Monday, December 10, 2012

The North Face 50-Mile Race Report

Winter finally arrived last week so instead of blogging, I was out playing in the snow. Now that my hip flexors are begging for a day off from the unfamiliar motions of skiing and snowshoeing, I can catch up on other things, like writing race reports...

Trying to take our family Christmas photo with an uncooperative dog!

Our flight to San Francisco on Thursday night included a plane change in Seattle. Because of bad weather in the Bay area, our connecting flight was delayed several hours and, as a result, we didn't arrive at our Mill Valley hotel until 4am Friday morning.

After a few hours sleep (this princess is used to eight minimum a night so I was a growly bear), we went for a short run, grabbed some breakfast and then headed into the city to pick up our race packages. Throughout the day, the rain kept falling and we were notified that the 50-mile and 50-km courses would be altered to protect both runners and the trails. The new 50-mile route would be a two lap course, which isn't as appealing as the original, but at least they weren't cancelling the race.

We had an early dinner with friends in Berkeley and then headed back to the hotel to organize our race gear (Dave ran the marathon) and get some sleep. When my alarm went off at 3am, I felt surprisingly fresh. I got dressed and then chowed down on a big bowl of oatmeal. I don't usually have much of a pre-race appetite so took it as a good sign that I ate it all.

Soon it was time for me to leave and let Dave go back to sleep as the marathon started later. I allowed myself plenty of time to park the car, shuttle to the start and get my warm up in. Then I joined other runners huddled around the starting area trying to stay warm in the light drizzle while we awaited our 5am send off.

Although this was my first race as an "elite" (whatever that means), I didn't feel very elite standing around in a garbage bag. But it kept me warm(ish) and dry(ish) until we started. (And I got my superhero moment later when I ripped it off Incredible Hulk-style.) 

I started with about 100 other runners in the first of three waves. After a brief stretch on the road we began climbing, our path lit by headlamps and glow sticks. Driving rain and dense fog made for poor visibility and I resorted to carrying my headlamp in my hand to keep the beam lower to the ground. Eventually the sky lightened enough that I didn't need a headlight which made life much easier.

There has been much talk about the race conditions. Yep, it was muddy; very muddy in some places, and I was loving it. There's something about running in the rain and splashing through mud puddles that always makes me smile. My Brooks Cascadias gave me great traction on the climbs and pretty good control on the descents. My only mishap occurred around 50km when I lost my footing on a slippery downhill and twisted my ankle quite badly.

The pain was bad enough that I considered dropping out but I didn't do all that training and travel all that way to end the season with a DNF. So I walked for a bit and then started jogging again and eventually it didn't hurt as much so I was able to run on it - albeit with less speed and more caution!

While I suffered some in those last 20+ kms, overall I am very happy with how the race went. It's the first time that I really got my nutrition figured out (12 gels and 2 packages of bloks, plus electrolytes at the aid stations) and I didn't feel at all unwell after the race which is a huge change from my other 50-milers.

My time of 7:38 was over an hour faster than last year (although it was a shorter course for 2012) and while I dropped a few places in the uber-competitive women's race (from 11th to 15th) I do feel like a stronger, smarter runner. And I'm still having fun!

Photo credit: Brett Rivers
Click here for the full race results.

I enjoyed reading these TNF San Fran EC race reports and you may too:

P.S. Dave placed second OVERALL in the marathon. It was his first running race since having back surgery just a year ago. Amazing!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Exciting News

The exciting news that I mentioned in last week's post is that I've been chosen as B.C.'s The North Face Trail Ambassador for 2013! What does that mean? Well, I'm not exactly sure yet but I am supposed to receive more info in the coming weeks.

What I do know is that I will be writing a few articles about training and racing for Trail Running Canada as well as receiving some running gear from The North Face to try out and review here on my blog.

I am extremely grateful to The North Face and Trail Running Canada for this opportunity and their support. Read about the other TNF Trail Ambassadors by clicking here.

(I've been procrastinating for no good reason but will try to have my TNF San Fran race report posted by the weekend.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Countdown to TNF San Francisco

My final race of the season is The North Face San Francisco Endurance Challenge on Saturday. I'm excited to return to this race with more experience and better fitness than when I ran it last year as only my second 50-miler ever.

Check out for excellent pre-race (and race day) coverage.

Men's preview
Women's preview

In 2011, we were fortunate to have perfect weather for race day. Not so this year. Rain and wind warnings for the Bay Area are in effect so I've packed waterproof gear for what promises to be a wet and blustery weekend. Not my favourite conditions to run in, but at least I've had some practice this year (Chuckanut and the Mountain Running Nationals come to mind).

And what a year it's been. With my running season ending, it's a good time for reflection. I'm so grateful for all the ways that running has enriched my life. The people I've met, the places I've seen, the goals I've accomplished and the failures I've learned from. There's been breakthroughs and breakdowns. PRs and DNFs. I've smiled, cried and laughed lots (often on the same run!). My trail running has improved; sadly, my trail singing has not.

