Saturday, July 27, 2013

JD vs Leadville : Here We Go Again

I thought I’d give you proof of life, three weeks before the race.

A few weeks ago, I ran the Creemore Vertical Challenge, in oppressive heat. It was horrible. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s the second time in a row that I stagger through 30C+ weather while baking under the sun on those fucking rural roads. This is it. I’m never going back. Even the joy of sitting in the river after the race felt wrong. It reminded me too much of the joke: “Why do you keep hitting you head on the wall? Answer: Because it feels so good when I stop!” I love the people there, but enough is enough. One can only take so much character building.

My training is actually going pretty well. Compared to many other ultra runners I know, my running volume is a bit on the low side but when I look at my racing history, I don’t really see a big correlation between volume and performance in ultras. I mean I do run quite a bit, but let’s just say I have NO hundred miles weeks on my training log. I suspect that this will translate into a long, painful recovery after the race, but as long as I get my belt buckle, I don’t care. I’ve booked two weeks of vacation as soon as I come back from the race, so who cares?

About three weeks ago, I started sleeping with my head enclosed to a plastic box connected to an infernal machine that sucks the oxygen out of the air. As the machine is pretty noisy and it also warms up the air, it gets a bit clammy in there so I’ve been sleeping in the basement where it’s nice and cool. The hose that brings the air in the box makes this continuous “pfhhhhh PFIIIIIIIISSSSHHHHH”, as if I’m on a ventilator, which I suppose I kind of am. I’m currently sleeping at the equivalent of 9,500 feet. My skull feels as if it’s filled with cotton balls and I’m grumpy as hell but I’m feeling better every day AND my running is great. Who cares if I lose my friends, wife and job, as long as my running is great, hey?

I decided to go for the altitude tent because I don’t want to have any excuses, should my resolve waiver during the race. I can’t afford to think: “the altitude is killing me, I’ll just come back next year and I’ll get an altitude tent”. No. This is it, this is the year where I throw everything I have at this race. I am not going back.
This weekend is my last big weekend of running, which means that I’m starting my taper on Monday. I love tapers. My running is really strong right now. My legs feel great. My mind is a bit slow, what with the oxygen deprivation, but when I run I feel like I’m in a really good place. For a long, long time, I’ve been battling some kind of running boredom where I just want the run to be over almost as soon as it starts. Touch some wood, but things have improved quite a bit lately and I’m actually enjoying my runs, even if it’s on that goddamn bike path.

I got a few toys for the race. First, I got me some hiking poles. I didn’t think I’d be a big fan of the poles but they are kind of growing on me. Last week, I went to Sulphur for a couple of loops and I ran the second loop (20km) with them and I quite enjoyed it. When I lived in Quebec, I used to cross-country ski quite a bit and I settled into a rhythm similar to skating (but didn’t really push hard) with both poles swinging pretty much together as opposed to alternating. I found this oddly relaxing and this makes me wonder if maybe I won’t keep the poles all the way to the finish after I pick them up at Twin Lakes, just before Hope Pass. I had planned to dump them when I got back, but I think I’m going to keep them at least until Half Pipe. Sure would be nice to have them going up Power Lines, though… Anyway, this is where I am with the poles.
The second toy is a Garmin Fenix GPS watch. Ever since I started running ultras, I’ve been bitching against the fact that no GPS watch could last anywhere close to enough time for a hundred miler. Once your batteries are a few years old, you sometimes can’t even last long enough for a 50 miler. Comes two new watches: The Garmin Fenix and the Suunto Ambit2. Both watches claim a battery life of up to 50 hours. At first, I looked at the Ambit2 but the $650 (with HR strap) seemed a bit steep. The Garmin Fenix is $400 without the HR strap, but the two Garmin straps I already have work fine with it. Garmin is the company that everyone loves to hate but to be fair, my Garmin 305 is a work horse and works really well. I used to have a Garmin GPS for my car. Some crack addict in need of a fix (probably Rob Ford), broke into my car to steal it and I replaced it with a Tom Tom. What a piece of shit! To make a long story short, when I got to Montreal on my first trip with it, I threw the Tom Tom in the garbage, bought a Garmin Nuvu at The Source and got home safely. I also had a brush with Suunto. Last year before Leadville, I wanted a good altimeter watch so I got a Suunto-something, can’t remember the model, not a GPS watch. Didn’t feel great on my wrist but it looked pretty cool. I tried the timer to see what happened when it went passed 24 hours and it just friggin’ stopped. Didn’t roll over, it stopped. I guess I’m not Suunto material, since I can’t finish most 100 milers under 24 hours. Returned it to MEC. What I’m trying to say is that despite all the bad things I read about Garmin on the Interweb, it’s the only company that hasn’t failed me, so I’m going to give the Fenix a fair shake despite its silly name.

So I have a Fenix. How I justify it is that I’m worried about missing a turn on the way back. When I ran Burning River, I ran most of the night alone and I must have stopped 100 times looking for some kind of markings, wondering if I had zoned out and missed a turn. With my Fenix, I can fire up the TrakBack function when I get to Winfield. Any time I’m not sure if I’m on the course, I just look at the map. If I’m on the route, it’s all good, if not, I go back. The Fenix has a magnetic compass, so when I face a fork, it’s easier to pick the right one. With my 305, you had to be moving for the watch to know what direction you were heading so when you stopped to figure things out, the map tended to move around because the 305 would lose its bearing. Not so with the Fenix. I’ve un-lost myself many times with the 305 in the past when running on unknown trails and I expect that the Fenix will be even better. I’m actually using it as my day to day watch. It runs 6 weeks on a charge in non-GPS mode, so now I will never forget to bring it with me! It’s a bit big, but I can just pretend I’m a rich Bay Street banker wearing a ridiculously expensive Bulova.

That’s about it: Leadville in 3 weeks, I’m pretty much ready, I have new toys.