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.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Reflections on Diez: Confessions of a Sandbagger

There's no way I could've predicted what happened on Saturday after the crap state my body and second-guessing mind were in over the days leading into Diez. Following Dirty Duo, on March eighth, the training plan I'd written up went completely out the window due travel and various other things. I truly felt I had no business running 50 kilometers with any sort of personal expectations but I felt I owed to myself, and everyone else who didn't get in, to at least start on Saturday morning.

Even though I was dealing with this pointy little profile, I started...
Elevation profile captured by Suunto Ambit2 R
The Start Line
As usual, I was wagging my jaw as the start of the race happened and the moving pack startled me into motion. My first strides, with Chloe Gendron and Sarah Stepec were a series of jokes and casual have-funs before I hit the first of a lot of dirt and saw the back of Jeff Pelletier. It was then I knew it was time to wake up. If I could keep Jeff in striking distance from the start at White Pine Beach and through to the first aid station, I thought I'd have a chance of finishing near him. To put that thinking into context, Jeff and I ran this same section together previously and he slaughtered me on the climb. He climbs like a snow leopard. Fast and quiet. I also knew that if he got to the road-type sections too far ahead of me, it'd be over. His turn over is amazing. Come to think of it, there's nothing he doesn't do well. He lost me on the climb as I suspected, so I played catch up for a bit across the top but was careful not to burn myself down while doing so. My footwork was fancy up there and we were together again until the first aid station. 

This went on all morning. I'd catch a glimpse of Jeff and then not see him for fifteen or so minutes. He had a hundred or so meters on me and on windy, undulating terrain I didn't see much of him. Mentally, this exhausted me and while running the west side of Buntzen, I really started to question whether I could finish this. Even the screaming and cheering of super vollie Dianna couldn't get me motivated. I smiled but it was fake as hell. My left soleus hurt and I was breathing way too hard. With an apple from my drop bag, I headed back up the east side of Buntzen in a huge huff. I'd completely lost Jeff and I was alone. Come to think of it, I'd been alone for nearly an hour. Anger! What was going on? At the end of Buntzen again and there was Jeff. He cheered me on. I cheered him on. Then I cheered myself on. I was still in this and I hoped Jeff was unhappy to see me hanging on. That's racing, right? We talked very little as we yoyo'd back and forth to Solana and Jay's "we're not an aid station" station. From a distance I heard Solana, who hadn't recognized me, tell Jeff he was a minute back on Josh Barringer and Daniel Goddard. Really?!, I thought. Two more big dogs. I had no clue what place we were in but knowing I was hanging with these guys was hugely motivating. Jeff was gone again and I started smiling. This is where everything turned around and I knew I was going to finish this thing. That alone was a massively powerful shift in my mind set.
Photo by Jay Klassen just moments behind J.P.
The OUT AND BACK actually starts in the forest much further down from the power lines than I expected. Much further. Much much further. This is going to be fun on the way back, I kept thinking with my head down and taking tiny strides to hit the top. I thought I was off course a couple times because it was taking so long to reach the power lines. And when I finally did, coming around the corner was Ed McCarthy which prompted me to think I wasn't that far from the turn around. Holy Shit was I wrong in that thinking. As I looked up the power lines, I saw the highest point and assumed we would never have to go out that far. Again, I was wrong. It had to be done though so off I went and there in front of me were Jeff, Daniel and Josh, in no particular order. I caught up with Daniel and had a few words. I only knew it was him because Solana had said he wasn't too far ahead. Last time we met he was bearded. It was Daniel that delivered the bad news about the out and back going to the top of that hill, then downhill and back up again. I kinda' cried inside but reminded myself that everyone was crying inside about it.  Who could cry the least was the name of the game now?

In eight place, I came into the turn around to see Josh feeling really lousy. Although he was ticking over like a whippit, he was pale and clearly disappointed in how his body was reacting to the days demands. He said few words and went right back to work. Jeff's lower leg, which he'd mentioned just before we saw Solana and Jay, had finally gotten the better of him. However, with some serious reservations, he too went right back to work. With them gone, I spent a bit longer at the turn around than the other lads. I wanted to make sure I was fueled enough to keep this high of mine rockin'. Bonking now would send me back to the start line in someone's car and those weren't plans.

