Monday, June 12, 2017

Conquer the Canuck 50K Race Report

I was going to add some witty addendum to the post title, such as "Though Shalt Not Runneth 3 Ultras in 2 Weeks", as the reality for me is I need longer than 6 days to recover before a 50K.  Period.  I don't know how certain people can run 50K or much longer and are ready to go the following weekend.  I could name a few, but as I'm intimating they are freaks, let's let  this one slide.  Just out of curiosity, how is the hole in your shoulder, Stephen?

This was my first time at Conquer the Canuck, so called because the highlight race is a 50K on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday.  To avoid confusion, it was decided not to include the "stage race" as part of the Ontario ultra series, so only the 50K is in the series.  The marathon is not an ultra, so it was anticipated that some of the runners would question why it was in the ultra series.

The Canuck course is a well maintained gravel or grass broadpath, with a few gentle rolling hills.  If you enjoy extremely technical surface, this race is not for you.  But if you are looking for a fast trail race (please don't look up my results just now...) or your first effort off the pavement, you are in for a treat.  With several starts and ample room to pass, there is no bunching at the beginning.  The lack of technical footing is a bonus as the race progresses and the legs tire.  There is a small navigational component, as the course meanders through forest and field.  It was well marked, but you needed to pay attention to signage to stay on the correct path.  I took one wrong turn at a T intersection, where (obviously) the arrow indicating turn right meant that I should turn left.  I had seen the arrow, but decided it indicated turn left, before I was close enough to focus on it...  Fortunately I gave it one last glance, as the runner behind me shouted that I was off course.  An interesting component of the marking was yellow tape at about 8 feet above ground on trails that were not part of the course.  Yes, there was one above me when I took a wrong turn.  Normally trail marking is at ground level, as runners are looking down.  Unfortunately, low signage blocking a trail tends to be "repositioned" by people who are not part of the race.  This has caused me a few worried moments during other races.  At Canuck, the yellow tape remains in place, unless someone deliberately tampers with it.

Conquer the Canuck Race Report

Let's nickname this race Dante's Inferno, as there was little positive while my race descended into the pits of hell.  Let me be clear that the race itself is excellent.  The race kit included a beach towel (I was sad, as I am down to my last 148 race T-shirts) and finishing included a unique medal AND a bottle of wine.  I'm going back!  Yes, I did finish, although the only reason I started the fifth loop was because I am striving for the Norm Patenaude award (you need to complete 8 ultras in the OUTRace series) and I can't make it to some of the races.

The course is 8.33K, or 6 loops for the 50K.  I was hoping to clock near 1 hour for each of the first 4 loops, then introduce walking breaks during the last 2 loops.  Did I mention I had run 2 other ultras in the previous 2 weeks?  The Sulphur Springs and Kingston 6 hour races caught up to me in fine fashion.  Having some inkling that my race was going to be less than ideal, I started at a conservative pace and walked all the gentle hills.  The legs were tired even at the start, so I was hoping they would improve after the warm-up.  First lap was clocked in 59:16 which although slow, was on pace.  The marginal recovery anticipated during the second loop never happened.  I remained tired and my stomach started to act up.  Oh-oh.  Loop 2 chimed in at 1:01, but by loop 3 I was struggling.  No power or speed and I was starting to have trouble taking in enough fluids.  The day was getting hot.  Many runners have difficulty during the first hot race of the year.  I think this was a factor in my stomach problems.  I was taking in salt, gel, calcium and I had electrolyte in my water bottle.  Loop 3 was completed in 1:04, then the wheels fell off.

I've talked before about causal relationships during a race.  20 years ago, approaching my 40's, my problem was with my back and knees.  At that time, I only had surgery on my left knee, so I would favour it.  Over the course of hours, this slight limp would inflame my back, which would result in some spectacular pain and discomfort.  If this happened early enough in a race, I would inevitably see the 3 letters DNF beside my name in the results.  Loop 4 was carnage.  I was no longer able to ingest fluids aside from a small sip here and there.  This led to cramping of my (again!) left hamstrings.  Only 28K into the race and I could not run.  The word frustrating does not truly describe how I felt.  As mentioned above, I would have packed it in after 4 loops if it wasn't for that albatross called Norm P strapped to my genitals...

