Saturday, August 29, 2009

Great Trail Run

I often complain that I don't do enough trail running. I heard through a fellow runner about a group run today, so this morning I got up at 5am and drove to Ancaster to meet a few other ultra runners for a 30k training run on the Sulphur Springs course. We started running at 7am. Being only a couple of weeks from Haliburton , we took it real slow and took almost 4 hours to run the 30k but that's fine with me. 30k was in the upper range of was I had planned to do during my taper, so I wanted to make sure I didn't overdo it.

The course was WET and muddy. One of us (you know who you are) slipped and fell on his ass in a huge puddle. The temperature was cool but a touch humid: it was a blast! There's even a shower at the community center where we parked and we can use them free of charge.

It's funny. Last week I ran about 34k (including my little "detour") in 3:58 and I was completely spent by the end of the race. I actually had trouble with stairs for 2 days. Today we ran 30k in pretty much the same time and I feel like I jogged 10k. That gives you an idea of the difference between the Sulphur and Iroquoia courses. The ITT course is just ridiculous.

This coming Friday, the group is meeting after dark and they are going to run a loop (20k) in the dark. This is something I've been meaning to try, so even though I'm running the 50 miler and won't be running in the dark (hopefully), I will probably go and give it a try. More on that later.

Good times.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Journal entry

Earlier this week, I was laying flat on my stomach with electrodes hooked up to my leg, chtaaing with the physio in charge of my treatment. We were discussing my problem when I heard myself say: "I don't mind the pain so much while running, I just don't want to do permanent damage." What? Who said that?

I've been noticing lately that my attitude toward pain was changing. I accelerate in the uphills. When I turn around, I turn at the top of the hill instead of just before. I now always finish my runs, any run, with a hard sprint. I guess running 5 or 6 ultras in the same summer is another example. Things like that.

Don't get me wrong, I am still a lazy person. It's just that I now seek the rush that comes with doing something ridiculously hard. That means some level of pain. This Spring I broke 20 minutes in a 5k for the first (only?) time. Some of it was fitness, but a lot of it was embracing the pain. That was the sharpest pain I've ever felt during a race. It was exhilarating. Then you have the long distance pain, maybe enhanced by a good bonk, running (you wish you were running, you're shuffling) by yourself in the bush, minutes feeling like hours, thinking that maybe you could just lay down in the leaves, right there by the trail, and pass out. Maybe they'll find you and maybe they won't. You don't care all that much. It takes a while to come back from that. It changes you a bit. Some people call it "seing the bear" and I can see why. I've seen it. I know the price to pay if I go just a bit too far.

During a race, there's usually a point beyond which I can't really remember why I thought this would be fun in the first place. I now have this rule that I never question my motives during the race. Another rule is to never decide anything during a race, including deciding to never to run an ultra again! Big no-no.

In a previous post, I mentioned how difficult it was for me as an ultra runner to communicate to "civilians" why I do this. I think that this relationship with pain might be why I'm not comfortable explaining it. They don't understand the rewards, they just focus on the pain. The term "epic" has a meaning for endurance sport junkies that other people don't understand fully. Their loss. I've had a few glimpse of the epic. I want more. The price you have to pay for the experience is pain. In that way, pain is your friend, singing in your head, guiding you. Sometimes, your friend will tell you that it's time to back off. You have to learn to recognize those times and listen.

If you're not an ultra runner and you're thinking of trying an ultra, don't worry too much about what I wrote. Maybe my family is right and I am crazy. In the mean time, I'm going to go look for the epic. It usually hangs out with the bear...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Iroquoia Trail Test 2009

When people talked to me about ITT, one theme remained constant: "it's really technical", they would say. They weren't kidding.

I had a few misgivings about running that race. My last big race is Haliburton (I'm running the 50 miler) and I don't want to get injured so close to it. I've been battling an Achilles injury for a few months. The doctor said to try and stay away from hills. Gulp. On top of that I turned my OTHER ankle last week while doing hills. I actually had to skip 2 days of training this week because I just couldn't run on it. On Friday I went for a spin in my La Sportiva Wildcats and it wasn't too bad so I decided to do the race. I actually tried to run in my Crosslites and couldn't, but the Wildcats were good.

