Friday, 22 July 2011

Dead in the water

Dead in the water pretty much sums up the past 6 weeks. A combination of mild shin splints and a badly out of joint tail bone have been keeping me out of commission. The shin splints were part not acclimatizing myself to running while carrying 3L of fluids, gels and electrolyte drinks and super aggressive downhill running at the Sulfer Springs 50M. Thankfully it seems to have cleared up enough to go running and SHOULD be fine to do the death race on. No guarentees though. The tailbone was more of a freak thing which ended up being caused by an overly tight piriformis muscle. (The piriformis connects from your femur, around and under the gluteus maximus and into your tailbone.) So drinking more water and some good deep stretching have helped clear that almost completely up. So needless to say I am heading into the race REALLY well rested. Lets call it a super taper.

Does this change my approach to the race? Yup, it sure does. And for the better I think. Earlier I was planning lining up for the race and trying to hit a solid time and see if I could land a good result. Given the small asteriks beside my shape, I'm going to take the "wing it and enjoy it" approach. I'm going to run the race based on how I feel and what I can draw from myself on that day and in those conditions. Gonna kick back, enjoy an adventure and frolick through the mountains.  As you know, it's not an adventure until something fucks up. Well things are already a little wonky, so lets say the adventure has already begun!

Oh yeah, I promise pics and maybe a movie!

P.S. My netbook gave up the ghost over 3 weeks ago now, which has been one of the big reasons for lack of posting. I'll try to get back into the groove.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

You mean I'm not Invincible???

I've got shin splints. This really bites the big one. It's more than likely the combination of lots of running and bombing down the hills at the last race. So for now it's a matter of taking some time off from running, spending more time on the bike and hoping that things come together for the Canadian Death Race at the end of July. If all goes well I should be able to start running again near the end of next week.

You never really appreciate how much you enjoy/rely on something or someone else until you lose the ability to to engage in that activity or spend time with that person. As far as running goes, running provides a great stress reliever for myself (especially flowing down a forest trail with the sunlight dancing through the leaves), but it also provides a meditative head space which allows me to sort through the rambling of my noggin. Right now things are a little stressful at work, and not having the outlet to help cope with the stress keeps me on edge more so than I should be. The flip side of this is that as I cannot run, it allows me the ability to reconnect to a certain degree with friends which get a little lost in the 11hr work days and running.

Given that we are individuals and complete, whole beings; it is impossible to compartmentalize our lives or expect that what happens in one area will not effect the others. From a purely physical perspective, lack of nutrients from one specific micro-nutrient (Vitamin A, C, Iron, Selenium) for an extended period of time can have drastic and long lasting ramifications. E.g Iron deficiency can lead to anemia. All it takes is one small thing to be missing to really mess the big picture up within the health of the body. We are not just physical beings, but beings that exist across several planes: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Deficiency in one, or over burdening in another has implications in the rest. Ever been really stressed out about work, school, relationships and found that your body is out of whack? Or that because you haven't been tending to your body that your work, relationships and beliefs become a little frayed?

I've also recently made the decision to drop back into school. I finally broke down and applied to college for Fitness and health promotion at Humber here in Toronto. After talking about college so much in university, I'm finally pulling through on this one. We'll find out in a couple months if things work out in this direction or not.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Barefoot running: flying free

Shortly after I completed Ironman Lake Placid two years ago I stumbled across the Newton Shoes online. My first impression on the shoes was "man who on earth would run in those things?" I started to float through their site to see what the deal was with the lugs on the shoes, and quickly became fascinated with the concept behind a forefoot/midfoot running style. The more that I read, the more plausible it sounded. So I shelled out and ordered a pair of the shoes. It took a while for them to arrive, but when they did I was really excited. Sadly (but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise) the shoes did not work well at all over anything but dry concrete and it was already late fall.

As with anyone who trys to go from heel striking to a forefoot gait, I was experiencing sore calves and achilles. As the lousy weather had arrived I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to strengthen my legs so that when the summer arrived I'd be ready. Then one frosty January day something amazing happened. I was at the gym working out and decided to run some laps of the indoor track. At the time I was wearing some Brooks T6 racers and was motoring through a couple laps. As I was trying to find a rythym I was struck by the thought that if the Newtons try to get you running similar to a barefoot style, what better way to train for the Newtons than to run barefoot? I pulled off the track and pulled off my shoes and socks and glanced furtively around. Was I going to get kicked out for this?

