Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 In Review

I guess it’s that time of the year again. Time to look back and reminisce. For me 2010 was a rollercoaster year with unbelievable achievements as well as very humbling experiences. Here are the races that I remember the most. I ran quite a few more, but sometimes things go according to plan and we tend to not remember those races quite as much.

Susitna 100

I know, I know: You’re sick of hearing about it. Doesn’t matter to me, I can talk about it all day long. People who politely ask about it can vouch for that. Susitna was more than just a race, it was an adventure. It was fucking EPIC. I still can’t believe how amazing that experience was.

Sulphur Springs

Although officially it was only a ‘B’ race on my schedule, I managed to screw the pooch on this one. My only goal was to beat my 2009 time of 10h06. My training had been going ok physically, but after Susitna I hit some weird mental road blocks, maybe a bit of burnout. Anyway I felt good for Sulphur and ran the first few loops way too fast, basically running the first 2 loops at a sub-9hr pace, which I knew was too fast. I don’t know what I was thinking. I blame Chris and Jamie (Killerz) who also paid dearly for our collective hubris. I managed to finish in 10h17, after an epic bonk at 40 miles that destroyed me physically and mentally. Yes, the heat was a factor but stupidity was the root cause of my destruction.

Creemore Vertical Challenge 50km

Mile for mile, this is the most difficult race I’ve ever done. I have NEVER wanted to quit a race so badly. It’s only 50k for fuck sake. By 30k I was in trouble and at 35k I was road kill. I’ve fantasized about quitting races before and I’ve done it since, but I’ve never WANTED to quit. At Creemore, I wanted to quit. The heat and humidity were just unbearable. I must have done something wrong. Not enough hydration, not enough salt, not enough food, running too fast. I still can’t figure out if it was all or none of the above. I suspect the hydration and ever since that race I’ve switched to handheld bottles instead of the hydration vest. I did that for two reasons: it’s easier to know how much you drink and I switched to sport drinks instead of water/gels. I did finish, with Kinga’s help/constant torture. I can’t believe I’m going back there next year.

Limberlost Challenge 56km

Limberlost is a new race on the OUSer calendar and I came in pretty beat up mentally after a few difficult races. I came in with only one goal: enjoy my race and that’s exactly what happened. The course is deceptively slow. I couldn’t believe the time it took me to run the first lap. I couldn’t remember any monster hills or walking much, but it was a SLOW lap. I ran with a couple of good friends and we just enjoyed our race, running fairly consistent laps. I finished that race ready to run another lap. I guess this means I didn’t run hard enough but this wasn’t what that race was about for me. It was about redemption and I found it there.

Iroquoia Trail Test

Got to mention the Final Edition of the ITT. For us ultra runners, it’s always humbling to see all those crazy-fast shorter distance guys just sprint out of the blocks at the start. My big memories of that race are the two huge spills I took. The first time I fell right into a bunch of medium-sized rocks and to this day I can’t sleep comfortably on my right side. It’s slowly getting better but that was my hardest fall ever. The second one was more spectacular because I caught a root running downhill, but I landed on soft muddy dirt so no biggie. Again, with Haliburton coming up, my race plan was not to race hard but I still managed to shave 15 minutes from last year’s time.

Haliburton 100 Miler

My last race of the season was the Haliburton 100 miler. Holy smoke. That race was a mud-fest that tested me in different, but equally challenging, ways than Susitna. During Susitna, I never really entertained fantasies of quitting the race. During Haliburton, I thought about it all the time. I never wanted to quit, but for some reason, my mind seemed to enjoy torturing me with the IDEA of quitting. The mud and the Normac loop, especially that last one, were almost too much to bear at mile 90.

Now, the year is over. I had decided to go back to Susitna, but I recently had to change my mind (again) about doing it. After thinking about it over the Xmas vacation, I decided that as much as I wanted to do it, I just couldn’t afford it again this year. I plan on doing a few other non-OUSER races this year and I don’t want to blow my budget on that one race. I’m still training but I might replace that race with Beast of Burden. I’m giving myself a few more weeks to think about it. An alternative would be to go back to my initial plan of running the Sedona marathon. Not quite sure yet.

