Monday, April 26, 2010

Week in Review: April 19-25 + Bonking

(the dense forest of the North Shore mountains)

Monday, 2010-04-19: 4miles (2 barefoot) (35min) Typically I am inclined to take this day completely off from running following a full weekend. However, I had a hidden agenda this week to attempt to run every day. As such, I headed out after work and hit the field for a couple quality miles barefoot. Legs felt heavy but it was pleasant to get the feet out of the shoes on a beautiful spring evening.

Tuesday, 2010-04-20: 8.10 (1:12) Did the usual before-the-sun-rises road effort. Meredith joined me this morning (coming off a frustrating foot injury), so we took it easy and just soaked in the serene silence offered so early in the morning.

Wednesday, 2010-04-21: 13 miles (1:42) Engaged in what I will haphazardly label a speed workout (although I would classify it more as some form of a fartlek). Nonetheless, it was a marvellously warm night; I was really pleased with this run and how my body adapted. I bonked hard at the end but likely do to the fact I took no water/ fuel and had not eaten in over 5 hours. Not well thought out perhaps…

Thursday, 2010-04-22: 8 miles (1:05) Headed out on the roads with Meredith for a pre-work Lonsdale loop. This run offers a 700 foot climb (over a 2.25 miles stretch) up the entirety of Lonsdale. I felt good climbing today, especially comforting given last nights effort. Thought about heading out in the evening after work, but decided against it.

Friday, 2010-04-23: AM: Gym/ Core/ Strengthening; ran there/ home (2 miles) Glad to continually keep-up with these gym sessions. I am often disposed to slowly wean this cross-training out as I get into the full running season. However, I am convinced that it is assisting in necessary pre-habilitation and improving my leg strength and core stability.

PM: 4.5 miles (43 minutes) This was truly a spontaneous and random run. I had to go over to my parents to borrow their car. I was locked out of the house because I forgot my key; the drizzle had begun but I was bored and had nothing to do. Luckily, I had a pair of shorts stuffed in my bag. Naturally, I was wearing my NB 100’s; as such, I headed out for a quick loop up the Rifle Range towards Hyannis via Bridal Path (one of my favourite runs that I had memorized when I use to live at my parents). The rain became heavy and by the time I returned, I was muddy and soaked sporting my o-so-stylish collared work shirt. Definitely got some weird looks from people. Tweaked my right gastrocnemius coming down the final switchback; loosened up fine afterwards though.

Saturday, 2010-04-24: 12 miles (1:40) Not my favourite type of run but much to my surprise and delight, I was able to really enjoy it by the end. Meredith and I went to Burnaby Lakes to hit up the 6 mile dirt path/ bark mulch loop. Slowly working her way back from foot issues, she wanted a more forgiving and chill run; I was inclined to oblige. We took the first lap relaxed (51:20). At this point it started to rain fairly heavily (par the usual). After warming up, we did the second loop in a quicker (48:09). This was meant to be a fairly easy day, and the less than ideal weather assisted with this. Furthermore, I was experiencing some odd and uncomfortable “chest-chafing” during the second half (see photo below if you dare; consider yourself warned). We stopped after two loops and headed back to enjoy the afternoon. Easy day, and felt no fatigue or muscular issues post-run; the right calf was fine once I was warmed up.

(Burnaby Lake... not looking quite like it did on Saturday)

Sunday, 2010-04-25: 25miles (4:30) I started this run with the initial objection of running approximately 4-5 hours. I decided to start at the base of Grouse Mountain and run the Iron Knee 25km route to Deep Cove and then return via the Bridle Path. The secondary objection was to fit in some decent climbing and descent; especially given the flat nature of yesterday’s effort. The water fountains have been turned on so I was able to coordinate the run with a single hand-held, filling up at Gazebo, Honey’s Donuts (in the Cove), and then Gazebo once again. I reached Deep Cove in a comfortable 2:05 after side-stepping my way through the swarms of people heading up/down the lower portion of the trail. Although I love this section of trail, I could not wait to get back to higher, more remote grounds. Apparently it is a prerequisite to have on a hefty dosage of cologne/ perfume for a morning forest stroll. Notwithstanding, I resolved in the climb back, heading along the Bridle Path, Twin Bridges, then to Gazebo. From there, I decided to head down to the Suspension Bridge towards Bridgeman Park eventually climbing my way back to my house via my customary route. Four gels, 4:30 minutes later, 6000 feet of climbing and I was feeling good completing the last mile for kicks in a solid 7:30. Unfortunately, about an hour after the run, I bonked hard and felt like total shit. I was in no mood to take in any food which only exacerbated the situation. This was unexpected and caught me completely off guard given that I was feeling perfectly alert after the run and physiologically balanced. Got to figure this out; absolutely not a good pattern to get into...

