Monday, June 24, 2013

Scotty! I Need More Power!

We saw Star Trek last week.  Surprisingly good.  I am not a die-hard trekky, but I have watched my share of the original series, during University in the mid-seventies.  It was in re-runs, which meant 2 hours of Trek every evening.  We evolved a drinking game in which whoever guessed the episode first, did not have to chug his or her drink.  The game was later modified so that only the person guessing correctly could chug her drink...  The record was John Medwin, who guessed "The Red Planet", 0.822 seconds after it started.

Here is something you should never try, even with medical back-up:  After taking 3 years off from running ultras due to injury, surgery and recovery, run 2 ultras in 2 weeks.  Yes! A textbook hold-my-beer situation.  But Wait!  There's more!  Add a half marathon in the middle, 6 days before the 50K race.  Chris McPeake once wrote about how ultra runners enjoy beating themselves up unnecessarily.  He was speaking a profound truth!

This entry is a race report for the Barrie half on June 16 (I'll make it short) and an RR for my first 50K in 3 years.  There are some eerie parallels between the 50K and Star Trek.  Let's do it!

Barrie Half Race Report

I ran 44K at the Kingston 6 hour race on June 8.  It was the longest I had run in years.  I was very happy with the result, but with a 50K 2 weeks later, knew I could not do anything but consider the Barrie half on June 15 as a taper run.  My goal was 2:15.  I held strictly to plan, even though the legs wanted to run faster.  A good sign.  With 3K to go, I was starting to play those mental games that interfere with goals and plans.  The guy ahead of me was undoubtedly in my age category, and was definitely the second to last M50-54.  So I picked up the pace a bit.  I should mention that I turned 55 the next day...  With 1K to go I thought, what the hell, it's 1 K!  So I upped the tempo, in case the (now) last place M50-54 behind me made a move.  I was intelligent enough to let the 2 young guys and girl sprint past me.  Finishing time: 2:10.  A bit disappointed that I did not run 2:15, but satisfied that I did not enter the realm of stupid.  Oh!  It rained a lot.  Perfect running weather.

Niagara Ultra 50K

It feels good just to write that!  It feels even better as I was able to complete the race.  One hour slower than my A goal, but a finish is a finish.  Tapering for this race went badly.  A half marathon six days before the big race did not help.  I was definitely not recovered from Kingston, 2 weeks ago.  I ran 7.5K on Tuesday (Sunday was the half), but moved the Wednesday 5K taper run to Thursday.

The plan was to start slowly, but up the pace to about 6 minute K's.  Maintain until 25 - 30K, slow down, but run until 45K, then run walk.  At 15K (yes, I had 35K to go) I was tired!  Nevertheless, I increased the pace a bit, hoping that I would rebound soon.  The temperature was starting to rise (It would get to 30 degrees at the finish), but there was a nice breeze.  Just before 20K my back starting sending out those signals that no one wants to listen to, with 30K+ on the agenda.  I was not prepared to run through sever pain for 30K.  At the 20K aid station, I took salt, gel and Ibuprofen.  I slowed a bit, which probably saved my race.  I had also filled my bottle, which was a surprise, as I had not expected to be out of water so early in the race.  I was drinking at every aid station and only using the bottle for in-between sips.  This was going to be quite the foreshadowing event!

Reached the 25K turn-around point and found I had placed the Nuun in the wrong drop bag!  Fortunately, I had a spare tablet with me, so I was okay for a while, but strike one.  My bottle had lasted 20K before I filled it the first time.  I filled it again at 25K.  Pay close attention to what happens here...

After turning back for the finish line, I embarked on a 25K mission to explore new lows in energy, recovery from heat issues and experiment with record fluid intakes.  At about 26K is a gradual uphill out of the Niagara Falls area, fully exposed to sunlight. the temperature was now "hot".  The gentle breeze (now warm) was travelling at about the same speed as I, and in the same direction...  Within a very short period of time, the dilithium crystals started to fuse.  I still had warp speed, but the core was overheating faster than you can say Bones!

