Monday, August 18, 2014

Race Report: Squamish 50 Miler

Thinking about running a 50 miler?  READ THIS FIRST.

"I'm retiring!  That is IT.  I am DONE.  It is OVER.  Never EVER again.  I'm serious."

And I was.  I really, really was.

First of all, let me start by CONGRATULATING TEAM ELM for absolutely rocking their races at the Squamish 50 this weekend!  I have been completely filled with joy and inspiration by you all.  It was such an awesome experience to see you with BIG smiles on your faces and to hear your race tales.  You all followed your plans, raced smart and reached your goals.  Any low I may have experienced during my race, was replaced with sheer happiness at the sight of your smiles!!  So proud of you all!!!  Paula, Murray, Kim, Donna, Vicky, Marian, Deb, Chris and ROCK.  Cheers to you my friends!

Squamish 50 Mile Race Report
*Warning: this race report is excessively long and there are no pictures (yet) to stimulate your eyes. It may keep you from doing your chores for the next hour...

Squamish 50, you really pissed me off.

And yet,  I have already begun to forget what exactly it was that you did to make me hate you so passionately a mere 48 hours ago.  Stupid humans.  Evolution has left us with some uber techy wiring that efficiently replaces memories of intense pain with lovely bubbles of joy.  I know there were some very bad times.  Yet the few moments of joy I experienced on Saturday somehow keep taking over my thoughts and magnifying themselves.  Stop that.  Part of me wants to remember the suffering so I will never do it again.  But part of me wants to let it evaporate so I will try it once more...

The stats:
50 miles/80kms
11,000 feet elevation gain
Highly technical terrain
11 hours 30? minutes.
Didn't exactly go as I had envisioned.
Rough day on the job.

The back story: Coming Soon
I'd like to say one 'wheel fell off' at about 65kms and the other 3 hit the ditch at 70kms.


If I am to be truly honest, the driver never actually climbed in the bus for this one.  I have experienced some brand new thoughts, emotions and ideas over the past few days.  Watch for my Mental Musings blog post following this one with some deep thoughts...

Back to the Race Report:
10 Members of Team ELM made the big water crossing over to Squamish for the 50mile, 50k and 23k race courses this past weekend.  On Friday, a few of us helped out as volunteers to help the crew get set up for the big weekend ahead.  1000 racers had signed up for the 3 distances which were spread out over two days this year.  Chris and I were delegated water station set up and we spent the afternoon loading and unloading those giant blue water bottles in and out of the truck.  Perhaps not the smartest move, but what the heck.  If you are planning to run 80k I would think you could handle moving a few dozen bottles of water... Jumping 4 feet off the shipping/receiving dock onto concrete after sitting for 5 hours may have been pushing it, however.  I felt my right hamstring pull when I hit the ground.  "Oh shit.  That was dumb"...

It was fun to get out on the course and have a chance to visualize a few of the aid stations.  It finally started to make the race come alive in my minds eye.  I would be running through here after almost 50kms tomorrow- well over half way!  I couldn't resist leaving a few secret messages on flagging tape for myself at Aid 4 to cheer me on when I got there:)  'You can do it!'

We hit the Trails in Motion Film Festival on Friday night after my favourite pre-race meal of sushi. Again...perhaps sitting in a theatre until 9pm was not the best idea.  I would normally recommend laying low, getting organized and heading to bed early...but what the heck...I wasn't racing for gold or anything remotely close to it the next day and figured the films might inspire me a little.  After watching multiple rail thin uber ultra runners drag themselves suffering over mountains and across hundreds of miles I did feel a little shift in my perspective occur.  400 miles almost makes 50 miles seem easy.  

Race morning
I was up just before 4am to get ready for the 5:30am start down town Squamish.  I was staying with friends (who live right on the race course near the Smoke Bluffs), who let me borrow their car to get to the start.  I left just before 5, a bit behind schedule and when I turned the key...the car wouldn't start.  Um.  Try again.  Um.  Try again.  Don't panic.  Um.  Unfortunately I had to wake up my buddy but fortunately the car did start and I was off to the races so to speak.  Phew.  Close one.

I handed in my 2 drop bags, gave out quick hi 5s and well wishes to ELM athletes Paula and Murray (who were about to rock their first 50miler!) and took care of a few last minute things.  I was in the port a potty when I heard the "one minute until race start" call.  Um. Um.   I ran from the loo to the starting arch for my warm up and just kept on running as the race had started! 

I had penciled in some realistic times for each leg based on the distance, elevation and time into the course.  They were generous but would require me to maintain a steady pace throughout the day and if all went well I anticipated finishing in 11 hours and 15 minutes (ish lol).  I thought I would end up some where between 11 and 12 hours if I took it easy and raced smart.   My personal goal for the race was to feel strong at the finish by pacing myself early in the day.  First 1/3 embarrassingly slow.  Second 1/3 just right.  Final 1/3 a challenging push to the finish.  Little did I know how challenging it would be...

Leg 1: 10kms flat.  Goal 60 minutes.  Real Time 55 minutes.  1 fruit bar, 1 salt tab.
I should have seen the writing on the wall when my hair elastic fell out 10 minutes into the run.  There goes the race 'do. 

