Friday, June 26, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

Here is a simple fact: I don't want to do Ironman 70.3 Muskoka. I want to run the 50 miler at Haliburton instead. There's a 100 miler there as well but I'm not "feeling" that distance yet. Haliburton is on September 12 and Muskoka on the 13th. I don't think it's doable. The money is spent no matter what. Haliburton is 65 bucks and I'm pretty sure that lodging is much cheaper there so I don't think that changing my mind would cost actual money. So much for registering early. I just can't seem to get into the triathlon groove. I'm going to do the minimum for triathlon Saguenay and then it's RUNNING baby!

Crazy Stuff

I'm looking at maybe signing up for the K-Rock Ultra next Winter. That race is part of the Rock and Ice Ultra, which offers 3 separate races: the Cold Foot Classic is a 50km one-day race; the K-Rock Ultra is a 3-day, 3-stage, 135km race; the DIamond Ultra is a 6 day, 6 stages 225km race. I exchanged emails with a trainer who raced up there a few times and he feels this is something I should be able to do. I am so stoked about this! My wife thinks this is the stupidest idea I've ever had, but she's ok with it, although I have a feeling this is going to cost me.

Injury Update

My right foot is slowly coming back, I think. Running the Niagara Ultra didn't make it worse. I've been running short runs, about 4 miles, twice/week in my Vibram Five Fingers. I've also been walking in them quite a bit. All this is done in the hopes of slowly strengthening my feet.


It's difficult to train without a goal. This is another reason I need to switch to Haliburton: I didn't give a shit about Muskoka. Knowing I have another 50 miler coming gives me an exciting goal I can look forward to.

My volume is still pretty low, in the 50 to 75km per week. I'm going to start ramping up again and try to maintain it between 65 and 100km. The next race on the OUS schecule is the Creemore Vertical Challenge, another 50km race, on July 4th, which is basically a week from now. I'm pretty sure I'm going to do it. My legs came back really fast from Niagara and I'm feeling good. I need the hill workout!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Niagara 50k Race Report

Well, it is done. Yesterday, my youngest daughter and I got up at 4am for the 2h drive to Niagara-on-the-lake, where I participated to the Niagara 50k Ultra. I ran this race on a whim. Last weekend, I was looking at my training journal and figured that if I didn't up the running volume soon, I wouldn't be able to run longuer distances soon. This is silly, because that was supposed to be the plan all along: switch to triathlon training, lower the running volume, rest a bit. The problem is that I LIKE running long and the Ultra season is NOW.

Anyway, I decided to sign up if the weather looked nice. All week, the long term forecasts agreed on one thing: Saturday would be wet. Finally, I broke down on Wednesday before the online registration closed and signed up anyway. I told my wife that as a father's day present I would be racing a small race on Saturday morning but that I would be back for a family dinner we had that day. Gulp!

So here I am, on the starting line of a 50k. My daughter is volunteering somewhere on the course. The course is out-and-back, paved (asphalt and sidewalks), and goes along the Niagara river from Niagara-on-the-lake to Niagara Falls. The views are nice. Of course, the 50k turn around is right in front of the Falls and THAT view is quite impressive. Because it was so rainy, we had the place pretty much to ourselves and it was great. Apparently in previous years, some people missed the turnaround because they got lost in the crowd.

I started the race at a comfortable pace, around 5:20/km (8:35/mi). Felt like I could run like that forever. I started with two girls (women, ladies, chicks?) I had run with at previous ultras, Kinga and Lee Anne. After a few km, Lee Anne decided that the pace was a bit too fast for her and fell back a bit. Kinga and I kept going. The course is not too hilly. They call it rolling hills. The only problem with that description is that one tends to imagine short gentle hills. Reality is that the ups and downs are looong, so on the way back, I felt like I was going up almost the whole way.

There was no rain until we were about 8km in, then there was a light mist for a few minutes. After that it was just plain raining. I didn't mind the rain, but the puddles became quite large and going around them became impossible so my shoes and feet were completely soaked for the whole second 25k.

