Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Master of the Farmer's Blow

June's TrailRunner blog topic is: Tell us about someone awesome you've met through trail running.
The first person that comes to my mind is Gordon Warnicka, who I met during my first 50 km trail ultra. I had just finished the first 6 km loop and was in the process of peeling off my arm warmers when he came running past saying "Let's get going Sarah-time to run!" I grabbed my fuel from my husband and caught up to Gordon and his awesome dog Tess as they climbed the first significant hill of the 9 km loop.
Gordon told me he was in his sixties and had gotten into running a bit later in life. He told me stories of how he through-trekked the AT with another guy, how they had met up with a young woman doing the trek by herself and how they had trekked together for a few days before she went her own way. He told me about being the only Canadian kayak team to do the 100+ mile Alaskan race two years in a row and the amazing scenery up north, how he had helped start-and still helps organize-the Rum Runner's relay on the province's south shore...all after the age of 55! Aside from his entertaining stories and solid pacing he also gave me some very helpful advice when it comes to tackling trail ultras:
1. Always do a quick shoulder check prior to performing the "Farmer's Blow," slightly bend your head, turn to one side-hopefully away from any other runners you are with-and with one finger on one nostril, blow hard. Repeat on the other side.
2. If you can't see the top of a hill-walk. Running the really steep hills will only tire your legs and make you slower overall.
3. Pick up your feet! He recommended this one after I did a face plant as we ran through some tall grass...all good advice.
The most important lesson I learned from Gordon though was that just because you hit retirement age doesn't mean you can't still get out on the trails and have an awesome time. Here he was, at age 65, still rockin' the trail and having a blast. I found Gordon to be quite the inspiration and realized that I want to still be out here when I'm his age, and heck, through-trekking sounds pretty fun too.

Gordon and me at the 21 km mark - WWTR2012

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shoe Review! New Balance Ionix 3090V2

With a week to go before the 50 km race I knew I had to get my shoe situation sorted out..and quick. Since my feet had healed enough to try on shoes again, off my husband and I went to the big Cleve's Source for Sports store in Burnside. All of my fingers and toes were crossed for luck.
Once we got into the store I tried to focus on shoes that were as close to me NB minimus shoes as possible, which meant less than a 6mm heel to toe drop, near feather-light (less than 8 oz.), material that wouldn't hold water and decent cushioning under the forefoot for those looong miles ahead. My husband was really helpful finding different shoes and brands that all pretty much met the requirements I had, but more often than not these shoes seem to be stripped of all other cushioning around the heel and had a rigid feel about them. Shoe after shoe came and went and then I finally tried on the NB Minimus Ionix 3090V2. "Well, if I fall and hit my head at least the other runners will be able to find me on the trail with these bright shoes!" I exclaimed as I tried them on. I did a little jog around the store and decided that while they could be a bit bigger in the toe box they fit every other requirement I had. SOLD.

Pretty in Pink..dig the funky sole tread pattern!

The next step was to run in them at least three times before the big race. I started on a treadmill and they worked out fine, a little hot spot on my right heel, but nothing that couldn't be managed. Then came two outside runs around where I work, I tried to get on the trails as soon as I could, so up and down through the Dartmouth Commons I went and even into the graveyard for some grass running. No issues. Giddy up. I debated taking a spare pair of shoes along for the race but then changed my mind and just made sure I had lots of blister repair stuff in my drop bag in case I had an issue.
On race day I was very pleased with how well these shoes drained after going in and out of uncountable puddles, rivers and muck. Only one hot spot really developed on my left arch, so I stopped and threw on one of the super tough new Band aids and was good to go. As a preventative measure I had put a strip of duct tape on the heel I figured would give me problems from the hot spot I had felt in earlier runs.
Of course after 50 km of mud, water, sand and grass my pretty pink shoes weren't so pink any more but after I threw them in my front-load washer they came out brand new again :-) My feet are still a bit swollen from the race so it'll be a few days before I put them on again but I think they've made the cut into my regular shoe rotation. Nice job New Balance  I'll give these 4 out of 5 stars, only because I'd really like to see more room in the toe box and the cushion around the heels didn't do much for comfort but probably prevented alot  of small rocks getting into my shoes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Race Report! Wasskally Wrabbit 50km Trail Race

