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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Stay On Target!

Gold Five

When it comes to long distance running, there's no such thing as a "bad run" unless you crash and burn so badly that you're out due to injury (like Gold Leader, although Gold Five was way cooler, he'd be an awesome pacer).
Going up DV in January

To that effect, the long run on Sunday March 9th was what I would call "Perfectly Imperfect".
It was exactly what I needed. It was going to be my longest run of the season, and the most mileage per week this year. January was spectacular for running and I had some great sessions on the trail and road. I've also been keeping my kickboxing going, so fitness level was all good.

February, in a nutshell sucked. With a flu, shitty weather, and lots of work stress, there was a 16 day period of zero activity, lots of hours at work, and no trail time. Even side fitness was suffering.
Once the chest cleared up, work details started getting sorted out with lots of diligent hard work and a few more grey hairs, March is looking very, very good.
Coming down DV in January

Time on the feet has reignited, but the first Ultra of the season, Diez Vista 50k is approaching fast: as in April 5th fast. My goals for this race are simple. Treat it as an experience to get better at Ultra Running. Simple .

Leading into the training for this race, I had positive thoughts and zero time goals. I really just wanted to get out into the woods and enjoy the day. Despite this goal, I hadn't had enough time on the feet or moments on a long run to ensure success here.

I set up a run with our group We Run Mas wherein we would start in Deep Cove, run towards Grouse Mountain and go in that direction for 3 hours. At that point, no matter where we were, we would turn back and head back to Deep Cove, either via the same route or a neighbouring  trail that would get us to BP at the top of Mount Seymour.

Vera, Carolyn, Andy (aka Deer in Headlights) and me

The run started awesome, and I was SUPER aware of my nutrition and hydration. I was fuelling before I needed to and moving at a deliberate but controlled pace to understand what my "safe" zones were. Carolyn, Vera and Andy all were on this run in different stages, Vera from start to finish. Carolyn did a short section to get back on the trails post injury, and Andy was doing the "reverse" direction to us, so he would start and finish at Grouse mountain.

By the time we hit Lynn Valley at about kilometre thirteen, I could feel my stomach start to turn. Ugh, not again. So early?!  Just before this point we ran across Solana and Hilary and they ran with us towards Grouse.
The crew took off and I slowed the pace to keep the gut in check. Just as we hit Lynn Headwaters, I took a Tums and steadily went up the stairs and climb to Old Mountain Highway.

The whole gang was waiting at the fountain and this is when the little devil on my left shoulder popped up and slaughtered the little angel on the right shoulder with a quick whip of its tail and a spear to the throat. "Hey Vera, why don't you run with the others and I'll turn around here," says the devil. "You can then run back and catch up to me, and we'll get into Deep Cove together. What do you say?"

Vera then does the BEST thing I needed that whole day. Maybe in my whole trail running history. She looks me blank in the face, looks at her watch, and says, "You said 3 hours in one direction. You have 15 more minutes. Let's go," as she turns before I can respond and heads up the technical slope in front of us. So we go.

Long runs are meant to pull you into and through these moments. Take you to the edge, toss you off, and make you realize that you can come out the other end. I fall behind over the next few kilometres and reach them at a walkway. Stomach is feeling better but my heart rate is really high and I know the difference between puking and staying settled is a matter of pace. Andy, Solana and Hilary all take off towards Andy's car, and Vera and I hit 3 hours and 5 minutes before turning back. Vera has ginger on her, which I haven't experimented with, so I pop a couple of the sugar coated magical pieces.

When I feel good, I run good. GINGER!!

Lo and behold, I feel good! Ginger is the key! We take Varley Trail to the Seymour Conservation Forest and follow the Iron Knee course to the Seymour Grind. It's a slow haul, and I forget to drink fluid, the temperature rises, and my face gets flush. Moments later, I'm cramping. We're at 23 km, and I slog up the hill and we talk about chicken curry.

Once at the top, I tell Vera about Nick's amazing push during Knee Knacker where he was cramping and still charging ahead. So, I'll channel Nick!
I take a few aggressive leaps down the trail, starting the descent, and my calf cramps up. "Is that all you got?" I tell myself. I push hard and Vera and I bound and leap and run down to Deep Cove and I feel great.

I dropped to the ground 50 feet from the parking lot with the hardest calf cramp of my life, and Vera's having a chuckle. We end up at Honey's donuts. Doesn't everyone? 31k and 5 1/2 hours of running (our return was faster, largely due to the route back)

The long run teaches us a lot. It brings us down and takes us up. I'll call it Emotional Elevation Training or E.E.T.
It does get better on the other side. Running with friends rocks! They push you. They don't give you the out. You're like a drug addict that wants to escape, and they ground you in reality, force you to face the devil and despite the shackles you have slung over your shoulders, and around your legs, your friends help push you through the adversity and deal with it. If I was solo, I might have found a way out. But I was accountable to the promise I made of the time we were going to run, and Vera held me to it. I had to deliver on that promise.

Recovery the next day was super. I felt great. My legs weren't sore, my calf was tender, but otherwise I felt wonderful. I rehydrated, refuelled and ate enough to replenish all that I diminished. The lessons I learned on this run helped me on the following weekend after when I did an orientation run with a dozen awesome trail peeps on the Diez Vista course.
me, Peter, Andrew, Melissa, Doris. About to start part deux!

My wife Simone, Melissa, Doris, Andrew, Erik, Peter and a host of others all came out to run on the Saturday morning. Most of them did 15k to 21k that day, but I had my heart set on a 5 hour run and got 31.5 glorious roots, rocky, muddy, windy kilometres in. George, who invented the Diez Vista race 18 years ago, even showed up and brought us donuts!

Geroge chatting us up

Aid station trunk

Waiting on a few more . . .

This coming weekend, we're running the back end 23k of the Squamish 50 course on an official orientation run (once again, we'll follow Gary's chalk markers), and then on Sunday it's 13k on the Cap Crusher race. So a back to back weekend of a long slow distance and then a hard push on a difficult 13k course with about 10 feet of flat sections.

I was concerned that I was going into Diez Vista 50k undertrained. Physically, that will still likely hold true, but  after the trials and tribulations and the coming to terms with myself on a deeper level, mentally I'm ready. It's gonna be a hard race, no questions. But I'm gonna enjoy the crap out of it!

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