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Friday, July 15, 2016

Not On My Race Weekend!

This post is straying from my normal, hey this is what I'm doing for running format, and delves into the political landscape of the local running scene. This blog has always been about a place to voice my goals and opinions, and that won't stop in this case. I welcome discussion on the following topic, as the discussion will help find the solutions. Keep in mind, I have friends on both sides of this conflict, and I do not place any of my observations or points below on them.

These opinions are my own.

Photo Cred: Brie Hemingway

Without further ado, here goes.

A week ago, the KneeKnacker Ultra, a storied and vital part of the local ultra running scene in Vancouver took place. The race starts in Horseshoe Bay and travels 30 miles along the Baden Powell (BP) to Deep Cove.
To say that it has gained popularity over the years is an understatement. The race is host to a lottery now, and gaining entry has become the holy grail for both local and international runners. KneeKnacker is a big supporter for trail maintenance, North Shore Search and Rescue and other very positive elements of the trail community. I know many of the key people, and they are amazing individuals who go above and beyond. This is part of what makes what happened a bit touchy.

KneeKnacker Facebook Banner

Many friends and local runners didn't make the lottery this year. So, doing what most Ultra and trail runners do, they support the race and its racers. Some ran aid stations, others crewed racers, and many were course marshals on what turned out to be one of the worst weather days of the year. They arrived early, did their thing, got soaked, and had a fabulous time.

Photo Cred: KK Lottery Losers Consolation Run Runners

As a consolation to the losers, two of my friends set up a private Facebook event called "KK Lottery Losers Consolation Run" the next day. It's unofficial, used no flagging, didn't get promoted outside of Facebook, and was basically a chance for some friends to run the Baden Powell and help each other out along a classic and well used trail system on the day following the race.
The popularity of this small event saw just over 20 people make the attempt. A few more decided to run bits and pieces depending on their time commitments and physical capacity. It was a fun run. The weather was perfect, and the group set off. A few racers from the official KneeKnacker race the day before decided to return the favour and crew their friends with supply drops and camaraderie.

Photo Cred: Kenzie A.

Then the pics starting coming in. The official race day pics and the unofficial next day group run started streaming everyone's social media feeds at the same time. The race pics looked like hell. Joyous, wet, and sluggish hell. The unofficial consolation run pics looked like glorious mountain horizon, sun and clear skies frolicking. So down comes the hammer.

Photo Cred: Solana K.
The Knee Knacker RD and planning committee send out the equivalent of "cease and desist". They state the following in a Facebook post:

"Please do not schedule an event on the BP trail on that weekend. And yes, that includes the day immediately after, as the perception is that it could be affiliated with our event. That could then affect our future ability to obtain permits and insurance.
- Do not use the “Knee Knacker” name/brand as part of your event’s name.
- Do not use our logos or likeness in any of your advertising or awards.

Okay, fine, the last two points are a given. So, renaming the run without KneeKnacker in it is easy. Instead, it can be called, "Consolation Run for the Race That Shall Not Be Named."

Also, a crafty person separate from the KneeKnacker made a (as in one to share) tongue in cheek trophy for the people who made it the whole 30 miles. Its likeness to the official Knee Knacker logo is clear, and in hindsight was a poor call, albeit in homage to the race versus competition.

The Trophy That Shall Not Be Named 

The demand not to run on the BP on the same weekend is atrocious!
When did a race committee or RD have the right to stop people from using the trail on the whole weekend? What about a local hiking group or a dog walking group? If they set up a Facebook event would they get the same message from the official race? Please don't walk your dogs on the BP trail, because we have a race that doesn't allow dogs and we don't want the permitting department to think we have dogs on the race. What about Mountain Bikes? The whole thing opens up a big can of worms.

I don't ever recall having to ask a race for permission to run on trails. 
Bandits, I can agree with. Illegal pacers, sure. 

Those all occur at the start time the race begins and end when the race officially finishes and the support is removed via cut off times or other logistics.

This overbearing (and in my opinion poorly directed) control was based on ego and fear, two things that have a tendency to inflame versus resolve situations.