Loop 4 was comprised of a slow run during the gentle downhills.  I would immediately cramp if I tried running the steeper downhills, flats or uphills.  My time was 1:18 for 8.33K of gentle broadpath.  The 2 aid stations were at 700 meters after the start, about 3K, and nearing 7K (aid station 1, again).  AS1 had an outdoor tap which emitted a fine spray.  I used this at every occasion and it definitely helped, which suggested I was experiencing some heat issues.

One reason I decided to start loop 5 was that I kept hoping I would recover sufficiently to start running again.  My legs were very tired, but it was the cramping that was forcing me to walk, not over-exerted legs.  To run, I first needed to settle my stomach, so that I could increase my fluid intake.  However, the racing gods were asleep at the wheel, because nothing I tried resulted in the slightest improvement.  I didn't know it at the time, but it would be late Saturday night before my stomach finally settled.  Loop 5 was a study in triage that left me wondering if I would ever run again.  Nothing worked, I could not drink, I could not run.  I don't think heat was a main factor, as other runners were moving steadily, if not at their normal pace.  The combination of starting a 50K on spent legs and a severely restricted fluid intake did the damage.  Loop 5 clocked in at 1:30.  Almost 6 hours for less than a marathon.  Not my day!

I started loop 6 because I had enough time to finish under the 8 hour cut-off.  No other reason.  It was a repeat of loop 5, although I had resigned myself to walking the 8.33K.  I was tired and had an occasional dizzy spell due to being dehydrated.  I kept up a very positive attitude when speaking to people (as I normally do) to avoid having someone ask me about how I truly felt.  The loop 6 death march finished in 1:33.

After completing 4 ultras in the previous 6 weeks, I had been hoping to run well during a gentle 50K trail race.  Nothing spectacular, but somewhere slightly over 6 hours.  I did not expect it to take me 7:27:00 to complete.  It seems like there has been no improvement since the beginning of the racing season.  I don't mean this is some depressing fatalistic viewpoint, but that for me, running 3 ultras in 2 weeks is not a good idea!  So I will only ever do this again if someone pays me 1 billion dollars or more.  I won't even consider it for a mere 100 million...

An interesting post-race departure for me was that I got a massage.  I think the fact that I couldn't eat and there was nobody at the massage tables played a part.  I needed to hydrate before I could drive back to Creemore, so why not?  I'll tell you why not.  My first (and last, before Canuck) massage was at the Damn Tuff Ruff Bluff Run in Owen Sound, staged by a good friend Doug Barber.  I had never had a massage, but how bad could it be?  The therapist said she provided "deep tissue" massages.  Having no idea that it was a euphemism for TORTURE, I lay down on the table.  It took me 2 weeks to recover from the massage.

With more than a little trepidation, I lay down on the massage table.  Since it was not busy, 2 therapist went to work on my calves, which were twitching.  They had some fancy name for what was happening (let me guess:  It is related to dehydration?) but they had never seen it quite so pronounced.  This happens after almost every long run, so to me it was nothing new.   The massage actually felt quite good and did not leave me in a coma.

The ride back to Creemore was interesting, especially when trying to work a clutch during heavy traffic while my legs were cramping.  I had eaten very little during the race (see stomach, above) but forced myself to eat some supper when I got home.

Well, I am most pleased to announce that I will not be posting a RR for the next 4 weeks!  I'm looking forward to running less than 25K next weekend on legs that have somewhat recovered.  I need to recover before Limberlost, as the 56K will take me close to 10 hours to complete.  TLC has a beautifully scenic course through forest near Huntsville.  The course is technical, although not overly so, but it constantly changes direction and pitch, so there is never a chance of reaching race pace.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Kingston 6 Hour Race Report: Leg Warranty Has Expired

I wrote this RR during an internet outage which lasted from 9:00 AM Monday morning until Tuesday evening...  It appears some neophyte at Bell accidentally disconnected our line.  Rather than converting all the time/date references to reflect that today is Wednesday, it would be much easier if you go back in time to Monday morning, then read this post.  Thanks.

Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 6 Hour Race Report.

There's a mouthful! In ultra-fashion parlance: The Kingston 6 Hour race. This race is truly a gem, with a very civilized starting time of 9:00 AM, and no stress regarding cut-offs or a potential DNF. I find the 1.1K loop rarely gets boring, as the scenery is diverse, with views of Lake Ontario, the old Fort Henry and the interesting architecture of the Royal Military Academy. In fact, when the going gets tough, the 1.1K course is a godsend, as it eliminates the need to focus on locating directional cues. You can turn off your navigational processing and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. There is also no need to worry about nutrition, as the aid station is never more than 6 - 8 minutes away.

