Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oil Creek 100 miler

 I wasn't entirely sure where to start with this post but the last few months have brought some interesting changes and new challenges. A promotion at work came with a drastic schedule change and suddenly the ability to base my entire training schedule on long back to back runs every three days is gone. After seeing some really low numbers in my weekly mileage I needed to sit down and come up with an entirely new plan to continue doing what I love while leaving plenty of time for the challenges brought on by a new career.
   I sat down and worked out a quick plan that included a lot more quality fast runs to work my body harder in a short time with my only real long runs being my Saturday easy long trail adventures. As the weeks quickly went by I noticed a definite improvement in speed but was struggling with the long runs due to the intensity of the week and a few flare ups of the old faithful Achilles pain that always seems to crop up when I least want it to.
  Two weeks prior to the race everyone at work was coughing and sneezing, colds were everywhere I looked, allergies were playing all kinds of games with my head and I was really unsure of how things would go in this race. I looked back at my calendar and mileage was ridiculously low coming into a 100 compared to my usual and I promised myself I'd just go out slow and plan on a finish. There was no way I was going to DNF this one and with all the doubts I had to stick to a safe plan.
  OC100 takes place in Titusville,PA it's a beautiful trail and the fall colours do wonders to make it appear even more visually stunning. The fall colours also cover all the rocks and roots that make the fairly technical trail with 17,785 feet of elevation gain rather interesting to run on. The course is marked extremely well and the aid stations are well spaced and have their own competition on race day to out do each other with both decorations and amazing support for the runners. With 3 50km loops and a final 10km "going home" loop it is a great layout for a race and little planning is required to get the right equipment into the right drop bags.
  Loop 1 with a 5am start I felt good, I stuck with my plan started out fairly easy moved out towards the front so as not to get totally caught in the "train" once we hit single track then counted back 8 runners and settled in to a comfortable pace. Things felt good all lap and at some point I moved up 1 or 2 places due to short stops in aid stations. Loop 2 the Achilles flared up a bit and near the 70km mark I was feeling a little discouraged so I forgot to gel,by 80 km I felt the slight dizzy feel and total flat energy level reminding me of the mistake. I quickly had a Roctane gel and made a plan for the next aid station....emergency food. I don't usually eat solids in a race and looking at the aid station food the only thing interesting to me was a slice of pizza, turns out it was the best pizza ever,suddenly my body came right back around the little bit of warmth on a cold day and loads of salt in the pizza worked wonders. The rest of the day it was gel then pizza then gel and I felt great, probably will never work again but I wasn't looking a gift horse in the mouth that day. Loop 3 was gradually into the dark and I always enjoy running in my little bubble of light so thoroughly enjoyed it. Going home loop is a neat little trick mostly uphill somehow it is like a final little slap in the face just to see what your really made of, to emphasize this fact the final hill has been aptly named "The Hill of Truth".
   I finished up in 4th place with a time of 21:36 good enough for the sub 22 hour gold buckle, way better than I expected and enough to let me know with a few tweaks to the training I can still be competitive with a lot less time input if I do this right. The race was amazing super challenging and lives up to its hype in every way.
 My ever trusty Brooks Cascadias performed flawlessly in the conditions digging in nicely to grab traction both up and down some fairly sketchy hills,I just can't say enough good things about these shoes. My GU energy gels worked wonders and while I did add a little substitute pizza for a change who can blame a guy after consuming 32 gels in a day and the new root beer flavour is a great chaser for a slice of pizza.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Changes and Adjustments

 Its been a while since I posted anything and the changes this summer have definitely kept things interesting. After my race at Sulphur there was definitely some feelings of disappointment, it doesn't seem to matter how much you prepare yourself for the chance that it isn't always going to come together the way you plan it still sucks for awhile.
    I pushed hard through June and July training through a race in mid July and doing fairly well considering. It was the inaugural event for the North Face Endurance Challenge in Ontario and they laid out a very challenging race. It was well organized and the views along the trail had me wandering the wrong way more than once. At the end of the day I was pleasantly surprised with a top ten finish.
 August has brought some changes in my career and I suddenly find myself living with a Monday to Friday career, for someone who was used to training long every two to three days it has flipped my running schedule upside down. At first I was nervous as to how this would unfold but I'm finding it interesting how my body is reacting to the changes. I guess you never realize how much you adapt to a particular form of training until you are forced to make some drastic changes. Some of my recent shorter runs have left my legs feeling just as taxed as previous long runs and while it may not be entirely perfect training for a 100 miler it will definitely be interesting to see how it pays off in October at the Oil Creek 100.
   Regardless of what happens this summer has definitely been an interesting ride. Coffee and Gu for breakfast, watching the sun come up every morning, I'll get used to this yet.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Little Too Fast-DNF

