Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Horror Hill 6-hour Ultra - Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Maybe I should have, but it wouldn't have been half as much fun.

To say that it was raining would be to miss a perfectly good opportunity to use the word "pelting" - a few moments outside would suffice for a drenching, and there were no signs of it letting up anytime soon. The forecaster (rhymes with "idiot") taunted us with hollow promises that things might clear up around noon, but I'd already be halfway done and probably halfway drowned by then. With a high of 8c, you can add half frozen to that as well.

Ignoring better sense, I downed my bottles of Boost and gathered the mountain of crap I'd be hauling along with me. Check that - Tanker did the hauling, because even though he was doing the 5k, he's freakin' amazing and relentless in his sherpa duties. He sherps, therefore he is (awesome).

No issues getting race fuel (Tim Hortons café mochas), making our way up to Camp Heidelberg or picking up race kits. I had plenty of time to get ready, hum and haw over wardrobe choices, actually get BodyGlide where I needed it, and finally declare myself ready with about 5mins left before the gun. While sticking with the same skirt I've used for all three Horror Hill 6-hours so far, I did make an unprecedented swap - ditched my usual lightweight short-sleeve for a heavier, long-sleeved merino wool shirt. I would want my arms covered in the cold rain, and while the long-sleeve would hold more water than my Moeben sleeves it would also keep me warmer while I was wet and provide more core warmth due to the thicker fabric. I knew I wasn't going to overheat, so I wouldn't need removable sleeves. I'm pretty sure this substitution, combined with my Louis Garneau Vent 2 vest to keep the wind off my chest, were the only things that saved me from hypothermia on the course. Completing my stylish ensemble: my Saucony Velocity rain hat, Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves and earband, a much-worn pair of New Balance WT100 trail shoes (with just shy of 700km on them already..), my Dirty Girl gaiters, a pair of Merino TRL Wrightsocks, and my old battle-worn Endurance Junkie edition Compressport R2 calf sleeves.

Heading out with Tanker by my side for the first two loops, the trail was actually ok - the dirt was pretty hard-packed and hadn't been churned up yet, so there were only a couple of slippery bits on the hills. Poor Tank ended up with his leg covered in burrs from something on the side of the trail, and had to stop during his first lap to pick them out of his leg hair as they were pretty painful. He was also having trouble with an ingrown toenail - the same one from Tour de King. It had actually healed up, then he smoked it off the bottom of the pool on Tuesday before the race. It had recovered and was feeling ok again, then he stubbed it off the dresser on race morning. Apparently my luck with stupid injuries is contagious - RUN AWAY TANKER!

Trail map with some colour commentary.

Despite having every reason to quit, my sweetheart toughed it out through both of his loops to finish the 5k, then gave me a kiss and headed in to get into dry clothes and grab something to eat. I made it most of the way through my 3rd loop before having to visit the portajohn to adjust hydration levels right around the 1 hour mark - I hadn't drank much so far, but the rain and cold must have got to me! I had started in with taking a slug of EFS Liquid Shot every 30mins (approximately) as well, as a race of this length requires you to start taking in calories long before you get hungry. The crowd thinned out as the 5k and faster 10k runners completed their races, leaving only the 3 and 6 hour participants still going in circles.

Trail conditions worsened with every passing minute as the rain continued. After the first hour, every subsequent loop showed appreciable deterioration, and the amount of runnable terrain in the woods diminished - we were quite literally stomping a mudhole in the forest. I thought about my odds of making it through the whole race upright as my feet tried to skate away from underneath me with each step, even while walking. I actually practiced pulling my damaged wrist into my chest, trying to program myself to do so if I lost my balance. All for nought - I believe I was just finishing my 5th loop and trying to ascend the "small, nigh impassable hill" when my foot lost its traction and I went pitching face-first, landing squarely on my outstretched broken wrist.

Artist's conception.

I couldn't even get up. With my hand bottle in my right hand, I couldn't grab a handy tree with it to pull myself out of the mud, and I certainly wasn't in any mood to try anything with my left hand. Fortunately a very kind gentleman heard me go down, walked back from the top of the hill and offered me his hand. I thanked him and said I just needed a minute, explaining that I'd broken the wrist I fell on a couple of months earlier (it was actually 2 months and 1 day) and it was quite sore. He waited, hoisted me to my feet, and even towed me up the hill that had been my undoing! I owe this man a great debt of gratitude.

Having been tugged to my feet and up the climb by my left hand, I knew it wasn't re-broken - I'd felt a click when I fell on it and it was quite sore, but seemed mostly functional. I made my exit from the woods, hit the grassy section down to the gravel road ("long, pounding downhill") and started running again. No complaint from the wrist, even with the jolting. Hmm..

I made it down to the aid station/shelter and yelled to Tank, who'd emerged from changing and eating to crew for me (and anyone else who needed a hand), that I'd managed to fall on my broken wing like some kind of idiot. His jaw dropped and he asked if I was alright - I told him it seemed to be ok, so my plan was just to keep going until I either finished or wasn't ok anymore. I still had about four and a quarter hours to go, so there was plenty of time for things to get much worse.

