Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Niagara Ulta Race Report

A few people have mentioned they heard that we are carving a totem pole.  Lee Anne, Kinga, Stephan, Nathan, Jim, Gavin and I have been carving for most of the month of June.  Totem poles take years to carve.  Still under the influence of Honda, I set the completion date in late June.  How hard can this be?  Kinga and Stephan Miklos (if the name seems familiar, they won the mogul miles Trophy Series awarded by Trail Runner magazine) have been up almost every weekend.  Stephan will head north alone this weekend, as Kinga has travelled to Vampireland.

What do we know about carving a totem pole?  Plenty!  Stephan has actually seen one before and I have read a book on carving totem poles.  An incredible pedigree!  I know, reading a book on how to play the violin, then trying Tchaikovsky's violin concerto is not a recipe for success, but a theme throughout pole carving literature is that there is no set approach.  Sure, you can use standard animals, stories and colours, but the rule of thumb is that there is no rule of thumb...

As the pole approaches completion, I will admit that knowing how to carve might have been a distinct advantage, but all of us learned quite quickly and our mistakes have been incorporated into the pole as "features"...


The pole will be 5 feet below grade, possibly 4 feet below ground with ballast "rock seats" adding support.  The problem is that I might hit water below 4 feet, as the current plan is to locate the pole about 50 meters from the Mad river.  Above ground, the pole will reach about 35 feet.  Fairly impressive, although it is only 20" diameter at the base.  The carvings will be, from the ground up:  Runner (Stephan, AKA Picasso), Turtle (Lee Anne and I), fox (Kinga), owl (Pierre), Badger (Nathan and I), 4 runners on switchback (Pierre), fish (Gavin), Celtic ducks (Jim) and Blue Heron (Pierre).  The wingspan of the heron is 8 feet.

The pole weighs about 1,000 pounds, so Sharon will be the resident engineer during the erection phase.  Hmm.  Perhaps I should ask Sharon if she can help...

Niagara 50K Ultra

Okay, running 3 ultras in 4 weeks is exhausting.  Think of all the race reports!  I have many impressions from the race.  I was disappointed in my time (5:34) as I really wanted to be closer to 5 hours.  Again, one hour into the race, I was bone-weary.  Yes, I should have realised there is a price to pay for running three 50K races in 4 weeks, but I was hoping I had turned the corner and would start getting faster.  Apparently not!  The bright spot in all this is that I reached 50K without ever reaching the point where I could not run.  I took 3 - 4 walking breaks, in order to gel or hydrate properly, but I never needed to walk and these breaks lasted no more than 30 seconds.

Aside from being tired and slow, I had a great race!  I like the format of Niagara, where you see all those faster than yourself nearing the turn-around, reaching the falls with its cool spray, then greeting those few runners who are still on their way to the 25K turn-around.  Henri puts on a fine race and although not my favourite surface (pavement with a bit of camber) I love the scenery and "relaxed" atmosphere of the tourists.  One drawback of Niagara is that there are all those wine tasting stations along the way, which a serious runner must ignore.  Perhaps I should suggest a strategic option to Henri, for future years!

Lee Anne had another amazing race, clocking a 5:14 50K and is now third on the Ontario Ultra series leader board.  I am doing well in my age category, which at 120 people, is the largest category.

Creemore Vertical Challenge Update

Plans are progressing well at this point.  With 77 people signed up, the "small jug of maple syrup" perk is quickly coming to an end.  I met with most of the land owners, who gave consent again this year, although they think that anyone trying to run 75K in the Creemore hills should be seeking medical aid...

Hammer Nutrition

Not sure how many of you purchase gels, electrolyte, etc. online, but Ryan at Hammer Nutrition says it is okay for me to divulge a small secret.  You can get a 15% discount at the online Hammer store by using the following promo code:

Promo code:  hammerCAN15

Most people reading this know about Hammer gels and HEED, but Lee Anne and I are now using Fizz, an aptly named electrolyte tab that dissolves in your water bottle.  Hope this helps!


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Kingston 6 Hour Race report

Okay, here we go.  Uncharted territory.  If I'm being honest with myself (and this does happen on occasion.  Think of Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup) there has been a twinge of envy when talking to one of those runners who can crank out an ultra every 3 days, with ease.  I talked to Kim Van Delst during the Kingston 6 hour race.  She had her usual smile, but perhaps her pace was not the effortless stride for which she is known.  Then I remembered that she ran 100 miles at Sulphur.  Here I was, struggling after only 1 hour, because my legs had not recovered from 50K at Sulphur...  Kim covered 161K and although not striding at speed, still lapping me!

