Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Further Up and Further In

This month has been huge for milestones. I've seen my biggest week ever, my new biggest month ever, and my first 300km month.

And I'm feeling great. In fact, I don't think I've ever felt as good about my running as I do now.

Don't get me wrong--I've had my tired and sore days. But when I think about how far I've come and what I've accomplished over the past few months, I almost feel as though the training for this race is as significant to me as the race itself.

Thinking back to January: At the beginning of the month I wasn't even running; I was still getting over my injuries. I started running again in the second half of the month, pulling in a grand total of 26 miles for the entire month.

February: Feeling a little better, starting to run more frequently. 68 miles for the month. I remember being concerned about the nagging pains, issues of compensation, lower leg problems, etc. I remember wishing I could just run again without being afraid of re-injuring myself. I just wanted running to feel good again. I was out of shape and still had some leftover problems, and didn't know how much I could safely run without overdoing it. I was frustrated. And yet it was at this time that a friend put the idea in my head that maybe I could still do White River this year. My first response was, "are you insane? That's only 4 months away and I'm barely running!" But as I walked away from that conversation, the fire was kindled, and I thought, "well... maybe I could do it..."

March: I decided to use March as a test month. Could I safely increase my mileage to a good starting point to get me on track for White River? I designed an ambitious training plan and decided that there was only one way to find out. If I crashed and burned, I would do so early enough to revise my plans for the summer. But it was worth trying. So in March I ramped up the mileage (I never liked the 10% rule anyway!). 110 miles for the month might not seem like a lot, but it was a major increase. And I had no setbacks.

April: 170 miles. Again, huge increases in a short period of time. This was my highest month ever, and I hadn't even been near that since January 2007. Confidence was building, but I knew there was still lots of time for things to go wrong.

May: holding rather than increasing. I gave my body some time to adapt to the increases. I battled through some difficult runs and worked on my mental training. My first 100k week. Constantly hungry. Feeling good. 160 miles for the month.

June: starting to get tired, and starting to feel as though I'm ready to be done. I seem to vacillate from day to day. One day I feel exhausted and cranky and I'm not sure how I'll get through to taper, and the next day I feel awesome and confident. First 50k training run (pb!). New biggest week ever. New biggest month ever. First time past 300km in a month. Trying really hard to get enough sleep and enough food and water to keep me going.

And now here I am. I feel as though I've already climbed a huge mountain, and I'm really happy about how far I've come. I want to celebrate, but I will wait until the last big week is done! (Still scared of the race though!)

Goodbye, popcorn

For the past few weeks I have been hopelessly addicted to popcorn. At home I eat air-popped with butter and salt, and at work I've been eating microwave popcorn (which is unusual for me!). Must be the salt...

But today is June 29 and I just finished off my last bag of popcorn until after White River. I have decided that I need to clean up my diet for the month of July. No popcorn, no chips, no candy, no fries, no alcohol, no pastries, no chocolate bars, no slurpees, no pop (except diet). This is hard for me... I love my treats. But I want to be healthy going into this race, and I also don't want to gain weight during my taper. So this is how it will be. I will not cut out cheese and pizza, or other things which have nutritional value and are good running foods. I also need to take my multi-vitamin more often, as I suspect I might be low on iron these days.

Amazingly, I've lost 4lb since March (but unfortunately it's the 4lb that I gained over the fall/winter while injured, so I am at the same weight I was a year ago).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekly Summary

Monday - 12 miles
Tuesday - 5 miles
Wednesday - 10 miles (trail)
Friday - 21 miles (trail)
Sunday - 16 miles

Total: 64 miles (103km)

This makes my new highest week ever, and also brings me up to 293km for the month so far; I will definitely break 300km this month for the first time!

The hip is feeling better at the end of the week than it was at the beginning, so that is a good sign. It was a little achey today during the run but not bad, and isn't bothering me at all when I'm not running. So I am encouraged!

This week coming up will be a semi-cutback week. It won't be as drastic as the last one, but light, in prep for my last big week.

Today's run was great; although I felt tired from the week, I still felt pretty strong. It was still slow, but I sped up for the last few miles and felt awesome. This gives me a bit of confidence; the bigger weeks are getting easier! But I'm still scared of the race!


Good Reading

Scott Jurek's account of breaking the US 24-hour record is well worth a read. I love his attitude!

As well, I really enjoyed this post by Scott Dunlap. It gives a bit of insight into why we do this crazy thing called ultrarunning.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

This Harsh and Splendid Land

This harsh and splendid land
With snow-covered rock mountains, cold-crystal streams,
Deep forests of cypress, juniper and ash
Is as much my body as what you see before you here.