Regardless of my result on Saturday, I'm thrilled with how this year has played out and have eagerly started planning my race schedule for 2013. There's much to look forward to: my first stage race (TransRockies), my first 100-miler (fingers crossed I get into Western States), a fast road marathon attempt and possibly another World Championships.

Next week, I will post my TNF SF race report and I also have an exciting announcement. Well, I think it's exciting anyway. If you're bored and curious, check back in a few days.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bellingham Trail Marathon Race Report

I often dream about running and racing, probably because I'm boring and don't have a lot of other interests. One of my recurring race dreams is getting caught in the porta potty with my shorts down when the race starts. Well, that's pretty much what happened to me at the Bellingham Trail Marathon.

It was a cool morning so even after my warm-up run, I kept jogging around to stay warm. My final parking lot lap took me right past the washrooms and, because there was no line up, I decided to pop in for one last reassurance pee. I was exiting my stall when I heard Candice, the race director, counting down the race start. I broke into a sprint to cover the few hundred metres between me and the starting line, giving Dave a sheepish grin on my way by as I recalled his earlier warning not to dawdle as I have cut it close for my last couple of races causing us both undue stress.

I then had to find my way from the back of the pack up closer to the front because I wanted to be in a good position when we hit the narrow trail very early in the race. I'm sure I was on the receiving end of some dirty looks as I not so gracefully maneuvered around the other runners to move up. My apologies to anyone I may have jostled along the way! The resulting adrenaline rush did, however, give me a fantastic boost for the first couple of kilometres.

As Dave and I had pre-run the course the day before (I did the first and last few kilometres and he did the rest), I knew what to expect on the Lake Padden trails and was excited to be back on them. These trails are fun! If I lived in the area, I'm sure I would run them a lot. They were rolling and not super technical but not boring either. After some gradual climbing, there was a sweet downhill section. I was cruising along nicely until one misstep caused me to roll my right ankle with a loud snap or pop - no crackle - and I stumbled, followed by some hopping and cursing.

I figured my day was probably over. Then, I heard someone coming down the trail behind me and the competitor in me took over and forced to take a few steps on me on my injured foot (yep, the same one that I had dropped a desk on not so long ago). Surprisingly, it didn't hurt too much. It didn't feel right, but it felt good enough to continue so I put it out of my mind and carried on.

Once we left the Lake Padden trails, there was a short road section that connected the Interurban trail with Chuckanut Mountain. I had run parts of most of these trails for the Chuckanut 50km in March and knew them to be beautiful yet challenging. Aside from a few guys I leap-frogged with, I mainly ran this section alone. There were some long climbs and some steep climbs and a few long AND steep climbs. I ran what I could and worked on my power hike when I needed to conserve energy.

At the top of the infamous Chinscraper climb, I was greeted with a few light snowflakes. Fortunately, it was nothing like the blizzard that assaulted us at the higher elevations for the Chuckanut 50km. I had struggled on the technical ridge section then but was able to take it on with more confidence this go 'round most likely due to better conditions and more trail running experience.

After the ridge, it was a loooong descent down to the Interurban trail and then back up the hill to Lake Padden and the finish. I thought that I might be the top woman but I didn't know for certain until about 8km from the finish and even then I didn't know how much of a lead I had so I didn't let up even though my legs were screaming at me to stop. I reached the finish line in 3:59 which was good enough for 7th overall and top woman. Full results are available here.

Ankle update: Although my ankle was sore after the race, I could still walk on it. I didn't actually get around to taking a good look at it until we got home a day and a half later. I was then alarmed to see that it was extremely swollen and bruised. Four days later, almost all the swelling is gone and most of the bruising too. Whew! Back to TNF San Fran preparations.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The North Face Dirty Feet Tunnel Run

After a two-month hiatus from racing (thanks to my DNF at Flagline), I was itching to pin on a race number and find a starting line somewhere. Fortunately, I didn't have to look far as there happened to be a race taking place just a few miles down the road from my house. The North Face Dirty Feet Tunnel Run proved to be the perfect fix for my race withdrawal.

A straightforward out-and-back 20km course along the stunningly beautiful Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) trail that rises above Okanagan Lake, offering spectacular views of the valley. With a gentle 2-3% grade and a hard-packed mixed gravel surface, it's really more road than trail but who really cares.

Having participated in a Dirty Feet race in Kelowna last year, I knew it was going to be fun and well organized (two things I look for in an event) and I wasn't disappointed. The course was ridiculously well marked (and re-marked the morning of after 3kms of flagging went "missing" overnight!?), there were happy, smiling runners and volunteers everywhere and the post-race refreshments included a vat of hot veggie soup. And there were tons of draw prizes. What more could you want?

