Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Great Run

And can't be sure why, but sometimes my brain feels like it's going into a rarely used gear. Colors are more vivid, smells and sounds almost overwhelm me. This morning, walking back from a morning coffee at the Jetfuel coffee shop, was one of those times. The weather was beautiful, there was no wind and walking to my house became something special. Then I got home, the feeling faded and I plodded along doing what I do for a living.

At lunch I went out for a 5 miles run and it started a bit rough, as it happens in so many runs, after sitting on my ass for 4 hours squinting at the computer. Then the special feeling came back. I looked at my Garmin and I was just flying, barely aware of the effort. This was supposed to be a recovery run, but I was running at my marathon pace with little effort. I could feel the power in the muscles of my thighs and legs. I wasn't breathing hard, but deeply enough to feel the connection between that act and how my body was powering me forward. I felt alive.

This was one of the greatest run of my life. I've had a few like these, but not many. I've run further. I've run faster. I enjoy most of my runs. But this one was special. It's been a few hours, and the feeling still lingers. I love it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Going Ultra

In the movie "Run, Fat Boy, Run", every time someone mentions something about running a marathon, the other person invariably replies: "Why?". Most people have no desire to run a marathon, let alone train for it. They know it takes a long time, maybe even more than 2 hours, and that there is a "good" chance of death or injury. Some people ask you how long that particular marathon is. In other words they know nothing. At least, they've heard of marathons though. Some people, when they get to a certain point in life, will train for a marathon, run it, and never run again. "Run a Marathon", CHECK! They're not really runners, they are just going down their bucket list. Some runners will run their whole life without running a marathon. Runners run.

When people why you run marathons, it's hard to explain. One does not have to run long distances to be a runner. I've read somewhere that the health benefits of running plateau after about 15 miles/week, so if this is true, you can't really justify it health-wise. It's not really fun. Running for more than 18-20 miles hurts, thus the challenge. Yet, most people, although they don't have any interest in running a marathon accept that it's a socially acceptable goal. The media talks about it. They are an Olympic event. Society approves, to a point.

When it comes to Ultra distance running, none of that applies. Few people have heard of it. Most people don't accept that it is humanly possible to run 50, 100 or more miles or that it's a good idea to attempt it.

My family tolerates my running/triathlon training but they are not what you would call supportive. They are mildly amused by it, and accept it because they see it's important to me. When I told my wife I was signing up for a 50 miles race, she was very distraught. Isn't a marathon enough, she asks? Other people I've mentioned it to just look at me with a blank stare, converting miles to kilometers in their head and then looking for some mistake. I don't really mention it anymore. The mother of one of my daughter's friend, who had heard about it from my daughter, told me to be careful not to get the "runner's heart". WTF? She's a physiotherapist for god's sake.

So why 50 miles? The distance doesn't really matter. Once I run 50, I will probably go for 100 miles. I'll see after the 50 if I want to go further. Climbers have the Everest. After that, there's nothing higher, so there's a limit to their madness (even if it's such a crazy one). With running, you have to decide for yourself, because you can always run further.

Even though I can't think of one overwhelming good reason for this quest to reach some kind of personal limit, I'm introspective enough to know that I do have a number of issues to resolve and that running is my battleground.

I've spent most of my adult life sitting in front of a computer, building a business and when I finally sold it a few years ago, my relationship with work changed a bit. Although I like my job well enough, I don't identify as closely with it, it's not as personal. Instead of a purely intellectual challenge with vague and uncertain rewards, running brings a physicality, intensity and immediacy that I crave. Running for long periods of time allows us to "become" running. Now.

As a kid, I've always been the "brainy" one. When we ran as kids, I was always a few steps behind. I guess I might be overcompensating by running, biking and swimming faster and further than any of my friends, which I still see regularly.

As I hit the mid-40's, it amazes me how fast life went by. An image I sometime use is: when I'm rocking by the fireplace in my old age, what am I going to think about? I want to be able to remember that I lived life intensely. There are few positive experiences as intense as a running race, especially a long one. It's good pain. It burns through your soul. Once you're done, as much as you can remember wanting to stop, the actual memory of the pain quickly fades away. When you recall the race, you remember the mental struggle rather than the physical one, your heart races a bit, a bit of adrenalin enters your blood stream, you go inside yourself, you stop seeing what's in front of you and you feel like you are running. 

That's what I want to remember on my rocking chair, looking at the fire. I want to run forever.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Longest Training Run Ever

Yesterday I ran 35.5 km (22 miles) in cold and windy weather. I don't care how much you train, a 22 miles run takes its toll. In my previous marathon training, my longest run had been a 20 miler, so this was a new training experience. I won't lie to you: by the end of it, I was in pain. Miles 5 to 14 were against VERY strong winds and I let my heart rate go too high. I paid dearly for that mistake in the last 2 or 3 miles. The last mile has numerous traffic lights and the stopping and going was just murder. 

