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JD's Ridiculous Endeavors

Stupid things that pop into my mind while training.

Updated: 2018-03-06T05:27:17.219-05:00




I haven't posted anything since my pre-Leadville post. Quite frankly, it's been a tough end of season.

Leadville went exactly like last year, except worse. Actually, things went great until Twin Lakes. I got there pretty close to my planned time but after that things went down the toilet. It was really hot (for the Rockies) and my plan to run to the base of the pass didn't pan out. I ran some but walked quite a bit. As soon as I started climbing, I knew I was screwed. The climb was horrible, much worse than last year and I knew I wouldn't be able to finish. Took a breather at the Hope Pass aid station where they were starting to run out of stuff. Then I started going down. The trail was just PACKED with runners coming up and the trail is very narrow.

To make a long story short, when I got to the bottom I decided to stop at Winfield. I slowed way down and took breaks because I knew that if I got there before the cut-off they would try to push me back out and I didn't want to have to argue. I got there something like 5 minutes after the cut-off, out of energy and out of water. Found a ride and got out of Dodge. That's the story.

You might have heard the horror stories about the organization. They are all true, but that's not why I didn't finished. I was undertrained. I don't think it's physically possible for me to train for this race in Toronto. I think I could have done it last year but those extra miles screwed me. This year, the course was back to it's original length but my training just wasn't there. I doubt I'll be able to spend another summer training in the mountains so basically, I don't think Leadville will happen for me. Another issue is that I refuse to give those guys any more money. When I got to Winfield 5 minutes late, the aid station was packed up and there was no water left. I showed up with no water left and I was PARCHED. There must have been a few hundred runners behind me and when they showed up, they were all screwed. The next day, we waited FOREVER for our drop bags. For people who DNF, waiting until 1 or 2 PM for drop bags is not fun. I was ready to leave by 8 AM.

If you have a crew, forget about it. Access to aid stations is a nightmare, with people having to park miles from the aid station. They say there's a shuttle, but it's a joke. There are hundreds of crews and the shuttle is a small 10 or 12 seater that fills up immediately.

So that's it for Leadville.

Three weeks after I came back, I tried to run Haliburton but I dropped after 50 miles. I wasn't recovered enough and I was hurting too much, or I didn't want it enough.

I'm currently in Arizona, in the runner's land of milk and honey. I try to run as much as I can on beautiful trails, perfect weather and nice 15-20C temperature. We will see what 2014 brings.

Leadville 2013, Pre-Race


.... cricket, cricket ...

I got nothin'. My brain can't come up with a post.

All I know for certain is that I will suffer and that this year, there are no excuses.

'nuf said.

JD vs Leadville : Here We Go Again


I thought I’d give you proof of life, three weeks before the race.A few weeks ago, I ran the Creemore Vertical Challenge, in oppressive heat. It was horrible. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s the second time in a row that I stagger through 30C+ weather while baking under the sun on those fucking rural roads. This is it. I’m never going back. Even the joy of sitting in the river after the race felt wrong. It reminded me too much of the joke: “Why do you keep hitting you head on the wall? Answer: Because it feels so good when I stop!” I love the people there, but enough is enough. One can only take so much character building.My training is actually going pretty well. Compared to many other ultra runners I know, my running volume is a bit on the low side but when I look at my racing history, I don’t really see a big correlation between volume and performance in ultras. I mean I do run quite a bit, but let’s just say I have NO hundred miles weeks on my training log. I suspect that this will translate into a long, painful recovery after the race, but as long as I get my belt buckle, I don’t care. I’ve booked two weeks of vacation as soon as I come back from the race, so who cares? About three weeks ago, I started sleeping with my head enclosed to a plastic box connected to an infernal machine that sucks the oxygen out of the air. As the machine is pretty noisy and it also warms up the air, it gets a bit clammy in there so I’ve been sleeping in the basement where it’s nice and cool. The hose that brings the air in the box makes this continuous “pfhhhhh PFIIIIIIIISSSSHHHHH”, as if I’m on a ventilator, which I suppose I kind of am. I’m currently sleeping at the equivalent of 9,500 feet. My skull feels as if it’s filled with cotton balls and I’m grumpy as hell but I’m feeling better every day AND my running is great. Who cares if I lose my friends, wife and job, as long as my running is great, hey?I decided to go for the altitude tent because I don’t want to have any excuses, should my resolve waiver during the race. I can’t afford to think: “the altitude is killing me, I’ll just come back next year and I’ll get an altitude tent”. No. This is it, this is the year where I throw everything I have at this race. I am not going back. This weekend is my last big weekend of running, which means that I’m starting my taper on Monday. I love tapers. My running is really strong right now. My legs feel great. My mind is a bit slow, what with the oxygen deprivation, but when I run I feel like I’m in a really good place. For a long, long time, I’ve been battling some kind of running boredom where I just want the run to be over almost as soon as it starts. Touch some wood, but things have improved quite a bit lately and I’m actually enjoying my runs, even if it’s on that goddamn bike path.I got a few toys for the race. First, I got me some hiking poles. I didn’t think I’d be a big fan of the poles but they are kind of growing on me. Last week, I went to Sulphur for a couple of loops and I ran the second loop (20km) with them and I quite enjoyed it. When I lived in Quebec, I used to cross-country ski quite a bit and I settled into a rhythm similar to skating (but didn’t really push hard) with both poles swinging pretty much together as opposed to alternating. I found this oddly relaxing and this makes me wonder if maybe I won’t keep the poles all the way to the finish after I pick them up at Twin Lakes, just before Hope Pass. I had planned to dump them when I got back, but I think I’m going to keep them at least until Half Pipe. Sure would be nice to have them going up Power Lines, though… Anyway, this is where I am with the poles.The second toy is a Garmin Fenix GPS watch. Ever since I started running ultras, I’ve been bitching against the fact that no GPS watch could last anywhere close to enough time for a hundred miler. Once your batteries are a few years old, you sometimes can’t even last long enough for a 50[...]

Sulphur Springs 50K 2013 Race Report


I was a bit nervous about this race. I had to go to the well at Bear Mountain, so I was wondering how I was going to do since I wanted to run it reasonably hard. I hadn't run a 50k since Pick Your Poison 2011 and I mean run, not race. Can't even remember last time I actually started a 50k with the intention of running hard. That's the thing with training for 100 milers, it takes the fun out of everything else. All the other races end of leaving a bit of a sour taste in your mouth because you know you could have done better.Not this time. My plan was to run my best trail 50k ever. My fastest 50k will always be Niagara, which was on road. I will never beat that time (4h46) because I will never run a 50k on road again. Of all my other races of that distance, my best time was at Creemore in 2009 with a 5h45. Sulphur is an arguably easier course so beating that time should not be an issue, especially if the weather cooperates.The mental aspect of my running is not going great this year. I'm working hard at my job and it's hard to be 100% commited to both. You have to cut the apple somewhere and this year, the working piece is bigger than the running one. It's especially hard when you see your friends pulling 50 or 60 mile weeks. So I have to be reasonable and I will only run one 100 miler this year so Sulphur had to be a shorter distance. By the time I decided to run Sulphur at all, the 50 miler was full so I decided I would run a solid 50k.All week I dreaded the race, even though it looked like the weather would be perfect for racing. I didn't even look at the web site for the start time until Friday afternoon. I got up at 4:30AM, got dressed and drove off to Ancaster. A huge full moon hung just above the road. I got there too fast. I really didn't feel like running. It was freezing but I had dressed warmly. It was weird. Even though I didn't want the race to start, there was no way I was going to run easy. A few people mentioned I should just go easy and enjoy the race, if I didn't feel like racing. It somehow felt wrong. If I started, I wanted to give it a good effort. Talking with Chris H, who was running his second 50k, he mentioned that he'd be happy with a 6 hour time. I told him that my plan was more something under 5:30. I knew that anything under 5:00 was basically not realistic. Under 6:00 should not be an issue. I wouldn't be unhappy with 5:30.I hadn't raced since the new location and I didn't know that the start was not at the finish line, so I almost missed the start. I rushed to the small road with maybe a minute to space. Quite frankly, the race went almost perfectly, so I don't remember much. The first short 10k loop went by really quick. By the time I got back to the start/finish, I was hot as hell so I left my long sleeve shirt at my chair and kept only my cinglet on. I raced with my hydration vest but only filled it half way with water/Nuun. It was so cool that I didn't need to drink too much. I ate a gel every 30 minutes. Those 30 minute chunks give me a nice feeling of time moving forward. Eating a gel become kind of disgusting so knowing you have to eat another one in 30 minutes somehow makes 30 minutes feel shorter so time passes faster. Some people run aid station to aid station, I run gel to gel. I didn't stop at a single aid station except one to talk to Russell B., who was volunteering there.Second loop, I can't remember a thing. I ran a solid pace. Power walked the bigger hills. Swore internally when relay people blew by me. There's something depressing about those guys being so fresh as the race goes on. After the second loop, I have 30k in. I drop my vest, take two Excedrins because my right foot is barking pretty hard. I start running and just as I start going down the big hill I notice that I forgot my hand held. Fuck. I consider fuelling at the aid stations but decide to turn around and grab my bottle.That last loop is identical to the previous one, except more painful and a bit slower. Still, I know I'm doing w[...]

