleed time like I have in Victoria.

Strava analysis doesn't lie--things got tougher and slower.
I have to say as well--I loved running this marathon! It was tougher than last year, super challenging, and physically demanding. Yet, even though I was hurting--I loved it. I enjoyed the pain and suffering. I relished in it. Something that I have not had happen while running in a long time. It might sound kind of sadistic to run yourself into the ground for 42.2 kms, but all told, I feel like I am beginning to love the run again. Just in time for winter.

The marathon is a race of truth. You cannot hide your preparation, or lack thereof, during this event. The same can be said about many other endurance events. But from my experience, one can get through an 8k, 10k, or even maybe a half and get away with a solid time on little training. But this event, like other ultra marathons, is one that requires discipline, preparation, concentration, and some serious determination. I had many of those, but not all for this one.

That is encouraging for me going into 2015. Hey....I could not get my marathon goal for 2014. No big deal. I did many other things that were important for me to experience. This is not the last marathon I will be taking part in, God willing. Right now, I am enjoying life!

Victoria puts on a great show--the volunteers are amazing, and this is a really classy event! Thanks so much, Victoria, for yet another amazing Thanksgiving weekend, and a great race! I will be back to do this one again, but like Vancouver, perhaps not for a while. There are too many other good races to do out there. I think it is time to look around a bit and try something different. Deception Pass 50k is coming up in December.....

New things on the horizon.

*One week on, my legs are still fatigued....It does not help that I ran the Chuckanut Ridge yesterday.....

Gear on the run:
Sugoi Titan Sleeveless Top
North Face GTD Trail Shorts
Fuel Belt Race Number Holder
Suunto Ambit 2 GPS Watch
2 Gu Espresso Love Gels
Saucony Kinvara 3 Size 14

*last marathon in these shoes. Trying out the Kinvara 5 or NB MR1400v2 next time

Friday, 19 September 2014

2014 Gran Fondo Whistler: Double Fondo Day!


In early August, my brother asked if I was interested in riding the Gran Fondo Whistler with him. We would be riding for the RBC team (which I did not realize until after I saw the results). This event would mark my second time participating in the ride up to Whistler. One stipulation that I had for my brother was that if we were to do the Fondo, then there would be no driving back. We would have to do the Fondo-return, riding back after the event. He agreed, and I was game.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Time off to Heal: My declining fitness, my time away from the blog

Over the past four months, I have watched myself lose my run fitness, and my mojo for blogging. M.Ed work at SFU, coupled with the BCTF teacher's strike, and the BCPSEA lockout all have added up for me not wanting to put much effort into this online journal. Motivation waned, run training came to a halt, and I managed to get Shingles. AND put my neck out. So much for exercise and training as preventative medicine.

Truth be told, I essentially stopped running steady after the BMO Vancouver Marathon, swapping my bike out for running shoes. The bike, as I have said before, is forgiving. It is smooth on the road, adventurous in the trails. I can bike for hours and hours, and then go our the next day for more.