Miles: 75 (2 barefoot)
Time: 12.5 hours

(unbeknownst to me... masculine or pathetic? The byproducts of chaffing)

This was a solid week of running for me. Firstly, I was able to run every day, satisfying my hidden objective. Secondly, I ramped up the volume and was able to get my mileage up to a level that I would like to maintain as a minimum; this will surely take some time, but I am definitely on track (just over 100 miles in last 9 days). My body felt at ease most of the week and importantly, nothing materialized out of the minor tweak in my right gastrocnemius on Friday. No doubt, the continual work of Leah Startup from MOVEO is the deciding factor in this equation.

On the other hand, I experienced first-hand the ever-dynamic issue of bonking. Normally I can predict the onset of these physiological/ psychological deficits with relative consistency. I am generally body-aware and have a comprehensive understanding of my bodily reactions; notwithstanding it being on a more intuitive/ instinctive level. For instance, I knew that I was likely to bonk after Wednesday evenings 13 mile run. I had not consumed food in over 5 hours and took no form of fuel or water with me. However, as is typically the case, I had taken in sufficient calories throughout the morning/ mid-day, providing just the requisite amount to satiate the system during the effort. Moreover, I just don’t find myself desiring much/ if any food during the afternoon hours.

Contrast this with Sunday’s post-run melt which I failed to foretell. The run went smoothly and I was comfortably cruising through most of the day. There was only one point at approximately the three hour mark where I ran out of water. However, this was only for about 20 minutes and I was able to down a full 16oz and then refill my bottle soon after. The ‘bonk’ came in earnest about 45minutes after finishing my run (in the interim I had drunk a large glass of chocolate milk, had an apple; and munched on a few other items). I experienced a heavy sensation in my chest/ throat; like someone was compressing my upper-abdominals. On a psychological level, I felt far from lucid but certainly in no way delusional. Upon going out with Meredith and running some errands, I came home and flat-out crashed for about half-an-hour. Upon awaking, I felt much better; my chest had settled and I was craving calories. So I did, and within an hour I was back to 100%.

I suppose these bodily tribulations are just par the course; indeed, I have come to accept them as such. On the other hand, I cannot help but ponder whether I am amiss in some of my strategies... (Thoughts??)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Evening Outing

It is 3:30 in the afternoon. The clouds continue to occupy most of the sky, although hints of a clear blue background momentarily interrupt. It is clearing to the West, where most of our weather systems here in Vancouver originate, and I am certain that things look promising for this evening. With that in mind, I feel the excitement enter my legs, perky up, awakening to the evening run to be had. Tonight’s goal was to hopefully find some speed. As such, I chose a route consisting mostly of gravel/ bark mulch through Bridgeman Park and Indian River Drive. This has become one of my favourite evening destinations as of late, because of its rolling hills and perfectly looping miles. For a trail runner who typically pines the mountains, it is an ideal venue for speed. It offers the forgiveness that asphalt fails to, while at the same time escaping the encroachment of cars and noises of city flurry. Furthermore, compared to the usual morning bustle of dog-walkers and families, the evenings are subdued and remote with only a few people meandering about... it is a treat indeed.

Leaving my house I jaunt up Grand Boulevard, hitting my usual two mile split at the gates to Loutette Park in 15:45. At the moment and for the time being, the legs feel light and alert, seemingly finding a comfortable cadence with ease. Rolling into Bridgeman Park, I decide to increase the pace, wanting to feel my breath and test the legs. Much to my delight, they react well, and I cruise for the next 6 miles, switching between acceptable 7:30’s and the periodical 7/ sub.

Although not common within my training week, these are wonderful efforts. They take me outside of my comfort zone, with few significant hills or unstable footing to slow me, and offer the excuse to relax the pace and alter the cadence. There is an odd sensation of running over such relatively flat and open terrain with perfectly miled stretches, it is just there, plain and simple, raw (?), waiting for you to exploit. You must remain consistent in your stride, unwavering in the turnover. While not my most sought after choice, on this evening I was able to extract a surprising amount of personal pleasure from this exercise. The miles streamed by, yet paradoxically, my mind was so focused. My thoughts were not wandering, quite contrarily, I was utterly focused on every step; tranquil, yet purposeful, matching stride for stride, mile for mile.

