Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hmmm, well that year didn't suck

Holy smoke show that was a fun year. 2014 was filled with globe trotting, course records, group running adventures, personal bests, injuries, and a boat full of valuable lessons. Instead of irritating  my readers with the bore of going over this years races and adventures, I've compiled a list of the lessons I learnt from another year spent doing what I love.

1. It takes longer than three weeks to fully recover from running a hard 100K.
2. When you wear a Santa suit trail runners want to sit on your lap, unfortunately they were mostly men.
3. Self doubt will minimize you to a speck of gelatinous goo
4. Slowing down and taking in your surroundings is needed at times and for me this year rivaled any religious experience.
5. The body will achieve only what the mind allows.
6. A good pair of shoes is everything, find yours and understand that the grass is not greener on the other side.
7. RD's and volunteers are worth there weight in gold, next time you see one, kiss him/her.
8. Running for your country really is the coolest thing EVER!
9. You can't run away from your injuries. Be honest with yourself, stop and get help.
10. Lows don't have to happen. Fuel will keep you stable and can easily get you out of trouble. Find a formula and stick to your plan.
11. Being a pace bunny is fun as hell!
12. If training becomes a chore STOP!
13. Post race beers are a thing of beauty but only taste good when shared with others.
14. When dropping from a race don't pout. DNF's happen in this sport and there are a lot of other runners still running who can use your support and cheer.
15. Take a front row seat and pace a friend. Then only can you observe the true strength of your buddy.
16. Fight the war against depletion. Eat well, eat plenty and get lots of sleep.
17. Cowboy hats are dead sexy.
18. Run on tired legs as much as you can. Speed you need but long makes you damn strong.
19. You are only as good as the people supporting you. Thank them and tell them you love them.
20. The thought of loved ones can drive you to places you never thought were possible. At the end of the day this is just a sport but love knows no boundaries.
21. Patience does work, go figure.
22. Eating a lot of meat in a 24 hour run is doable and quite enjoyable.
23. Vitamins B6 and B12 ROCK!!! (RE7!!)
24. Running on tile and uneven brick equal getting attacked by a polar bear.
25. Sleep high, train low works...in my opinion.
26. The relationships you have with your Physiotherapist, Sports Doctor, Massage Therapist and Dietitian are gold. Listen to them and see them as often as you can.
27. Consuming eggnog and running ends very badly.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Festive Fuel

Just imagine, you are seated at a table, surrounded by friends and family this Christmas. Carolers are heard singing from a neighbours porch while the children merrily run around frolicking about as good children do. In front of you lies a spread of all your favourite delectable holiday dishes such as homemade apple pie, roasted yams, pumpkin pie and yes your favorite, a giant turkey, moist and ready to be devoured. You lean forward to carve the beast and... SNAP OUT OF IT!!!

Reality is those foods did exist and were consumed in a different environment. They were eaten in a meticulous nature all day and night while running the Desert Solstice 24 hour race on December 13-14th. Don't believe me, well think again and get this IT WORKED PERFECTLY. No gut issues, no highs or lows, just a constant stream of fuel all day that propelled me (if not for my stupid knee) to the best performance to date. The reason why I'm writing this post is we all know fuelling in our sport is hard to get right. In fact it could be the main reason for cratering and failure. If I found a formula that works for me then hell, some variation of it might work for you too.

I spoke with my dietitian Samara Felesky Hunt a few days before the race. This was my first 24 hour track race and I new a different fuelling strategy would be needed but I didn't know what. She described to me in detail how she wanted me eat every 30 minutes taking in around 150 calories and alternate between fructose and glucose. She explained they both use very different channels of absorption thus maximizing how much fuel the stomach could handle while running. An example of the fructose she wanted me to eat was: home made apple sauce, pears (skinned), watermelon and blueberries. The glucose was: pureed pumpkin (with a tbsp of sugar and a dash of cinnamon), syrup waffles, roasted yams and the classic gel. Upon every third hour I'd substitute one of the glucose feedings out for three turkey meatballs, YEAH, that's what I wrote, TURKEY MEATBALLS! Like my first kiss, this blew my mind! I've never eaten meat while running and before this conversation seemed like an awful idea that would end with me spending a long time in the porta potti. But I trust Samara whole heartedly and agreed in taking a risk.

Fast forward to 14 hours into the race, I noticed a lot of runners already having GI issues track side. Some vomiting, some bonking and some with extended or frequent bathroom stops. Myself, I felt golden, none of these issues bothered me. I didn't and would proceed not to have any bowel movements and felt a constant stream of energy all day. Twenty-two minutes later I crossed the 100 mile mark in first place and feeling good moving steadily towards my larger goal of 250K that day. I ended up running until the 18.5 hour mark when my knee and ankle blew up on me but until that point I felt like I nailed the nutrition that day.