Does past positive political capital in the way of history, trail support and SAR funding, that a smaller, less influential organizing body wouldn't have, allow for these actions and communications to take place? In my opinion, no.

What would have been a better way to handle the situation? How about this:

"Hey Guys, looks like you had a fun run on Sunday, and thank you for paying homage to the race that we all care about. I think it's great that you got a small group together and accomplished your goals and pushed each other to high achievements. At least the weather was better on your event day!
Having said that, can you please not use our logo and name in your event. It seems like a small thing, and I'm certain you meant no harm, but it does make our permitting tricky if the officials think our race and your Facebook event are related. Here's to hoping the lottery gods are in your favour for 2017! Enjoy the beer."

So what's the actual outcome? Well, everyone who ran on Sunday are guilted into feeling they are awful people. The same people who helped support KneeKnacker, who volunteer countless hours to trail awareness, who organize running based charities, who develop social development of the sport and outreach programs to help support the sport we love.

Why did this happen? The KneeKnacker are self professed "grassroots" and yet they took a very institutionalized approach to a grass roots social media based event. I see it as a disconnect of generations. Several years ago, the Sunday run only would have been made aware to the people who ran it, and their pictures would have been on Kodak rolls, taken to the pharmacy, and developed, put into an album and shared over a week later in a personal album. Now, those same pics hit the public airwaves WHILE the event was still happening, and flooded the social media feeds at the same time as the official race photos were being posted. It stepped on their toes. It stole their thunder in a manner and that hurts a bit when you spend a year planning a major race.

Despite our best wishes, after awhile, even grassroots events like the KneeKnacker become "institutions," and, as an institution, they must protect what they created, even if it means taking up arms versus the people who support their race.
An idea, formed by some runners to "console" the lottery losers and do a self supported, unofficial run the next day, became a threat. This event is allegedly not the only one that the KneeKnacker has taken issue with. What is their agenda? I would love to know, as it can not be solely based on the fear of permits.

The grassroots of yesterday is being overridden by the grassroots of tomorrow. It's going to happen more and more. That's the strength of Social Media and events based on individuals versus committees. Our running group We Run Mas has an anniversary run every November. Due to it's size, should I contact other running groups and tell them NOT to run on the same day as it detracts from our event? That's absurd, and what KneeKnacker did is likewise in my opinion absurd and unwarranted.

The fallout of this requires communication. One of the KK committee whom I know well, is an awesome dude, and whom I respect greatly has asked us to continue our discussion over a beer. I like that. Communication is always good, and is a key factor for this blog post. Opinions must be known, and I feel strongly that individuals and ideas that support the community are more important than institutions, regardless of where their roots started.

Giants of our Community
Photo Cred: Karen Samuelson

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Between the Ferns

Thinking Out Loud
(Al Quinto and I at Sea to Summit last year)

The year 2016 is a month in, and I'm still not strapping on a pair of runners and getting out the door.

Hence, it will be starting from scratch for me this year, and I'm excited and pent up about it. There's a nervousness when the time comes to start consistently running again, and that anticipation is an interesting challenge to deal with. I was listening to a meditation coach named Tara Brach and she was telling a Buddhist story. It went something like this:

Buddha was sitting under a tree. At the fringes of the forest, a demon named Mara, the Lord of Death, was dancing and enticing the Buddha. One of the Buddha's followers was running and screaming in fear, warning others of the demon at the edge of the woods. Buddha said, "Do not fear. Instead, say, 'I see you Mara. Come, and enjoy some tea.'"

The moral of the story is that in order to conquer a negative aspect in one's life, it must first be identified and named. Only then can it be controlled and go from having a negative impact emotionally and spiritually and made to have no power over one's mindful and present state.

So, what is the demon that haunts my next step? How is it affecting me and the ultimate goal to find adventure once again on the mountain?

The injury is not the impedance, it is only a temporary threshold that is disallowing progressing to the running state. One of the demon's limbs is the concern of re-injury. It's the fear of having to go through this again. When is the time right to start training? What if it's too soon? What if it's too late? Is there something I'm doing in day to day, or at work that is adding to the time required to heal? Is that level of activity with both boxing and restaurant helping or hindering? Are my supporting and stabilizing muscles, in tandem developing the mental fortitude with career challenges assisting me to re-enter the world of mountain trail running? These questions dance on the mind constantly.