BY the time I got near my house I was completely spent, my feet were just screaming and I was wondering how on earth I could expect to run 50km in two weeks. I was basically bonking as I got to my house despite my nutrition during the run. I drank about 1.3 liters during the 3.5 hours I spent running, or about 370ml/hour which is not too bad. I ate 6 Cliff Shot Bloks and half a Powerbar for a total of about 300 calories. I probably should have gone for 500 calories. My Powerbar was frozen and just got sick of chewing it.

I enjoyed using the blocks instead of gels. I just stuck one in my mouth and let it dissolve slowly while sipping water once in a while. Worked well although it made me salivate quite a bit and my mouth was frozen because of the incoming wind so I caught myself drooling a few times on my jacket without realizing it. Oh well.

Running with water instead of Gatorade is a lot of work. The reason I'm doing it is that my target race is sponsored by Hammer Nutrition, so they provide HEED which makes me gag just writing about it. I just can't drink the stuff. Also, I run with a bladder system, and I think it would be impossible to wash it properly if I filled it with Gatorade. You can count on water. You can carry bloks or gels. You can play with dilution if your stomach gets queasy.

I brought my iPod on the run, but never took the time to put it on. I just hate fidgeting with it while I run.

My legs and feet are surprisingly fresh today. No major aches and pain. That's a good sign. I didn't get any blisters, but I did have a few hot spots. I will experiment with taping some more. I was running with my Nike LunarTrainers though, and as much as I like them, they always give me some grief on longer distances. I have to find road shoes that fit better.

This week and next are fairly light, 40 miles this week and 25 miles the week after that, plus the 50k on March 7th.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Art of Taping

As my first Ultra looms over the horizon (Seneca Creek 50K Trail Run on March 7th), I'm beginning to worry about my feet. 

Here's an excerp from the course description on the race web site:

" ...You will have to go across the creek. Note: if we have flooding conditions or very high water we will try to have a rope across the creek ..."

That got me thinking. After my long runs or a marathon, my feet usually are ok, but I sometimes have some blisters. Even on shorter runs, I've gone through periods where all of a sudden, I get blisters because of random reason. That's in nice dry conditions. If I get my feet completely soaked, then add the sand and grit from a trail race and you have the recipe for feet hell. 

So I bought the book "Fixing Your Feet: Prevention And Treatments For Athletes" from Amazon. Real eye opener. Basically, YOU WILL eventually get blisters in Ultras and you should be ready for them. So I'm experimenting with foot care. I'm building a foot care kit and beginning to practice my taping skills. I've experimented with Duct tape, but it's pretty hard. Duct tape is not very stretchy and it's hard to do a good job, especially on the toes. Last Friday I received two rolls of Kinesio tape I purchased from What a difference! You can do a real good job with that. Maybe I shouldn't have gone with blue though, although it's kinda growing on me.

From Running

The key to a good tape job is not just the tape. You MUST clean well before and the apply tape ADHESIVE. You can use Tincture of Bezoin but for some reason, it's EXTREMELY hard to fin in Canada and US online stores won't ship it to Canada. I ordered a can of Mueller Tuffner Pretape which works well. Without adhesive, the tape comes off as soon as you start sweating. I went on a 10k run with both big toes tapes without adhesive and the tape was off when I took my socks off.

The book says you can tape the night before so you don't have to start taping at 4:00 AM before your race so Saturday night I taped my left big toe, which has been giving me some grief. I lost my nail after my October marathon and now that it's almost grown back I get some blistering at the tip of it (see previous post about Free 3.0). Before my Sunday run, I taped my other big toe, one small toe and a spot on my right foot that gets a bit tender during long runs. The thicker skin tends to macerate and turn white on longer runs. 

I wore my Injinji toe socks. My long run went well. It wasn't really long, about 14 miles, but that's the length of a loop on my 50 miler in May so I think that was a good test. The tape looked good after the run. I decided to take a shower with it to see what happened. I have to report that the tip was falling apart a bit. On the picture, you can see the tip of the right big toe opening up a bit. Next time I'll try to put more adhesive on the spots where I'll be trimming the tape.

From Running

My feet were perfect. The tape really protected them. No maceration to speak of where the tape was applied. No blister. 

Next weekend my long run is 22 miles, so that will be a REAL test.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Farewell Nike 3.0s, I Barely Knew You...