Evidence of my impromptu wallow.
Of course, I wondered how the hell I was going to make it up the little hill that had done me in, as well as the enormous hill after the terrifying downhill into the woods from the pond. They were becoming sheer faces of slick mud, and as the rain was only falling harder they certainly wouldn't be improving any time soon. Fortunately, in both cases my ingenious fellow runners had forged alternate paths just to the left of the trail, giving me some hope of making it through the rest of the race without killing myself. While the wrist was holding up ok (despite complaining bitterly when asked to tighten down the strap of my hand bottle), I knew that a second impact would almost assuredly re-break it and end my day. I'd got lucky already, since falling uphill meant that I could collapse onto the elbow as soon as the pain flared on impact - had it taken any more of my weight I might very well have tasted my second DNF.

The trail was doing its level best to ensure that I'd land on my head, while also taking a shot at wrecking both my knees and adductors. Some of the sections had a distinct slant to them, on which I probably slipped more distance sideways than I walked forward, but it was the downhills that truly made me fear for my life; they'd got sufficiently soupy in places that you essentially had to ski down them. I'd call it a "controlled slide", but that implies far more intent of purpose and much less chaos and pants-wetting terror than was actually the case.

Moving right along with nutrition, it was time to bust out the cookies. The only reason to run for such an absurdly long time is that you get to eat cookies on course, and I'd providently put small containers full of Mi-Del Pecan cookies and Wow Baking chocolate chip cookies (which taste exactly like the old Rich'n'Chewy cookies) in the cooler bag with all of my aid station gear. From the end of the second hour onward, I pretty much had a cookie every hour on the hour, finishing with a chocolate chipper with just 45mins left. I love ultrarunning.

Face full of cookie.

Tanker got creative, too - somewhere around the 2.5 hour mark he appeared where we exit the woods by the aid station and handed me a popsicle stick with a chunk of banana smeared with peanut butter. Amazing flavour (this is something I eat all the time), but poor consistency - it took me the best part of half a loop to finally be able to move my mouth freely again and get all the peanut butter un-stuck from my gums. Yep, doing my impression of a dog with a very lonely owner..

On I went, averaging about 4-5 incidents of nearly falling on my head/arse per loop. I was probably somewhere around 3 hours in when I came around the corner to exit the woods by the start/finish line and found one of the rocks hidden in the mud with my left foot, neatly turning my left ankle. I was sufficiently run-tarded by this point that I actually talked myself through self-checking, asking "Am I ok? Yeah, I think I'm ok.." out loud while running down the grass toward the mats. Fortunately the ankle would hold up just fine - I didn't notice it at all until I got out of bed the next morning. Maybe submerging it in mud helped?

"Just a little twisted - I'm still good!"
I pulled into the aid station, had another cookie, visited the portajohn again (apparently drinking to thirst in cold rain means peeing a lot), and got on with it. I had made it through 20km in the first half, and figured on that particular day that anything over 30km would be gravy - I'd started my running season with the 30km Around the Bay road race, so finishing it with 30km of trail would be just fine. Given the time I had, even despite the continually increasing suckage level of the trail, I figured I could probably shoot for 35km.

Odd thing about this particular race - it seems to take forever to get to the halfway point, but after that time seems to accelerate. While both the rain and soupiness of the trail increased (along with my lap times), I was feeling ok and just putting one foot in front of the other. It had got to the point by hour 5 that it actually seemed best to walk or run in the deepest of the mud, since it's shoe-sucking gloopiness was the closest thing available to traction. I heard that some other people had issues with their adductors cramping on them from trying to control the sideways slipping that accompanied almost every step, but mine had been conditioned by months of morning strength sessions and were hanging in there. My knees took a bit of a beating, but the hundreds of one-legged squats I've done this year came to the rescue and I actually managed to stay on my feet for the rest of the day.

Waving to Tanker as I head out for another lap.
Around the 4.5 hour mark, the absurdity of running for six hours dawned on me a bit - I realised I'd started running at 9am, that it was now 1:30 in the afternoon, and I'd still be running for another hour and a half. I was able to laugh about it, though, since I'd done my work with fueling. I have a nasty tendency to forget to eat past 3 hours, and that results in "dark" periods where I have negative thoughts and the voice telling me to quit pipes up (this happened the first time I did this race in 2010). Fortunately, this can be cured with cookies! Having learned something from the past, I kept a steady stream of calories coming in this year and remained pretty chipper throughout.

Toward the end, even sections of the hard-packed gravel leading down to and around the pond had been pounded into ankle-deep, sucking mud. Most of what was I was still able to run in the woods was uphill, but since there was so little and I was doing so much walking it was hard to keep myself warm enough as the rain continued to pick up and the wind howled across the open field between the start/finish and the aid station/shelter. At the 5 hour mark I hit the portajohn one last time (peeing 3 times in 6 hours? Madness!), then whipped out my secret weapon: a chocolate raspberry Gu Roctane packet. I had been pretty good about keeping up with the EFS Liquid Shot ever 30mins or so, but I was starting to get a bit careless with fatigue and I hoped the caffeine in the Roctane would brighten me up a bit.

