Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Knee Knacker I Bluffed

This picture, by Gary Robbins, at Cleveland Dam, about sums up my day. I felt light and yo yo'ed with Sean "the Run Bum" Blanton from Atlanta, Georgia for a little more than 5 and a half hours.

I'm not sure how, but I feel like I just bluffed my way through 50k of the gnarliest trail running in Canada. But there's no way. I must have done something right, or a whole collection of things right. Either way, I could not have felt smoother, lighter, or more relaxed than I did yesterday, and I ran a PB by eight minutes for a 5:40:07 finish. The first half to Cleveland Dam was run in 2:51 and the second half in 2:49, a negative split by 2 minutes. A nice even pace throughout truly paid off in the last quarter, where I had the 4th fastest time of the day. In particular, beyond Hyannis, up the Seymour Grind.

When I take a bit of stock of all things, it's clear that all that rest I took was a huge bonus. To have trained more would have done me damage considering my soleus issue, which had been remedied by race day. I was able to start Knee Knacker injury free, but with little mileage under my belt; like I said in previous blogs, nothing over two hours on foot. I believe taking some impact off the legs and riding my bike as much as I could kept my cardio where it needed to be and allowed my soleus to continue relaxing. On top of this my trainer, Curb Ivanic, had me stronger than I'd ever been before. Certainly I was more efficient as a result.

Race day itself came together perfectly too. As some of you know, I was up at 3 am walking with a coffee and watching the sun come up. I knew it was going to be a good day. I had my smoothie, coffee, and the best race crew possible picked me up at 5 am for the 6am start near Horsehoe Bay at Nelson Creek Park.

After some banter with Pricey and his crew (Katie Dreschel and Brad DeAbreu) away from the crowds we launched into the first climb where I immediately started into the jokes. A few people giggled, but not for long as breathing took precedence. I climbed up Black Mountain and across the bluffs alongside Pricey and Sean until the snow started. Up top the huge, melting snowpack had me slipping and sliding like a chicken on ice. It was really well marked, but runners still needed to stay tuned for post-holing opportunities, which I took a couple; one up to my knee in water as we ran over some small tarns.

I came into Cypress at 1:38 and enjoyed the smiles of my crew, some coconut water, and grabbed a couple fresh bottles for the run across Holyburn to the chute. This was perhaps the toughest part of the day. The route/root across Holyburn is very technical and mixed up with mud and snow and uncertainty. Every step could land you on your ass before you come out onto the cross country track, which I also hated running on. Running on snow is not my favorite. I didn't get the same feeling Aaron and Adam had. They said they loved that part because they could go so fast, but then they go fast everywhere. Morale improved around the lodge after a handful of fruit gummies and I flew into the chute for a race down the best descending ever. The slope down over Brothers Creek to the half way point at Cleveland is a mixture of rocks, roots, and super loamy earth. You can really fly on this section but I refused to pound out my quads as we hadn't even started the hardest half of the race.

