Friday, March 27, 2009

No Boston for JD

After much anguish, I've decided not to run the Boston Marathon. Instead I will be running the Seaton Trail 52k Trail Run, in Pickering, relatively close to my house.

I feel a bit funny about my decision. I've told so many people I was going to Boston. Now I'm going to have to explain that I chose not to go. At some point I realized that I was going there to race for others, not for myself. The hard part about Boston is to qualify, not the race itself and I've done that. I know I can do it again. 

How did this happen? I was so excited about running the Boston Marathon. How did it come to this? I think my main reason is that since my A race is the Sulphur Springs 50 miler, running Boston slowly as a training run just didn't make any sense physically, emotionally and financially. Physically because I would have to drive 600 miles to Boston, race, and then drive back. Emotionally because I would have had to run it as a training run and that would have been a waste. Financially because even with driving instead of flying, the expense of the whole family staying in Boston for 3 days for a training run would have been substantial.

The fact is, I need to run more trails and switching to a trail race makes a lot more sense. Also, I really enjoy trail races. People are friendly both before, during and after the race. There's not much chit-chat during your typical road race, while in a trail ultra, people who know they will be sharing 5 or 6 hours of pain are quite a bit more talkative, if only to make the time pass a bit faster!

So my hotel is canceled. I'm registered for the Seaton Trail race. I feel good about this. I'm excited again.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Longest Long Run Ever

Yesterday I ran my longest training run ever: 40.25 km (25 miles). I've run longer during races but never as a training run. All things being considered, it went pretty good. I ran it at a fairly reasonable pace in about 4h 05min. I ran it between 10am and 2pm and I had to go somewhere with my daughter afterward so my run food was my lunch. At around 4, I totally lost control and drove to Harvey's where I proceeded to eat an Angus burger WITH cheese, a large Pepsi and I upgraded my fries to a poutine (don't ask). I regret nothing.

As May approaches, my two main worries are: my feet and my nutrition. In prior runs, both of those have caused me grief at around the 30-35 km mark. Let's start with the nutrition. 


Although I didn't bonk when I ran my Boston qualifier, I now switched to drinking water out of a running vest. The reason is that cleaning a running bladder previously filled with Gatorade or Accelerade would be a nightmare and I shudder at the thought of what could grow in there in that nice sweet medium. So water it is, which means I have to eat. I have a solid stomach, but for some reason, gels are not agreeing with it. My current mix is to use a combination of Cliff Bloks and Cliff bars. That's what I did yesterday and I felt pretty good, other than a weak moment at 35 km. I swallowed 2 bloks and drank a lot and I have to say that I felt pretty good after that, all things being equal. I ate a Cliff bar at the 28 km mark and that felt GOOD. I was careful to wash it down with a good drink. According to my readings, you have to keep the carb concentration below 10%, so that means water whenever you eat or else your stomach shuts down. So nutrition is improving. I should try to experiment with salt tablets but it was fairly cold yesterday and quite frankly, I just forgot to put a couple in my pack.


My feet hurt after 30 km. This reminds me of the joke about the guy who was banging his head on the wall and when asked why he did it he answered: "it feels so good when I stop!".  The fact is, I guess feet do hurt if you run on them for a stupidly long distance, but I would like to minimize the pain as much as I can.

I taped them and that worked well, so I didn't get any blister, but they  were in pain. Some of it is just pounding. Some of it could be prevented with better shoes. I think that my feet swell a bit and then rub in a few spots and that was distracting toward the end. I had taped those exact spot but still, I need better fitting shoes and I'm having a had time finding neutral, responsive, long distance shoes. 

My right Achilles tendon was ok. I iced it after the run and again during the evening. Today, it doesn't feel any worse than before so I'll keep doing what I'm doing. 


