Rock and Ice Ultra

See the training log here.

I have been asked many questions about the equipment I will be using, so I have put up a page for that purpose.  Click here to see that page.

My hyperbaric chamber experience.

As my recovery from frostbite progresses, I have taken the steps to increase my chances of keeping all my digits and speed up the process. 

I have been somewhat diligent in following the directions of the doctors: keep your foot elevated, do not drive, try to be non weight bearing as much as possible (I am using crutches), take my prescription drugs (and because of the drugs, avoid coffee, alcohol and spicy food.

All of this I have done with a bit of fuss: I love my coffee and beer, and abhor the thought of relying on a crutch.  Any crutch. 

I have also added the hyperbaric chamber treatment and believe wholeheartedly, this is the treatment that has done the most.

Hyperbaric chambers are pressurized chambers that look a bit like a mini submarine.  The chamber I was in was pressurized to 50 feet below sea level, which is 2-3 times regular atmospheric pressure.  I then put on a sealed plastic bubble helmet into which 100% oxygen was pumped for me to breathe.  A cycle of breathing 100% oxygen for 30min, then 10min of regular air was then followed and repeated two more time (almost 2hrs total).  The 10min regular air is to avoid oxygen toxicity.

Breathing the pure oxygen saturates the blood and therefore brings more oxygen to the body and especially the injured area, thereby promoting healing.  Doing so under pressure increases the rate of absorption thereby increasing the amount of oxygen by 10-15 times.

Within 2hours of the initial treatment on Thursday, I could feel some new tingling in my toes, and a little while later, the big toe felt as if someone was not-so-gently squeezing the end of it between their fingers.  It was not painful, but it was not a gentle squeeze either.

The next morning, much of the black skin on my big toe was actually the color of skin!  Living skin!!  This was much more promising than the days before. 

I had my second treatment on Friday and will have my third on Monday.  After that, the doctors and I will discuss whether or not more treatments are worthwhile.

Before going ahead with the treatment, some initial testing was necessary—I was fed pure oxygen for 20min and through the use of 5 sensors, the level of oxygen in my blood was measured near the injury and near my chest.  The injury measurements were compared to my chest measurement to compare how well the circulation was working and the readings were pretty good, so we were able to continue.  Had the readings been poor, then the hyperbaric treatment would not have been very effective so we likely would not have gone forward.

In my initial treatment, I wore an ECG.  I figured it was only fair to warn them my heart was strong, large and fit, therefore it beats low.  Through the treatment, it hovered around 34 bpm and even dipped to the high 20’s.  Since I did warn them, they did not hit the panic button when it hit 26bpm, but probably would have otherwise.

The treatments are not exciting as the environment of pure oxygen can be dangerous in the right circumstances.  Only their cotton clothing can be worn, with no watches, no oils, no skin creams, no rings, no books or papers and eye glass hinges have to be taped.  A cap is worn over the hair to avoid static electricity.  The only thing you can do is watch a movie or sleep.  I suppose you could stare into space, but that’s even less exciting.

Either way, I believe the treatments are helping a great deal and am now much more optimistic about the outcome to come.

As of Wednesday, the big toe is red, black and blue, but the other toes are looking good. I have feeling on my whole foot except on the side of the big toe all the way to the metatarsal head.

I am still on crutches, and as often as possible, non-weight bearing. I cannot yet drive either, so life at home is...ah, rather relaxing.

 

Rock and Ice update 30, Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Well, this is certainly not the race report I was hoping to write, though it is rather epic in and of itself.

As many of you know, I have trained very seriously for the Rock and Ice Ultra and put myself out on a limb by detailing it all for you to read.  I am sure most of you can understand the preparation and hard work that went in to getting ready.

Unfortunately, it seems I missed one detail when I re-covered my shoes—snug is good, too snug is bad.  When I last re-covered my shoes, I wanted to make them sleek so I did not leave much space for air between cover and shoe.  The left shoe cover was too tight and I re-did it.  The right shoe was a bit snug, but it did not cause any problems in two training runs, both of which were in reasonable footing, so I left it.

Fast forward to Yellowknife and the pre-race activities.  I arrived on Wednesday and settled in to my tent.  It was quite comfortable with wooden floors and an oil heater.  I went for a short run, on which I felt fantastic.  I had supper alone and then went to bed.  A few hours later, two more competitors arrived—Marco and Gerard from France.  An hour later, Jason arrived from Scotland.

On Thursday we went snowmobiling and were introduced to dog sledding at Aurora Village, a great location set up to view the Northern lights (aka Aurora Borealis).  We were treated to a meal of stew and banek then went back to camp, then out for dinner.

On Friday, we were given a winter survival course and then went through the mandatory gear check.  Uber ultra runner Ray Zahab showed up a bit later and was his usual ball of energy and magnetism.  He started off the pre-race meeting, then Scott Smith, the Race Director took over and detailed the rest of what we needed to know.

We then had the pre-race meal of pasta with meat sauce, burgers and sausages. That, as many know, is my kind of meal.  I did an interview with Mikhal Kapral of Canadian Running Magazine and he asked the all important question: how important is the diamond?  I thought this was a good question, and my answer was simple: not as important as my hand, feet, toes or fingers.  Hmmm…foreshadowing?

Fast forward again to the start—I lined up a few rows back, hoping not to get sucked in to going too fast off the start.  Like most others, I was in my running shoes expecting to run most of the 45.5km.

Well, less than 500m later, we were into deeper snow and most people were switching to their snowshoes.  And so I did as well.

A few minutes later, my sled tipped over and a few things fell out.  A few minutes later, another piece fell out and I had to go back and get it.  This happened a few more times, before I was able to finally slow down my hasty re-packing so that everything stayed put.  And then my right snowshoe fell off.  When I put it back on, I gave it a good tug to make sure it was tight.  I figure I had lost about 5-8 min by this point and tried mightily to close the gap on the leaders.  Slowly, I regained some places and felt better about my chances of a good showing on the day.

As I ran to catch up, I sweated and the shoe started to freeze up.  The slightly snug covering on my shoe, plus the snowshoe strap were combining to restrict some of the blood flow to my right foot and ever so slowly, my foot began to get  cold.  Unfortunately, the going was tough and very slow.  Through 20km, my time was close to 3hours.  I knew I was ready for up to 4:30 and maybe 5 hours of exertion and fueling, but at that rate, I was a bit concerned with just how long it was taking.  I figured I could handle the cold for a bit longer, but going forward was way, way harder and slower, and therefore longer, than I had ever imagined. 

As I questioned myself over and over and lamented the fact I felt I was falling behind, I started to actually catch people—first Derrick Spafford from Kingston (in the 3-day version), then a skier or two, and then Travis Macy, who was in second place in the same race I was in.  Even though I was going slower than I had anticipated, I was still doing well, so I kept pushing.  Travis and I jockeyed a bit for position, but mostly I just followed his sled.  I was much too focused on my foot to push any harder.  Derrick had passed us somewhere along the way and was running through the 20cm of difficult snow.  Travis and I walked and were gaining on him, so I was content to keep walking.  We passed Derrick at the final check point for the day where Ray was stationed.  We all got some water and continued on our way, though I did mention to Ray my foot was cold.  Travis and I put some time on Derrick while he worked on his snowshoe.  We had 14k to go.  It was across a wide open lake with 20cm of deep snow and no solid footing.  Yeah.

At one point, Travis mentioned how beautiful it was.  My answer to him was that I was doing all I could to keep up and had not looked around in quite some time.  So I did look around and agreed: it was beautiful.

And then I ‘had a moment’—I could not keep up any more and he got away.