So this morning I went through my usual pre-race, which includes two Excedrins, and drove to Kilbride (what a name). I followed the direction my Garmin GPS gave me and I got there just in time to see the 7am start, which is supposed to be for slower runners who need the extra hour to make it to the turn-around before the cut-off. Some of the people didn't look that slow to me.

I got my number and got ready. The usual suspects were all there. Again, people I talked to kept mentioning how slippery the rocks were. We moved toward the start, the race director gave some last minute directions and we got moving.

The course is comprised of a first 7.5k loop where we crossed a river twice. There was a perfectly good bridge right there but didn't get to use it. Need to get those feet nice and wet. The second part is out and back. It's really hard. The rocks are just nasty. They are uneven, wet, slippery. It kept getting worse. I kept turning my left ankle. You had to really be careful about you foot placements.

At around 17km, I was following a small group and I hear: "are we lost?". Of course, we all keep running. After a hundred meter, me and the guy in front of me stopped and looked around. No ribbons still. We decided to go back. We ran 300m back and met other runners coming up the trail. They reassured us and told us they had seen a ribbon. The bastards. We run back 400m, only to meet the people we were following in the first place, telling us there was no exit to that trail. Great, back we go, finding the trail about 500m later. (back home, I overlaid my Garmin data to Google map with SportTracks and calculated we ran an extra 2.1km). That was an extra 2.1km (and 16 minutes) I didn't need.

We got to the turnaround at about 2:30. Going back was more of the same, only harder because it get's harder to lift your feet. It's like roots and rocks appear where you could swear there was none a second ago. I somehow managed not to fall. A fall ANYWHERE on that course must hurt, since there are NO flat surfaces. My main goal was to NOT break an ankle.

I got to the finish in 3:59:19, a bit slower than I had expected, but if I take away that extra 15 minutes, it's pretty close to what I was going for.

This is a good race. I would have enjoyed it even more without the ankle/Achiles pain, but still I had a great time. As we all know, we do it for the pain, so maybe they just enhanced the experience.

P.S. After the race, the race director mentioned that next year would be the last time the ITT would be run. I didn't hear a reason. He did say that they would try to do something special, like offering an option to RUN IT AT NIGHT. What?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Where Did That Come From?

Last week, I turned my foot pretty bad going down a hill in a trail near my house. It felt kind of ok after, so I finished my workout which was hill repeats. I ran quite a bit on it over the next few days without much pain.

Yesterday, I got ready for my run, started my Garmin, ran 2 steps and had to stop. The pain in my left foot and ankle was sharp and I knew I shouldn't run on it. WTF? I had just signed up for the Iroquoia Trail Test that very morning (last day of online registration).

Just as my right foot is getting better, my right one is giving me grief! Sounds familiar?

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Heat is On

Well it had to happen. Summer is here. I'm not one of those people who were complaining about the lack of stupidly hot weather. I was very happy with what we had. Bring me 25C (75F) any day and I'll be happy. Even the rain; I love running in the rain. I just can't imagine why people would think very hot and humid weather is great.

This week was another fairly high mileage week for me. I ran about 80km, for a total of about 7h30 of running. I had a double longuish run this weekend 25km on Saturday and 21km on Sunday. That went well, but on Sunday it was extremely hot and I didn't bring enough fluids. The last 5km were harsh.

I'm considering signing up for the Iroquoia Trail Test this weekend. That's a 32km trail race with rugged trails, major climbs and 2 river crossings. It fits well in my training plan, IF I don't run it too hard. I've never done that race before but it's supposed to ba a classic. The usual suspects are all signed up, so I will probably do it.

I've started treatment for my heel pain last Friday. I'm seeing the physio six times. He is doing Iontophoresis with Dexamethasone. Basically, using an electrical current to force the medication inside my Achilles. I was a bit skittish about using steroids for my Achilles, but further research into injection vs iontophoresis reassured me (advice from Tim Noakes, author of Lore of Running: if your doctor wants to inject your Achilles with Cortisone, leave immediately). The physio also gave me stretches and strenghtening exercises for my tendon, which I have been doing studiously. I have my second treatment today. I'll let you know how this all turns out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

50k Training Run

Last weekend was my last truely long run before Haliburton. I wanted to do it at Dirty Girl, but my daughter had a regatta in Welland all weekend so I couldn't do the race. I did a short run (jog?) with another parent on Saturday, and Sunday morning was pretty much a dressed rehearsal.