This leg was totally flat and a lovely way to warm up.  I ran a nice easy pace that I thought I could hold 'all day' and was nice to warm up, get into a rhythm and settle my mind.  Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying the exact same pace which was comforting in itself.   It was surprisingly dark with the low cloud cover and I had to watch my footing very carefully due to my terrible night vision.  I likely should have taken my super bright Magic Shine headlamp but I honestly didn't expect it to stay dark for so long.  All good and I arrived at the first aid station feeling relaxed, starting to wake up and warm up.  I grabbed a cup of water and carried on, planning to save my water fill up for Aid 3 and take advantage of the aid stations along the way.

Leg 2: 10kms with a moderate 400m climb to the radio tower above Alice Lake.  Goal 90 minutes.  Real Time 80 minutes. 3 cliff blocks (already unable to eat real food), 1 salt tab.
We had dropped our headlamps at aid 1 and I struggled to see for much of the first 30 minutes of this leg as the single track sections were still quite dark.  I had to walk through the rooty sections.  I remember thinking it was probably a good thing, as it would slow me down and keep my pace in check so early in the race.  Once the trail pitched upwards it was a steady climb with a mix of running and hiking to the top of the mini hill.  The humidity was unbelievable.  I was absolutely soaked with sweat and it was dripping off of me.  I am not a heavy sweater.  I could taste the salt on my lips less than 2 hours in.  Um...

We enjoyed the only real view we would get that day on the way up to the tower.  After that, we would either be in the clouds or in the dark forest, with no views to latch onto. It was likely better than 30 degree heat for most, but personally, I would take a stunning view over cooler weather any day.  I crave beautiful views, epic vistas and sweet summit celebrations to fill me up and keep me going.  Unfortunately, there would be none of these on the Squamish course that day.  Heading up the hill my goal was to stick to my 'first third' race plan: No burning legs, no heavy breathing and slower than I wanted to go.  I managed to stick to first two, but looking back I may have been trekking with a bit too much purpose for this point in the race.  I was feeling good and leading a small pack who did not wish to pass.  I was hiking more closely to my '2/3' effort - strong and steady...but it should have felt 'embarrasingly slow'.  Somewhere near the top I clued in and stepped aside and took it much easier to the summit. 

It was socked in at the top with no view to enjoy so I grabbed a snack and started down the road...looking forward to a relaxing descent after the first climb of the day.  It turned out to be quite a washed out road, littered with 'baby heads' (I hate that term but there you go) that required constant vigilance in order to hold a steady downhill speed and avoid a major spill.  For some strange reason, my quads felt tired.  Bizarrly tender to the impact of the descent.  Not a great sign, less than 2 hours into an all day run.  Um...

Into the single track and it was a nice steep drop down to the flat trails of Alice Lake.  I had run this little mountain many moons ago as part of a MOMAR Adventure Race and it was nice to know there were a few kms of flat trails ahead of me.  I continuously watched my intensity and made sure I was running my own pace.  Coming into Aid 2 at Alice Lake, I grabbed a couple of cups of water and carried on...I was feeling good.   

Leg 3: 8kms, mostly flat wide paths with a gradual climb via Bob Macintosh Trail, 'Dead End Loop' to the power lines.  Goal 60 minutes.  Real Time 60 minutes.  3 cliff blocks, 1 salt tab.
I was cruising along, taking it easy, working on staying light on my feet and relaxed.  I had my eye on the prize and was working hard on going easy so that I could finish strong at the end.  A few minutes into this leg a runner was coming towards me on the trail.  I asked if he was ok- he had a giant smile on his face and was jogging with ease.  He looked fresh and full of energy.  Was I going the wrong way?  "I'm dropping" he said with a smile and a laugh.  Bizarre.  Only 20k in.  It kind of ticked me off actually.  If you can laugh and smile and should keep going.  But, I was not running in his shoes.  So many things can happen.  Who am I to judge?

 Something was burning.

"Ohhhh...this isn't going to end well", was my brilliant first thought.  I was in my tank top/pack had been tested...and tweaked to avoid rubbing in all the wrong places...but it wasn't working.  I could feel the friction and the little fire it was trying to build.  I have never experienced chaffing during a run.   It really does burn like they say it does.  But they are being kind.  It is actually more like a little red hot poker being held on your skin with salt pouring on the burn.  Ouch.  I had wondered if this might happen and had packed a short sleeve shirt in my drop bag.  My feet were feeling a bit cranky in my thin soled Speedcross shoes and so I made a mental note of switching both my shoes and my shirt when I got to my bag at the next Aid station.  Better safe than sorry.

I will admit that I was in a wee  bit of a mood from the Mental Musings when that blog post is finished for more on that.  I was one foot in and one foot out and I don't recommend doing the splits during an ultramarathon.  My usual, glass half full, living in the land of rainbows with rose coloured glasses self got a tad suffocated by some cranky broad with a bad attitude and a big mouth.  She only holds 'one seat' in the house and doesn't speak up very often.   And normally, when she does pipe up, the My Little Pony Party usually just zaps her with fairy dust and sunbeams and she goes back to her corner.  But she was persistent that day.  And so began one of the biggest 'good witch bad witch' battles my mind has ever entertained. 