I slowed, had a GU and then surprisingly, caught back up, feeling strong.  I was still very worried about my foot, but I was also in a race and could not forget that.  Eventually, Travis slipped out of my grasp again and I could no longer focus on snowshoeing.  He disappeared in the distance and within a kilometer of the finish, Derrick ran by me.  He was being psychologically towed by a train of skiers.  I just could not go with him.

At 7 hours and 40min, I finally finished.  It was hours longer than I had imagined.  It was my longest and hardest outing on snowshoes ever.

…and then the hard part of the day started: dealing with my foot.

Saint Ray was the first one to me and I was pretty straight up with him saying: “I’m in trouble.  My foot is gone.” 

We got the snowshoes off and went into a tent where Ray tried to take off my shoe.  I say tried, because it was both frozen solid, and frozen to the sock which was frozen to my foot.  It took some time to get things warm enough to move and cut the cover off, unlace the shoe, then take the sock and shoe off at the same time.  I would say that hurt, but it didn’t.  I could not feel anything.  It was more a question of making sure not to break anything (skin or bone).

Ray then started the re-warming process by putting my foot inside his shirt against his chest.  That was a special moment for me, I tell ya:  my frozen foot in Ray Zahab’s under arm.  What more could a guy ask for?

Slowly, I was able to begin to move my toes a bit, so it was time to put a warm sock on, and head over to my tent.  I changed clothing and did everything I could to warm my foot, stuffing it inside a down booty then inside my sleeping bag, and making some tea, soup, and supper.

As the foot began to regain some of its blood flow, as many of you know, it started to be rather uncomfortable. 

I got pretty quiet for a while as I needed all my energy not to scream.  My tent mates Dennis Colburn, Mikhal and Derrick were all very supportive, but really, there was nothing they could do. 

At this point, I was pretty sure my race was over, but I held out some hope things were not as bad as they seemed they were going to be.  I cut my shoe some more and dried everything out, figuring a way to make things work the next day if I was able to start.

Mid-way through the night, the foot oscillated between numb and shrieking pain, which, obviously woke me up.  I had a quick peek at the foot and it was 50% bigger than it should have been, with a few blisters and two very black and blue toes. 

When I woke in the morning, I looked again and it was obvious to an idiot like me there was no way I was going to continue.  Scott came in with Mike from Arctic Response to have a look and they concurred: I was done.

15 minutes later, I was in a car and headed back to Yellowknife and the emergency ward.  The doctors up there have seen lots of frostbite, and I was told it was stage 3 of 4.  It was bad, but not the worst.  The doctor thought I would be okay, but with frostbite, you don’t really know for many weeks afterwards.

I rearranged my flights and flew home the next day.

I have been to see the doctor here in Ottawa, and will see a vascular surgeon as soon as I can.  I will try a hyper-baric chamber to aid in the recovery, the theory being that forcing extra oxygen into my bloodstream and skin the less likelihood of tissue dying.  It seems obvious, but I feel keeping as much of my body alive is the right direction to head.  I will try just about anything.

I must say that I now know Ray Zahab a bit better.  After all, I did get my toes into his armpits.  I can say with the utmost of certainty, his outward persona is also his inward persona: that is to say, he really is that good a human being and we are lucky to have him in our midst.

So, for now, I dress my wounds, keep my foot elevated as much as possible and wait.

…and answer supportive e-mails.

To those that have sent me something, I thank you.  To those that plan to, I thank you.

To Nancy and my family, extended or otherwise, I am sorry to worried you so much. 

To all my clients, and anyone else out there, remember that these events (triathlon, running, adventure, snowshoe, whatever) all have risks associated with them.  Some are big and some are small, but there are risks nonetheless.  I have known for a long time, and hope to have shown that no matter the event or the challenge, they all have one thing in common: none of them are worth permanent damage to your body.  If you feel you are putting yourself at dire risk, you will be stronger for it if you have the courage to stop and accept that it is the right thing to do.  This is, after all, supposed to be fun.

Now, don’t let my screw up and bad fortune scare you away from this type of event: if everything had gone right on that first day, I have no doubt this would have been the highlight of my running life, and I have had many highs so far.  The Rock and Ice Ultra is a first class event—Scott Smith and his crew do an amazing job with many, many, many levels of security and safety protocols.  What happened to me was my fault.  I did not stop and fix things when I had the chance.  The race organizers did everything they could have and should have to make sure I was taken care of.  I would highly recommend this event to anyone interested, as long as they prepared properly.  I can now consider myself,…um… er…experienced enough to know some of the potential pitfalls of preparation and equipment, and how to avoid them.  I also know the cost of not taking them seriously.

 

 

Rock and Ice update 29, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

The time for talk and writing is over.  It is now time for actions to speak. I guess we’ll see what those actions have to say.

I will be away from my computer and unable to update things so if you want to follow the Rock and Ice Ultra, the results will be posted at www.sleepmonsters.ca.  They will have all the race details and updates.

I leave in a day and a half.  I think I have everything covered off, but have cash to buy any last minute items while I am away.

I learned the hard way that Scotch whisky and I do not get along well, so I will be leaving the bottle that was given to me as a gift here at home. 

I am feeling good about my preparation and am looking forward to Saturday when we can get the final stage of this race going.

The weather forecast looks reasonable, if not a tad warm.  Yes, I said a tad warm—the colder it is, the firmer the footing, so minus 10 to minus 15 would be more ideal than minus 5 to minus 10.  That’s being picky, but…

I am not sore, or injured, nor am I burned out.  I am actually feeling pretty excited about this.  There is, obviously, still a lot of work to do once the gun goes off, but the preparation has all been done:  I have gained the 5 lbs I wanted for extra insulation (that was fun).  My food is mostly packed and labeled.  My toe and finger nails are all clipped, my hair is cut, my clothing is laid out in piles and all my equipment is working properly (cooked lunch on my stove).  Everything fits in the sled nicely, and the sled fits inside my big Mizuno bag, so it will be well protected in travel.

Bushtukah Great Outdoor Gear has generously helped me out with my supplies, equipment and advice.  Much of my equipment has been borrowed from clients and I thank them all for trusting me with it.  Mizuno has been great with the shoes and clothing, the MSR Reactor stove works like a charm and my Wig-Wam socks are all washed.  Marc and Isabelle at Sportstats have also been very supportive.

Thanks again to everyone for the energy they have sent my way. I hope not to waste it.

 

Rock and Ice update 28, March 15, 2008

The Rock and Ice Ultra starts in one week from today.  This, without a doubt, will be the biggest challenge I have ever faced.  It has the most uncertain outcome: I could be a star, or a did not finish. 

I am in the final stages of preparation—the taper. As my taper progresses, like for anyone, I am more and more nervous and excited.  The doubts in my ability creep in and out.  I am constantly thinking about and checking and double checking my equipment to trim down weight or make things more efficient.  I remind myself to not over-think things and to keep it simple. I remind myself I have trained well.  I remind myself this is a running race, and that I am a good runner.  I remind myself that I’ll be fine.

I had gotten used to 3-5 hours of my time being occupied with daily workouts, and now that I am doing just half this volume, I have much more time on my hands.  To occupy all that free time, I have cleaned the house and the cars.  I have been cooking and working ahead on many projects, as well as catching up on everything that I had been neglecting.  In short, I feel I have a clean slate and clear mind going into the final week. 

Many of you have followed my journey since January 22nd.  It’s been a heck of a trip so far and I have received a great number of supportive e-mails, phone calls and comments in general.  For that, I thank you.  It has meant a lot to me and I promise to do the best I can.  I will use the energy you have sent me as a means to motivate myself when things inevitably get hard.  This has worked so far in my training.  I have no doubt it will work it will work in the race as well. 
 