(from The Warrior Song of King Gezar)

I read this tonight in "Three Cups of Tea" (trying hard to stay awake on the long overnight!). Then it reminded me of another quote I read recently, by a local artist/painter named Chili Thom. He said:

"I love living here. It's got so much diverse beauty but is also a very rugged and challenging place. From the weather-hammered shorelines of the West Coast all the way through to the jagged upheaval of the Rockies, you can learn that life is not always easy but it always goes on. You see a tiny tree clinging out of a crack on the cliffs of the Squamish Chief and it shows that life is a struggle but with perseverance you can get through anything. In nature, there are a lot of challenges you have to power through. You suffer out a storm, or a long slog up to a summit, but you are always rewarded with something beautiful: a sunrise, or a 360-degree viewpoint, or an Inukshuk on the top of a mountain."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Long Run

Distance: 21 miles
Time: 5:20:24
Total elevation change: 8,800 feet
Calories consumed: 970
Tired puppies: 1

My calorie consumption almost made it to 200/hour, which has been my goal this entire training period. I have never actually hit that 200/hour mark yet, but having it as a goal helps me to force myself to eat even when I don't want to.

In the interests of listening to my body, I shortened today's run from the planned 31 miles. This means I won't make my mileage plan for the week, but I should still be able to make the monthly goal (300km).

Tried some new foods today. A friend sent me a couple of Hammer Gels to try--one banana and one chocolate. I did like them, but I found that they coated my mouth and didn't go down as smoothly as my CarbBooms and Clif Shots do. The flavours were good though! The chocolate tasted like pudding. Yum!

I also had some leftover Peanut Butter m&ms with me, which went down very well around the 20 mile mark. It helped that it was a warm day so I hardly had to chew them!

But I think my favourite new food is the Clif Shot Bloks. This was only my second time trying them and I really enjoy them. The flavour is good and they are really easy to get down. I was worried that they'd stick to my teeth or be hard to chew, but they are great!

Overall it was a good run, and I enjoyed being out there with Sammy, who is now sprawled at my feet, half asleep! My hip wasn't bad but it did ache a fair amount in the second half. I'm glad I didn't try to do the full distance.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Re-thinking the Plan

I don't think I've mentioned it on this blog yet, though most reading it will already be aware: I spent much of 2009 battling a pretty serious injury. My left hip basically seized right up, from the top of the quads all the way up into my abdomen. For months I was limping around the neighbourhood, and was off of running for awhile. I went to physio, which helped a little, but didn't find my real solution until January 2010 when I had a couple of IMS treatments (intra-muscular stimulation). That cleared it up enough that I was finally able to run without pain and start building my mileage again. Over the past 5 months it has been great, but periodically it will tighten up a bit, become sore for a few days, and then relax again. It hasn't been enough to concern me or make me back off the mileage, and goes away on its own.

But this week it has been a little more tight, and a little more sore, and it's making me nervous. It's not bad--I have been running and walking fine--but it twinges and isn't relaxing. Most likely it is reacting to my increased mileage, and the 50k I did a couple of weeks ago.

At this point in my training, the last thing I want to do is get re-injured. My risk tolerance is really low, and I really don't want to screw this up.

So I think I need to take another look at my plan for the next 2.5 weeks until taper. I had planned two more 50k runs, but I might drop this week's, and level out a bit for this week and next, just to be on the safe side. A part of me feels like that's wussing out... but I'll just remind myself that I've enough miles under my belt to finish the race; missing it because I pushed too hard would be much worse than easing off a bit right now.


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Buck Stops Here

I was in a foul mood all day today... frustration at work plus the regular Monday blahs (it's tough to get up for work on Monday morning when you've been working nights all weekend...). So I was grouchy all day and found myself looking forward to my run tonight and thinking that I might lengthen it past the planned 10 miles.

I set out feeling alright. Couldn't quite find a smooth stride but my legs felt well-rested (as they should since I only ran 13 miles last week!). The weather was nice and I was at the fast end of lsd pace when I came across this guy:

He was just having a snack next to the trailway, and didn't seem too concerned that I approached him for an impromptu photo op.

That made me happier. I ended up doing 12 miles. In the last couple of miles I was hurting a bit (no idea why, since I wasn't going very fast) and I started thinking about how many miles I still have to do in the next couple of weeks, and I felt tired and ready to be finished. So I had to give myself a little pep talk; it went like this:

This is the part where you have to just put your head down, push through, and get it done. Forget about how tired you are and how much it hurts. Take one mile at a time, one day at a time, and just do it. You're almost finished. Now is not the time to wuss out.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sleep... or something like it

This week was a cut-back week, and once again ended up being a dramatic reduction. I only ran twice, for a total of 13 miles.

I had planned to run again today, but working overnights on the weekends and days during the week appears to be catching up to me, and sleep deprivation beat out today's run.