Nevertheless, 2 ultras separated by 2 weeks is not my norm.  Here's where it gets interesting.  I have Niagara 50K, 2 weeks after Kingston!  3 ultras in 4 weeks is new territory for me.  Something my back and knees have vetoed in the past.  I have been running since 1973, but I have no idea what to plan or expect at Niagara!  The evil little gremlin in the back of my mind is urging my to run it at my 10K pace...

A timed race is also difficult to peg.  The concept is pure simplicity.  Run for 6 hours.  Start at a comfortable pace, pick up speed gradually, then stave off the decay.  However, 6 hours is a long enough run that nutrition maintenance plays a big role.  Kingston (this year, due to construction) is a 1.1K loop.  You are never more than 7 minutes from an aid station or your drop bag.  It sounds so simple!  Hydrate when you want, eat when you want and pop a salt tab on occasion.  The tricky part is that even though you are looping past the treats every 7 minutes, you have to constantly monitor the last time you had sports drink, food, salt, Advil, gel, electrolyte, calcium and something else...  Hmm.  Oh yes, water!  For fun, here is what I derived as a "nutrition plan" for the race:

Water/electrolyte:  Drink when thirsty (I had a water belt to avoid numerous drinking stops).
Advil:  200 mg at 1 hour and 200 mg at 3 hours
Gel:  Every 45 minutes
Salt tab:  One at 45 minutes, then 1:30, 2:30, 3:20, 4:15 and 5:00
Calcium:  At 3 hours
Food:  When I could stomach something...

If you attempt to figure out my stops, given the above schedule, you are in for a logistic nightmare.  Factor in the effect of running for 3, 4 and 5 hours, on the brain, and it spells trouble.  Notice I did not mention bathroom breaks, GI issues and "running" problems (sore feet, tired legs, cramping,...).  There is a tremendous amount of cerebral processing needed simply to keep the running machine on track.

The Kingston 6 hour race is an incredible event.  I watched Hans Maier break the Canadian 6 hour record, for male 75-79.  It was incredible to see someone who is 76 push hard for 6 hours!  This race is also quirky because my bib number was "Pierre".  My laps were recorded by a gentlemen (of course, I have forgotten his name...  Damn you synapses!) with whom I made eye contact and greeted every 7 minutes.  This race is so far beyond the Toronto marathons, you have to run it to understand.  I keep thinking that this is how races must have been organised 100 years ago.

The Race

I was quite concerned about the impact of going out too fast, 2 weeks after running 50K in 5:42.  I needn't have worried.  My pace started slow and after only 1 hour, I was tired.  This was to be expected, but frustrating nonetheless as I was in a RACE!  I had fervently hoped that my legs had magically healed during the 2 days I had not run.  In retrospect, I should have anticipated that I would experience fatigue 2 weeks after racing, but as with all ultra runners, optimism usually clouds realism...

So, 1 hour into the race I am tired and slowing down from a not-fast pace.  As there was nothing I could do (except DNF), I simply attempted to avoid any mistakes that would reduce my pace further.  I experienced a fairly significant low spot from 1 to 3 hours, after which, I hit an equilibrium, allowing me to steadily cover the miles.  I consciously tried to avoid any unnecessary walking breaks and make the most of the few short breaks I had to take.  My A goal was to push hard for 3 hours, then try and hold on until the end.  What with slowing after only 1 hour, I realized early on that passing 55K was out of the question.  My "other" A goal was to run 50K in less time than at Sulphur.  Although Sulphur is a trail run (Kingston is flat and on paved and dirt roads), it would be tough to beat 5:42 on tired legs.  At 44K, I started walking 40 meters every 2 laps, but skipped the break at 49K, which allowed me to hit 50K in 5:40.

The end of Kingston is an exciting time.  Everyone gets a small bag of sand with their name and continues to run.  When the 4 cars on the course sound their horns, you drop the bag.  Someone with a wheel then figures out how far you ran, down to the meter!  I was 14 meters from the start/finish line on my 47th lap, so I covered 52.786K.  This happens to be the furthest I have ever run, beating the 51K I ran during the Haliburton 50K, after getting lost for about 1K!

Lee Anne had an excellent race and was on the leader board for the second half!  She lapped me a few times and made it past 56K for first in her age category.  The Kingston race keeps going!  After packing up the timing area, the amazing volunteers pull a wonderful meal out of nowhere.  Most runners stayed for the meal and awards, enjoying a pleasant day in the sun.

Niagara 50K is next.  I posted my PB at this race, back when the Earth was cooling.  Although my days of running a 4:23 are long gone, my secret A goal is to finish somewhere near 5 hours.  To break 5 hours would be fantastic, but realistically, not in the cards yet.