Finishing up at Bridgeman Park, I began the return trip home; up the not-so-insignificant 600 foot climb (over .80 miles stretch) to Loutette, perfectly retracing my steps. Expectedly, my pace slowed to a mere slog as I climbed my way forward. Contrasting with the rolling flats of Bridgman, the climb seemed a monumental endeavour. Eventually I crested the top, starting to subtly gasp for air, I internally rejoiced in the elation of finding flat ground once again. From there, I cruised in the last few miles, releasing the baggage in the legs. I tacked on an extra mile for aesthetic pleasure (for some reason 13 miles makes a lot more sense than 12) until finishing back home to my starting location (13 miles/ 1:41).

It was not until I stopped that my body began to revolt. I had taken no water for this run and had not eaten anything since 2-oclock (it was now 7:15pm); in retrospect, probably not the greatest of ideas. So it is... the satisfaction of the effort surely trumps any sensation of bonking at the end. Further, after chugging a glass of water then downing a glass of chocolate milk (a necessity in the fridge), these negative physiological feelings are quickly remedied and almost immediately forgotten. I whip together a quick bite, and then enjoy what part of the evening I have left, already thinking about tomorrow mornings run.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Week in Review: April 12-18

(the backdrop for my training grounds... not too bad)

Monday, 2010-04-12: Off

Tuesday, 2010-04-13
: 7miles (54min) Despite giving this run some second thoughts, I headed out for my usual before-the-sun-rises 4:45am road effort. Expectedly, my legs still lacked pep after Saturday’s race and I found myself altering my usual hill climb route up the entirety of Lonsdale and instead opted for the more forgiving Lynn Valley loop. Good choice, I eventual found a hint of a groove in the last mile. Unfortunately, I had to go to work so could not extend the effort.

Wednesday, 2010-04-14: 13.3 miles (2:25) Hit the trails on my day off for a blissful romp in the woods. A couple of good climbs in there as well. The legs held up surprisingly well and even improved as time elapsed. A good sign…

Thursday, 2010-04-15: 8 miles (1:04) Headed out on the roads in the Brooks Launch for an early morning workout. Nothing really eventful happened on this run; just a steady and consistent cruise with some good rolling hills. The sun was rising as I was heading home which offered a wonderful way to start off the day. My right soleus tightened up a little throughout the day, but nothing to overly fret about.

Friday, 2010-04-16: Gym/ Core/ Strengthening; ran home (1 mile) after doing high-knees with resistant bands for 3 minutes, 30-seconds-on with 15 seconds rest….. weird feeling.
PM: 2 miles (16 min) barefoot at West Vancouver artificial field while I waited to meet up with my girlfriend.

Saturday, 2010-04-17: 16 miles (2:30) Headed out with the people from Mountain Madness and helped lead out their run. It was great to catch up with many and enjoy the morning on the trails. We started at the Suspension Bridge running a large loop down to Twin Bridges, up Mystery Creek and down the switch back, returning up Fisherman’s and back. Ran a solid pace the first 9 miles with the group running almost all of the hills and hammered some of the more technical downhills. I continued on my own for the last 7 miles eventually winding my way home as the rain started to fall. It was a invigorating “spring” rain so I offer no complaints.

Sunday, 2010-04-18: 16 miles (2:55) Despite the wonderful weather, the legs seriously lacked any pep; not sore, just that sense that you have some sort of adhesive on the bottom of each shoe. It took me a long time to get going as I started at Grouse Mountain planning to run most of the Baden Powell (with minor extensions) towards Deep Cove and then retracing my steps eventually finishing at my parents where I had to pick up the car. I took three gels, figuring enough for 3-4 hours and one handheld bottle, knowing I could fill up along the way. Once I hit the technical downhill through Grouse things began to awaken and I hit decent splits (The bench 25:25; Lynn Headwaters: 45:00). I fit in a few climbs as well. The sun really made its presence felt around the 2 hour mark, forcing me down the mountain to the nearest water supply to re-fill as I had drunk more than I was planning to. No matter, climbed my way back up Old Buck. Unfortunately, this took a little more out of my legs than I liked, and as a result, I just kind of tucked it in the rest of the run. Oddly, once I finished and just loitered around for a few minutes I felt great and seriously considered heading back out. Extraneous variables permitted this, perhaps a good thing in the end…

Miles: 60.3 + 2 (barefoot) over 5 runs (avg run: 12miles)
Time: 10 hours of running

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Pleasures of "Flexing"

Today I was able to indulge in the pleasures of “flexing”. It is not necessarily a common practice, but one I have become well accustomed to over the past couple of years. It is more informatively labelled, “earned time off” (ETO), and ostensibly amounts to a day off work within the middle of the week every three weeks. Many likely use this time to “catch up” on chores or other required aspects of daily life that we so often fall behind on (and rightly so). On the other hand, for me, it provides the perfect opportunity (justification) to spend some extra mid-week time in the mountains.

