Friday, January 17, 2014

2014: Year of Potential

I strive to avoid making plans and predictions for a new year, especially with regard to a topic as finicky as running.  I suspect I'm not alone.  Very few people have control over enough of their life's variables to even state that they will be running a race next year, let alone winning it, doing better, or finishing.  Even the elite athletes (arguably more so) hesitate to state they will do well in a race.  An elite runner is always playing along the fine line between a podium finish and "3 months off with good behaviour", commonly known as an injury.  Factor in family and work and you are lucky to plan a vacation without a plethora of scheduling changes.

I'm 55.  The family now ranges from North Bay, Barrie and Toronto in Ontario, to Whistler, British Columbia.  I will retire on May 1, 2014, which is a blink away.  Lee Anne wants another crack at her age category 100 mile Canadian record.  I would like to run a 50 miler.  I would also like to attend more of the Ontario Ultra races.  Perhaps not many more as a participant, but as a volunteer.  I know I've beat this topic to death, but volunteering provides much more than it takes.  The main joke is you get to sit in a chair and offer runners grilled cheese sandwich quarters while they run all day and night.  All the excitement without the effort!  There are other benefits.  Many of the elite athletes will vollie at a race before racing it.  Why?  To attain a profound understanding of the course layout, logistics, challenges and infrastructure.  This information can then be factored into their race planning.  Why shouldn't us regular runners do the same?

So here is the wish list.  I'm not going to bother looking up dates, so the races might be out of order.  A few are inserted for light-hearted jesting.  I hope.

Spring Warm-up.  Venue has not been announced as yet.  I will have to pencil this one in, as it will fall smack in the middle of maple syrup season.  I hope to attend nonetheless.

Laura Secord Memorial:  I gnash my teeth on this one!  It falls at the end of syrup season.  I cannot commit to running it (early season race on the Bruce Trail and I am sidelined???  Arggg) or even a confirmed volunteer.  The best I can do is tell RD Diane Chesla that I will vollie if I am there.  Oh, the injustice!

Pick Your Poison.  25K.  I would love to run the 50K, but PYP falls directly after 6 weeks of working, snowshoeing and sitting in a sugar shack.  The hope is that in 2015, I can run and make maple syrup.  Nothing else, so 50K becomes realistic.

Seaton Trail.  25K.  There are horror stories surrounding this race.  Look at the 2011 50M results.  Only the podium FINISHED the race.  Hopefully it sells out before I register and I'm forced to vollie.

3 Days at the Fair.  Crew for Lee Anne.  Hope to get some laps in, if allowed.

Sulphur Springs.  50K.  Gonna do it or die in the attempt.  I've decide to DNF only shorter runs this year.  Yes, it makes no logical sense.  Recall who is typing this.

Kingston.  TBD.  Realistically, if I want to do well at Niagara, I might need to vollie or skip this one.  Unrealistically, we will bike to the race and run it.

Niagara.  50K.  Bike from Kingston.  Wine taste while Lee Anne completes the 100K.

Creemore Vertical Challenge.  RD.

Limberlost.  Vollie.  It's about time I helped Neil with the UCC (Ultra Challenge Challenge).  If your are unfamiliar with the UCC, avert your eyes.  You don't want anything to do with this fringe entity.

Bike to Newfoundland.  I guess part of it will be a swim.  Obviously I haven't worked out all the logistics on this one.

Dirty Girls.  12 hour.  Running all night is crazy-stupid.  Can't wait.  Vollie if possible.

Creemore Copper Kettle Dash.  Assistant RD.  The concept is excellent:  5K or 10K just before the beer garden opens at the Copper Kettle Festival.  The downside is committing to an event during the only large segment of the summer calendar that is open.

Run to Quebec City.  Maybe bike it.  Okay, probably drive, then bike and run in the district.  I hate it when common sense prevails.

Haliburton.  50M.  Haven't been to this race since 2008 and it is starting to get painful.  Lee Anne vollied last year, but I had to work (moved the Honda Canada mainframe to Colorado).  I am predicting that work will not be a factor this year!

