Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer Months, in Brief

It has been a while now since I have had the time and more importantly, the motivation to update this blog. I have been exceptionally fickle in this respect over the last year. The weekly logs were getting redundant, and my daily routine of get-up, run, got to work, try and run again and then go to bed seemed to lose its allure. Dabble in this the fact I was away from computer access for the entire month of August and am currently enjoying my first week of law school, things have been a little chaotic to say the least. In saying this, I can briefly say that my summer months of running were some of the more enjoyable I have experienced.

In terms of the numbers, I was continuing to experiment and push my body, attempting to find that ideal niche between overtraining and adaptation. In June I ran a total of 379miles with a significant amount of those weeks accumulating over 11000 feet of vertical. July was similar in this respect as I ran 325 miles with decent vertical gain on a weekly basis. My mini-goal within these months was to implement a strict level of consistency. Naturally, I took this to the extreme and had no days off for these 2 months and dating back to May, took but 1 day off in a nearly 90day stretch of running. This was more an experiment then anything else. I was not racing during this time so the need for staying refreshed was secondary. Instead, I wanted to test my body and its ability to adapt to these strains. There were definitely hard days; many runs where it took me a few miles to even realize that I was running. But to a large extent it simply became routine. The thought of not running on a daily basis was perverse. In this sense, not only was my body adapting but critically, the mental shift had occurred as well. And in my experience, this seems to be at least half the equation.

August was a month of exploration and the fulfillment of a personal bucket-list item. My girlfriend and I drove down to Colorado to spend the month, running, hiking, and simply enjoying a change of environment and trying to get up as many high peaks as possible. The trip was absolutely the highlight of my summer. I was able to run trails that I had only read about and explore the training environments of many of the best ultra-runners. This was epitomized with a week in Boulder, CO and a subsequent 100mile week in Manitou Springs including a summit of Pikes and a few trips to Barr Camp. I will let a brief series of photos tell the rest of the story....

At this point I am unsure of what the Fall will withhold as it relates to my running. I have tried to take it easy so far, mostly because I felt that my body needed a bit of a break. But the daily routine of running still persists as I have tried to get on some of the classic local routes here in Vancouver before the days shorten and the rain ensues. Perhaps even a little racing will find its way back on my radar pretty soon...

Sunday, July 10, 2011


What do I do when I don’t feel like running,
When I feel more like just lying around?
Sometimes I do that, I just lie around.
And see that about myself.
But then, sometimes I push myself out there to run
Even tho the predominant feeling is,
I don’t want to.

Fred Rohe, The Zen of Running

There is something to be said about consistency. The nature of repetition is a process that breeds knowledge, development, and adaption. It creates a unique familiarity with whatever it may be that you are engaging in. When it comes to running, this is surely the case. To become good you must do it a lot. What exactly this means is certainly relative to each individual but this is where I am at in that process as of late:

Monday June 27, 2011: AM: 5miles (42min) Easy, Loutete Park PM: 5miles (48min) Easy, Pacific Spirit Park

Tuesday June 28, 2011: AM: 12miles (1:45) Fartlek with hills, Pacific Spirit Park, body and mind was into the effort. PM: 3miles (28min) Easy. Roads

Wednesday June 29, 2011: AM: 7.5miles (1:05) Pacific Spirit Park, poor energy, tired. PM: 3.5miles (38min) Easy, roads, still tired.

Thursday June 30, 2011: PM: 5miles (50min) Larabee State Park. Beautiful trails, terrible energy and annoyed stomach.

Friday July 1, 2011: AM: 16miles (3:13) North Shore. Warm up then 30minute time trial up Old Grouse Mountain Road. Hard effort. More hills. 3500 feet vertical gain.

Saturday July 2, 2011: AM: 9miles (1:20) Pacific Spirit Park. Easy effort with a few pick-ups. PM: 6miles (2:00) The Chief.

Sunday July 3, 2011: AM: 15.5miles (2:51) North Shore. First 7.5miles finding my stride. Did the last 8miles in (1:23). 3100 feet of vertical. Solid on the climbs all day. Most that I have ever climbed up the Seymour Grind.

Weekly Mileage: 87.5miles (16:30)

Monday July 4, 2011: PM: 8.5miles (1:17) Pacific Spirit Park. 8 * 10second steep hill repeats. Rest were easy miles. Legs ok, energy terrible.

Tuesday July 5, 2011: PM: 4.5miles (45min) Roads. Easy. PM2: 3.5miles (33min) Roads. Easy.