Zig zagging, I climbed back to the gravel road and in no time at all reached that dreamy downhill single-track, I mentioned earlier. With Josh and Jeff on our heels, Daniel and I wound our way down to see the last aid station and the final climb. This was it. A short and familiar climb was all I needed to conquer and the descent would be easy. That said, after Daniel spanked me on the last descent, I knew I'd have to beat him up the climb with some distance to spare but without wrecking myself. At the top, I had a quick shoulder check and he wasn't in sight but I really couldn't tell through the forest.

TO the FINISH...
The descent and a short run along Sasamat Lake went by quickly before I popped up on the road to see the finish line clock reading 4:56. I was the fourth person to cross the finish line into Wendy's arms. Kudos to any RD that hugs a nasty ass trail runner after even 15 minutes of running, let alone almost five hours.

To sum... I truly had no clue what I was doing at that race on Saturday morning in light of my training and mind set. My result as compared to my previous blog warrants my being called a sandbagger. Yes indeed. One thing is for sure, I was ready. The question is why? What have I done? 

Diez Vista 1st Place 40-49 Beer Tumbler
For one, I think I played the race smart. I did exactly what Rene Unser (PACE Sports Fitness)/Salomon Flight Crew, told me to do. I found my rhythm in the first half and then had a go at the second half. I heard your voice out there, Rene. Secondly, my volume had been higher than in previous years up until March 16th, about three weeks prior. Tapers work? Thirdly, and what I am most sure of, is the strength training I'm doing at MARX CONDITIONING. Not only did I feel strong on the climbs and descents in the back half, but I also felt that I was keenly aware of which muscles needed to stay engaged to keep my form functional and efficient. You're awesome, Monika Marx.

Again, the gear of the day, aside from my Salomon Mantra's, was Salomon's S-Lab Skin belt and two 8oz. soft flasks. With the food I needed in the front of the belt and two soft flasks of water in the rear, I was set. It stayed tight to my body with no chafing. And the important things were always accessible.

Looking forward to my next race in Kelowna on April 27th, Spring Rush followed by Sun Mountain 50k on May 17th. (There's still some space in Spring Rush if you're looking for a gorgeous Okanagan 25k.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Diez Vista: D'ya know how hard this is gonna' be?

At 7am, on April 5th, three sleeps from now, I'll be tootling around Sasamat Lake as I begin 50 kilometers of one fancy foot in front of the other. It's Diez Vista time again and this is my first official 50k of four this year. It's an understatement to say I'm feeling unprepared but my friend James Marshall tells me I'm always prepared. I appreciate the confidence, although I'm not certain I've done everything I could've done to be my best on this race day. 

I'm trying to maintain some perspective in the fact that this is one race of many this summer and, knowing my body, I can't handle too much more mileage at this point in the year. I'll work my ass off. That's for sure. I always do but I think I'll be disappointed with a poor placing and slower time. I typically don't discuss my own personal pre-race time predictions so I won't start now but without a doubt, I have some clear expectations of myself

No matter how much we tell ourselves it's mentally unhealthy to compare ourselves to others, it is inevitable. As I have commented so many times before, it is these comparisons in competition that drive me to work harder. Unless you went through elementary school in the last 12 years without the threat of failing and always getting a participant ribbon no matter what you achieved, I think competition has driven most of us. Everything I'm doing in training at this time of year tells me it is what I should be doing to sustain my performance and excitement for the summer, but when I compare my work to some of my competitors I get nervous. What others have done (or say they have done) seems to be what I should've done. I'm just scared the wheels will come off this 40 year old bus before the summer arrives. I maintain that I'm pacing my season.

What's done is done and what is not done is not done. Adding mileage and or speed now is not going to happen. I have to trust that the mileage I have given to myself is adequate. That the rest I have given myself has repaired me. That the food I have eaten has nourished me. That the extraneous training I do has made me stronger. Regretfully I haven't experienced the entire DV course but perhaps that will be a blessing. I'll study the map some more but hope that the old adage "ignorance is bliss" works on the out and back.

Without really getting into details about my feelings, my Salomon Flight Crew teammate, Rene Unser of Kelowna's PACE Sports Fitness, picked up on my stress about this and nailed it when she said:

"Howdy! It's normal to feel that way but Don't underestimate yourself my friend;). If Squamish is your A race then just know what's important for you to get out of this experience and stick to it. Running a successful race has more components to it than speed. Someone can run fast but not finish etc... So just run your own rhythm and set a steady beat for the first half. Then see from there. Let your experience and mental super powers drive you home You'll grit your teeth and have a strong finish like you usually do It's a tough early season ultra and one that will reward you weeks after the race with a huge bump in fitness. I like to call it "the big picture"... LOL Have a good one!!"