The race was split between solo racers and relay teams (two runners x 10km) and there were about 120 participants. It was a mass start but because the trail is wide and there weren't hordes of runners, elbow room wasn't an issue. I ran near the front for most of the race and tried to keep the top two men in sight. I lost a bit of time on them at the halfway point but was able to maintain my third place position and finish in 1:27 as the top woman. Full results are available here.

It was a good day to be hanging out with some new and long lost runner friends. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with more runner friends at the Bellingham Trail Marathon next weekend (which I'm doing strictly as a training run as I don't want to jeopardize my build up for TNF San Francisco...or piss off my coach - ha, ha!).

So for this race, I wore:

  • Brooks Pure Grits (my new fav "go to" race shoe for shorter distances)
  • old New Balance split shorts
  • new SmartWool tee
  • mid-weight Injinji toesocks
I also carried an Ultimate Direction handheld bottle with water to wash down a couple of gels during the race.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Follies

Autumn is one of my four favourite seasons. What's not to love? Sweaters, hot tea, good books, fresh baking, fall colours, my birthday. These things all make me happy. Along with many reasons to smile, this autumn arrived with its share of challenges...

Dave and I returned from Italy with a parasitic souvenir (dientamoeba fragilis) that totally wiped us out for about three weeks. (Food Safe 101: Wash your hands people! It doesn't take long and soap is cheap.) During this time, we moved into a new house. During the move, a desk collapsed on my foot. But wait, that's not all.

Then, on one of my first long runs post-parasite etc., I caught a toe on the only rock for miles, went airborne and landed smack dab on my left knee cap. After screaming bloody murder for several minutes and lying like a gimp on the trail afraid to move because I was certain my knee cap was shattered, I limp-shuffled back to the car. Boo!

But that's all in the past. I have had two blissfully dull and uneventful two weeks in which I have caused no further damage to my body and actually done some decent training (albeit with a still sore foot and knee). And that's important because The North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco is just a few weeks away and I need to get back into race shape. (Click here to read my 2011 TNF EC race report.)

My goal for the next month is to stay healthy and be nice to my body i.e. no klutzy Cleveland. If I can manage that, then I should have a good race. And even if the race doesn't go well, it's still way better than being sick and injured.

Happy Autumn!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Flagline 50km Race Report

Like my race, this report will be short. The Flagline 50km in Bend, Oregon was supposed to be my big fall race. I had trained hard for it and was hoping for a good result. Unfortunately, for the two weeks leading up to it, I suffered from horrible diarrhea, nausea and vomiting among other unpleasant symptoms.

It seems I contracted something nasty while in Italy for the World Mountain Running Championships earlier this month. (I've since found out that half the members of the Canadian and USA teams that participated are sick with the same undiagnosed illness. One of our Canadian guys even ended up in hospital!)

As we were going to Bend anyway for Dave's adventure race, I decided to wait and see how I felt closer to the weekend before deciding whether to race or not. (Due to fire activity in the area and concerns about the air quality, there was a possibility that the race would be cancelled.) I didn't feel terrible race morning so I threw on my gear and headed to the start line, which was located at the base of Mount Bachelor. The weather was perfect and the sky was clear and smoke-free.

Many exceptional athletes live and train in Bend, and as Flagline was the USA 50km national championships this year, a number of the top American runners were there. I got in a good 20 minute warm-up and was still feeling okay so I was optimistic that I could pull this thing off even though I hadn't been able to eat or run much in weeks. I'd be well-rested and light on my feet, right? Wrong!

Without much ado, the race was underway. I actually felt pretty good for the first 10km of the race, which was a nice mainly single-track trail through the woods climbing up to some scenic lookouts. Over the next 10km, my energy started to fade until there was nothing left. My legs had no race in them and my stomach was starting to feel that oh so familiar queasy feeling. I made the wise - albeit difficult - decision to drop at 25km and then jogged and walked another 5km back to my car. Even though dropping out of the race was the right thing to do under the circumstances, I'm still grappling with it. Quitting never feels good even if it's for the right reasons.

I'm feeling a bit better this week but am still not quite right so I'm going to go to the doctor today and get some tests done so I know exactly what I'm dealing with. For now, my ability to train is limited because my energy is low and my stomach is volatile. The only race left on my calendar this year is The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler in December. Hopefully I will shake this bug soon so I can get in some good prep for it. Until then, my focus is simply getting healthy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In the news

My friend (and former Camosun College classmate) wrote this nice article about the race for our local paper, the Penticton Western News. Click here to check it out.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012 World Mountain Running Championships

The 2012 World Mountain Running Championships took place September 2 in Ponte di Legno, Italy. Team Canada consisted of four senior women, six senior men, one junior, a number of spouses and family members and our awesome manager, Adrian. I may be biased, but I think our team was the nicest! I enjoyed every one's company immensely.

Having arrived almost a week early, Dave and I had a some time in Milan to wander around, visit the famous cathedral, Duomo di Milano, and eat copious amounts of gelato. I was almost distracted enough to forgot the reason we had come on this trip and then it was time to repack our bags and catch the shuttle to Ponte di Legno.