I learnt a number of things that day. I think the number one thing was that my body runs very well with a constant supply of protein. I plan on trying eggs next. Vitamin B loading with RE7 is the way to go. Homemade apple sauce ROCKS! It was by far my favourite food going. I put it in Salomon soft flasks, take off the lid and squeeze it when needed. Pumpkin was an absolute delight. Go figure that Vets give pumpkin to dogs to settle there stomachs so why not us nutty old runners. The final thing I learnt was by alternating between fructose and glucose I was at times able to squeeze up to 400 calories into this Homer Simpson gut, crazy right?!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Desert Solstice 24 hour

Beauty after the rain
Okay, okay, maybe I haven't recovered from Doha. As I stood track side upon the 197K mark (491 laps) with a stabbing/burning pain in my right anterior lateral knee I looked upon my watch. It read 18hrs20min, that means all I needed to do was to run another 46K in 5hrs40min to break the Canadian 24hr record. My steady pace of 6-6:15min/km pace I was holding just before my leg blew was a very realistic goal I thought. Displaying positivity but feeling  frustrated I hobbled the remaining 9 laps to finish with a 200K day.

Wanna talk intimidating, how about lining up with 25 of the best 24 hour runners in North America to run as many 400 meter loops of a track as possible in one day, shit! Oh, and by the way, I'm a rookie. Either entirely arrogant or downright stupid, the gun rang and I moved along with the big names of the sport. I quickly fell into my "loosen up" pace and decided to shake things out for the first hour. The mood and energy amongst the volunteers, crews, and racers was electric. The second hour I slowed to my all day pace of 5:15min/km pace and found myself still moving faster than the majority in the group. At this point I had to question myself: was this either unrealistic or, if I do slow down am I once again selling
Misti, John, and Catherine
myself short, so I did what any rookie would do, I kept the pace. My fantastic crew members, John Hubbard, Misti Press Sayani, and Cathrine Deveau kept me on track with fueling. THANKS GUYS! My dietician Samara Feleski Hunt suggested fueling every 30 minutes transitioning between fructose and glucose such as apple sauce then syrup waffles, watermelon then mashed pumpkin. All the time drinking RE7 to fight the war on depletion especially with the crazy amounts of vitamins and minerals RE7 drink offers. This fueling strategy worked flawlessly and will be my mainstay moving forward. I brought my cowboy hat because the forecast was calling for a lot of rain but the rain seemed to halt one hour before the race start. Even though it was a cool day I thought it a good idea to wear the hat to keep the sun off my head. This brought on a big reaction from the other racers and volunteers, the only thing missing was a horse to ride into the sunset. Okay, okay, back to the race. Around the 9 hour mark a brief rain came down just enough to dampen our skin, this left us with the most beautiful double rainbow I've seen in years and you know what they say about rainbows: they
Photo from Ron Ceton
are good luck. Minutes after that, the race officials told me that I was the new overall leader. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR...this was not part of the plan! In all fairness, I did notice that some runners went out hard and yes many runners were stopped on the sidelines hurting but keeping track of who was in front of me was never a concern because lets face it, I'm a rookie hood rat. At this point something really cool happened. One of my long time running idols Joe Fejes was running on the track, as I passed him he had some very positive things to say about my performance so far. He mentioned I looked very smooth and in control, I told him I very much looked up to him. I ran away from that discussion with a hell of a lot more confidence. THANKS JOE!

At the Desert Solstice there are two races, the 100 mile and the 24 hour and I just found out around the 70 mile mark that I was in the lead. Two things crossed my mind, first, I'd really like to win the 100 mile and secondly to not go overboard with quickening your pace to arrive at the 100 mile mark and suffer after that. My goal going into this race was to run 24 hours the best I could. So I decided that no matter what pressures exist from behind, will stay in my comfortable zone. John Cash (the US national 24 hour champion) was quickly closing in on me. I asked John whenever he passed me how he was doing, he said all things were coming together and his day was settling in
Cool trophy with inflamed feet
nicely. Holy smokes that boy looked solid! It got awful close but I came through the 100 mile mark in first place in a time of 14hrs22min. ALRIGHT!!! After the feelings of elation passed I was left with the gross realization of the remaining task. I decided to take a couple minutes walk break to calculate what I needed to do from here on in. I walked a lap with my buddy Dennene Huntley and we discussed the race so far. We calculated all I need to do was to run another 82K in 9hrs36min to break the Canadian 24 hour record. I felt this was very doable.