By 30K, the core was in the red zone and I had no option but to kill the warp and go to impulse power.  I had also expected my water bottle with my last Nuun tablet to last me more than 7K.  Guess what?  At 32K, I was out of water, overheated and looking forward to a very dry 3K before the 35K aid station.  Definitely a rookie mistake (Hey!  I had been away for 3 years!) but more importantly, one I could only negotiate by limiting the amount of running.  It was impulse power in the shade and I ran (feeble warp speed) in the sunny sections.

At the 35K station, I filled my bottle with ice and Gatorade (they had run out of HEED).  I put ice on my head and walked.  Sorry!  Impulse power.  With the aid of clouds that had moved in. I was able to bring my core temperature down to a manageable level.  With shade and downhill, the warp drive was again operational.  I had run with Ron Irwin (West Gray Runner) for a chunk near the beginning of the race and although Ron was have a lot of fun during the race shooting a video(too much fun!), he helped me to run the big downhill and through most of Queenston before warp gave up the ghost and I was back to impulse.  At every aid station, I drank and filled an empty bottle.  I estimate my fluid intake during the race at about 5 litres!

At 40K, it dawned on me that although I was brutally tired, was overheating and feeling less than ideal, I had little back pain an NO KNEE PAIN.  It was a wonderful feeling to realize that although I was turtle slow, I would complete a 50K without severe pain for the first time in about 10 years!  Once I was in that frame of mind, the remaining 10K could do nothing to my spirit.  I made up a game of starting to run at every K marker, with the intent of running until there would only be a short walk to the next marker.  It did not always work out that way, but the losses were minimal.  With 1 mile to go (Niagara always marks the first mile) I tried to make it to the finish without stopping.  It didn't happen, but Lee Anne joined my with about 1K to go (I was walking) and after a brief rest decided to run it in.

Approaching the finish was sensational!  People were still clapping for us slowpokes and Katherine Harding (I hope it was her) was on the mike yelling encouragement to make it in.  A wonderful race, a great feeling of accomplishment, and a tangible sense of relief that it was over.  6:29 is by far my slowest 50K on any surface, but I consider Niagara 2013 to be one of my finest achievements.

And no pain!

Recovery did not goes so well.  I had a few episode when it was difficult to breath.  I waited a bit too long for dinner and almost made a scene in the restaurant.  Fortunately the food helped to alleviate the feeling that I was about to pass out.  Apparently I had more of a heat issue than I realized.

But, as per Monty Python, I'm not dead yet!

I look forward to TRAINING for my next 50K and plan to avoid running too long, too soon before the next ultra.  In fact, I might not run an ultra until Run for the Toad in October.  That would be sensible.

And I have "sensible" written all over me...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kingston 6 hour Self-transcendental Race Report

As per my last blog entry, I had no sooner signed up for Kingston than I realized running on pavement for 6 hours, 2 weeks before a 50K was an incredibly stupid thing to do...  The mental dialogue went something like:  Wow!  You have reached a new height in Lost-It!  Have you any idea what running on pavement will do to your newly-surgeried knee?  (incensed mental dialogue does not concern itself with grammatical niceties)  Congratulations you dumb-ass computer cowboy, a new low in cerebral connect-the-dots!

Of course I've toned down the wording to protect those of a gentler nature, who might be reading this.  Trepidation is too kind a work for how I felt, lining up at the race.  And then a funny thing happened.  I started slowly (part of the contractual agreement reached during the post-mental dialogue meltdown...) and talked with new and old friends.  The time passed quickly to start.  I got into a rhythm and never pushed hard.  I was having pain-free fun on the course!

The volunteers?  Excellent.  I looked forward to the banter we shared every 880 meters.  A running comedic act with 10 people at the lap counting station and 3-4 at the aid station.  It took the edge off the effort and growing aches as another notch was marked on the way through.  The course had wonderful views of lake Ontario and the old fort Henry buildings and embankments.  The race was well thought out and executed.  At what might have been a low point, circa 3 hours into the race, a piper played up on the high ridge, the music playing out over the lake.

