Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 Adventure Trail Running Series begins April 30th!


Get off the road and on the trails with Equilibrium Lifestyle Management (ELM) this spring!  

ELM's 2015 Adventure Running Series begins Thursday, April 30th at 5:30pm with the first 

of three 8-week, coached trail running clinics running from April- October. Adventure 

Running is led by coach and Kinesiologist, Sarah Seads, and combines trail running, hill 

training and navigation into one great running workout. Weekly, coached training sessions 

are designed to to improve running technique, boost technical trail speed, increase stamina
and ramp up hill climbing and descending strength....all while having fun!

This clinic is perfect for trail runners looking to ‘bust a gut’, adventure racers wanting to 

practice their trekking skills and road runners that want to push themselves to a new level 

of  fitness and adventure. Each week multiple pace groups are available for novice 

(45-60mins total time) and experienced (75-90mins total time) runners. The Spring

Adventure Running clinic is a great way to prepare for racers who are taking on the Kusam 

Klimb or other mountain runs this summer.

All Adventure Running Clinics include weekly coached training sessions, a detailed weekly 

training program, ELM Running Clinic Manual, maps of all routes and weekly e-education 

sessions from the coach.   Explore new trail networks, earn some amazing views and meet

great trail running friends with ELM Adventure Running!

For more information and to register go to www.elmhealth.com .

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ultra Gear Review: Trail 'Food'

Almost anyone can run an Ultra- so long as they actually want to.  Long distance events are 90% mental.  "Whether you think you can or think your can't, you're right"...so true!

Once the motivation is taken care of, the human body will adapt to the huge physical demands of long distance running through consistent, progressive increments of overload in training.  Pushing the body 'too much, too soon' is the biggest risk during training and the perfect balance between work and rest is unique to every individual.  But with enough time and patience, the training principles of overload, adaptation, specificity, recovery and tapering will get most of us to the start line.

Race day is a celebration!  After months of early mornings, back to back runs and missed Friday night drinks, the hard work is done.  The training is complete.  All of the miles are in the bank.  The body is feeling rested (hopefully:) after a recovery taper period.  Bring on the adventure!

On race day, the focus swings from Training Principles to Race Day Strategies.   How well you follow your race plan and take care of your body will ultimately determine your race fate.  There are many elements out of your control in endurance racing- weather, terrain and temperature to name a few.  The importance of monitoring the elements that are actually under your control cannot be emphasized enough.  I call this Personal Management, and the three main elements include: Fuel, Pacing and Self Care.  Losing track of one of these elements can take a race experience from good to bad in an amazingly short period of time.  I have experienced and witnessed this countless times during endurance racing over the years!  Wounded soldiers screaming with cramps on the side of the trail.  Barfing Bob behind the bushes.  Trotts Tracy stuck in the woods. Blisters the size of a baseball.  Chafing...oh the chafing.  Heart burn from hell.  The Death March and  The No Fun Zones scattered out on the course.  

But I have also witnessed and personally experienced the opposite for many more miles- the amazing feeling of surprisingly fresh legs rocking an endless mountain descent.  A strong, steady pace that clocks off miles on a steep climb.  The energizer bunny that just won't be stopped.  The gift of a happy body allows for a more joyful, present experience in the mountains and through the beautiful forests.  Less aches and pains, means more energy to enjoy the views, share the moment with racing friends and really soak in the experience.

I will tackle each of these 'Personal Management' components in separate posts, starting with the big one: Food!  

Trail 'Food'.

Food = Fuel.  Your body is the vehicle and endurance events are one long, crazy cross country road trip.  You will encounter massive climbs, never ending descents, technical single track and long straight stretches as far as the eye can see.  But as long as you keep putting gas in the tank your body will literally keep going..and going...and going...and going...the human body truly is an amazing machine!

There are some important fuel guidelines that create a starting point for how much and how often to eat during endurance training and racing.  Read my 4-part  'Fueling Systems'  series for the specifics on how to fuel before, during and after endurance events.  The race day summary for events lasting more than 2 hours:
  • Water 1/3-1 cup every 20 minutes
  • 30-60 grams of carbohydrate every hour
  • 200-300mg of sodium every hour
BUT!  Every single person is unique.  These guidelines are just that...guidelines!