As confident as I was at this point, there was a building concern I wasn't disclosing to anyone maybe even hoping it would quietly go away on its own. My right anterior lateral knee was burning. It was a sensation I remember all to well about 10 years ago when I suffered Patellofemoral Syndrome.

The very best support crew
After walking the lap with Dennene I started running again but this felt laboured. My knee felt as if there was a rope grinding over a sharp jagged surface slightly fraying little by little.  Upon completing the 491 lap John handed me a cup of Coke, stopping long enough to drink it I took a stride and STAB! I'm pretty sure I yelled in pain. I hope it was something clever like "Kelly Clarkson". John, Misti, and Catherine were on me like white on rice. The problem was, the longer I stood around the stiffer it'll got. I tried running, another yelp rang out. I told them I needed to walk and by doing so maybe the the knee would loosen but I already knew this was the end of my day. I walked a lap, we taped my knee, put anti-inflammatory cream on, nothing was helping. So there I was at 492 laps in a lot of pain, funny thing is the qualifying time to make the Canadian team is 200K and I was only 3K shy. Shrunken and beaten I limped the final 8 laps to complete the 200K.

The negatives: There are none besides the fact I need to recover from whatever damage I sustained.

The positives: This was a major confidence boost! Before this race I questioned if I should even run in an event with runners of this caliber but now I know not only can I run with them but maybe, given the day, even in front of them.

photo from Israel the Runner
Big thank yous go out to my crew for sacrificing a weekend to support my odd habits. The wonderful Findlay family for accommodating and entertaining us all weekend, you really went above and beyond! John from RE7 for entertaining us and providing the tent and product at the race. My family back in Black Diamond for without your support none of this would be at all possible. Thanks to Gord's Running Store and New Balance for your amazing support. Big thanks to the organizers at the Desert Solstice for putting on a top notch event. A special thanks to my mom and dad who came out and loudly gave there love and support all day and night. In fact, the most special moment of the race came at the 100 mile finish line when all I could hear coming from the group was my fathers voice yelling "That's my boy!"

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why not me, why not today

Feeling fully recovered from Doha, next week I will be running my first timed event as an ultra marathoner. The Desert Solstice 24hr held on December 13th is an invitational race where 30 runners will circle a 400 meter track from 8am Saturday to 8am Sunday trying to rack up as many miles as possible within that period. This format eliminates most obstacles a runner faces when trying to run as far as possible ie: no hills, fuel and hydration are always close by, washrooms are track side, and the proximity allows you to not have to carry a heavy pack or handheld. All of which add up over time.

My fitness is good and my body is healthy. My single fear entering into this race is my mental push.  When trail running in the mountains one is bombarded with distractions but looping a 400 meter track for a day the mind can be a game changer, either pushing you or leave you sitting on your ass contemplating life itself.

My mantra this race will be "Why not me, why not today". This is specific to this event because I'm attempting on my first 24hr event to break the Canadian open record set by Peter Holubar in 1990 of 242.918 kilometres. Now its out there, I better not wet the bed. Much like a porn star, my definition of long has changed over the years. I find myself no longer intimidated by big distances but rather excited about the new challenges that go with obtaining such feats.

Yiannis Kouros
I was up last night watching the biography about Yiannis Kouros called Forever Running. This hour long video highlights Yiannis's achievements most notably his standing world record of 303K kilometres in 24 hours among other jaw dropping world records. There were three quotes that struck me in this film: "Without patience, you will never conquer endurance." Secondly, "The verb endure is not a physical verb, its a spiritual one, endure means to withstand." Lastly, "To run 24, 48 hours, or 6 days. No one completes the race via his body but via his mind." Needless to say, I got a lot from watching this. His all encompassing strength is admirable and I can only wish to one day have a fraction of his badassness.

I'm also really looking forward to having my Mom and Dad coming out to the race. They live in Southern Arizona and will be driving up to take in the event. Me and my father have drawn close over the last several years and its odd to say that he has never seen me run an ultra. Now if there was ever a time to draw from his strength, this would be the time. I'm a very fortunent dude to have two amazing human beings to call Mom and Dad. Love you guys and see you soon.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One night in Doha