What should have been a three hour bus ride turned into five and half thanks to heavy traffic, pouring rain and windy mountain roads. We eventually arrived at our hotel, which wasn't in Ponte di Legno at all but significantly higher in Passo Tonale where the race would finish. It was after 10 pm and we were all famished so we raided the cafeteria and devoured whatever scraps of food were leftover from dinner.

Then it was off to our very basic but adequate rooms to get some sleep. I was virtually comatose seconds after my head hit the pillow and slept soundly through the night only to be awoken by heavy rainfall in the morning. The rain was to last most of the next 48 hours. I hadn't packed for the possibility of such prolonged and substantial showers so wasn't that enthused about venturing out. Plus, we were at elevation so it was pretty darn chilly. In fact, the snow line wasn't much above our hotel.

Eventually, a few of us did head out to run the women's course. It was a challenging course due to some super steep climbs but none of it was too technical and most of the trail was wide open for passing so I was reassured. My confidence took a hit later in the day, however, when one of the guys warned us about how physical the race would be and to expect lots of pushing and shoving. That stressed me out..a lot. (It was a non-issue. Maybe the ladies at the front of the pack were throwing elbows but us middle packers were quite civilized. Thank goodness!)

My parents arrived in Ponte di Legno on Friday and we had a nice visit with them. On Saturday morning, Dave and I checked out of of the shops in the village, which was very picturesque even in the rain. That evening, the athletes were paraded (literally) through town to the sports hall for the opening ceremonies.

Race day dawned with near perfect weather. The late start time allowed for a leisurely morning so we took our time getting up and lingered over breakfast. I got in a solid 30 minute warm up run down in the village and it was one of the best parts of the weekend for me. Being alone in the forest on a pretty trail. That's why I run. I like racing because it allows me to push myself in a way that I am unable to in training, but the rest of the hoopla and hype I don't need.

After receiving some final words of encouragement from Dave and my parents, I headed over to the starting corral with the rest of the women to await the final countdown. And then we were off. I found the first couple of kilometers extremely fast coming from an ultra running background where most races begin at a fairly pedestrian pace. I tried to keep in the mix as we en masse navigated the cobbled streets full of tight turns, stray dogs and decorative planters.

My watch wasn't working so I don't know my exact pace, but I could tell by my breathing and how I felt that I was working hard and I just tried to keep that intensity up. For most of the race, I ran closely with my Team Canada teammate, Catrin, an elite road runner from Victoria. We finished in just over 55 minutes(about 8:30 minutes behind the winner) for 50th and 51st place, with Shannon and Mirabelle not too far behind us in 65th and 78th. The Canadian men's team also posted some good individual results and placed well in the team competition.

I'm proud of how we did. Do I wish I'd placed higher? Sure, but I'd guess that everyone except the winner thinks that. Participating in a world championships was an amazing experience and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to do it, but I don't think that this type of competition is necessarily my thing. Call me crazy but I'd much rather run 80 kilometers than eight!

For more info about the race, go to the Canadian Trail & Mountain Running website.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Canadian Mountain Running Championships Race Report

This adventure began on Friday morning, when Dave and I loaded up our '78 VW camper van, affectionately known as "Roy" (short for Hemorrhoid because he's a pain in the ass) and headed for the city. Not long into our journey, we hit a wicked rainstorm that lasted most of our drive. A trip that normally takes about five hours ended up being closer to seven thanks to relentless headwinds along the Hope-Princeton Hwy and traffic delays in Vancouver.

With just a few minutes to spare, we finally arrived at MEC in North Vancouver for package pickup. We then headed to the nearest pub for a bite and beverage and strategized where to spend the night. Without good options for camping in Vancouver, we opted to find a quiet back road to park the van for the evening. After some driving around, we found an overgrown service road with some thick shrubberies to conceal Roy. Exhausted, we called it a night.

Race Day
After a surprisingly good sleep, I awoke around 5:30 am to the sound of raindrops on our rooftop. We drove down to a nice little picnic area for a breakfast of oatmeal and tea and just hung out for a bit as we had time to kill. I went for a little jog to test out my knee that had been bothering me earlier in the week to the point of not being about to run more than three steps. Fortunately, whatever was tweaked only lasted a day and hasn't bothered me since.

At about 8:00, Dave dropped me off at the starting area and I got in a 20 minute warm-up and then organized my race gear and chatted with some of the other participants and spectators to pass the time until the 9:00 start. Even though it was the Canadian Championships, mountain running is something of a niche sport (especially amongst women) so there was not a large field and the atmosphere was quite relaxed.

The 5 Peaks trail running group hosted the event, which took place at Cypress Mountain in North Vancouver. The championships alternate uphill and uphill/downhill years and this year was an uphill year with a total elevation gain of 1100 metres over the 11 km course. Being a horrible downhill runner, I was excited about an all uphill race. (Weird thing to get excited over, I know.)

