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!