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.