Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Awesome Mix of Anticipation and Dread

One week-ish and counting until my next 50km race. This one will be my first 50km race in another province, the small and relatively flat province of Prince Edward Island. Yes, yes, I know it has hills, but no one takes them seriously. In fact, most people don't know that PEI has a ski hill! But, I've done my homework (aka reading previous racer's blogs and race reports) and then immediately emailed the Race Director for a copy of the course elevation profile to confirm what I'd read. There WILL be hills, and lots of them. The big bonus for me though is the lack of any flat-face, rope-assisted rock climbing this time around (unlike the last 50k - right Josh? :-). I'm feeling confident about my food (which actually is really surprising given my lack of serious distance long runs), and I'm taking my Salomon hydration pack with me which can hold up to 2 liters plus two extra 500ml bottles-I can't say enough how much I love my pack! My biggest issue right now is holding myself back from doing too much cross training. I keep reminding myself that there's nothing I can do right now that will make a difference in a week so I'm better off not pushing myself to exhaustion prior to the race. But it's SOOO tempting. My runs haven't improved a lot over the past couple of weeks but my speed has improved by about a minute per mile, which has been nice to see. I think my legs needed this time to do these daily, hilly, shorter (2-5 miles) runs and although they don't help my endurance I know they will help with the hill climbing to come. I have managed a couple of 10 milers (nothing close to the distance I should be running for a long run) but they've been at least some form of long distance running. The muscle pain during the second lap of the course is the part that I'm dreading as a result of my lack of long distance-specific training. But I'll tackle that monster like I usually do, and solider on. Right now I'm keeping my mind busy with logistical details; who is taking care of our dog (THANKS MOM!!), where we'll camp, how far away the camp site is to the race site, stocking up on food and Powerade, debating which shirt to wear, what clothes to put in my drop bag, if I should ask for my birthday present early and break in a new pair of shoes before the know..the usual stuff. It's keeping me from getting the taper-crazies, at least for now. Well I hope to see some familiar faces out there next week; maybe Jodi or Karine will run this one (Karine just finished a 100 miler last week so I doubt it, she's earned her rest!), Micheal (who was the first Canadian to run non-stop across PEI two years ago), or maybe my snot-rocket guru Gordon, or some folks from the Halifax Trail club, we will see. So far the 50km group has 18 runners registered, more than the other distances offered that day-Go Ultra Runners-they know where the fun is at! But no matter what distance you do this week or the next just get out there and have fun.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Shoe Review! Merrell's Mix Master

Okay, okay. I know I had said the NB Ionix shoes were "My" running shoes-they still are! I still have 2 identicial pairs I swear! However, during my family trip to Florida this spring I picked up a pair of Merrell Mix Master shoes because they have a bit more grip and cushion. In the past 3 months I've pretty much worn down the lugs to nothing and am now looking for a new shoe. Would I buy the Mix Master again? Yes..but as an all-around running shoe, not for the significant climbs and muddy terrain that the trail races around here consist of (right Jodi??). The Mix Master is for a minimalist runner looking for a bit more cushion and good grip on regular trails/fire roads. Alternately, they'd make a nice transition shoe for someone looking to go towards a more stripped down/miminalist shoe. Light and quick drying, they fit true to size and right away you'll notice more cushion in the forefoot if you've been running in other minimalist shoes until now. The toe box is roomy (as with most Merrell shoes) and the shoe fits well around the ankle so trail debris doesn't find its way inside very often (a problem with a lot of shoes). My biggest issue is how fast these shoes broke down. I have logged an average of around 25 miles per week (pretty low for me) these past couple of months and they broke down faster than shoes that have had twice the distance put on them. The wear pattern on the lugs is clearly visible now (most are worn down to the base) and I doubt they would offer much stability on a hilly trail in their current condition. So, all in all, I'd give these shoes a 4 out of 5. If they could have held up for another 200 miles I would have sent my Ionix shoes packing. Sadly, they didn't and I'm again searching for that perfectly lugged, minimalist trail shoe that won't beat up my feet on rocky terrain or over long distances. The search continues...:-)
Merrell's Mix Master (I have a blue/purple version)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Finding my Happy Place