The last time I was on these trails was in the BC Bike Race last summer and that started to tick me off too.  "This would be so much faster on a mountain bike. Soooo much more flowy and fun on a mountain bike. These trails are meant to be ridden on a mountain bike."  Bad witch.  I hit Cliff's Corners and my brain expected to rip around the turns and birms and whooohooo myself to the next aid station.  I pretended I was on my mountain bike by leaning into the corners and popping over the rollers...It was fun, but it wasn't quite the same.  I cranked up my pace and just went for it, cuz I wanted to feel some joy.  It made me smile and the guy behind me joined in on the fun;)    I came into Aid 3 (for the first time) and the volunteers were fantastic!  They called out my number and handed my drop bag to me, grabbed my bladder to fill up and asked what else they could do to help.  Wow.  Service with a smile.  I swapped socks and shoes and felt instant relief as my toes spread out and I shed a few grams with my Sense Ultra Salomon's.  But my shirt wasn't in there.  "Oh lord.  This is going to be a long run.  It is what it is.  I made this bed...time to lay down and get comfy in it;)...chafing, sad legs, bad witch and all"...HAHAHA mad grin..

Leg 4: Middle Third begins.  9kms, small ups and downs, mostly flat.  Goal 75 minutes.  Real Time 75 minutes. 3 Cliff Blocks, 1 salt tab.
It was an uneventful 9km loop on more of my old mountain bike race stomping grounds and I did what I set out to do: run steady at the 'just right pace'.  I honestly don't remember anything about this entire loop.  Just cruising past the same cheering squad on the way out and on the way back.  I ran up the final mellow 3km incline all the way back to Aid 3 for the second time.  It was nice to have a second look through our drop bags.  I had a swig of my lemon aid.  I had a swig of my vegetable broth.  And I grabbed my sushi stash for the road, from my cooler bag.

Leg 5: 11kms the BIG climb of the day.  Goal 2 hours 15 minutes.  Real Time 2 hours 5 minutes.  3 pieces of sushi, 1 salt tab, 1 ginger pill.
I left the aid station knowing the big climb of the day was ahead and looking forward to reaching the top.  But I wasn't feeling too hot as I plodded out of there.  I had already been turned off of my 'real food' selection of fruit bars, lara bars,  tamari almonds and chocolate.  I had already moved to my ' when you don't feel good eat this' back up plan of margarita Cliff Blocks.  And now, I was even completely turned off of those.  Those are normally my secret weapon.  I LOVE those margarita blocks.  But it had just taken me 45 minutes to gag down the last 3 and I wasn't going there again.   I was on the very bottom of fuel intake, eating only a minimal 100-120 calories per hour and gagging every bite of that down.  Why the heck was I feeling so sick to my stomach?  I had run back to back days of 5-9 hours and felt great and I was only 5 hours in.  What was up?  Um...sad face...

I stopped to take a ginger pill for the nausea, drank loads of water and walked for a few metres.  2 women jogged by me and looked very strong and determined - I wished them well as we all settled into the big climb with my eye on the prize. 

Something else was burning.

"Come on shorts.  Haven't I run up enough mountains with you this year?  Haven't we spent enough quality time together?  Aren't back to back 30-40k runs enough time to get to know each other?  Who are you and what have you done with my shorts???!!"  Um... HAHAHA mad grin.  "This is ridiculous".  If I was doing the splits at the start of the race, I was in full cirque du soleil mode by now... 

I was expecting quite a steep climb up to the top.  It wasn't bad at all!  I trucked along with a fast trek for the first third of the climb so that I could work away on my sushi snacks.  I managed to get it all down and was starting to feel much much better when the grade lessened and I could get back into my my easy running pace.  Baby steps and I was able to run all the way to the top.  I saw the creek and knew I had made it!  The biggest climb was behind me and it wasn't anything to write home about!  All of those steep climbs in the mountains had paid off.  A quick splash in the creek and I was renewed.  Let's go down!

A few moments later and I sucked my last drop of water out of my camel back.  I was only 1 hour into my 2.25hour leg.  Umm...grimmace face...

Down down down down down down.  Down down down.  I don't remember anything other than it was damn steep down and I was damn thirsty the entire way.  There was absolutely no way I could eat without any water to wash food down so I was beginning to run on E and fading fast as the leg dragged on.  3 pieces of sushi in nearly 2 hours of mountain running doesn't cut it.  I caught up to a friendly racer who was leaping with joy and a grin on the descent.  He asked how I was doing and I took a stab at it: "Well...I ran out of water 45 minutes ago..."  He graciously offered me some of his reserves and I squirted the liquid love back in a heart beat.  "I'm gonna live!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.  I was revived and we galloped down to aid 4 together...where my 12 giant water bottles and secret flagging tape notes were waiting for me...hee heee:).  About 4 of us came together at that aid station and it felt like I was there for quite a while.  I put back 5 cups of water and just couldn't get enough.  Soooooooo happy to have water again!  Filled up my bladder and headed down 'Word of Mouth' for a short 5km leg to Quest University.  In only 30 minutes and I would be 2/3s of the way!