Today, with the sun breaking through the morning overcast I could see that it was going to be ideal conditions for a solid effort. With temps in the mid-teens by mid morning, the sense of spring time would certainly be present. With that in mind, I headed to some of my old stomping grounds and a route I endeavoured fairly routinely in the past: deep-cove out-and-back via Old Buck, Bridal Path and Seymour Grind.

(typical terrain heading out of deep cove via baden powell)

After a mere 8 minutes on the road to reach the trails, I began the slow and often arduous initiating climb up through the Rifle Range to the intersecting Bridal Path. Backtracking, I worked my way towards the Seymour Grind, finding my legs through the more forgiving rolling mountainous terrain. It was not long until I ditched my unnecessary extra clothing, stashed it under a log (one I would pass on the return) and proceeded up the Seymour Grind, mixing between a high-cadence shuffle and a power-hiking step up.

(a taste of the interrmitent stairs along the way)

I was unsure of how my legs were going to react to today’s run. Yesterday’s effort was forced, with the residual junk from the weekend still noticeably there; not unexpected. But it is amazing what 24 hours can sometimes do. Things felt smooth and calm today. Perhaps bolstered by reacquainting myself with a familiar route or inspired by the pristine conditions I was afforded, I worked my way up the climb eventually finding my way down to the Cove in a fairly effortless fashion. The return trip started out in a similar way as my feet sought the necessary footing to make the many step-ups along the route. Gaining reprieve during the brief, but o-so-appreciated flatter terrain, I was able to run most of the trail up to the intersecting paved road (more than I remember being able to the other week), and then continue the gain in elevation. Nearing the 1:40 mark, I decided to take in a gel as the legs were becoming heavy and slow. This seemed to awaken the body, and reinstate a sense of purpose in my effort. Looping around down Old Buck, Horses Loop, and Bridle Path, I eventually grabbed my discarded clothing and made the return trip to my starting destination. 13.3 miles/ 2:25 minutes later, I basked in the enjoyment of a mid-week/ mid-day run in the mountains and the pleasures that come with “flexing”.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Diez Vista 2010

There were many factors that resulted in my entrance into this year’s Diez Vista 50km to be one of anxiety and keen trepidation. Firstly, it would be my first official race since Knee Knacker back in July of 09 (excluding TransRockies that equated to little actual running for me due to an unfortunate stress fracture in my tibia); a return to the racing atmosphere brings with it certain components unattainable through regular training and preparation. Secondly, I only had approximately 500 miles of running since January 1st (my first meaningful run since my injury) with only the last month consisting of runs within the 3-4 hour range. Also, my longest endeavoured effort was a mere 4 hour 20 miles two weeks before the race. Lastly, with no taper going into this event, my legs were well worn and I had a hint of tightness in my right soleus during the days leading up to the race. To say the least, I was not brimming with confidence standing at the start line; but so it goes…

With that said, my plans were fairly modest. With my splits from last year ingrained to memory, I was hoping to take the first half of the race at a fairly “comfortable” pace and assess the situation at the three-quarter point (turn-around at powerline) where many racers begin to fade. If things were well in order at this junction, I would test the legs on the return and final climb/ descent hoping for a sub 5:30 finish.

There was a solid turn out for this year’s event with some serious heavy weights. Local and defending course record holder Gary Robbins would battle it out with Phil Villeneuve for most of the day until pulling ahead at the 3 hour mark and hustling into the finish with a new course record. Impressive!!

The course is a test. With 6000 feet of climbing and a similar total of descent, the legs are certainly put through the expected wear-and-tear. Much of this is covered over technical terrain until eventually winding its way through more runnable fireroads and groomed path. With this year’s race being slightly rerouted, the effect was an o-so-slightly longer track over more technical terrain. Broken down in this way, my tactic was to take it easy on the first 1800 foot climb/ descent, pick it up through the rolling 10 miles in the center and then hopefully find my “late” legs for the two finishing 1000 footers.

In general, excluding the end, my race progressed in this fashion. Through the first 20 minutes I found myself comfortably in the front 20 runners scouting out who I would likely pace with for the day. I caught up with a few other runners I had not seen in some time. One guy commented on my package of “tic-tac’s” (aka salt tablets) rattling around in my pocket. He said it reminded him of the Seinfeld episode which I could not help but laugh with and agree. There was about 5 of us grouped together making the initial climb. I continued with them for much of the ascent until finally falling back; I was in no mood to push it early, confident in my original approach to the race.