The mind becomes a hamster in a wheel, spinning thoughts and making excuses, or falling into apathy and a lack of connectivity. The disassociation with my #trailfam has been really tough, and the identity that is defined largely by the individuals in We Run Mas is a massive part of who I have become. Staying true to that person, and the richness that the team has given me, I fear is slipping away. It's probably not true, but the demon lingers, and I must identify it so that it doesn't change who I am while the solitary mode runs its course.

I suppose another limb of the demon is confusion. One of the goals of this blog was to maintain an honest dialogue or journal of what being a runner is to me. It's a large reason why I toyed with, but ultimately denied, doing product reviews. I want to keep my posts raw, emotional and philosophical. There are a lot of places to go look up the next best running pack or a new pair of shoes. So Ultrainspired is more about the journey, and perhaps metaphorically the highs and lows of what being a trail runner is all about.

Being injured is harder than this anyday!
Fact of the matter is, I'm not very good at endurance running, and yet I still enjoy it. I've had my fair share of physical challenges (although I can crush a solid downhill when healthy). My mental challenges were always in check, except for now. Persevering through some hard races and training days was something that became a part of my fabric of being, and I embraced the struggle there.

I'm definitely feeling the stagnation of not running and miss the catharsis it brings. There's only so much that can be done to fill the gap, but at some point, you have to run to feel the sensations of running. Meditation, visualization, escape via cinema, short movies, blogs, running books and other associated tools can not replace the activity itself. The ability to reach Flow State through other means is elusive and remains a mystery. I sometimes feel it when writing, and on occasion at work during a busy rush or a creative meeting, but it comes nowhere near what can be experienced while being surrounded by the majestic forests that live around us.

And so, here I sit. Laptop in hand. Typing away and working through it all.
While enjoying some tea with Mara.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Enduring Injury, Training the Mind

When training for an endurance sport, there are many aspects that are being developed simultaneously. There's the obvious physical adaptation of developing soft tissue, muscular strength, metabolic efficiency, lactate thresholds and cardiovascular zones. The invisible, less measurable, yet arguably more vital components of mental fortitude, willpower, and grit develop with pushing limits, embracing struggle and allowing oneself to explore challenges that are beyond the scope of physical capacity. It's all part of growing and training spirit and perseverance.

So what happens when physically, you're limited by an injury that keeps you away from the sport that you're trying to grow within? How do you maintain the energy, focus and drive to achieve goals when one foot can not be placed in front of the other. The mantra of "relentless forward progress", synonymous with Ultra Running, and endurance sports of other disciplines, becomes impossible when the practice of practice is off the calendar.

And this is where I find myself at the start of the new year. With 2016, my race calendar isn't filled. I have no official registrations and my schedule is tied up with rehab appointments measured in minutes of time and kilometres to drive to appointments and budgeted costs versus time on feet, kilometres per week, and pace goals. In essence, the recovery process has become it's own training cycle. This got me thinking about how to think about injury. I've embraced it as a waiting game, allowing my hip socket to heal, and then starting rehab for mobility and conditioning. But perhaps I've been approaching it incorrectly? Is biding my time really the best way to wait this out and then gradually returning to the trails? It almost feels like wasted effort and the focus is almost entirely physical. Hence, I'm missing a component of recovery that is important to endurance training, and that's the mental game. I need to train the mind while recovering physically and maintain that edge so that as the next phase of rehab leads to the next phase of short runs with maybe ten to twenty kilometre weeks (small in the endurance training spectrum) I'm ready to meet the challenges and be ahead of the curve.

Feeling frustrated by an injury is a luxury I haven't allowed myself. The biggest frustration (I hate that term) is not being able to bounce on a trail or navigate a technical section of a trail in a playful and fluid manner. So I've stayed away, which has been a good thing, as I don't enjoy having to be overly cautious. This blessing in disguise has give me time to reset and look forward to other areas of development, and reading has been one of those. It's been the perfect time to engage in personal development exercises, listen to seminars, read up on mental coaching, and listen to the wisdom of business coaches, athletic coaches and spiritual coaches. I've had the chance to dig into music on a deeper level, and get in touch with lyrics and songs that have impact on me personally.