Leg 6: 5kms, downhill, technical singletrack.  Goal 30 mins.  Real Time: 30 minutes.  No food, loads of water.  
Short and sweet.  I don't remember a thing other than arriving at Quest and jogging up the stairs to the aid station.  The crowd went wild and I was once again renewed!  It was awesome to have the support of the cheering crowd and yet another awesome aid station.  I passed off my bladder and looked in my drop bag for my wasn't in there either!  It was on the floor back at my friends house...chafe on sister...

I knew that I needed to get some calories in but I couldn't think of anything I wanted to eat.  I perused the aid station buffet...watermelon, oranges, baby potatoes, chips, chocolate...ugh...all I wanted was liquid salt.  They didn't have any of that lol, so I grabbed my second sushi stash and trotted off down the hill, planning to eat it on the next climb.  

Leg 7: 8kms, surprisingly long 500metre climb.  Goal 90 minutes.  Real Time: 110 minutes.  3 pieces of sushi, 1 fruit bar, 1 salt tab.  The start of the slow decline...
After a short climb on the road, it was back into a section of classic Squamish mountain bike trails.  We started by climbing up Legacy, a fun flowy bike trail.  I walked the first fifty metres to work on my sushi and make sure it stayed down.  I was starting to feel pretty good and had another solid running climb, with only a few short strides of trekking along the way.  I was envisioning the was so close...and then I would be heading down towards the final leg!  At (what I thought was) the top, a friendly volunteer directed me straight ahead saying: "Stay on the trail, don't take any turns, and I will see you back here in about 30 minutes".  SAY WHAT?  I was planning on being at the next aid station in about 30 minutes actually.  I had my mental map in a mess and failed to prepare mentally for the second half of this climb.  My heart sank.  My rhythm slowed.  My shoulders sagged. My steady uphill run degraded back to a trek.  I was in the deep dark woods with no views, no one to talk to and no inspiration.  Time to dig out my 'I need help' plan...iPod to the rescue!

I had planned to save my music for the final 10kms but that went out the window and I was grateful for the distraction of my magical beats.  I listened to the same 8 songs about 5 times from there to the finish line.  Dancing along to the rhythm...marching uphills to the beat...raising my hands in the air to the good ones...  Before I knew it I was back to the volunteer after the '35 not 30 minute loop' and galloping down a loamy section of single track...  My knees said hello for the very first time.  Normally I pass people on the downhills and drop back on the climbs.  But today, it was an inverse race world and I found myself slowly passing racers on the ups...while losing my ground on the downs.  My quads were getting close to toast and I started to lose a bit of confidence on the steep rocky descents.  Instead of leaping down the rock drops, I found myself using my arms to lower my weary legs and lessen the impact.  I could tune it out and let 'er fly on the flowy sections, but the bridges, rocks, logs and drops had their way with me for the very first time.  I guess that is what 11, 000 feet of elevation does to you.

Uh Oh.  I don't feel so good.

On the final 1/3 of this leg, I started struggling to get full breathes in.  I thought it was my chest strap on my pack so I loosened it off.  It didn't help.  I slowed down.  It didn't help.  I felt pressure building in my chest.  It took about 10 minutes but finally the light went on.  

Oh No.  Not...the...heart burn:(((((( 

Flash backs of the final 25kms of the  Canadian Death Race ripped through my mind and body.  During that event, after smugly running almost 100kms without one ache, pain or struggle I was knocked off my fragile pedestal and I met my match...I got heart burn for the first time and it nearly ended my race.  I thought I was having a heart attack.  Try breathing, let alone running 25kms with a softball lodged mere centimetres from your mouth.  That final 25kms took me 4 hours and was the absolute hardest thing I had ever done in my life.

But this time I was prepared!  I was never planning to live through that again and so I have had serious heart burn medication packed in my kit ever since that day.  I popped the magic pill and guzzled my water to get it going fast.  I was already starting to feel the pressure building in my chest and the lump was growing in my throat by the minute.  I had to walk.  I was going to lose my cookies.  

I am a barfaphobic.  Some people are terrified of spiders.  Others of dark, confined spaces.  Others of rats.  Or snakes.  Or flying on planes.  Nuff said.  I had to walk.  There was no other choice.

It took about 10 minutes but I was finally feeling confident that I could jog my way out to the next and final aid station.  I had another ginger pill to soothe the nausea and plodded past the Powerhouse, up the hill and to the final aid station.  I was going to make it.  I just knew it.

That Aid Station brought my spirits way back up.  The volunteers and cheerleaders were roaring for us as we ran up the hill to them.  They were offering us all sorts of goodies including a cold water dunk and ice for our bras;).  That cold shower was an absolute life safer.  "YES!"  Another female racer caught up with me after my little walk and we arrived together at the aid station.  We shared some words of support and she asked how I was feeling.  "Amazing!" I laughed with as much sarcasm as I could muster.  She said she thought I actually looked amazing and was running so steady.  I couldn't believe that was how I looked from the outside when I was suffering with the chafing, the knees, the nausea and now, the heart burn.  She must have been feeling the same or worse than me.  Then a random woman came up to us and started gushing that she had seen us come through every aid station and she thought we were AMAZING!  We had inspired her and she just had to come tell us.   She said she was going to be at the finish line waiting for us to wrap this thing up.  I am honestly getting goose bumps remembering how emotional her words were to us.  I was seriously touched.  I was SO thankful for that moment and it couldn't have come at a better time. could have...perhaps 20 minutes later...