 

Rock and Ice update 27, March 11, 2008

Part 1

Considering all the volume I have been putting in, in all the different conditions, and the likelihood of injury, I knew it was close to a miracle I got all the way to my taper with just one blister.  I counted myself as very lucky.  I knew it was almost too good to be true and the injury risk factor was high--it always is at taper time, whether it is Taper Hypochondriac Syndrome or not.

I had just finished a great run along the Canal, still on unplowed-but-this-time-trampled pathway, and was feeling good about myself and life in general.

Unfortunately, I just could not leave well enough alone, and I opted to do more.  Why not?  I wasn’t tired.  I felt great.   I pushed myself just a bit farther and ended up hurting myself.  I should know better.  My first thoughts were not positive ones: I’m done.  My race is over.  I knew I should have stopped while I was ahead, but no, I had to push things further.  I am so stupid. 

All it took was a silly moment of inattention to cause such pain like I have not felt before.  You see, while I was making my lunch, I slammed the drawer on my thumb.  Can you believe it?  And all those negative thoughts entered my mind as if I was going to die, and then it occurred to me that I do not actually need my left thumb to run.  Nor my right one, for that matter, and neither were broken.  I laughed at myself for the over-reaction, then gave my head a shake and had my lunch, left thumb a throbbin’.

I’ll be fine, but it was nevertheless very funny to have all those thoughts ricocheting around in my mind. 

Am I a bit on edge?  You bet.

Part 2

As most who know me can imagine, I am competitive by nature when comes to running races and triathlons.  I am fairly quick and therefore hoping to be competitive at the Rock and Ice Ultra.  On paper, I have the best one day resume of anyone entered, but this is not a one day event.  I have proven my ability to bounce back from big efforts, but they were a week or two apart.  Again, this is not the same.  Still, I should at least be competitive for a little while, and so I can entertain the idea of winning, though I try not to think about it too much.  That is getting harder and harder not to do.

Part of a winning strategy is knowing your own ability, but also your competitors.  Slowly but surely, Nancy and I have been Googling the other participants in the Rock and Ice Ultra.  There are some formidable athletes in the field.  To say I am intimidated would be an understatement.  Many are adventure racers of the highest caliber.  I do not believe there will be a clear winner until the last days.  This should actually be a race, as opposed to a solo expedition, and that will make it much more fun.  The interesting thing now will be the weather and trail conditions as well as the tactics everyone chooses to employ.  If the weather is on the warmer side, the trail will be soft and sweating will not matter or be a big issue.  If it is fairly cold, we can be fairly aggressive and the trail will be more firm, and therefore faster helping us to get the job done a bit more expeditiously.  If it is really cold, we can be even more aggressive because the trail will be very firm and we will be able to push hard without sweating.   If it is windy or varying conditions, all bets are off and it will be a question of dealing with whatever Mother Nature sends our way.   If we get new snow, being at the front will not be an advantage.  2nd or 3rd spot looks good.

All of the tactics and efforts will have to be weighed heavily against energy reserves and how deep in the tank one wants to go, and can bounce back from.  I only know the competition by reputation, and theirs is built on days of no sleep and multiple disciplines.  This is, after all, a running race and I am a runner.  But I have never had to deal with bouncing back quite so much and I don’t think anyone bounces back from big efforts like adventure racers do.  Do I go out hard and push the pace on people who do not get tired and are accustomed to going 36hrs without sleep and never giving up?  Or do I wait patiently for a moment of weakness that may not come?

I have had to remind myself many times that I can only do what I can do, and they can only do what they can do.  I have trained well and lots.  I have a good measure of talent.  If I am good enough to do what I want, then great.  If not, good for them: they are better than I am.   Plain and simple.

I guess we’ll see. 

 

Update 26

Hammertime Long Course was a bit sparse this week, due to the March Break as well as the 50cm of new snow falling and the dire warnings of impending doom by the forecasters.

I knew the program called for 90min each of cycling and running, but I also wanted to get in about 30k.  Needless to say, 30k in 90min was highly unlikely (read impossible) and even more so in the conditions Mother Nature had presented us for the day.

The ride was fairly non-eventful, aside from two of the women comparing the size of certain body parts in the mirror, but the run promised to be very interesting.

We changed and headed out from Cycle Logik on Wellington and ran to the Canal, assuming the pathway was a high enough priority to have been cleared.  It appears it is not, but Queen Elizabeth Driveway is, so it was very clear.  Most of the group ran on the road, but good old’ Ryan Cain, joined me on the pathway in the very deep snow.  When I say deep, I would guess 40-50cm in the centre and deeper on the edges, and even deeper still in some of the snow drifts.  This was Ryan’s first experience in running (using the term loosely here) through such deep snow.  As much as he whined and complained, I know he liked it.  He had several opportunities to move up to the road but did not take any of them.  He was a real trooper and did a fine job.

At one point, three women taking advantage of the fine snow conditions donned their classic skis and made their way along the pathway.  Ryan and I naturally tried to run in the least deep snow (truthfully, we could not lift our knees any higher), and this happened to be in the middle of the path.  Coincidentally, this was the same area the skiers chose and they were actually annoyed with us for running in their ski tracks.  We thought they were kidding at first, but then we realized they were serious.  They were skiing on the run path and angry with us for running on it.  We decided to let it slide, but if they were guys…I would have gotten Ryan to show them who was boss.

We got all the way to Pretoria Bridge, a grand total of 6.5km, in 45min and Ryan was pooped, and whined more.  And more.  And more. 

Eventually, we arrived back to Dows Lake and got on better roads (I use the term loosely—it was more like not as bad).  Ryan’s whining subsided and all was peaceful again, most of the way back to Cycle Logik.

Our grand total for 90min of hard work was 13km.  Ryan was rather tired and confessed he had never been so tired from such a short run in his life.  He has obviously not lived much, yet.
 
We went out for lunch after the workout, then I went out for another 17km run, on slightly better pathways and conditions.  After a beer and a burger, it had its own challenge but nothing like earlier in the day.  And then there was the great cracker challenge at lunch, but that’s a whole other story. 

 

Update 25

As most of you know, Ottawa got nailed with 50cm of snow last weekend, so running (and anything other than shoveling) was a challenge.

I ran 30k on Saturday, with the first 5k on unplowed pathways, then plowed along the Canal, then un-plowed pathway again.  All in all, I think I am beginning to get the run patiently aspect of this down pat—there was never a question in my mind that I would run and when I did, I simply accepted my fate and got out there.  I was never in a rush, nor was I concerned about the duration.  I think this is the first time I have just gone out and ran with an unconscious disregard for the time.  Normally, I have to remind myself that it did not matter.

Small steps, I guess, but an important one.

 

Rock and Ice update 24, March 8, 2008

Yesterday’s run was delightful: 25k with pretty good footing.  2hrs on the button at a relaxed effort with a heart rate around 115bpm.  And then the snow hit, but I was already done, so it was simply life as usual in a snow stormy Ottawa.

I was planning to run to swim in the morning, fully expecting the road conditions to be awful.  I woke up early, looked outside only to find that our road had been plowed.  What a drag: so much for bad driving conditions and tough running.  So, instead, I drove to swim practice and planned to run later in the day when the big storm hit.  Unfortunately, I do have a life outside of running, and had things to do, so I decided to run mid-morning.

Off I went, my tired mind, legs and body dressed up expecting the worst of conditions only to find reasonable footing most of the way and not nearly as strong a wind as they were forecasting.  I was kind of disappointed it wasn’t as blustery as expected, but still happy to be out there running.  It wasn’t easy, but I got my 30k run done, racking up my second longest week of running ever.  With the temperature pegged at minus 2 or so, I was quite warm again, but I doubt that will be an issue in 14 days from now. 

Wow, there are only two weeks to go.  That’s not many more sleeps, and even fewer to my taper.