I saw my friend Dave heading into the building with his gear from the aid station - apparently my merino wool and late-season fat layer were serving me well, as one of the studliest ultrarunners I know had just dropped due to the cold! I had come close to putting on a full jacket myself, but since I was already sodden I didn't think it would be that much use. I was averaging about 25mins per loop, but still trucking and sure I'd manage at least 15 full laps for 37.5km. Eating one last chocolate chip cookie at about the 5:15 mark, I discussed with Tanker that I probably wouldn't be able to make 40km, but it made me wonder.

I'd already done enough walking.
The Roctane had done its job - I was feeling a bit more alert and seeing more clearly. I took one last gel with about 30mins left and noticed that the rain finally seemed to be tapering off a bit. The trail started to improve slightly; we'd stomped a mudhole and were on our way to walking it dry. Coming through the mats at 37.5km (15 laps) with the clock reading 5:47:xx, I decided to go for broke on one last loop and see if 40k was possible. I got my drop bag (a zipper bag full of pasta) and hauled my butt along as best I could.

Knowing I had about 2mins to make up on my recent lap times and nothing to save my energy for, I ran right through the aid station while yelling my intentions at Tanker. I still had to slow down to execute the slide down into the woods from circling the pond and there was no way I could run up the two big hills, but I tried to run pretty much everything else regardless of how soupy it was. A fair bit of walking still happened, since I didn't actually want to die, but I was able to run a heck of a lot more than I had for hours. Just shows what a weenie I turn into when I fall over once!

You should see how much mud there was on the inside..

Emerging from the forest I ran up toward the Rehkopf building and glanced at the clock: I still had just under 9 minutes to navigate the last bit of woods and hit the mats before the horn went. Picking my way through because it would really suck to fall and smash myself right at the end, I emerged from the trees one last time and ran down to the mats...with over 3 minutes to spare! It turns out I'd put in my second fastest lap of the day - had quite a bit left in the tank energy-wise after walking so much all day, and was actually able to get my blood really pumping at last. I felt great aerobically, though my feet and legs were definitely in poorer shape.

Might as well keep going, so I ran right through the aid station again and down the hill to the pond, making it about 2/3 of the way around before hearing the horn at the 6 hour mark. I stopped, dropped my bag of pasta, and had walked partway back when Bruce reminded me that I was supposed to leave my bib with the bag. My hands weren't very functional at that point - insufficient to fiddle with safety pins in gloves - but I managed to tear off a section of the bib that was intended to be used for draw prizes and had my number on it (Bruce had kindly offered to un-pin me, but I didn't want to be a bother). This meant walking about 100m back to my drop bag to tuck in my little coupon, then walking all the way back up the hill to the aid station/shelter to meet up with Tanker. Tell me again why the hell I ran down that hill at the end?

Very happy to have stopped.

The only part that really sucked is that by the time I'd hosed off the mud, gone inside to take off my gaiters, shoes, socks and calf sleeves, hosed off again to get the mud from inside the socks and calf sleeves (really), then got changed into dry clothing all of the burgers were gone. I got a bowl of chili and was told I'd be welcome to come back for as many more as I'd like...then they ran out of chili. On the bright side, this left more room for an enormous bowl of pho - I'd come up with that ingenious little plan somewhere around four and a half hours in and mentioned it to Tanker, who was all over it as well. We packed up and drove straight to Pho Shizzle to get ourselves warmed up, but only after I'd collected my prize (a pair of Wrightsocks) for 2nd place in the women under 40 age group!

Ok, I was actually 3rd, but there's no duplication of awards.

Official distance: 40.4km
3/6 W<40, 5/10 Women, 24/35 O/A

I'm pretty sure I haven't actually stopped cramming stuff in my face since the race ended, either - hooray for off season! It's now four days later and my ankle is feeling way better, so who knows? Maybe I'll actually go for a run tonight..

Friday, October 26, 2012


Waaaahhhhh! I broke my toe on Sunday night, taking off my stinkin' pants to get into bed!

Monday morning - not so bad, but how am I supposed to flip people off with my foot now?

Monday night - HORROR!

Friday morning - less horror.

Waaaaahhhh! I rode my old mountain bike on Wednesday, and realised that the buttery carbon frame and squishy fork on my new bike have totally ruined my affinity for full rigid steel!

Like an abusive boyfriend: I love him, but kind of hate myself..

Waaaaahhhh! It's going to be all raining and crappy for Horror Hill tomorrow!

Feels like ONE DEGREE?

Waaaaaahhhhh! I think I may have eaten something gluten contaminated from the Bulk Barn yesterday!

I do occasionally wear something non-spandex.