Playing in snow on Hollyburn my my boys
While staying in touch with friends has been harder to maintain, as they are all out playing on the mountains, and I'm not, I have had the fortune of many of them coming to dine at Chambar, and sharing in their stories table side. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have likewise been a source of connection on their individual adventures, and allows a glimpse beyond the glass. Sometimes, a picture or a post from a running mate can ignite a memory and the smell of pine or the feeling of a cool breeze can come back as though you're there in person. These kinds of visualizations and fantasies are beneficial, as it's easy to recall a moment, look back on a video or old picture and remind yourself of the joy that was felt, and the promise of it returning at a future date.
Team We Run Mas. Never alone.
I'm going to be forty two this year, and, while not having a "mid life crisis" as I am very happy with my life, I am reminded of my own mortality. David Bowie recently passed away, and yet there he was, in 1985 at Live Aid, at the age of thirty eight, vibrant and full of vitality. He was younger than I am now at that time, and now he is gone. Suddenly time feels very finite, and the moments that are yet to come are running short. This only spurs me on to develop a greater appreciation for what is now. Being mindful of each moment and allowing the enjoyment of this mental endurance training to last for as long as it needs to until the physical training can resume.

Being injured is its own Ultra. It lasts longer than you expect, has its highs and lows, and forces you to come to terms with many areas of your being. I feel like I am on the verge of a new discovery as I'm forced on the sidelines. The lack of goals to achieve this year on the running front is foreign to me, and I am forced to fill the space with new goals and unexplored territory. This mental exploration has been exciting, and layered in its turmoil. The struggle is ever present to stay focused and not lose track of what it is that I want to accomplish and prove to myself.

I guess it really just boils down to one metaphorical foot in front of the other.

Future's So Bright . . .

Monday, December 21, 2015

Chasing Excitement

Returning to the blog posts is an interesting moment. What do I write about, as this is a running blog, and fact of the matter is, I can not run.
My Strava log looks like a barren landscape, devoid of life. Empty space with zero weeks after zero weeks. The injury to my right hip, which I ran through from March to August finally hit its tipping point at Squamish 50 at the end of August. I had modified my gait so much to compensate for the lack of range of motion that the alignment of my hip, femur, lower back and all the way down the kinetic chain was messed up.

Out of necessity, I decided to do nothing for three months. Let the injury go down in swelling, and see what happens after that. During the process, I was in active rehab, engaging in massage therapy, acupuncture, active release, and chiropractic work, in addition to physical therapy exercises. The best result I encountered was with two old school chiro appointments that realigned my pelvis, which allowed my right leg to go higher than 45 degrees. Yay, I could go up stairs again without holding a railing.

One of the elements of being sidelined is the change of habits that occur in your lifestyle. The social aspect of meeting with friends on the trails, exploring new terrain, summiting peaks of mountains and having that connection with nature that trail running allows is all gone. The escape and return to a simpler state, where your relationship with a more silent you is easily achieved in the mountains, so how do you regain or replace that when the geography is no longer achievable?

I tried a couple of hikes, and the downhill returns were painful beyond measure, so it was too soon, even for a less impactful and slower attempt. Time continued to tick by.
I was fortunate start a new job at the end of September as GM of Chambar Restaurant which focused a lot of my energy into new challenges and reinvigorated my creative and organizational side. It also expanded my passion for coaching, connecting and developing individuals, so cerebrally I was able to destroy any potential boredom that could have occurred with such a dramatic drop in running activity.

We had our We Run Mas anniversary run in November, Year III, which was amazing, as close to sixty of us all showed up and laughed and frolicked through the trails of the North Shore. We did draw some disapproving glares for having such a big group, but hey, a once a year gathering of friends in the forest is what the community, and our group is all about. Many of us had achieved epic accomplishments, from injury recovery, Personal Best Times (like my Cypress race where I passed close to 40 people!), FKT's or a massive goal such as a first fifty mile to one hundred mile finish line! The anniversary run let us all decompress, enjoy each other's company, and share in some hilarious and heart-wrenching stories, supported by the love and care of those who know each other on such a deep level.