Once you are in the thick of it, you will need to fine tune your own personal fueling plan.  Every 'body' is unique and we all have different nutrition requirements,  tolerances and taste preferences.  What works for your training buddy could be disastrous for you.  Listen to your 'gut' so to speak.  Ensure you are getting sufficient calories, fluid and electrolytes in each hour of your training, but experiment with the way you get these.  The most important thing is not WHAT you eat, but THAT you eat.  Digestion and ultra endurance running do not really get along all that well;)  There will almost certainly be moments or even hours when you do not feel like eating nearly anything-or worse.  This is a sign that you need to keep your fluid and nutrients coming in.  Don't worry about what you are eating at these times- just eat. 

Learn what gives you energy, makes you happy and satisfies your cravings in various conditions on the trail.  Training is the time to experiment with different foods, bars, balls, gels etc to find out what tastes good at different times on the trail.  Take the 'rules' with a grain of salt if you find something different that works for you.  Eat things that make you feel happy!

I always like to play with different types of fuel during my training and have had a chance to experiment with some new packaged and real foods this winter during my long runs.  I usually eat as much real food as possible and make my own bars, balls and snacks for the trail. Please check out out my e-cookbook NRG: Foods that will move you, for all of my favourite whole food recipes, bars, balls, sports drinks, smoothies etc!  But I also like to experiment with packaged fuel so that I have a back up plan and a bigger menu of items I know will work for me on race day.   Thankfully, there are now many more natural/less processed packaged fuels available on the market as well. 

Here are the results of my personal fuel taste test so far this year!   In previous years I have relied heavily on Sunripe natural fruit bars and Oskri bars for many of my training and racing hours.  But I can't even go there anymore.  One problem with training for endurance events is it can put you off the foods that you eat over and over and over and over on the trail- don't say I didn't warn you!

Real Food:
  • Roasted and salted baby potatoes- my absolute must have.  After about 4 hours all I want is salt salt salt.  And all I usually have is sugar sugar sugar.  I will have a few small zip locks in my drop bags with these little beauties waiting for me at aid stations.
  • Sushi- again, going for the salt. The nori boosts the nutrients, rice is a great fuel that is easy on the belly and they are perfectly portable.  Vegetarian is best for the trail- I love yam or avocado rolls with soy sauce drizzled (ok poured) over them. 
  • Miso soup- hot or cold, depending on the day.  At the 8 hour mark, if I could drink liquid salt I would probably do it and this is as close as I can get!
  • Almond butter and maple syrup or PB and honey sandwich squares. These can be made with bread or white sticky rice (squish the filling between layers). With a dash of salt, of course.
  • Tamari Almonds and Raisins - great portable snack that holds up well on the trail and is a good mix of sweet and salty. 
  • Mejool dates with the pits removed and replaced with an almond and pinch of salt.

Packaged Fuel:
  • Hornby Island Energy Bars- Gourmet Sesame flavour all the way!  I often make a home made version of these bars but the store bought version are just as healthy and travel really well.  Complete with natural ingredients, these hold up well on the trail and I am addicted to the molasses in them right now.  In fact, I have had to stop eating them for fear of getting sick of them before my 100k in May!
  • Pro Bar- I just discovered these this year and they are a nice variation from the popular Cliff Bar.  A second best to the Hornby Bars for ingredients, flavour and digestibility.  I usually nibble away at these bars- careful not to eat too much of them at once as they are harder to digest than more processed foods.
  • Vega Sport Endurance Gels- the lesser of all evils, these are vegan, plant based gels that won't do you more harm than good. They are, however, a unique texture that you won't be expecting if you are used to traditional gels.  The energy released is steady, rather than a big jolt that other gels may provide.
  • GU Salted Caramel and Espresso Love gels.  Yup.  These are as far away from real food as you can get but they will still be in my bag of race day tricks.  I will be bringing these gels for the final hour or two of the race to help me get to the finish line when my body is nearly done.  I don't usually consume caffeine (other than chocolate of course!) so these little gels will pack a punch when I need it most.  I will always have some on me during the race in case I lose my appetite- they are easy calories to get down if I can't stand the thought of eating anything.  

