Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sulphur Springs 2011 - Pacing Russell

This was my second pacing experience and it was awesome, yet again.

I jumped in on the Saturday evening at around 9 or 9:15 PM. Russell was done with his 5th loop and had equalled his previous longest-distance record. Only 60km to go.

My man Russell looked great for a guy who just ran 100 km. I had seen a few people come in that looked pretty terrible (Hi Chris!), so that was a relief. The course was wet and muddy, the day had been humid and all those factors combined were taking their toll. By the time we started running it was dark and we took off in the dark.

The night was warm and wet. All night I felt a weird disconnect between how I felt and how I knew Russell felt. Both of us are from Quebec and we became known as the “French Connection” at some aid stations. I tried to gently help by initiating a gentle jog every time the trail was flat-ish. It’s easy to “forget” to start running again when you’re as tired as those guys.

After our 7th loop, with one loop to go, Russell announced that we were going to walk the last loop. We walked for more than 10km on that loop, until he realized that he could probably make it under 28 hours. That (and wanting to be DONE) gave him the motivation to get running again and we ran a fairly solid second half. I was happy to start running again, cause I was starting to feel very sleepy. Running, a cup of instant coffee and a volunteer’s Tim Horton Breakfast sandwich, brought me back to life. Dear volunteer, I’m so sorry. I couldn’t say no when you offered. I don’t know how you guessed that I was dieing for that sandwich. Was it the drooling?

According to the splits, we did the 8th loop a shade faster than the 7th so we must have done something right.

That hill at the start/finish is STEEP.

We got to the finish with time to spare and Russell finished his first 100 miler in 27h 50min in pretty difficult conditions. As I mentioned, it was muddy and it rained on and off pretty much all night.

I have to admit that my feet were in pretty rough shape for a 60km run. I felt solid, but my feet were hurtin’. I have a fair sized blister on each pinky toe and one of the toenail (left pinky) will probably fall off soon. Weird. Maybe there’s been too many wet races in a row.

Mohican is coming in less than 3 weeks now. I’m going to take those weeks fairly easy, with a decent run next weekend but nothing like this. There’s nothing I can do to get fitter now, I can only screw it up. I’ll try not to.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where's The Heat?

Last Saturday was the first day I ran in any kind of warm weather this year. I thought I was going to croak. This makes me worried because my next race, Mohican 100, can be pretty hot and I have a troubled history when it comes to running in the heat. With only 3 weeks to go, I might have to find me a sauna or something. Maybe the weather is as cold there as it is here.

Training was sluggish this week and not just because of the heat on Saturday. I ran the Toronto marathon a bit harder than I planned and it made my training this week feel like I had no energy. The last couple of runs have been better but I got a bit worried. Did the surgery really have no effect? Anyway, I'm going to go for blood tests to make sure my hormone levels are all good.

This weekend is Sulphur Springs and I won't be racing it. I decided that running a 50 miler 3 weeks before Mohican would be counter productive so I will be pacing my new friend Russell. I will be running the last 3 loops with him, probably starting at around 9PM until the finish. I guess I could have singed up for the 50K but this way, I help someone, there's no temptation to run too fast and the distance is just about perfect, especially at the speed I will be running. It's Russell's first 100 miler and his stated goal is to finish within the 30 hours so I don't expect a mad pace.

After this weekend, I will not be racing until 3 weeks later at Mohican, so I'll keep my running volume fairly reasonable. This year is incredibly busy at work, so it's very hard to find the time for longer runs during the week. I'm going to go for a low volume taper and I should be in top shape for my race. If it's not too hot...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Toronto GoodLife Fitness Marathon 2011

Short one. Yesterday was the first Spring Edition of the Toronto Marathon. For those of you not familiar with Toronto, we've had two marathons here for a few years. For some reason that are unclear to me, the newer Scotia Marathon decided to hold its race only 3 weeks before the older Toronto Marathon, which seems to me like a shitty thing to do. With more money (Scotia bank is the main sponsor) and the most boring course ever (but flat as a pancake), Scotia finally succeeded in forcing GoodLife to move to the Spring. I don't care who's right, I just like the GoodLife course better.

Anyhoot, last week I decided to sign up for GoodLife which was held yesterday. I signed up before looking at the weather forecasts. That's just as well cause I probably wouldn't have run yesterday. I was supposed to meet Chris before the start but I believe he just made it in time.

There was a light drizzle at the start and around 10C (50F), but the wind wasn't so bad. Other than a fairly long-ish hill about 3km from the start, the first half of the course is a net down hill from Northern suburbia (also known as North York). We ran down Yonge st and then, after a little detour toward Casa Loma, to the Bayview extension. This took us to about 18km and pretty much Lake level. My plan was to run in around 3:45 and when I got to the intersection of the Bayview Extension I found myself running with the 3:40 pace group, led by Dave The Beaches Runner. Despite an earlier traumatic experience with a pace group, I decided to stick around. Not like I had anywhere to go.

I was wearing a thin Merino base with a singlet over top and I was getting warm but I could hear the wind in the trees around us and I knew it would be cooler on the Lake shore so I decided to keep the base layer. I felt surprisingly good. At around 28km I saw Chris ahead of me, obviously in trouble since I was catching up. He had been worried about his knee all week, after running the 50 miler at Bear Mountain last weekend. I picked it up a bit and caught up with him. He confirmed that his knee was not doing well. I waited for the pace group to catch up and I ran on with them.