Waaaaaahhh! I'm probably going to catch a horrible cold from running around in circles for 6 hours in the pissing rain, assuming I don't fall on my head (or worse: my wrist) slipping on one of the muddy hills or tripping over a root!

Best case scenario.

But you know what? It's still going to be fun! I've also got some gluten free cookies and tortilla chips ready for the aid station, because ultrarunning is kind of like a Gallowalking festival smashed together with an eating contest and even my beloved vanilla latte mix of EFS Liquid Shot gets a little old after awhile. I'll be out there with some really wonderful people from the ultrarunning community, and even more importantly I'll have Tanker there - not only do I get to see him every 2.5 kilometers at the aid station, he's actually doing the 5k so we'll be running the first two loops together!

No, I'm pretty sure I won't be setting a PR for this course - the mud and my lack of long run training should see to that - but it's the last race of the season and a great one to just cruise through and drink it all in. Afterwards, bring on the food - I've already got bacon and brie in the fridge, and I'm not afraid to use them!

No waaambulance required.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Less than 8 months later..

Thanks to you awesome people, I've broken 5,000 views on the blog today! While I find it difficult to believe there are an average of 20 people per day who are so hopelessly bored that reading my meandering prose seems an attractive option, I can't help but feel loved. Thanksabunch!

That's exactly what I look like when I'm doing a happy dance.
No foolin'.

I'm actually starting to get my legs back a little after Vulture Bait, and just last night put in my first 2,000m swim since breaking myself - I'd done a lot of shorter stuff, but finally sacked up and put in some real work. The wrist itself is healing, slowly but surely - it's still painful doing some everyday stuff (like reaching over my shoulder and grabbing the seatbelt from the driver's seat), and I look like a complete fool trying to boost myself out of the pool one-handed.

I tend to fall over sideways, sprawling on the tile.

Here's the thing, though: I've already put in almost 12,500m more yardage in the pool in 2012 than I have in any other year. Persistence has paid off; while I'm far from fast, I'm one heck of a lot faster than I was in January, and I managed not to lose much speed even after 5 weeks in a cast (during one of which I couldn't swim at all). It's been good physiotherapy for the wrist, too - between swimming and working with therapy putty, I managed to keep a bit of strength and flexibility. Not as much as I had hoped, but it's better than nothing.

Happy putty loves inflicting pain on the broken.

While I'm looking forward to running around in circles for 6 hours next weekend, I have to say I'm also pretty happy that racing season is winding down. It started all the way back in mid-February and won't be over until the end of October. I'm looking forward to having a bit of time on weekends to do the stuff we don't always manage to sneak in, like a bit of rollerblading and hiking in the woods. We even have plans to go check out a new-to-us trail in Guelph this weekend - I can just noodle, take photos and enjoy because I don't really need to do any focused bike training at the moment and need to keep my legs together for Horror Hill.

I'll leave off here, before I end up rambling even more than usual - sleep deprivation and blogging is a terrible combination. 'Til next time, awesome readers - thanks for stopping by!

A big Vulture Bait thumbs up to you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Vulture Bait 25k Trail Race - Saturday, October 13th, 2012

There may just be something to this "base" business.

Right up until I actually started running, I totally half-assed this race. I did taper and stuffed my maw with a bunch of rice in the days leading up, but I didn't get much sleep (not that this is unusual) or have my usual pre-race dinner. Performance be damned: all I really wanted was not to trip, fall, and re-break my stinkin' wrist. Having broken my right big toe on the same course two years ago by tripping over a couple of rocks (nearly landing on my head), this was a very real concern.

Pulling into Fanshawe, driving across the dam I'd later cross on foot.

Up around 6am after a six-hour snooze, I chugged a couple of bottles of Boost, put in the war braids and got on the road. Café Mochas for Tanker and I while we rolled out to Fanshawe Conservation Area, watching the sun rise, bringing with it the gorgeous colours of fall.

It was colder than a penguin's arse when we arrived, with the frost still laying thickly on the grass. Got race kit, used portajohn, then faced having to ditch my comfy sweatpants and put on my shoes. Worse still, as it got closer to race time, I tried on my Asics arm warmers but discovered that they put uncomfortable pressure on my broken wrist. No good; looks like I'd be running with bare arms and gloves, which is not a look I think will catch on. I also decided against my earband, since it was supposed to get up to 4c by start time and I don't really need it over 5c.

I did see a few other runners I know and said hello, including getting my straw from Mr. Ron Gehl along the way. With my periscope up and a few minutes left before race time, I ditched my watch and unnecessary gear with Tanker, then headed down to the starting line with my gel flask and hand bottle (with its emergency Chocolate Raspberry Roctane single-serve in the pocket). I'd done some high knees and butt kicks after my last portajohn break - maybe 15mins before the gun - but the plan was to use the first couple of kilometers as a warmup.

"..and it's hardly deformed at all.."