No Go for me:
  • Elevate Me Bars- YUCK.  These just taste wrong to me.  Nothing like food.  Never again.
  • Stinger Gels- Double YUCK!  I tried these because they were honey/natural sugar based and nearly gagged on the spot. WAY too sweet for me.  Imagine trying to eat a tablespoon of honey while running.  If that sounds tasty to you, then these are all yours!
What are your favourite snacks for endurance training and racing?  Please share in the comments!  OK- if you made it this far, you are definitely procrastinating doing something!  Go for a run instead!

Happy Trails,

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ultra Gear Review: Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra Soft Ground

Continued from Ultra Gear Review: Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 5 Running Vest...

Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra Soft Ground

I REALLY REALLY want to love these shoes.  

But the truth is, I have a love-hate relationship with these ruby slippers.  They are hard to love but they are also hard not to love.  I have climbed many mountains and had many single track adventures in these sneakers.  My feet have been very happy...but they have also been very sad at times.  

These are my favourite trail runners because they allow my toes to spread like no other shoe I have worn before- with a nice roomy toe box.  I love them because they have absolute monster truck tread that makes me feel like spider woman in the wet muddy trails. They wrap perfectly around the foot and encourage natural footstrike with a minimal 4mm heel toe drop.  They are the lightest shoes I have ever worn and it feels divine to run weightless.  Every gram lost is proven to decrease energy consumption resulting in increased efficiency- running faster or longer without as much fatigue.  I will never be able to run in heavy shoes again after having 'wings'!  

BUT...I despise these shoes when travelling across icy wooden bridges and rocks covered in island green slime.  I have been seen, literally crawling on hands and knees across these obstacles all the while cursing my damn red shoes.  No photo's have surfaced, thankfully...but I have provided entertainment for my trail buddies!  For the first 6 weeks wearing my newest pair I have cried in pain- as they chewed into the side of my foot (lateral maleolus, you know, the outside ankle bump), creating a raw hole of burning flesh.  I ran, with completely numb toes for hours on end during our first 4-6 weeks together- in both pairs.  I have been quoted as saying..."They are the perfect shoes!  Except for the fact that I can't feel my feet." one too many times.  

We have now worked through our early relationship problems and are in a happy place once again.  Good timing, considering we are going on a 100km road trip very soon.  But...just as I am settling in and starting to forget about the aches and pains...there are already signs of wear.  6ish weeks in and the threads are already thinning in the same spots they did with the last pair.  Sad, but true, I know we may have to break up soon...this may be our last adventure together...unless my feet change or Salomon changes the forefoot cushioning/plate...a girl can dream can't she?  


Remember- every foot (and every shoe/foot relationship) is unique- and I have not heard of other runners having these same problems with the Lab Sense Ultra.  So, be sure to try them for yourself to see if you hit it off. 

 Up Next: Ultra Gear Review: On Trail Nutrition...


Ultra Gear Review: Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 5 Vest

Running for 5-7 hours at a stretch is a great way to test gear, try fuel, and practice mind games.  Chaffing, blisters, running in the mud, running in the rain, running in the sun, numb feet, upset stomach, nasty gels, delicious bars, magic tape on my calves, duct tape on my shoes- you name it I've experienced it over the years!

After a thousand kilometers up and over mountains this winter, I have found what works for me for this type of training.  Gear is extremely personal, however, and the only way to know what will work for you is to try it yourself during your training!  Experiment with gear, food, timing, pacing and everything else between during your training runs - this is just as important as the mileage itself.  And part of the fun!

Read on for the first post in a series, covering the gear that I have been playing with during my Miwok 100k training so far this year:).

I AM IN LOVE.  Yup.  But I will be the first to admit that I was still a skeptic this time last year.  $180 for a running pack?  'Come on', I thought, 'How amazing can it be!?'.  Well folks, after trying it out for myself, I finally ponied up and bought one about a month ago.  And I can honestly tell you that although it may seem overpriced, it is actually worth every penny(time will tell if it is durable, however).  I tried one on last year, and the chest pocket water bottles threw me off.  I don't like carrying water on my chest- just feels weird after so many years training, working and racing with a pack on my back.  This spring I clued in that the pack also comes with a bladder.  So, about a month ago, when my old pack called it quits, I decided to try it on again...I ran around the store...it really did feel like a second 'skin'.  I went for it.  We went for a 6 hour run on our very first date.  I know I know- maybe I jumped into things a bit quickly.  But we hit it off so well and wanted to spend the whole day together.  We have been inseparable ever since.  Seriously!