Run for the Toad.  50K.  Setting my sights on improving my 6:15 time in 2013.  Probably not a podium finish...  There are some FAST runners at this one!

Horror Hill:  6 hour.  A varied 2.5K trail.  Long enough not to get overly bored, but short enough that a logistical mistake doesn't ruin your race.

Bruce Trail.  I would like to run the whole thing, although not at one go.  Need to convince the wife this is a desirable goal...

There are a few other races I am eyeing and possibly 1 - 2 vacations that will factor in a far-away race. Run Off The Grid and Ottawa look appealing.  There will likely be some trade-offs (I will be forced to run a marathon, I'm sure) but if the body is willing, it will be a better year of running!

So that's it!  Quite a full year.  With luck, 75% of it will transpire.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Year in Review (Mirror)

Yes, many successes in 2013:

No surgery
3 ultras completed
Training is easier better smoother

Some minor inconveniences:

Training is not faster
Racing is slower
Not increasing mileage as quickly as I had hoped

Synopsis:  Running is going well, could be better, could be a lot worse.

My doctor (2012 knee surgery) asked me if I would consider not running anymore.  I replied emphatically YES!  I would consider it.  Then I would continue to run.  Running is actually an insidious disease much much worse than smoking heroin or tracking nicotine.  Running is "GOOD FOR YOU".  This is simply a clever way of disguising the fact that once you start running and enjoy the feeling of being in great shape, getting outside during all sorts of weather and knowing your life is simply better when running.  No one discusses what NOT running can do to people.  I understand.  Been there, writing the book.

To stop running is not really an option (see "about Pierre Marcoux").  I chuckle at people who complain that they have been injured for 3 months and haven't run well since (insert date here).  Try 10 years.  A decade.  The Roman empire took less time to establish, at least on paper.  Running offers me much more than it takes.  I don't begrudge the injuries, but I am truly thankful when I can run without pain.  I hope to run faster soon, but if that does not transpire, I could give a shit.  I will enjoy any form of running.  And I will complain about not being able to run a 50K trail race in under 5 hours, etc.  But behind all the complaints, I am very happy to run.  I am looking forward to retirement (2014-05-01).  I plan to run 2 - 3 times per hour.  Many sage runners have cautioned me about overdoing it (me???) so I will factor in their advice, then run to Quebec city or something equally circumspect.

Enough pandering to the emotive, let's get on with the review (hear hear!).  2013:

Run for R Kids:  34K.  Great race, but need to be wary of running on concrete.

Spring Warm-up (OTS/OUS):  20K  I always have fun at this event.  I will not be RD this year as I have upped the number of taps and worry about staging an event when I don't have time to sleep.

Pick Your Poison:  25K.  Slow time.  Wanted BADLY to run the 50K.  Glad I did not attempt.

Sulphur Springs:  25K.  In 2:37, which is speedy for me!  Very happy.
Legs:  Take it easy big guy.

Kingston 6 hour:  ULTRA!!!  Okay, 44K is a marginal ultra, but it is good to be back!

Niagara:  50K!  The wheels fell off due to heat issues, but 2 ultras in 2 weeks.  6:29

Creemore Vertical Challenge.  I didn't run it.  I seemed to be a bit busy...

Dirty Girls:  Did not run it either!  But volunteered.  Great event.  I highly recommend being a vollie at this race if you have any interest in a really long race.  You will learn tons!

Creemore Copper Kettle Dash:  Again, I did not run it.  Busy being assistant RD!

Run for the Toad:  50K.  A satisfactory time of 6:15.  Great event (vollied Friday), Peggy and George are incredible RD"s.

Bad Idea 50 Miler.  39K.  Great people, great course, weather...  Dunedin pale!

Across The Years:  27K  About 800K behind Yannis Kouros and Joe Fejes.  Inspiring event.  I'm now married to a former world record holder (Lee Anne Cohen, also known as the wife, W60-64 road 12 hour).