 Sulphur Springs 100 this year I was ready to go. I was in good shape going in with no real issues and in the back of my mind was sure if everything came together on race day there was a good possibility of beating my course record from last year.

Unfortunately that was not the way things unfolded on race day.  Out of bed the temperature was noticeably warmer than last year I had done almost no warm weather running yet this year but chose to ignore this warning sign anyway,mistake #1. At the start line I had plans to match last years first loop time of 1.38 instead I went off like a 25k runner and turned in a first loop time of 1.32, mistake #2 and I'm sure the undoing of the rest of the day. Had I played it smart at this point and backed way off I might have recovered from this but the all or nothing plan was in place and I was sticking to it. I could go on with the gory details of how things fell apart from here but the long and short is I suffered severe leg cramping and decided after walk/running my fifth loop it was time to realize that further pushing was going to ruin my plans for the other races this summer. I made the hardest decision to make in a race and after sitting in the aid station for 30 minutes considering I pulled from the race. The support of my fellow runners was amazing, it was difficult to do this after such an amazing race last year but with every ones support I was positive I was making the right decision. We had an amazing afternoon, re-hydrating and watching other racers charge to their goals, some completed some didn't but the spirit shown during races like these is an amazing thing to witness.
I guess to sum it all up I'm glad I took the chance, mistakes happen but without failure you never know what the possibilities really are. I will continue to race as fast as I possibly can and try to learn from the errors along the way. Thank-you to all my friends and sponsors for your support.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cascadia 9 and Almost Sulphur Time

    Now that the trails are ice free and training has hit its peak for Sulphur Springs 100 I've had a good chance to test out the updates to the Brooks Cascadia 9. The subtle changes made to the shoe for this year have made a huge difference in fit and performance.  I  loved the shoe last year but always felt the toe box was a little restrictive but thought it had to be this way to prevent my toes from getting destroyed on the downhills.Somehow they managed to tweak the design to not only firmly lock the foot in place but allow for some give in the toe box to really up the overall comfort of the shoe,I think this  comes partly from the seam free bonded upper. That coupled with a slight drop in the heel have really made a great shoe awesome I couldn't be happier with the update,as runners we always get nervous when the new model of an old favorite comes out but this time they made a perfect shoe.

On a completely different note training has gone fairly well this winter, with Sulphur right around the corner  things a right where they should be for early May,I'm a little cranky, sore and over trained just like I normally am this time of year. I'm trying something new and seeing a RMT to help work out the aches and pains and will update on how that goes in the future. My beautiful and somehow understanding wife is looking forward to my taper so a few things get done around the house(I thought I was doing pretty good getting the Christmas lights down for Easter) and I'm excited to see how the training has worked out. I chose to largely mimic last years plan and so far it seems to be going fairly well. It never fails though when you look back at your training logs you feel like you could have done just a little more.  Oh well time to trust to the process and begin the taper in just a couple more days, unlike my high school English exam there is no cramming for an ultra if you want good results.Looking forward to seeing all my running friends at the race and enjoying some trails together.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mixed Surface Training for Fast Results

   I love running trails,spring,summer,fall or winter I really enjoy being out as far as I can get on whatever dirt surface comes my way. That being said I have come to realize that there is a certain benefit to training  on other surfaces as well to really maximize your potential as a runner.
  The trail will train your strength and agility ,you learn quickly how to scan further ahead and plan your footsteps through technical sections. Winter running can be especially good for this in southern Ontario as the trails are usually multi-use in nature and horses bikes and day hikers on a warm day can leave a really rough trail surface that leaves no time for day dreaming or distraction. The various ways of transforming your footwear for winter, traction aids or snowshoes make your feet significantly heavier supplying an added training benefit. The trails also teach you quickly how to change up your stride for sudden inclines or wild descents were it is everything you can do just to remain upright.