Vermont 100/200 Race Course
This week I'm trying to find my "Happy Place" with my running. I am enviously watching a fellow local runner run the Vermont 100 this weekend-thanks to a live feed-GO KARINE!!-from my in-laws' place. Sadly I feel like my own possibilities of ever doing a 100 is a thousand miles away right now, so I'm trying really hard to find peace in what I can (and have time to) do right now. My daily 3-4 milers are nice. I'm never exhausted but while I feel like my speed and that weird ankle numbness have improved with the shorter distance part of me is panicked at the loss of my endurance. Last weekend I went out for a 10 miler and although it was brutally hot, it was also a slog-fest. The first hour was fine but the second was a fartlek of street posts, struggling to get to one and then another. So a few days ago I decided to try and fit in any extra fitness that I could to try and combat my less than awesome endurance feats of late. My first step was a yoga class offered just down the street from where I live. When they said I cold also bring my daughter I was sold. We spent an hour of stretching and meditiating, very relaxing at the time, but the next day I was sore in spots that haven't been sore in a while. That was a nice feeling to have. Yesterday I added a little leg strengthening routine after my 4 miler which really helped me focus on my hamstring muscles (an area of weakness in my legs). So, while I might not be scampering up to some amazing vistas in Vermont, I'm trying to keep it interesting back here at home. Tomorrow I'm set to do my first 10 mile run commute TO work (its always been from work until now), so I'm looking forward to that and am very thankful I now work at a place that has amazing facilities (shower, free body cleansing products, lockers, hairdryers, curling irons, and a kick ass cafeteria). All in all, I'm doing what I can with what I've got. My diet has been pretty good...I'd give it a 90% out of 100, given my late-night sugar cravings and a steady supply of Oreos in the cupboard...who keeps buying those anyhow?! Lol. What are YOU doing to stay active and healthy?
Just Say NO...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New job and old goals

After 7 years of working for the same company-although I have to admit-the company I started with looked nothing like what it did when I originally joined, five executive teams later-it was time for me to change and move. I thankfully found a position in a competing company that has saved me about 3 hours a day in commuting time, now that's progress! With my newfound time I get to sleep in and plan actual runs, as opposed to stumbling along like a zombie and trying to squeeze in a 30 minute scramble to the bus every day. Now that I've had regular sleep again and feel human I have tried to have a good look at my overall running plan for this year, what my goals are and what I can do to achieve them. I had my big race a couple of months ago. I had packed on a few extra pounds and hadn't gotten the runs in that I should have. It wasn't a huge surprise (or let down) to find myself checking out at the 33km mark. The next week I ran a short 10k with my husband and I saw two weeks of race pictures-yikes! Clearly I had gotten off track. The hecticness of the company being bought out, the uncertainy of the transition (who would be laid off, who would be kept on and for how long) loomed over everyone I worked with for 6 months. When I heard nothing was going to change, even though promises had been made early on that things would change for the better, I had to get out of there. Clearly the extra pounds had to go as well as my old job. I've always responded really well to a high protein and fat diet, very low on the carbs, so I decided to dust that off again. So far, 6 weeks or so has passed and I've lost about 10lbs. My running though has taken much longer than I expected to get back on track. At the moment I have a solid, consistent 3ish mile run going on every day after work, but I need to go longer if I want to step up to the 50km plate again in early August at the Brookvale trail ultra in PEI. My weekends have been less than productive on the running side. Last weekend I managed a measley 10 miles over 2 days. Seriously! Me! Ugh. So, this past Sunday I thought I had a plan. From my home to my new workplace is about 10 miles. If I did that every morning (yes, my work has a gym and a shower-AWESOMENESS is that right there!!) I could get in my whole weekly mileage in 5 days. Yeeahh. That didn't work out so well yesterday...or today. God, once you get used to NOT waking up at 4:30am it's really hard to get up at 5. So, this week I'm trying to stretch out the end of my day a bit by coming into work early. If I can get in a solid hour after work before picking up my daughter at summer day camp I might have a chance to pull this race out of somewhere (use your imagination). I want to apologize to you guys though. I haven't been posting regularly as I used to, that's something else I want to change as well. I think I was in some kind of survival mode these past 6 months, worrying I wouldn't have a job, worrying about the effect my job's commute (It changed when the company was bought-we relocated to the other side of the city) was having on my family life, I just let a lot of things go by the wayside..not good. I'm very happy at my new workplace, people are generally happy here, everyone seems to work really hard and I've even spied a few race bibs posted in some of the cubes- hey, fellow runners! On top of that they have an excellent benefits plan, tons of training to take, a GYM on site, and a great cafeteria that will make just about anything you want at a subsidized price. Sweet. Now if I can just figure out my running schedule I'll be all set...famous last words lol.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I DNF'd and I'm totally fine with it