Leg 8: 10kms, multiple wee climbs, including the evil Mountain of Phlegm to completely destroy your spirits a mere 5kms from the finish.  Goal: 75 minutes.  Real Time: 90 minutes.  1 piece watermelon, 1 GU gel, 1 more heartburn pill...
I was STOKED!  I was energized!  I only had 10kms left to go, I had saved my legs for this and they were ready to run!  I ran off to the lovely Fartherside Trail, knowing full well what I was getting into as every race I have ever done in Squamish seemed to end in this evil little forest of relentless ups and downs.  But I could do anything for 10k.  I had just run 70k!  Bring it on!

Oh No.  Oh No.  Oh No.  Not...the..heart burn...

It was back with avengance.  My elation turned to neutral and then to desperation as the softball of fire climbed into my throat.  There was nothing I could do but walk to keep it at bay.  Do you know how long it takes to walk 10kms?  A long freakin time.  

Time stood still as I walked through the grand finale of my epic ultramarathon.  The anticlimax was paralyzing.  I felt strong.  My last leg, secret weapon of GU was kicking in.  I had energy to burn but no way to light it up.   I could handle 2 or 3 steps of light running and then the softball moved up again and I would have to walk for 5 minutes to get it back down.  I chugged my water trying to force it down.  I took another magic pill.  I couldn't shake it.  It was a sad moment but I had to suck it up and accept my fate...I was going to have to walk all the way to the finish.  Sob story or what! 

One by one, they caught and passed me.   Some stopped to ask how I was doing.  No one was feeling like a rock star by then.  They had cramps, they had stomach issues, they moaned out loud at the uphills.  But they could all shuffle away and continue running the downs and flats.  We wished each other well.  I sent them any energy I had left.  I had to let them all go.  2 women...4, 5, 6? men...gone.

It was a long walk.  After the Mountain of Phlegm climb I knew I was on the final descent.  I tried to carefully lower myself down the steep and rocky trail to avoid jostling the softball.  When I came to 100 stairs (OK maybe that is an exaggeration but I didn't count them) my IT band threw in the towel.  I monkeyed down the stairs using my arms and when I got to the bottom it hit me...

I had no pain in my chest.  The freaking heart burn was gone. 

Oh sweet jayzus. Hallelujah!  "I CAN RUN AGAIN!" I yelled at the top of my lungs to the first racer I caught up to!  We ran ran ran together down through the smoke bluffs and past my friend Darcy's home - he was on the deck cheering me on!  I was yelling "NEVER AGAIN!  I RETIRE!" but he was still cheering me on " GO SEADS!"  On I went with the JOY of pain free running ripping through my body...

In mere moments I was running the final 50 metres to the finish!  I was so grateful to be able to run through the line.  And I was SO grateful to be finished.   That one leg that I had in the race, was totally, completely done.  The other one was laughing at me from the start line. 

And there, at the finish line was my ELM family.  

Big hugs caught me and it was a joy to see them all there waiting for me.  I gushed.  I told them it was brutal.  I told them I was NEVER doing that again.  I told them I was RETIRED.  I let it all out.   I couldn't have been more un-coach-like if I had tried.   I was too mentally beat to wear both hats.  At that moment, I was the athlete and they were MY support crew.  They lifted me up, sent me off for a shower, and celebrated with me at the pub.  I scared the pants off of them with my replay of the course.  They were set to run the 50k and 23k courses the next day and I wanted to make sure they expected the worst...because that is one sure way to lessen the impact.   I think it worked;)...they all did absolutely amazing.  They raced smart and finished strong and filled me up with inspiration.  

Will I do another ultramarathon?  Well... I got some tips about preventing and treating the heart burn...I DO love the training...I DO love the people...I really think I can do much better... I guess I may have to eat my finish line words...because life is sweet...and I can never say never...but you knew I would say that...

Looking back, it really didn't go as bad as I originally believed it had.  I was within my goal times even if I didn't smash them (as I secretly had hoped).  I didn't have any crashes, cramps or serious injuries.  So I had some chafing.  So I felt sick.  So I had to walk 8k.  It's an 80k run.  It's not supposed to be all roses, butterflies and lolipops.  I'll bet 50% of the racers on that course had worse issues to complain about.  In fact, if I look at it from the good witch's perspective- it was a pretty good day:)

Squamish 50:
  • Outstanding volunteers.
  • Brutal terrain- unrelenting technical descents right up until 4km from the finish line.
  • But don't take my word for it.  The only way to experience it, is to try it for yourself...
If you got this far, you must really have a lot of chores to do.  I am happy I got to help you procrastinate a little while longer;0

Happy Trails,


Friday, August 15, 2014

Videos: Weekend Film Fest! RUN!

This one is dedicated to the Team ELM who are heading over to Squamish this weekend for the Squamish 50mile, 50km or 23km race!  Woot Woot!  Run hard and race smart!


Trails in Motion Film Festival Teaser.  There is a Trail Running Film Fest this weekend as part of the SQ50 festivities.  Here is the festival teaser...I might just have to stay up late enough to go to the show...looks awesome.