Deets:  Salomon Vests are literally like  a second skin.  Their stretchy 'sensi fit' material wraps right around your body resulting in nearly zero movement up down or side to side while running.  You think your current pack is comfortable...and then you take this one for a spin and you realize how much movement is actually taking place with other styles of running packs.  

The second best feature is the endless pockets.  All shapes and sizes and all within reach for little arms and tired, wet, clumsy fingers during long runs.  A zipper here, a pouch there, a pocket over there.  Your gear is spread out around your torso, rather than loaded in one spot on your back, which creates a sensation of weightlessness.  Absolutely brilliant.  

The third feature that has made this vest stand out from the crowd, are the two 500ml soft flask water bottles that are designed to fit into the chest pockets- so you never have to remove your pack if you choose not to.  Easy access allows you to view how much water you have left and refill as needed which can make for speedy transitions through aid stations/during races.   Many people swear by these little chest water bottles.  If you are like me, however, and prefer not to run with a second pair of boobs in front, you have room for 1.5 litre bladder in the back of the pack (separated and insulated sleeve even!)- for a combined total of 2.5 litre carrying capacity.  

The fourth awesome feature is the shape/design which allows for comfortable movement.  Many traditional running packs have straps and buckles that run between the body and arms as well as around the waist/across the chest, setting the stage for evil chaffing, friction and rubbing.  The Skin Vest is cut away from the body under the arm pits and does not have an annoying waist strap, both of which allow for welcome freedom of movement and comfort.

You would think I am sponsored by Salomon with such a glowing review, wouldn't you?  I wish!   Nope- just a born again running vest convert trying to share the light.  Are you drinking the kool-aid yet?  If you don't want to fork out $180 for one of these beauty's then I suggest you never try one on.  Save yourself the dough and chafe on.  
Where to get it:  Extreme Runners, Courtenay, $180.  

Up Next: Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Soft Ground sneakers...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Miles and miles and miles of single track under my sneakers.  Hills and hills and hills tattooed into my quads and calves.  Endless rhythms of breathe and footsteps and arm swings.  All of the uphill slogs and downhill smiles have blurred into one beautiful, miserable, soggy, sunshiney, wonderful run.

It was a short but heavy build up from January to my last weekend running 80km in twenty four hours.  It all began while I was in Hawaii...starting with a flurry of texts to Kim then a 'napkin training plan' and finally a rum induced race sign up from my lawn chair on the beach.  Miwok 100k in sweet San Fran at the start of May.  Running and sunshine and wine!  It was to be a final adventure together before Kim moved to the flatlands.  And while the race may have been the original goal, it is the journey that has become the real reward.  The chance to spend hours and days and months in the wild, both together and on our solo runs, has been a true gift.  

And now here I am at the peak of my training.  A few short months and a thousand kilometres later I have arrived, unscathed, in Taperland.  Making it to the start line really is the hardest part of the ultra journey.  Walking the tightrope between training and recovery is a balancing act of patience, humility and intuition.  You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, when to walk away and when to run��.  To say I was stoked to reach the peak of my training would be a wee understatement!  After my final 7 hour run in the rain and mud and mountains last Friday I was pumped, grateful and relieved to have made it to the end of the peaking in one, happy piece.  Woot!  Helloooooooo Taperland!  

PS: It may be four weeks until race day but in my mind I have already won.☺️��✌️
Happy Trails,

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Coming home

Sunday thoughts...
I just drove back to the Valley after spending a lovely weekend in Victoria with my family.  Spring is a magical season in Vic.  The daffodils were taking over and the cherry trees were loaded with ripe bundles of pink blossoms just in time for my visit.  I always squeeze in all of the things that I miss since moving up Island.  Strolls through Beacon Hill Park...Dallas road and the beach breeze blowing in my hair...breakfast (lunch and dinner) at my favourite eats...laughing til I cry and smiling til my face hurts with mi familia.  It fills up the little spaces in my heart and makes my smile a little brighter.  It is a wonderful little city and Victoria will always be my hometown.  A pleasure to visit and the only city I'd ever want to live in.  Yet... 