At 2:51 I crossed the dam to see Sean napping on the cement and made my move to pass as I flew over him toward my crew, the jolliest bunch of running elves anywhere. They'd cooked up bacon sandwiches on the Lazy Trail Runners Coleman stove. How could they not be happy? Plus Saje and Lara were there flying a "Run Daddy Run" flag. A few jokes and I was off again. I ran/walked Nancy Green Way to Grouse knowing of the challenging steps I had coming after that to get to Mountain Highway. I'm not exactly sure how long it took to get from half to Mountain Highway, but this was where I realized how great I was feeling and that I was actually going to finish. The thought of a PB didn't even enter my mind however. That positive thought seemed to drive me even harder and I floated down the steep steps to see my crew yet again. This is where I sucked back a couple "just-in-case" advils and some watermelon. Several years ago North Van speedstress Nicola Gildersleeve passed me at this very point so I was quite concerned she'd be upon me anytime. While I was sipping coconut water I said, " I better get going, Nicola's coming, I know it". Then, three momentarily relaxing words, "She dropped out" followed by..."but here comes Lisa". And off I went being pushed by Lisa and still towed by Sean in his yellow La Sportiva singlet.
Through the 3/4 marker I was feeling phenomenal and the time was telling me I might be in the market for a PB. As I'd seen my crew already I carried on down the canyon without stopping. All the while eating and drinking like crazy; to the point where I stopped to pee and it was clear. Eating early was going to be key here with all the climbing I had ahead of me. Not only did I have to climb out of Lynn Canyon but then out of Seymour Canyon, through Hyannis and up the Seymour Grind, where many people have had there self esteem handed to them. Between LSCR Gazebo and Hyannis aid station I hoovered three gels and a bag of Pink Lemonade Stingers (new flavor is excellent). Ran all the way out of Seymour Canyon, to Hyannis, and to the base of the Grind where I mixed up the power hiking and easy jogging. From here I knew I had a PB coming to me. I felt too good not finish fast and keep relaxed. That section from Quarry rock to the end is always a strong spot for me as well and I knew it. Light and fast down Baden Powell to Old Buck, across Seymour Road, where Brad and Katie were egging me on yet again, and onto Indian River Road. Up ahead, I could see a red tank top style jersey. It could only be one of two Knee Knacker legends, Peter Findley or Keith Wakelin, who I'd seen sporting this garb off the start line. Whoever it was, they became my goal. Later on, Keith told me he saw me coming as he re-entered Baden Powell, but he was cramping too badly to give anymore than he already had. I gave him a verbal push on the way by and he did the same before I started hearing the announcer in Panorama Park. Not having looked at my watch since the grind, I had no idea what I was in for and I vowed not to look until I saw the finish line clock. Down the stairs and onto Panorama Road I could see a clock that read 5:39... so i dialed it up a notch to break that 5:40 barrier. Too little, too late though and, still relaxed and calm, I came under the Knee Knacker banner in 5:40:07.

If you took the time to read this entire entry I commend you. It's long. Really long. And all about someone else. However, you've gotten the gist of the day I had on Saturday. It was absolutely incredible. I've run a good number of 50k's, a 50 miler, and heaps of 10 to 25'ers, but none have gone this well. Sure I've had good races, but this was Knee Knacker and it felt easy. It's not supposed to be easy and nor am I supposed to be feeling recovered two days following the race. So why?

Things I think learned on Saturday, July 9th, 2011:

  • Never underestimate rest. Sleep well and make sure to take days off. I know we often feel like we should be out there because others are, but if running starts to feel like a job ... it is.

  • Wake up Early. Even better than a cup of coffee, take a walk three hours before your race. They say you should eat three hours before a race anyway. Plenty of time for the illusive race day B.M. too.

  • Be mindful of your heart rate. Know when you'll go lactic. In a race this long, going lactic is BAD. Full recovery is unlikely. Having been injured before this race, I knew I couldn't tax my body to that point or I'd risk re-injury.

  • Race your race. The shirt in front of you may take off because s/he's faster than you, but he also may be the fool who blows up later and you saunter right by with that all-knowing smile on your face.

  • Eat and Hydrate well. It's often tough to eat or drink, but you must. And you have to do it before your body asks for it. Just keep drinking and eating. Even if you have to stop and pee, the time you lose is made up by drinking well and not slowing down due to cramping or fatigue. Of course this starts before race day too.