Wednesday July 6, 2011: PM 3.5miles (32min) Roads. Easy. PM2: 4.5miles (46min) Roads. Easy.

Thursday July 7, 2011: PM: 11.5miles (1:40) Pacific Spirit Park. First 6 were easy and last 5.5 were tempo with one solid climb. 1000 feet vertical. Physically spent by the end.

Friday July 8, 2011: Noon: 4miles (35min) Roads. Super Easy but decent pace. PM: 6miles (1:10) North Shore. Technical and hilly loop. Legs and mind never got into it. 1300 feet vertical. Poor effort.

Saturday July 9, 2011: AM: 28miles (6:45min) North Shore. First ¾ of Knee Knacker course plus return to Cleveland Dam. 8200 feet vertical. Great day. No complaints. Surprised with my energy and ability to run most hills all day.

Sunday July 10, 2011: AM: 9miles (1:30) North Shore. Beautiful morning. Magnificent trails. 1300 feet of vertical. No soreness from yesterday and legs were spry. Could have kept going for a lot longer.

Weekly Mileage: 83miles (16hrs)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Loping Along

(trail head marking- along the Seymour River as you head up to the Powerlines)

you have the rest of your life
to progress into long distance running
why strain, make pain?
why not lope along,
free and easy,
doing it like a dance?
when you start doing it
you'll see that running
is naturally hard enough
all by itself
without you creating
additional hardship for yourself.

The Zen of Running- Fred Roche

(Twin Bridges Trail- North Shore- Beautiful colour after an evening rain)

I love to just "lope along". When my mind is clear and thoughts quiet I find that I am in my best state to run. I am not straining or forcing, far from it. I am letting the run come to me, without judgement or precondition. Even when I have a type of workout in mind, be it progression, hills, or steady-state, I am ever conscious of not forcing the stride. Hands loose, upper body erect, and light feet- these are the guiding principles. Perhaps this sentiment is a West Coast thing as I recently read a similar sentiment expressed by Adam Campbell. Whatever it may be, the personal satisfaction and sheer fulfillment that comes from achieving this state is always my ultimate aim. So for now, I will continue to just "lope along".

(Remainder of an afternoon rain shower- Photo Credit- Meredith Cale)

Monday June 21, 2011: PM: 7miles (1:05) Easy. Heavy legs after the weekend mileage. Did my usual steep hill 10second sprints (6times).

Tuesday June 22, 2011: PM: 10miles (1:28) Downtown to North Vancouver via Stanley Park trails. GI issues but legs felt solid. PM2: 4miles (41min) Super easy.

Wednesday June 23, 2011: PM: 9.5miles (1:18) Easy miles.

Thursday June 24, 2011: PM: 9miles (1:20) Hill workout. First 5miles involved two hill climbs of 10-13min durations. Then did the last 4miles at 7:30-8:00 pace. Legs felt surprisingly spry after the hills.

Friday June 25, 2011: Noon: 4.5miles (38min) Easy. PM: 6miles (47min) Progression Run along the Seymour River. Rolling terrain. Great run. Splits: 9:28 (rolling), 8:20(slight downhill), 8:13(rolling), 7:23 (rolling), 6:53 (uphill), 6:52 (uphill).

Saturday June 26, 2011: AM: 9miles (1:21) North Shore Trails. 2000vertical. Felt great on the climbs today. PM: 4.5miles (50min) Super Easy. Did one steady climb from Twin Bridges up to Gazebo. Felt good given the morning miles and vertical.

Sunday June 27, 2011: 20+miles (5:57) LSCR bike path and a climb up/down the east side of Coliseum Mountain with Kerry and David. To put this run in to perspective, we did the first 6miles in sub 50min and the last 6miles slightly over that mark. The other 8miles were done in 4+hrs. Never stopped the watch so we spent at least 30+min taking photos; soaking in our surroundings; finding our route; and assessing how much further and where we could go safely give the snowy conditions up high. The top half of the run was in snow-pack of 8-12feet and involved serious foot digging (so as not to slide down the slope). Gradients were seriously steep that I had a few moments of questioning our decision to continue to the top.

Weekly Mileage: 83.5miles (16hrs)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Measure of Effort

Everything we do involves effort. We are constantly exerting energy and extracting from our finite reserves. There is a psychological component, a physiological component and an overarching biochemical component- indeed, the process is all encompassing. But when it comes to running the former two dominate. There is an endless dialogue, a symphony of communication and feedback that inform the decisions we make. Do I run this entire hill? When the gradient steepens, do I tighten my stride, increase my cadence and will myself to the top? Can I maintain this pace for another three hours? What pace should I even be running?