Still trying to get enough sleep to support my mileage, but I find that it's getting harder and harder. For the first time in this training cycle, I'm dreading the upcoming week. Must try to catch a few more winks by Monday...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

LT Workout at the Track

tonight's LT interval workout:
2 miles warm-up
6x800, aiming for 4:35, and ending up with:

plus cool-down and recovery laps, total 7 miles.

It was good. I am still feeling last week a bit in my joints (not my muscles, fortunately!). But the cut-back week is only half over so I'm confident that I'll be 100% again by Monday. :)

A friend and I tried a new (to us) track tonight, and I didn't really like it. The only benefit is that it's the closest to home. But it's asphalt instead of rubberized and there were WAY too many people there... they weren't even running. My friend and I were the only ones running. The field was full of field hockey teams, and they had their gear spread out into the first two lanes on one side. Then there were small children playing on the track, kids riding bikes, some guy playing with his dog, and several walkers. It was not cool. I think I'll save this one for rainy days when no one else is out.

In other news, I have been processing my feelings about my upcoming race. Every time I think about it, a wave of fear washes over me. This is a huge new distance for me, and not one that I can just fake. But the wave of fear has been consistently followed by a certain peacefulness. I have trained well. In fact, I've trained harder and more consistently for this race than any other, ever. I'm still worried about the cut-off times, but overall I've come to a place of calm, knowing that I've done all I can do and now it's just maintaining and adapting until taper time. The true test will be race day, and whether I finish in time or not, the whole thing has been an awesome experience and I will have no regrets.

I also think that I have managed to find that elusive balance between too much and not enough. I feel (almost) ready, but I don't feel overtrained or overwhelmed. I'm ready for taper time but not dying for it. It's good.

Only 3.5 weeks until taper! :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Weekly Summary

Monday - 10 miles
Wednesday - 10 miles
Friday - 31 miles
Sunday - 11 miles

Total: 62 miles (100km)

Today's run was a bit sluggish. My legs were not happy about it, lol. But I wanted the 100k and this week is a cut-back week so I went for it anyway. Overall, though, I feel great considering the long run on Friday... hardly any soreness (none until I started running on it today). This cut-back week should get me all fixed up for another big one next week!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Best Long Run Ever.

Well after all my whining about being tired, I took a Nytol last night and slept 8 hours solid. It's amazing what a good sleep can do for one's running!

Woke up this morning with 28 miles (45k) on the schedule, and thought, "If I feel good I'll do 50k."

Ran the first 40 minutes with Sammy, then dropped him off at home and grabbed my nathan pack and my ipod, and set out again. The beginning was a little rough but overall I felt good, and as I continued on I knew I was going to do 50k today. I kept to a MUCH easier route than last week, so it hurt a lot less. Just as pretty though... I ran through an area that I'd never seen before and that was far from other people (not a soul out there except me!), and the forest was unlike anything I'd ever seen--positively enchanting. I was running through there looking at the trees and the tiny purple flowers by the path and smiling to myself, thinking, "This is why I do this." It was lovely. I wish I were an artist (not that any picture could do it justice). I wanted to keep following that path but I was nervous about how far away I was getting, should anything go wrong... so I reluctantly turned around and headed back to civilization, then did another leg to get my distance. I felt GOOD throughout the run. I was so happy to be out there, no major pains or problems, no feeling of exhaustion or fatigue, no slowing down in the second half. When I hit the 24 mile mark I knew that I was going to have a 50k pb, and I did--finished in 6:27:50, which is an 18 minute pb.

Calories consumed: 1215
bears spotted: 0, but they were close by... I received a warning from another person that he'd just seen a cub, so the mama was probably nearby
garmins killed: 1, but fortunately it held off until after the run... I don't have my run data though!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


The past two training weeks have been the hardest yet, and not just because of mileage (in fact, my mileage hasn't really increased since mid-May). My legs have felt perpetually tired and sore for over a week, even with the extra rest day that I took on Tuesday.

I take cut-back weeks religiously every third week, and during those weeks I only run 20-30k. I don't think I'm overtraining. I don't feel the mental drag that tends to come with overtraining, and mentally I feel fine--even eager for each run.

So what's going on? Is it just regular fatigue from approaching the peak of the training period? I've been increasing steadily since January, going from 0 to 100k weeks in 5 months. I'm maintaining my highest training load ever. I'm almost done. Does that explain how tired I feel these days, or is there something else?

I feel like I'm not recovering well from the runs, and that concerns me because last year at this time I said the same thing and a week later I was injured. So I want to be careful... but I also want to recognize that my mileage is high and that's going to make me tired. And I haven't been sleeping well for the past few weeks, so maybe that is part of the problem too.

For now, I'll continue doing what I'm doing, but I wanted to record all of this in case I need to revisit it later.

Tonight, bed early! Long run tomorrow. Onward!