Slowly I started out around the track, with the passing of each lap I kept getting faster and faster. I'd never imagined that it could be so fun to run barefoot. I ran for as long as I dared. Everyone in the gym was staring at me like I was running laps in a Tutu while playing a Tuba. I was having a blast, so they could stare at me all they wanted. The final lap I took at a flat out sprint, smiling the entire way and completely giddy at how much fun I was having, who knew that running hamster laps around a track would be so fun?

Every time I went to they gym after that I would run barefoot around the track, sloooowly building my time up. My first run was probably no more than 5 minutes and over the next winter months I'd worked up to runs of 35-40 minutes. Sadly when the spring came I found that the Newtons didn't work for me. I experienced lateral knee pain on my runs. Disheartened but not beaten I found the Vibram Five Fingers on-line and promptly went out and bought myself a pair. No more knee pain, and I could run with the energy and playfulness of a five year old. Every since then I've been a dedicated barefoot or "minimalist" runner. My reason? It's sheer fun and enjoyable in an "I'm a kid again without a care in the world" kinda way.

Since then I've read the research on barefoot running, biomechanics of running and such forth and firmly feel (on an intellectual and practical level) that barefoot or "minimalist" running is critical to helping keep runners injury free and running the way that maximizes the potential of our bodies.

Ultimately run because you love it, and it will take you to places beyond your dreams.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sulfur Springs 50 Mile Race Report: Frolicking through the Forest

First off, the biggest most heartfelt thanks to my brother who helped me immensely over the weekend. I cannot thank you enough for everything that you've done.

This race and past weekend was absolutely amazing and incredible in many ways. It all started friday night, when, after the hockey game (a beer), dropping another brother off, my brother and I headed to Hamilton to get to the race site for the following morning 6am start. On route, at about midnight, we decided that we'd sleep in the van as the race started at 6am, and there'd be no real point in renting a motel room for only 4 hours. After inadvertently taking the scenic route (getting lost), we finally found the race site and promptly settled into a rather dubious sleep for the night. My brother curled up on the passenger seat and was promptly snoring in 5 minutes. I curled up on the floor of the van (the middle seats and back bench were removed) and tossed and turned all night long. I figure I got maybe 2.5 hours of sleep. Sleep is over rated anyway, right? At 5am I went and registered for the race then spent the next 45min getting ready for the race.

 The morning was foggy and cloudy, having rained the night before, the air was thick with mist, and the ground was wet from the rain. The rain the day before made for some interesting (read: REALLY friggin muddy) trail conditions. Having been used to racing triathlons I was expecting for an air horn or some other loud noise making device to be used to signal the start of the race. Rather, as about 70 runners milled around the start line (a dude with an arrow sign) the race organizer made his final announcements before calling out "Go!" after a 10 and 5 second warning. The first thing that we experienced in the race was about an 800 meter decent down a country road that had a 20%+ grade. Running in Vibram Five Finger KSO Treks, I decided to allow myself to drop down the hill and let gravity do all the work. After bombing down the hill the course took a quick right turn and onto the trails we went. In order to try to deal with my cranky left hip, I decided to start the race wearing my compression sleeves, which would come off by the second lap. The first lap of the race was not the most pleasant 20k I've every run. My body didn't seem commited to running with my stomach acting all gnarly, my legs not fully settled and my breathing not fully connected. The stomach issues resolved by several bathroom breaks over the first lap. I pulled off my calf sleeves after about 23k and shortly felt MUCH better. I've used compression to great results as a recovery tool, but it never quite works out in the actual activity. Needless to say I will no longer be wearing compression while racing.

Once I hit the 25k point, my running seemed to connect and I started to go. I quickly started passing people and just ran at my own rythym. There were several points where I wondered if I should just let some others racers pull/pace me through the race, but decided that I'd run as I felt and explore how that would work. The next 20k went super well as I just flowed through the course, walking the ascents, bombing the descents and just thoroughly enjoying myself. At about the 50k mark I hit my first wall, fatigue started to settle in and the legs started to protest a little. Surprisingly it was my "good" leg that started to go on me. I soldiered on and finished the third lap in solid standing.