During my epic 50k race, something happened to me even though I didn't notice it at the time. I've run out of things to think about while I run. I used to think about all kinds of things but now it's like I'm out. Hopefully, inspiration will come back but for the first time, yesterday I ran with my iPhone and I was grateful for the entertainment. If this is going to be a regular occurrence, I will need better headphones though. I hate fidgeting with the ear buds.

So this is it for now. Training going well. Having some doubts about Boston. Why spend so much money on what will basically be a training run? The hotel is EXPENSIVE. Should I re-qualify this Fall and actually race it next year instead? But now the whole family wants to come, not to see me run of course, but to visit Boston and they would be mad at me. Oh well, there's still time to think about it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Aches and Pains

Ever since I've started running, I doubt there have been more than a couple of weeks where my body has truly been pain free. I've read a lot of books about running and if I took their advice of "zero-tolerance" for pain literally, I would run about one week a month.

I've had pain in my butt, my groin, my quads, my upper thighs, my knees, my feet and my latest: my Achilles. The only pain that I decided to stop for was the knee pain. Turned out that even after stopping for over a week, the pain returned as soon as I started running again. The only way I was able to get rid of the pain was to disregard every advice from running store staff and use minimalist shoes and change my gait. 

My current pain in the right Achilles, more like the base of it at the heel, has been a constant companion since December. It doesn't hurt so much when I run, but rather when I go up the stairs in my house. I have lots of stairs. During last weeks 50k, I didn't even think about it. I'm not sure what triggers it, but I think it's worse after faster runs.

I've done ice, self-massages, Advil. Nothing makes much of a difference. I'm hoping that when I lower my running volume after Sulphur Springs, the pain will disappear, like all the others.

The book "Lore of Running" offers a pretty pragmatic approach to running injuries. One key advice is to find out WHY you have this particular injury. If you don't find out why and just stop running, as soon as you start running again it is bound to come right back. I tried stretching without seeing any change. I ordered new running shoes. We'll see. A lot of aches and pains just disappear, probably because of a gradual change in running form or improved muscle balance. Maybe. 

After yesterday's 20km run, I have to admit that both my feet and surrounding areas were a bit tender. The previous week's race and Saturday's fairly fast tempo run got to me around the 15km mark. I'll take it slow for a few more days.

So I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. My training is going according to plan, I have no major injury. This week is a high volume week, with over 100km (60 miles) of running planned, including 40km on Sunday. I couldn't find a marathon nearby, so I'm going to have to do it by myself. A good opportunity to try to fine tune my nutrition, which I'm not happy with.

See you out there.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon and 50K

Ok, this is the long version.

Well, it's done. Last Friday, my daughter and I packed our bags and drove all the way from Toronto down to Washington DC for the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon and 50K. I signed up for the 50k, to use as a long training run in my training for a 50 Miler later this Spring.

I admit it: I was a bit cocky. I thought I had it all planned out: nutrition, pace, foot care. My experience with the road marathon had been fairly benign. Although it was a tiring race, everything had gone according to plan and I finished within 2 minutes of my plan. Well, this was not to be in this race!

 My plan was to try to maintain an average of 9:40/mile. Given the fact that the course elevation profile was generally down, this somehow seemed reasonable to me. I didn't just make that pace up: this is the pace I should be able to maintain according to the pace tables in a number of books. Of course, those books are based on road races, not hilly trail races.

I was wearing my Nathan Hydration vest, with the pouch about half full (1 liter). In one of the pockets, I had a plastic bag containing about 20 Cliff Shot Blocks. For more substantial food I decided to rely on the aid stations. I was wearing a watch, my Garmin 305 as well as the HR strap. The night before, I had taped the underside of my feet, the big toes and the pinky toes using Kinesio tape. I put my Injinji socks on and slept with them on. As for shoes, I was wearing my La Sportiva Crosslites and my new gaiters.

There were about 200 runners signed up for the 50k and about 80 for the marathon. The course is point to point (see map below). We parked at the finish and were bused to the start. The weather was almost too nice: sunny, about 60 degrees with a maximum around 70.