Just this last week, I saw Dr. Roberts at the Sports Science Centre at UBC (he's also investigating my gut issues) regarding the hip. He had access to my X-Rays and history, and his final assessment is I have a hip labrum tear. They don't recommend surgery anymore since the recovery time is the same, so it's going to be close to eighteen months of rehab and physical therapy to get back up to full speed.
I'll be able to start slowly, working in the 5 to 8 kilometre range and building back up over the next several months. Speed and aggressive downhills are out of the question for at least six months, and a close monitoring of pain will ensure the inflammation is not aggravating or causing more damage. Basically if it hurts, stop.

So this leaves me in a funny head space. I've always followed the mantra formula of "title equals activity." For example, "Writers write. Painters Paint. Bloggers Blog. Managers Manage. Fighters Fight." And of course, "Runners Run." As it stands, I currently don't run. I haven't "run" for almost four months. Yet, in my mind, I am still a runner. Physically, I am going to have to start from a new beginning. Chances of an Ultra for 2016 are not going to happen, so a realignment of goals is necessary; first and foremost being "get healthy." Work on the strength, balance and coming back stronger in every other way. So that way, when I do return to the trails, I'll be in a prepared state and excited for the new adventures and opportunities.

I am finding that so much of the work that I have done, mentally coordinated with the reading, flow state practice and spiritual development (not religious spirit, but more willpower, perseverance and getting to know the deeper "me") has allowed me the drive and vision to stay on course. I know what is possible in trail and endurance running. It has taken me to places both physically and emotionally that I never dreamed possible. I know that there is so much more, and I am yearning to discover what those secrets are, the unlocked experiences that are waiting to be unraveled and absorbed. This promise is unquestionable. It's what keeps me motivated for what is to come and I'm running towards it the only way that I know how; by chasing excitement.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Reload: What is Ultra Inspired?

When I first got into trail running, the aspect that lured me the most was play. I really enjoyed running through the woods. It reminded me of when I was a kid, hopping on my BMX and riding down the street in Coquitlam to a friend's place who lived on the side of the ravine. We would jump his fence and go trounce through the woods, sliding down slopes, climbing trees and playing Knights and Dragons. We would laugh endlessly.

Al Quinto, Simone and I at top of Shannon Falls on Sea to Summit
(Photo Credit: Gregan Dunn)
Returning to that childhood feeling through trail running definitely reignites that emotional state from my youth. A simpler time where nothing really matters other than the forest breeze on your face, the sound of the pine needles crunching underfoot, and the sunlight shining down between the gaps in the canopy.
I jumped into distance pretty quickly, with the 20 to 25 km long run as a benchmark within a single season, and felt great during those runs. Tired, fatigued, and expended but still laughing. Still ready to go at it again the next day. I enjoyed the shorter races, the 8k to 25k trail events that could take anywhere from an hour to three and a half hours depending on the course. They were challenging, I could redline the fast bits, and they required strategy and endurance. I'm analytical about a lot of things, and it appeased that desire in me to dial in pace, fuelling and technique on a race.

Then came the Ultras. I was so inspired by the concept of running for 50 kilometres or more. Being on the trail for hours, and (for my pace), perhaps 8 or 10 hours on a 50k distance. It was a challenging goal, and one that I knew was just out of reach for me unless I trained for it. I wanted it badly, but the work had to be put in. For those who may not know, my first race Ultra attempt was the Squamish 50 miler which ended badly at kilometre 53'ish of 80k. My mind wanted it, but my body wasn't ready. I have completed two Ultra races, and the distance four times, but always with immense struggle.