At the beginning of the 4th and final lap I flowed through that wall and started to feel  better. I resolved to run as much as possible the final lap, and try to average 10kph. Quickly as I pushed on I hit a second wall and started to walk more often than I would have liked. As I ran into the final aid station I grabbed some smarties to eat and chatted with some of the volunteers about my foot wear choice. "How's the traction?" "How do your feet feel?" While a nice distraction to the pain and fatigue, this was probably one of the bigger mistakes I made in the race (besides running too hard too early). When I bought my five fingers, I sized them to fit me perfectly while standing around. The sizing is perfect for shorter runs, but as I learned the hard way, your feet swell quite handily in an ultra. The standing around in the aid station allowed my feet  to swell just enough to pinch a tendon in my left foot. My shoes were too tight. About 30ft out of the aid station I was reduced to walking along, as my arch was refusing to take any weight. The next 8k were the most painful I have ever experienced. Hobbling does not afford any range of motion within the muscles and I quickly seized up. This 8k was also the most amazing experience of the race. Every runner who was soloing would ask if there was anything that I needed. I had runners in my own race offering my their gels, water, salt, tylenol, you name it. Also what it was they were offering was often all they were carrying on them. This in it self blew me away. In all the training and racing I did not once did I have anyone offer me help when I was in trouble. Even at the Ironman when I was bleeding under a toenail and couldn't run, people would offer words of enouragement (which don't get me wrong, I appreciated), but it never extended any farther than that. Mean while as a kid in his first ultra with a bad sense of pacing, I had about a dozen people offering all that they had on them to help me along. It was in the midst of a LOT of suffering that I realized that I'd found my home within the realm of athletics, and felt at peace with what I was doing. It's not the results, the fan fare, the bling or the achievements that are important. It's the people around us that matter the most, helping out those in need regardless of who they are or what they are. I ended up crossing the line feeling rather good (some older runner gave me some ibruprofen, the first and last time I plan on taking drugs to get me through a race), and felt that something profound had happened in those last 8k. I'm not sure exactly what the future holds, but I will forever remember this race, as I feel it has and will be, a turning point in my life. I am really proud of my accomplishment, finishing my first 50 mile ultra marathon. I know I made many mistakes in the race: poor pacing, wrong fitting shoes, compression sleeves, risky nutrition (I need to play with that a little more to find the right balance) and allowing myself to walk when I should have kept running. On the other hand I have learned so much from the other runners on the course, from their care, generosity and sense of humour. I hope that every run that I go on from now on, be it the biggest race of my life, to the most airy-fairy training run that I can help give back what was given to me that day in those 8k of purgatory.

I know I never mentioned numbers or times throughout my report, so here are the splits and final times for those interested. 17th overall with a time of 9:27:04. 4th in the under 39 age group, with an average pace of 11:21 min per kilometer. The splits are as follows: 1st 20k - 1:50:27, 2nd 20k- 1:44:50, 3rd 20k- 2:07:09, final 20k: 3:35:44. At the 60k mark I was sitting in 5th place OA, only 11min down on the leader. I definitely feel that for my next 50 miler I can go much faster, if i can address the mistakes that I made. But now it's time to rest, recover, drink beer and enjoy the amazing fact of being alive.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below, and I'll try to respond in a timely manner. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A New Season Begins this weekend

My first race is this weekend. Saturday to be exact at 6am. And I'm kinda injured. My hip flexor is really tight on my left hand side, and is preventing proper extension and making things rather painful when running. I've got some stretching to do, and have seen my chiro, so I'm hoping for a REALLY quick bounce back to normality. Either way this weekend promises to be an adventure. The race: the Sulfur Springs 50 miler.

My brother is going to be coming down to help with my race, and then I'll be watching him race this sunday in the St Lawrence Bike Crit. This weekend is going to be epic. One of my personal goals with my running is to try to get others involved with running, cycling, triathlons, whatever. I'm super lucky in that several of my siblings have picked up on the endurance sport bug (it's contagious).  Even though most of us now live in different cities, it's always a blast to get out and celebrate and support each others exploits. It has to be one of the most fulfilling things in life to help a family member or friend achieve a goal or dream of theirs.