A short, steep climb off the start set the tone for the course that had a lot of technical, single-track sections made more challenging due to the recent - and ongoing - rainfall. Somehow I managed to navigate the wet rocks, roots and other obstacles without breaking a bone or twisting an ankle and maneuver myself into fourth position and that's where I stayed for most of the race and also how I finished. (Full results here.)

Three very fit and fast American girls took the top placings, but I was top Canadian woman so I will now have the opportunity to compete at the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy this fall. I consider myself a fairly average person in all respects so the chance to represent my country at an international event is something I never thought possible and feels more like a dream.

Thanks to my parents and Kristen and Bill for being there for me at the finish line (even if it was the wrong one!) and to Ryne for the many, many, many vomit-inducing hill repeats I've done over the past few months to prepare for the race. And, of course, to my favourite Double Ds: Dave and Dora - you make me happy.

Me and dirty Dora with my lovely friend Kristen (who rocked the Sport course finishing 3rd in her age group!). That's Roy in the background. 
I would also like to congratulate Team Canada for placing first in the men's team competition and second in the women's for the NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association) championships that were a part of this same event.

For more info about this race and mountain running in general, check out the websites below. Let's get more women running mountains!

Canadian Trail & Mountain Running Association
World Mountain Running Association

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Have you seen my bejesus?

I had it scared out of me on Saturday's long run and haven't seen it since. Here's the story: 3k into my 40k out-and-back run along the Twisp River Trail, I was set upon by a freakishly large and aggressive bird of prey that obviously had a nest nearby and took issue with my proximity to it. For over a kilometre (one very long kilometre I might add), I was dive bombed by this evil feathered foe with a piercing cry and razor sharp talons.

I used a large stick (and my own hysterical shrieks) to fend off its attacks and it wasn't until I was a ways down the trail and out of the harm's way that I realized that the palm of my hand was a bloody mess due to my death grip on the stick which had several sharp barbs on it. Oh well, better a few sliced fingers than a full on scalping!

(As an aside, I have not been the biggest fan of birds since I was trodden upon as a toddler at a petting zoo by a goose with a mean streak who wanted the bread crust wedged between my chubby little fingers and would stop at nothing to get it. I also feel like I have been pooped on by birds more than the average person and while I know that it is supposed to signify good fortune in many cultures, it's hard to feel lucky when you're covered in shit!)

Needless to say, my out-and-back turned into an out-and-almost-back-and-then-backtrack-and-bushwhack to the road. There was no way I was facing that bird again!

After my run, I determined with the help of my friend Google and an old bird book that we have sitting around that my nemesis was likely the Northern Goshawk, which according to one source "will attack any perceived threat too near its nest, including people. It chases and catches prey in high-speed, aerial pursuits and will even crash through brush to chase its quarry on foot."

I guess I should be glad it didn't come down to a foot race between me and the angry accipiter. Although perhaps I would have fared better if it had.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Scorched Sole 50k Race Report

I am happy to say that even after all my moaning and excuses in my last post, I was able to pull up my compression socks and put together a solid race at the Scorched Sole 50k ultra in Kelowna. It was a beautiful and challenging three lap course weaving up, down and around Knox Mountain. With breathtaking views (figuratively) and breathtaking climbs (literally), this course had a little bit of everything. There were a few short technical sections and some cruise-y single-track trails that I particularly enjoyed as you could really open up and give 'er.

It was along one of these fast rolling switchbacks about 10k in that I caught my toe on a tree root and took a tumble. I wasn't hurt but the thick layer of dirt and blood smeared along the left side of my body must have looked nasty as I got a lot of concerned looks and comments from people along the course. I wasn't there to look pretty so I just carried on and the wonderful first aid girl (sorry I didn't get your name) cleaned me up at the finish.

With 25k (one lap) and 50mi (five laps) events also going on, there was some overlap between the races, which was kind of nice. The course was never crowded, but there were enough runners out there to keep it interesting. I ran the first two laps with the two lead men. Both were really nice guys and I enjoyed their company and conversation. (Thanks Loic and Adam!)

For the final lap, I decided to go hard and see what my legs had left in them. I pulled ahead of the guys to take the overall lead, which of course further propelled me to push the pace to see if I could hold on to it. I managed to and finished in a time of 5:15. (I'm hoping that Ryne will forgive me for not exactly following his advice. I think his exact words were: "Don't go bonkers this weekend at Scorched Sole".) Well, I might have gone a little bonkers but I haven't been feeling super fit post-Elk/Beaver so I needed a little confidence boost.

Other than some serious humidity, the weather was perfect - cool, with a slight breeze and only a few drops of rain. Not long after I finished, though, the rain clouds rolled in and released a torrential downpour. I have huge respect for all the racers and volunteers still on the course at this point because it was pretty miserable. Because of the abrupt and unpleasant change in the weather, I didn't stick around too long at the finish, but I did get to see Mel Bos take the overall win in the 50mi race. Yay, Mel!