Down by the water, I kissed Tanker and tried to stay loose. I also realised that I'd forgotten to put any BodyGlide on the inside of my (chubby) thighs, and that friction might well become an issue. With nothing handy to remedy the situation, I just had to hope it would be ok. I also ran into Anne - the kind lady who'd stopped at Mine Over Matter to offer assistance when I broke my wrist. We chatted for a couple of minutes, then suddenly heard the 5 second countdown and we were off! I broke into a trot, waved and blew a kiss to Tanker up on the hill, then focused on the trail ahead.

The first part of Vulture Bait is kind of like a Gallowalking festival - as all 300 runners try to squeeze onto narrow single track trail, you're down to a slow march at best unless you're at the very front. Since I have no illusions about my rate of travel (I don't think the term "speed" applies here), I stay further back and essentially end up having some short walking breaks inserted in the warmup portion of the race. I'm sure my legs don't mind!

Would you associate yourself with that by waving back?
Didn't think so.

As things opened up a bit I was able to fall into a nice stride in a bit of a paceline with other runners through the woods. Loping along pretty easily, I started thinking through my nutrition strategy and realised there was a huge hole in my plan: I generally take a slug of EFS Liquid Shot from my flask every 25-30mins, but I'd left my stinkin' watch with Tanker! I'd have no idea about timing unless I asked someone (which I hate doing, since I don't like to bother people on course), and I couldn't even use distance as much of a gauge because the kilometers aren't marked. I'd have to guess, all because I'm an idiot who just wanted to run by feel.

To make myself feel better, after I judged about 2k had gone by, I started sipping water and setting goals. I wanted to run the whole thing except where it wasn't possible due to congestion (and a couple of seriously sketchy downhills that would have been suicide to run) - I'd had to walk some toward the end in 2010, but I had a freshly broken toe at the time. I also hoped to get through my 25k before the 50k leader lapped me, and of course it would be nice to go sub-3 hours again and maybe even PR. Everything was secondary to staying upright, though, so I was being very careful to keep lifting my feet and staying vigilant for errant roots and rocks.

Around 3k (or so I judged), I took a small sip of gel. I hit the first aid station at 4.8km not long thereafter, confirming that my sense of timing wasn't too far off. Just after the aid station (at which I didn't stop, as I still had plenty of water in my hand bottle) I saw a marker at 5k - I wouldn't see another the entire day. I was running quite relaxed, not interested in pushing the pace at all, and letting faster people go past where possible. I took another sip of gel just after the 5k sign to ensure I'd got a full ounce and pushed onward.

Course map - even the aid stations are at odd intervals.

The biggest hill at Vulture Bait pops up just past the fifth kilometer as you climb out of the woods up to the dam, which provides one of the most stunning views of the reservoir around which you run. While I'm not going to tell you it was easy, I was surprised to find it much less challenging than I remembered. This would be a recurring theme throughout the race; I'd get to a section I had thought was a killer, and just float through it. While the trails are a little more technical here, I'd say overall that Run for the Toad is a tougher course from an elevation change standpoint. Finish times seem to be faster at the Toad, so maybe I'm dreaming, but I was really shocked by how little I noticed the hills at Vulture Bait this year. Of course, my calves felt a little differently; they tried cramping on me in the first couple of climbs, but my Compressport R2 calf sleeves held things in check.

Around 9k (at least I think so) I took another swig of EFS Liquid Shot, still running very relaxed and feeling quite good. I hooked in behind a gentleman in a Salomon S-Lab hydration pack and red shoes and pacelined through the forest, turning into a total lemming: had the fellow in front of me run off the edge of a cliff, I would cheerfully have plummeted right after him, not realising I was doing so until after it was too late. Having feet right in front of me made it a bit tougher to see roots and rocks in front of me, too, and I ended up stepping on a few things that had my ankles rolling a bit. On a couple of occasions I thought I might have done damage, but was able to keep running without any issues. I tried to focus on my footing, but I must admit that I kept getting distracted by the incredible scenery - with very few exceptions, you can look to your left almost anywhere on the course and see the reservoir surrounded by trees crowned in greens, golds and russet with the occasional scarlet flare of a
maple or sumac.

Hitting the second aid station around 11k, I paused briefly to dump 2 cups of water into my near-empty bottle. I was still feeling pretty good despite the beating my ankles were taking, and I reminded myself to be careful of roots and rocks. I was seeing more sections through which I'd been hurting badly in 2010, but I was having a much easier time of it. I didn't know how long that would last with the lack of long runs, but all I could do was keep cruising and remind myself I was nearly halfway done (I thought the 2nd aid station was much closer to 12k). I had hooked onto a pack of 3 girls who were running together, and was trying not to lose them. I'd pass them when they stopped at an aid station (which I only made the briefest of pauses), then they would pass me back on the trail, but seldom get out of sight up ahead. I resolved to try to hang onto them as best I could.