Living on the Edge with Marie Boucher and Jeremy Schwab.
(Photo Credit: Jeremy Schwab)
The biggest hurdle I've had is my gut. At times, I feel like it's taken over my life and this blog itself, it's such a monster. It's an issue that seems to evade explanation, and I've seen the gamut of experts, including a Sport's Nutritionist, three Neurologists, two Gastroenterologists, three sport's science PHD's and have received loads of advice from elite, mid pack and back of the pack friends and colleagues.
I've read every book under the sun from Noakes,  Fitzgerald, Daniels and Maffetone, as well as peer reviewed studies on endurance sport's physiology and training effects. If there's a podcast about endurance training, I've listened to it. The tests have been endless, from countless investigative blood, urine, and fecal samples, pipes down the throat, stress tests on treadmills, CT scans, MRI's, and Ultrasounds. There have been some anomalies, each given a different strategy for training. I've listened and adhered to the training prescriptions each time. They all end with IV bags as my body denies the time based exertion and stops taking in fuel and water.

To say it's frustrating is an understatement. In most instances, my legs and muscular strength is fine (aside from the cramping). I know I have to drink and eat more, but it's easier said than done. I can look at my water bottle, and take a sip, and it'll come back up seconds later. Same with calories, no matter the form it takes. It's hard to hydrate the body when that happens even if the previous hours were on point in both calories and ounces per hour. When the switch turns off, there's no turning it back on.

So this leaves me at a turning point. Fact of the matter is I only have so many mass implosions left in me. It's hard not only on my system, but also on my family. I also don't want to end up deep in the back country and hit that point of no return where help is challenging to get. It's not fair to my family or to my running friends to wonder if I'm gonna turn into a Zombie and become a liability.

It's July of 2015. Two years ago this month I completed my first 49km run. I did it on minimal fuel and water, and felt pretty good aside from some leg cramps. My threshold has shrunk, not grown, since that time, hence listening to my body is key. I'm going to pretend like I can't run an Ultra (which isn't too far from the truth) but not lose what it means to me. Inspiration.

My Wife Simone and I
This had forced me to do some soul searching. I'm thankful I can run for 4 or 5 hours and about 25 k with little issues. So that's where I'm going to reload. I am still inspired by the Ultra distance. By the challenges it produces, the adaptation it requires, and the mindset it requires to achieve such feats. The 100k mark is my ultimate goal distance. But not yet. I'm hitting CTRL+ALT+DELETE and resetting and reframing my abilities and get back to a "play" state of mind. I've developed some amazing memories and irreplaceable friendships along this continuing journey, from our running group We Run Mas, to being involved in the local trail running community on a deeper level than I had imagined or hoped.

We Run Mas aka Coolest Team on the Planet
(Photo by Simone Kumar)
I still love that moment of taking the last few steps to the summit of a mountain top, and seeing the endless views and vistas of the landscape, with only the sounds of your breath and the whisper of the trees. Descending a fast hill, covered in roots, rocks and lined with moss covered trees that witness your passing. Stopping at a mountain stream and rinsing your face, dunking your buff and feeling the crisp, clean water refreshing your senses. These are the things I love about trail running, and despite my Ultra goals for this year escaping into the distance, I'm still running towards it because I have to know what's beyond the horizon.

Chasing the Sunset
(Photo Credit: Jamie Douglas)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


The season has changed. And with the warm weather the leaves turn to deep green. The sun has gone from low on the horizon to its powerful arc high above, sending waves of heat and sunbeams between the trees. The creeks have changed, from raging torrents, to slow trickles. The snowless mountain peaks release their ground water from between the roots.

And so I run. My feet landing gently on the hardening ground, once covered in frost, now becoming firm as the dry earth cracks, beckoning and begging for the sky to quench its thirst with rain. But it does not come. We experience one of the driest Springs in history. The Pacific North West, accustomed to the rain forest humidity, smells more of drying pine, baked soil and endless dust.

The Iron Knee race flows swiftly by. I run it with a carefree approach and enjoy it's undulating rhythm along the Baden Powell trail. It's my third year on the course, and despite my early season goals of pushing, a hip injury has slowed my pace to match the meandering waters of the streams that cross its path. Slow, relentless, and weak but unwavering.

But a few days later, Survival of the Fittest race in Squamish, where the trails have claimed my spirit on more than one occasion, I toe the starting line. Uncertain. But determined. I run and accept the pain of my body not being as I'd hoped. I know the edge of the envelope that will push me to further injury, and stay on this side of discomfort. The heat is relentless but I flow through the trails like a meandering and ever drying stream of water.