That's it!

What are we going to do next week, Pinky?

Planning for 2014!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Across The Years Race - Phoenix

Okay, I understand that being completely satisfied with your performance in a race does not happen often.  I wonder if Kenyan's feel a twinge of disappointment when they break the marathon record by "only" 12 seconds.  Probably not!

Lee Anne Cohen, Sharon Zelinski and I headed down to Arizona to meet a fair contingent of Canadians running a race that I can only describe as "the fringe within the fringe".  I signed up for the 24 hour race.  Why?  Because there was nothing shorter.  Lee Anne signed up for the 48 hour to make an attempt on the Canadian record in her age category (F60-64 100 mile).  Sharon was also in the 48 hour because it sounded like so much fun!

My race plan was simple:  Run 1 loop (about 1.05 US miles), crew Lee Anne and Sharon for about 12 hours, then run at night.  I could not run with Lee Anne as pacing is not allowed during a record attempt.  I'm not sure if this is true for Canadian records, but it does hold for US and international records.  Lee Anne was not chancing a DQ.  During the night I hoped to run an ultra.  If I chanced to run a bit with Lee Anne, it was permissible as I was also registered in the race.

Sharon's race plan was to have fun (note to Sharon:  sign up for a 48 minute race if you want to have fun) and gain experience at the 48 hour distance.

Lee Anne had to run 100 miles in under 28 hours 14 minutes for the Canadian record in her age category.  Very tough, but within reason.

Race conditions were close to ideal, with a high of 18 (I think it hit a bit over 20) and a low of 5.  The sun was a factor for me, but I don't think it had much of an impact on Lee Anne or Sharon.  My A goal was to finish well ahead of last place.  I did admirably in this context, as a 9 year old obliged by running only 22K.  Later in the day, Tony Feiter from USA showed up after surgery (I am not making this up!) and ran one lap, knocking me off the last-place-podium.  No amount of cajoling from me could convince him to run a bit further.

Sharon is an experienced 24 hour / 100 mile runner and her race proceeded like clockwork through the first 12 hours.  Then something almost inexplicable happened.  We are calling it the December 28 curse (the 3 of us started on the 28th).  For both Sharon and Lee Anne, the wheels seemed to fall off in a very short period.  Sharon experienced fatigue (expected) and very large blisters (a bit early for this).  No problem, a bit of rest is fine as Sharon is running the 48 hour, fix up the feet and get back out there!  Woohee!

Lee Anne ran a near-flawless 12 hours.  Perhaps flawless is closer to the truth, because at 10.5 hours, the race director told Lee Anne that she had just broken the world 12 hour road record for F60-64!  Lee Anne was ecstatic.  The RD and I joined Lee Anne for the loop that passed the 12 hour mark and the RD dropped a flag at the exact spot where his watch indicated 12:00:00.  Lee Anne continued to run well, but was tiring fast.  At about 15 hours, an old injury (possibly IT band) started causing her problems.  She started walking more.  Around 18 hours, her calf gave out.  Just microtears, but enough to cause her problems with maintaining a 5K walking pace, mandatory for breaking the 100 mile record.  Decision time.  She would need to take a significant rest / massage / fix blister break in order to resume a record-breaking pace, but she did not have enough time.  The wheels had fallen off and exceeding a 5K pace was not in the cards.  It was about 5 degrees at 3:30 Sunday morning, so we went into the warming tent to formulate a plan.  Lee Anne could continue to walk, hope for a miracle and break the record, continue to walk for 48 hours to see how far she could go, or pack it in.  Factoring in the existing injuries, the very real chance of causing more serious injuries (you will understand when you turn 60), we decided it was best to pull the plug.  All that was left was to figure out how to support Sharon while Lee Anne rested in a hotel room.  Step one was to inform Sharon of Lee Anne's decision.  I had been running / walking for a few hours (not crewing) and had not seen Sharon for a while.  It was quite funny, I had just mentioned to Lee Anne that I would need to talk to Sharon when the person beside us in the warming tent turned around.  It was Sharon!  We had been within 3 feet of each other for 20 minutes.