Bear-rely made it


Get it? Barely, bear, bear-ely? Riiight...Being a complete moron, I signep up for TNF Bear Mountain 50 Miler again this year. This is a stupid sport, so I guess stupid people do it, ergo, I am stupid. So last Friday I ended up in my friend Steve's car, travelling toward New York City. I was supposed to camp with a bunch of other people I know, but due to a last minute personal crisis, Steve just happened to have a spare bed available in an honest-to-god hotel with a shower and a coffee maker. I immediately ditched my ex-friends and Steve became my BFF.Fast forward to Saturday, 2:30 AM. I'm actually awake when my phone start its wake-up song, volume slowly increasing. I do not want to get up. The thought of running until 6 PM tonight fills me with dread. I know what to expect: total devastation. My biggest training week this year has been about 6h30min. I don't think I've run more than 50km in a week. I've had a few solid long-ish runs of about 4 hours but that's it. On the other hand, the running I did do was sweet. All trails, tons of climbing. I hang on to that thought.A couple of hours later, I'm standing in the freezing cold with Chris, looking at the first waze go. A wave start! What is this, a triathlon? Anyway, Dean Karnazes, heard but not seen, says go and we do. I guess I'm going to run after all. Damn it. I immediately decide to DNF at mile 20. I think I'm addicted to DNFs. I haven't finished an ultra since this very race exactly a year ago. We run in the dark. Fuck, were there that many rocks last year? That being said, the terrain seems a bit dryer. The race is what it is. Of course, I overdressed and I ditch my light shell and headlamp in Chris' drop bag at the first aid station. Steve was in the first wave, but he decided to wait for us so all three of us are running together. I guess my plan to run by myself and drop quietly is out the window.We run. It's actually kind of nice. I feel good, but then again it's early. We run.  We drink. We eat. Every 30 minutes my watch beeps and I eat a gel. We pass aid stations. First thing I know, it's a bit before 10:30 and we're at the 20 mile aid station. If I quit now, I'm going to have to spend all day at the start/finish, waiting for these two guys and I don't have any money with me to drink beer while I wait. I decide to keep running. I'm actually feeling pretty good.Suddenly, a black fly flies straight into my eye. Than one in my ear. From that moment, until late afternoon, we are surrounded by small clouds of black flies. When one gets in my eye, I try to get it out with my finger but then I push salt from my profuse sweating right in there and my eye burns like hell. Did I mention it's also getting quite hot? It's not unbearable but I'm definitely sweating.One things that is different from last year is that I'm not busting my toes on rocks. I've run a lot of trails in the last few months and the combination of that and my new Cascadia 7s seems to do the trick. When we finally get to the top of the infamous river of rocks, I'm actually in a pretty good mood compared to last year. The race is coming to an end, I've stopped thinking I'm quitting at the next aid station and my feet are in decent shape as far as my toes are concerned. My ankles are a different story. My right ankle is a ball of pain, but I've come to accept it.We carefully run down the rock pile and get to the last aid station, which is a bit further than I remember. I think that at that point we have something like 2.7 miles to go. The three of us are trying to figure out if we have a problem. Our math skills are gone. All three Garmins are out of juice. I think we have plenty of time to finish but the other two idiots running with me keep getting worried. This is not how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to run faster than last year. I felt I did but I'm definitely going to finish later than last year. WTF?Anyway, we stop even trying to figure out the math and we just run at what [...]

Mesquite Canyon 30K, 2013 Edition


I ran the 2012 Mesquite Canyon 30k last year and it kicked my ass. The climb totally surprised me and I ended up pretty much walking the last few miles. This was a day of reckoning for me: my climbing and downhill skills weren't just bad, they sucked. Fast forward one year to Mesquite Canyon 30k 2013. After getting up at 4:15AM and driving to the White Tank Mountain Regional Park near Phoenix, here I am standing at the start. I haven't raced since Leadville. I'm not sure I want to be there. I'm afraid of what's going to happen. I was pretty confident last year. My training volume was way up and although I didn't admit it, I was hoping for a solid race. That didn't happen. What if the same thing happens again? My training is going well, but I'm not running as much although I'm running faster. I know my trail skills have improved. The times for my various training run courses have been going down dramatically in the last few months. I feel good. I felt good last year, too. Gulp.The weather is perfect, around 65F and the temperature should go above 75. It's sunny, as usual. My goals for this race are: one, try not to fall and two, try to finish under 3h30. That's a 23 minutes improvement over last year. On the exact same course. I haven't PR'd at ANYTHING in years. Why do I think that I can shave almost a minute per km for the whole 30k? I'm not sure but I just feel like I should be able to run this course un 3h30. Which would make it  a huge blow if I fail.The gun goes off and I start running. I'm wearing my Garmin, my Nathan hydration vest and my new-ish Cascadia 7. I mis-seeded myself and I have to pass a few people. I don't want to start too slow. I remember running the first 10k, which is all runnable, pretty hard last year. To beat my time by such a big margin, I need to run it faster and then I need not to bonk. I run the downhills as fearlessly as I dare, I power up the uphills. After the fact, I'll find out that my pace varies between 5 and 6 minutes per km for the first 9 km, depending on the incline. Then the climbing starts. I settle into a more conservative climbing pace. I know that this will get progressively worse until I get to the top at km 14, after climbing 1800 vertical feet. After a while, probably around 11 km, I have to stop running. I power hike up the hill. I get passed by three people but that's it. I climb as fast as I can so that I don't have to stop. I only stop every 30 minutes to open a gel and stow away the garbage. Walking without looking down is not a good adea when you're on a two feet wide trail on the edge of a cliff.I keep going up, running the few less steep sections. I'm tired but I feel ok. I get to the first false summit, take a quick look around and start running. I have a bit of a side stitch. The next few kms are rolling, all of it runnable. I pass the 15km mark at almost 2h00. I can't remember what I did last year. This gives me 90 minutes to come back down. That sounds short! I see one of the guys who passed me, not too far ahead, hiking up the next climb. Ah, ah! That one was pretty much my age and he wore COMPRESSION SOCKS! God, I hate compression socks. I keep running and after 30 minutes, a bit longer than expected, I pass him. He knew I was coming and resisted a bit but you can only push so hard with almost 10k to go. We've merged with the half-marathon course and that gives me a few rabbits to chase. I start coming down. I remember being a bit freaked out last year. I remember the course as being crazy-rocky and impossible to run fast. This time, I'm powering down at a decent clip. For me. At least, I'm not breaking much so my quads are feeling good. I blow through the aid station without refilling. The trail is getting steeper and more rocky but I go as fast as I dare. I get to a switchback section where I remember last year I was afraid that my quads were going to fail. I'm feeling great. Down, down,[...]

