Monday, December 7, 2015

Looking Ahead

   It's been a great summer, relaxing and not training for anything has brought about a renewed love for running. I've spent some quality time riding my bike this summer and decided next year for a twist I'd try a triathlon. The early plan is to stick to some shorter trail races for training(can't leave the trails behind completely)  and get in plenty of biking and swimming.
       I'll try to update as the months go by and see how it goes. So far longest ride on the bike has been a 125km  adventure with friends, it was supposed to be 100 but the "ish" grows with each change in sport. The longest swim 1.5km which is way harder than I remember it being.
    Excited to see where this all goes and interested in seeing how it evolves into the next adventure. See everybody on the trails, or road ,or lake.


Friday, July 10, 2015

California Dreaming ,Western States 2015

  I don't really know where to start with this one,Western was always a dream in the back of my mind,the someday I never really expected to materialize. The chances of getting through the lottery to enter are hard enough,combined with getting the necessary time off work and finances all coming together at once I really never expected to get there. It was a dream and sometimes that's enough to keep you going when the miles of running start to pile up. We dream of getting faster, of seeing new places and sometimes when work and life pile up we just dream of getting out the door and running till we can no longer take another step.
   Last year I decided to race Oil Creek 100 to get a qualifier for the W.S. lottery, I enjoyed the race and joked with Robyn while filling out the forms to enter W.S. after all nobody gets in with just one ticket.I had friends who were on their 5th or 6th year of entering so come lottery day we didn't even bother to follow the results. I found out while looking at a facebook post at Starbucks, while walking back to the car I couldn't hide my ear to ear grin,lucky for me my loving wife had also read the posts and the decision was instantly made to vacation in California in June.
  Training for this one would not be my usual process however, injuries from earlier in the year had me at a plan to not run any 100s till the fall, my Achilles was being its usual tempermental self and the new position at work meant throwing out my old training plans and starting from scratch. It was time to try something new and that started with Kathy Chesney from Ayr Physio, her approach of assessing my running form and strengthening my weak areas while making some adjustments to the way I run has paid back huge. That problematic Achilles is a thing of the past and my hill climbing is stronger than ever, its amazing how some tiny adjustments to form paid back such huge dividends. Winter runs were 80% road this year with an awesome group of people from Paris Runners Den who were gearing up for spring marathons, it seemed like each week got faster and further while the group runs made it much easier to get out in a really cold winter.
   Three weeks prerace I made an unusual adjustment for me, the new schedule had me running 6 days a week and with the mileage I was suddenly finding it hard to do anything, it was beyond the normal feeling of tired but running and I was starting to see a decrease in performance. I backed way off on running and did an unusually long taper this was not where I wanted to be and I was constantly reading posts about the heat at W.S. I was easing into a full blown taper nightmare. Lucky for me Robyn is used to telling me to suck it up during my taper tantrums while reassuring me that everything will be fine, I was over trained and stressed some rest and everything would come together.
   This brings us to race week,a smooth flight into Sacramento and an easy 2 hour drive brought us to the base of the mountain in Squaw Valley.Squaw in itself was beautiful and I instantly fell in love, a quick run part way up the mountain gave me my first lesson on how to behave in this race, slow and steady. Elevation was a new thing for me and the heat was definitely not in my favour ,my race plan was to get under the 24 hour mark and get the silver buckle but I was starting to think even that was optimistic. At the race kit pick up I met my friend Iris Cooper, probably the most effective heat runner I know due to her multiple Badwater finishes and got some tips that I took straight to heart, one of them was a cooling cloth around my neck that made a huge difference on race day.
   Race morning was warm and as I approached the starting line I was greeted by my amazing crew, I cant say thank-you enough to the group of people who travelled across the country just to support me. Some get a crew of one or two but I had an army and my own cheering section as I came through aid stations. It was simply amazing. The race itself is definitely the hardest but most beautiful I have ever competed in, every view was like looking at a postcard. The first climb was what had scared me the most while looking at the course profile and it was tough but it didn't hold a candle to what was to come through the heat of the day in the Canyons, massive switch back climbs and descents in temperatures well over 100 degrees were punishing. I kept thanking myself for holding back at the start while re assuring myself that if I could hold some for the last 60km after Foresthill it would be fine.
  The climb through Volcano canyon into Foresthill things were getting better, the heat of the day had broken and my body was starting to feel good, meeting my crew we ran strong into Foresthill aid station, I never change shoes but today I made the exception a whole day of sweat and dust and river crossings had my trusty Cascadias looking a little worse for wear. Fresh shoes and a pacer who was ready to roll I felt like a new man heading back out. We moved quickly through the next 25km and Rucky Chucky river crossing was in front of me long before I expected it, maybe the plan might actually work. I swapped pacers going into the river,probably not the nicest thing to do to a fresh pacer at 10pm but these guys are amazing and their only concern was keeping me on track. Rucky Chucky brought some emotions as this was the place where I was sure we could get done and pretty sure we would hit my 24 hour cut off. The next 15k was steady and while I was feeling the miles we were still getting in some good sections of fairly quick running, neither of us had a working watch at this point so it was just a guess that we were on pace. Coming into the Brown's Bar aid station I asked a volunteer the time, we were well ahead of pace now and it was what I needed to boost my spirit we took off quick from here to highway 49. One last pacer swap and 10ish km to go it felt amazing, we were still passing people and it was smooth sailing. I took time to look over no hands bridge and take it all in,I was here, running Western States and it was everything I had imagined and so much more.
The entry into Auburn is like a dream, big screen of the finish line with 3km to go you feel like your floating your whole crew can run with you at the end and my wife joined me as we rounded the track for the final .2 crossing under the finish banner I was still in awe ,it was done 22:41:29 well under my goal and I felt good.
   I cant thank all my friends,family, crew and pacers enough,you made this experience one I'll never forget ,your support though it all was amazing. Thank you to my wonderful wife for putting up with this ridiculous hobby I love so much. Finally thank you to the 1700 volunteers at Western States if any of you read this you really are the heart of this great event.