We gather a few weeks later. To conquer an epic quest of the North Shore Mountains. The Hanes Valley. Notorious for claiming the lives of the unprepared. It's beauty like a siren's song that lures those within it's fold, never to return. The morning sun rises, and by the time we reach the rocky slopes of the mountain scree, deep in the back country, the sun has changed from a warm greeting to a beastly dragon that breathes down on us and beats its wings with hot gusts that sap the strength of many.

I'm falling apart. The water in my body won't hold. The fuel which I feed my cells won't take. I persevere. Rolling over the rocks and roots and stumps. Moving along the paths with trees that stare down, and have little care for our plight or for our wonder. The stream has stopped. The moisture of the water has all but evaporated. Only the heat remains.

And so I no longer run. There is nothing left. The earth of my being cracks. The systems that generate life and laughter have blown away and I lie there, drought filled. My body becomes my enemy.
Not even water, the giver of life stays within me and I once again fall victim to the place I love the most. The mountain, the forest, and the sun has claimed me once again.

. . . and so I run.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

5Peaks Golden Ears: Race Report 2015

Roll the Butt

The Training plan for this year's 5 Peaks Golden Ears race consisted of the following . . .

Yup, nothing. Zip. Nada. El Zero! My right hip is injured since mid March, so I had logged the following in weekly distance:

April 6-12: Zero km
April 13-19: 43.3km
April 20-26: 17.2km
April 27-May3: Zero km
May4 to Raceday: 4km

April and May was supposed to target 80km weeks, so the training was in a massive downward spiral as my gait and hip mobility became more and more restricted.

So, reset the race plans for May, and decide to just go out and have fun, treat the race like a fun frolic in the woods. I had been rolling the butt and doing rehab to help my cause for a good summer, and wrote off any competitive goals for the Spring races. This turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

The Kumars with Brandi checking in runners
My wife and boys were helping with registration, so we had to be at the park for 7am, which meant a 5:30am wakeup call. A good 3 hours of sleep, and I groggily drove us down to the race.
The race HQ was being set up by a small team of volunteers, and directed by Solana and Jay. Tents and start finish chute, along with the sponsor venues, and the area was turning into a little bit of magic.


The crowds started filtering in, so I grabbed a nice serene shot of Alouette Lake, while my family was helping racers with the growing but well managed line up.

The 5Peaks BC race series has a superb atmosphere, with music, MC'ing courtesy of John Crosby, Distance Runwear and Altra Shoes representation, local mountain rescue, massage tables, and food stations which had De Dutch as a new inclusion this season!

We hung out, spent time with friends, got to reunite with familiar faces and then got ready with a quick warm up as the kids 3K race was taking place. As we were warming up, we saw The Murph doing pickups . . . he wasn't intended to race, but he got suckered in somehow and was getting bib ready.

Colin and Jamie were planning on crushing their PR's, so they seeded in the first wave, while Andy Joyce, Al Quinto and I seeded in the 3rd wave. I'm not sure where the rest of our WRM crew seeded, but we represented really well this year on both side of the tape (racing and marshalling, volunteering, and in Craig's instance, walking around with a radio!)

Our countdown hit the GO, and we burst out of the starting chute! Haha, not quite. I literally jogged out of the chute at a high five minute pace. I was going to stick to my plan of cruising this race and playing the whole time. Don't look at the Suunto watch, and just have fun.

Look at me, I'm Racing!!

Andy got ahead and I jokingly said to him, "See you at the water crossing!" which was in the first 500 meters. It traditionally creates a choke point for racers, as comfort levels vary crossing these areas. As the racers around me tiptoed and waited for access to the stepping stones, I just jumped and waded through and ran right into Andy's back. "See, told ya," we laughed.

The first 4k is beautiful moss covered trees with rolling terrain and a couple of more small water crossings. The weather was beautiful, so the levels were lower than last year. Al caught up and ran past me, looking strong as we yo-yo'd. Andy took off, and I lost him for the rest of the race.

I chatted with some fellow runners, like Felix and Kristin and took half a gel about 1k before the Aid Station. I'm practising my gel/water fuelling that Mike Murphy has been advising me on, and it seems to be working.