Shamelessly yoinked from Dave Rutherford's Strava data.
Around 14k (ish?) I took another gel, figuring I was probably about 90mins into the run by now. The second half of the loop is the more challenging half, with more technical trails and endless twists and turns, so I was having to pay close attention to where I was putting my feet. Around 16k in, I came to a really sketchy descent on which I nearly slipped when the whole stony surface started to slide underfoot, but I managed to control it and keep on going. I recognized that I was now in the area of the spot where I'd broken my toe, so made doubly sure to watch for roots and rocks hidden among the fallen leaves. A lady in front of me lost her footing twice and stopped dead while she caught herself on a tree - I managed to get past her the second time, making sure she was ok. I didn't want to trip over her!

Through the aid station at around 17k, I grabbed two more cups of water to fill my bottle, pausing for as short a time as possible: I unscrew the lid and hold it and the bottle in my right hand as I approach the aid station, grab cups and dump them in with my left hand, then drop the cups and start screwing the lid back on. If I have a clear shot at the table or a really heads-up volunteer I can practically do it without breaking stride, but it's worth pausing a moment to ensure I've got lots to drink. The day had warmed up - I was rather happy not to have the armwarmers or earband - and I was sweating out a lot of fluid. Unfortunately, that was leading to a lot of friction in areas I'd forgotten to BodyGlide prior to the race. Ouch.

I was having to work a little harder now to try to keep on pace; I was breathing a little heavier and my legs were starting to fatigue, but I hadn't really burned many matches so felt I could keep pushing. Even the road sections weren't hurting as much as they had two years prior - my feet had toughened up a little since then. I had to slow to pick my way across the stepping stones at the stream crossing, but since one of them shifted under me I ended up with a soaked right foot anyway. The climb on the other side was a bit muddy and slippery, so I grabbed onto a tree to steady myself as I marched upward, but other than that I ran every uphill section on the course. I'm pretty sure that's the last time I had to drop out of a run, despite my soggy foot and my rapidly deteriorating leg strength.

Gasping, but nearly done.

I took one last shot of gel somewhere around 19k and grabbed a final cup of water at the aid station around 21.5k - I hadn't really planned to take anything there, but I was down to a single sip of water in my bottle about 10mins before I reached the aid station. I thought there was only about 2-2.5km left after the final aid station, but when I asked they said 3.5km, so I'm glad I grabbed water there as another 20+mins without anything to wet my mouth would have been upsetting. As it turns out, I only ended up having about 3oz of gel in total (approx. 270cal) - in the absence of nutrition hydration is pretty critical!

Having noticed that the emergency rescue signs along the trail seemed to be spaced out every half-kilometer, I was able to more or less accurately count down the final 3.5km to the finish. I was seriously starting to hurt by this point and wanted to be done; I'd totally outrun the last of my long haul run fitness and was relying on stubbornness and gritting my teeth. I had lost the group of girls I'd been trying to use to haul me in, but with around 2k to go I did see a friendly face - I pulled alongside of and then past Ron Gehl (running the 50k), offering a friendly word and getting one in return. It's the first time I've ever been able to pass him! I was passing a few other people along the way, too; some taking walk breaks in the 50k, some just defeated by the short, sharp hills that populate the last few kilometers of the course.

Eventually, the woods gave way to a hardpacked gravel slope climbing up to the lawn outside the park pavilion and the finishing chute. My poor, tenderized feet didn't like the harsh surface in the least and my legs complained loudly over having to ascend once more, but I made it up to the grass and threw whatever I had left at the finish line. I finally spotted Tanker who looked shocked to see me, then realised why as I hove in view of the clock. A few more painful steps, a beeping mat, letting momentum uncoil and a friendly volunteer take my timing chip and hand me a bottle of water. As a nice touch, a race organizer shook my hand and thanked me for participating before handing me my finisher's prize.

Looking much less hurting than I feel, steps away from the finish.

Official time: 2:46:11
32/63 W1-49, 39/87 Women, 102/177 O/A (209 started)
PR of 12:09 over 2010 finish.

I stumbled around, found Tanker, and tried to walk off the tightness that had gripped my hamstrings and calves while reveling in having met all of my race goals - even the shoot-the-moon goal of a PR. Inside for a change of clothes (since I was completely soaked), I quickly whipped on my Compressport full socks and ForQuad sleeves to help me recover, then helped myself to the amazing hot post-race meal as the rain started to fall. After getting warmed up both inside and out, it was back home for the rest of my recovery: grabbing a beer and some chips, then putting my feet up and watching the live broadcast of the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

It's a rough life, eh?
There was even a gluten free chocolate cupcake waiting just for me at Tiny Cakes. Can a race day get any better?


Friday, October 12, 2012

At least I'm tapered..

Despite not having run more than 16km since March, I'll be taking a whack at the Vulture Bait 25k trail race tomorrow morning. It's supposed to be -2c/28f then, but at least I'm covered with a lovely insulating layer of chub at the moment. It seems my attitude of needing to eat because I'm trying to heal a broken bone may be slightly misplaced.

Thank gawd I didn't sign up for the 50k.

Oh yeah, and that 16km run since March? There was one of them, two weeks ago. Other than that, I don't think I've run more than 12km since the first quarter of 2012. Wait, I did 13-and-a-bit last weekend.