Dreams do come true.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oil Creek 100 miler

 I wasn't entirely sure where to start with this post but the last few months have brought some interesting changes and new challenges. A promotion at work came with a drastic schedule change and suddenly the ability to base my entire training schedule on long back to back runs every three days is gone. After seeing some really low numbers in my weekly mileage I needed to sit down and come up with an entirely new plan to continue doing what I love while leaving plenty of time for the challenges brought on by a new career.
   I sat down and worked out a quick plan that included a lot more quality fast runs to work my body harder in a short time with my only real long runs being my Saturday easy long trail adventures. As the weeks quickly went by I noticed a definite improvement in speed but was struggling with the long runs due to the intensity of the week and a few flare ups of the old faithful Achilles pain that always seems to crop up when I least want it to.
  Two weeks prior to the race everyone at work was coughing and sneezing, colds were everywhere I looked, allergies were playing all kinds of games with my head and I was really unsure of how things would go in this race. I looked back at my calendar and mileage was ridiculously low coming into a 100 compared to my usual and I promised myself I'd just go out slow and plan on a finish. There was no way I was going to DNF this one and with all the doubts I had to stick to a safe plan.
  OC100 takes place in Titusville,PA it's a beautiful trail and the fall colours do wonders to make it appear even more visually stunning. The fall colours also cover all the rocks and roots that make the fairly technical trail with 17,785 feet of elevation gain rather interesting to run on. The course is marked extremely well and the aid stations are well spaced and have their own competition on race day to out do each other with both decorations and amazing support for the runners. With 3 50km loops and a final 10km "going home" loop it is a great layout for a race and little planning is required to get the right equipment into the right drop bags.
  Loop 1 with a 5am start I felt good, I stuck with my plan started out fairly easy moved out towards the front so as not to get totally caught in the "train" once we hit single track then counted back 8 runners and settled in to a comfortable pace. Things felt good all lap and at some point I moved up 1 or 2 places due to short stops in aid stations. Loop 2 the Achilles flared up a bit and near the 70km mark I was feeling a little discouraged so I forgot to gel,by 80 km I felt the slight dizzy feel and total flat energy level reminding me of the mistake. I quickly had a Roctane gel and made a plan for the next aid station....emergency food. I don't usually eat solids in a race and looking at the aid station food the only thing interesting to me was a slice of pizza, turns out it was the best pizza ever,suddenly my body came right back around the little bit of warmth on a cold day and loads of salt in the pizza worked wonders. The rest of the day it was gel then pizza then gel and I felt great, probably will never work again but I wasn't looking a gift horse in the mouth that day. Loop 3 was gradually into the dark and I always enjoy running in my little bubble of light so thoroughly enjoyed it. Going home loop is a neat little trick mostly uphill somehow it is like a final little slap in the face just to see what your really made of, to emphasize this fact the final hill has been aptly named "The Hill of Truth".
   I finished up in 4th place with a time of 21:36 good enough for the sub 22 hour gold buckle, way better than I expected and enough to let me know with a few tweaks to the training I can still be competitive with a lot less time input if I do this right. The race was amazing super challenging and lives up to its hype in every way.
 My ever trusty Brooks Cascadias performed flawlessly in the conditions digging in nicely to grab traction both up and down some fairly sketchy hills,I just can't say enough good things about these shoes. My GU energy gels worked wonders and while I did add a little substitute pizza for a change who can blame a guy after consuming 32 gels in a day and the new root beer flavour is a great chaser for a slice of pizza.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Changes and Adjustments

