Sunday, 24 February 2013


(Instead of slowing down, I shine brighter) - courtesy of

After 5 weeks or so of physio approved, slow build up back to decent mileage, it was time for a change. My legs had been feeling fresh every workout. Come 6pm, I wasn't a sleepy mess. I even had 3 glasses of wine one night without become a narcoleptic drunk.

All of that changed this past weekend, when I got back in the trail run routine of back-to-back workouts.

avalanche warning
I changed my Saturday plans from the BCMC hike and 10k run to a two hour trail run due to the avalanche warning. I saw it on the news - okay. My triathlete friend texted me about the warning - however, he's had a mortal fear of the BCMC ever since I made him do the Grouse Grind, in snow, in racing flats, without yak traks. So him saying something bad will happen on Grouse in the snow is pretty much any e-mail conversation I've had with him, ever. Then I heard from Barry about the risk. Barry makes a lot more questionable choices involving mountains, so I listened to him. I asked trail expert and local North shore celebrity Brooke for advice. She said to do what I felt comfortable with. I felt comfortable with doing easy routes like the seawall without risk of death and misdirection - so I've been running outside my comfort zone since last year.

I made the executive decision to not die on the snow. Instead, Lucy, Katie and I encountered snow in a less scary setting: slipping around as we ran down the Baden Powell towards Lynne Headwaters. The sunlight shone through the trees, and we were steaming by the end of the run. I ended the run going down skyline back towards the parking lot in the last section of the trail, with a view of the fresh snow on the Lions, sun warming my legs.

OCD runner
Three weeks to Chuckanut 50k race and my longest run to date had been....28k. The plan was to a 27k trail run, plus 10k bonus on flat stuff. I was able to convince Meghan to not only take the 6:30am ferry over from the sunshine coast, but to join me for the entire 37k of awesome. The run was on Sunday. I started planning this run...the Monday before. A bit over-eager.

With the help of Dr. Ramsey, I was able to organize one of the more complicated run plans ever. The organization started Monday. By Friday, there were two potential meeting places, no start time, and some confused participants. And two extra runners who couldn't make the actual run, but wanted to be there for the after-brunch. Thanks to Ramsey's organization, everything came together. We met up with Allison (who was doing her own epic 22mile marathon training run) and ran our first portion: 12k from Park Royal to Lynne and Dempsey (it was supposed to be 10k - distance estimation isn't really my strong suit). From here, we would run the Dirty Duo 25k run course.

getting warmed up
We started the run in the rain. Allison did a great job leading us to the trailhead. (Ramsey didn't really trust me to navigate on my own, so it was nice to have our own personal guide) When the pace we were running along the flat road felt hard, I realized that this might not be the easiest day. 12k and some uphill later, we met up with Brooke, Katie, Sarah, Ramsey boyfriend Donovan? He had asked about my run plans the night before. I told him: messy trails, snowy trails, a lot of climbing, and more mud. Typically, these types of descriptions don't sell people outside of my usual group of crazies. After spending some time researching on garmin connect the night before (due to continued post-Grand Canyon trust issues), he decided that he loved mud, snow, and uphill climbing way more than Ironman training. 

By the time we started the trail section, I was completely soaked. This was helpful, as the trail quickly became a series of muddy puddles. Donovan and Sarah had the idea that they could somehow keep their shoes dry and did a lot of bonus mileage by navigating around the huge puddles on the trail.

second time is the charm
I had done the Dirty Duo race last year. I remember the slick, sloping boardwalks, huge puddles and the last snowy climb. I also remember taking a wrong turn, and ending up back at the top of the largest climb...twice. At this point, the aid station volunteers didn't trust me to to navigate the 200m or so through the forest to the parking lot, and I got escorted to the road. A very nice volunteer picked me up and then drove me back to the finish area. The race director had no idea how I was able to get lost so badly.

So what I'm saying is that I was not left in charge of directions this year.

it's fucking cold
It rained the entire time we were out running. Except for the part where it snowed. I was soaked after the first hour. Sometimes, I feel my search for the perfect waterproof run jacket is like searching for wine that will not make you feel hungover the next day: maybe it exists, but all experience has proven otherwise. The only way I kept warm was to keep moving.

About 3.5hrs into mine and Meghan's run, we started to climb up Old Buck trail. Maybe we just weren't pushing ourselves, because as soon a we hit snow we just got pretty damn cold. At the top of the climb, a (literally) steaming Ramsey gave Meghan his running jacket - and then did it up for her, as her hands were too frozen to operate a zipper. The uphill on snow was the easy part. The downhill was technical: lots of mountain bike ramps, sharp drop-offs, roots, and rocks. (normally - scary but pretty damn fun). When this was coated in a layer of slick snow, it just became scary.

By this point, neither Meghan or I could feel our feet (we couldn't feel our hands either, but we didn't need these for the downhill, so less concerning). At some points, the snow disappeared from the trail - replaced by an icy stream. Meghan is a fellow believer in run mantras. Her favourite one is short, sweet, and to-the-point: "I feel good! I feel GREAT!".