Even with a slightly shredded thigh and elbow, it was a fantastic day! The race directors created a wicked course and all the volunteers, spectators and racers that I met were absolutely super.

I can probably stop posting this as it hardly ever changes, but here it is again...

What I had on me:
Brooks Cascadias
Injinji toesocks
New Balance split short
Random technical t-shirt
Brooks cap
Nathan hydration pack

What I had in me:
Oatmeal with almonds and chia seeds and a cup of black tea (for breakfast)
1 bottle Gu Brew (before the start)
1 Gu gel (before the start)
4 Gu gels diluted in a flask
10 Clif bloks
Chips and Coke (from the aid station)

Next up, the Canadian Mountain Running Championships at Cypress Mountain in North Vancouver. Yee haw!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where Does the Time Go?

The past five weeks since the Elk/Beaver Ultra (see race report) have passed by in a manic blur of activity that has been fun and exciting at times and trying and stressful at others. Life has been anything but routine so it's with a sigh of relief that things have returned to "normal" this week. Without going into too much detail, we have been to Spain and Edmonton, had visits from my parents and in-laws, bought a new house, been trying to sell our home and in between all that tried to fit in some work and workouts.

My running has been as wildly inconsistent as the weather this month, and my recent sleeping and eating habits leave much to be desired. Instead of taking the time to prepare quality food, I've been relying on a pot of coffee to fuel me throughout the day and a glass (or two) of wine to relax at night. No wonder I feel like crap and have been suffering through my runs.

Why I signed up for the Scorched Sole 50km ultra this weekend, I don't know. I've had a few good days of proper training, nutrition and sleep but I still don't feel very fit right now. Hopefully, I can pull it together for the race. I'll let you know next week how it went in my post-race report.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Elk/Beaver Ultra Race Report

My goal for the Elk/Beaver Ultra in Victoria, BC was to qualify for the Canadian National Trail Running Team. To do so, I would need to run 50 miles (80 kms) in under 7 hours - or 1:40 faster than my previous best 50 mile time. Say what!?

If you don't feel like reading this whole race report, then I'll sum it up in three words: I did it!

Going into this race, I was feeling really good about my training and fitness. Since January, I have been working with Ryne Melcher whose ass-kicking workouts have put me in the best shape of my life and I have also had a couple of strong recent race results which have boosted my confidence.

Having lived in Victoria, I was familiar with the course and knew it would be fast because it was so flat. The race is named after the two pretty lakes that it winds around and I had plenty of time to admire the scenery as it was an 8 lap course with just a short(ish) out and back section at the beginning. I also knew that the race was very low-key so nerves were not an issue.

Now, I am famous for getting lost. I can't read a map to save my life and I don't follow directions very well but being a lap course, I figured that wouldn't be an issue. Wrong! Because this is an IAU bronze label  race, the distance had to be precise which meant instead of doing 80 km even, we were supposed to do 80.44 or something like that. So the 8 or 9 of us doing the 50-miler headed out from the start to do this little out and back with instructions to turn around a couple hundred of meters down the trail at the orange pylon. Can't miss that, right? Well you can if someone has thrown it in the lake! The few of us at the front were starting to get concerned when we were already at 800 meters and there was no sign of the pylon. Then Carlos, the race director, ran up behind us yelling "Stop! Turn around!" We had missed the turn around point and inadvertently added about 1.5 km to our day. Five minutes into the race and I was already off course. Seriously??

Anyway, we were soon back on track and laughing about it. I ran the first lap with a super friendly and cheery (especially considering it was 6am!) girl named Jude Ultra. She had similar time goals for the race so we decided to work together. Unfortunately, Jude ended up having something flare up in the first few laps and had to withdraw. I ran the rest of the race alone and would have loved some company. Maybe I wouldn't have slacked off so much in the last few laps if I had had someone pushing me. Oh well.

My wonderful husband Dave provided excellent race support - sandwiches, chips, Coke, bladder refills. A girl could get used to this. I'm sure it was a very boring day for him but it was nice to see him every lap (even if he didn't wear a costume as one of our friends had suggested). It helped break up the monotony. I have never listened to music during a race, but I decided that since this was a closed course it would be safe and might provide a welcome distraction after 4-5 laps. At the halfway point, I dropped my Nathan hydration pack with Dave to refill and grabbed it on the next lap along with my MP3 player. I was digging the tunes until I realized that the same 10 songs kept looping for some reason. I haven't used it much and didn't want to waste time playing with the settings so I listened to the same 10 songs for the next 3 hours. Awesome...

I haven't bothered to figure out my exact lap times - I think they were somewhere between 48-53 minutes - but my finish time was 6:46, which made me top woman and first overall. (Keep in mind that only 5 people finished the race!). I was about 5 minutes off the course record set by Denise McHale in 2009 so that's pretty cool. We figured that if some bonehead hadn't moved the pylon and messed up the out and back section, I probably would have finished 8 minutes faster and got the course record, but I'm not too fussed about it. It gives me something to aim for next time! (Ryne thinks that 6:46 may be in the top ten 50-mile times by Canadian women ever so I'm quite stoked about that.)