2010, we barely knew you...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bear Mountain

Today my daughter and I climbed up Bear Mountain, pretty much one of the highest climbs around here. It was not extremely technical but I have to admit that after my morning run I was pretty happy when we finally reached the summit. Definitely not runnable. The vertical gain is 1900 feet over a shade less than 4 km.
Almost Up Top

We had many false victories, reaching a summit only to discover that yet another one needed to be vanquished. Finally we reached the highest point and took a few minutes before coming down.

Jamie On Top of Bear Mountain

Coming down was not as easy as you would expect, as Jamie can attest after trying to hold on to a cactus during a little slippage event. All in good fun, we made it home in one piece.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hill training

 Today for my long run, I wanted to go SOMEWHERE. I keep seeing these big mountains around so I wanted to go up one. My schedule called for a 4 hour run, so I figured I would go up for 2 hours and then come back.

Well, I`m sore. My ass is sore. My feet are sore. I got an ankle massage like you wouldn't believe. The higher elevation trails basically become stream beds when it rains and they are covered by egg-sized (and up) rocks. It took me 2 hours to go 10km, climbing from 4600 to 6600 feet. By the end, I was huffin' and puffin'. Maybe even wheezin'.

My run down went a bit faster, but not that much since I wanted to keep my ankles as safe as possible. Still, I got to my car with 20 minutes to spare and I couldn't make myself run the extra time. I was done.

I started way down there

Friday, December 24, 2010

Xmas Vacation

I've been meaning to update this blog for a while. I've started at least 3 posts but never finished them. What can I say.

I'm currently in Sedona, AZ, for the holidays. Weather is nice, not hot but perfect for ... running! I know that this is not exactly snow running but I don't give a damn. I really enjoy the trails here and I'm looking forward to my long run on Saturday. The longest run I've done here was about 3h30. I had started in nice cool weather but as the hours passed, it got hotter and hotter and I ended up running out of water in sweltering heat a few miles from the house. That was not fun. With this nice Winter weather, my hydration bladder will last way longer and I should have no problem running for 4 hours. This means exploring trails I've never seen before and I'm excited about that!

Yesterday I did a quick 45 minutes run. Here's a GPS/Google map rendering:

Sweet 45 minute run

There were no big hills but very few flats except for the last mile or so. The surfaces are challenging but nothing crazy and the dry air makes the run really comfortable. Today I'm going to run a similar route but extend it north a little bit for a total of about an hour.

I'm pretty happy with where I am right now. My right ankle is a bit bothersome whenever I run too fast. Last week I did my second tempo in two weeks and I could really feel it the next couple of days. I've really lost touch with any kind of speed work. Whenever I run faster (Half-marathon pace and up), my body feels fine but a voice in my head keeps asking me what the hell I'm thinking and wants me to slow down RIGHT NOW. 

This is it for now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ooops, I’m Doing It Again

First, this just in, my number didn’t come up (again) at the Massanutten 100 lottery and neither did Chris’, so I probably won’t be running (or pacing) it. I decided to send my wait-list check but my odds don’t look too good. Starting to smell like Sulphur Springs.

Took me long enough but I finally decided to go for a second trip to Alaska. I had fun reading the comments on my previous post. It might seem like it was a foregone conclusion, but it really wasn’t. That race is very intimidating. I’m extremely aware that last year’s conditions were really good and that there’s no guarantee that it will be the same this year. If you get in trouble, quitting is not easy with aid stations as far as 20 miles apart and volunteers spread out over dozens of miles. At the pre-race meeting, they take an imprint of your VISA card so they can bill you for the flight out if you decide to quit. It is a sobering thought that with near-perfect conditions last year, it took me 37 hours to finish. What’s going to happen if the conditions are more challenging?