The plan?  Run 32K, then start making some intelligent decisions.  I heard you chuckling.  The strange thing about a 6 hour race is that it is not impossibly long.  I have never run a 12 or 24 hour race, in which you must reach some daunting periods, such as when you say to yourself "I'm damn tired and I've got 19 hours left to run".  In a 6 hour race, 3 hours is the halfway point.  A very reasonable duration in which to run.  The race becomes a game.  I'm tired, but I've only got 45 minutes to the 3 hour mark.  Let's see if I can hold off the first walking break until then.  Later:  Wow!  I'm beat, but in 25 minutes, I will have run without stopping for 4 hours.  I haven't done that since 2010!  And so it went.  About 4 hours in, I asked my lap counter (oh to have a memory...  I only saw his name every 5 minutes for 5 hours...) how many laps.  40.  40 X 880 meters = 36.2K  I had gone way over my "intelligent" milestone, without feeling any knee pain, back pain (although it was starting to act up) and I did not feel like death warmed over.  My "A" plan was to run an ultra.  A really really stupid idea on so many levels it doesn't deserve mentioning.  However, my big dream for post-surgery 2013 is to run an ultra and here I had one in my grasp.  Damn the torpedoes, keep going!

I reached the marathon lap shorty after and decided that running any further was not in my best interest.  I donned a jacket (it was perfect weather for running) and walked a few more laps, for a total of 44K.  A baby ultra at best, but still an ultra and the 2013 goal is complete!

After 50 laps, I chatted with Derrick Spafford and his wife (oh great, another name to remember...) who live nearby, cheering the runners as the race wound down.  Quite the battle between Cameron and Pat, who both ended up with circa 70K on the day!
In retrospect, a perfect day for running and a wonderful event put on by Hladini Wilson, who obviously knows her way around a race!  I ran quite a few laps with Navin, who was new to the Ontario races, but certainly not knew to ultras.  Navin started slowly with me and another fellow whose name escapes me (see memory issues above, in case you have forgotten) then opened it up and was closing in on 60K at the 6 hour mark.

Lee Anne had yet another great race (do I sound a bit annoyed?).  She passed the 54K mark, which is remarkable on its own, but incredible considering she ran 40K the day before.  Lee Anne took it easy the day after the race, by biking 100K.  Do you see what I'm up against?  Someone throw me a perspective bone...

So now I look towards the Niagara 50K.  In what I fervently hope is a taper run, I'm running the Barrie half 6 days before Niagara.  My current mantra is "don't do anything stupid".

Hope it helps!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Training Run: Creemore Vertical Challenge

Is your schedule becoming more complicated, diverse and busy to the point of being ludicrous?  Scheduling a training run around other races, training runs, personal commitments and solar flares is becoming a nightmare.  I was sorely tempted to schedule it at 7:00 PM one week day this year, but I was booked...

I'm convinced it is not just me who is busy.  On a beautiful windy Sunday morning, only Maryka, Marylou and Ken made it for the training run.  Perhaps others were disappointed that it was not stupid-hot, so the training run would not truly reflect race day conditions?  Last night (and again during the training run) I was asked for a date to schedule something.  Last night, it was dropping a large dead tree in Orillia.  I said my next free day is Sunday, July 14.  My friend thought I was joking.  The sad part is that I believe July 14 is the ONLY free day before August 18...

Well, back to the matter at hand.

The wind was very inviting, temps around 18 - 20, sun and cloud and a hint of rain.  Don't like the weather?  Wait 5 minutes.  The 5 of us (including Lee Anne) started slowly and aside from a faster Poste trail, a 1.6K "U" through pine trees, the pace was easy.  Nevertheless, hiking O2 was still a challenge.  I don't think I will ever "race" O2.  It is not very steep and not very long, but has a gradient that seems relentless for about 800 meters.

At 17K, we all opted to take a shortcut, as Marylou and Maryka were running low on water.  I had already borrowed water from Ken, who had a hip bottle and a hand-held, my hip bottle being empty within 18K.  All of us were out of water for the final kilometer, on the cliffs with ropes.  The pace slowed considerably!  I'll have to make sure that aid station 2 NEVER runs out of water!

Well, Lee Anne and I are now off to see Peter Taylor's art exhibit in Dunedin, then to my brother's to steal asparagus.  Serves him right for planting a half acres of the stuff!  Then to Barrie for supper, back to Creemore to ready the kiln, then at least 17 minutes downtime before the work week starts!