It's the race that's heralded the start of the spring races for me these past three years. Although its been held on a different route each year, this year's format of running 6.5km loops seemed to spell success. It was Wascally Wrabbit race day. My brother had a fit of insanity on the previous Monday (I figured) when he readily agreed to run this 50k with me. I was anxious the whole week, worrying about not getting enough rest, the odd pains I was feeling in different spots on my legs, and concern for the incredible elevation gains the race route boasted...all typically pre-race worries. Come Saturday morning though I was focused and ready to do this thing! The race field was smaller this year after a longer than normal winter left many runners undertrained. We all waited inside the community building as long as possible to stay warm before heading to the start line. Jodi (the race organzier) held a moment of silence for a runner who passed away during a race the previous fall, Josh Grady. Once we noted where we could see Josh's memorial Jodi signalled for us to GO! The local trail running group took off ahead of the rest of us as my brother and I hung back, saving our energy. Not 400 meters into the race we made a sharp right turn and began to climb (literally, hands and feet) up this huge hill. The hill had a 40% grade for about 750 meters. I grabbed trees and rocks and tried to scramble my way up as fast as I could. My brother-the ever joker-was a bit ahead and took the opportunity to make me laugh my doing his best LOTR impressions. Once we got to the top we ran/hopped a single track cut out of the brush that covered the top of the hill. We zig-zagged around, jumping and slidding until we came to "the rope." I just stood there for a second, looking at it. It stretched about 20 feet above me, a shear rockface with a single rope to help. At this point (only 2 kms into the race mind you), I knew my 50k was not going to happen. I knew that after each loop all of this was going to get harder and harder (and muddier)and I seriously doubted I could haul my butt up this rope 8 times. I didn't tell my brother that, he was in such good spirits and really thought we could manage the 50k even though it was clear the route was not going to let us accomplish that. After the rope we ran along some more brush until we got to a swamp of fallen bleached trees and thick (suck your shoe off) mud. We ran as quickly as we could hopping and trying not to fall. After a few hundred meters we came to a dirt trail, that was for the most part, quite runnable for about 1.5km. Then we hit the grassy section that was probably an old riverbed since these small loose boulders were everywhere and finding sure footing was very tricky. I was kind of worried I would twist an ankle but thankfully neither my brother or I did. Eventually we got to the bottom and hit the 1.5km dirt road back to the check point, finishing our first loop in 1 hour and 12 minutes (more than 20 minutes slower than my usual 6.5km time!). In the end we managed 5 loops of the trail, finishing just before the cut-off of 8 hours, coming in at 7:30 (clearly we got slower as the day wore on!). In total we ran 32kms, just 18kms short of my goal, but I did accomplish two things; I showed my brother the trail community is awesome and he agreed to run a more "sane" 50km race with me this summer in Prince Edward Island (the Brookvale Ultra). Did I accomplish my 50k goal? Nope, but that's okay. I had a great time (the best I think in 3 years) and did manage to get in some serious trail training while surprising myself that I could haul myself up a rope! But the best take-away for me is that my DNF has given me the fuel to train hard and eat well before this next race in about 10 weeks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Race Week Freak Out!!