It was Saturday morning and my alarm was going off at an ungodly hour; 4:45 am. For a brief moment I wondered why it was going off, then I bolted out of bed realizing..This Was It! This was the day...Race Day! I had carefully laid out everything I could possibly need the night before so I went through my usual ritual of getting washed, applying gobs of Vaseline to places better off not mentioned, and getting dressed. Then it was upstairs to grab a banana to eat and my drop bag that weighed a ton. Meanwhile my superstar husband managed to rouse himself and our daughter up out of bed and they had themselves ready just as I was running around doing a last 'sanity' check for items I'd forgotten. Sometimes miracles do happen and we were actually out the door right on schedule!

The new route for the Wasskally Wrabbit had us travelling down Peggy's Cove Road until we came to a turn off. I was so nervous I barely remember getting there, but after a second port-a-potty visit I stood at the back of the pack feeling oddly calm as Jodi (one of the race directors) went over the route and any other important tidbits of information we might need to know. Then it was a simple, ready-set-GO! And the group was off. Most people had signed up for the much more reasonable 12 or 24 km distances, which meant one or two laps through the course. Me and a few other "crazies" had signed up for either the 50km or 50 mile distances, which in my case equaled out to 4 laps plus a 2 mile out and back section.

The first lap I managed to stay with the group for the first 4 km. This part of the course consisted of an old dried river bed. For the most part it was a mix of dirt and sand, but as you got closer to the 4 km mark it became more and more riddled with river stones, small boulders that required alot of quick feet to make sure you didn't go flying. The trail was scenic, with big trees lining either side and a river that ran the left side of the course. Then it was a short uphill and there stood our first turn, manned by a kind gentleman who told us that we were almost there-just this small hill to climb-HA! The trail narrowed to a single track that consisted mostly of ankle deep mud that only became deeper as the day-and the runners-went over and over it.Up, up we all went. I hit the mid point that seemed reasonably flat so I started to run, just to turn a corner and find another steep mud hill to climb. Up, up again. When I finally reached the top I was able to catch my breath and push on to a tiny section of dirt road. Then the trail started again and I went back into the mud. This section was much more rolling, lots of smaller ups and downs.

One of the flatter sections

At the 6 km mark (or so) I came up to a fallen tree. Since it was chest height I had no other choice but to dip under it. That worked out okay for the first 3 laps...the fourth lap however my quads were so shot that I thought I might need to crawl under it. I continued on, going up and down the hills until I reached the so-called "short-cut" which was like scaling the side of a mountain. I took a picture but it does not do the steepness of the hill justice. The rest of the single track was really beautiful; moss lined the sides of the trail that was mostly made up of pine needles and leaves. I find that kind of trail really calming and tried to appreciate the shear beauty of it all. After one last downhill I reached the dried river trail again and back to the start I went. Of course it wouldn't be a 'Jodi and Karine' (the race organizers) trail race if I didn't fall at least once during the race so I was kind of glad to get it over with early after I tripped on a rock and went flying, my handheld smashing into a river stone that would have likely broken a bone had I not had the handheld bottle on to break the impact. Bruised but not bleeding I dusted myself off and kept going, I still had over 40 km to run.
Short Cut...right..lol

During my second lap I came across a man and his daughter trying to navigate the hillside in their ATV. He was kind enough to pull to the side for me, when I thanked him he said something about all of us runners sure picked a tough place to run. I laughed and said we have a sadistic course designer. He seemed to chuckle and I thanked him again and was back on track. I completed that lap a bit faster than I expected (I was aiming to complete each lap in about 2 hours), but having to take a bio-break and fix a developing blister ate up any extra time that I had gained.

My third lap went pretty well. My quads, arms and calves all started to complain a bit but I kept pushing to stay on pace. The hills affected me much more on that lap and by the end running downhill was starting to hurt-usually downhills are my strength so I had to really focus on relaxing my quad muscles to run properly downhill.

The fourth lap was completely about getting to the finish. I celebrated each minor milestone and pushed as hard as I could up the hills-I swear they got steeper as the day went on! By the time I was back on the 4 km river bed section I was reduced to a slow shuffle run/walk. I tried to run through the sections that weren't peppered by river stones but by then every muscle was complaining loudly. Near tears-part out of joy for completing the race and part because I was so sore-I saw the finish and heard everyone calling my name.