HEY!!!!!!!!

I GET TO START MY TAPER SOON!!!!!!!!!! .

Uh, oh. 

How am I going to deal with all the doubts that will stir up in my free time?  I’ve had lots of time on my runs to think, but this will be a different kind of time and my thought process will be connected to emotions that will not be burned off by increased effort.  This time, I will have to actually deal with them.

And what about the THS?  How will I deal with it if it strikes?  That’s right, Taper Hypochondriac Syndrome.  This is when all the aches and pains that have been hiding under the surface climb to the surface about half way through a taper.  They often miraculously disappear on race day when the guns goes off, but this time I wonder how it will work with 6 different days of the gun going off. 

I have been lucky enough to not have to deal with THS due to the fact I work better on short tapers which leave me little time to get sore, but with an event like The Rock and Ice Ultra, I will need to be beyond rested and injury free.  I will need to be 110% ready to go and it would not hurt to be a bit flat off the start.  Unlike a one day race where I would need to be on right from when they say go, I have several days to find my groove.

I guess we’ll see…

 

Rock and Ice update 23, March 5, 2008

Now THAT's what I'm talkin' about!!

Thanks to Mother Nature, yesterday's run was another adventure. 

Before I go on, I do want to make it clear that although I need these conditions, I have not yet started to enjoy or relish the harshness in which I have been training and hoping for. These are the conditions I expect to encounter in the Rock and Ice Ultra, now just 15 days away. The success of my entire race, and indeed my life, could depend on my ability to deal with the changing wintery conditions. I swear this is not some sadistic penchant I have for inflicting a brutal winter on the rest of Ottawa. Honest.

Given the forecasted mayhem, I figured this would be a great day to challenge myself by running from home to the Dome and doing the workout with the boys.  I figured I had to leave by 2PM to arrive on time, but life got in the way and I did not get going until 3.  On a day like this, there was no rushing to make up the lost hour, and I am still working on being patient, so it turned into a just get there kind of run.

Right out the front door, the snow was mid-shin depth, then I got to the road and it was a bit better.  Then I got to Merivale and it was a nightmare—crusty and knee deep.  Perfect.

Baseline was the same, and so were Fisher and Meadowlands, all the way to the Canal.

In stark contrast to Tuesdays puddle jumping on the pathway, Wednesday was a real test of patience and all the lower ligaments of the leg, ankle and foot.  I think Simon and Garfunkel sung it best in “slip slidin’ away” all the way downtown, along Sussex, through Rockliffe Park, Manor Park, Rockliffe Base, Codds Rd, Montreal Rd to Bearbrook and the Dome.  There may have been 2k total of semi-sure footing. 

All along the way, I hopped, skipped, jumped, trudged through and over snow banks and on sidewalks that had not been plowed, or even added to by the road plows.  I kept looking at my watch to see how long I had been running and I kept reminding myself that A) time did not matter today, and B)  these were not what would be considered fast condition and the footing was dictating the pace, not the will or the fueling.

And so, I trudged along, finally arriving at the Dome much later than usual and missing the Lions workout, but still with good energy levels. 

My new shoe set up worked well and I had good energy with no sore spots, so was satisfied with the day and called it successful, even if it was a bit shorter than I was thinking I would log.

 

Rock and Ice update 22, March 4, 2008

Yesterday was another nice and sunny minus 2 degree day.  The rain from the day before was either frozen solid in many areas or huge puddles in almost all the others.  The day’s exercise was equal parts jumping from dry but slippery spot to dry but slippery spot on the other side of the puddle. This was as close to ballet and/or dynamic stretching as I like to get!!

Seriously, I woke up early and ran to swim practice, then did some errands and ran back home, so I logged broken 14km by 9:15 AM.

I did some work, then dressed up again and headed out at 11 AM for the long part of the running day, and to meet up with Ryan Cain.  I ran to, then along the Rideau Canal, and as I intimated, ran is a generous term for what I was doing.  It took me a bit longer to run downtown than it does in better footing with a 25 lb back pack on.  Ryan and I hooked up and ran down the Queen Elizabeth side of the Canal to Bronson Ave, which was far and away superior than the Colonel By side.  He turned around and went back to work and I continued on home.

This run was 24km on the button, so my daily total was 38km.  I felt fine, but, I know I need to get used to all kinds of uncertain conditions.  I can’t help the fact that, like many others in town I am sure, I long for both good footing and the summer.  I know I have this trip to the north to take care of, but that does not mean I would not prefer shorts, a t-shirt and an unencumbered run to layers of clothing, hats, mitts and today, soakers.

Thanks for reading.

 

Rock and Ice update 21, March 1, 2008

As the immortal Van Morrison once said “Mama said there’d be days like this…”

Saturday was another character builder with 28km on the schedule with a fresh dump of 15-20cm of powder and a packed sled with all but my food. 

I was ready for that part, but the character building started when the newly modified racing flats I was hoping to wear did not work very well: they are too thin and I ended up with very cold feet 20min into the run.  I had to change socks to something a bit thicker and then I ended up with a blister at 13km.  For the first time since I started this nonsense, I also had ice build up between shoe and the crampons I’m using.  This created huge and very uncomfortable pressure points in the arches and balls of my feet.  I had even more ice build up on the lycra shoe covers making my feet quite heavy and uncomfortable.  I finished with soaking wet feet (actual water pouring out of my shoes when I changed in the car).

If only it was colder and windier, things would have gone better: the snow would have been drier and I would not have sweat nearly as much.

If only, eh. 

Global warming is messing with my race preparation!!

 

Rock and Ice ultra update 20, Feb 27th, 2008

I ended up running 15k today with my speedwork included, so I did not up my volume with today’s run.  It almost seems anti-climactic to not run more, and I was really planning to, but life issues, work and car repairs got in the way. 

Oh well, it was still a huge 7 days of running for me and now, I get to rest and let my muscles rebuild for a few days.

Through all the volume over the past weeks, I was able to maintain some semblance of speed on the track.  I feel I am trying harder than I should be to go the speed I am, but at least I am going that speed and able to try that hard.  Often, when someone is over-trained, the drive and ability to push are just not there, and mine seem to be.  That said, my sleeping habits are a bit disturbed and I am not quite as rested as I normally am in the mornings.   

That, in and of itself, is another great reason for some recovery time, which will allow me more energy to go shopping at Bushtukah for the various supplies I will need for the race.

Let the shopping spree begin!!

 

Rock and Ice update 19, Feb 26th, 2008

In the last 7 days, I have run 202km.  Up until a few weeks ago, I would never have imagined I could do that.  By the end of tomorrow, I will have run even more than that in a 7 day span.

Last week, when I planned this week, I thought about 210km as a goal.  That seemed ominous; especially considering it was already 38km further than my next biggest week. 

As the week progressed, I grew more and more confident that I could manage it, and even stepped things up a bit on Sunday, changing my thoughts and setting my sights on 220-230km.  And then I thought 240km.

And then I thought I was getting stupid, and reassessed my reassessed plan.  I stepped it back down to my original goal.  After my morning run today, I was sitting at 195km and just wanted to get the 200km barrier out of the way, so I joined Nancy and Mike Giles for a 7.5km run in the evening to finish where I did. 

As my Garmin ticked over the barrier, there were no fireworks or parade, just a feeling that I was in new territory. 

It seems I’ve been there a lot lately.

Thanks for reading.

 

Rock and Ice update 18, Feb 25th, 2008

Today, I am on the cusp of yet another milestone week of running, though this week will be 7 days in a row, as opposed to a calendar week: I cranked out my 170th kilometer today with 2 days left in those 7 days.  This is already my second biggest week of running ever, and I still have 2 days to go.  Yikes!

