Saturday, March 28, 2015

The long Run

A core component of any training program for long races is to practice running long.  Really?  Although obvious, it can be very disappointing to anyone who dreams of running a marathon and was hoping to find a training program where the longest run is only 1 kilometer.  After a few decades, I got tired of telling people that the long run is the key component of ultra training and central to remaining healthy after finishing a long race.  I now encourage ultra neophytes to run short, but to string a bunch of them together.  This is similar to the 9 in 1 method (I think you run 9 minutes, then walk 1 minute), but instead, you run a short distance, then you run the same short distance again.

The beauty of this method is that you can decide how far you want to run!  The formula then dictates how many times you run the short distance.  Let's take 100 meters as an example.  Bob (the name of a fictitious runner, not the name of some race along a canal in New York) wants to make 100 meters his long run, but wants to train for a 50K.  Simple!  I tell Bob that he can choose any day of the week (Bob chose Saturday) and he can go run 100 meters on that day.  Bob is stoked!  He can train on the high school track near his house.  I then tell Bob that he needs to run 100 meters, 350 times on Saturday.  This sounds like a lot of runs for one day, but at least Bob never has to run more than 100 meters.  Simple!

Bob no longer speaks to me.

Lee Anne and I are training for the Pick Your Poison race.  We are both registered for the 50K.  Yesterday, we set out on my long run.  It is also Lee Anne's long run, although she added 14K and runs long again, today.  Please stop reminding me that I married her.  We ran a very hilly 36K course, which includes a 6K hill.  Yes, 6 kilometers long.  Strange things happen to your legs when you run uphill for 40 minutes.  After reaching the top, it takes a few minutes for your legs to adjust to running flat terrain; they feel ungainly.  No kidding!  Fortunately, we didn't have that problem, as the top of the hill is also the top of the Niagara Escarpment.  With -8C temperature, 50 kph winds and intermittent white-outs, we couldn't feel our legs, saving us from experiencing the strange feeling normally encountered at the top of the hill.  So nice!

What kept me going in such insane elements was imagining what other runners / ultra friends would think, had we asked them along for the run.  The imaginary consensus was that Lee Anne and I were trying to kill them.

My running is improving, beyond a doubt.  I recently ran 30K on the indoor track at Base Borden.  I am running better than I have in years.  But, running 36K, including some major hills, in an inhospitable climate?  What was I thinking!  I know what I thought before yesterday's 36K training run started.  I think the word is hubris.  I ran 30K on an indoor track.  How much harder would a 36K hill run be, outside?  Ask my quads this morning.  They are not talking to me either.

As a humorous note, after the run I mentioned to Lee Anne that it would be 2 weeks before I recovered fully.  Her reply?  "Oh, you'll be back to normal after 2 days".

Yeah, right!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Ides of March

Not Julius Caesar's favourite day, but he has a month and a salad named after him, so I'm not overly empathetic.  Just imagine having the temerity to name a month after yourself?  Not only that, but stick it in the summer, so that people "like" your month, on the Roman equivalent of Facebook no doubt.  To make matters worse, his nephew does the same thing.  Not very original and certainly not an august occasion.  And neither even bother to fix the remaining months, so that the seventh month (September) is actually the ninth month.  I would have stabbed him myself.


While perusing the maple forum, it became apparent that many are experiencing low sugar yields from sap  ( ).  I am wondering if the extremely cold weather in February is the culprit.  Sure enough, my sap registered 2 Brix (2% sugar, on the Brix scale), so I was a little leery about predicting when I could draw off my first batch of maple syrup from the evaporator.  All evaporators are different and obviously the bigger the evaporator, the more sap you need to boil before the first batch of syrup is ready.  My rule of thumb is that I need to boil 600 litres of sap before I get the first batch, about 8 - 10 litres of syrup.  After the first batch (baseline the evaporator) I normally need to boil 400 litres of sap to make 10 litres of syrup (40:1 ratio).  I had run a test boil on Friday afternoon, to check for leaks (found one) and make sure I had all the tools / equipment needed to run the evaporator.  On Sunday I got serious and had a fine boil going by 10:30.  The fine boil kept going and going.  The sap kept pouring in (about 100 litres per hour) and since there are no leaks, the solution in the pans continued to concentrate.  I tested the pans with a refractometer and the rate of concentration was incredibly slow.  After 2 hours of boiling on Friday and 6.5 hours on Saturday, I had added 1100 litres of sap (8.5 hours X 100 litres + 150 litres to initially fill the evaporator) and the finishing pan was only halfway to syrup!  It is a little dispiriting to boil mainly water...

