Sunday, July 25, 2010

Photo Gallery- A taste of the week

(Heading down Bottle Top- added effects from the new camera)

The following is a series of shots from a 10+ hour day of running/ hiking that Meredith and I did on Saturday up at Manning Park helping out with the sweep of the Fat Dog 100.

(Soaking the legs in the river up at Lynn Headwaters on Sunday)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Knee Knacker 2010: Race Report

I had certain goals and expectations heading into this year’s Knee Knacker 50km. Further, I thought they were realistic and attainable based on the training I was able get done prior to the event. As such, I cannot help but describe this last weekend as largely a disappointment and likely one of my worst races to date.

It was simple, I wanted to improve on my 5:58:14 from last year. I had one of my best training blocks in some time and was feeling reared to go for this event. Honestly, in my head I was gunning for sub 5:45.

Something just did not feel right. It is almost unexplainable, but I had this peculiar feeling that I simply could not shake. It began the night before the race and continued for much of the evening. I had a hard time digesting any food and as a result, likely failed to take in sufficient calories for the following day. Nothing tasted good. In my head I blamed it on nerves (although I am not one to get nervous especially over such a relaxed event as the KK)... but perhaps there was something else at play. I went to bed early and was able to sleep surprisingly soundly until my alarm sounded at 3:40am. I went through the usual pre-race routine and was feeling much better than the previous night. I hitched a ride to the start with my girlfriend Meredith (who was also helping me out on the day... big thank you to her!!) and just milled around, ran a warm up mile or two and before I knew it we were off.

Having not done the start of the course in some time, I did not want to get caught up in the hype of the initial moments. Furthermore, I know full well that Black Mountain is one hell of an ascent and deserving of the most respect. So with that, I tried to find my pace during the early going; which is always a challenge with the rolling uphill and technical start. Notwithstanding, I found myself with some familiar faces somewhere in the top 20 as we worked are way up Black Mountain. At this point I was definitely working harder than I wanted to be. So with that, I eased off, and let a few of the people that I would normally pace off pass; knowing that I was unlikely to lose much ground going up BM and could easily make it up going down into Cleveland Dam.

I did not find my legs the entire climb and I was still struggling to find any flowing stride as I worked my way into Cypress bowl (1:40) where I switched out of my camelback and grabbed my handheld from my girlfriend. It felt much better to get out of my camelback and be running with my usual handheld and so, through the next section I finally felt as though I was running and starting to find a pace. I ended up passing a handful of people over the next section into Cleveland Dam but was cautious not to overdo it on the downhill. It was getting hot at this point and I found my stomach hitting an unsettled state.... unfortunately, a sign of things to come.

At Cleveland Dam Aid (2:50) I refilled my bottle, dunked my hat, lost the shirt, and was on my way up Nancy Green Way to the entrance of the Baden Powell. I knew this next stretch was going to be a challenge. I definitely lost my stride last year near this point and did not want that to happen again. I ended up pacing off a few guys who were moving at what I determined to be a comfortable pace. Near the entrance to Mosquito Creek however I started to gap them and was on my own once again. It is about at this point where my race seemed to take a turn for the worse.

The stomach issues that had been sporadically bothering me earlier in the race were now once again in full force. I tried to stay on top of my hydration and downed a few electrolytes (thinking the heat may have been getting to me). Unfortunately, this was to no avail and I soon found myself unable to consume any calories at all; as soon as I tried to down a gel, I would reflexively gag in a seemingly uncontrollable way. I tried to force it down with a good jug of water… nothing. So I gave up, but then the dry-heaves started and I knew that I was in rough shape. I definitely slowed down through this section as I was just trying to keep my focus and get myself to Lynn Headwaters Aid station where I would attempt to remedy this situation. However, things progressively got worse. By the time I reached the Headwaters Aid station I was a good 15 minutes behind my intended time and feeling dizzy and generally, in a crappy state. I switched to coke hoping I could find someway to get some calories into my system (I had not had a gel in over 2 hours and had only had two on the day to this point (4+ hours of running). The coke seemed to help for about 15 minutes but then I just felt bloated and was soon gagging back up the coke along with other remnants. I was running solo at this point which definitely did not help as I was in desperate need of motivation. I was hiking hills I would never in training and had to stop in a hands-on-the-knees pathetic position to prevent the gagging.

From here there is not much else to say. I was unable to get any solid calories into the system over the rest of the race. I yo-yoed between feeling like crap to thinking I was turning things around (these were brief and infrequent). Psychology I was not in a good state as I saw any hopes of finishing near my goal time slip away. Honestly, it was hard to have the motivation. But I managed to finish it off and roll my way down the familiar trail to Deep Cove crossing in 6:23, a good 30+ minutes off my goal time).

My family was there to greet me at the finish which was fantastic (although they could tell pretty quickly that I was not feeling great). I spent the next couple of hours trying to get any sort of food into my system. But the theme persisted and I simply could not stomach it. This lasted well into the evening where I developed more stomach pains and a general discomfort in my whole chest. It was not until later at around 9:00pm after many cold soaks in the shower and lots of fluid (thanks to my amazing girlfriend who attended to me as though I was her patient ;)) that I was finally able to eat a wrap (although 10 minutes later Meredith and I had to pull over the car as I thought I was going to lose it… thankfully it stayed down).

Needless to say, this was my first experience with such severe stomach reactions during a run. I have never had the complete inability to take down calories of any kind. I still find myself puzzled over the cause… likely a combination of things including the heat and falling behind early on hydration (?). I suppose it was just one of those days. On the positive side (got to find at least one) my legs felt great over the next few days. It was as though I had barely run at all (perhaps the training paid dividends in some way). But nevertheless, I definitely have come to the conclusion that I need to seriously reassess my general approach to nutrition during racing and training more generally. In retrospect, I was probably inadequately fuelling my body for many of the weeks I was training at the volume I was (explains a few of the low patches I had perhaps). This will certainly be one of my points of focus over the next month as I prepare for Where’s Waldo 100km at the end of August.