As we creaked our way down the trail, I started to yell it out: "I FEEL GOOD." Meghan chimed in: "I FEEL GREAT!". It might not have helped me to get any warmer, but it definitely scared some wildlife.

Finally, I was chasing a way-out-in-front Brooke and Sarah up Homestead, where the run ended - and dry clothes were waiting.

Dr. Ramsey's running instructions

Four of us girls bee-lined for the one washroom in order to get into warm clothes. It took forever to change, mostly on account of not being able to feel my hands.

The rest of the day I was a bit run-stupid.

The day after...I was just hungry as hell.

The day after that...well, that tempo sure was a bit of a shock.

It's good to be back to training :)

pull along
I was supposed to do the run at a "reasonably hard" effort - basically, find my edge, and see how long I could run there for 4+ hours. On my own, this would have been a pretty big challenge. It was great to run with a group...and ours was a big one, with everyone helping in some way. Somehow, I managed 41k, 1300m, a ton of swearing on the uphills, and NO ROLLED ANKLES.

Ramsey (who had originally organized the run to be him and a lot of females) - in charge of singing Disney songs on downhills AND a very challenging uphill. Also apparently has a built in heater, as he gave up his rain jacket to Meghan on the snowiest and highest section of the trail. Also had the most matching outfit.

Brooke - in charge of leading the run, navigating the run, and also had the most efficient bathroom breaks of anyone on the run ("My hands are so cold I'm not sure if I'll be able to pull up my pants after this."). Powered on the uphills, floated down the tricky descents and somehow was still able to kick it up Homestead hill after 3+hrs of running....and then went to work for 6 hours after. I think North shore people are just a hardier folk?

Donovan - runner up in the matching outfit award. Was worried he overpacked for bringing extras of dry gloves, etc, which he didn't get to use as they were instead given out to freezing females. Went up a tough uphill, discussing the delicate politics of changing lanes in morning swimming class. Totally killed the run...good thing he has two more days to enter into his first love, the kneeknacker lottery.

Katie - my transrockies training bestie not only braved both trail runs with me on Saturday and Sunday - but also my driving on both days! She was so hardcore that she left immediately after the run, took several buses home to just make her 1:45pm pickup for a ferry to the island (and didn't even have time for a shower anywhere in there).

Sarah - Fresh off a debut 1:29 half-marathon, she came out to run in teeny road socks and no discernible food - and totally killed it! The best positive attitude ("this is just a bunny hill!") even with a fairly alarming, bleeding blister/leg by the end of the run.

Meghan - went along with my somewhat ambitious run plan, and stayed tough and focused  I think the 12k on concrete to the trailhead was one of her longer road runs? Now is in charge of organizing a sunshine coast trail trip (hopefully with less terrifying downhill? please?), finishing with an "ice bath" in the beach in front of her apartment!

Nathan and Barry get special mentions for travelling all the way out to North Vancouver for brunch. Nathan's half-serving of brunch also made me doubt some of my own recovery food choices.

Me - I got really bad chafing (I would post pictures, but this is a family website/blog).

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Free Garmin 110 (Live Dangerously)

Free to a good home:

A semi-reliable Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS watch. Comes with charger. There was a heart rate monitor - I used it once and then perma-loaned it to my triathlete friend. Purchased in 2009.

This watch is ideal for someone who likes to live on the edge and embrace the unpredictable nature of life, as it freezes up for no reason.

I have used this watch for months at a time - completely fine. Then, in a several day span, it will freeze up and be completely oblivious to the reset function. Then, just when you have lost all hope and patience - the familiar beep, the reset, and Garmin wants to tell you how far, how fast, and how high your last run was.

This watch has successfully made it through a 50mile race and a 50k training run like a trooper, beeping out split after split. This watch has also frozen up on two half-marathons, completely unable to reset. Going out for a run with this watch is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get!

Going out for a tempo and unsure whether to do it by your coach's pace or body feel? Let the watch decide for you!

Want to run longer than coach's set distance? This watch will die 30k into a long run, so you can do illicit bonus mileage!

Have a running "frenemy" whose next race you want to sabotage? This is the perfect gift! Like a running Trojan Horse.

I have had a great run with this watch - we have done many tempos, intervals, and even a marathon together. Now, it is time to part ways.

If you are in need of a watch that mostly doesn't fuck you over in a race, please leave a comment telling me why I should give YOU the watch. The watch goes to the best / most entertaining comment. If, by some miracle, there are more comments than just a joking one left by Barry Young, I can be convinced by wine / chocolate / food also.

As for me - my triathlon friend sold me one of his three garmin watches (I guess it's like pets or kids - you need more than one so they can play with each other?).  My races will be a little less exciting without the constant threat of my watch deciding that it doesn't really want to work, but it's a step that I'm ready to take.

correction #1: it is two garmin watches and two garmin bike computers - because that is so much better.

correction #2: my tri friend is willing to part with one of his HR monitors to use with this watch if there is a really good comment.