To Rene I say, thanks for taking the over-thinking out of it for me, Coach. I'll "keep a steady beat for the first half...and let my experience and mental super powers drive me home". 

Over the next three days, while second guessing dumb stuff like what socks to wear or flip flopping on a bag or a hand held, I'll study the map a little. Like I said, I haven't seen much of the course so I don't even know where half is yet to start driving it home.

Looking forward to a great day in the rain with rad dudes and dudines (official term). To all those racing, GOOD LUCK and LAUGH LOTS! To all those race directing, marshalling, cutting up food, marking the course, checking racers in, THANK YOU!  

Diez Vista...Ya know hard this is gonna' be?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dirty Duo 2014: A Benchmark in March

Another year gone by and another great day at Mountain Madness's Dirty Duo. The conditions were exactly what should be expected in March 'round here: pissing wet but mostly warm if you're on the move. As usual, the North Shore biking, running and volunteering community came out to laugh, hurt and be generally friendly all day long. We have an unbelievable community here on the shore and it can't be said enough that I am grateful to be part of it. Thanks to everyone for their part in yesterday.

March is early in my calendar and so is my first larger race this year, Diez Vista.  For me, Dirty Duo was an excellent place to set out and see where my body is at and to see what needs to be tuned up. What gears do I have? (Or not have) Where am I hurting? Is my nutrition and hydration plan good? In general, Dirty Duo was a check up prior to Diez Vista in about four weeks. 

I was nervous to race in the days leading up to Dirty Duo. I hadn't raced a shorter race like this since September, nearly seven months prior. I had no idea if my training was working and so I was happy when I found that my base-building phase hadn't left me completely speedless. That's not to say I had all the speed I wanted, just to say I wasn't any slower as a result of running mostly slow and long. I don't think my base has ever been this strong at this time of year and likely because I've been able to maintain 50 to 60 mile weeks for the past six weeks. It's been tough to work in that mileage on top of an already busy calendar but I realize the payoff today, the day after the race, as I am completely pain free and ready to get out and run again. I ran smooth throughout the race without a single low but the kick I had over the last two kilometers was phenomenal. After 23-ish kilometers, I was able to get things up on the next step, get out ahead of an amazing competitor, Jonathan Gormick, and lead into the finish. To boot, I wasn't doubled over at the finish looking for a place to spew. A quick hand shake with my partner, Dylan Wolsky, who went away quickly, and I was fine. A hug from my wife and daughter, some hot chocolate and lasagna and life was good.

Again, I feel fantastic but it is clear that I don't have a top gear that I can maintain, especially on the climbs. Oldbuck and Homestead, both of which are completely runnable, were a slog. I was able to run them both but with no juice at all. I climbed like a tractor not a WRX. The descents don't concern me whatsoever, but it's time to add in some faster running. Intervals? I don't know. I have some ideas but nothing I feel like sharing. 

I'll keep with the higher volumes as it seems to work in terms of recovery and overall sustainability and running economy. It's not realistic to build in too much speed before Diez Vista but I'll definitely get things underway and hope to see some benefits later in the year for Sun Mountain, Knee Knacker and Squamish 50(km).

To wrap up, I'm thrilled to have been on the winning team of the Dirty Duo men's relay for the fourth year in a row. I've been incredibly fortunate to have had the absolute best riders from anywhere on my team. The first year I raced with Kim Steed as he lost his teammate to injury. The following year Monika Marx introduced me to the Nomads and I raced with Arthur Gaillot, his teammate Chris Johnston, the following year, and now Dylan Wolsky. A special thank you to Monika Marx for keeping me strong to prevent injury and from the onset of the aging process.

Gear of the day:  
Salomon's Advanced Skin Belt. It fit tight against my hips, waist and low back so it wasn't noticable and it easily carried two 8oz. soft flasks of water as well as two gels up front. In these shorter efforts, it seems this was plenty to get me through the run and helped me avoid carrying handheld bottles (my preference to have empty hands). I wore it over my Exo Tech Tee, which I wear as a base layer and under my Trail Runner Long Sleeve.