Have you ever been kicked by a donkey? I mean an angry mofo donkey with an attitude problem. Well I haven't but it sure feels like I have since running the IAU world 100K championships in Doha, Qatar last week. I know what you are all saying, hey isn't that a flat, fast road 100K? To all you trail runners who think there is nothing harder than a technical climbers course I'd like to take this opportunity to discus with you the style of course that taught me a whole new lesson in hurt, the hard surface road 100K. In training for this event I spent most of my miles running the Calgary asphalt pathways trying to simulate the surface conditions I will be facing in Doha. Sadly, after running 20, 5K loops of mostly tile and uneven brick, the small sections of asphalt felt like a billowy soft, very welcomed portion to the course. Never before have ran on these surfaces. I found myself with a new found reverence for such an event bringing upon an entirely new array of symptoms such as headaches, neck stiffness, difficulty swallowing and rib pain. Now, before I get too ahead of myself let me back things up and start from the beginning.
Elena Tabelev assisting me at the Canadian booth. Photo by Melissa Jean Woodside
The day started at noon when I awoke from a nine hour sleep. A major goal I had going into the race was to wake on race day as late as I possibly could knowing the race start was scheduled for 6pm. Simply put: if I were to wake at my normal 7am time and race eleven hours later I'd either wet or shit the bed neither of which would smell good. So with an odd little fist pump I knew I was already ahead of the eight ball. The day was chill, ate good food and relaxed as much as possible. Before getting ready I saw Alissa St. Laurent by the pool, she was going through her quiet prep work herself. When I asked her how she felt she answered "I'm ready to hurt", this phrase I used many times throughout the race. Boy, she's a stone cold killer. I retired to my hotel room to do my final prep before heading to the start line. My plan was to wear my New Balance 1400's but luckily enough when talking with Michael Wardian from the USA he convinced me the New Balance 980's were the right move going for more cushion over a speedy flat.

I got pretty emotional when I applied the personal tattoos Sharon and the kids made for me to wear when racing. Sharon made me a cool maple leaf with dedication names around in a circle. Julia made me a lightning bolt with the words faster than a lightning beam. Sam wanted me to have Darth Maul cuz he's a bad ass tough dude and Adele wanted we to wear a pink butterfly to confuse others about my sexual preferences. Joking aside, I was in tears walking to the race start firstly cuz I missed my crew like mad and secondly that I have so much support from my loved ones.

The gun sounded at 6pm and the crowd of skinny people from all over the world shot forward. The temperature was 19 degrees with high humidity and not much wind, bloody perfect condition for an event like this. Once again I got wrapped up in the excitement of the mass start and moved along with the group. My splits, like clockwork came up on my gps consistently between 4:00-4:10 kilometres. This scared the shit out of me, even the Darth Maul tattoo on my wrist was voicing his concern but the pace felt effortless and my heart rate was crazy low so I decided to make like a prom date and just go with the flow. The first 30K flew by super fast, still feeling fresh as a daisy I realized every split was between 3:55 and 4:10. I now have committed, this was going to be very good or end very bad. For no other reason than to exercise relative patience my pace slowed slightly between 30-50K. I passed through the half marathon distance at 1:26, Marathon at 2:55, and 50K at 3:30 all of which I was over the moon with. The speed could have been due to the fast course, maybe the amazing runners alongside me, or maybe the fact that I slept in a high altitude Hypoxico tent for the 4 weeks leading to the event. The week leading into the race the Aspire Sports Institute put on presentations divulging evidence that the sleep high, train low adaptations that I was implementing in my training could lead to an improvement in race day performance at an event like this one. Either way I feel very comfortable saying that I was racing well above my pay grade, just saying.

Sebastien Roulier, Me, Alicia Woodside,
Alissa St. Laurent, Dennene Hunley,
Oleg Tabelev, and Kiriam Thompson
Just after the halfway point of the race something odd started happening. My hamstrings and quadriceps started quivering then cramping. Whenever I'm having electrolyte issues its my calves that always argue first. I though this was strange until I looked around and started noticing other runners grabbing at there legs in a similar way. From that point on, the violent nature of this hard surface course took its toll on my battered body. The gentle flow was now replaced with the pounding of joint with the soft tissues of the body trying to somewhat minimized the damage being created. The headaches started around 50K, the jaw pain around 60K all the time stopping every couple kilometres to stretch or massage my cramping hams. Just after the 80K mark I had the honour of being chicked by the worlds best, Ellie Greenwood. We exchanged words of encouragement and I just knew there would be no woman able to match what she was doing that evening.

Despite the discomfort I was going through it was nothing compared to what my fellow Canadian runners went through that night. It maybe that we are used to the the soft nature of trail running back home or it could be that performing well after travelling to distant countries is a challenge unto itself but its safe to say the majority of Canadians didn't have banner races.