I last did this race two years ago, badly breaking my right big toe after tripping over rocks not once but twice within about 5 seconds. I literally tripped, thought I was going arse over teakettle, managed to catch my balance and then immediately tripped again. I was forced to walk some of the last 8km or so, finally limping in to the finish at 2:58:20. Since I'd been trying to beat 3 hours, I was pretty pleased - this was my first race longer than a half marathon, and the first time I'd run more than a 5k on trail.

I didn't even want to look at it after I noticed blood leaking out of my shoe.
I bandaged it when I got home and then refused to look for another 5 days.

The only reason why running tomorrow isn't a ridiculously stupid idea is that I've got two additional years of running under my belt since then, including another 25k trail race (Run for the Toad last year), a 30k road race (Around the Bay earlier this year), a road marathon (the Waterloo Marathon last year) and two 6-hour ultra trail races (Horror Hill in 2010 and 2011). Oh, and I did the inaugural 3-hour Frosty Trail in 2011 as well.

..which just goes to show the extent of my masochism.

I've also been running 5 or 6 days per week for the last twenty months as opposed to 3 times per week back in 2010, and my weekly mileage has actually been greater in the past 2 months than it was in the 2 months prior to the last time I did Vulture Bait. Hell, I'm actually right around the same weight as last time, too.

I think I'll actually make it out of this race alive, and I'm hoping to emerge unbroken as well..or at least as unbroken as I went in, because the x-rays they took last Wednesday when they took my cast off still make it look like I'm pretty gawddamn borked:

What apparently qualifies as "just fine".

Doc is pleased with the way it's healing and quite amazed at my being able to swim at all (let alone do an olympic distance tri and 50k mountain bike race), but it's still quite sore and I have bugger all for range of motion or strength. I fiddle with therapy putty and elastic bands, play with baoding balls and do some assisted stretching, plus I wear a brace for cycling and stick to my mountain bike with its nice squishy fork.

Awesome ride on the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail on Thanksgiving Monday.
I don't know if I'll be able to go sub-3 hours tomorrow. I don't know if I'll be able to make it out without breaking my idiot toe again. I don't know if I'll be able to finish it without walking. I have actually tapered this week (save for the two blissful hours of trail riding on Monday), but as usual I haven't been getting much sleep and I've been fighting off a cold I came down with just before Tour de King

Once again, I'll be racing on some hasty carbo-loading (hooray for jasmine rice!) and stubbornness. There are a buttload of hills to drag my chubby arse up and plenty of things to trip over, potentially breaking something...but hey, at least Fanshawe is beautiful at this time of year!

At reservoir level in 2010.
Surrounded by fall colours and my fellow racers, I'm sure it'll be fun even if it turns out to be a sufferfest. Hope it won't take too much recovery time, though, as this week I signed up for another event in two weeks - the Horror Hill 6-hour.

Go big or go home, right?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Running around the country

Earlier this year, Tanker and I took an awesome trip to Quebec on our motorcycles. We ate too much chocolate and cheese, took ridiculous numbers of photos, and enjoyed our vacation thoroughly while still remaining very active. I ran up Mont Royal, trotted around Parc les Saules, rode a Bixi around Montreal and walked about a hundred miles and a million stairs.

In the middle of September, the day after the Lakeside Olympic Tri, we hopped on a plane to go visit Tanker's family in Alberta for the first time in four years. We had his parents to visit in Calgary, their trailer in Radium Hot Springs, BC to see, and his sister, her husband, and our 3.5 year old niece and 9 month old nephew to visit with. I couldn't forget, though, that I still have the Vulture Bait 25k trail race coming up!

We'd be landing in Calgary late Monday night, so I got in a run before we left for the airport. My legs were pretty trashed from Lakeside the day before, but Tanker cycled along with me and I got it done. The next morning, we took off in the car for Radium Hot Springs, driving through the incredible beauty of the Rocky Mountains in Banff and Kootenay National Parks.

I know it looks fake, but I promise it's real.

Castle Mountain

Numa Falls

Verdant Creek by Kootenay Park Lodge

When we reached the trailer, I laced up and went for a run around the RV park.

About the only paved portion.

I had a hoot running over all of the little footbridges over Sinclair Creek, but the park is rather small so I ended up doing a couple of loops. On my second turn around, I found a trail that went...up.

Not pictured: bear droppings.

After running up to the top, past a house on stilts and meeting up with the road, I turned around and headed back down again. You can actually see the trail on Google maps here.

Trying to take a photo looking over my own shoulder.

After reaching the bottom and another half loop, I called it done at 35mins. I live at 1,079 feet above sea level - Radium Hot Springs is at 2,651ft, I was a little jetlagged, and I still had heavy legs from racing two days earlier. We did also hike up to Sinclair Falls with Tanker's Dad, his Sister and our wee nephew that afternoon:

Three generations out for a hike!

Marvin came along, too.