There were aid stations every 5km or so. They were well stocked and the volunteers were very nice. They had Heed instead of my usual Gatorade but it got the job done. I just find Heed not to taste sweet enough and I don't get the same psychological boost of knowing I just got some carbs in. Know what I mean? I walked the aid stations but other than that I ran the whole course even the uphills, one of which was substancial (in my book).

21.1 km in, we passed the marathon turnaround and kept going. What's an extra 4 km between friends?

At the 25k turnaround, I felt really good although my feet were starting to hurt. I had taken two Excedrins at 6am so I decided to wait and see. My feet always get sore when I run long distances and it's worse on road because on trails, I run slower and walk the hills. This continuous pounding was getting to me. After the turn around, I don't think anybody passed me and I was slowly passing people. Most were probably marathoners but I did recognize a few ultra runners as well. My pace for the first 25km was 5:39 and it was 5:38 for the second one. Even splits! Of course, the pace varies quite a bit with the long up and down hills.

By 35km, my feet were a distraction and I have two sore spots that I have never experienced before: my left hip and lower back. The faster pace on hard pavement is doing me in. I broke down and got my pill box from my mini-fanny pack. I took one Excedrin before I got to the aid station and washed it down with Heed once I got there. I knew I had this major downhill coming and hoped that would help numb my feet a bit. I think it did.

Despite the discomfort, going down that hill fet great because that meant I was getting close to the finish. Close is a relative term. What felt close on the way out, feels a lot further on the way back.

With about 10k to go, I'm running hard now. I'm back to a 5:20/km(8:35/mi) pace or better and it doesn't feel so easy anymore. My biggest problem at this point is that I'm bored out of my mind. I have no one to talk to and probably wouldn't be much company if I did. Almost 4 hours in and close to an hour to go. That spot, between 35km and 40km, was my low point mentally. Sounds like a cliche, but it works: "aid station to aid station". The end of the race may feel far away, but the next aid station is much closer and it's nice to have a milestone to aim for.
Anyway. That last 10k lasted forever (like this race report). The rain finally stopped, but my feet never dried because I was too tired to run around the puddles and just ran straight through them.

I got to the finish with a time of 4:46:20, about in the middle of my best case (4:20)/worst case(5:00) scenarios. I wasn't sure how recovered I was from Sulphur Springs and the race turned out allright. I got my medal and got my shoes and socks off to change into my sandals. Despite the wet run, not a single blister. Awesome! Got me some food, didn't get my free beer because of my long drive. I got a large Iced Capuccino at Tim Horton and drove back home with my daughter snoring away in the passenger seat.

Chip Time: 4:46:20
Pace: 5:44/km (9:13/mi)
Rank (overall): 38/148
Rank (gender): 35/101
Rank (M40-49): 17/35

Later at the family dinner, which was at my brother-in-law's and had people from both his and his wife's side of the family, I got some strange looks from a few people (and my wife) when it became known that I had run 50km in the mornings. "WHY?" Why indeed? The person who asked was almost aggressive in the way she asked. I just smiled and said I didn't have an answer to that question. To a non-runner, there is no acceptable answer to that question.

Doesn't matter why. Maybe I have deep psychological scars. Maybe I'm over-compensating for some perceived weakness. Ah, ah, ah! Really, who gives a shit? I'm all growed up, I like to run and I will run as much as I please.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Niagara 50K Ultra, Here I Come

Well, who would have thunk that one day I would sign up for a 50k race on a whim? Well I did. It's been 4 weeks since Sulphur Springs. I've lowered my volume quite a bit but I've done weekly 20k runs, so although I don't expect to set the world on fire, I'm pretty sure the fitness is still there to run a decent race.

It looks like the weather is going to be miserable, but like we used to say in Quebec, "On est pas fait en chocolat", "we're not made out of chocolate"!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lakeside Sprint Triathlon 2009

Yesterday's race was a perfect demonstration of the concept of specificity of training. Having not been in the water since my last triathlon last year and having been on my bike only maybe 5 times, my race went as well as could be expected. The swim and bike were marginal and the run was good. But I'm betting ahead of myself.

Lakeside is a two hour drive from my house but the race start is at 10am so I didn't have to get up too early. I got there with plenty of time to space and got a prime spot on the rack. To me, a prime spot means either end of the rack, where you can put your stuff in between the bike and the rack leg.