Yikes, too, that some of the guys I used to run against ran this kind of volume all the time.  Jon Halvorsen, one of the best runners in the world at the time, used to run 175km in his easy weeks.  Unbelieveable.  That’s all I can say.  Of course, that’s one of the reasons why he was able to run better than any non-African at the IAAF World Cross Country Running Championships back in the late ‘80’s and why he ran 27:43 for 10,000.  He had great speed and just did not get tired.

Anyway, back to me, because that’s really what it’s all about J

Nancy wants to make sure I gain a bit of weight, figuring I will need some extra energy stores before I go up north.  That’s fine with me, I thought, as she was emptying the remnants of supper from the casserole dish onto my plate, then putting the remainder of the pecan caramel pie in front of me.  I am rather accustomed to holding back on my meals, or feeling a wee bit guilty for taking seconds (that never stopped me, but I felt that way), but when such fine food is thrust upon me so enthusiastically, who am I to argue?

I cannot help but think I should run 200km or more every week so I can eat whatever I want and still stay at my fighting weight.  It may not be the most effective nutrition plan, but it certainly is a tasty one.

As I rack up the volume, I spend a lot of time by myself thinking a lot about my running form, how I am feeling, my schedule for the rest of the day or week, or what I plan to do next in terms of training or racing.  I can honestly say that at this point, even though I feel pretty good, I have no intention of running more than I am at this point.

That said, though, as things progress and the distances get more comfortable, I have asked or questioned myself how long I could keep this kind of volume up—how many days in a row could I run 30km?  Could I run more?  How much more?  What would break first: my brain or my body?

I have no intention of finding out, but the fact I have actually asked myself these questions worries me that I may one day try to find out.  I am now able to understand how Ray Zahab comes up with all the freaky stuff he does—he has lots of time to let his imagination run wild.

 

Rock and Ice Update 17, Feb 24th, 2008

Today was my regular Hammertime Long Course training session and, thanks to Paul McAneney and Brenda Oatway, my co-instructors, and the understanding of the two groups, I’ve been able to do both runs and skip the ride.  They are both very accomplished cyclists and have a good feel for everyone and their abilities.  The workout today was 1:45 cycling and 1:45 running.  While one group rides, the other runs and then they switch off.  We did hills again on the run this week, working on strength.  The hill we use is not that far from Cycle Logik, so we have to add on to get a good warm-up and cool-down and not spend a silly length of time running up and down.  Generally, we are aiming to get 30-45min of hills, which is exactly what each group got.

With the warm-up, the hills and the cool-down, the first run was 16km.  The second group has a few thoroughbreds in it, so we cranked things up and finished with 22km for the run.  Not bad for a training run with hill repeats in it.  My day total was 37.9km so I ran 50m down the street and back.

Let it be clear I am not obsessive, nor compulsive. 

I do not have a problem. 

I just like round numbers.

For the week, that put me at 139km.  I consciously opted not to run 1km more, proving that I do have a bit of will power.  That said, as I type this, it is only 6:45 and there is still time to go for a short run after dinner.

I did not run Monday or Tuesday this week, and ‘only’ ran 15km on Wednesday, so 139km is a solid total for 5 days of running,  but I feel I need one last big week.   What is wrong with me when 140k is no longer considered a big week!!

If I reconfigure things and start my count from last Thursday, I have 4 of 7 days done already and am on my way to that biggest of big weeks.  I only have to keep going for 3 more days.  It would simply not be a calendar week. 

If I manage this, it will be the biggest running week I have ever done (by a lot) and I will be proud of myself for that.  However, I will be even more in awe of the accomplishments of Ray Zahab and his teammates when they ran across the Sahara Desert.  If I run my biggest week ever, it will still be less than THREE DAYS of what he and his crew did for 111 days.  The harder I push, and the harder this gets, the higher the pedestal I put him and his crew on.  They are simply a level much higher than anything I can imagine.

 

Rock and Ice update 16, Feb 23rd, 2008

If you did not hear my interview with Liz Hay on CBC Radio’s In Town and Out, follow the link below.  You will need Real Player to listen to it.

http://www.cbc.ca/intownandout/

I was stood up again today: the running buddy I met last week didn’t show up. That’s right, the squirrel that followed me the other day was nowhere to be seen along the trail.  Oh well, just my thoughts and I. 

Alone.  Again. I guess no one likes me.

Even though the weather so far this year has not been conducive to toughening me up, it has been great weather and really enjoyable.  Today it was minus 10 or so, cloudless and windless.  The trail was hard packed and I was feeling pretty good, so I figured I should take advantage of the conditions and go a bit harder while trying to stay dry.  I still have not figured out how hard to go so that I do not sweat, yet still get the run over with in a reasonable time. 

Today was no different—my upper body was pretty good as I opened and closed various zippers to help with air flow.  I have been wearing my Zone3sports vest between an insulated top and a Mizuno running jacket.  The vest is very light with a wind resistant front and open mesh on the back.  By closing one zipper or the other, I was able to work a bit harder and still stay dry.  On the bottom, the Craft pants I have been wearing have full length zippers down the leg and I found that if I unzipped them to mid-thigh, they were quite comfortable and helped avoid heat building up.  Kinda sexy, too.  Maybe.

I also found that even at minus 10 or so, I was able to wear a running hat and my very light Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves (same as we gave away at the Winterlude Triathlon) without suffering from the cold.  This, again, helped me stay dry and comfortable.  Sounds like a diaper commercial, doesn’t it?

This 28k run took 2:53, a full 23min faster than two days ago.  I ran exactly the same route, which measured 2k shorter than the last time so I double checked my data.  The run the other day, it appears, was incorrectly reported as 30k, but it should have been 28k.  I have corrected my log accordingly.

I’m in a bit of a groove right now and am unsure of my next week’s plan: I want to put in a huge week of running.  I’m already half way to what I want for my big week, so I could continue on my current string and stop at 7 days, or I could take Monday off and start my week over. 

We’ll see.  It will depend on how I feel after Sunday.

 

Rock and Ice update 15, Feb 22nd, 2008

Today was ‘just-go-for-a-run day’.  That means no pack, no sled and no adverse conditions.  At 30k, it was still a longish run, but it’s so much more enjoyable (easier) without the added weight or drag of the sled.

I tried hard to not get carried away with the lightness I felt in my legs, and which I have become unaccustomed to.  For the most part, I think I was successful.  I put a max heart rate limit of 125bpm to help me stay honest and I still managed to complete the run with an average of 4:50/km, even with way too many red lights for my liking.

What I did not do well, though, was my fluids/nutrition.  Again.  I am so friggin’ stupid!!

I have to remind myself that 30k runs or anything over 2:00 is worthy taking serious.  I had breakfast, coffee and another coffee, then headed out the door with one bottle of water and a GU gel.

Though that part is okay, fluids and gels only work if you actually use them and I was remiss in that department.  It did not occur to me to drink until almost 15k (1:13) and the GU gel was ingested around 23k.  Both of these are too late. 

I actually do know better. 

I even set my Garmin to beep at 30min and 10k, but it either did not go off, or I missed it while Colin James or George Thorogood serenaded me as I ran.

My energy level I was fine, but I was getting grumpy with the stumbling I was doing due to the poor footing and the red lights I kept hitting.  Grumpiness is one of the first signs I am depleted.  Just ask Nancy about when we travel and miss meals…not pretty.

So, once again, I am reminded that I have to remind myself to remind myself to remind myself that I do need fluid and fuel for outings over 2hrs.

I will get it yet!!

 

Rock and Ice update 14, Feb 21st, 2008

Aaarrrggggg!!!!

I thought I was ready for anything but it appears this is not so: I’ve been looking for the tough conditions to go out and train in.  I want windy, cold and a snow storm. I want all of them in extreme intensity, but what do I get? A bright, sunny, basically windless, minus 20 degree day. 