For the love. A love letter to trail running.  This is an awesome little film about the single most important reason that we run...

for the love from luis peña on Vimeo.

Lavaredo Ultratrail 2014.  To help you visualize your first Euro day...

Lavaredo Ultratrail 2014 from storyteller-labs on Vimeo.

Zion Traverse.  Ready to run 53 miles across Zion National Park?  Go!
 Thanks to the Adventure Blog for sharing this one!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Healthy Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

It's that time of year again...what the heck are you going to do with all that zucchini??

The neighbours are only going to take so much of your limb length squash!  Grill it on the BBQ, bake it up zucchini stick style, fry it up like fritters with corn and smoked salmon, throw it in every sauce you make, top your pizzas and load up your quiche but first...

Make a triple batch of these beauties...

Warning: do not make these unless you like chocolate 

Healthy Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
1 cup almond butter
1.5 cups grated zucchini
1/3-1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 egg or vegan replacement (ie flax eggs)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Handful of dark chocolate or chips

Combine all ingredients in parchment lined 8 by 8 pan...sprinkle with chocolate chips...  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  These get better as the day goes on...
Serve with my Natural Vanilla Ice Cream!  Yummmm...


What do you make with your zucchini harvest?  

Coaching Tips: Race Tapering

  The Team ELM 'River Runners', ready to ROCK their 1/2 marathon and 10k events this past weekend!  They are sooooo excited to run after their taper!  Woot Woot!  Congrats ladies!  You really did ROCK the course!

You did it.  Weeks and months of dedication to 'the plan'.  You went to bed early and slipped out of the house before anyone else was up.  You said no to the Saturday night pub crawl and all of your Sunday's were spoken for.  They thought you may have lost your mind.  But you knew you had actually found it on the trail,  in the sunrise, and at the end of a long slow run.  

Forget the race.  The training is really the hardest part of the journey.  And you did it.

10, 14, 20 weeks of training are behind you now.  It didn't go exactly as you had planned.  It never does.  You wish you could have done more.  Gone longer.  Missed less of the long ones.  Shoulda woulda coulda.  This is the life of any athlete to toes the line.  You are the book that writers write and the painting that painters paint.  You will never be ready.  But you are as ready as you are ever going to be.  Accept this fact and move's taper time, baby.  Let's get this masterpiece ready for the big show.

A week or three before your event it is time to pull the plug on the training and let the fatigue wash away.  The longer the event and the higher the volume of training (how many hours/week you have spent breaking down the system), the longer the taper period required to recover from it all.

In case you haven't let this one sink in yet:

You don't get stronger during the training.

You get stronger during the recovery.

Repeat it again;)

Rest and recovery are critical components of a training plan that many athletes just can't quite get their brain around.  You can do all of the training you want, but if you don't include optimal levels of rest and recovery you will never reach your potential strength and optimal peak.

Failing to plan in adequate recovery can not only mean failing to reach your goal but also failure to even reach the starting line.  Don't be that guy.  Let your body recover, rest and regenerate and it will build into the machine you are working for.   This is especially important during the taper period.  

Why race on dead, broken down stumps when you can fly on strong, fresh, fast wings?  Here is the low down on Taper guidelines (READ: everyone is different and these are not rules but a frame work that you must learn personalize.  You are an experiment of one...get in the lab).

TAPER TIME.  If this is the highlight or main event of your training...Tapering means cutting down on the volume of your training by decreasing the length or the frequency of your runs-while maintaining or even slightly increasing the intensity (same pace, less time).  There should be a decrease in the number and length of your runs in your training plan.  Maintain the same pace (intensity) and you will notice the effects of tapering.  This tapering week will allow your body to recover from weeks or months of stress and remove the layers of fatigue that have built up. Remember: You will not improve your performance by increasing your training during the week before your event!  Instead you will continue to build up fatigue.  Effective tapering is taking the volume (total kms) down to 50% or even 25% of your biggest weekly volume.

  • Decrease volume of training by 50-75% before an important event. Ee/ 2 week taper, decrease volume by 25-50% and then by another 25% the following week leading up to the event.   Maintain or even increase intensity, but decrease duration and frequency training sessions.
  • Provides body with additional recovery to allow for ‘peaking’ on race day. Removes built-up fatigue from weeks of training…it is carried over, even with adequate rest days built into a program. Body rebuilds stronger adapting to weeks of training. Goal is to maintain fitness while shedding fatigue. The result is increased performance on race day.
  • You will not see any significant training effect on race day from your high volume workouts the 7-10 days before your event. In fact, you will increase fatigue and potentially decrease performance if you train at a high volume the week prior.
  • The longer the event AND the more important, the longer the taper.
  • Choose 1-3 important A and B races to build up to…taper for these.
  • 1-4weeks. 10K 1 week, ½ marathon 2 weeks, marathon up to 3-4 weeks, ultramarathon 4-6 weeks.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Videos: Weekend Film Fest! Adventure!

Happy Happy Friday!
Looking for a little adventure?  Here you go!

Enduro Adventure from Mavic.  Ready to get off the beaten path?  Let this little film inspire you to start planning your next back country single track epic!  Kudos to The Adventure Blog for sharing this inspiring vid!