Monday, June 7, 2010


I spent yesterday standing near the bottom of "Ned's Atomic Dustbin", a popular downhill mountain bike course on Mt. Seymour. Let's just note from the top that this is not a trail I have ever ridden on my bike; it is far above my skill level, a very technical trail with several big drops, tight corners, steep sections, and very few soft places to land. I have a great deal of respect for everyone who finished the "Specialized Smackdown" race yesterday.

Being a course marshall was fun, if nerve-wracking. I learned that mtb races are vastly different from running races. This particular race was really short. The winner did it in 2:40ish (that's 2 minutes, 40 seconds!). But we were there all day because not only do the racers have to go down one at a time (they are timed--there is no room for passing), but also before the race even started there were 3 hours of practice runs, so each racer could run the course several times before the race. Once the race started, there was only 30 seconds between racers. It got pretty intense! Also, unlike running, they start with the slowest racers and work up to the elites. This meant that the action got faster and faster as the race went on.

The nerve-wracking part was the potential for injury. As a marshall, this made me a bit nervous. Fortunately I only had one injury at my station, and that was during the practice runs, not the race (don't worry, he was ok--just some bruised ribs). However during the race there were some other injuries, and the poor injured people had to walk down the mountain to the nearest road; I can't imagine. One girl was making her way slowly down the mountain with a broken collarbone.

Anyway, the race itself went well, and I took lots of pics, but my favourite was the exploding tree. During the practice run one of the riders missed the tight corner and went over the edge, completely demolishing a tree stump; it literally exploded before my eyes. It was spectacular! The best part is that the guy got up laughing, went back, and took the curve again (successfully this time!).

This was the tree before:

And after:

Good times! I definitely want to volunteer again next year! I should also mention that I was incredibly impressed by the elites! Not only were they crazy fast, but they took the technical parts so smoothly that it looked deceptively easy. Amazing.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Weekly Summary

Monday - 10 miles trail
Tuesday - 6 miles
Wednesday - 8 miles
Friday - 25 miles trail
Saturday - 4 miles

Total: 53 miles (85k).

I had wanted 90k but those 85 were hard-earned so I'll take them! I think next week I'll stick to easier routes (especially for the long run) to give myself a bit of a break. Yesterday's run was a huge deposit to the "pain bank", that should pay off on race day.

Tomorrow is a rest day... sort of. I'm volunteering all day at the North Shore Bike Fest. I get to be a marshall for the downhill mountain bike race course, and in spite of the forecast of rain, I think it will be fun! Hopefully I can get some good photos of the bikes tearing down the mountain.

Today I booked my hotel room for WR50. Can't wait!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tough 25

Today's run was supposed to be a confidence-booster. I've been worried about my slow paces and how they are dangerously close to the cut-off paces for my goal race. It had occurred to me that running with my dog might be slowing me down--it seems like we're always stopping to pick up poop, chase squirrels, take a dip in the river, say hello to other dogs and people, leash/unleash (depending on where we are) and deal with undesirable behaviour (I apologize if my dog has ever jumped on you while on the trail!). So today I decided to run without Sammy and see if it made a difference. My hope was that a faster pace would give me more confidence for the race.

It backfired. Yes, I think I would have been faster, as I was making good time in the first part of the run. But my legs were tired from the start, and I made the mistake of picking a very difficult route. As soon as I hit technical sections, I slowed right down. Then I was exploring an area I hadn't done before, and it was down, down, down followed by up, up, up. By the half-way mark I was already hurting and slow. Then I ran out of water in the 18th mile. While I felt well mentally, my body was suffering. My 40k run ended up taking almost as long as my last 50k. Definitely my most painful run yet this year.

Oh, and I saw a bear! I was glad then that Sammy wasn't with me, since I'm not sure how he would have reacted. I came around a corner and there he was, about 30 feet away, all cute and black with big ears. He wasn't full grown, but not a baby either. We both stopped and looked at each other (me wishing I'd brought my camera!) and then he turned off the trail and down into the bush.

So, I did not get the confidence boost I was looking for. My distance and time were both exactly half of what I need on July 31. My only comfort is that this was a much tougher route than what I will encounter in the race, so hopefully that helps a little!

5 weeks until taper...

Distance: 25 miles (40k)
Time: 6:34:49
Elevation change: 15,000 feet
Calories consumed: 1025 (not enough)
Bears spotted: 1 :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

getting things started

Thought I'd start a running blog! The question is whether I'll be able to keep it up longer than a few weeks, as I tend to start these things and not continue them. I'd like this to be not only a collection of my own thoughts on running and training, but also a place where I can collect some of my favourite blog posts from other authors. There is some great material out there!

Currently I am 8 weeks away from my first 50-mile trail race, and the nervous anticipation increases by the day. It was three years ago, right after my first 50k, that I first started talking about doing 50 miles. How did three years elapse without meeting that goal? Knock on wood, I'm almost there.

Happy trails!