The "finish" was short lived as I still had a short out and back to complete before I could call this race done so I dropped my handheld, crossed the line and turned around focused to finish this race. Jodi asked if I needed anything and I said no thanks, and I think he saw that I just wanted to finish. My husband and daughter had left the car to join me for the last 2 miles and out we went. Pretty soon after we started my husband asked if I wanted to finish alone, I told him NO! I wanted nothing else than to have him and our daughter with me for this last section. I went over the day with him as I shuffle-ran, describing the highs and the lows, as with any Ultra there were plenty of both.

This 50km was technically much harder than the first 50 km because all of the elevation was packed into 4 kms rather than spread out over 15 kms as it was last year but I think I enjoyed the first three laps-or 30 kms much more than I did last year. I certainly have lessons that I've learned from this race that I will ensure I take with me to my next Ultra in August. Sure I'm sore, but in lieu of a race medal I wear my sore muscles with a sense of pride, I finished this epic adventure in one piece and will continue to attempt to better my time at this distance. In the end, even though this took longer than I ever thought it would, I finished. My first 50 km was not just a fluke, I can do this distance...now about that 50 miler....;-)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Why Run an Ultra?

When non runners find out I've run 50k and plan to do it again (and again-and maybe even further) they usually ask "Why?" with this expression of uncertainty-maybe they are trying to figure out of I've lost my marbles? I am usually caught of guard and fumble with a sane-sounding answer. Saying "it's fun" doesn't seem to make any sense to people since how can running for a full work day or more actually be fun? What I realized it that I should be explaining why I decided to try in the first place.
The social anthropologist in me tends to look at life in terms of societal levels-the bigger picture view so to speak-in North American society we live pretty cushy lives. We sleep in comfortable homes, with big tvs and computers to entertain us, ample food to keep us from starving or dehydrating, walk 20 steps to sit in a car that takes us from A to point B. Yeah, we don't really have much in our lives that really challenges us on a physical level any longer. Running Ultras gives me the chance to do something epic. How many people can say they've done something epic? To test my physical limits, go beyond what I think is possible and achieve something few other people manage to do makes an Ultra an epic adventure. You learn alot about yourself during an Ultra; make no mistake there are tons of ups and downs emotionally and physically. This is such a universal feeling that there is a common saying in Ultras "if you're feeling good, just wait a minute." The same goes if you're feeling bad, eat something or drink something and in a few minutes you'll feel better again. It truly is a roller coaster ride. Sure you're sore after the race and the days to follow but at some point a runner will realize the shear magnitude of what they have completed and let me tell you, it is an amazing feeling of pride, confidence, happiness, and personal satisfaction that can last for a few weeks if you're lucky.

Staying Positive: Key to Success

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Taper Madness Hits!

Unless you have trained for a race longer than 10km you may not have heard of the term "taper madness," well, my friends, it has finally hit me. That hard to describe feeling of wanting to run but knowing you need to rest the legs in preparation for a MUCH longer run to come, that feeling of  "I should be doing something right now..." the "oh crap what have I signed up for?!" thoughts, it all came calling. At first I thought it was simply me freaking out about not having shoes to wear for the Ultra-NEXT WEEK-but then I realized I actually more freaked out about my lack of preparation and the lack of time I have to make up any long runs. The whole training block is staring me in the face, telling me how under-trained I am for this.

Last night my husband had to deal with the full force of this realization-tears, apologies, negotiations, you name it. I was a blubbering mess to put it mildly. His is the voice of reason in these kinds of moments, he assured me he and our daughter would be there to cheer me no matter how far I managed to go..but that I should really be able to handle at least 2 laps of the 12km lap course (he's right). So we hatched a plan; I will just DO MY BEST. I'm going to take this thing one lap at a time. If I do three-that's okay, if I manage to do all four and the 1km out and back-awesome. If it takes all day, well, he and Hannah will manage to entertain themselves.
Today it feels like half of the pressure is off, I'm not worried about disappointing them after our talk last night, but-damn it-I need to get this shoe thing figured out. Saturday I'll have to subject them to yet another trip to the shoe store. My fingers and toes are triple crossed for luck.