It was freezing cold and with over an hour to wait, I decided to put on my wet suit to keep warm. At ten sharp, the race started. I was in the 3rd wave so I swam around a bit and shot the shit with some other people. Then I did what I had never done before, I actually peed in my wetsuit. I had been locked up in there for a while and the thought of riding and running on a full bladder broke me down. Relieved and warm (heeew), I got ready and then we went. 

For some reason, I had a hard time finding my pace. I think I started a bit too far back and I had some trouble passing other swimmers. At the halfway mark I was done, but thnks to the magic of wetsuit I just kept on moving my arms. Forward motion. My chip didn't register at the first mat, so I don't have an exact time for my swim but the total for the swim and T1 is 12min 38sec, only marginally slower than last year's 12:01. I think my T1 was much faster this year, but who knows.

My plan on the bike was to go as hard as I could and I did. A few km in I was wondering how I was going to finish. My thighs were just hurting. I was passing quite a few people from prior waves. A few guys passed me as well, but not too many. It was an out and back course and I saw a big bunch of about 10 of the faster racers on their way back, bunched like a they were on the Tour. People are so greedy. It really pissed me off. NO DRAFTING, YOU FUCKING LOOSERS, YOUR FINISHING TIME IS MEANINGLESS. YOU ARE LYING TO YOURSELF AND THAT'S SAD. Anyway, before it actually registered in my brain, I had blown past them and I didn't have time to share my feelings with them. I finished the bike in 35:20 (for 18km). That was a full 4 minutes slower than last year but the course had changed and I checked other competitors and they all had at least a 3 minutes slow down, so my strategy of going all out allowed me so do ok.

T-2 felt like a blur and then it was time to run. It's really hard to begin a run when you are already huffing and puffing, and your legs feel like jello. I just looked ahead and ran hard hard as I dared. I didn't have my Garmin so I had no idea how fast I was going. I passed a lot of people and I don't remember anyone passing me. I ran the 4k course in 17:58, a 4:30min/km (7:10min/mi) pace, 1min 30sec faster than last year. I was hoping for a bit better but I don't think I'm recovered fully from my 50 miler two weeks ago.

SO my final time was 1h07min22sec, exactly 2 minutes slower than last year but considering the slower bike route and my lack of swim/bike training, I'm happy with my time. I finished 78th/310, 15/29 in the 45-49AG.

Friday, June 5, 2009

First Triathlon of 2009

Despite my lack of tri-excitement, I'm racing tomorrow at the Sprint Lakeside Triathlon somewhere between London (ON) and Kitchener, a two hour drive from here. Last year, that same race was my first triathlon ever. It's a nice short, flat course. It's short, even for a sprint: 500m swim, 18km ride, 4k run. My time last year: 1:05:22. I had actually trained. 

Tomorrow, I will try a different strategy. In my prior races, I've always held back on the bike but tomorrow, I'm going to bust my legs on the bike. It might not mean much, since I haven't biked much, but still I'm going to do my best. I'll do whatever I can on the run. With my sore foot and my legs still recovering from my 50 miler, it might not be my best run ever. 

My swim strategy won't really change: forward movement. Thank God for wetsuits.

To be honest, I feel pretty good about tomorrow. I can work hard for an hour!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Quick Update

It's been over a week now since the race and I thought I'd give a quick update.

Recovery from the race has been interesting. The first couple of days were a bit harsh, specially when I got up after sitting for a while. Things got better quickly starting on Tuesday. I went for an easy 4 mile run and it went pretty good. I ran a few more times and rode my bike once.

My right heel is giving me some grief. I'm not so sure it's the Achilles tendon anymore. The pain is lower down and it could be a bursitis of some sort. I'm going to maintain a very low volume and try to bike more for a few weeks.

Mentally and emotionaly, I feel a bit disconnected. The start of the triathlon season is not getting me excited. I have the Laside Sprint Tri this weekend and I couldn't care less, probably because I didn't train for it. Also, I've come to appreciate the low-key ultra races and compared to that, the thought of a busy triathlon transition area feels overdone, with the $5000 bikes and all that. The weather has been really cold, I hope the lake won't be freezing...

That's it for now. Physically ok, but struggling to get back on track.