Saturday, February 7, 2015

Shapin' Up the Season

There are a few changes on the blog, if you haven't noticed. Likely you haven't as I don't use it much anymore. Since my transition into Facebook I have found it easier to use that medium for sharing. 

You'll notice here that my Twitter account is maintained as well as the addition of my most recent Ambassadorship role with Coast Mountain Trail Series (CMTS). I could not be more thrilled about this as I was looking to get involved in some new races and more involved with great people. There seems to be some brilliant stuff happening at CMTS this year and the fit couldn't be more perfect for me. Proudly, I share the love for great people, amazing venues and serious value.

As well, not only do I continue to strength train with Marx Conditioning, I'm approaching my training with more power-based bike workouts this year. I have a very big season coming up and the last thing I need is to get injured while running too much. There's a serious need for some variety but also intensity. If there's anything Monika knows, it's how to train power on the bike. As an Athletic Ambassador for Marx Conditioning again this year I can't wait to see how power training will benefit my climbing. 

You'll also notice a stacked season for me. It freaks me out, of course but my head is already down and the training is underway. Knee Knacker lottery pending, my big goal is to run BC's first triple crown of ultras: Knee Knacker (July 11th), Broken Goat (July 18th) and Buckin' Hell (July 25th). Of course I'll have to follow that up with a 50 mil'r at Squamish too and precede it all with Diez Vista and Spring Rush.

Finally, although there may be some changes to Salomon Flight Crew I'll certainly continue as an ambassador for this great company. This was my first ambassadorship and they've always treated me like a friend and partner. I truly love the gear I use and am so very proud to be part of the Salomon family. Hopefully the incredible gear will rub some Kilian into my running and racing. 

I am proud of the brands I stand behind and am humbled by the people that include me in those circles. 

Happy training and racing, everyone. Keep in touch and let me know what's on your schedule for this season. Perhaps we'll tow a line together and make each other work hard for a top notch finish. 

Monday, October 6, 2014


West Coast Cycling's Vanier Park Cyclocross, on September 28th, was a serious beating in every sense of the word. As I said following the race, "I felt like an empty shell of a man". There was nothing I could do and no obvious reason why. I just had no gas like in that dream where you can't run. It hurt a lot and at first I thought I didn't have fun but in hindsight, it was pretty darn cool handling corners and solving the problems that become a cyclocross event. My thorough spanking came in the intermediate B men's category where I feel I belong. Unfortunately, there seem to be a good number of riders that would fair well in the expert category too so when the power-required sections came up, they left me chewing their cud. 

Although super discouraged after a back of mid-pack placing at Vanier I wasn't going to let that stop me and I signed up for this past weekends Castle Cross, put on by Escape Velocity. Again, I took on the intermediate B men's category. This course was way more twisty and climby with three good run ups, some mud and even a bit of single track. It was right up my alley and I was pumped. Off the start whistle I took off strong and sucked off the wheel of my bro-in-law, Mike "the beast" Tunnah.  Knowing Mike's fitness level and strengths, I was thrilled to be there and knew I could hang on. I hung with him until the middle of the second lap when another rider overlapped wheels with me and bumped me off course to fall. That's part of racing and I literally laughed out loud but I hadn't realized my shifter had been bumped in the mayhem. I carried on and worked my ass off but the hills just seemed out of this world hard. I was out of the saddle and could barely get the bike over each crest. With a huge smile on my face, I kept my head down and worked hard for the remaining laps. It wasn't until my cool down lap that I realized I had shifted into my big ring on that second lap layover. It all made sense at that point and again I laughed out loud. Rookie mistake. I guess that's what you get when you let a runner ride a bike.

For what it's worth, I want to say a big thank you to the clubs that are putting these events on. They're so much fun and I know it's a lot of work to put together a race.

Also, I'm super glad to see Mike Tunnah riding so well as he's my cycling nemesis and BCBR 2015 partner. I will work all season to beat this guy and I love that the camaraderie and competition keeps me honest and pushes me to be fitter. 

Anyone considering cyclocross in the off-season I can only say this, DO IT! You don't need a cyclocross bike. A mountain bike will serve you well until you do one race and realize you're hooked. Then you go to Steed Cycles and seal the deal. Check out Vancouver Cyclocross Coalition and the Holeshot for local events and other cyclocross related details.