The final 10K of the race started feeling manageable again. Maybe a sense of numbness and "lets get this damn thing over with" came over me but my pace increased. After 7hrs37min and 45sec after starting I crossed the finish line in 37th place. This being my first time representing my country as an ultra  marathoner I couldn't be a happier camper and have never felt as much pride as to call myself a  Canadian. The support I received on the course from the other runners, our support crew and our coach Armand LeBlanc was second to none. It made me smile when I found out that Sharon and the kids were following the live feed all day. Even better, my Mom and Dad had there entire retirement residence down in Yuma, Arizona glued to the results as they came in.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mile whore

Last week's training put hair on my chest. Though rough, that training was essential so that I may put in solid performances for both the World 100K's in Doha, Qatar on Nov. 21 and the Desert Solstice 24hr on Dec. 13 in Phoenix. A friend was asking me how do I train for two tough races with only enough time in between to recover - I thought it would make for a cool post. So here it goes.

Peak week started on Saturday Nov. 1st at the West Bragg Creek parking lot. The snow was coming down creating a crazy beautiful backdrop as a few friends and I embarked on the Moose Packer trail soon connecting to Moose Mountain trail. When running up the scree section approaching the summit the visibility diminished and we sought safety in turning around and returning to the tree line. The early season powder was an absolute joy to cruise down making me grin ear to ear. We got down to the start point and I really wanted to giv'er on a newly created trail called Merlin's View. However given the conditions, the fact that none of us had run it before, it had become pitch dark and there were no other vehicles in the lot; we decided against it and decided to acquire a few more miles on the road. Excellent first run done and 35K in the bag.

Early Sunday morning Nov. 2nd, after enjoying an extra hour of sleep, I woke to a snow covered Pneuma trail (another approach to Moose mountain). This is a gradual 10K climb followed by 10K of rip roaring downhill fun making you look around to hug the first tree in sight.  We took it easy on the climb and enjoyed every drop of the winding descent. A super fun 20K was a nice addition to the big week ahead.

Living in Black Diamond and starting work early in downtown Calgary, a guy's got to get up fairly early. Monday Nov. 3rd, my alarm went off at 4:30 am. Got up, ate and arrived in the office at 6:30 am. While I worked, my appointments at the end of my day started cancelling. There must be a bug going around. This gave me the opportunity to start my run earlier than expected. I laced up my shoes at 4:00 pm and hit the road. Given the next two races are on flat road and track, I wanted to avoid hills and run flat, boring pathways. Flat pathways are easy to find heading east along the Chestemere canal. Fueled by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Metallica and Nine Inch Nails I felt the run was almost effortless. With all systems firing I had the best run I had this week. Upon completion I bagged a solid 60K and felt damn good about it, letting out a couple whoops when getting back to my car at Anderson LRT station. 

Bringing sexy back in the Hypoxico tent
With Tuesday Nov. 4th as a rest day I got a lot of errands done. Spent some great time with my three monkeys and rested. Then had an early bedtime in my Hypoxico tent set at 11,500 ft.

Wednesday Nov. 5th was yet again an early start. I awoke at 3:45 am to make it downtown for an uber early physiotherapy appointment with Tyson Plesuk. Tyson was pleased with how my body was holding up. After having my poor hips impaled by IMS needles, I started treating my patients at 7:00 am. The day flew by and at 6:00 pm I hit the road for my run. From downtown I ran west to the Glenmore reservoir then south to Fish Creek park to meet up with my buddy John Hubbard. John has had recent success winning both the Lost Soul 100M and the Ironhorse 100K but has since pulled the plug on the grind which I'm sure is both benefiting his body and mind. We ran an 11K loop out from his house talking the whole time about family stuff and my upcoming races. It's good rapping with him, I always feel centered afterward. Once we finished our run he fed me leftover dinner and drove me back to my car. What a scholar, a gentleman, a pimp and a thief. Tonight's run was 36K creeping my weekly total to 151K with still my big run to go.

New Balance 980's
Another rest day was a welcome gift on Thursday Nov. 6th. This day was filled with all the typical daddy type stuff you'd expect a dad to do. Ran some errands, cooked, baked and did some games and homework with the monkeys. Hit the hay early in my Hypoxico tent to ready my body for the final grind before the taper.