Other aspects that make this race interesting is the constant meeting of other runners, as they pass you, or you pass them. Timing is accomplished by an actual human, as a pleasant contrast to most chip timed races. My timer was Pratyaya, which I mispronounced on every lap, as I greeted her yet again. I think the proper pronunciation is “Prataiya”, although I developed some interesting variations as the race progressed.

Kingston is quite the historic town, so although travelling from Toronto the morning of the race is an option, staying in or near Kingston is worth considering. We stayed (via AirBNB) the night before the race at a home roughly 10 minutes from the race. It was a rare event to have breakfast the morning of a race!

Race Report

Leading up to the Kingston 6 hour race was truly uncharted territory for me. I had never run an ultra 7 days after completing a 50K. I also had to factor in Conquer the Canuck, another 50K race I hope to complete just 7 days after Kingston. Compressing the recovery period and the taper into 6 days is something I have never even thought about. How does one do this? What makes sense? Fortunately, the condition of my legs and knees left little room for dialogue. After the Sulphur 50K, I had to take 2 days off. So, on Tuesday, I attempted a short recovery run. Nothing too long or intense, perhaps 7.5K? I made it 2K before my legs starting complaining. Loudly. I turned around and headed back home. So, with a less-than-impressive 4K run, how far do I run Wednesday? I realized that I was not going to run on Thursday or Friday, before Kingston. I ran 7.5K on Wednesday, which would have to suffice for my extensive recovery and taper runs...

Running 2 ultras in 8 days is actually quite simple, as all of your options are stripped away from you, gratuit. Should I start fast at Kingston? No. Should I continue much further than my B goal, of completing an ultra? Not going to happen. Long before the halfway mark of the race, my legs were informing me that at 43K, it would be time to pull the plug. Having little choice, I graciously complied.

The breakdown at Kingston was simple. Run the first 25 loops (about 27.5K), then introduce walking breaks at the aid station. The hope was that the legs would recover more quickly for the 50K next week. Although tired and slow, I never had much problem running when I was supposed to. In fact a few times I “forgot” to walk when I reached the aid station. After 39 loops (42.9K) I told Pratyaya that I would be walking the next loop, which would be my last. It took me 5:11 to reach 39 loops, so I was not breaking any speed records, although it felt like the correct thing to do – avoid any fast running with another ultra only 7 days away. Walking the 40th loop for a total of roughly 44K was actually more painful than running. My knees made it quite clear there would be no 41st loop! Near the end of the race, each runner is given a small bag of sand with their name. When the race hits exactly 6 hours, car horns sound and runners drop their bag of sand. 2 gentlemen with a wheel, trace the course and mark down how far each runner went on their last (partial) loop. The leader-board only shows the full loops completed.

Some of the other runners at Kingston need mentioning. April Boultbee lapped me more than 20 times! April pushed hard and I believe she either achieved or was close to a Canadian record. Pablo Espanosa also went by me like clockwork, completing 63+ laps. Both of these incredible runners will represent Canada at the World 24 Hour race in Belfast on Canada day (July 1)! Paul Chenery placed 2nd male with 57+ laps, which is outstanding for someone in my age bracket. Well done Paul! Another good friend Charlotte Vasarhelyi (also going to the 24 hour Worlds) cranked out 55+ laps for second place female. Speaking of runners I know, Lee Anne Cohen placed 3rd female, which is astounding for a 63 year old. Well done dear!

Many of the runners ran stupid-long distances at the Sulphur Springs race last weekend. It was almost embarrassing when I mentioned I had “only” run 50K the week before. I am typing this as a text document instead of on Blogspot because our internet is currently MIA, so I can't provide the distances run by Paul Chenery, Ron Gehl, Jeff Ishazawa et al, at Sulphur, but it was something to behold.

I am also typing this on Monday instead of Sunday as I worked in Toronto yesterday, helping my son-in-law Daryl rip carpeting and trim out of his new house. That was not easy, although recovery is a bit better than last week; I even toyed with going for a brief recovery run. In retrospect, it would not have been wise.

I am very much looking forward to having a few weeks off after the Conquer the Canuck race this coming Saturday! Even factoring in the ultras, my weekly distance has decreased. I am spending too much time recovering and tapering. It will also be good not to drive somewhere far for a weekend.