Running the Swiss Iron Trail: 201km trail run in the Alps.  Covers 12000meters (that's not feet).  Watch these women take it on...Another awesome film shared by The Adventure Blog.  Enjoy!

Discovery Channel Feature: Toughest Race on Earth.  Marathon De Sables...6 back to back marathons in one of the most inhospitable places on earth...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sweet and Sticky: Maple Syrup Trail

If you are a mountain biker on Vancouver Island you have most likely heard whispers about 'that Maple Syrup trail'.  By now, you may have even gone to taste the Syrup for yourself.  So sweet hey?

If you haven't had a chance to sample the Syrup, here is a little taster for you...

I have been spending much more time in my sneakers than my bike shoes this year, and have to say that I came a little late to the party.  By the time I caught wind of the whispers this summer, the fabled Maple Syrup trail on Maple Mountain, had been well worn by thousands of wide grinning riders.  This 'new' trail was, in fact, officially opened last October by the CTSS- Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society.  Friends of friends had riden it.  Profile pics of wide spanning, 'rainbow' bridges appeared on social media.  Rumours of 'an epic ride' with a 5k climb and '10km of sweet continuous singletrack' got me salivating instantly.   It isn't very often that a south Island trail creates enough chatter to drag Valley riders out of our wonderful Cumberland cocoon.  It was time to check this trail out.

A few weeks ago a group of us managed to merge our schedules and book it down Island on a Friday.  The drive is about 2 hours from the Comox Valley and the trailhead is on Maple Mountain, a couple of kms south of Crofton.  'A 2 hour drive to ride a trail' you say?  I can now say that it is well worth the drive!

There are no other trails like it on Vancouver Island.  If you have ridden one, please correct me.  You can either ride about 5kms up the logging road, which is a good grunt with a few steeper pitches on it, but entirely rideable.  Or, you can ride up the new 'climbers trail' which has been crafted at the perfect slope for an enjoyable and very smooth single track ride.  The climbers trail was about 2/3 complete and it only left a short climb to the radio tower at the top.  I was impressed already!  A climbing trail!  The lovely, wide, 'green' trail wove it's way through shadey Arbutus forest, open grass fields and over rocky bluffs.  100 times more enjoyable than riding the road, having a trail to climb makes any ride that much better IMO. 

The view from the top gave us all some perspective on just how much elevation we had gained on our ride up.  The Village of Maple Bay, complete with tiny boats, appeared in miniature, far below. After a snack and a drink it was time to hit the 10k descent.  10k!

Maple Syrup is really like 3 trails in one.  The trail covers so much real estate that it actually travels through a very wide range of terrain from top to bottom.  It offers a combination of Hornby flow, Nimby 50 gnarl and Jughead/Blue Collar woohoo.   As it winds it's way back and forth across Maple Mountain, the trail morphs from steep, technical, rock at the start to mellow, flowy birms at the bottom.  All levels of rider will find something they love on the trail. 

The very top of the trail includes the most technical terrain, with plenty of rocky drops and steep roll overs.  The sun bakes Maple Mountain and by mid summer the dirt turns to powder, making steep pitches loose and challenging.  Quickly, the natural rocky drops disappear and the trail flows into big turns, fun descents and sweet rolling bridges (I call them rainbow bridges), reminiscent of the few park trails that I have ridden.  It is definitely a thinking trail.  After every long descent there is a punchy little climb.  Around every corner is a gnarly rock to navigate over or around.  The trail definitely keeps you on your toes.   By the time Maple Syrup merged into 'Solar Coaster' my body and brain were working overtime.   I loved it!

The trail transitions to more flow and less work over the final kms.  By then, it is a welcome break and an enjoyable way to finish the ride.  Beginners can jump in off the road to experience the lower 'Loggers lane' section of the trail, Intermediate riders can start half way up on the flow of Solar Coaster and those looking for more of a Challenge can tackle the entire trail from the steeps at the top.  Brilliant.  Helmets off to the trail builders who had the vision and even more impressive ability to execute the idea.  They have created a world class trail that will have riders returning for seconds...and thirds...and...

But don't take my word for it.  Go ride it for yourself! 

Still not convinced?  Watch this video of other people having fun riding it...and see if you can resist a road trip...

Happy Trails,

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Augerpoint Trail

I think I'm going to lose a toe nail.  Or three.

It is my 'last chance' weekend in Strathcona Park before returning to my booked out summer calendar.  My 'Run the Park' mission is coming to an end.  August is here and all of my weekends are full of  pre-arranged fun right up until September.  Just when I was getting going, I am out of time it seems.  Although I have managed to tick off a few trails on my SPP bucket list, they were all relatively short days and have left me seeking much, much more.  Now that I have trekked up to the edge of the world I want to jump off and discover what lies beyond it.  

But that will have to wait.  I am already planning my 2015 summer...2 wide open months of epic days and fastpacking over nighters are in the works...that is a long way a way...I might have to learn to ski...

And so.

My final July SPP adventure was a difficult one to choose.  It couldn't be too long as I am only 2 weeks away from the Squamish 50m but I was itching to get up into a new area and put a few more pieces of the park puzzle together.  My dream for the summer was to complete the Augerpoint Traverse and run from Buttle Lake all the way to Mt Washington but the logistics did not allow for this adventure to be realized this month.  And so, I decided to head up the Augerpoint Trail for a little reconnaissance mission in preparation for the day that the stars to align (aka: I can get a ride at 4 am or a pick up at 4pm).