 Its been a while since I posted anything and the changes this summer have definitely kept things interesting. After my race at Sulphur there was definitely some feelings of disappointment, it doesn't seem to matter how much you prepare yourself for the chance that it isn't always going to come together the way you plan it still sucks for awhile.
    I pushed hard through June and July training through a race in mid July and doing fairly well considering. It was the inaugural event for the North Face Endurance Challenge in Ontario and they laid out a very challenging race. It was well organized and the views along the trail had me wandering the wrong way more than once. At the end of the day I was pleasantly surprised with a top ten finish.
 August has brought some changes in my career and I suddenly find myself living with a Monday to Friday career, for someone who was used to training long every two to three days it has flipped my running schedule upside down. At first I was nervous as to how this would unfold but I'm finding it interesting how my body is reacting to the changes. I guess you never realize how much you adapt to a particular form of training until you are forced to make some drastic changes. Some of my recent shorter runs have left my legs feeling just as taxed as previous long runs and while it may not be entirely perfect training for a 100 miler it will definitely be interesting to see how it pays off in October at the Oil Creek 100.
   Regardless of what happens this summer has definitely been an interesting ride. Coffee and Gu for breakfast, watching the sun come up every morning, I'll get used to this yet.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Little Too Fast-DNF

 Sulphur Springs 100 this year I was ready to go. I was in good shape going in with no real issues and in the back of my mind was sure if everything came together on race day there was a good possibility of beating my course record from last year.

Unfortunately that was not the way things unfolded on race day.  Out of bed the temperature was noticeably warmer than last year I had done almost no warm weather running yet this year but chose to ignore this warning sign anyway,mistake #1. At the start line I had plans to match last years first loop time of 1.38 instead I went off like a 25k runner and turned in a first loop time of 1.32, mistake #2 and I'm sure the undoing of the rest of the day. Had I played it smart at this point and backed way off I might have recovered from this but the all or nothing plan was in place and I was sticking to it. I could go on with the gory details of how things fell apart from here but the long and short is I suffered severe leg cramping and decided after walk/running my fifth loop it was time to realize that further pushing was going to ruin my plans for the other races this summer. I made the hardest decision to make in a race and after sitting in the aid station for 30 minutes considering I pulled from the race. The support of my fellow runners was amazing, it was difficult to do this after such an amazing race last year but with every ones support I was positive I was making the right decision. We had an amazing afternoon, re-hydrating and watching other racers charge to their goals, some completed some didn't but the spirit shown during races like these is an amazing thing to witness.
I guess to sum it all up I'm glad I took the chance, mistakes happen but without failure you never know what the possibilities really are. I will continue to race as fast as I possibly can and try to learn from the errors along the way. Thank-you to all my friends and sponsors for your support.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cascadia 9 and Almost Sulphur Time