Somewhere between Nanaimo and Parksville I felt a shift...an actual weight lifted,  my lungs expanded and my breathe pulled deep.  My face softened and my lips curled into a blissed out smile.  The trees stood up.  The green hills rolled out.  The peaks and fresh powder pulled me in.  Space appeared where it was hidden before.  I wondered if there was a trail up that hill or a name on that peak...I wondered how I would get up there to find out and how soon I could go...

Ocean and islands and mountains and forest welcomed me home.  Home.  After 15 years in the Comox Valley not only do I call it home, but I am proud to do so.   Every year that I have lived here I have fallen deeper in love with this little Valley and the sweet people who make it my home.

I am stoked to be part of the creative, adventurous, blissful community here.  Recently I contributed  a  story to the CV Collective that takes the reader on a journey from ' Alpine to ocean...and everything in between'.  Pick up a copy of this rad new magazine at your favourite shops and restaurants on the Island and you will get a taste of what our little gem of a Valley is all about.  But don't even think about moving here...the house prices are through the roof and it rains 365 days a year��.

Happy Trails,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Gifts

Training for 100kms takes up a lot of time.  But, in a strange way, it also gives you a luxurious amount of time in return.  A four, five or six-plus hour run in the woods adds up to more 'free' time than I would normally see in a week, let alone a single day.  I like to 'do stuff', so my days are normally crammed from dawn to dusk with work, work, fitness, home projects, work, projects, fitness, work or sleep.  I am getting better at relaxing and have learned to appreciate the rewards that come from 'doing nothing' and 'free time'.  (Who knew relaxing and watching a movie could be so rejuvenating?)

Heading out for a run that takes half of your day is like switching  a light off for me.  My constant sense of urgency evaporates with the first few steps on dirt.  The further I get from the trail head, the less of a pull my 'list' has over me.  Thoughts of 'to do' may enter my mind, but they are quickly released into the woods.  Climbing to the top of a mountain, 15kms from my car, there is absolutely nothing I can do about the fires burning back in the Valley.  They are left to smolder and become specks beyond the back of my mind.  All I can do in that moment is run.  I have discovered that the forest still stands when I return to my real life.  Those fires never actually burn out of control when I am off duty.  Time and distance teach me that fires are only fueled in my mind.  Perspective shifts are a powerful thing, indeed.  It is one of running's greatest gifts.

The mind wanders with the trail and thoughts are released to fly free in the wild.  Random fragments of ideas come and go with the changing terrain.  Snapshots of my week are caught and thrown about by the mountain wind.  Beautiful, simple patterns appear all around me as the minutes turn to hours on the trail.  Nature's repetition helps to create lines and connect dots in my mind's eye.  Stands of strong and true firs are the backdrop.  Golden beams of 'komorebi' sunlight filter through the leaves.  An actual ribbon of endless single track is laid out before me.  Puzzles of rock are fit together perfectly under flowing water.  Nature never ceases to amaze me.  It is one of running's greatest gifts.

Hours of time spent with good, true friends.  You may think those days are in the past.  Sleep overs and road trips and sharing and laughing til you cry.  Running brings those beautiful experiences back into your life.  My trail peeps.  The ones who drag me up the climbs. The ones who chase me down the other side. The ones who share their fears and schemes and dreams. The ones who listen to mine. We share the supernatural, magical, unforgettable moments side by side.  It is a gift to spend luxurious hours of silence and belly laughs and deep thoughts and ridiculousness together. These are more than runs. These are deeply cultivated connections...these are real moments with real people in a fragmented, often superficial and always very busy world.  Running with friends is as great a gift as any.

I could write for hours on the endless and beautiful gifts of spending time on the trail...but I am out of time;)

PS I have been sharing my trail thoughts and images over on my Instagram account these days.  Please head on over and follow me there if you wish:)

Happy Trails,