These thoughts have been a prominent fixture in my internal dialogue as of late. More importantly, the notion of effort itself has been informing my running decisions. Every day when I step on to the Pacific Spirit Park trail system just outside my apartment door I have a general idea of the "effort" I would like to expend. The intention is there. The seed is planted.

But how this intention materializes in a quantitative sense varies on a daily basis. Indeed, "steady-hard" on a Monday afternoon may materializes into something surprisingly distinct on a Wednesday morning. Similarly, "easy" for a second run Tuesday afternoon is often much slower than an "easy" Thursday morning jaunt.

But with these thoughts I have found a balance- a place where I can control my finite energy embrace today's run and prepare myself for the next day. When I stray and ignore the signs that my body is sending, the current and future runs suffer. Perhaps I will be able to push through it for a day or two, but it inevitably catches up and the path is unsustainable.

I must learn. I have learned. And will continue to learn what effort means.

Whatever you do
With your running
You only cheat yourself
By pushing, pressing, competing.

There are no standards
And no possible victories except
The joy you are living
While dancing your run.
In any life
Joy is only known
In this moment--Now!

So feel the flow
Of your dance
And know
You are not running
For some future rewards--
The real reward is now!

Fred Rohe- The Zen of Running

Monday June 13, 2011: PM: 6miles (58min) Easy with Meredith. 4 times 8second steep hill repeats in the middle. Legs heavy but better as went along.
Tuesday June 14, 2011: PM: 11.5miles (1:40) Run from work to North Vancouver; tried to find as many trails as possible. Had to withstand a little pavement pounding. Achy by the end. PM2: 3.5miles (35min) 5times hill repeats 3min duration.
Wednesday June 15, 2011: PM: 9miles (1:21) 4.75mile warm-up (legs felt ridiculously heavy) 20min of 1min ON with 1min OFF. Got rolling during these. 1.5mile cooldown.
Thursday June 16, 2011: PM: 3.5miles (38min) Easy.
Friday June 17, 2011: Noon: 5miles (43min) Easy run on my lunch. Legs felt good. PM 7.5miles (1:05) Progression Run- felt good- managed the effort well.
Saturday June 18, 2011: AM: 13.25miles (1:52) Good run. PM: 5miles (47min) Easy with Meredith.
Sunday June 19, 2011: AM: 22+miles (4:15) First 7.5miles with Meredith in 1:13. Rest of run sought out vertical. Went over to Mt. Seymour up Old Buck to Picnic area via Seymour Grind, etc. down Neds. Beautiful morning in the mountains. Miles ticked by.

Weekly Mileage: 86.25 (13:50)

Monday, June 13, 2011


I have never been one to obsess over figures. Mathematics was not my strongest subject and I often found myself troubled when trying to grabble with the sheer absurdity of certain equations and numerical expressions. But stripped down to their essential, certain numbers seem to have an intuitive appeal. They seem to just fit, make sense given the context and desires at hand. For ultrarunners, it seems that “100” holds near knighted status- with the ultimate expression of this notion being to propel oneself 100 miles under the power of their own two feet. The mere thought of this continues to humble me.

But in saying this, I have always been attracted to the idea of running 100miles within a week. Further, it seems that to reach the ultimate objective of running one-hundred mile races, reaching this weekly quota on a consistent basis is a critical component. This week I eclipsed that mark and did so while logging 86miles the previous week and continuing my running streak of 44days. Compared to many ultra runners out there, this type of mileage is standard practice; my objective is nothing to even blink an eye at. But inherent within this is the beauty of running itself: it is a personal endeavour where each person seeks to explore their own bodily limits and potential.