So, I shut down the evaporator and went home.  I will start the boil again tomorrow (Monday) in the hopes of having higher sugar content sap and finally making some maple syrup.


Running continues to improve and I can once again focus on maintaining long runs.  "Long runs" are now 25K - 30K and are the bread and butter of ultra running.  You can cheat on speed (skip them altogether), hills and trails, but you are in for serious pain if you cheat on the long stuff.  Time on your feet.

I am starting to get tired of constantly running roads.  Yes, there is the treadmill and indoor track, but running roads can be unsavoury.  Today, the wind was quite strong and I felt cold, so I thought "how bad can the trails be this time of year?".  Only one way to find out!  So I ran a 7.5K trail run.  It includes a 2.5K section of road, which probably saved my life.  The snow is about a foot deeper than is healthy, for running.  So I post-holed up to my knees for about 3K of the run.  I think my heart rate hit about 300.

I am now in the tricky time of year, where I need to continue increasing my mileage, yet save time and energy for making maple syrup.  I have this bad feeling that even though I am no longer working, it will not be as easy as I envisioned.  I signed up for Sulphur Springs 50K, which will probably sell out soon.  Lee Anne is still debating whether to run the 50M or the 100M.  I need to sign up for Pick Your Poison 50K soon.  This will force me to start running longer, as PYP is 6 weeks away.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Nothing to Report

It was -22C (-7F) this morning.  Yes, I know it is March 6 and Spring is a mere 2 weeks away.  Don't talk to me, lambaste Mother Nature...

So, Lee Anne and I ran on the indoor track at Base Borden.  The outside lane is 237 meters, so by my calculation, it is 106 laps to complete 25K.  I don't attempt to count laps (recall my memory challenges) so I maintain a +/- of seconds between the actual time and 90 second laps.  I only have to remember a "buffer" (seconds +/-) and a "lap bank" (accumulate over or under 40 laps per hour).  Example:  I started at 8:57 and ran 2 laps before 09:00.  I "reset" the counter to zero at the top of each hour, so at 09:00 I had zero laps for the hour, with a bank of 2 laps.  At 9:03, I was 14 seconds ahead (14 second buffer - i.e. it was 09:02:46 at the end of my second lap for the hour).  When the buffer reaches 90 seconds, I add one to the lap bank and reset the buffer to zero.  I know this sounds inordinately complicated, but with my math background and a complete lack of memory, it is surprisingly straightforward.

Lee Anne runs by time (granted - a much simpler method).  She ran for 5 hours today and will probably run the same tomorrow, as Friday / Saturday is her normal back-to-back schedule.  I ran 25K in 2:39, which was much tougher than expected.  I hauled the evaporator to the sugar shack on Tuesday which involves putting a 2' X 4' sap pan (5" drop flues), a 2' X 2' finishing pan and all the hardware onto a sled I built custom made for the evaporator.  Did I mention that the snow is like sand?  I was ploughing so much snow, that on the uphills, I was afraid the 1/4" nylon ropes might break!

I have one more load of maple syrup jugs to haul in and I am ready to tap.  Guess what I plan to do Sunday?  You got it!  I have invited son-in-law Daryl up to help with the tapping.  I am not sure if he can make it, but tapping is much easier with two.  It appears that the sap will run on Tuesday and/or Wednesday hence the tapping on Sunday / Monday.  The forecast for Wednesday is sunny and +4...  I know, say nothing.

According to the running log, my mileage has slipped this week, probably due to heightened activity at the sugar shack.  Snow shoeing in the woods is very taxing.  There is only about 3 feet of snow, but with such cold temperatures since January, the snow is like 2 feet of sand.  Snowshoes sink deep and are reluctant to come back out.  Tapping will probably result in another low-mileage week.

That's it for now.  Embrace the warm weather!