Now, as I leave you to whip up some dinner, here's a poem that has been resonating in me for the past few weeks:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Anyone guess the title?

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Because. Duh.

Sorry all for the super long time between posts. My computer decided that it would no longer feature a working keyboard, which made typing up a post rather difficult to say the least. I now have a new keyoard, so things should start getting posted with more regularity.

Over the past several years I have been asked many times why I trained for and raced the Ironman and now am getting into Ultramarathons (cause if I was nuts for doing the Ironman, now that I've moved on to Ultras I'm really off the deep end). What is my motivation to go and run for hours at a time? Are you some sort of masochist? Nope, cause nothing hurts me. Only pain.

 Anyways, the question why has been whizzing round my brain like a rabid gopher for some time, and I'd like to take a stab at answering it and some of the other big questions that I get asked on a borderline daily basis. (barefoot running I will address in subsequent posts)

Why ultramarathons?

Cause I love to run. Seriously, when I'm running on a consistent basis, I feel better, less stressed (distance running has been described as an active meditation by more than one person, to which I heartily agree), eat better, and am in general a better person to be around (I hope). My body also seems to take naturally to running much more so than biking, swimming, football, sumo wrestling, etc. So far a winning scenario. Plus I'm more of a diesel when it comes to sports. I can haul at a steady pace for as long as I want, but don't have any sprint or top end speed worth mentioning.

 The thing that inspires me the most for ultra's is that it is almost completely about the journey. It's a journey of self discovery, suffering, and just plain old getting out and enjoying the fact that you are alive. It's a journey of choices. It's easy to make the easy (or even hard) choices when life is good and things are humming along tikety boo. I want to explore myself, and see what decisions I make when things are all sorts of nasty and all I want to do is curl up and sleep (or cry). We are who we are, and where we are based on our choices. Ultra's provide a unique opportunity to see what choices we'll make. In an ultra distance race, you voluntarily put yourself under intense fatigue, physical and mental pain, and that's on a good day. In a race you can drop out any time, no one is forcing you to do it. What choice will I make in a moment when I hit a wall? Will I flow around, over, through the wall? Or will I allow myself to be blocked by an obstacle?

In a sense, ultramarathons provide me an opportunity to transcend myself and what I thought/think my limitations are. We all have limitations, some actual, and others imaginary. I want to challenge my limitations and transcend what I thought I was capable of, and become more fully the person that I am meant to be. This philosophy has grown out of my ultra distance pusuits and has become a something of a groundwork for myself in my daily life.

It may be a little long winded but that's a rather rough and insufficient look at my motivation at why I am into running ultra marathons. Truthfully I don't know the complete reason 100% why. Everyday I run with a slightly different mindset, and have a unique experience. I don't want to try to force a certain mindset, feeling or energy on myself when I run, or live my daily life, but rather embrace the moment and be thankful for the moment, good or ill.

Run because you love it. If you don't, learn to love it. Running will bring things into your life that you could never imagine. - Scott Jurek

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Blogimus Maximus Reportemus

I'm fried. Just putting it out there. It's been a long hard week at work, but totally worth the effort. On the running front, tried to take it a wee bit easy(er) and not over tax the body too much, as the last two weeks have been brutal. Anyways, this week's update is going to be on the short an sweet side, and I'll hopefully be getting more material on as things settle down with this new job.

Monday: 7k. Had the day off work and was an absolute zombie all day long.

Tuesday: 26k. One shot, I was pretty stupid (we'll call it adventurous) and only packed one Snickers bar. Repeat after me: B-O-N-K!

Wednesday: 10k. I can't remember wednesday. Exhaustion may be it. Or I may have been abducted by aliens. Who knows? Wait, how'd I get this earring? I never got my ears pierced....

Thursday: 10k. I still can't remember this day besides that I worked a 14hr day.

Friday: 9k to work, 11k home. Wheeeeeeee

Saturday: Rode my bike to work. My body was waaaaay to pooched to run.

Sunday: 9k to work, 14k home. Met another runner on the trail who's been running ultras for 3 years. Great conversation on the way to work. Really made my day, along with my Dad and bro showing up at work to check out the new store.

Total: 86k, or approx 53 miles. Need sleep. Will try to post more often, just dont' have the time at the moment, but stay tuned!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The weekly training report

Monday: 5k run. Nice little jaunt to let the legs recover from the weekend.