It was pretty warm so I drank a lot and my nutrition wasn't too bad considering the difficulties I have eating during a race. I didn't throw up after this one so that's an improvement. A couple of toenails were sacrificed but that's pretty normal. Otherwise my body feels good and I'm looking forward to a couple of easy weeks before I start preparing for the next event, whatever that might be. I'm considering the Canadian Mountain Running Championships in July and then maybe the Squamish 50mi in August and the Bend Flagline 50km in September. There are so many fun events out there.

If you're looking for a casual and friendly ultra on a fast and scenic course, then I'd recommend the Elk/Beaver Ultra. Victoria is a wonderful place to spend a weekend (and there are lots of local microbreweries for post-race refreshments - if you're into that).

What I had on me:
Brooks Cascadias
Injinji toesocks
New Balance split short
Random technical t-shirt
Brooks cap
Nathan hydration pack

What I had in me:
2 packages of oatmeal with almonds and a cup of black tea (for breakfast)
1 Clif shot (just before the start)
4 Gu Vanilla gels diluted in a flask
2 Chocolate#9 gels diluted in a flask
9 Clif bloks
Half a PB and honey sandwich
Chips and Coke (from the aid station)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nathan Performance Gear Facebook Promo

Today I won a QuickDraw Plus handheld bottle from Nathan Performance Gear as part of their spring hydration promotion on Facebook. To enter, just log on to their FB page and like the hydration tip of the day. It's that easy! There will be a Nathan product given away every day in May.

Once my bottle arrives and I have an chance to try it out, I will post a review on it. Until then, you can read about a few other products I've tested (including the Nathan Intensity Race Vest) on my Reviews page.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New 10k PR!

I've run a lot of 10k races over the years and usually finished in the 40-42 minute range. My prior PB was 40:29 at the 2005 Vancouver Sun Run and I'd always wanted to break 40 minutes. Well, I finally did on Sunday at the Interior Running Association's Oliver 10k with a time of 38:36 and I'm absolutely thrilled (which may be hard to tell because I'm pretty reserved, but trust me, I'm a happy girl).
Now I realize that my time isn't that impressive compared to many, but the fact that I hadn't been training for this race and had run 2 hours the day before and was still able to take nearly 2 minutes off my PB gives me hope that the hard work I've been doing is paying off.
The Oliver 10k is a flat, out-and-back course on an asphalt and gravel path alongside the scenic Okanagan River Channel. It lends itself to fast times and conditions on Sunday were nearly perfect with some sun and a nice gentle breeze. (I say that now - at the time I may have referred to it as "a wicked headwind" as we rounded the turnaround point.)
It was a fast start - ridiculously so on my part - as I had foolishly lined up at the very front of the pack and felt some pressure to go hard so as to not piss off faster runners who were behind me. The path is narrow with room for only 4-5 people abreast and there were about 160 participants so when I looked back, I saw a brightly coloured mob that would steamroll me if I didn't go hard or dive out of the way. I chose to go hard and when I saw my splits for the first couple of kms, I was fairly confident I was going to die. I thought there was no way I could maintain this pace and live. But somehow I did. I definitely slowed down a bit, but I managed to settle into a pace that was only mildly uncomfortable and stuck with it.
Somewhere in Egypt, there's a camel missing its toe!
I ran alone the entire race, which is probably for the best because I can't seem to have oxygen going to my legs and my brain at the same time so I'm not much of a conversationalist. I finished 9th overall and was the top woman so I received a lovely gift basket with Hester Creek wine, crackers, cheese, etc. Mmm...such a treat!
My next race is a 50-miler in May, which I am very excited about because it's in my old hometown of Victoria so I get to visit some dear friends that I haven't seen in awhile and also because if I post a good enough time there, I'll qualify for the national trail running team and that is one of my main goals this year.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chuckanut 50k Race Report

This past Saturday, I ran the Chuckanut 50k trail race in Bellingham, WA. It was my first race of the year and I had been looking forward to it for awhile. I have been working with a coach this year (Ryne Melcher - who is not only a really good coach but also a super nice guy with an impressive ultra running resume - and no, he didn't pay me to say that) so I was excited to see how my fitness would be. My goal was to come in under 5 hours and if the conditions were good then I was hoping to be a bit faster than that. Well, conditions weren't good, but I still managed to finish in 4:45 (6th female overall), which I am really happy with. (Full results are available here.)
The course was quite varied and well suited to my strengths - i.e. plenty of climbing and nothing too technical - and very well marked. This was the first 50k I've done and not gone terribly off course. (Unfortunately, a couple of the top men did though!) The weather was all over the map with heavy rain, snow and even some sun for a bit so it was hard to know what to wear and I probably over-dressed. The recent precipitation also resulted in a few very muddy sections so there was some slipping and sliding (and a few minor injuries apparently). Glenn Tachiyama took some hilarious photos of people wiping out. Below I've included his photo of me heading up Chinscraper at mile 21. (It's pretty boring compared to some on his website.)
There's not much I'd change about the race. I should have carried more water and probably eaten a bit more because I ran out of energy at the end as I lumbered along the interurban trail towards the finish line, but that's about it. It's only my fifth ultra so I'm still learning a lot. Overall, I thought Krissy Moehl and Ellen Parker did a fantastic job of organizing the event and it may turn into a regular feature on my race calendar. 
Next up is the Elk/Beaver 50mi in May where I am hoping to get a qualifying time for the Canadian Trail Running Team. There's a lot of work to do before then! Fortunately, now that it's spring, I can get back out on the trails - yay!