Sharon's race was not ideal.  No actual problem, but Sharon is used to running at a steady pace for hours.  Her pace had dropped considerably, which is fine in a 48 hour race, as you simply take a break, then crank it back up.  Hence the warming hut break.  Unfortunately, Sharon also had some freak-show sized blisters.  Fixing these, then continuing to run on them would not be pleasant.  I don't know the full reasoning for Sharon's decision, but I can just imagine the logic.  30 minutes of blister work, then back running / walking / staggering on tired and aching legs, or rest up in a hotel room.  Hmmm...  I can't be certain, but I assume that our decision to pull out of the race greatly influenced Sharon's decision.

Things now become a little hazy, but I think we arrived at the hotel around 5:30 Monday morning.  Try to imagine the reaction of the front desk when we ask for early check-in!  The hotel was incredibly accommodating.  Lee Anne and I had reserved a room for Monday night.  They gave us the room we had stayed in the previous night (Saturday) without an early check-in fee!  Sharon was also given a room (she had not booked a room for Monday night) without early check-in.  The gesture was simply incredible, given how tired we were.

Lee Anne's record:  52.49 miles replacing 45.94 miles (Woman 60 - 64 road 12 hour world record)

Now the funny part!  Lee Anne's world record was broken AGAIN at Across The Years by American June Gessner the next day!  June went on to break the US 12 and 24 hour records.  Lee Anne's reign was short-lived, but a world record nonetheless.

A note on the records.  I am not entirely sure why, but the old world record (45.94 miles) is less than both the USA and Canadian 12 hours records (F60-64).  This might have to do with the world records differentiating between road, track and trail, or might have to do with submitting records to the IAU.  I'm not sure.  The current Canadian record for F60-64 12 hour is 100K.  Canadian records are not subdivided into road, track and trail, although (this is funny), the Canadian record was set on a looped road course, the same surface as Across The Years...

I was very impressed with the organization of the ATY race.  It was well thought out, executed without apparent issues and everyone from the volunteers to the RD were friendly and accommodating.  This is not a 5K race, requiring a few hours work to set up (see the tents?) and 40 minutes to execute.  Even the timing database was impressive, with a listing of both the records that had been set and the record attempts.  The record attempts (world, US, other countries) tracked a runner's progress against the existing record.  Right now (the 6 day will complete in 75 minutes) Joe Fejes has 1K to go, to break the US men's open 6 day record.  Go Joe!

It was also inspiring to see Joe Fejes and Yannis Kouros (Yannis who?) duke it out in the 6 day race.  They were hitting 12 minute loops 3 DAYS after starting!  Fellow Canadian Michel Gouin has cracked 500K in the 6 day.

And then there is Charlotte Vasarhelyi (I have known Char for a few years, but I still have to look up the spelling of her last name...) and Marylou Corino in the 72 hour race.  Char started a day early as she had to work before the regular 72 hour ended.  She put in an impressive first day total and was leading the 72 hour race when her back problems (sciatica) became unbearable.  Char was forced to retire at the end of her first day of running (I don't recall her first day mileage).  Marylou started the next day and by the beginning of day 2, was in a race for the lead with Michael Miller.  Char showed up at the race on day 2 (her day 3) and watched.  Then Char walked a bit.  Then she started running.  Amazing!  In her second day of running (day 3 of her race) Char ran 160K for a total of 312K!

And Marylou?  She put in a stellar performance, running 427K for first place overall and good enough to break the open Canadian 72 hour record.  Of course in my consideration, Marylou's most amazing feat was that she continued to smile, even on the 3rd day.  Sorry, but that seems impossible!

So, was the trip a success or failure?  I think Sharon summed it up appropriately (I was going to take credit for this) by stating that there are no failures in racing, just races that are successful and those from which you learn.  And the opportunity to see Yannis Kouros run was quite the bonus!