A New Year


I hate stating the obvious, but it's been a while since my last post. Leadville, and the way it happened, really screwed with my mind. When I came back, I actually signed up for Virgil Crest but I just wasn't there mentally and even physically. I had quite a bit of pain in my right ankle. That's the physical part. The thing is, I always have SOME pain there but usually I can ignore it but for some reason, the thought of running 100 miles with the constant pain is something that I couldn't bear. I took a few days off running the week before the race and I went for a short run the day before I was supposed to leave for V.C. No change. I pulled the plug. That left me with no qualifying race for Western States so I couldn't even put my name in the lottery. I did finish Bear Mountain but it took me more than the minimum time for WS so it was no good for me.I started a new job on October 1st, after being off since June 1st. My previous employer needed to lighten their payroll. It had not been unexpected, since many of my co-workers had suffered the same fate over the last couple of years. What was unexpected was how much it affected me at first. One nice thing about my ex-employer is that they know how to fire people, so they gave me a decent package. I decided not to even look for a job until the Fall, so I spent a really nice summer once I got over the initial shock.OK, so I started my new job in October and it was pretty intense. My running was shit, so I decided to take a month off running, which I did, couch potatoing for 5 or 6 weeks. Don't do it. I know I won't. In retrospect, I should have gone spinning a couple of times a week but I don't have a gym membership anymore and I hate cycling, so I didn't. Starting again after the break was just horrible. I felt like I had lost all my fitness. To add insult to injury, after a couple of runs, my ankle felt just as bad as before the break.So here I am, staring 2013 in the face, the ghost of Leadville hovering over my head like a dark cloud. Leadville registration opens in 3 hours. I'm going to sign up. This is the last time I'm going to Leadville. I can't believe I'm going to give them my money again after what they did last year, but I just have to know if I can finish that damn course.For now, we're in Arizona for a while and I'm enjoying the snow-free running. I'm thinking about running the Sedona Marathon next month even though I would be way under-prepared. If not, there's a sweet trail 15 miler near Phoenix, the XTERRA McDowell Mountain, that same weekend.Last weekend run up Munds Wagon trail.Looking forward, my goal for 2013 is obviously to finish Leadville but also, I need to look into what is wrong with my ankle/Achilles. It's obviously not getting any better. I actually bought a pair of Cascadia 7, hoping that the additional cushioning (compared to the Crosslites) will help. We'll see what happens. I like them, but they don't feel as "tight" as my Crosslites. I'll give them a chance though.Another race I want to do this year is Bear Mountain. I want to go back and run it a bit harder. Try to kick a few less rocks, you know, although losing those pesky toenails early in the season was nice. I was able to trail without worrying about them all summer! Now they're back and I hate caring for them, trying to grow them straight.This is it. We're all caught up. Happy New Year to all of you![...]

Leadville Fiasco - DNF by Spreadsheet


The two days leading up to the race, Carlos kept saying: "I wish I could just wake up on Saturday afternoon at Winfield (the turn around aid station)". Well, all of us would have missed the most critical part of the race and in some cases, what was to be our entire race.I have to say that this was the first time I followed a plan so closely, only to lead me into a situation where it became impossible to finish. I ran out of time, although I was still 45 minutes ahead of the cut-offs at Winfield. Sounds weird? Here's how it happened.Some of us had sent emails to the race director regarding an additional trail section that they had tried to use for years so that runners wouldn't have to run on the road section that leads into Winfield. That road is really dusty and the cars lift up a lot of dust and runners apparently hate that section. The rumour is that it added over 3 miles to the course (1.6 miles each way), all of it in the Twin Lakes to Winfield section, arguably the toughest part of the race. After running 50 miles, 3 miles of rolling trail can easily add over an hour of so-called running, in my case maybe even more. Somehow, this fact failed to register into my oxygen deprived brain.Even at the pre-race meeting, I don't remember them telling us how much trail had been added. As far as I recall, they just mentioned that they added "some" distance but that they had added 15 minutes to the cut-offs, although not the 30 hour finish limit. Somehow, making up 15 minutes in the last 50 miles didn't seem too bad. I failed to see the real problem, which is that they had added that hour+ in one section, but only added 15 minutes to the twin Lakes cut off. To make that cut off, you had to make up the time in the FIRST 50 miles, not the second.So my original plan, which called for turning around in about 12h30 (get to Winfield before 4h30 PM) and then keep going strong, still seemed like a good plan to me. I had all the aid station times figured out. I was the man with the plan.To be fair, everyone else in the room made the same mistake. So many blogs and race reports warned about the folly of going out too fast that after the gun went off, we were all taking great pains to make sure we were running extra SLOW. God forbid we make it to May Queen in less than 2:15. Only Carlos took off at a good clip, the rest of us jogged slowly on the road, then got stuck on the Conga line once we hit the trail. On the trail, there isn't much you can do. You just follow. I was running alongside Chris because for some reason, our urge to pee seemed synchronized. I must have peed 5 times before I got to May Queen. All that peeing slowed me down a bit and I left May Queen at 2:37, a bit over the 2:30 I had planned. Not too shabby.The second section goes over Sugarloaf, a 1200 feet climb and then down Powerline. I felt really good and we passed tons of people on that section. On the way down, going pretty much all out on the nasty dirt road, I clipped a rock, couldn't recover and fell really hard. I felt something slide under my left elbow, landed on a rock on my left quad and I felt there was a good chance my race was over. I got up, looked at my elbow and saw quite a bit of blood. While walking a bit, I wiped it clean with some baby wipes I had in my vest. The blood kept coming but it was squirting. I used my gloves as compresses and kept going. My quad hurt a bit but not bad. Finally we make it to the bottom and I was sure we were at the aid station because there must have been 300 people lined up on the road. Unfortunately, we still had well over a mile to go (I think) but it felt even longer.At the aid station, I decided to show my elbow to the doctor, who cleaned it and put some gooey ointment on it but no bandage. I grabbed a few gels, refilled and took off. Time from start: 4h54, where the plan called for 4:43. Lost a bit because [...]

Pre-Leadville THoughts


Pardon me visitors, it's been two months since my last confession blog entry.My wife and I, now being freed from the shackles of parenthood (our kids have fled the coop, for now at least) have decided to spend the summer in Sedona. It's hot, but then again Toronto ain't Antarctica either, but if you get up early, the temperature is fairly cool (less than 25C) until around 9AM. For longer run,  I go up to Flagstaff where it's much cooler, especially up in the mountains where it can be down right nippy. Sometimes I leave here and it's 25C and sunny and by the time I get to the trail head, it's 12C, covered and windy.Somewhere around the saddleActually, those mountains are a big reason I was so eager to come. Mount Humphreys' trail head starts at 9,300 feet and climbs up to 12,600 over 5 miles. That's a profile very similar to the climb over Hope Pass. Not quite as steep, but the trail is nastier. I don't always go up to the very top because the last part from "The Saddle" to the summit is just a grind, but I've been there 5 times and climbed to at least 11,800ft on each occasion. From the saddle, one can then come back the same way or go around the long way following the Weatherford/Kachina trails, an added 15 miles of fun.Going to the top, with a small group from the Sedona Running CompanyWeatherford trail19 miles of funThere are some nice climbs around here as well, Wilson Mountain (+2400) and AB Young (+1800) to name a couple, although the altitude tops at around 7,000 feet. Still, that takes a toll. The rest of the trails I've done are rolling hills, with very little flat.What I'm trying to say is: I've never done so much climbing. Last Spring, I remember wondering if poor sea level Torontonians like me could ever train to run uphill. Well, last time I went up the Humphreys, I actually ran most of the way up to the saddle. Most, because some of the trail is not really runnable and also I did have to take some walking breaks in the steeper parts above 11,000. I climbed to the saddle in 1:15, more than 15 minutes faster than my previous hiking time. I remember the first time I went up and I got passed by a runner, I couldn't fucking believe that guy was doing that. What a difference a few weeks can make.Going up Wilson Mountain near SedonaSo I think I'm as ready as I can be, considering where I started at Xmas. On January 1st, I was 20 lbs overweight, still under the shock of my puking-fest at the Grand Canyon in October. One can only do so much in 8 months. I still feel I can build on what I have now and improve even more, but there's just no time. Running here is just a joy and when I think about going home, my heart sinks a little. Running is running and it shouldn't matter where you do it, but to me it just does.On top of Wilson Mountain, looking at the Humphreys in the distanceWhat can I say, it ain't just the same as looking down the Down Valley Parkway from the Crother's.We're leaving for Colorado next Wednesday. I will drop off Michelle and the cat at a pet-friendly hotel in Denver where they will wait for me. She broke her ankle hiking a few days ago, and I don't think Leadville is where she wants to be. I'm surprisingly not nervous about the race, either because I'm stupid or maybe because I know I've done pretty much everything I could to get ready for this race.[...]