P.S. I decided to add the following because I saw it included in a couple of other race reports and it seemed like a good idea. (Mainly so I can keep track of these details; not because I think anyone cares what I eat for breakfast!)

What I had on me:
Brooks Cascadias
Injinji toesocks
Helly Hansen 3/4 tights
Sugoi long-sleeve top
Adidas rain jacket
Brooks cap
Nathan hydration pack

What I had in me:
2 packages of oatmeal with almonds and a cup of black tea (for breakfast)
1 Clif shot and 2 Clif bloks (just before the start)
4 Chocolate#9 gels diluted in a flask (during)
12 Clif bloks (during)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dora the Explorer

Last spring we adopted a lovable mutt named Dora from a local animal shelter. This energetic lab/border collie cross has been my faithful running companion and has done all my ultra training with me. She's a near ideal training partner and never complains about the pace, distance, weather or my singing (if you can call it that - squawking might be a more accurate description). Ninety percent of the time, I love running with her but there are a few instances when I wish I would have left her at home. My long run this weekend was one of those times.

I'm fortunate to live near a number of great trails where dogs can freely roam off-leash so that's where I log most of my miles. Halfway through a 2.5 hour run on one of these trails, Dora sped ahead and then disappeared into the forest. This is not the first time she has done this. While well-behaved most of the time, she has a weakness for chasing birds, squirrels, rabbits, get the idea. I don't mind her going after the smaller forest beasties as they don't travel as far but when she is on a deer chase she can be gone for much longer periods which is both stressful and inconvenient (for me - her not so much).

Once I realized that she was long gone, I figured it was a good opportunity to stop for a pee, snack and to change my layers. Having completed these tasks with no sign of the dog reappearing, I started to get worried and annoyed. I called for her and then pulled out my whistle (which lets her know that I mean business). A few short blasts summoned up the spine-tingling howls of a nearby pack of coyotes.

For the umpteenth time since we've had the dog, I thought "Oh no, the coyotes must have got her" so I started running in the direction of the coyotes, yelling to Dora that I was on my way to rescue her and tooting my whistle because I didn't know what else to do. I paused briefly to determine in which direction I should continue and almost immediately two huge whitetail deer came bounding by me followed by one little black dog. Turns out, I didn't have to rescue the dog from the coyotes; I had to rescue the deer from the dog.

Sadly, I know I'll be in this situation again and one of these times the outcome won't be as favourable. I have tried running with her on leash but it's not always safe, or easy, to do on technical single-track trails and we both find these excursions much more satisfying when we're not tethered to each other. An electronic collar works well if I can zap her before she is out of range but she moves quickly so there's not always a lot of time. She's still young so maybe she will outgrow the chase instinct but I'm not counting on it.

I guess I'll just have to put up with this character flaw in my furry little training buddy and hope that our runs together will give her the speed and endurance to get out of trouble if she strays too far.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hello 2012!

We're already a few weeks into the new year and so far it's going well. I'm a sucker for new beginnings and the start of a new year is no exception. It's a great time to look ahead, set goals and figure out how to achieve them. I made the decision to work with a coach this year in an effort to improve my fitness for ultras and I'm really excited about it.
After asking a few runner friends (and complete strangers on FaceBook) for recommendations, I found a coach in Vancouver who has lots of experience both running and coaching ultras. I'm only a couple of weeks into my program, but I already notice a difference. Maybe there really is something to these "tempo" and "speed" workouts that I've heard people talk about...
I'm sure I'm not the only person to have fallen into the trap of running the same routes at the same pace on the same days for all my training. I don't get bored easily (which is good if I am going to be an ultra runner) but I am enjoying this new training schedule that changes every week.
Another change I contemplated for the new year was giving up alcohol. I am not a big drinker but I would probably have a glass of wine or beer with dinner 5 nights a week. I don't think I'm ready to give up drinking entirely, but will probably try to stick with just 1-2 small drinks a week instead.
I also briefly considered giving up my morning cup(s) of coffee, but that hasn't happened yet and isn't likely to any time soon. A girl's gotta have at least one bad habit!