What rotten luck!!

Seriously, it was a beautiful day for a run and I was planning for 30k.  Though slightly disappointed in Mother Nature for providing such a fine and challenge free day, I set out from home expecting the trail I’ve been running to be hard packed and fast.  I wanted to run the 30k, not shuffle.

Well, who ‘da thunk with bright and clear skies in Ottawa last night, that it snowed about 15cm in Chelsea and the trail would be snow covered again?  Not me.

I adjusted my hopes and accepted it would be a semi-shuffle run day, again.

And then I started running, only to find the trail had been walked on by many people the day before leaving firmly frozen dents and grooves in every which way possible.  All covered so I could not see them.  I felt like I was running on big ass cobblestones and went over on my ankle many times through the next 30k.  It was really frustrating but I repeated to myself something Scott Smith, the Race Director for this silly race, said to me: “Suck it up, Princess.”

As highlights for this run:

Thanks for reading.  Tune in tomorrow.

Speaking of tuning in, listen to CBC Radio’s In Town and Out on Saturday, Feb 23rd between 7:10 and 9 AM for Rick’s interview with Liz Hay, formerly of Gotta Run (and still running).

 

Rock and Ice update 13, Feb 20th, 2008

I woke up Wednesday with full intentions to run 25-30k in the morning then track at night, but then life got in the way and the run got pushed back in the day. 

…and then the new modifications to my shoes backfired and I called it a half a day before I risked freezing my feet off. 

There I was, with all the energy saved up and nothing to do but wait for my next workout.  I have no life anymore, so I would just run a bit longer on Thursday. 

On the brighter side of things, I would, for the first time in a while, show up to the track rested and see what my legs had in them.

 

Rock and Ice update 12, Feb 17th

It’s been quite a week with good running volume, quality and a few good learning experiences.

First, the volume: this weeks running total was 172km.  That’s a whopper of a week considering my previous biggest was 124km.  A solid 125km of it was either pulling a sled or carrying 25lbs on my back.  And, I feel fine.  That’s the very important part.

As for quality, that came in a few forms.  My track workout on Wednesday was very solid, despite having run in the deep snow for 3hrs and 15 minutes before hand.  That’s a long warm-up, but even so, I was able to knock off some kilometer repeats below 3:15.  I find the quick stuff after such long slow and arduous running really helps reset my stride to that of a runner instead of a shuffler.  I will probably try to make it a habit to do some easy accelerations after my longer runs to help reinforce good form.

I also got a really good introduction to running in deep snow towing the sled.  The difference in time at a similar effort over the same distance is rather substantial.  I ran the same 20km route three times.  Two out of three runs were in deep snow and my time was 3:10-3:15 for the distance. 

On Friday’s run along the trail, I picked up a new friend: I could see a squirrel running along the power line beside me and kept an eye on it.  After about a minute, I stopped running and gave it more attention.  It stopped as well.  I ran, it ran.  I stopped, it stopped.  I ran, it ran.  I stopped, it stopped.  I ran, it started then fell off its high wire into the snow.  It seems, unlike cats, squirrels do not always land on their feet.  Fortunately, the foot of snow was quite soft and I doubt it was hurt. 

My third outing, and much more enjoyable run was on Saturday with Nancy (she classic skied while I ran).  The trail had been track set by Lafleur and was fairly solid.  Finally, I could almost run and see what I had in me.  Even though my effort was similar to the other days,  I was a full hour faster for the same route, simply due to the conditions.  I now know what I’m hoping for.

On Sunday, I did the double run at Hammertime—90min each, so a total of 3hrs.  The A group was running first, and they are a very fleet of foot bunch, so I left the pack at Cycle Logik.  We ran 5k to a hill, ran up and down for 30min, then ran back to the store.  I grabbed my pack, this time with a bit more weight stuffed in (30lbs) and off I went to the hill again.  I/we ran up and down for 30min again, then back to the store.  Along the way, I rolled over the 160k mark, or 100 miles.  I celebrated with a pat on the back, then kept going and headed onward towards a very good and satisfying workout.

Some of the hightlights of the week are simple but important ones:

As for learning experiences, I learned that:

 

Update 11, Feb 14th

Today, I went for a simple run with no sled and no backpack.  It was just my shoes, a light top, good footing and a sunny day.

What a treat!!  It was great to just go for a run.  It was still a longer run at 25k, but without the added challenges of snow, sled or pack, it took 2hrs as opposed to the 3hrs for 20k the two days before. 

When I got close to home, I realized my run was going to be a bit short.  I debated with myself about how short of 25k was too short and I would need to add on.  As I got really close, my Garmin read 24.2k, so I ran around a big block and added an extra 200m as punishment for even considering it an option to finish short.

Not long ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of adding 800m to a run that long just to get a number.  Close is good enough, I would have said, but now my perspective has changed:  every meter counts in this journey.

Tomorrow, it is back to the snow and trails.

Thanks for reading.

 

Update 10, Feb 13th, 2008

Today was much better: 20k in 3hrs but now I think I can/have accepted things will take longer than I had originally imagined.  The shock factor has passed and it will be a matter of forgetting about times and paces and just running.  This is very different from what I have done in the past.  Very different indeed.

I waffled between running along the Ottawa River or the Gatineau River.  Coach Ray Zahab suggested the Gatineau River would be the better choice and since he is the Master, that is where I went.  I parked at the Fresh Mart on hwy 105, hooked up the sled and ran down to the train tracks, jumped on the trail and headed towards Wakefield.  The 15-20cm of new snow overnight had not been packed down, so it was trail breaking time again. 

“Just accept it,” I told myself.  “Get yer ass going.”

The trail itself is quite flat, considering it is on the Wakefield Steam Train tracks.  It’s very pretty down by the water, and lightly travelled.  I tried in vain not to sweat, but towing the sled, at almost any level of effort, raises the core temperature, so I just did what I could.

I hit the 10k mark at 1:30 and turned around, walked a bit to refuel, then started running again.  I got to the end of the run in 2:56, so I actually negative split.

I knew I was having a better day when I made the conscious choice not to run in the same track I had made on the way out.  It was easier and, as the Master had said, I could be out front and breaking trail the whole way, so I figured I should get used to it and not take the slightly easier way.

When I got back to the car, I changed quickly, then drove to the Dome for some more fun with the Ottawa Lions and my interval group.  I warmed up again, then hit the track for 5 sets of 1k at 5k race pace, 1min rest, 200 hard, 3min rest, then cooled down.  I was pleasantly surprised by how fast the kilos were, even if they hurt.  I was reminded once again why I like to run fast.

 

Update 9, Feb 12th, 2008

My first run with the sled was an eye opener.  No doubt about it.  And an eye closer, too: as in now I need a nap. I ran for 3:15 and only covered 20km. That's not even half the distance on the first day. I can't believe that. I was confident before today. Now, I am not so sure. But, that is what will keep me honest in my training. Fear.

Inspired by Mark Sutcliffe’s article in the Ottawa Citizen last Sunday, I thought I would detail some of the differences in running without and with a backpack as well as the loaded sled by the numbers.  I’ve been doing my best to run at a heart rate below 125bpm.  This, for those that are so inclined, is below what I consider my zone 1.  I feel I can run at that heart rate all day long under normal circumstances.  I consider the top of my zone 1 to be around 140bpm and generally equates to 3:45-3:50/km. I don't actually run there very often as there are not many people who can go for a 37min 10k run at lunch and call it easy, so I often run in the low teens if I want company.

It is important to put the numbers below in context:  my engine is not standard issue.  I am a 2:35 marathoner and an 8:41 Ironman triathlete.   These are times I feel I can still attain.  And I am that fit right now.