Altered State


Way out there beyond the marathon, somewhere around the 50 miles mark, there is a world where things like cars, money and the Internet mean nothing, simple mental processes like addition and subtractions feel like advanced calculus and the only important things are food, pain and water. In this world, your day-to-day self that cares about and understands those things retreats and hides somewhere, waiting for the insanity to stop and those shiny things to come back.

 Entering that world is difficult, remaining in it a constant struggle which is only possible if the perceived reward is incredibly meaningful. If the persistence theory is correct, to our ancestors, that reward was food. To us, it's something that has to have some internal value that is important enough that we are willing to experience the pain that comes with the pursuit of that goal.

That world is not a better world, it's just different. It is a world where you can walk by a fellow human being who is puking his guts out five miles from any help, say "how're you doing?", and just keep on walking without giving it a second thought.

To some of us, this state is addictive. Maybe it comes from some atavistic need to live a simpler life that we fully understand and where we feel we are fully responsible for our destiny. All I know is that a few hours or days after a race, no matter how much I suffered, I already long for the next one.

One thing that makes Ultrarunning so difficult, is that problem solving skills are greatly hampered while in this altered state. Decisions like whether one is drinking enough or too much, or taking too much salt or too little, become mental struggles that are obsessed about for hours. I live in that world only a few dozen hours a year, so gaining experience is a slow and difficult process. Every race tends to be different, so applying lessons from a previous race doesn't always work. At some point, pain and anguish become such that the reward is not worth it even if the goal is attainable. The runner stops running.

 This is what happened to me at Laurel Highlands. I came into the 58 miles aid station at 9:30PM, with still a full 6 hours to finish the last 12 miles. Many things happened during the race, none of them taken individually would have been enough to end the race but as they added up, I just didn't care enough about finishing that particular race to finis those 12 miles even if I could have easily walked them. I signed my bib and DNF'd with a smile. As I sat down and drank some chicken noodle soup and calories started to feed my brain, I exited that alternate reality and my regular self came out of it's protective cocoon. Relief turned to regret, although the pain was still present enough that I still understood that I made the right choice. Maybe.

 Was it a failure of will? Maybe. I don't really care. I try not to think in absolute terms. To me, this race was a training run for Leadville. I would have loved to finish it, but that wasn't an end in itself. Too many things went slightly wrong and I went to a mental place where had I gone on, some of the darkness might have broken into my protective shell and taken Leadville away from me. There were some cracks already and I just couldn't let that go any further.

I know this was a weird race report but I think it depicts more clearly what I feel than a blow-by-blow of my various falls and nutrition issues. We've all had them and understand that sometimes, it's just not your day.

 Happy trail.

Bear Mountain Post Race Thoughts


Hindsight being 20/20, it's always interesting to look back and see what went right and what went wrong in a race. It's actually pretty important: I don't race 50 or 100 miles very often so I need to learn everything I can for those times when I do.When looking back, it's important to remember the goals I had going into the race. My main goal was to finish while maintaining a good routine. I knew the course was challenging and time was immaterial. I had stated a hope for a 11:30 to 12:00 finish, but I had summoned that number out of thin air.Nutrition: That went pretty good. I was on a one gel/one waffle per hour schedule and maintained that to the bitter end although getting those waffles in became harder as time went by. I had a close call after forgetting to drink for over an hour, but my flow meter saved my bacon and I was able to recover, although not without feeling pretty crappy for a couple of hours.Effort: I simply could not risk not finishing this race. It would have scarred me mentally in my Leadville ramp up. I have to admit that I was a bit shaken by how close to the cut-off I was at that first hard-cut-off aid station at mile 20. Still, 20 minutes at mile 20 means 50 minutes at mile 50, which means I kept gaining 1 minute per mile on the cut-off. Had I been alone, I would have gone out faster. Steve kept telling me to cool it off a bit, especially on the climbs but also on some of the flats. He's usually the one freaking out about going faster (see Mohican, Grand Canyon reports), so when he told me to slow down, I listened although I did feel like I was over-reaching. Maybe he saved my race. Maybe I could have gone faster. I doesn't matter. I finished in fairly good shape, although shocked by how tough the course was.Feet: I thought I was beyond losing toenails, especially on a 50 miler. Boy, was I wrong. Pain, and fear of pain, became my single biggest problem in the last 15 miles. I'm not too worried for now. First, that toenail is now gone so I'm good for the summer! Second, the trails at Leadville (and Laurel, I believe) are nowhere close to that technical, so I don't believe this is going to be an issue. That being said, I need to get better at running on technical terrain. Also, in hindsight, I should have run with my new pair of Crosslites. The old ones, those I wore, were a bit shriveled from previous mud and water action and the toebox felt a bit tighter. I'm also experimenting with the Vertical Ks, which have a much roomier toebox, but are less rugged.Hills: I mention that separately from "effort", because  I'm making a special effort to improve my hills. I've never been very good at climbing. I had considered trying to run most hills, but given the fact that I really wanted to finish, I just couldn't risk it. That being said, I power hiked up most of them at a good clip and passed tons of people. I did get passed a few times on shallower grades by people running up. Maybe I could have run those, but again, didn't want to risk it. This time. Really happy with this though.Downhill: I believe that running downhill on technical trails is my weakest skill. I struggled to keep up with runners that I had been catching up to on flats and uphills. On the downhills, I sometimes would lose ground. Nothing I can do except practice. Again, not a big issue for Leadville.Conclusion: Bear Mountain was a big success. I do wish I could have run faster, but doing that would have jeopardized all my other, more important, goals. I now have a solid, challenging 50 miler in the bag. This gives me some options for the Laurel Highlands 70 miler, my next race. Depending on how hot it is, I might push it a bit to see how my stomach will react. The rocks won't be as much as an issue so this will be more about my fitness than my bi[...]