Then Tanker and I decided to hike from the trailer up high above Sinclair Falls to a shoulder of rock overlooking the Kootenay Highway that his Dad had pointed out on our way into town. We started out at creek level:

Taken from a footbridge that leads up the trail.

Then climbed up the side of a mountain littered with boulders and juniper bushes.

Not pictured: about a million switchbacks.

Until we emerged high above road level on top of the shoulder of rock. Total elevation change was over 425ft from our starting point.

And the view speaks for itself.
We hiked back down to creek level again, crossed back over the footbridge, then hiked up the other side to the road. We'd made arrangements to meet Tanker's Mom and Sister, plus the kiddos, at the pools for a post-hike dip - they were bringing our swim gear up in a vehicle and we'd be able to get a ride back with them.

Last photo was taken from the top on the left, looking toward where I'm standing.
From the road, we were able to peer over the edge and see the top of Sinclair Falls that had been hidden by rock face at the bottom.

Only the Rockies could make a highway look so insubstantial.

We eventually reached the pools - one hot, built directly over the natural hot springs and fed with pure, unfiltered water bubbling up out of the mountains; one cold, using filtered and chlorinated water to provide a perfect venue for swimmers.

And here I was happy being able to see clouds at Harry Class!

I banged out a few hundred metres in the cool pool, amazed by the view every time I took a breath, then wandered over to the hot pool to rest my broken wrist.

Just as stunning.

The 40c/102f water was lovely to sit and stretch in after a rather long day, and I hoped the minerals from the springs would act like an Epsom salt bath for my wounded wing. We ended the day with a wonderful steak dinner and a campfire, though I must admit I was too sore, tired and cold to be very much fun.

The next morning, we were up and at it with a round of golf at Spur Valley. At least the company (Tanker and his Dad) and incredible scenery made up for my really awful golf! I'm sure I probably could have done better if I wasn't broken and could actually use both hands to swing the club, though. Very glad we only played 9 holes, as I think 18 would have been too much for me. 

70 with one hand is like a 35 with both hands, right?

Then we were back on the road through the mountains to Cochrane to stay with Tanker's sister, her husband and the kiddos. We had a family photo session early that evening, then I managed to squeak in a 35min sunset run along the Cochrane River Trail which follows the Bow River right behind Krista & Mike's house.

Really nicely groomed crushed brick path.

Gorgeous streaks of cloud over the river behind me.

Thursday ended up being a day off - we were too busy ripping around Banff for the day and took everyone out for a fantastic big family Indian dinner afterward. We walked around Lake Minnewanka a bit.

Beautiful clear water.
Amazing view from a rock reached by stepping stones.
We toured Tunnel Mountain by car, stopping at a roadside turnout to marvel at the view over Banff Springs Golf Club, then ended up assisting a wonderful Scottish lady named Barbara who slipped on the spillway by the turnout and broke her ankle.

Looking down on the golf course.

Barbara being attended to by park staff and paramedics.
Then we wrapped up our day in Banff with a soak in the sulfurous hot springs. No cool pool here, so all I could do was paddle around a wee bit to get to the deeper end of the hot pool. At 40c with a huge crowd, there's no way I was getting in a workout! The only active things that really happened on Thursday were walking around Banff and a nice, relaxed stroll after dinner.

Another amazing view, though.

Friday was our last full day in Alberta, as we were flying out Saturday morning, so Krista and I finally got out for a run together on Friday morning while Tanker and his Dad squeaked in one more round of golf.

Scully the dog came for a run, too!

We hit the Cochrane River Trail again, pushing much further West than I'd made it two evenings before. Krista was racing a 10k up Tunnel Mountain on Saturday morning so didn't want to go for too long a run, but we ran together until she turned around with the doggie and I kept on going.

I had a tough time with this one - there's a BIG stinkin' hill around the 6km mark from the start of our route that was a bit of a trial heading West, but damn near killed me coming back East as it's much shorter and steeper on that side. I couldn't seem to stop death whistling after I crested it - oxygen felt like it was in short supply. I later discovered that I was running at approximately 3,891ft above sea level - about 2,800ft higher than I'm used to, and in that nasty "I've been here long enough to feel it but not long enough to adapt to it" phase familiar to people who travel to races at higher elevations than those at which they live. I could also have been suffering the effects of jetlag combined with sleep deprivation, as I didn't seem to be able to do any more than nap for a couple of hours at a time and snap awake. Or, I could have just been a giant weenie. In any case, I pulled the plug after 11km and headed back to the house.

By the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) overpass.

Knackered but knowing I'd put miles in the bank for Vulture Bait, I promptly took Saturday completely off as it was a travel day, then went right back to training on Sunday. When preparing for long endurance events, consistency trumps big, sporadic workouts, so why not try getting out for a swim, bike or run the next time you're on holiday? It's a wonderful way to explore new places, and I can now say that I've run in both of Canada's major mountain ranges in the last 2 months!

In other news, my broken wrist has healed enough that the cast has been removed - I'm not even wearing a brace for most things. Will update on that next week.