In the end the best I can do is learn from the experience and move forward.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Week in Review: June 28-July04

Ominous looking skies to the West near the top of Lynn Peak

28/06/2010: 9.5 miles (1:15) Out in the PM after work for an easy recovery run as is my customary routine after the weekend. Felt good the entire effort to the extent that I had to consciously tell myself to slow down on numerous occasions. I still ended up doing the run faster than I wanted but honestly I just listened to my body and went with it.

29/06/2010: 4 miles (1:40) Up and Down the BCMC with Meredith. Fun climb. It started to hail about half way down which surprisingly hurt as they pelted off our exposed neck, arms, and back.

30/06/2010: 9 miles (1:08) Headed out in the AM before work and did my customary run from my apartment to Lynn Headwaters and then returning. Overall, a fairly uneventful run with no major highs or lows. Body feels good.

01/07/2010: 10.5 miles (1:38) Had the day off work because it was Canada day!! Meredith and I ran from behind Park Royal up to the Suspension bridge and looped around that area for a while. It was pleasant running through the rolling yet forgiving terrain. PM: 6 miles (2:26) Closed the day with a hike up Lynn Peak to satisfy the vertical for the day.

Hanging out on top; the view to the Southeast from the top of Lynn Peak

02/07/2010: 9 miles (1:12) Replicated my run from Monday evening but felt about ten times worse. Had pretty crappy energy the whole time and then my stomach really started to give me grief. Got it done though and actually started to feel better by the last couple of miles; unfortunately, had to go to work by that point.

03/07/2010: 12 miles (2:00) Ran from my apartment down to Intrariver park, up to the Lynn Headwaters. From there, I followed the Baden Powell into Deep Cove, covering the last 1/3 of the Knee Knacker course. Compared to yesterday I felt much better and just settled into a nice rhythm for the effort. Meredith met me in Deep Cove. I soaked in the ocean and then we headed off to the Farmers market. Great day.

Meredith working her way up

04/07/2010: 12.5 miles (2:26) Ran a nice little loop with Meredith. Ended up covering a very similar route that I ran yesterday but instead looped down old buck after descending the first part of Baden Powell once cresting the Seymour Grind. Followed Bridle Path to Twin bridges finishing back at Lynn Headwaters where we started. Again, enjoyed a quick (because it was so f** cold) soak in the river. Unfortunately, GI issues plagued me for the majority of the run; just felt bloated the entire time and really could not get rid of it. O well, some days are just like that I suppose.

Miles: 74
Time: 12 hours

Overall I was really pleased with this week. The mileage was where I wanted it to be and I was able to keep all my runs at a relatively low distance. Despite a bit of GI issues, my body seemed to feel pretty good. I will likely take it easy this week (although the weather is improving which may be too tempting to resist; plus I hate tapering because it means I have to run less). Knee Knacker 50km is this Saturday and I would like to put in a solid effort for this race. It is a classic on the North Shore and one that always presents itself as a significant challenge. Last year I ran the race for the first time finishing with a 5:58 (15th. Obviously, I would like to improve in both respects and feel this is realistic given the complicating stomach issues I experienced last year that set me back a good 8 minutes.

Recently checking out my personal log, the last two months have been great for me in terms of training. I have kept injuries at bay and managed to log 667 miles over the past nine weeks (74.1 weekly avg) taking a sporadic 7 days off over the 63 day stretch. Moreover, I have fit in a nice training-block over the last 30 days only taking 1 day off. Cumulatively, this is definitely one of my best stretches of training and something I am actually quite proud of (given my injuries late last year). We will see if it pays off in terms of racing... Either way, just spending that much time running and being out on the trails and on my feet is satisfaction/ pleasure enough and truly what I extrapolate the most enjoyment from.

Running: Why we do it...

This week I had a nagging question that simply would not leave my mind. It is one that intermittently enters my head and inevitably so as I continue to log more and more miles/hours running. The question is simple: "why do I run?"

This question is so obviously straightforward but often causes me to engage in erratic forms of circular reasoning. I struggle to express the answer in a lot of ways. Perhaps because the answer is so personal; innately selfish and only "mine" that I just cannot find the adequate depth of language to really convey how I feel. Or, perhaps I actually believe that my response is inadequate in many ways to justify my attachment (read obsession) to the activity.

Whatever the reason, I have come to realize that despite running being such a personal experience, the consequences of it can affect those around me and attached to my life in significant ways. I was always aware of this fact but I think I failed to appreciate the potency and magnitude of its force. When one commits, at the minimum 10-15 hours a week engaging in any form of activity they are bound to be either taking away from or worse, neglecting other aspects of their life. When it comes to running, this represents just the raw minimum; when in fact one must also consider the countless extracurricular activities associated to running (eg. recovery, massage, stretching, blogging, etc). Furthermore, the emotional and physiological ups and downs that occur during a span of logging some 300+ miles a month is itself a strenuous component. In this way, it is as though everything else becomes dictated by the single activity of running.

At a personal level I have accepted these as par-the-course; but what I ignored was the implications they have on those around me and the affect they have on other more important aspects of my life. I suppose in this way it all comes down to perspective and priority. Do I love to run: absolutely. Do I need to run: on some level, I think I actually do. But if it meant losing other aspects of my life that truly make me the person I am (relationships, family, etc), the answer would be simple and the choice would be easy and running would certainly find itself down on the priority list.