Despite a hint of tightness in my left hamstring things were going smoothly as I funnelled out of the descent into Aid Station 1, filled my single handheld and kept moving. At this point I was running solo, catching a glimpse of the same group of runners about 2-3 minutes ahead. There are a scant few straightaways over the next 10 miles which meant I was unable to continue to get a clear picture as to where I was in relation. So it is, I just kept rolling at a comfortable pace enjoying the absolutely picturesque day we were luckily enough to get.

Time was elapsing quickly; my mind was wandering all over the place, humming the repetitive beats of a few songs that inevitably are tattooed into my head. Eventually I hit the Aid Station prior to the switchbacks leading out to the powerline where the out and back begins. It was at this junction that I ran into Gary blazing down the trail, with a comfortable lead. Not coincidently, it was almost the exact point where we crossed paths last year; reassuring me that I was nearly identical to my pace from the year previous. Exposed in the sun, the next stretch is often excruciatingly dull (relatively speaking of course) as you make your way down to the turn-around-point, knowing you must retrace your steps. Broken by the odd encouragement from returning runners and the peekaboo views of the surrounding mountains, things are rather unmotivating through this part. On the plus side, it was in this area that I was able to reassess my placement in relation to the guys ahead of me, realizing once again that I was only a few minutes back. I passed one guy at the turn-around-point and started shuffling my way back up the hill, repeating my steps and gauging the state of the body. Things felt as expected after running for 21 miles: notable tightness in my left hamstring with that expressive sense of heaviness not too far away. However, I was feeling pleased and psychologically content knowing I was within one minute of my split from last year and feeling much better from a physiological perspective. I had fuelled well and was feeling the positive byproducts of this.

On the return trip I passed a few more runners keeping a high cadence up the climbs until eventually matching stride-for-stride with “tic-tac” man (aka. Ryan (I think)) at about the 24 mile mark. We said hello and continued on our way.

The last 6 miles were uneventful and in retrospect somewhat disappointing. I let Ryan lead, perhaps becoming complacent with the pace, all the way up the final climb and into the descent. I thought about pushing it on a few occasions but for whatever reason, the motivation just lacked. We were moving well and I just seemed to let things happen. Perhaps a consequence of my lack of racing over the past 7 months, or the fact I had done most of my running solo this year and therefore welcomed the company, whatever it was, I just didn’t seem to find the drive. In the end, we matched step-for-step eventually crossing the line in tow, 5:33:40. Nothing in my body gave, with only the moderate twitching in my left abductor on the gruelling 40 stairs before the 50 meters to the finish (nice touch by the RD!!).

All in all, I must sigh with a certain degree of qualified content. My body held up well given this was my longest run of the year by over 10 miles/ 1:30 minutes. I stuck with my original approach which is a rarity; I will surely take solace in this. On the other hand, I can’t help but be discouraged with not going sub 5:30 given how close I was; as I said, the drive was just not there. In honesty, I feel I can go a lot faster on this course and hope to do so in the future. Nevertheless, after a bitterly cold, yet paradoxically pleasurable soak in Sasamat Lake, catching up with the other runners, and downing some of the delectable grub at the finish, things were put into perspective. I was able to “defend” the under 30 division (for whatever that’s worth, don’t ask how many runners there were under 30 ;) and finish 15th overall (Full results can be found here).

In the end, as I strolled out to Lynn Canyon less than 20 hours later, for an 8-mile/ 1:13 shake-out-the-legs run, I could not help but feel a hint of excitement about racing again and the prospect of the upcoming ultra mountain running season.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Thoughts on March

The goals for this month were fairly straightforward: more mileage (without re-aggravating past injuries); less days off; and more doubles. Looking back at the numbers I believe it is safe to say that I neared all of these objectives and potentially verged on meeting all three. A satisfying feeling no doubt, but work still to be done.

In the end, what was most satisfying was re-establishing past routines and finding a consistent approach to each week. Although this suggest a certain degree of rigidity (further implying the notion of “work” and “forced), the month of running felt the complete contrary. Notwithstanding following similar routes, distances, and form, each run was so distinctly unique; superficially identical but differentiated in so many more significant ways. With each passing day the legs felt lighter, the cadence a hint more efficient, and the breathing more rhythmic and subdued. Arduous hills lost their abrupt vigour and became manageable yet concerted efforts. The technical trails of the North Shore Mountains no longer required a forced placement of the feet, or a calculated step-up; it just seemed to happen, my legs seeking those familiar grounds. If anything, it is these aspects of my runs that spur the most optimism for the upcoming summer mountain running season.

Total Miles: 260
Total Time: 41 hours
Running days: 24 of 31 (all days taken off were “scheduled”)
Average Run Length: 10.8 miles