With no pack in good footing, 125bpm is a 4:10km, or a 2:55 marathon. 
With a 20lb back pack, that same effort is a 4:45 kilometer, or a 3:20 marathon.  I still think this is okay.
With a 25lb back pack, the effort is a 5:00 kilometer, or a 3:31 marathon. I am happy with this, but I ended up slightly injured for a week.
With the 25lbs in the sled on hard packed trail with good footing, still at 125bpm, 6min/km, or a 4:20 marathon.  Okay, now that seems like a long time and bodes some very long days in store for me.
Carrying the sled because the pathway I thought would be snow covered was not, 10min /km, but killer on my back.  I do not want to think about it.
With the sled, in soft snow, poorly packed and knee or thigh deep snowdrifts everywhere, close to 12min/km.  This was ugly and demoralizing.  I will not let myself think about it.  I had to go to my happy place for this part.

In order for me to go out and do this again, I can only justify this to myself by reminding myself that if it took me this long, and I am as fit and fast as I am, it will take others longer.  It has to. 

 

Update 8

After my big down week (oxymoron, I know), this week is planned to be very big.  The weather looks favourable for good training for the Rock and Ice Ultra.  In other words, the forecast is cold and windy.  Not long ago, that would not have been good news, but even the worst we have will be nothing compared to what I expect to face in Yellowknife.

Last week, I picked up the sled that I will pull for 6 days in a row.  It belongs to Ray Zahab, and is the one he used in his first race.  The sled has a killer reputation to live up to, and I have not yet worked up the courage to try it here at home; tomorrow is the day.  I will head out on a long run and tow the sled with 20-25lbs in it, about the weight I hope to get my sled down to for race week.

I also got to see how the Master modified his shoes to keep the snow out while keeping them breathable and light.

Today, I modified my shoes and will test them later this week when the glue dries.

I will let you know how it goes.

 

Update 7

I was a bit quiet last week.  Sorry about that.

Last week was a down week. 

It turned into a really, really down week in terms of volume.  I went from 124km of running to 10k or so, with 4hrs of cycling and 2hrs of skiing.  That’s quite a drop. 

The extra low volume was needed to heal the sore groin and hip flexor from 115km of running with a pack when I was not quite ready for it.  My core and trunk muscles were not quite strong enough to handle the extra load.

I would like to say “lesson learned”, but I honestly doubt it will be, and that I will do too much too soon again.

 

Update 6

Last week was really, really tough.

Between the weather, re-arranging and setting up the Winterlude Triathlon and running the highest volume so far (124km), my legs are beat.

Fried would be a better way to look at it. My back, groin and adductors are all sore. these are the little muscles that can shut me down if they are not strong enough, so I guess I pushed them to their limit. Now it is time to let them rest, recover and re-build to a stronger state.

I under-fueled again on Sunday at HTLC.  I wore a 25lb backpack and forgot my water bottle, so ran 21km without fluids.  That would have been fine, but it was a fairly snappy second half to the run with an average 4:20/km, so it made me dip into my reserves more than I wanted to.  And then I headed back out for another 15km, with fluids, and fell apart anyway.  The damage had been done.

It may also have been the fact I only got 2:30 sleep two nights before and it caught up with me.

It may also have been the fact I ran a marathon distance on Wednesday, with a total run time of just 3:15 and I wore a 20lbs pack for 30km of it.

Or it may have been everything combined.  I do know that I will try to do better next time.

 

Update 5

Today, I am tired, and sore, but I suppose that was the idea of yesterday's volume.

I headed out the door and shuffled along towards downtown, where I met up with Ryan Cain for a short run, then ran back home. total time: 2hrs. total distance: 25k on the button (with an extra run round the block to get it that way).

Now, I am more tired.

And, I am Canadian, therefore I look at the weather often. Today, it is minus 38 and sunny in Yellowknife, and dipping to minus 45 in the afternoon. And continuing to drop to minus 50 overnight. This is not a very comforting thought, but the Rock and Ice Ultra is still 2 months away. This is plenty of time for things to warm up to the average temperature of minus 15 or so. That seems almost balmy.

 

Update 4

Yesterday, I visited with Coach Zahab and we talked equipment.  I got some great ideas on what is and what is not needed.  I will keep those ideas to myself for now.

Ray was a bit surprised to see the race distances did not include an ultra-marathon.  I corrected him in that day one is 45km and that is longer than 42.2.  He said the shortest distance recognized by ultra runners is 50k.

Well, excuuuuse me!

I guess that’s fair. Anyone who warms up for 10min before a marathon could otherwise call themselves an ultra runner, which would not be right.

I promised I would do an extra few kilometers if I had it in me at some point in the race to notch 50k to satisfy him.

Today, Wednesday, January 30th, I ran to the Dome from home with about 20lbs in a backpack.  When I got there, it was 28km on the button, and I had envisioned 30k or more, so I diligently added on 2km before I entered the warmth of  the Dome. Run time was just under 2:30, so 5:08/km with stop lights and bad footing.

I stiffened up a bit as I changed my clothing to something more appropriate for speedwork indoors, so I joined in on the warm-up with my Ottawa Lions buddies and added another 2km to my total warm-up.

The workout was 6x1mile at a tempo effort, so something at which we should be able to talk a bit.  That, in metric terms is 10k and, me being the math whiz, calculated a total of 42km if I survived the workout.

I lead the first mile, thinking it would be my only chance to lead as I would likely get blown out in the latter stages.  It felt surprisingly good.  It was a nice change from shuffling along with a backpack.  We hit the number we were after, so I decided to hang in at that pace for as long as I could.

Our next mile was about 3sec faster and it felt better.  The next was about 5sec slower, and it felt too easy.  On the next one, though, Berry took the lead and wound things up, chopping a whopping 20 seconds off our pace.  We all knew it was Berry’s last one (he is going to race on the weekend), and that we should let him go, but we did not.  That one shook people up a bit.  We slowed the next two back down to tempo and voila!  I ran 42km. A marathon. Iin the middle of the week, albeit a wee bit broken up.  I then did a very short cool-down to total 43km on the day.  My longest run so far, and I actually feel okay. 

I guess the trick is to wake up the next day and feel good enough to do it again. 

We’ll see.

 

Update 3

Last night, I slept outside at the back of the house in a bivy sac made by Outdoor Research.  A bivy sac is basically a waterproof tent just a bit bigger than a sleeping bag, that closes up completely.  It protects the tenant from snow, wind, rain and keeps heat in.  I had a Thermarest to sleep on inside the sac.  It worked very well, and I appreciated the flexed pole inside that kept the roof off my face.

It was not my best night’s sleep, but I have had worse in hotels I actually paid money to stay in. All in all, it worked out pretty well and I learned to make sure not to over-hydrate as it is not convenient to relieve oneself half in and half out of a sleeping bag at minus 10 degrees Celcius.

I would/will find a box of some sort to put my things in so I know where they all are.  I had my Petzel Tikka, my glasses and the house keys with me in the sac, but was afraid of lying on them or freezing them.  They would be easier and safer if they were all in one protected place.

Today is another scheduled day off, but I may decide to go for a ski or a run.  It is supposed to be windy and cold, so, even though my gut instinct is to stay in, I have to get out in this crap to get used to it.

I also realized I have to stop avoiding the bad footing.  I have to run in the mush or slush on purpose and as much as possible.  For a track runner and road racer, that’s a hard habit to break.

 

Update 2

This has been a more relaxed week on the skis, but a bigger running one.  I’m testing new shoes (Mizuno Ararshi 2 gore-tex trail runner) and sock combinations and putting in some good quality even with the increased volume.  All of this is to find out where my limits are, and thankfully, I have not found them yet because I know I will need to handle more.