I noticed last weekend that I got a couple of small blisters after my 20 miler, so I put a strip of tape under both feet to cover the area. I usually don't get blisters in my trail shoes, but since I was going to run on a paved bike path, I was wearing my Mizuno Waverider 12. I like those shoes, except for two things: the sole is a bit mushy and once they get wet, they never seem to dry. I can cross a river with my La Sportiva Crosslite and my feet feel dry after 30 minutes, if that. Unfortunately, the Crosslites are NOT road shoes.

On Friday, I stopped by the Mountain Equipment Coop to buy some food (gels, Cliff bars) and made the mistake of going in the shoe section. My Crosslites are perfect, but once my feet swell after 40 or 50k, they become a bit small and my toes hit the front of the toe box. Perfect excuse to buy me some oversized shoes. I tried a few and settled on the La Sportiva Wildcats. They are a bit more substancial that the Crosslites, but I bet they will feel real good in the second half of longer races. I made sure they felt just a little too big. I might put them in my halfway drop bag in Haliburton, if I don't just decide to run the whole race with them.

So back to the training run. Taped my feet (used one of my precious tincture of benzoin applicator as adhesive, recommended: don't waste your time taping without adhesive), filled my hydration bladder, filled a gel flask with 6 gels, put some sun screen on, prepared two bottles of Accelerade and I was ready. I set up a chair in our paddling club's tent, with a bathing suit, towel and the Accelerade bottles. It was 9AM and already the humidity was oppressive.

I hate running that long by myself. I have a fairly active inner life, but this is ridiculous. I didn't want to carry my iPhone because the weather called for T-storms. People asking me how far I was going gave me a weird look when I told them. I took off. My plan was to break it down in 10k out-and-back sections but once I got going I decided to go our 12.5k for a 25k loop. My 2 liters (70oz) bladder would last that long. It was haaaawt. I was sweating like crazy. I do a run 13, walk 2 cycle. When I stop, I take a swig of gel and wash it down with water. Worked great.

After the first 25k, I downed almost a whole bottle of Accelerade, changed into my bathing suit and jumped into the canal, keeping my shirt on to rinse it a bit. It felt goood. Changed back into my shorts, put my shoes back on, refilled the bladder, which was almost empty, changed my socks, popped a couple of Advil and took off.

The skies opened up. Thunder, lightning, rain. It felt great. I love running in the rain. This lasted about 10k and then it stopped but the humidity wasn't quite so bad after. The second half was actually easier than the first one, except for that last extra kilometer that I had added, "just to be sure". What was I thinking?

So it is done. My right Achilles' felt ok. The tape did its job and I didn't get any blister, despite running the second 25k with wet feet. As I mentioned, the Mizuno's just won't dry once they get wet. The sole of my feet was completely white when I took my sock off, but the tape protected my sensitive areas.

I'm happy this is done. Haliburton should be fun.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Good Week

Last week was pretty good. I ran a total of 81km (50miles), which is a decent number for a week without an ultra. My right heel is holding up pretty good.

About the foot, I saw a doctor today, who diagnosed an Achilles tendonosis at the insertion, which he says is not dramatic. I have his ok to finish my training and run my 50 miler next month. He recommends getting orthotics but I'm not ready to do that just yet. He also recommends, if I won't go for the orthotics, 1/8th inch heel lifts although the logic escapes me. This whole thing is at least partially caused by my tendon (or the muscle it's attached to) being too short. Wouldn't wearing a lift exacerbate the situation and make the tendon even shorter? I might just go for more streching, but streching a tendon is a long term proposition. Anyway, no big deal, I keep running.

On the Rock and Ice front, I'm building a spreadsheet of everything I will need for the race. It's a long one, and some of the items are pricey. I looked at last year's results and A LOT of people DNF'd. I have my work cut out for me. I'm still very excited.

Next week is my going to be hard. It's my highest mileage week in this cycle, with over 100km (60 miles). Sunday is a 50km long run and I have to do it by myself because I my daughter is competing in the Western Ontario Dicision finals in Canoe/Kayak. I will probably plan a 10k loop around the site and do it repeatedly. Maybe I can convince a couple of the other fathers to do one loop with me, as I know some of them run a bit.

This is it for me.