Augerpoint Trail

John and I drove out to Buttle Lake at 7am for a leisurely start as we were only planning to be on the move for a few hours.  It was a treat to have a lazy morning and a break from the 'alpine starts'.  The trick was the punishment of being exposed in the sub alpine at high noon.  Holy cooker.

The only way to reach the subalpine ridges from Buttle Lake  is straight bloody up.  All trails go from 300m-1200m in 5-6k it seems.  The Augerpoint trail was different, however.  It was even steeper than that.  Wowza.  The switchbacks were relentless.  The pitch shot up well beyond 100% slope.  The trail crossed loose avalanche chute rocks and fell away beneath us.  The light beyond the trees seemed impossibly straight up above us.  It was nothing crazy.  Just a very steep hiking trail.  But it took the steepest parts of the other approaches I had been on this month and combined them all into one posterior chain (muscles on the back of the old bod) training camp.  It launched us to the same elevation in only 4kms.  It was awesome.

40 minutes in

About half way to the sub alpine, the trail opens up on a sunny bluff and rewarded us with a fantastic view of the lake below.  It was the perfect spot to catch a breeze, catch our breath and catch the moment with a photo.  The viewpoint provided us with an idea of how much vertical we had actually gained in the first 40 minutes.  Human wheels never cease to amaze me...

Rested my backpack on this cairn...which was disguising a massive ant hill.  OUCH red ants!  Nice.

After about 90 minutes and a few wild blueberry snacking breaks (yum!) we made it to the first plateau and sub alpine lakes.  The view was fantastic across the lake and over to the Marble Meadows ridge.  I looked up to the plateau above us and knew the view would be better from there...

 I think I see my house!  Well, ok, maybe not.  But the ocean!

Another half hour of easy trekking and we were up on the ridge...with a view I couldn't believe!  It was the Salish Sea!  There was the ocean and the Valley!  I did not expect to see the coast when we popped up to the top, and it was an awesome surprise.  Once on top, the traverse to Albert Edward appeared before us as well.  It was so close.  In only a few hours I could be on Albert Edward...then running down to Mt. Washington.  I could literally see the route and knew how manageable it would be in a day...on a nice, clear day, that is.  Route finding is fun on a clear day but can be anything from challenging to deadly if the weather socks you in and blocks your view.  Strong navigation skills are a requirement for any such adventuring.  Leaving the 'trail' and moving along a 'route' should only be attempted by those with navigation, map reading and route finding skills.  Knowing how to read a map and use a compass and GPS is essential when travelling in the alpine and sub alpine.  There are no trails up there.  Be prepared.

We maxed out at 3 hours after exploring the 'other world' terrain of rocky knolls, stellar alpine lakes and tempting views of the distant peaks in the heart of the Park.  Another day, another amazing view for lunch.  I can't get enough.  Why haven't I been up here before?  Where have I been for the last 3 decades?  

My watch said we had to stop.  I was 'timexed' for the day and we had to head back the way we came before I turned into a freakin pumpkin (tapering sucks lol:).  It was torture to turn my back on Albert Edward.  He was stoic.  I was a mess.  A last look back and I told him I would see him soon...

I knew the switchbacks would be steep on the way down.  I didn't realize how the combination of crazy and relentless would add up in my sneakers.  Holy smokes!  Down down down down down down down...I see the lake!...down down down down...the lake isn't getting any closer!...down down down down...I should have trimmed my toe nails...down down down down...the lake isn't getting any closer!....down down down down...oh mother I am going to lose a toenail...down down down down...the lake REALLY isn't getting any closer...and so it went.  Awesome;).

We popped out at the car without even seeing the road beforehand and I rushed immediately to my cooler for an ice cold lemon aid.  The heat had been a challenge.  We had been up on the exposed rock during the heat of the day and the elements had given us a taste of their power.  Wind, sun and hot rock join forces to rob you of your hydration.  It was a good reminder of how to manage eating/drinking/pacing/cooling systems during the heat of the day as Squamish will more than likely be a hot one.  That lemon aid was as amazing as I had dreamed it would be for the past 45 minutes.  The little joys in life are all made so much sweeter with a little suffering beforehand.

Exploring the Augerpoint route was an awesome chance to get my bearings and put all of my new pieces of the Park together.  I have been on more trails, ridges, bluffs and routes in the Park over the past 3 weeks than I have in all my days.  It has been an amazing month of dreaming, planning and exploring this special gem that lies in the heart of the Island and a stones throw from own backyard.  

Something strange has happened to my 'list, however'.  There appears to be something wrong with my pen.  Every time I tick one trail off, two more appear.  Rather than shrinking, my list is growing right before my eyes and right beneath my sneakers. 

It absolutely kills me to have to put my Run the Park project on the back burner when my pot is boiling over with inspiration today.  Sigh... that is my life.  Too many adventures...too little time.  It feels fantastic, however, to know that I have a lifetime of world class adventures awaiting me a mere 90 minutes from my driveway.  And, if you are on the Island, so do you.

Happy Trails,