Haliburton,Ontario.Fast downhill but watch your step.
   Road running has the distinct benefit of being able to focus on consistent fast pace without having to pay attention to the placement of every step,also the grades are significantly more gradual to allow vehicles the benefit of staying on all four tires.  This consistent fast running pays off huge when you return to the trail as you become much more comfortable with the quick turnover and find yourself naturally moving at this new pace.Choosing your routes to travel down quieter country roads allows you to avoid traffic and take time to look around and enjoy the view.


  Finally there is the treadmill, viewed by some as good others as evil, it has real benefits if used as part of a mixed surface training schedule. Don't let it become your escape from winter running because you'll be sure to miss out on the benefits of the strength training supplied by the snow and psychological effect of surviving the worst winter can throw at you,but don't be afraid to use it either. Real benefits can be gained from a treadmill run,not relying entirely on yourself to set the pace but being at the mercy of the rotating belt is a great tool for speed work or tempo runs in the dead of winter. Also being able to set the room temperature with a treadmill in the house can give you a real advantage in  hot or humid race conditions that may occur early in the year.
      At the end of the day this is just my personal opinion, the trails are still my first love but there is a great deal of fun to be found in flying down a country road or soaking your clothes in sweat during a speed session in the middle of January. After all variety is the spice of life right?

Monday, February 17, 2014

February Sun

 It might still be cold but there is nothing like a sunny day in February to give you that feeling that winter is losing its grip and soon the layers will start coming off. Today offered some perfect winter conditions with it being cold enough to be hard packed snow but the sun gave just enough warmth to encourage some really fast splits through the less technical sections of trail. Thought I'd share a couple pics from the run.
Winter Single Track

A  Really Welcome Sign

Stopping for a Gu Energy Gel to enjoy the view
                                              View from the High Point of the route

Friday, January 24, 2014

Winter Strength for Spring Speed

Winter is definitely not the easiest time to motivate yourself to run, there are countless excuses to skip a training day. The upside to winter training is that the conditions and piles of clothing force us to slow our pace a little and focus on the strength portion of our training. Giant leaps forward can be made by just taking that first step out the door. Having a variety of footwear ready to go helps as well. I keep a couple pairs of Brooks Cascadias  in the winter rotation of shoes, one pair has 8 screws per shoe ,one pair 16 depending on just how bad the trail conditions are. Also this year my wonderful wife and sister bought me a pair of snowshoes which means I can continue to run trails as long as it doesn't turn into a pot holed icy mess which lucky for me has only happened twice so far this year.
Snow shoe run, first tracks on the hill
               Pick a spring race to have a goal and enjoy the trials of winter running,the results are guaranteed to pay off with increases in speed this spring. As an added bonus your going to see some beautiful winter scenery that everyone stuck in front of their television are going to miss for sure.
If that's still not enough to get out try Gu Energy's new Salted Caramel Gel, tastes so good its like having a forbidden dessert on your run.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

   If nothing else running has taught me absolutely nothing is impossible, if you decide to do something and follow that decision with a lot of effort sometimes you achieve things you never imagined.
  December 24th I received an email from Gu Energy informing me I had been accepted into the 2014 Gu Energy Pro program, an amazing opportunity for someone who consumes gels at the rate I do. Had you told me when I started running as an overweight ex-smoker that I'd be receiving endorsements to do something I love I probably would have laughed at you. I remember like it was yesterday the feeling at the end of one of my first runs over 30 km, the group had turned left to add on a couple extra kilometres  and I was in a very basic survival mode just trying to keep up a steady movement on the quickest route back to my car. Today I ran that route just for fun and added on the couple extra while picking up the pace for the last 5k, tomorrow I'll repeat it again as I start to ramp up distance to build for another year of racing.
   I took some time to relax after the Road to Hope Marathon and let things heal up again as the speed work right after the Haliburton Forest 100 left me feeling pretty sore. I took the time to go out for a couple group runs with some amazing people I have met through the Ultra community and am feeling inspired to start training again. This year will be a very similar training plan to last year with the exception of some speed work on the new treadmill, I never thought I would enjoy this but after a month of having it I can appreciate the time savings of being able to incorporate speed work and laundry into the same hours of the day.
That's it for now, wishing everyone a happy new year and may your first step out the door come easy.