I've know it for a while, but now there no way around it. My favorite running shoes are too small. The fact that I lost my left big toenail after racing the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon should have made me suspicious, I guess. But I just couldn't accept it. The fact that I can't find ANY Nike 3.0 of my size (US 10, since my 9.5 are too small) doesn't make it any easier. I originally bought them from Eastbay, but for some reason they now only have size 6 and 15. WTF?

I have a pair of 5.0, but they aren't "perfect". When I put the 3.0 on, it's like I just stick a sole under my feet. They are so light and supple. Except for the fact that my big toe, the one with the new toenail about halfway grown, now has a blister on its tip. 

I went to the Nike Store last weekend and I asked the sales person if they could get me some. He asked me if I pronate or supinate. I asked again and he just asked me the same thing. I walked out. What a f#$%ng moron.

Now I'm desperate. The 5.0s are ok. My Lunartrainer are fine. My Karhu M2 are too stiff. I need shoes that I love. The few US stores that have them in stock won't deliver in Canada. A guy on Triscoop offered to buy them and send them to me. I didn't want to impose, but as I said, I'm desperate so I think I might do that. Is this how it was to live in the USSR?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A New Plan

As planned, yesterday I switched training plan. This means I'm only 15 weeks away from running my big race, the Sulphur Springs 50 Miler!

I've built my mileage up to about 50 miles (about 80km) and now this is going to creep up to about 70 miles (112km) about 5 weeks before the race. The long runs are just ridiculous, with a few in the 30-35 miles range. I've scheduled some marathons and ultra races which I will use as training runs, including Boston.

I'm feeling really strong. This is a lower mileage week and I'm just busting with energy. I've done a few bike rides on the trainer at the gym, in the 30 to 40km range. I will try to add the swim soon, and then it'll be swim, bike, run again!

My next race is the Seneca Creek 50km Trail Run on March 7th, somewhere down in Maryland, an 8 1/2 hours drive. I will leave on Friday morning and should get there before dinner. I'm thinking about buying a GPS unit. The directions from Google are fairly complex and I won't have a co-pilot, so a GPS would be nice, especially if I make a wrong turn. That happened to me last summer going to New-York City and let's just say that I spent A LOT more time in Jersey than I had previously planned. I can use it to drive to Boston in April as well.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Training Update

Yesterday I went out on the most glorious day we've had in a long time. It was THAT great, but when you're dealt lemons, you have to make lemonade. So glorious it was.

It was supposed to be a 14 miles (22.5km) run but it ended up being a 15 miles run. Instead of my Fuel Belt, I decided to try the Camelback again, but this time I only filled it with the amount of water that I actually needed, about 750ml instead of 2.2L. Felt nice and light. Because it's hard to clean, I use water in the Camelback, so I brought 2 gels, which I first poured in a gel bottle. Another thing I tried was to use Vaseline on my feet. Lately, I noticed that I have a small recurring blister on one of my toes and also that when I run for a long time, my feet seem to macerate a bit (you know when some of the skin turn a bit white). This can lead to blisters. So I put a nice coat of Vaseline on both feet before putting my Injinji socks. 

From Running

Call me silly, but I think the Injinji socks look great. Anyway, my feet looked perfect after 24km. During my 50 Miler, I will reapply and change my socks after each loop, which are 20km so I should be golden.

I felt REALLY good on that run. The first and last miles, leading to the trail, are a pain in the ass because of the traffic lights but after that it's pretty good. It was nice enough that I could wear my running hat without losing an ear. I also wore actual road shoes, my Nike LunarTrainer, which I hadn't used for months.

I stopped every 8 km and walked for 3 minutes while I ate and drank. I'm not usually a walker. When I used to go for a run with the running room, the walks drove me nuts. During the Toronto Marathon, I ditched the pace bunny because he walked the aid stations. But I have to be realistic: running 50 miles in trails, non stop, just ain't gonna happen. So I'm practicing my run/walk. I felt like I could have run all day. I was right on my slow-poke 50 miler pace (5:40/km while running) and my HR was at 65% (of reserve). I had a couple of episodes where I had to make a conscious effort to not go after other runners, but I controlled myself and just kept going.

The gels were ok, but it was still Winter and I had a hard time sucking the gel out of the bottle because its viscosity had increased because of the cold. I might try to pre-dilute half-half in water, or keep the bottle close to my body. Not sure yet.

The run wasn't so long that nutrition was an issue, but the water+gel combo didn't cause me any issue. The thing with gels is to make sure I drink enough or else it just sits there and I've felt nauseous one or two times.

I had ten dollars on me, so I finished my run ... in front of the beer store. Bought me a six pack of Labatt Blue and it was the perfect end to a great run.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Quick note: I finally brought my bike to the gym and did a 20-ish km ride. About friggin' time! After that I jumped on the treadmill for a 8 km run. 

First brick of 2009.