Next up, Mahon Atomic Superprestige in North Vancouver on October 19th. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Sky Pilot Experience

Photo of the Sky Pilot area from web
This is the race I've been waiting for all year and even more so since talk of Via Ferrata type terrain was going to be involved. I raced Buckin' Hell and Squamish 50 this year and without a word of a lie, Gary and Jeff don't actually know how to put on a bad race. Not only are the venues exquisite and dreamy, they're challenging and one loves to hate them. Outside of course planning and management, it is clear the details are better than taken care of. 

In putting together SkyPilot it would seem they created much of their own terrain with the likes of Eric Carter and Jean-Francois Plouffe, no strangers to big mountain terrain. In my mind, combining these guys with Gary's will to challenge and impress his"clients", I'd say we're in for a serious treat.

I'm excited is an understatement. As I said to good friend James Marshall yesterday, I don't have a clue how to race something like this. Will it be hands down? Will I be able to safely run exposed, narrow, single track with others around me? It seems we'll all be shooting for a Killian-type experience. I anticipate it to be a whole body experience and not solely a leg burner. Mentally as well, I predict vast numbers of foot placement decisions in conjunction with accelerating and decelerating thousands of times based on the changes underfoot. All the while trying to take in the vastness of the terrain around me. I have not taken it lightly that, although the route is stunning it is also very dangerous. Coast Mountain Trail Series has taken on some serious responsibility in bringing this to us and I hope everyone follows the rules and takes care of each other. It would seem that a race like this will be more of an experience than a race and the camaraderie will be what's most valuable out there. 

Tales to follow and good luck to everyone who is about to taste Sky Pilot, the 12k or the 19k.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Getting Over It: Knee Knacker 2014

Feeling Amazing as I crest Eagle Bluff at 7am - Photo Credit: Herman Kwong
It's been three days since Knee Knacker and my feelings of discontent have seriously grown. At first I was somewhat fine with it. As Race Director Kelsy Trigg described it, I was" happy with my effort but not my time". Going into this years Knee Knacker, I was very open about my goal of 5 hours and 30 minutes or less.

You may know, or may have guessed by this point, that I didn't come through. At first, a few stats made me feel better about the day. Stats like:
  • Last year my time of 6:02 would've have been 25th place, this year it was 10th.
  • Temperature averages were 5 degrees higher than any other year in the races 26 years
  • Only 9 runners finished this years race in under six hours
  • Mean finish times were 30 minutes slower than last year (7:51 in 2014, 7:21 in 2013)
  • I was 10th place among a crowd of very talented athletes
As I said, I planned and trained for a 5:30 finish and I'm still convinced I was prepared for that, but
Down the Chute-Photo Credit Pat Malaviarachchi
Salomon Teammate Munny - Credit:VFK
once I'd started to climb Nancy Green Way, after the half way point, my heart wasn't so happy anymore. I knew I'd come through Cleveland Dam in a healthy time of 2:45 and it was exactly where I needed to be for the finish time I'd planned.  Nancy Green wasn't so bad but the moment I started back into the Baden Powell trail at lower Grouse, I knew I was in trouble. I'd climbed Black well (picture above), but felt clumsy and was missing that light, dancy feeling coming down the Hollyburn Chute and across the British Properties and this is where it caught up to me.