Race Report: TNF Bear Mountain 50 Miles Race


Here we go again. It's 5am, I slept a total of maybe 4 hours last night and I'm standing with a couple of hundred crazy people, waiting for the start of the TNF Bear Mountain 50 miler. I'm a bit nervous because this is basically my first race this year, at least my first ultra, and I'm starting my season with what is supposed to be one of the hardest 50 milers in the US. I'm sure some are harder, but the next 13 hours will prove that there is at least some truth to that statement.Headlamps are mandatory, which I like because I'm sick and tired of losers(I first wrote assholes but some of my friends don't wear headlamps when the star in in total darkness and I don't want them to be mad at me) saying they don't need a headlamp and ride my (or other normal people's) coat tail and then don't have to be stuck with the friggin head lamp for 10 miles. Who do they think they're fooling? "I can see fine", they would say after pissing all over the porta-potty seat. What are you, a fucking cat? Anyway, everyone has a lamp and that makes me happy.Someone on the PA system tells us how much fun we're going to have and then we start moving. Within minutes, we're moving up. I'm running with Steve B., who says he's not feeling 100% and thinks my pace would be perfect for him. He's a much stronger runner than me and I take that as a compliment. We're probably about 2/3 of the way back. Very quickly, rocks start to appear. Big rocks. Lots of them. It will only get worse all day. The weather is ok. It's foggy, so very humid and warm enough that I'm comfortable starting in a t-shirt. Makes things simple, but I quickly start sweating. I feel great. I forgot to bring a watch (doh!) so I'm using my Garmin Forerunner 305 in "inside" mode to keep track of time. We mostly climb for a long time. I eat a gel on the half hour and a Honey Stinger Waffle on the hour. The course is nice but you can't really look around without risking a face plant. There are big rocks, small rocks, loose rocks, little rocks sticking out and the other kinds too. I power hike up the climbs at a solid pace. Steve tells me that maybe I should cool it down a bit, so I turn it down a notch but we still tend to make up time on runners ahead of us. This means nothing at this point. I remember very little of the aid stations. I basically fill my bladder every other station and that's it. I have a potato wedge at one of them just because it's there looking at me. I drink about 300 to 400ml/hour, and my pee is nice and golden. Time flies and I'm having a great time. We do a little of Geoff Roes hating, because he said that there were no climbs longer than 3 minutes on the course. Are you fucking kidding me?There is not a lot of flat, easy running. I don't know what our pace is but as pleased as I am with my race so far, we're not exactly setting a new land speed record. Still, we're passing people regularly so we feel good. After running for so long (over 5 hours now) and feeling so great, it's hard to believe that things will ever change. Sure I kicked a few rocks, but I still feel strong. Then we get to Skannatati aid station. All of a sudden, it seems like we're surrounded by crazy people. I guy behind us says this is the first hard cut off, at 10:47. It's around 10:30 (can't remember exactly). I'm a bit surprised, quite frankly. We've been running pretty solid and I did not expect to be so close to that cut off. Still we reload and leave. People are zooming past us for a while, scared shit-less by the cut off. It's 7 miles to the next station and I see this guy, soaked in sweat, stumble past us without any water bottles. What the fuck is he thinking? It's not Mohican or Burning River hot, but it's hot and humid enough to require drinking. This is where experience pays off[...]

Pre-race Jitters


I would be lying if I said that I'm not nervous about Saturday. All I have to do on Google now is press "B", and Google proposes "Bear Mountain NY Weather". I've been looking at the chances of rainfall for Saturday steadily climb from nearly 0% a few days ago to 70% as of 10 seconds ago. Rain sucks for two reasons: your feet get wet and it's hard to dress comfortably, especially because the temperature will climb from 10C to 24C. Taper is going ok, although I feel sluggish and tired. Well, that might be last night's beers with Chris.

I'm not sure I have a race plan. Run when I can, hike when I can't. Eat a gel on the half hour, a Honey Stinger Waffle on the hour, salt as required and drink plenty. Don't waste too much time at the aid stations. I will wear my old stinky Crosslites, since I'm not comfortable wearing the new ones after only one outing. They would probably be fine, but why risk it? Because of the course, I have no firm time goal. If you were to waterboard me and force me to make a prediction, I would probably say between 11:30 and 12:00. I pulled that number out of my ass, using a technique know as wishful thinking.

I can't say that I've been mentally stable this week. Not being able to run a 50k race prior to Bear Mountain has left me without a confidence builder. I'm going from a soul destroying 30K race in March to this. I've been looking at my training log extensively, trying to decide what makes me run well in ultras. If I'm totally honest with y'all (I've been watching Friday Night Lights), I feel like I haven't really improved since 2009, when I had most of my best races: first I broke 20 minutes on 5k in April, then my first 50 miler at Sulphur run with nice splits in 10:06, Niagara 50K run in 4:45 with perfectly even splits, and then a solid race at Creemore. After that, things went ok but not great, with maybe the exception of Susitna. I had a lot of fun, but I can't think of a race that I've been real happy with since then. Well, maybe that 15 miler in Phoenix last Winter, that was solid.

My point is that I'm a bit gun shy. I'm afraid to go too slow and not be happy with my race and I'm afraid to go too fast and blow up like I did at Sulphur in 2010. I'm pretty sure I learned something at that race though. I remember the effort level pretty clearly and I'll stay under that for sure. Doh.



I guess it's become a tradition that before any significant race, I have some kind of a "taper" or "pre-race" entry. This time is no different.With the fairly nasty weather we've been experiencing lately, this taper is more than welcome. Last weekend's 2-ish loops run at Sulphur Springs was the second time in a row where the weather has been cold and windy. At least this time, it wasn't pouring frigid rain. I'm ready for warm weather.Next stop: Bear Mountain 50 miler. Total elevation gain: 7034 feet. As far as I can tell from the elevation chart, not a flat surface anywhere and possibly some vertical ones.I feel that I'm ready to tackle the course. Derrick did a good job of pushing me to run way more than I usually do on my own. It's good that I feel that confident because it means that I'm able to go into the race without the confidence builder of running a 50K race prior to this difficult 50 miler. A couple of people in our little group are running Pick Your Poison (50K) this weekend. As much as I would love to see everyone, I just can't see an upside for me. If I ran 50k, my legs wouldn't fully recover in a week. If I ran 25k, I would probably run it too fast, being in a race and all. They say that training takes almost 3 weeks to take hold. What I mean is that today's run takes 2-3 weeks before it translates into body adaptation. There's nothing that I can do now that will improve my fitness by race day. The only thing i can do is screw it up or not keep what I gained. As we all know, we lose fitness much faster than we gain.So the plan is to keep training reasonably and try not to gain any weight. My weight loss has plateau'd as soon as I stopped counting calories a few weeks ago. I'm not where I want to be yet, so that's something I need to address soon. I'm just so hungry all the time now.It will be interesting to see how people in our little group perform at the race. There is little doubt that I will be the slowest of the four although one of them (and you know who you are) has barely been training and two of the group plan to bust up their quads at PYP this weekend (including mister minimal training). Who said the universe was fair?That being said, I plan on running a solid race. I've mentioned my nutrition problems many times in the past. I've been working really hard at staying on top of it, but it hasn't really been hot yet and that's usually when nutrition becomes difficult to manage. Hopefully, the weather won't be ridiculously hot. That always makes things worse, especially this early in the season.I got a new pair of shoes this week, a pair of La Sportiva Skylites 2.0. I had high hopes for those shoes because they are so similar to the Crosslites. If the trails were dry at Bear Mountain, my plan was to wear them for most, if not all, the race. Unfortunately, when I wore them on my long run last weekend, I didn't find them as comfortable at the original Crosslites. The trails were wet and I was fully expecting traction to suck, because the Skylites have no lugs, but I wasn't expecting the various pressure points that started to be annoying after only 5km or so. When I got back to the car, I switched back to my Crosslites and I knew I was going to race in them. I could probably get used to the Skylites, but why would I? This kind of made me worried that maybe the new Crosslites 2 have had the same "improvements" and that they may not be as perfect as the Crosslites. What would happen if (when) La Sportiva stops making the originals? The hunt for a replacement shoe resumes. I've tried so many shoes over the last couple of years. Damn.[...]

Top Shape


Racing season is fast approaching. Last weekend was the OUS Spring Warmup, a sure sign that I will be doing  something stupid, like running ridiculous distances, in the coming weeks. Ah, the smell of Spring!

Less than 3 weeks to Bear Mountain. I haven't raced a 50 miler since Sulphur Springs in 2010 and that didn't work out so well for me. I'd like to think that I'm at a better place in my training than I was two years ago. My training has been solid, I feel great, I feel strong. I under no illusion: Bear Mountain will be a b!tch. It will be my slowest 50 miles ever. It's the nature of that course. This should be an awesome, fun filled trip though. Should be a hoot and a half.

As I mentioned above, training is going well. Quite frankly, I don't remember ever having such a solid base going into the season. My training going into 2009, following Norrie Williamson's book "Everyone's Guide to Distance Running" was close, but included very little trail running outside of races themselves. My experience is that road hills are not up to the task when it comes to preparing for trails. Most road runners, when confronted with the dramatic inclines in most trail races, throw up their hands in the air and declare that trail running is not really running. I find that road runners are often obsessed with their pace and can't handle it when they have to slow down, regardless of the terrain. That's why they hate hills so much. When I'm in Sedona, how many times have I stared in amazement at runners on the sidewalk, wondering why on earth they would run on pavement when they could be out on the hundred of kilometers of amazing trails a few hundred feet from their current location. After talking to a couple of people about this, apparently the answer is pace. Who knew? More trails for us!  That being said, looking at how popular trail running is becoming, I guess that more and more people agree with us that pace isn't everything.