That said, this next week is going to be a light one with the plan that week after will go back up to qualify as a big one.  I have the Winterlude Triathlon to make happen and I don’t expect I will get in much training Friday or Saturday, losing about 6hrs there.

Since I announced my participation in the Rock and Ice Ultra, I have received many helpful hints from those in the know about this kind of race.

Mike Scherman, aka the Scherminator, offered some good hints that I will keep to myself for now.  Mike did the ski version last year, and did it better than any other skier, brining home the Ekati Diamond they have up for grabs for first place. 

Real Perriard emphasized the importance of tough and healthy feet. Many a fit person has succumbed to blisters or the like, so make sure the foot/shoe interface is as good as it can be.

Paul Leroux, an ex-running partner turned mountain climber, emphasized the need the exercise discipline and restraint, and to learn to go slow.  This is not over after the first finish line, or even the fifth.

Dominique Laroque from Creative Wheel says I need to work on my attitude and psychology.  I haven’t heard that since grade school when Mrs Lebrun chewed me out for…well, you don’t need to know that much.  Personally, I think I have to learn to like being by myself for a long time.

Don MacDonald says I could die doing this. Look into bears, guns and ammo.

Jean Blain says to make sure my life and health insurance is up to date, and to think about what I will do in the event of problems like injury or frostbite. I need to know how I will deal with these issues.

As for training, Friday was a good ski day, but I skipped my run due to life duties.

Through the week, Mike Caldwell had been disrespectin’ the triathletes and saying the Mad Trapper Snowshoe course, indeed snowshoe racing in general, was too hard for triathletes and that was why none were entering his events.  I took it upon myself to stand up for triathlete-kind and prove him wrong: I took the bait, but needed to add a twist of my own to the day.  Saturday, I drove up to Wakefield, crossed the river onto the east side and drove about 5k along chemin de la Rivière.  I pulled over and parked there, then ran to the Ark for the Mad Trapper Snowshoe Race.  I decided I could not stop at 14.5km so I ran past the Ark to get 15km as my warm-up.  I changed quickly enough and got ready for the race.  It seems I was a marked man, so when Mike said GO!, no one wanted to go to the front.  I decided that if none of the competition was going to take advantage of the fact I might be a bit more tired than I let on and hammer hard off the start to hurt me early, then I would get to the front and control the pace.  This worked very well as I was able to run at my effort, speeding up and slowing down whenever I felt like it.  James Galipeau hooked on and followed through 2k, but then we hit a long and steadily steepening climb.  James was not able to follow my pace and dropped off.  When he was far enough behind, I backed off and cruised.  Unfortunately, James did not quit trying hard, and kept closing the gap when I lifted my foot off the gas pedal too much.  He kept getting close on the technical downhills (of which there were many), then I would push hard on the uphills and increase the gap again.  This was pretty much the pattern for the rest of the race and I was able to hold him off and cross the line 20-30 sec ahead of him.  The triathlete trash talk by the Race Director had been silenced, but, fortunately or otherwise, Mike is now trying to say I am an adventure racer because I have done three of them.  He has a photo of the Raid the North Bark Lake start to prove it as I am center of the photo beside Anton Stranc and Jody Bigelow.  To him I say I am as much an adventure racer as he is a triathlete, and that is not much of one (zing!!!)

Mike also said this was the hardest course he had ever designed, and I do not doubt that.  It was very challenging and left everyone who did it with a very rewarding feeling, and snot running down their faces.  However, as I said before the start, if Mike could do it, it could not be that hard.  (zing, zing!!)

Sunday, I tested running with extra weight for the first time in 20 years. I crammed 20lbs into a knapsack, then did both runs at HTLC. This is a 'recovery week' in the HTLC program, so it was 90min of each, for a total of 3hrs (and then 30min of core work afterwards). I ended up running close to 35k with the extra weight and did not find it all that bad. The paces of the groups were just right, though I certainly felt the change in running posture and foot strike. I doubt this will be good for my overall speed, but it will make me stronger and more resilient, and for this event, that is more important.

After the usual Starbuck's visit with some of the HTLC crew, I went home, changed, grabbed my ski stuff and headed up to P9 to ski to the Fire Tower. It was late and I was more tired than I thought, and therefore slower, so I turned around at McKinstry, opting to ski in daylight and not watch the sun go down on me. Even though it was only minus 6 or so, I started to get really tired, and cold. I was glad I turned around when I did. I am not sure how many times I have to learn the importance of fueling properly, but apparently, a reminder was in order. For the umpteeth time, I have promised myself I would fuel better next time.

Tonight, I am tired. No doubt about it.

 

Update 1--Jan 23rd, 2008

After the announcement of my participation in the Rock and Ice Ultra, I recieved many e-mails. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to send me one telling me I was nuts.  Your support is greatly appreciated.

In my lead-up to the decision to enter the Rock and Ice Ultra, I had several conversations with myself, Nancy and uber ultra guy Ray Zahab.

Nancy questioned my reasons, and then gave her support.  We’ll see if it is undying or not, but for now, I am happy she is onside and I will try to keep her that way.

Ray simply said it would be easy.  Yeah, right.  

I’ve been coaching Ray for a number of months, including his build up (actually, his reduction) to the New York City Marathon last year and the upcoming Boston Marathon.  Ironically these two races will actually be his SHORTEST ever.   Anyway, in my chatting with Ray about his training plan, and questioning why he chose me as a coach and why, for that matter, he even needed a coach, it gave me many of the little pushes I needed to knock down the walls of doubt and convince myself I should give this race a try.

His reason for wanting a coach is, as Simon Whitfield and most other world champions know, very simple: being accountable to someone who is highly knowledgeable is paramount to success.  I am flattered he chose me as the one to whom he will be accountable.

Similarly, I will be returning the compliment and use Ray as my consultant to the Rock and Ice Ultra.  If there is anyone who can point me in the right direction, I believe he is the one. 

One thing I have learned is that Ray’s enthusiasm for running, and life in general, is one of the more infectious diseases in the world.  I wish there were more people like him to spread the cheer.  Fortunately or otherwise, he has infected me with some of it and I hope to spread the cheer and inspired others to do the same by sharing the story with you.

So, if things go wrong, it’s his fault, not mine, but if things go right, it’s all me, baby!

 

In the beginning...

So, like many people, I saw the announcement for the Rock and Ice Ultra on Trirudy a few weeks ago. An ultra-marathon is something I never imagined doing. I laugh at them, really. I think they are ridiculous. They are something freaks do, not me. I’m a fast guy. I get my races over with as quickly as possible, partly because I can, and partly because my attention span is too short to focus for that long. I don’t do long and slow very well.

Or can I? My trademark answer to such questions is “I guess we’ll see”.

And so we will.

I can honestly say I have never entered an event I did not think I could do, and do well in. I may not have been 100% prepared, but with my basic level of fitness and background, I was never far from it. The question of finishing was never an issue.

It is now. I have crossed the threshold: I have entered the Rock and Ice Ultra, a crazy stage race consisting of running 225k in the snow, towing a sled full of supplies and camping out for 6 days in the North West Territories. No longer am I a one day specialist where recovery was done afterwards. I am making the step to stage racer, where recovery will become part of the strategy and, indeed, a huge part of the race itself.

I am already scared sh*-less. I cannot imagine what will be going through my mind when I am actually on the start line, just two months from now.

My plan, insomuch as it is, is to hammer myself for 3-4 days in a row, recover and repeat. I plan to mix running, snowshoeing, classic and skate skiing, swimming, riding and anything else I can think of to add training hours to my day, all the while working the various muscle groups I cannot afford to have let me down in the middle of nowhere.

For those that are interested, more details on the Rock and Ice Ultra are available here.