(Top of Old Grouse Mountain Road)

Every time you run
You create the quality
Of your own experience

Runners often speak of pain
And of course if you want that
You can have all you want
Merely by pushing yourself
Beyond your limits
Every time you run

It’s your choice of whether
To run to punish your self
Or to experience your self
If you choose, with me, the latter,
Then every run can be joyful
The key words are,
Take it easy!
Create your self as a runner
Gradually, patiently, relaxedly

Fred Rohe- The Zen of Running

(Skyline Trail- Base of Grouse Mountain)

Monday June 6, 2011: PM: 8miles (1:10) Good run, rolling terrain with 4times 10second steep hill repeats.
Tuesday June 7, 2011: PM 6miles (54min) + 3miles (30min) 4times Hill Repeats.
Wednesday June 8, 2011: AM: 6.5miles (53min) With 2 times .5mile repeats on track. PM: 3.5miles (32min) 4times Hill repeats.
Thursday June 9, 2011: PM: 10miles (1:31)
Friday June 10, 2011: AM: 23miles (4:17) 4800feet vert. Pure beauty in the mountains.
Saturday June 11, 2011: AM 15.5 miles (2:23)
Sunday June 12, 2011: AM: 26miles (4:45) 5500feet vert. Solid.

Total: 101.5miles (17:30hrs) 13000 feet vert.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Clearing: Sun Mountain 50km Race Report

The sound of the rain is rhythmic. Hunkered in our tent, I feel sheltered yet immediately exposed to the natural elements. I shift and turn seeking to find the comfortable spot amongst the undulating surface we have situated our tent on for the evening. The rain persists, and I find myself continuously disturbed from my slumber by the changes in its ferocity. A steady drizzle, a sudden downpour, each evokes its own sensations.

After a restless night I awake to the stiffness and peculiarity that sleeping without any sort of pad or comfort provides. The grass was my bed and my body is reminding me how foreign of a notion this is in our modern age. My girlfriend and I spend the early hours of the morning packing up our things and seeking the requirement of a strong cup of coffee. Successfully, we enjoy this within the warm confines of a local Coffee Shop in the quaint town of Winthrop, Washington.

The race cannot come soon enough. I have been ready to go since 6:00am when I first awoke an hour early. But alas, the 10:00am start means I am merely killing time. We meander the foothills of the Methow Valley as the sun momentarily breaks through the overcast skies. Things look promising but the clouds are threatening. Looking at the singletrack carving through the slopes, I am soon eager about the 50km of running that lies ahead. I seeded this notion the previous afternoon when my girlfriend and I enjoyed a nice mellow run on the first part of the course. The forgiving, non-technical terrain is a welcomed relief from the usual scree-slopes, roots and step-ups of the North Shore trails.

Finally, we are off and in my opinion the only way that an ultra should, a quick 5second count down by the RD. It is a fast start, and not surprising, as the 25km runners join us for the first 9+miles of the course. I tip-toe my way through the early sections stepping around various runners who were a little ambitious out the gates. The gradient steepens as we make our way on to some doubletrack. I feel sluggish and lethargic, my body wants to rest. But my mind wanders, I am distracted now. The beauty of the surrounding landscape captures my attention. The shadows created by the morning sun are pleasant; just looking, a sense of ease emanates through my body. I forget that I am even running a race. In fact, in that moment I wish I was not. I would love to stop and take in my surroundings and continue to explore these foothills. A passing runner snaps me out of these thoughts. I have become lazy.

We hit the first aid station where I quickly refill my handheld and empty the trash I have stored in my pocket. It is just past this point where we deviate with the 25km runners and I am surprised at how many there were. Few make the turn up the slope to continue to the apex along the 50km course. Juxtaposed to the initial climb, the descent requires my full attention. It is tight and winding single track and due to the previous evening’s rains, there are many precarious points. I catch myself a few times as I slip and slide through the mud. Dry socks no longer. I continue to yo-yo with a couple other runners. We seem to work well together, taking the lead at various points.

Time elapses quickly. It always does when on foreign terrain. I have never been in this area nor run trails as groomed as these. I enjoy not having to watch my footing and hop-step my way up the slopes. Plodding along. I roll into the 17mile aid and quickly restock my waist pack with the necessary calories to carry me through the final 13miles and two substantial climbs. It is warming as we near mid-day and the exposure of the mountain is catching up to me. The first of the two climbs to the top of Sun Mountain catches me by surprise. It is a fairly steep gradient and I soon fall into the dreaded power-walk. Perhaps saving something, I juggle with the thought of grunting up the hill or reserving for the final stages. Mind games. I choose the latter and simply continue my forward progression up the slope mixing between walking and running. Lazy. Once again, the descent breeds life into my legs and I am soon passing runners I noted ahead of me on the climb. The singletrack cut into the side of the slopes wreaks some havoc on my hips and feet as I rarely find a flat spot. Thankfully, these are switchback so it balances out well.