So, this year I've got a deeper and wider base than ever before. Hopefully, this will pay off at Bear Mountain. My biggest problem with that race is how hard to race it. When do I run up a hill rather than walk? I've run only three 50 milers and my last two have been a lesson in bonking. My first one went well, but I nearly passed out at 35 miles at Haliburton in 2009 and almost quit at 43 miles at Sulphur. Hopefully, the additional training and experience will help.

If I'm totally honest though, the thing that freaks me out the most about Bear Mountain is the deer black flies. I was reading Chris' Bear Mountain race report and he mentions swallowing a few. I can't handle deer  ANY flies, I just hate them. At least, mosquitoes respect DEET. You squirt a few shots on yourself and you're pretty much safe from them. Not so with deer (horse, black, take your pick, I hate them all) flies, who are just too fucking stupid to care. They drive me nuts, going round and round, waiting to take a chunk of flesh out of you and I'm not sure I can handle them. Yes, it is that bad. I guess we'll see.

Why Do You Keep Banging Your Head Against The Wall ?


"Because it feels so good when I stop!" goes the joke. Well, this weekend I felt like the joke was on me. My volume has been steadily increasing and I've come to the point where I'm wondering whether I'm running just because it feels so good when I don't.

For a long time now, I've been running long on Sunday and resting on Monday. This week, I ran long on Sunday (5 hours in the snow in Sedona, see pictures), ran again on Monday because I was traveling during the week then did a b2b Saturday(3:30)/Sunday(2:05). I was supposed to go longer (2:30) on Sunday but even though my legs felt fresher than they had any right to be, my brain was fried. I wasn't 10 minutes into the run and I was already fantasizing about stopping the run short.

Epic Snow Run in Sedona

Basically, my body felt like I had betrayed it. WHAT? I carry you up and down those friggin' hills for 3 and a half hours on Saturday and I don't get to sit around and drink beer the following day? What kind of bullshit is that? And indeed, I betrayed it because by the time I got home and had a shower, it was 5:05PM. I went to open a beer and I WAS OUT. Shuffled to the Beer Store and IT WAS CLOSED! With a sick feeling to my stomach, I power-walked to the Liquor Store a few doors down and dammit, it was closed as well.

I had to drink white wine, left-over from my wife's Book Club meeting a few weeks ago. Now that's sad.

Ontario must be the last place on Earth where you can't get beer at the corner store. I was going to go on a rant about the inability of our provincial government to make any kind of decision, but this is a running blog so I'll skip it. But Beer Stores, Liquor Stores and the public Catholic school board are all leftovers from days long gone that Ontario cannot seem to be able to shake. I want to be able to buy beer on a Sunday at 6PM, is that too much to ask in 2012? I guess I did go on a rant.

Back to running. I've been looking into running Pick Your Poison and/or Seaton, but I don't think I will be able to run either. Those two races are only 2 weeks apart, with Bear Mountain 50 miler smack in between. I think Bear Mountain will be hard enough as it is, I don't think I need to make it harder by running 50K the week before. Maybe 29km at Seaton? Volunteer? I need to talk to Derrick about this.

Mesquite Canyon 30K Race Report


Sitting on my couch two days after the race, I try to remember the end of the race. I do remember the events. I remember being so tired that I couldn't compel my body to run, except if the trail was perfectly flat or downhill and then I could only run for a few hundred meters before something broke inside my head and I had to walk. Sitting on the couch, it seems almost impossible that your mind cannot tell your body what to do, even though you remember it clearly.That's what happened to me on that race. From the start, I knew it was going to be a tough one. Those mountains looked mighty big and despite the name "Mesquite Canyon", I couldn't see any break in the skyline that didn't involve significant climbing. Reality is, we would climb pretty much to the top.We ran somewhere close to those antennas in the background. Maybe a bit lower.The first few kilometers were flat and I was going at a good pace. Maybe too fast but I felt good. The trail was pretty good but despite that, my foot caught on something and I fell, rolled nicely (so I though, but I ended up with a few bruises) only to end up in some kind of bush full of needles. Not a cactus per say, but vegetation is mean here. I dusted myself up and kept going.All of a sudden, the course goes from flat-ish to straight up. Between km 9 and 15, we climbed over 1700 feet mostly very technical footing. Really. I really thought I was in better shape than I actually was, I guess. I got passed a bit. Mostly by the 50km leaders who were on a different course, but also by a few 30k racers. That depressed me a bit. You could see the trail far in the distance, up, up always up, with little people climbing.The climb was relentless and very steep. Because there was no way of driving up that friggin' trail, there were no aid stations either for 9 miles.  I have to admit that I questioned my manhood a few times going up that trail. Someone mentioned that the name wasn't Goat Hill (or something like that) for nothin'. I got a bit of a side stitch and it took quite a while to get rid of it. Once you got to the top, the trail became a bit less technical for a while but you could not take your eye off the trail without risking falling off a cliff or at least a really painful fall.I kept drinking and eating as much as I thought I could. I got a bit of a surge of energy once we started going down. Even passed a couple of people. The trail was technical but runnable. At some point though, it became ridiculous and I started tripping everywhere. My quads were shot, the trail was steep and there was basically no stable footing half the time.Finally, I get to the bottom and horror, there's an uphill section. Lots of hiking and shuffling. The last few kilometers were quite painful. I had nothing left. I knew I did, somewhere, but I just could make myself care. I was hot. I knew I would come in under 4 hours, which was my goal. I would start running and then after a couple of minutes just stop, I had never experienced something like that in a short distance like that. Anyway I did finish in 3:53. Within my goal, which was based on nothing, but more tired than I had expected.The winner ran the course in 2:18. That's an average of 4:35/km. Someone explain that to me. Between the climbing and the footing and the death if you make a mistake, there's something I don't understand. Un-friggin'-believable.So that's my experience of my first race involving a real climb. It was a humbling experience. It really kicked me in the nuts both physically and mentally. I kept thinking the following: Hope Pass is over 3000 feet on the way out. That's almost twice as high, poss[...]

Redemption Will Have to Wait


Thought I'd write a little training update to show some accountability on my new goals.

First, after a few slushy days, this Winter has been perfect for running so far. It sucks for anyone training for a snowshoe race or any other real Winter sport but it's been great for us poor souls stuck in the city. Running in slush drives me nuts and ice scares me, so I'm a happy camper right now.

This brings me to the important thing: Leadville. That's going to be a recurring theme until the end of August. All Leadville, all the time. Truth is, I've probably read ALL the Leadville blogs out there and I've come to the conclusion that for me to finish the race withing the 30 hours, I will need to commit physically and mentally. I wouldn't be as worried if the time limit was 32 or 34 hours, but 30 hours will be hard.

Yesterday I had my first official talk with coach Derrick. Now that Derrick has got that silly Yukon Arctic Ultra (where he finished second in an unbelievable 23 hours and 18 minutes) out of his system, he can move on to the real important stuff: how to get me over Hope Pass twice and on to the finish within the time limit. Derrick is fast at work building my plan as we speak and I will begin formal training in about 10 days.

One thing that came out of this conversation is the realization that I can't seek redemption at Mohican without jeopardizing my Leadville race. Running a 100 miles takes a big mental and physical chunk out of me and sometimes I can be months running like crap. I just can't afford the down time. On the other hand, last year's DNF at Mohican left me in pretty good shape. Derrick suggested I run Laurel Highlands, a 70 miler down in Pennsylvania in early June. I've heard excellent things about that race so I'm pretty sure that this is exactly what I'm going to do.