  • Having meaningful conversations. Perhaps the most important part of my day was seeing my crew, family, friends, smiling volunteers, and trail strangers. My crew was happy and always ready to chat, my family had a "Run Daddy Run" flag, and I got two hugs from people I haven't seen in awhile. Like I've seen Peter Findley do for the past few years, I stopped at aid stations for a few moments without rushing and had conversations that lifted my spirits. You have to smile a lot and say good morning to perfect strangers. The more you give, the more you get back. Thank you to my great crew, Duncan and DarbyKai, to Lara and Saje with the flag, to Kevin, Linda, Rob D., Gary, Kevin H., Phil, Ward, Brooke, Brad, and Katie. To the Japanese hiking group near Mountain Highway, to every volunteer, to Glenn P. for telling I was making it look easy (what a booster coming from you), and to Sean "The Run Bum" Blanton for hollering in the woods. To Pricey for keeping me relaxed with conversation on Black Mountain. Also to Lisa P. for pushing me harder without knowing it.

  • Be light, loose, and relaxed. Part of racing long is being light, loose, and relaxed. You may have noticed that when you fatigue during exercise your shoulders end up around your ears and your neck disappears. Then you get tight. This is using muscles and energy you don't need to waste. Mentally focusing on keep a nice light glide (float) really pays off. If you feel light and relaxed, you probably are and the onset of fatigue is delayed or avoided.

  • Climb smart. Over the years I've gotten better at this but Gary Robbins put it best, "climb with your glutes". You really have to keep upright so to not fatigue the low back and make sure your heels are touching the ground to avoid unnecessary strain on your calves. As well, take short, thoughtful steps. Long, high strides may seem to cover more ground, but they're dangerous in a long race.
I don't want to sound like a big shot or that I'm preaching the science of running, but I think it's important for me to notice what works for me and perhaps you'll think about it and use it yourself.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

1 day to go came and went

Busy day yesterday and I literally found no time to write my day before blog.

At 4:03 am, I have been up for an hour, sucked back a coffee, had a great walk, and now the rest. When I say rest of course I mean bathroom stuff. Racers, fast or slow, first or last, know all about the pre-race BM necessity.

Sushi was a great night-before meal and I was in bed before 10.

The body feels good. A little tightness in the anterior compartment of my left leg, but my mind is at ease. As Jude says, in so many words, run with heart and the rest will take care of itself. Good advice, Jude, I plan to take that advice as seriously as possible.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

2 days to go...

There's been a lot of talk these past few weeks about the amount of snow in them "thar" North Shore mountains. There's been snow before, but apparently not like this. Glenn Pace's "Snow Report" tells tales of snow starting within 100 meters of the Black Mountain bluff and continuing through to Cypress where it has melted away for transition. Immediately following the exit from transition and delving back into the woods the snow continues pretty much until Holly burn chute. Yikes and Yeah!

Trying to catch a glimpse of Saturday's route, I went down to Stanley Park's waterfront for a soak in the ocean and found the mountains shrouded in rain clouds. A crab walked over my foot scaring the crap out of me as I smiled inside thinking about the mud that would now accompany the snow. It really is going to be a trail runners dream.

With two days to go I'm really starting to feel the excitement around the whole event. It occupies my mind with every step I take, every bite I take of anything and everything, and every sip of water/electrolyte I suck. It really grabs a hold of you. Having done it before I can honestly say it's an excitement and not nerves - especially because I have few expectations for myself this year. Adam Campbell spoke my reminding mantra for this year best in his recent article/blog post "Knee Knacker-Snake Bite", "The race rewards athleticism, strength and endurance, as opposed to speed". And speedy I will not be - finish I will though.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

3 days to go...

The running work is done and now I just have to show up Saturday morning at 5:00am. The Lazy Trail Runner and his speedstress, DarbyKai, and I rolled off a loop of Buntzen Lake this afternoon. We started off incredibly gently and slowly built it up to a very solid tempo.

I felt fabulous, particularly climbing. I'm as ready as can be. I know I haven't had the hours so likely don't have the staying power, but I'll ease into like todays run only on a much larger scale.

The next few days will be very restful.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4 days to go...

It's looking more and more like I'm going to toe that start line Saturday.