The pacer was really good. We held a very even pace, running at around 4:55 to 5:05/km and we walked briefly while drinking at the aid stations. I had a gel every hour, replacing Gatorade with water at that aid station. I felt strong until km 38. The CN tower still looked so friggin' far, I stepped in a huge puddle, I got elbowed in the teeth by someone who stopped cold right in front of said puddle, the wind was blowing in our face and our pacer, for some unknown reason, picked up the pace to 4:40 to 4:45/km. For a moment there, I wondered if I was going to be able to stick around. More accurately, I wondered why I should. The pacer was obviously demented.

Running too fast, all of a sudden, THE LEFT TURN! After that, it's straight up to the finish. This is sweet and sour. Sweet: we're about 3km from the finish. Sour: it's almost all uphill. Anyway, I push on and run slightly ahead of the pace group. With around 1 km to go, a girl who was running with the group catches up and we pull each other toward the finish. We finally cross the finish under 3:39:46, gun time. My chip time is 3:38:59.

That was a sweet race. I did better than planned. I never got bored. I was sufficiently prepared. I didn't bonk. And finally, it also reminded me that there is such a thing as having fun in a marathon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One Step Back

After running Pick Your Poison on a slightly injured left calf, I decided to give it a rest last week. Even walking on it on Sunday and Monday was a pick painful, so I didn't run on it until Friday and then only for 7 or 8 km. I was afraid that without a break, that injury would linger until Mohican and haunt me for the entire race.

Taking a week off 6 or 7 weeks before a 100 miler is mentally difficult. I knew I was doing the right thing, but I know that my mileage hasn't been as high as it should have been. On the other hand, the last two races have been pretty hard and I've stretched them out to over 7 hours so I do have decent time-on-my-feet.

I had planned to run on Saturday and Sunday, but I had to be a bit careful, this being Mother's day weekend and all. A bunch of people were going to Sulphur Springs for a few loops on Saturday morning, but the idea was not well received and a scrapped that plan. Just as I was about ready to go out on Saturday, I got a call from my 17 year old daughter that the car she had been riding in coming back from London had been in an accident on the 403 somewhere near Hamilton. She was OK but shaken. My wife and I jumped in the car and picked her up there. Other than biting her tongue and a stiff neck, she's fine but it was a close call. Highway accidents scare the shit out of me. So, no running on Saturday.

I did go out on Sunday for a short 20 km run on the bike path. A problem I've been having lately is that I don't have road shoes that I like. I have a pair of Brooks Green Silence, but they are a bit oversized and I ran with them all winter wearing thick wool socks and now my feet slide all over the place in them and I get hot spots after 10k or so. I ran with them on Sunday and nearly got blisters. Unacceptable. I also have some Adidas Adizero model but they hurt the outside of my foot after an hour or so. I've been hacking at the insole but it's still a work in progress.

The shoe issue is a problem because I've signed up for the Toronto Marathon this Sunday and I don't want to wreck my feet so yesterday I went to the Nike store and bought a pair of Nike Lunarglide+2. I've trained in the Lunarglides last Winter and I ran the Sedona marathon in them so I'm pretty sure I'll be OK. I decided to run Toronto because there's a weird 4 week hole in the OUSER race schedule and it's always nice to have support for a long run. I plan on running pretty slow and finish in around 4 hours. 

Finally, I found someone to pace at Sulphur Springs so I'll be running the last 3 loops (60km) with Russell. That's perfect. This will be my last long run before Mohican and then I'll start tapering over the following 3 weeks.

That's it for now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pick Your Poison 2011

First, a non-running event that touched my family. On Sunday, we had to put our 17 year old cat Babe to sleep because of a sudden (and severe) health issue. Although I knew it would be hard on the kids who basically grew up with him, my wife and I were surprised by how hard it was to let him go. It was a heart wrenching experience. Now our house, that used to be alive even when we were out,  feels hollow and empty when we enter. I always think I see him out of the corner of my eye and my heart sinks when I remember that he's gone. I miss you Babe.

I ran PYP for the first time last year and I thought I knew what to expect. I knew the course had changed from an email that Pierre had sent on the ous-l mailing list stating that "annoying flat part in the middle is now more hills". Somehow, it didn't register.

It was a beautiful day with pretty much perfect conditions. The course was in great shape with very little snow and water on the ground, a welcome relief after Seaton. I got lost a couple of time, once early in the race after wrong directions were given to a group I was running in and another time after I pretty much jumped over a marked log placed there to prevent idiots like me from running down that way. 

My main goal for this race was to eat more calories. In a great many races last year and then again at Seaton, I've been bonking at around 30km and I've decided to increase my caloric intake by taking an extra 200 calories an hour. Another important goal was to run slow enough so I wouldn't set myself back. Earlier in the week I had pulled something in my left lower calf and I still had some pain there. I almost didn't do the race but I decided to at least start and take it from there. I really need the mileage. It turned out that the pain didn't get any worse. I didn't take any Tylenol until the very last loop, and even then it was more about my right ankle than the calf.

The new course was indeed harder, but I managed to run a really even pace. I never bonked and the last loop actually felt like my most solid one. I did have my first cramp ever going up one of those hills. Didn't last long but man does it hurt. I'd had cramps after races but never during an event. I think that I was somehow protecting that left calf and working some muscle group more than usual. Anyway, by the time I got to the top I was fine and it didn't happen again.

I ran the last two loops by myself and really enjoyed it. As I said, I applied just a bit of pressure on the last loop, keeping in mind that my leg was a bit iffy. The last uphills came just at the right time and I finished in 7h05min, about 45 minutes over last year although I felt I ran at about the same effort level. I guess there WERE more hills. I believe my ranking is actually better than last year although I'm not sure about the total number of runners. There were definitely more DNF this year.

Really nice race, well organized, fun to run. Thanks you Adam (RD) and volunteers!