On the training front, I have to say that things are going great. My right Achilles is the best it's been in a very long time. I've lost about 5 pounds since I started my calorie counting project a bit over 3 weeks ago. Basically, I've stopped stuffing my face all evening and eating chocolate croissants for breakfast. Another aspect I wanted to improve was consistency and that's improved as well. I've run pretty much 6 times per week in the last month. I'm up to about 6 hours of running per week, which is starting to feel like real training.

The biggest difference though is how I feel while I'm running. To be completely honest, last year, running was sometimes a struggle. Even short runs felt like crap, except maybe when I ran on trails. I never really got into a groove while running on pavement, where my Achilles hurt with every damn foot strike. For the past couple of weeks, as the pain slowly receded, even those boring runs feel great and I actually enjoy them. I guess it's true what they say, consistency pays off.

That's pretty much my news for now. I'm leaving for three weeks of running bliss in Arizona on February 29th and I can't wait. I'm looking at running the 50k or 30k at Mesquite Canyon, on March 11th somewhere near Phoenix. The 30k seems more reasonable but I'm not discarding the 50k depending on how I'm feeling.

Hope those pilots at Air Canada don't rain on my parade with a strike.



Sometimes I feel like crying because I’m so tired of running. The thought of going out for another run on nasty, unmaintained, slippery sidewalks makes me want to puke.Sometimes I feel like crying because I’m sick of pain. Pain in my ankles. Pain in my quads. Pain in my calf. I feel like if I ran only when there’s no pain, I wouldn’t run at all.Sometimes I feel like crying because I feel like I’m waisting my time running ultras. I suck at running long and I’m not really getting any better.Sometimes I feel like crying because I’m mad at my family for not giving a shit about my running and never offering any support.Sometimes I feel like crying because I hate other runners, for whom everything seems to effortless, who get up at 5AM to run, who never seem to doubt anything. Why is it so hard for me? Sometimes I feel like crying because I wonder if I’ll ever be able to run 100 miles again. It’s so hard. Can I ever summon that much willpower again?But then again;Sometimes I feel like crying when I remember standing alone under the stars in Alaska, my headlamp off, taking it all in.Sometimes I feel like crying when I stop during a long run in the desert to look around and see how beautiful it all is.Sometimes I feel like crying because I feel so alive I can hardly stand it.Sometimes I feel like crying because I know how lucky I am to be able to do this.Don’t worry though. Most of the time, I’m OK.[...]



After barely dragging my ass out of the Grand Canyon in October, I had a hard time running with any kind of consistency in November and December. Heck, I had a hard time all year!I felt like I had all the excuses in the book. Too much work, tired, my Achilles is killing me and finally my favorite: maybe having half my thyroid removed is lowering my energy level. It’s rare but it happens. Haven’t I gained over 10 pounds in the last year? Surely it has nothing to do with the fact that I’M EATING LIKE A FRACKING PIG. I eat a lot, I eat often and I snack all night. AND I had gained about 5 lbs even BEFORE the operation. What's up with that? Obviously, I'm full of it.So my new thinking is this: my right Achilles hurts more because I’m heavy AND I run too long for my level of fitness right now. I would typically go for a run at lunch, let’s say 8 or 10k and then my Achilles would hurt the next day and I would skip. Vicious circle. No consistency. I believe my fitness has been on a downward spiral for over a year now. I need to do something about this.My new plan is to rebuild from the ground up.Lose weight: It’s a fact that I need to lose weight if I’m going to finish Leadville. I hear people who say they ask their pacer to carry their water bottle, which weighs a pound, and here I am carrying 15 our 20 extra pounds on my back. I need to go below 160 lbs. I started calorie counting on Monday so I can reset my eating habits. Calorie counting is the only technique that works for me. Everything becomes black and white: either you eat it or you don’t.Consistency: I want to run at least 5 times a week, preferably 6 times. I’m starting with short runs, in the 30 minute range, so I won’t aggravate my Achilles and have to skip. I should be able to build fairly quickly on top of this. I went out 6 times last week and this week looks good.Increase volume: As mentioned, my training sucked last year. Looking back at my training log last year, I see only 8 weeks where I ran more than 7 hours. If you take into account the fact that I ran two hundred milers, paced two others, ran two 50k and did r2r2r then you’re left with ONE week where I trained more than 7 hours. It’s really hard to run more than 5 or 6 hours if you run 4 times a week. Your really need to run maybe 5 but probably 6 or more days to get that kind of volume.Shoes: After two years running in Nike Lunarglides, I’ve decided to switch back to the Lunaracers. I’ve noticed after coming back from running trails in my Crosslites that my Achilles felt really good only to get really painful after a couple of road runs in the Lunarglides. I’m not a big fan of Nike because they change their fracking shoes too often but I seem to come back to them. I tried to get me some Adizero Pros, but Adidas doesn’t seem to carry them here. Fuck ‘em. I got a new pair of Lunaracers which is more of a neutral shoe, where the Lunarglides are more of a “support” shoe. They feel pretty good and my Achilles feels really good. Then again, might be my new plan and the shoes do nothing.So this is my re-boot plan. After I’ve consolidated this for a while, I will get into more Mohican/Leadville-specific training (aka ‘pain’).Speaking of Mohican, I see on their website that they have removed the horrible 2 mile lollipop we had to do at the end of each loop. This is a relief. A (small) part of me thinks that to get true redemption, I would have needed the same course, but really that section of the course was truly horrible. The cutoff is still 32 hours, so I s[...]

Santa's Back 5K Race Report


After a couple of weeks of more or less stable training, I decided that I needed to set a baseline for my training. Being an unconditional Jack Daniel's follower, I needed to know my current VDOT so I can determine my various training paces. JD says that the only way to know is to race, so when I got an email last week about the "Santa is back" 5K race in Whitby, I knew I was in. A quick email to Chris and he (and Kim) was in as well.I hadn't raced a 5k since April 10, 2009, which will forever be remembered as the day I broke the 20 minutes barrier. Compared to the logistics of preparing for an ultra, getting ready for a 5k felt like going out to the corner store to grab a can of Pepsi. After dropping off my wife to the airport, I stopped at Kim & Chris' place and got changed there while they were getting ready. For the first time ever, I made the mistake of bringing two right foot Injinji toe-socks. This is a puzzle I've long solved, ever since I saw a guy do the very same mistake before Haliburton. I had nearly 29 hours to think about it then, so I immediately inside-out'ed one sock and voila!, one right and one left.Two issues were conspiring against me. One is my lack of training at the faster paces. I did a few strides this week, just for for shits and giggles, and I noticed that I completely forgot my various paces. I used to know exactly what my 10k or 5k paces felt like but now I have no idea. My other problem is my weight. Running a lot of distance allows you to eat pretty much whatever you want, but I've run a lot less since July and I've kept eating. The scale was packed up in a box somewhere while we were renovating the upstairs bathroom and a few weeks ago I finally stepped on it and nearly had a coronary when I saw the readout: 177 lbs, about 10 lbs over my target range of 160-165.We got to the race site, signed up, warmed-up. It was a nice but blustery day. I knew that the course was pretty exposed and we would be running a long stretch going on a slight uphill with the wind blowing right in our face. I figured that would even out the fact that the course was 100 meter short. It was an out and back course. Why they didn't just place the turn-around cone 50 meters further is one of those mysteries that I will haunt me forever. It was on a bike path, there was no ice or other barrier, they knew the course was short (they had announced it). Why, why, why?Anyway, about 100 people were lined up for the 5k. Chris and I were close to the front and Kim seeded herself a bit further back. When the horn sounded, we rushed forward to get through the 3 feet wide gate that funneled people onto the first section of the walk path before the crowd. After 1km I thought I was done for. The wind was horrible. After 2km, I was still hanging in. The gap between me and the guy ahead of me was pretty stable. I turned around at 2.45km (WHY? WHY?) huffin' and puffin'. The return trip was an exercise in pain management, trying to fend off a side stitch that was threatening to stop me in my tracks and broken expectations when the distance between every single landmarks turned out to be 3 times further than I remembered them on the way out.I finally saw the clock ticking up from 21:10 and went as hard as I could, finishing in 21:32. Not too bad. Then of course they expect you to stay still while they remove the chip and give you a medal, while you are basically trying not to pass out. Everyone was pretty happy with their results. Kim beat her PB. Chris finished abo[...]