My alarm sounded at 4:30 am on Friday Nov. 7th. The Hypoxico tent was set at 12,000 ft and I felt rested. Fueled by a cup of joe I started my work day ever so excited about my final long run that evening. That day I learned of a running buddy's minor injury he sustained by (in my opinion) cramming in too many miles in prep for an upcoming event. That got me thinking. Am I being too greedy? Is this week too much for my body to handle? At 6:00 pm I laced my brand new pair of NB 980's and hit the road for my last grind. The number 70 seemed reasonable but was that over doing it? The moonlight run was going very well averaging a comfortable 4:45 min/km pace until along the Chestemere canal pathway I ran into a construction blockage. For 5 minutes I tried to get around the blockade. I then started to laugh, it struck me, this is divine intervention if I've ever seen it. If I turned around right then and there it would end up being a 55K run. Hell, that's a pretty good fricken day! I thought "You greedy bastard, turn around and be smart for once in your life!" and that I did. The rest of the run felt like a hot knife through butter, a perfect way to finish a productive week in prep for my two biggest races of my young running career. Arriving back at my car with my GPS reading 54.2K, I let out a "Yaaaahoo!" I'm feeling good and ready for Qatar and Phoenix.

RE7 at the "Notch" on the Skyline trail in Jasper
My weekly mileage ended up being 205K. Call me a mile whore but I'm very pleased with the quality kilometres within this week. What can I say, I'm one hell of a lucky duck. Without the support of my family, Gord's Running Store, New Balance and RE7 sports drink, none of this would be possible.

Now lets go see what these old, tattered legs can do.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Grizzly Ultra

Finish line shot taken by Philippe Legace
I had three goals going into yesterdays Grizzly 50K. One was to have a solid tempo day finishing off a 100M week in preparation for the world 100K championships on November 21 in Qatar. Second, to go out slower than last years blistering pace set forth by studs like Duncan, Kuba, and Francois. Thirdly to run without a visor or hat and show off my newly grown long locks.

Shortly after the gun sounded I found myself alongside Devin Featherstone trotting away at a comfortable pace well slower than last years vomiting inducing one, this made me happy. Its a lot easier to do when you have a partner in crime deciding to induce the same tactics. Around the 7K mark we found ourselves running off course, we ran around 1K off course, stood around for a minute, scratched our heads and ran back from where we came from, where, to our chagrin we saw 5 big signs pointing us to the right, duh! It might have been my over the top cheering and high fiving other runners but I blame Devin for pointing out the smoking hot chicks and keeping my head on a constant swivel either way, finding yourself off course is apart of trail running. We got back on course and settled into a groove again. I didn't quite get comfortable until the 20 K mark, at that point I found myself slowly pulling away for Devin. Only a couple minutes later I bit it on a rocky descent, double rolled out of it and kneeled there for a second doing a systems check. My shoulder felt achy and right calf tightened but otherwise was a full go. Devin caught up and i cruised with him for awhile. In the next 5K my calf really started to shorten and with my "A" race in November I was cool pulling the plug if need be but at the beginning of the third leg the tightened eased and my stride opened again.

The third leg was fun, unlike last year when it felt like David Beckham kicked me in the nuts. I noticed that starting slower paid off and my general fitness level was better than years past. The trail in the second half of that race can be really enjoyable as long as you are not wishing upon death. I skittered lower and lower knowing very well I'd need to climb out of this hell I was burying myself in and my climbing legs were stowed somewhere between boxes in my attic. The climb out of leg three wasn't as disgusting as I remember and arrived back at the staging area to start leg 4 still feeling fresh.

Richard Reid, Tyson Smith, and me
The climb at the beginning of leg 4 reminded me of the limited climbing I've done this year but in my defence my fall calendar is riddled with super flat endurance events. The remainder of leg 4 flew by and the super fun descent was as delicious as pumpkin pie. The only thing that was missing was company. From the beginning of leg 3 I did not see another runner in sight, this made me sad and lonely. I was having so much fun I would love to share it with someone. I could of sworn that if a tree spoke to me I would talk back and even give it a hug… oh come on, lets not pretend you've never done it?

Starting leg 5 my right lower leg started to tighten again but only upon the climbing so I decided to back off on the intensity and not aggravate things any further. Leg 5 runs parallel to many other trails of previous legs, this was fun cuz I'd see many of my friends enjoying the trails just as much as I was. I finished in 3rd place and in a time of 4:26 still feeling relatively fresh. Given the extra K my time was about the same as last year but the effort and enjoyment made this years Grizzly ultra an absolute success and a boost in confidence going into my fall/winter race schedule. Congrats go out to Tyson Smith and Richard Reid with finishing strong in 1st and 2nd places respectively. Big congrats to Nadine Mueller for finishing in 4:37 in first and setting a new CR but most of all thanks to Grizzly mountain events and all there volunteers for once again putting on a world class event.

As for my three goals going into the race, the first two were a success. As for the hair thing, I had a few comments comparing me to Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber.