I've got my favorite race of the year coming up this week; which is actually kind of a funny thing to say since the trails have changed location from one year to the next, so I guess this is a compliment to the race organziers (Jodi and Karine) who keep the atmosphere of the race welcoming and fun each year regardless of the trail. Yup, its Wascally Wrabbit time! If you're a fellow runner you know the ups and downs of the last taper week before a big race. Waves of excitement followed by feelings of panic ("Oh my god-what have I gotten myself into" thoughts frequently pass in my mind). The best countermeasure to the negative thoughts is to review your training. If you've had a solid training block, it gives you the confidence to step up to the line. This year, I have had much more consistent and injury free training than I had last year. I've also learned a few new things this year, especially how fast I should increase my overall weekly mileage before I burn out. One big boost to my morale this year is that my brother, Joshua, is going to join me! He and I have finished a few half marathons, a full marathon and a bunch of 10ks together. He's great at keeping the mood light for the majority of a race and I try to keep us on track strategically. With both of us spending our childhoods running through the forest by our home, and then he experienced the trails of BC these past few years, I know he can handle this trail...just how much of it though remains to be seen. I'll certainly fill him in on the fact that the first 30k or so (for me anyway) is about my training. If I've trained well enough I don't start to feel the miles until the 30k mark. At that point the race turns mental-no not "crazy" mental- but the challenge isn't that you'll finish (physically if you're not hurt you can walk it), but staying focused and positive mentally until the end. Last year I totally lost it with 3km to go. Feeling sorry for myself, I cried and stomped my way into the last check point before trying to shake it all off and head out for the last 2km. I remember having next-to-tunnel vision, knowing 2km stood between me and the finish. Every bone and muscle hurt. I shuffle/walked with my husband and daughter to the end with a time I'd rather not repeat. When I look back at that race I know I did the best I could with the horrible training I had (months of blistered feet, bad shoes and inconsistent runs), coupled with the fact I had spent the previous week on a work trip, socializing late into the night and flying home the day before the race. So, this year I have more confidence going into the race and the new format will also play to everyone's benefit as well. This year we're doing loops of 6.4km. So, if my math is correct I'll need to do at least 8 laps to get 50km or more. Last year we did loops of about 13km, and the year before (my first 50km) we did one loop of 6ish km followed by a larger loop of about 9km, we did both loops 3 times and the 6km loop a fourth. This new format will not only allow people to rest a bit between loops, but if I manage to complete all 8 loops I'll have run my furthest distance yet of just over 51km. The goal is in my sights. So what do you do the week before a big race? Rest. Sleep as much as possible, hydrate as much as possible without overhydrating, make sure you have all of the supplies you think you'll need for race day, don't run a lot, walk if you have the pre race jitters and for god's sake don't eat anything different the night before the race...and don't forget..breathe. ;-) Here goes..again!

Friday, March 28, 2014

What is YOUR Everest?

When I was a kid my Everest was the Ironman. Yup. I would watch it on NBC at home with my father and I would always be amazed watching the people finishing, some crawling, others rolling like a dog on a sunny day, anything to get to that finish line. Most of them would be crying and falling into their loved ones arms, relief washing over their faces. I sat in awe of these athletes. I was a competitive swimmer at the time so I had an appreciation for the 2.4 mile distance of the swimming portion. Add onto that 112 mile bike ride and a full marathon and I thought these people were super-human. And I wanted to join their ranks, someday. What's YOUR Everest?