    Now that the trails are ice free and training has hit its peak for Sulphur Springs 100 I've had a good chance to test out the updates to the Brooks Cascadia 9. The subtle changes made to the shoe for this year have made a huge difference in fit and performance.  I  loved the shoe last year but always felt the toe box was a little restrictive but thought it had to be this way to prevent my toes from getting destroyed on the downhills.Somehow they managed to tweak the design to not only firmly lock the foot in place but allow for some give in the toe box to really up the overall comfort of the shoe,I think this  comes partly from the seam free bonded upper. That coupled with a slight drop in the heel have really made a great shoe awesome I couldn't be happier with the update,as runners we always get nervous when the new model of an old favorite comes out but this time they made a perfect shoe.

On a completely different note training has gone fairly well this winter, with Sulphur right around the corner  things a right where they should be for early May,I'm a little cranky, sore and over trained just like I normally am this time of year. I'm trying something new and seeing a RMT to help work out the aches and pains and will update on how that goes in the future. My beautiful and somehow understanding wife is looking forward to my taper so a few things get done around the house(I thought I was doing pretty good getting the Christmas lights down for Easter) and I'm excited to see how the training has worked out. I chose to largely mimic last years plan and so far it seems to be going fairly well. It never fails though when you look back at your training logs you feel like you could have done just a little more.  Oh well time to trust to the process and begin the taper in just a couple more days, unlike my high school English exam there is no cramming for an ultra if you want good results.Looking forward to seeing all my running friends at the race and enjoying some trails together.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mixed Surface Training for Fast Results

   I love running trails,spring,summer,fall or winter I really enjoy being out as far as I can get on whatever dirt surface comes my way. That being said I have come to realize that there is a certain benefit to training  on other surfaces as well to really maximize your potential as a runner.
  The trail will train your strength and agility ,you learn quickly how to scan further ahead and plan your footsteps through technical sections. Winter running can be especially good for this in southern Ontario as the trails are usually multi-use in nature and horses bikes and day hikers on a warm day can leave a really rough trail surface that leaves no time for day dreaming or distraction. The various ways of transforming your footwear for winter, traction aids or snowshoes make your feet significantly heavier supplying an added training benefit. The trails also teach you quickly how to change up your stride for sudden inclines or wild descents were it is everything you can do just to remain upright.

Haliburton,Ontario.Fast downhill but watch your step.
   Road running has the distinct benefit of being able to focus on consistent fast pace without having to pay attention to the placement of every step,also the grades are significantly more gradual to allow vehicles the benefit of staying on all four tires.  This consistent fast running pays off huge when you return to the trail as you become much more comfortable with the quick turnover and find yourself naturally moving at this new pace.Choosing your routes to travel down quieter country roads allows you to avoid traffic and take time to look around and enjoy the view.


  Finally there is the treadmill, viewed by some as good others as evil, it has real benefits if used as part of a mixed surface training schedule. Don't let it become your escape from winter running because you'll be sure to miss out on the benefits of the strength training supplied by the snow and psychological effect of surviving the worst winter can throw at you,but don't be afraid to use it either. Real benefits can be gained from a treadmill run,not relying entirely on yourself to set the pace but being at the mercy of the rotating belt is a great tool for speed work or tempo runs in the dead of winter. Also being able to set the room temperature with a treadmill in the house can give you a real advantage in  hot or humid race conditions that may occur early in the year.
      At the end of the day this is just my personal opinion, the trails are still my first love but there is a great deal of fun to be found in flying down a country road or soaking your clothes in sweat during a speed session in the middle of January. After all variety is the spice of life right?