The dead sexy Jeff Daniels

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A pacer's tale

Finish line
Last year I ran my first 100 miler at the Lost Soul ultra in Lethbridge AB. Successfully I won the race in 21hrs 26min and overall was very happy with my performance. It was only fitting that when my best friend John Hubbard told me he was running his first miler at Lost Soul that I be the dude crewing him. Last year my pacer and brother Dan Proctor played a key roll in getting me to the finish line. At one point during the final stretch he even open hand smack me upside the face to wake me from a sudden sleep spell. Later he told me he enjoyed it but I still think it was his way of showing his undivided love for his little brother.

Friday September 5th the gun went off at 8:00am and that's when I accepted the roll of crewing John. The day before I learned that my friend Alissa St. Laurent  who was running the 100K didn't have crew. I volunteered to help her whenever I could. Cumulatively during those two days I ended up sporadically crewing many of my buddies which I found exhilarating.

John would run the first two laps (106K) then I'd join him for the final 54K. All throughout the day I drove from aid station to aid station helping out as many runners as possible. The front runners would make their way through the aid stations as quick as possible whereas most runners would arrive at the stations, regroup, fuel and get back out on the trail. The stations are always one of a kind. Stocked with slushy machines, BBQ salmon, bacon, burgers, a ton of fruit and yes...even a chocolate fondu machine! It's impossible to leave an aid station not feeling upset you can't stay longer.

Over eager pacer
The funniest crew mishap that happened that day was I was running alongside Alissa entering the Pavan aid station. She asked me if I could put some pink powder from her pack into her bottle. My clumsy hands seemed to rip the baggy completely in half releasing a large pink pixie dust cloud all over me. Alissa stopped and started laughing hysterically. Well, the rest of the day I guess I was wearing pink.

Meanwhile, John was sitting comfortably in 3rd or 4th place for the first 50M. He looked strong and in control whereas his competitors were starting to show signs of fading. I knew that John's strength was really going to come into play into the wee hours of the morning. John is a very mentally strong dude who always needs to finish what he started. John and I do loads of training together. We feed off each other's energy and our meeting time is almost always at night after the kids go down to bed. Night running and John Hubbard went together like peanut butter and jam. We would run so often at night it almost seemed strange to run during daylight hours. Running at night after a long work day sucks and we'd often say "Embrace the suck!" I proudly wore my shirt displaying that very saying while I crewed my best bud that race day.

Heading out on final north loop
Around 9:00pm I was getting ready for my pacer role at the start/finish line for the long, overnight trek with John helping him through the final lap, the last 53K of this grueling course. I had all my gear but most importantly I had a speaker in my pack blaring rock music and 75 glow sticks attached to my body trying to get a rise from my exhausted compadre. We departed on the south loop, just a short 7K loop before heading out on the larger 46K north loop. John who was solid and looked in control all day started showing signs of fading. We got back to HQ, drank a Red Bull and learnt we had a 7 minute lead. A friend told us that Majo Snrik was looking strong and was asking how far he was behind John; Majo was hungry for a win. Not only that Philippe Legace was not far behind Majo. Now a bit scared, we left HQ to tackle the two hardest legs on the course. As we ran down the first coulee John and I had the same thought, "GAP LAP." We needed to gap Majo and Philippe enough in the next 20K that essentially the race would be over. Even if John is feeling destroyed, the chasers would feel so hopeless that they would give up the chase. It was impressive to watch John run like a stalked prey. I don't know if it was the Red Bull or running scared shitless but John seemed to find another gear. I kept turning around and telling him how impressive this pace was. He kept saying he was not at all comfortable with a 7 minute lead. When we got to the Pavan aid station, roughly the 130K mark we saw two friends Leanne Doerksen and Dennene Huntley. Dennene ran the 100K earlier and Leanne crewed her. Needless to say they were dog tired but there they were coffee in hand committing to crew us the rest of the race. We left that aid station not knowing what John's lead was but knew he ran damn well. If
John and Majo after finishing
Philippe or Majo could keep the 7 minute gap, then kudos to them. I was so proud watching John run away and up the next coulee, still not satisfied with his lead. I received a text from Leanne 16 minutes later telling me Majo ran straight through the aid station only stopping long enough to ask where John was. She said he looked strong. John turned to me and said he still wasn't comfortable with the new 16 minute lead. I told him there was a flat section ahead where we could carry some serious speed. John was hunched, quiet and obviously exhausted, yet the idea of winning was the carrot on the string that made him not only maintain but accelerate his pace. With 1K to go before the Pavan aid station, roughly the 147K mark, I ran ahead to get his drink and food ready allowing a crazy fast transition. Knowing that Dennene and Leanne would leave for the Pennaquim aid station I asked a friend if he could text me when Majo came in. We skittered right out of there, still moving at an unreal speed given this point of the race. John became more talkative, his spirit was lifting and 29 minutes after leaving the Pavan aid station I heard a loud beep. John immediately turned knowing we were receiving a very important text. The text read "Majo is leaving Pavan and is 29 minutes behind you and knows he is not catching." I turned to John and congratulated him on winning the Lost Soul 100miler and being the ACU 100M national champion! We high fived and that's when he said he was still not completely comfortable until he was climbing the last coulee, looks back and doesn't see a charging Eastern European hunting him down. That being said, we slowed the pace, had some good buddy time and every step was one closer to an ice cold celebratory beer. At 5:41am John Hubbard ran across the finish line as the winner of the Lost Soul 100mile!