What a Year


2011 was a tough year but it had its rewards. I ran a ridiculously wet and cold 50KM at the Mud Puppies where I actually felt colder than at any point during Susitna. I experienced my first DNF at Mohican, after 60-some miles in unbelievable heat and humidity, to say nothing of the unexpectedly brutal course. Six weeks later, I again cooked my brain and body in debilitating heat at Burning River but this time I overcame the night demons (on a course that was WAY more difficult than expected) and finished. I paced in two races, two perfect strangers for about 60-70km each, helping them finish their first 100 milers and making new friends in the process. Finally, I ran across the Grand Canyon and back, spraying Gatorade through my mouth and nose all over the South Kaibab trail on the way back up, swearing I would never do anything that stupid again only to find myself signing up for the Leadville 100 on the first day registration opened and then put my name in the Western States lottery.Funny to think that I’m one of the more reasonable ultrarunners. That being said, I’ve now added some more amazing memories to my list of things I will never regret doing. I believe that those memories will be important when comes the time when most of the day is spent reminiscing, sitting on the rocking chair and telling stories that nobody believes or really cares about. I do have some regrets about this year, although they were beyond my control. I do wish that I had been able to train a little bit more this year. As proud as I am of what I accomplished, things at work were so insane that I just didn’t have the mental energy required to run the volume that I should have. On the other hand, work was really interesting so what are you going to do?What’s in store for 2012?  Well, my first big race will be in June, either Western States if I get in or I’m going back for redemption at Mohican. Then, the summer will be spent rebuilding to get ready for Leadville on August 18-19th. Leadville scares the shit out of me, because it’s not just a little dip at altitude, it’s a full 100 miles above 9000 feet, going as high as 12,500 feet. The highest point in Western States (8700 ft) is lower than the lowest point in Leadville (9200 ft). Four big climbs, including two huge ones. For a wannabe like me, this is going to be a big challenge. I’m freaking myself out as I’m writing this so enough said.To try to save me from my poor decision making, I will once again ask Derrick to train me. Derrick has his own problems with impulse control (he just signed up for the Yukon Arctic Ultra 100 miler), but he did do an amazing job of getting me ready for the two 100 milers that he trained me for. There isn’t much he can do for my poor flat-lander, sea-level lungs but I’m sure he will get me as ready as I can be.Depending on how devastated I am after Leadville, I would like to rebuild over September and October and run the Javalina 100, near Phoenix in Arizona. We will see about that one, but it’s close to our place and I could make a vacation out of it.For now, I’m barely running. I’m fat. I don’t care. One needs some rest, so I’m recharging my mental batteries until the new year and then it will be time to start taking things more seriously.[...]

R2R2R Epic Report


I wasn't really ready for an effort of this magnitude  (a recurring theme this year). Sure, I've run long distances this summer, with some decent climbs, at least for an east coast runner. The thing is, it's easy to look at r2r2r only as numbers. Forty-two miles, 11,000 feet of climbing. Doesn't sound too bad. Well, once again, reality came knocking.Chris, Steve and I have been planning for this adventure for about a year. A group of OUSER runners did the R2R2R last year and we've have R2R2R-envy ever since. In the last few months, two more runners joined the group: Johnny and Kendra. On Sunday the 23rd, they all flew into Phoenix. I picked them up at the airport and we drove to our condo in Sedona where we immediately went for an hour shakedown run on the local trails.  On Monday morning we got ready and departed for Grand Canyon, where we had reserved two rooms at the Yavapai lodge in the park itself. We took our sweet time, stopping a few times along the way to see the sights.ChapelI was the only one who had seen the Canyon previously.  At the first view point, we stopped the car, got out and just stood there, saying things like "holy fuck!" or "Jesus Christ!".  Pictures don't give the Grand Canyon justice and the thought that we could make it to the other side, let alone come back, in one day, eating a handful of gels and power bars, seemed ludicrous.First look at the Grand Canyon We found a place to park the minivan near the South Kaibab trail head and walked there for a quick recon. By then, I had butterfly in my stomach. We all went down a bit down the trail to get a taste and took a few pictures. We were all excited, babbling like little kids, asking questions to hikers coming up the trail. Following the advice of local Sedona runners who had done r2r2r many times, we had pretty much decided to stick to the South Kaibab trail for the return trip, rather than take the longer, but shallower Bright Angel trail. With the cool temperatures that were on the forecast, the lack of water on South Kaibab would not be an issue and saving two miles, even at the cost of an extra 500 feet of climbing, seemed like a great idea.Trail winding downWe got our rooms, got dinner and went to bed around 9:00 PM.  By 4:30 AM all five of us are standing at the trail head, with winds of about 25 miles/hr blowing in our face. We all have backpacks containing 3 litre bladders filled with our drink of choice as well as food, clothes and electronics. We can see nothing outside of the circle of lights created by our headlamps. We try to take a group picture, but we're all chomping at the bit, anxious to begin and we just go. We follow each other cautiously, the wind picking up dust, at time reminding me of a snow storm. It's obvious from the start that the group's pace is not comfortable for everyone but we stick more or less together.  After a fairly short distance, we get to an exposed section where we lose the trail for a minute. We pull out the map in the wind and get our bearings. There's only one trail and we eventually find it and keep going. The trail is pretty nice but I'm cautious. The thought of tripping freaks me right out. Some of the sections are nicer than other but some require us to jump down steps or rocks. We go down for over 90 minutes in the dark, my quads slowly starting to feel the burn. Johnny decides to push ahead and will be waiting for us at the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of th[...]



Just a quick post to let you know that all five people in our group successfully finished the Grand Canyon double traverse in times varying from 12:30 to 17:30. Of course, I was with the slower group. The run was way more challenging than I expected. Full race report coming up soon.

Grand Canyon


A week from now I'm going to run across the Grand Canyon ... Twice. I'm really excited about this classic bucket-list item. Classic if you're an ultra runner, of course. My wife thinks we're utterly out of our minds.

Just in case you're not familiar with the Rim-to-rim-to-rim (r2r2r for short), it's a 45-ish mile run that typically starts on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Two trails go down, the Bright Angel trail and the South Kaibab trail. The Bright Angel trail is longer but less steep. It also has a few water sources. The South Kaibab is a bit steeper but shorter with no access to water. Once at the bottom, the trails end at a suspension bridge that crosses the Colorado river. On the north side, there is only one trail that goes up, the North Kaibab trail. The South Rim is at 6800 feet. We will descend to 2400 feet, cross the bridge over the Colorado River, climb to 8240 feet at the North Rim, and then return. Altogether, the elevation gain, including some ups and downs along the way will be about 11,000 feet. It's going to be Epic.

At this point of the racing season, I'm in ok shape, nothing more. I peaked for Burning River and I've been trying to maintain a minimum of distance ever since. I paced Kendra for 70km about a month ago at Haliburton and since then I've done a couple of 4+ hour runs on trail. My weekly totals have been lackluster due to work. It is so crazy at work that my wife prefers that I run rather than work. Anyhoot, this ain't a race so all I need is to be in decent shape, which I am, and be well prepared. The temperature should be nice as long as we're ready for the near 0C at the start at 4AM and then up to 30-33C in the afternoon. Granted, it's a dry heat (ah, ah), but there is NO shade.

This run is going to be different from any other run I've ever done. For one thing, anyone who has ever been to the Grand Canyon knows that the very idea of crossing it in one day is ludicrous. Doing it twice seems impossible. I've been there twice. The second time was last Fall and we already had formed a plan of coming this year. When the view hit me, I have to admit that my resolve faltered a bit. Holy shit, it's big and it's barren! It's beautiful though.

Another thing that's special about the run is that you see where you're going. It's only 10 miles away, as the crow flies. The other side might as well be on the moon, it looks so unreachable.

I'll try to be a good boy and take some pictures and maybe some video. See you next week.