Monday, 11 February 2013

First Half 1/2 Marathon (what doesn't break you, makes you)

This pretty much sums up my weekend (okay, my week...and pretty much my life lately): awesome runs, and even better friends...(also, cats, trails, and creeping on shirtless ultrarunners).

Meghan decided to do the race as a fairly-last minute decision, and stayed over at my place the afternoon and night before the race. After a pre-race-dinner of beets and quinoa, we grabbed Katie (who was ready to again brave my parking skills) and headed over to the Ezzat's to watch "Unbreakable", a movie about the 2010 Western States 100mile race. The video was about the fight for first place (and a new course record) between Geoff Roes, Anton Krupicka's bare smokeshow torso, Killian Jornet and his white Salomon spandex short shorts (Ramsey; "they're euro"), and Hal Koerner. The movie made me want to race hard. The movie made Katie want to "just go super natural, let it all go", like her crush Anton, which I think means not shaving all summer? It was great to chill out with friends...and even get in some cat time.

go time
I bounced out of bed before my alarm, put coffee on, and tried to make conversation with a slightly less awake Meghan. She indulged me for a morning viewing of my favourite 2011 North Face 50mile video. She also managed to convince me not to wear my toque to race in - I wanted to go for the Anton Krupicka "natural" look.

I made us leave way too early to jog down to the Roundhouse (all the way in the wilds of Yaletown) to check a bag. This gave us time to stand around a couple thousand nervous runners, and get cold. This also gave me time to "borrow" physio Ramsey's gloves (I asked for them to keep my hands warm pre-race, and just sort of didn't give them back...). It was cold, the gun went off....and everyone went off like bats out of hell. It's a bit demoralizing, but this is pretty much how any race/VFAC workout, ever, goes for me. I found Allison, and we chatted and did our best to hold ourselves back to a pace that wasn't going to make us vomit in the first 15 minutes.

so much thank you
The best parts of the race, hands down? All the amazing team members who came out to cheer for us. Racing hurts - it's supposed to hurt - and when the niggling conversation of "why the fuck does my main hobby involve pain and sweat?" start, it's great to have all my friends cheering you on. I saw Brooke about 6k in (and I could hear her even before I saw her). The best was Katie with her HUGE AWESOME SIGN, including my favourite inspirational quote ever ("What doesn't break you, makes you.") So many people came out to cheer! It was a reminder of why I love VFAC so much: in every race, things start to to fall apart, and it's a huge victory to keep going when than happens. No matter what time  I get, I love the feeling that my teammates are there supporting me every (somewhat painful) step of the way.

The start of the race was feeling good - I can be sure of this up to 8k in. At exactly 8k, my menopausal Garmin froze. No amount of button pressing / swearing could re-set it. I couldn't even set it up as a straight-timer / clock. On tempos, I try to run and not look at my watch (too much). I know this is how I'm supposed to run. And I usually am able to do it - but it's still nice to have my Garmin to look at, just it case. Like the running equivalent of a safety blanket. Suddenly, all this kinda-zen, kinda-far-out "listen to your breath, run with joy, sense your body" shit that I talk about...was actually happening.

No, Garmin, fuck YOU.
I was still running, so I just focused on distracting the runners ahead of me with my signature pregnancy noises and chasing down hardcore Sunshine coast trail runner Meghan. It took me the better part of 4kms, but I finally caught her with a butt-slap. Instead of hello, her greeting was: "I feel nauseous". (welcome to road running, Meghan!).

this kind of sucks
With about 6k to go, things started to hurt - normal. I had no idea what pace I was hurting at - I did know that I was coming up to the second beach underpass again...and there was Katie, yelling: "Just pound it out!". At second beach with about 3k to go....there was Lucy! She had run all the way over from 21st and Marine in West Vancouver to come out to cheer. Amazing.

The last bit of the run I just worked to use my BCMC power-hiking skills.  I pushed up the last mini-hills: under the Burrard bridge and then up and under the Granville bridge. Then I rounded the last corner, saw the clock, and thought "holy shit how'd that happen?". I finished in 1:25.32, 3rd age group, 12th overall...and really tired.

It turns out that when there is a very small finish area, and many people are coming through, you are not supposed to block the way to wait for your friend to come in. You are maybe also not supposed to yell: "Fuck yeah sub-1:27!!" when she rocks a 1:26.10 half marathon and huge PB.....sorry PRR, and thanks again for putting on an amazing race.

1:25.32 and 1:19.26 (FYI my legs are the ones on the left)

recovery run
I woke up Monday morning feeling a bit stiff, sore and creaky. I guess 21k of concrete does that to me. The best way to loosen up? A physio-approved trail run with Ramsey and Meghan. Thankfully Meghan was a bit broken from the day before - even so, the first uphill climb was a bit of a shock. I found my trail legs, and had an amazing time weaving over slick roots, wet rocks, and rolling climbs. It was misty and perfect - even when I took a superman-style wipeout.

The run ended like many of my trail runs: one last uphill, me saying something about walking it out, and Meghan: "just suck it up."

Now...time to sabotage my race weight and watch the rain.