As I reflect on what happened that night I think of how John and I met. Our friendship was forged by running at night, it only seems fair that running all through the night at Johnny's first 100 miler would be the definitive and most rewarding experience we have had together. 

Photos courtesy of Daniel Bowie

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chariots on fire

Moose mountain Aug. 24, 2014
There's nothing as breath taking as the views from atop a mountain, but whats even more spectacular is watching your children's faces as they pier upon the vast rocky mountains after there first summit and thats exactly what happened earlier this week atop Moose mountain. The 5 hour excursion with around 800m elevation was done with my 8 year old Julia hiking the entire way, my 2 younger kids Sam 5 and Adele 3 walking where they could but when the climbing and descending got too hard I put them in the jogging stroller and pushed. Bloody hell that was a task and a half! I know what you are thinking, are strollers supposed to go up mountains? The answer is probably no, but hell, our Chariot has been put through the ringer the past 8 years with little to no maintenance and has held up amazingly well.

Sometime in June 2014
Julia(3), Sam(9mths)
Eight years ago when Julia was a new born we arrived at Bow cycle to take a look at a jogging stroller called a Chariot. The unit looked good and sturdy but the price wasn't as attractive. At a whopping 700 dollars Sharon had to twist, twist, and twist my arm some more to sell me on the purchase. She said that given our active lifestyles we would get our moneys worth, I shrugged and handed over my credit card. At first we used it for short runs and family bike rides but as time went by Julia became very content and happy when riding in it. The runs got longer, I started getting interested in longer running races and we used the Chariot as a way of getting Julia to nap. Julia got older and the thought of a second child became palatable. Sam was born in 2009 and we were glad we bought a double stroller in the first place. Needless to say, pushing two monkeys is considerably harder than one, my mileage was increasing and thank god Sam
Moose mountain

Hot day selfie
was just as happy in the stroller as Julia was. March of 2010 was a sad month for the Proctors. Thats when we learnt of Sam's disability. For those of you who don't know, Sam has an undiagnosed form of Ataxia, that means he struggles with balance and coordination making  all gross and fine motor skills difficult. We didn't know it at the time but with this new knowledge the Chariot would play a key roll in all of our lives. In 2011 Adele arrived and our family was now complete. With three young children and a growing passion for distance running the Chariot became an integral part of our lives. Sometimes doing two-a-days in all weather conditions the stroller got abused. As the kids got older and Sam enjoyed Adele's company the stroller got heavier and heavier I found my legs got stronger because boy, pushing 100lbs up a hill really sucks! My running was improving especially when I wasn't behind a stroller. I started finding success in ultra running in 2012 and since have won many of the ultra events I've completed. The timing maybe a coincidence but this was right around the time the weight of the Chariot became uncomfortable.
Deep in thought on Moose

Just last year Julia asked me if she could ride in the Chariot, I laughed and said no. I asked her why and she mentioned that she likes the sound. She described it as "tap, tap, tap, tap, and Breath, breath, breath, breath. This made me smile. The idea of her childhood memories being somewhat tied to the rhythm of running leaves me thinking I've done something right.

Sam (1)
The reason I'm writing this post is that up to a few days ago I was fooled. Fooled into thinking that I was getting the lion's share of the enjoyment of running with the kids. Atop Moose mountain I was exhausted. I sat down with the kids to eat our sandwiches and my kids who normally never shut up were quiet. They were looking around at the 360 views and were dumbfounded. The enjoyment and sense of accomplishment I noticed upon there faces brought tears to my eyes. That was the moment I realized my unilateral view of the benefits I receive from the stroller have been exceeded by providing my kids active experiences and the gift of giving my son legs.

Thank you Chariot for giving our family a thousand excellent memories. Heres to all of the future experiences my two legs and those three wheels have in store.