The final aid station cannot come soon enough. My bottle has been empty for the last 20minutes; I have misjudged. With the 24mile aid in sight, I sprint along the quarter mile stretch of road, the only road we encounter the entire course, desperately seeking hydration. Quickly, I refill my bottle and down a couple cups of water. Relief.

The final climb waits for us across the road. The open terrain and cutting single track weaves up the mountain. Stark and barren, it sits in front of me. There is nowhere else to go. I continue to pick off runners as I climb. Each time feeling more and more motivated. It is arduous but doable. Inevitably, I reach the top and retrace my steps down the slope. Precarious at first and attempting to regain my legs, I eventually open up on the descent feeling the best I have all day. Is this race really going to end now? Nearing the bottom of the mountain my girlfriend awaits and tells me that I have less then 20minutes. Buoyed, I run on pushing the hardest I have all day but reminding myself of the slight uphill finish to the course. I take a quick glance at my watch and realize a sub 4:45 is out of reach so I resolve to a steady pace as I cross the line in 4:48. My legs feel fresh and my mind clear. The sensation is overwhelming. I cannot wait to do it again.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Week in Review: April 24- May1

Monday April 24, 2011: AM: 10.5miles (1:34) Fairly steady run from behind Park Royal on the Trans-Canada Trail up to the Cleveland Dam; did a few loops up around the rolling trails there and then retraced my steps home. Saw some low 6:xx's coming back as it started to pour rain. Mostly motivated by the fact that I was late to meet Meredith after her workout.Enjoyed the rest of the day off work.

Tuesday April 25, 2011: PM: 6miles (52min) Easy run. Tried to treat this as purely a recovery effort. Headed out and did 4miles on my own and then 2 more teaching KINTEC run clinic. Legs felt stiff and awkward, time for a day off.

Wednesday April 26, 2011: PM: 2.5miles (25min) Really easy teaching KINTEC run clinic. Poured rain the entire time. My energy pathetic.

Thursday April 27, 2011: Noon: 10miles (1:37) Off work at noon today. Immediately headed over to my parent's because I had to drop some stuff off. Took care of business then headed out their back door, all of two steps, right on to the Baden Powell. Debated the necessity of a jacket (chose to keep it and tucked it in my waist band... good call) and then worked my way along the Seymour River. Felt decently chipper given how things had gone the last couple of days. Ran up Curcuit 8 over to Lynn Loop, once again debated whether or not I should do Lower Lynn Loop... Decided to go for it and found myself running through a few inches of wet snow as a fairly heavy hail started to fall. Wet and muddy but I was just enjoying the luxury of an afternoon off work and spending it on the seemingly vacant trails. Eventually reached lower grounds and coincidentally, the sun made an appearance and I basically just worked my way back to my parent's. Hungry by the end.

Friday April 28, 2011: AM: 18miles (3:01) Medium Long run along the Chuckanut Course around Fairhaven/ Larabee Park. Circumstances drew me south of the border today so I planned a long run. Got on the trails by a little after 10am with a vague plan in mind. At the end of the day I basically ran 5miles along the fairly flat dirt path to the entrance to Larabee Park. I then headed up to Fragrance Lake and over the backside of the mountain. From there, I pondered continuing to the Ridge Trail but realized that time was not on my side and further, I took but one bottle and did not know the area well at all. So I retraced my steps back up the mountain to Fragrance Lake, enjoyed a quick loop, and then a buttery descent down the singletrack to the bike path. Beautiful trails and I am definitely starting to develop quite the affection for the area.

(Equipment post run- Notice the new Saucony Peregrine- great first run in them and nothing but positive things to say about them so far- the fact that I could go and run a comfortable 18mile mountain run in them says a lot I suspect)

Saturday April 29, 2011: AM: 3miles (25minutes) Loops around a few block radius surrounding my apartment. Then headed out with Meredith and did 10miles (3:00) of hiking/ running. Enjoyable day.

Sunday April 30, 2011: 11miles (1:55) Quick run early in the morning up at Lynn Headwaters. I did not have the greatest energy but got it done. Just ran as my body dictated. Some was slow, some was moderate, nothing was fast. When I got home Meredith and I headed out for a hike along the Baden Powell near Grouse Mountain. 7miles (2:45)- we packed lunch and just savoured the stunning spring day. Despite the easy effort, my legs were pretty tired by the end. The cumulative effect of the week I suppose.

Weekly Mileage: 78miles (15hrs)
Cross-Training: Daily ITB and planks. No gym session.