From Running

Let's just say that the first half went well and I maintained my planned pace. For the first 25k, I maintained an average of 6:10/mile. As planned, I took a 3 minutes break after every 5 miles on top of a quick break at the aid stations. But at around 20 miles, things started to change. It became obvious that I had made a big mistake when I picked my pace. To maintain that speed, I had to go up the hills fairly fast. It seemed easy enough early on. Big mistake. By mile 20, going up OR down a hill was not so easy anymore. I was drinking and eating at and between aid stations but things became progressively harder. By mile 25, my feet were hurting, not from blisters but from the constant pounding. I was not running up ANY hills. 

From Running

At mile 26, the marathon distance, someone at the aid station said: "Only seven miles to go!". WHAT? FIVE, FIVE miles. He then informed me that the distance might be a bit longer than 50k. Almost 2 extra miles. That news nearly destroyed me mentally.
From Running

It's not like I'm the only moron. I'm actually passing quite a few people, mostly marathoners who didn't run the extra loop at mile 15 but also a few 50k people. Not that many people are passing me. It's confusing because there's a lot of back and forth, but I'd say about 5 people passed me and and stayed ahead until the finish. 

Now time stopped. I look at my Garmin: 48.03km, I run for a LONG time and I look again: 48.17km. I shit you not, that how it felt. Going up hill was murder. Going down hill was killing my quads. I hated flats because I had to run them. It actually hurt to breathe, I felt like I had pulled my friggin diaphragm. Even my balls hurt for Pete's sake. I catch up to a girl I've passed at least 3 times and I just stay behind her. We just run slowly without talking. Walk uphill, run flats, jog carefully downhill. Then, at 30.5 miles, an aid station, just to mock us. We're supposed to SEE the finish from here, but we're told that we still have 3 miles to go. I actually tried to bargain with a volunteer! Tell me it's TWO miles, have some heart, COME ON! I put a bit of water in my vest, I grab a salt tablet, some food and I get going. 

I get to the trail and there are giant fucking stairs. The steps are like, two feet high. How the hell am I supposed to climb this? Of course, I do. I run, run. I see a guy walking ahead of me. As I get closer he hears me and tries to jog a bit but I can tell he's just spent. I look at some bushes and I wonder if it would help if I laid down in them and cried for a minute. No, it would be too hard to get up. 

This is the low point of the race for me. I begin to think that there's no way I can ever run 50 miles just a couple of months from now. I turn my thoughts away from that and decide to not decide anything today. I get to the road and I know this is it. One mile to go. It's on hard surface and my feet are just screaming. At 22 miles, I tried to find the Advil I had stashed somewhere in my vest but couldn't find it. Now I would welcome the relief.

From Running

I sprint the last half mile at 10:00 min/mile. I tried to go faster but breathing hurts too much. My solar plexus is on fire. I finish the race in 6hr 12min and change. They handed me a card that said I was 50th (out of about 150). Quite frankly, I didn't give a crap. I was just happy it was over. I had to wait until I downloaded the race data before I figured out my time.

When I sat down, both thighs immediately cramped. I was surprised because I never had a cramp before. It took at least 20 minutes before I was able to untie my shoes and change my socks.

Lessons learned

I did a few things right in that race, but mostly I I was way off.

The things I did right

  • My feet were fine. I did not have a single blister. I'm thinking next time I will tape all the toes.

  • The vest worked well. I can't imagine running holding a bottle for that distance, plus, I enjoy the storage capacity.

Things I did wrong

  • Picking a pace in a trail run was just stupid. I have to keep my exertion level low from the start. I don't know if I could have finished faster, but I'm pretty sure I could have been more comfortable.

  • I don't think I will wear my Garmin GPS again. Maybe just for HR monitoring, but I don't want to know how far I've run or how far I have left to go. It was basically useless, just inflicting mental pain. Aid station to aid station is the way to go.

  • I have to start training in trails as soon as possible. My legs were not ready for this.