Strange things go through your head when a race isn't going to plan. I know the final quarters of this race very well and I began calculating the times I needed to run to make my goal and at my current pace and feeling, it was not going to happen. I knew it. Crossing lower Fromme I became even more clumsy with three near falls in which my hands just barely stayed off the ground. Every step was a  battle and the segments I was setting in my mind to run were getting shorter and shorter. My mind was thinking about my next race already, the Squamish 50k, and whether or not I wanted to run it. I was coming up with reasons not to run it. I was so low I was questioning whether or not I wanted to be a runner at all. And of course I thought about quitting the race all together. Coming into Mountain Highway I heard bag pipes but could've cared less. I saw my wife, daughter and crew (James and Mariah), who were the reason I kept moving between aid stations. After draining a coconut water, grabbing some more gels and liquid, I headed toward the 3/4 mark and my stomach started in. The last thing I needed at this point was another reason to quit but I rolled across the red carpet aid station and down Lynn Canyon. With no bounce in my step and the sudden realization that I wasn't going to make 5:30, I was in hell. Running flat hurt. Running/walking up hurt. And running down hurt. I just wanted to lay down but I pushed through to Hyannis where I sponged off, ate a freezie and had my daughter remind me to "run with a happy heart". Easier said than done at that point but I tried. My wife looked me in the eyes and said, "you got this". It wasn't until I was about 50 meters up the trail that I realized she wasn't talking about a 5:30 finish. She was talking about any finish. I must've looked like death here and given off every kind of vibe but the happy heart vibe. At the bottom of the Seymour Grind came my first dry heave. Perhaps I was sick from the realization that I was now fighting for a sub 6-hour finish. The 5:30 was long gone. Any kind of PB under 5:40 was gone. I was fighting for a time goal 30 minutes shy of the expectations I'd been holding for the last three months. The only chance I'd have was to make sure I had the energy to fight the final section so I ripped the top off a gel, put it in my mouth and... that poor gel got part way down my throat and was immediately ejected to the forest floor. PUKE! I couldn't eat and at the same time looked back to see Scott Comeau coming up the Grind behind me. And he seemed to be moving fast. I knew I was in tenth and I didn't want that taken from me.  It's all I had. Him passing me would've been déja vu as I passed Scott in the same condition at Sun Mountain back in May. With no food in me and a belly full of water, I powered down to Old Buck and down Baden Powell to Quarry Rock. I swore I heard Scott's foot steps behind me but no way was I going to look. If he was there, the anxiety would've ended me. What seemed like an endless fight through day hikers to beat the 6 hour mark, I was joined by my beautiful, future-runner daughter to finish in 6:02.
Look at that stride. First smile in 10 miles for me.

In recent days I've tried desperately to come terms with a result of 6:02. It's a great result on that course and I know that. Especially when conditions were as extreme as they were. It simply was not what I expected of myself and I truly believed I was going to make it in 5:30.

The Positives: 
  1. I was too sick to eat all my gels and I have some left over for next time.
  2. I was 10th place.
  3. I finished!
  4. I climbed well through Black Mountain
  5.  I wasn't extremely sick following.
  6. I got to see my friends finish.
  7. I took away a few lessons and tips for Squamish in August
  8. And most importantly, I finished with my smiling, happy daughter to put it all into perspective. "Run with a Happy Heart, Daddy".
From here I take a week long hiatus from running, lay low, and then get back into some intensity maintenance before Squamish 50k on August 12th.  Perhaps I should run a bit in the heat too or I may see a repeat of last Saturday. Somewhere in there my wife and I plan to have another baby too. Will it mess up the training? Probably, but let's keep things in perspective. 

To finish I'd like to thank the entire Knee Knacker community. This race is not just a run put on by a committee of keen people. Each year it is more and more evident that it is a community icon. What other event exists in which people fight for volunteer positions? How many races have you run with a bagpiper in the forest or black tie service on a mountain? Thank you to every single person who put hands on Knee Knacker this year whether they ran, smiled as we passed, cheered, cut oranges and watermelon, flagged trails, served food or ripped banquet tickets. So much goes into this event and the happiness and joy it brings to everyone is second to none. I am so very proud to say I have run Knee Knacker six times and even more proud to be a member of the organizing committee. Mostly I am proud to be part of the community that Knee Knacker has become.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Put It Out There ~ An Assignment by Monika Marx

Bottom left: Deadlift picture. Middle in red: Turkish Get Up picture.
Shortly after Christmas, Monika Marx, Conditioning Coach, asked me to "PUT IT OUT THERE". By that she meant she wanted me to share my upcoming goals. I can't lie. I didn't want to get involved with publicly announcing my fitness goals. My goals are my business and why in the world would anyone care about MY goals? I figured it was a way of getting me to commit publicly to what I wanted. Being a very intrinsically motivated guy, I figured I didn't need to do this.

Well one thing led to another and she, as cunning as she can be, convinced me to get on board. In hindsight, I completely understand what Monika was after in doing this. Other peoples goals motivate us and when I saw what other people had their sights on I found myself to be quite driven. Not competitively but more through being inspired by their hard work. Call me egocentric if you like but I thought goal setting was entirely about me. Clearly it is not. 