Tuesday: 10k to work and 9k home. Pretty much took the hardest 10k route possible to work. Tons of hills and was able to spend about 4.k on trails. Also worked a 12hr day doing manual labour to help get the new store open...

Wednesday: 5k run. Spin the legs and try to recover from the day before. Biked to and from work, plus spent the day again moving boxes around, and putting in some clic-floor for a couple hours.

Thursday: 9k to and from work, 18 on the day. Legs felt sorta kinda decent, but it was another 11hr day moving heavy stuff around and as a runner with NO UPPER BODY muscles I'm just pretty fried in general.

Friday: Off. Just tried to sleep as much as possible, before riding into work and pulling off a 15 hour work day. Holy shit talk about a zombified death march of a day. Everyone was working their asses off to get the store presentable for the soft opening on satuday and we were exhausted.

Saturday: 9k to work, 15k home. Pulled off the day surprisingly well given how exhausted everyone was. had an intimate encounter with the trail on the way home, kicked a rock while bombing down a hill. As much as I like falling for something, this was a little overboard... But nothing feels better than arriving home from a run covered in blood, mud and exhausted but happy.

Sunday: 10k to work, 19k home. Felt super strong on the way to work, started playing what is quickly becoming a favorite game to play while trail running called "Catch the mountain biker" Succeeded in passing 3 riders and not getting passed in turn. Great way to start a day! The run home was (intentionally) retardedly hilly, the last 3k home were quite the slog even though it was down hill.

Weekly Totals: 68 hr work week and 100k (62M) of running. I'm pooched and need some sleep. Thankfully I've got Monday and Tuesday off work, so I can SLEEP, eat, run, rinse, repeat. Night!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The weekly training report

Monday: 3k easy, 20min bike to and from work. Just a rest day with a short run to spin out the legs and speed up recovery.

Tuesday: 7k Tempo, 20min bike to and from work. Settled into my run nicely, starting to get some good sensations in my legs. Definitely feels like I'm getting me speed back. Who says barefooters can't be fast??

Wednesday: 9k Tempo, 20min bike to and from work. Great follow up day to yesterday's run. Feeling good in the legs and getting able to find my rhythm at a nice fast tempo.

Thursday: 9k Tempo run to work, 9k easy home. Ended up getting out the door late for work, and had to blitz it up to work. Did the 9k to work in around 37min, still felt like I had lots of gas left in the tank when I got to work. Good vibes!

Friday: 7k easy, 20min bike to and from work. Just a nice spin the legs and get ready for the weekend mileage. Last day at my old job. Sad to leave some of the guys, but the flow of life has me going in a different direction.

Saturday: 18k. This run was a complete disaster. Tried out the New Balance Minimus Trails, hoping that they'd work out a a good pair of shoes to race in, but their fit was WAAAAAAY wrong for my feet. Basically the heel cup was too wide, and my heel would slip up and down the shoe, and the mid-foot and fore-foot were too narrow, pinching my metatarsal heads, and not allowing proper function along my transverse arches. Got so angry with them that I ran 5k home completely barefoot. Ended the run with inflammation on the fifth metatarsal head and a nasty blister on my right foot. Damn shoes!

Sunday: 22k. A great make up run after yesterday's debacle. Took a long time for my body to center and relax into the run, but once I hit the trail things started to move a little more nicely. Used a couple mountain bikers as rabbits and hammered 4k chasing them. Great sensations in the body! After one lap of the DV Trail, did a once up of the Pottery Road hill and another half lap of the DV Trail. Knees are feeling a little beat up after bombing down hills, but after a nice easy bike ride feeling alot better.

84k on the week. My recovery is getting pretty fast, things are looking good for the Sulfur springs 50 miler at the end of May. As long as I can stay injury free and healthy....

I start a new job this week, so posts may be a little sluggish coming. Happy Trails!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Greetings earthings! I invite you on my wayward run. Join me as I journey through barefoot (or minimalist if we must be technically accurate) runs and races. I will be posting my training schedule here, partially to keep myself honest, and as a way to put things into perspective. From time to time I'll write posts on whatever topics ferment in the gooey stuff between my ears. Until next time!