As I crossed the road, marshalled by Sarah (Volunteer Coordinator for Squamish 50), who seemed to be having way too much fun as a traffic cop. The Aid station was just up the service road after she whistled us through. I stopped at the AS, stretched the hip, drank two small cups of water and dumped some on my head. I waved farewell to the crew there and caught up with Al as we ran up the one mile service road to the base of Incline Trail.

Al, Kristin and I chatted on the first 1/3rd and then we spread out. Felix came past and joked that this was the "recovery" part for me, and he expected to see me pass him on the downhill. I took the climb up Incline with a determined but relatively safe pace, and practiced mixing up my form as per our training session a few weeks back. I walked, ran and power hiked, transitioning to one of the three techniques dependant on how I felt and never staying in one stride for too long. This seemed to work really well, as I never hit any hard burning or leg fatigue but spread out the energy usage across all the muscle groups.

As we neared the top of the climb, I started running and dropped into Eric Dunning trail. The first 100 meters of the technical downhill my legs felt like rubber bands, and then I hit my stride. I haven't been able to run downhill at all in weeks, but here I was - flying and passing tons of runners. It felt great, and I was loose and fluid. I managed to PR my segment for this trail, which was awesome!

Colin at the finish with a PR 

Once we kicked back out on the service road, I dialled it back again, and took the rest of my gel. I rolled into the aid station, said hi, drank two cups of water and splashed another on my head. A few people who I had passed on the bottom section of the last descent passed me on the next climb but I didn't mind as I was just out to have a good old time.

The final climb is net uphill but has some rollers in it, and I weaved my way up at a relaxed pace. I was with one group of racers and, as we neared the waterfall, I started yelling, "De Beer is near! De Beer is near!" A girl commented that I had great visualization skills, and I ran up to a female racer on the Sport course and stopped. I turned around and introduced her to the pack I was with and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Michelle de Beer!" They all had a laugh, I gave Michelle a hug and traipsed up the final knoll.

The waterfall looked refreshing, so I took a dip, splashed my legs and head, dunked both my buffs and enjoyed the cool water. Normally on a short course I'd just push through all these moments, but in an injured non-racing state of mind I took it all in.

Nicole was race sweep and also took a dip in the waterfall!
The final descent came up, and I was still feeling really fluid so I leaped and skipped my way down to the next road crossing. I had to put on the brakes pretty hard at the road crossing, and as I hit the far side of the road my right calf cramped. If you follow my blog or know me personally, you know cramping is normal for me on Ultra distances, but this cramp was more because of hip compensation than anything else. I wasn't too disturbed by it, so dug my knuckle into the muscle, and slowed the pace. Felix and a few others cruised past me, I jogged the final leg into the beach. Kristin caught up and asked if I wanted to sprint in with her, which I declined but I urged her to make up some spots and go for it, which she did.

I literally jogged along the beach, and asked some spectators if the finish line was in the water or that way . . . I seriously thought about taking a detour, but the finish was a couple hundred meters away.
I ran in slow motion style with exaggerated motions across the finish, smiling and happy.

Finish Line Post Jog

I glanced at my watch for the first time just to stop it from tracking any further and quizzically checked the time on the official clock. I think I was within seconds of my last year race!! What the cheese. I was on a shopping trip to the mall on this race, window shopping and chatting with the neighbours and I almost PR'd?! Right on! I think I have a new race strategy.

WRM Kids

Lianne finishing her first trail race (spent).
Gregan, Michelle de Beer, Me
Colin, Me, Craig (w Radio), Al, Andy J.

John and I have a shirtless hug thing going on!

Joseph with a photo bomb of Paris' photobomb of my wife, all being photobombed by a shirtless guy in the background.

Post race festivities were amazing, with tons of food, friends and laughs. We headed to the water after a good while and shared our experiences with each other, and then my family and I had a burger BBQ on the beach. What a superb Saturday. From the race itself, the organization, the feeling and all the fun that was had, it was a definite highlight and a great way to kick off the 2015 season.

Official Time: 1:26:20 (only 18s slower than last year!)
Official Placing: 97 out of 242
Strava File Click Here

Up Next: Iron Knee 25k in two weeks!