  • My nutrition plan sucks. I got so tired of those Cliff bloks it wasn't even funny. I'm going to experiment with drinking Accelerade instead of water. I also have to bring more substantial food and/or eat it at aid stations. Also, I'm not sure I drank enough. I don't think I got dehydrated but I have to make sure I drink enough to assimilate the food. 

  • I spent way too much time at the aid stations. I should drink quick whatever I want, grab something and run out of there, or at least walk out. All in all I must have spent 20 minutes at the various aid stations. It's not a buffet.

Things I learned

  • In a longer race, I'm not sure how I can take care of my feet myself without cramping. I'm going to try to convince my daughter to learn how to tape.

  • Taking Tylenol before the race might be a good idea. Bring an extra one or two if it's a long race.

  • I can do this.  All I need to do is finish my training and apply what I learned in this race.
So this is it. Like a bad dream, the negative emotions from the race are dissipating. I remember being in pain and tired, but it doesn't bother me anymore. Can't wait for the next race!
From Running

PS.  Official results: 

Time: 6:12:42  (the winner ran it in 4:17:12)
42nd male out of 108
49th runner out of 137
8/16 men 40-44 AG

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Quick Report - Seneca Creek 50k

Just a quick post about the Seneca Creek 50k Trail Race. I did the race on Saturday in about 6h 16min. I finished 50th out of 192 people signed up for the race (not sure how many showed up). It was incredibly hard. This was definitely not a road race and my plans quickly came undone.Still, I finished in one piece. Learned so much. More to come this week. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Race Plans

With only 4 days before Saturday's race, the "Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon and 50K", I am becoming agitated. I'm flying over the course using Google earth. I made a 2 pages packing list to make sure I don't forget anything. I look at the weather network forecasts 3 times a day. I am SO ready.

This is basically a dressed rehearsal for the "real" race. I will try to wear the same clothes, shoes and hydration system. I will test and evaluate my nutrition options. I will also tape my feet to try to prevent any damage.


I will race my La Sportiva Crosslites. They are fantastic shoes. The only thing I've noticed is that at the end of longer runs, the soles feel a bit hard. I need to see how they will feel on an actual trail after such a long distance. I'm sure there will be pain after 50k, but it needs to be manageable. There is at least one creek crossing so I'm probably going to get my feet wet. That's going to be a good test for the shoes as well as the tape.


A hydration system is mandatory because there will be no cups at the aid stations. It basically comes to 3 choices: hand bottle, fuel belt or hydration pack. I've decided to go with my new Nathan Hydration Vest. It feels pretty light on my back. I used it on my 35k run a couple of weeks ago and it was fine. I like the fact that I can put a few items like a camera, foot care and some food. I'd like to get used to the vest even though it might not be the most efficient option. Let's face it, I'm not going to win that race, or any other for that matter. We'll see how the refueling goes, especially getting rid of the air to prevent sloshing. 


I've had mixed results with gels. Some times, I get a bit nauseous, which is totally unlike me. I have puked 2 times in my entire adult life. I've used Cliff Bloks during my marathon because the Gatorade was too diluted at the aid stations and they felt fine. I just stick one in my mouth, drink once in a while and let it melt. 3 bloks is equivalent to one gel. I've used them in a few long runs and felt fine, although I think I didn't eat enough during my 35k run. I was completely out at the end. I will eat at least 4 bloks an hour and I will also eat some solid food at the aid stations. I will drink water. Using sport drinks in a bladder system freaks me out, plus I want to make sure the food and bloks digest properly.


This is basically a long training run. The plan says I'm supposed to be running this at my 50 miles race pace, which should be around 9:15-9:30/mile. This is a trail race though. But then again, it's downhill. What I'm saying is, I have no idea what the actual pace will but I will be running at a perceived effort of 9:30/mile. This should be fine. The goal is to run 50k without the physical damage that would occur if I was actually racing it. After all, it's only 7 weeks until Boston!

I'm really stoked.