"Off Season" Goals
Although we don't really have an "off-season" in North Vancouver as it relates to the weather, the block of training from January through early April was just that and was part of a strength building phase at Marx Conditioning. That in mind, I went after my deadlift and Turkish Get Up (TGU). On the trails, I aimed to hit personal bests on the Dirty Duo course and to run under 4:30 at Sun Mountain 50km. I know you're on the edge of your seat wondering how it went so here ya go...

1. Deadlift: I went after 235lbs. (1.5 x body weight) and I exceeded it when I hit 255lbs. 
2. TGU (video of TGU): I can't completely remember what I went after but I know I achieved it because my current max is 28kg and the next option is a 32kg bell. 
3. Personal best Dirty Duo: In 2:19, I was 2 minutes faster than my three previous times. Felt great too.
4. Sun Mountain in less than my 2013 time of 4:30: In 4:40, that goal still stands until next year. 

"In Season" Goals ~ NOW
1. Increased Flexibility: with several injuries leading into Sun Mountain, I am recognizing the value in increased flexibility. I am committed to two days/week of yoga and a daily stretching and rolling routine. So far the benefits are obvious. I move more easily and don't seize up every time I stand up.
2. 32 Kg TGU - 4kg's more doesn't seem like a huge jump from my previous goal but it certainly is. All you have to do is pick up a 28kg kettle in one hand and 32kg in the other. It's an eight+ pound difference. That's a baby for god sake.

And Finally and most significantly,
3. Sub-5:30 Knee Knacker - Although I feel arrogant about this goal considering the reputation of the Knee Knacker, I really feel it's realistic with a previous personal best of 5:40. If I stay healthy and train smart, I truly believe it's possible. As an intermediary goal, with the aim of building climbing and descending strength and speed (perfect for Knee Knacker), I'll do weekly time trial loops of BCMC/Jet Boy. My current personal best is 1:11 and I'd like to see that between 1:00 and 1:05. 

For now, I focus on these goals and believe they'll come to fruition. I work hard. I push myself and I'd love to run a  sub-5:30 Knee Knacker. Most of all, I want to be happy and feel amazing doing it. 

Thank you, Monika and to everyone who trains hard at MARX Conditioning for inspiring me to be my best, be my strongest, and always work toward greater goals.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sun Mountain Gratitude Report

Weekends are amazing! We all know this. Every once in a while however,  a weekend blows through that is simply perfect. In every way, last weekend in Winthrop, Washington, was just that type of weekend. The terrain, the food, the accommodations, the travel and most of all the people. It all came together like chocolate and peanut butter and I am eternally grateful for everything and everyone that made it happen.
Between Glenn Tachiyama and the terrain in the Methow Valley, I don't think a bad picture is possible.

In no particular order...

About four weeks ago I was running a typical route back to my home down Capilano Canyon when my I.T. woke me up with light ZAP! down the lateral side of my knee. I didn't think much of it and it didn't matter. I was starting a serious taper. I'd planned to drop from 60 miles that week to 30 the next. I'd cool my miles and seek some I.T. replenishment in rest. I never expected what was to come. Three massages (2 with Jen Quel at Pivotal Health and 1 with Leah Davis at Baseline), one round of I.M.S. with Nathan Vanderkuip at Pivotal Health and two sessions of A.R.T. with Jenn Turner at Movéo. Each of these people is inexplicably amazing at their job and without their expertise and wisdom I'd never have been healthy enough to start Sun Mountain last Saturday morning. Thank you. Although I ran on the edge of a suspected blow out for the entire 4 hours and 40 minutes, I was pain free and finished only 10 minutes slower than last year. Conservative downhilling is never fun but it got me there. You were all part of what got me there. Thank you!

Monika Marx, I changed my form for this race and really counted on muscle bits my previous running self could have never counted on. I am stronger and far more in tune with what works and how to use it on varying terrain. My big ass (glutes) got me up some decent climbs and let my quad (the one pulling on my IT) rest before heading downhill again in Terry Fox straight-legged fashion. Thank you for inspiring me to think strong on race day but also over a huge number of miles during training. You're simply amazing. 