I guess we’ll see. I’m back training with Derrick and already I’m excited. I’ve come to term with the long runs that are coming my way. If anything, the most frustrating part is the lack of snow in the Toronto area. This year I would like to put more snowshoe time in. I probably did between 5 and 10 miles with the snowshoes and when I tried to put them back on at around mile 80, I just could not make myself do it. My body physically rejected them. If there’s soft snow, this could be the key so I need to fix this.

A recurring question I ask myself is: why not do the Beast of Burden. It’s a 100 miles. It’s nearby. It’s on snow. It’s cold. I know other runners. Why not? I have no idea, but I feel that I made the right decision.

PS - Dave, read your emails already!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


This is killing me. I'm trying to decide whether I should cancel my February marathon plans and switch to Susitna instead. I was looking at my training last year at this date and I'm pretty sure it's not too late. Actually, at this time last year I was in the middle of an IT band issue that had pretty much confined me to the elliptical until the end of the year, so I'm in pretty good shape. Derrick agrees, as long as I make my decision soon.

I have the gear. Sancho the sled is still in my shed. I have the fitness. I can take the time. Now, am I willing to actually do the training? You can't fake a 100 miler, especially that one where only two guys (Geoff Roes and John Stamstad in 2007) have ever run it under 24 hours. I know I WILL spend lots of time out there.

I REALLY want to run it, but training for that race is something else. I have to decide by tomorrow...


Monday, December 6, 2010

No Western States for Me

Damn, I didn't get in Western States. When I put my name in, I didn't really want to get in for 2011 but as the lottery grew closed I found myself getting excited. On Saturday, I actually grabbed a beer and watched some of the lottery, before the web site crashed (or was it my home network?). Unfortunately, it was not to be. Neither me or Chris McPeake got picked. We had a "pacing" pact going but it looks like there will be no trip to California this June.

That left me in a depressing spot with no exciting 100 miler in my running horizon. There's always Sulphur Springs, I guess, but to be 100% frank, I find the course less than exciting. I can manage 50 miles on it but the thought of going around 8 times quite frankly freaks me right out. So I put my name in the Massanutten 100 lottery, which is mid-May somewhere down in Virginia. Hilly, but if I'm going to give WS a run for its money, I have to get better at climbing.

The gist of this post is: I have to do something. As you can see from my lack of postings, I'm in a running funk. The Sedona marathon in February is just not doing it for me. Quite frankly, I don't give shit about ever beating my marathon PR. If I happen to be in Sedona on that date, sure, I'll go out and run it but as a motivator it's just not happening for me.

So I might have to resort to Plan B: Susitna 100. There's also plan C, Beast of Burden which a number of people I know are running but all things being equal I would prefer going back to Alaska. There's a little more than 2 months before both of them. If I don't get injured, Derrick thinks he can get me in 100-miles-shape in time for the race. See, I think I'm getting excited already...

I think what triggered this 100 miler fever is my first experience as a pacer at the Creemore Horizontal 100 miler 10 days ago. After freezing my ass off working most of the night at an aid station begging people to let me pace them, a friend of mine decided he could do with some company at around 3:30am. He's a faster runner than me but by that time I had no problem keeping up. We had a good time chatting about all the finer aspects of bonking, until he finished the race at around 9:30. This experience made me wonder about the sanity of volunteers, especially non-runners. How can people be so nice? Anyway, I did have a blast chatting with the other volunteers and having quick chats with slowing imploding runners. I'm going to do this again, for sure.

Last Saturday, I ran the Santa Shuffle with a couple of my runner's from my "Learn to Run" clinic at the Running Room. It was a fun little race and it was nice to see of they improved since to the beginning of the clinic. That clinic has a lot of attrition (some don't even make it to the first clinic), but it's very satisfying to see some of them become runners. Today is my last clinic and I won't be teaching the next one. I need my weekends if I'm going to race long in February and I need to get back to my regular schedule.

That's my news for the last month.