Had the pleasure of running into Dave "the entire Broadway Run Club" Papineau this morning and congratulate him on his brilliant finish at Western States last week. When I asked him if it was as hard as he may have previously thought he didn't right out say no, but he said his nutrition/hydration were spot on (check out his fueling plan here)...and of course he credited Hozumi for his brilliant pacing.

This started me thinking about my nutrition/hydration for the upcoming weekend. Although the forecast is not currently for beating sun and heat it will still be warm and humid and could result in some serious cramping and fatigue. I don't have a lot of secrets, but I did pick up some coconut water and a $5 power cookie from Whole Paycheque. If I can get my crew, the Lazy Trailer Runner, out of bed on time I'll have him keep me hydrated and fed throughout. Hopefully he doesn't eat my power cookies.

The Knee Knacker aid stations look great though, and I'm lucky enough not to have stomach issues. If I need extra food I can always enjoy a little more than just flat coke.

Reminder amazing Knacker Crew: Please take the lid off the Coke before I arrive. The Orcas people forgot.

Monday, July 4, 2011

5 days to go...

A beautiful day in the Vancouver hood. I presume the snow is melting away quickly and maybe even dangerously, but just in time to smooth out my glide over Cypress. I'm not actually super concerned with Cypress for snow. It's that nasty side hill section from Cypress to the XC area, across Hollyburn. Step by step I guess.

Anyway, today was a breeze.
  • Another lazy coffee morning
  • Short hike in the forest
  • A 25 minute nap
  • A Massage with Kristie Elliot @ Moveo
  • A soak in the ocean
  • And a great burger and beer with friends
I'm off to a bath and some foam rolling and then bed. I'm really living the West Point Grey house-wife dream aren't I?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

6 days to go...

A week from now I should be recovering from whatever race I have on Saturday - maybe nursing a re-injury or hopefully, just some tender, tired muscles.

Like Luke with Yoda on his back, I just had a nice long hike in Lynn Valley with my daughter on my back. While she looked around pointing at every dog along the way I started to think about my pre-race routines. A massage on Monday is the first step for me. After that I have a few race week runs I usually do, some key meals, some restful nights, especially the two nights pre-race, and I try to make sure I'm up and about for race time each morning.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on race week. What do you do?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

7 Days to go...

Another day has gone by and another successful run on the shore. Had a great run with a terrific posse today, one of which was Chris Price, fellow Knee Knacker lotto winner. Pricey is running extra strong right now and should have a brilliant first go at the Knacker. He's been able to get in all his long runs and speed work and stay injury free - lucky bugger. Having had only the past two weeks to get back at it, I explained to him how I got in as much mileage as was reasonable. Banging out 5 hour runs wasn't going to work if I wanted to steer clear of re-injury.

It's surely been too little too late, but the brick system has helped me roll off some good distances and times while providing ample rest. I was running just over an hour on day 1, day 2 up and down BCMC, day 3 two hours, and day 4 two hours. Then rest. The rest time has been a focus.

I ran into John Foy at Lonsdale Quay yesterday and he said he had a similar experience last year. He explained, "You'll feel great until half and then you'll be in hell". The Lazy Trail Runner told me Foy really laid down the law out of the mid point last year though so maybe if I take it easy I'll be able to delay the onset of "hell" until 3/4's.

I'm starting to thinking more about pre race and race day nutrition now and my last week of workouts. Fitness won't be improving, but I need to keep mobile and loose.

Massage is booked for Monday at 3:30 at Moveo.

Friday, July 1, 2011

8 Days to go...

This morning my eyes opened to a real life Folgers advertisement. The beep beep beep of the coffee maker and the accompanying smell - oh man! And coffee made it good.

The Lazy Trail Runner arrived about 5:50am, we sipped some java and off we went up Capilano Canyon. We kept the pace consistent and smooth on the way up and across Mont Royal and then had a nice floaty and playful cruise down Mosquito Creek back to my place for yet another cup of coffee.

After some good food and roller session I'm off to enjoy Canada's 144th at Lonsdale Quay.

Check - another Care free run.