I'm not certain who to thank for the beauty of the Methow Valley and the Cascades. This event just wouldn't have been the same had it been someplace else. Flowers of all colours (colors in Washington) were in full bloom across the rolling hills above Winthrop, a picturesque western-themed town. The jagged, snow covered peaks of the Cascades shooting up in the distance added depth to the space and highlighted the vastness of the area. I suppose to some degree I can thank James Varner and Rainshadow Running for this. Not for having created it of course but for choosing it. It's a no brainer and I'm grateful for having been there. 

Hands down, I am most grateful for the people of Sun Mountain. There's a particular feeling at the start of this race that is hard to put a finger on. There's a light stress in the air but also a feeling of ease, excitement and humour. I had countless giggles with strangers about peeing in the woods, how much the day was going to hurt, what shoes I was wearing and so on. What was consistent though was the energy each person brought to the party. I left each of my chats and giggles with positive energy and a sense of going forward well. This feeling carried on through the day on every trail. Even the winner, Justin Yates, who blew by me before I headed up Sun Mountain the first time, gave me a tap on the back and a "good work, man". He made me feel slow but he didn't mean to. I was inspired to get moving and so I did. Thanks, Justin. As I always do, I did the same as Justin had done for me to everyone I passed. A quick "Good job! How ya doin?". And I listened to the answer.  It's what we do. We pay attention to each other and we actually give a shit. It occurred to me a couple days after the race, that these people were making each other feel as though they were the only person there. They'd look each other in the eyes and maintain focus on that one interaction. Maybe it was because there was no wifi, but it was ever so refreshing to have genuine two way conversation. Whether you had a spectacular race or a horrible race, you were special from the moment you started that race until the moment you crossed the finish line into James' loving arms. And if you didn't feel special after that, nothing says, "you're special" like free pizza and beer in the middle of a forest on hot and sunny afternoon in May. 

And to the lads of Goat Wall Retreat - James, Karl, Bob, Julien and Jeff. There couldn't be a greater group of dudes in a better place talking running, gear, beer and life. 
Bob, your will to finish under such duress that day inspires me. I say chalk it up to a training experience and forward into Knee Knacker. 
James, I've always known this but you make a terrible "asshole". President next time for sure. And thank you for lining up the most amazing cabin ever. It blows away the Firefly.
Julien, your cynical sense of humour kills me and your will to survive 50 miles in the heat is mind blowing. 
Karl, you make me laugh and put me in awe of the way you rattle off 50k without training. 
And Jeff, I hope I carry myself with as much grace and patience as you do should I ever find myself injured and unable to run.

Woodchuck photo by Jay Klassen - I believe I was saying "sweet mother of god!" after the Sun Mountain climb
People on course, you're awesome! Jay Klassen got some outstanding pics of people in their prime and at their worst. One amazing shot of me doing my best woodchuck impression ever. Thanks for the pics but mostly thanks for the encouraging words and laughs. Solana Klassen, running with an injury is dumb. I would've done it too. Wait a second, I did. The will it took to get through 50km on such serious condition is truly impressive. Really well done! You 50 milers blow my mind - Chloe Gendron, killer race. Extremely well played and inspiring to work toward. A genuine congratulations to you. Sarah Stepec, you always remember your first and this was  one to remember. Especially laying immobile on the ground after the race. Josh Barringer, another 50 miles in the bag. Stomach issues and all, could you make these things look any easier. WoW! And to the people who dropped out, although you might be disappointed, that is one tough decision that shows strength, wisdom and self confidence.

And once again, thank you Salomon for making the Mantra. What a shoe! Wouldn't you agree, Chloe Gendron?

I know I'm forgetting someone but long posts never get read and it's time to go.

Cheers to good friends.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Rush: Running by Feel and Flagging Tape

It just wouldn't be race week if my legs didn't have little niggles and my body didn't start to feel tired. The truth is, with Kelowna's newest trail race, The Spring Rush, coming up on Sunday, I'm feeling pretty good. It promises to be tough and I have my concerns about the dry, warm air but I seemed to manage last year at Sun Mountain. The course is 25 kilometers of mostly single track and some solid climbs. I grew up in Kelowna but only once hiked in this area so I'll be running by feel and flagging tape. Knowing Rene (Unser, Race Director) and the amount of prep she and her team have put into this, I am assuming the course will be perfectly marked. 

The rolling Spring Rush course in Rose Valley, Kelowna
I'm looking forward to a great day, some time with my family and a solid 25 kilometer training effort under similar conditions to that of Sun Mountain, my next 50k.