Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Peak Week Training!

OMG!!! I have only 4 weeks (including this one) before the LOU52! This week I've got three weekday runs between 55-75 minutes each and then two lovely 20 milers back to back this weekend. I'm happy the family is staying close to home for this long weekend since I doubt I'd be able to fit both 20 milers in if we were out camping.

This morning's run actually happened. Yup, I got my butt out of bed at 5:30am, grabbed the dog and out we went. Although I was still sweaty I was glad to have the early morning fog to keep me cool-ish for most of the run. I kept it simple; an out and back on pretty flat terrain. When I hit the dirt I found my legs were extra springy so I opened it up and did some strides, all the while trying to keep Spencer from darting in front of me. Spencer had some serious animal magnetism this morning. He managed to scare a cat that immediately wanted revenge and stealthily followed us for two blocks before we finally left his territory, there was something in the woods that Spencer seemed quite concerned about so I figured it must be bigger than a bird, we (of course) encountered lots of other dogs out for their morning walks which always sends Spencer into a frenzy, then back into that darn cat's territory where he followed us all the way home-lol. My training run and dog run accomplished before 6:30am...check! I totally need to do these more often, now I've got an hour at the end of my day to cross train-yes!

Friday, July 26, 2013

My First Triple!

If you run long enough or read enough about running you might have heard of runners doing doubles. No..not double doubles, like a Tim Horton's coffee, but running twice in one day. I've done it often enough but yesterday I had to do my first triple! Trust me, other working, runner Moms will relate.

This was my scenario. My husband, Richard, is going to a high school reunion back in his home town in Cape Breton, so I'm going to be having a girls weekend with my daughter, which means I won't have any time to just run off for a few hours. Sooo I realized I had to get my long runs in before the weekend hits since two 10 milers on the treadmill is torture for both my daughter and me (I get "Are you still running Mommy?!" every 5 minutes after half an hour which kills my motivation to keep going!). I'm also having trouble getting back into the morning runner mentality, especially now that I know how much lack of sleep affects me for the rest of the when the alarm goes off for 5 am I often press snooze for another hour. Yesterday though my alarm didn't go off at all and I missed my biggest window of time to get in one of my two long runs. Frustrated but not deterred I packed two running outfits and headed to work.

My first run was a five miler on the indoor track (it was raining at lunch). Feeling like a bit of a hamster on a wheel, I ran round and round until my Nike app finally declared 5 miles complete. I managed a pretty even pace throughout all of my miles so I was happy to see that. I cleaned up a bit, made sure to put my first running outfit at the bottom of my backpack and headed back to work.

Run #2 was back on the track since I only had about 30 minutes to try and get as many miles in before I picked up my daughter at day camp. I pushed the pace and really enjoyed the atmosphere as the track was now full of other runners and cross-fitters all doing their own thing. I managed three miles a minute faster per mile than my run at lunch. Then I picked up my daughter who wanted to go back to the track with me to run a few laps. Knowing she is going to defend her 2 mile title in a couple of weeks at the annual Natal Day road race, I complied. Not to brag, but my kid can run! She flew around the track in her sock feet, taking short little steps as she went. I was still making my way up the first side as she flew down the second straight-away. I'm pretty sure she managed under a 6 minute kilometer (she's 6)! I encouraged her to take a rest, so she sat and watched hockey as I finished up another mile.

My last run was back at home after having made a nice taco supper (yum tacos!) for the family. I grabbed the dog and off we went, with Spencer practically dragging me down the streets until I reached my goal of 10 miles total for the day. Then it was back home to stretch and get my family ready for the next day.

I wouldn't recommend that a runner do that kind of thing every day, or even every week, but it is reassuring to know that I can handle it mentally and physically if my schedule dictates I need to. Today is another 10 miler but this time I'm going to do it in one shot...albeit a bit slower than yesterday!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Gear Review! Camelbak Charm

The Camelbak Charm was my first hydration pack. I bought it when I figured 1.5L would be the most I would need on a run (little did I realize how much I`d like 50kers!) and wanted a lightweight pack. At a price tag just shy of $50.00 it has paid for itself in spades.

Why I love this pack:
      The Charm is very lightweight and easily accommodates the 1.5L bladder that is included with room to spare for a few gels and bars. The bottom of the pack has a small separate compartment that I can fit my Galaxy phone into along with some extra change if I need a pit stop. The shoulder straps are spaced far enough apart that chaffing has never been an issue. The sides have small, adjustable straps. No matter how tight I adjusted the straps though I`ve never been able to keep the shoulder straps in place as I run. So, I grab a Velcro reflective strap (purchased for $1.00 at the local Dollarama) and use that to give the front a chest strap.
I`ve used this hydration pack on runs as long as 3 hours on every imaginable terrain (well, except a glacier or the desert). It moves with you as you run, although I won`t tell you there isn`t an adjustment period to hearing the swish, swish of the bladder. One solution I overhear at my last Ultra was to put the bladder in upside down, it totally kills that swish sound but you have to remember to flip it right side up once you get down to the last 25% - I`ve tried to get fluid up the hose but nearly gave myself an asthma attack in the process. Take a second and flip the bladder.
I`ve used this pack to hold my work outfit on run commutes home and have even used the strap at the top of the bag to hold a light jacket-with no issues!
This pack is perfect for a half marathon distance or less if you don`t want to refill the pack. I`ve recommended it for cycling as well since it sits low (and won`t interfere with a helmet) and you barely notice it`s on your back. I`ve owned this pack for 3 years and it still looks like it was bought yesterday. The bladder and hose is in excellent condition (I wash with soap and water and lay out to dry) and the pack itself gets thrown in the wash and let to air dry. I would recommend this to any woman looking to get the water bottles off her hips and have ``turn of the head`` access to water.

Why I`m looking for another pack:
    More Space! In my last trail race I ran out of water and it really sucked. It was about 40 C and I started hallucinating. While I made it out fine I nearly drank a whole 2L of pop at the finish table. I know, I know, the heat was a big factor, but I`ve been in this situation a couple of times (minus the tree-cars-see my last race report) this summer and with my birthday coming up I figure it`s time to trade up a bit. I`m currently waiting for my new pack to arrive (review to come soon) it holds 2L, with 2 bottle holders. I`m not sure if it will make its debut at the LOU52, I will need to test it out on a few long runs first. Stay tuned!

Exploring the Valley

T-minus five weeks until my longest race so far, the Lou52. Last weekend's long run in Kingston, NS (in the Valley) was probably one of my more punishing long runs since the night before I had stayed up until 1 am at the campfire then slept next to my overly-intoxicated husband who snored all. night. long. By about 5 am I started to debate the whole run vs. try to find a place to sleep for a few more hours. But when I stuck my head out of the camper and saw the sun was already up I figured I might as well suck it up, grab some GU and some water and head out for a few hours.

The beauty of heading out so darn early is there is very little traffic and even fewer people out running/ walking so I could trudge my way through the valley roads without being too embarrassed by my run/walk ratio. I had mapped out my long run before heading to the campground so I had a rough idea of where I should go. Actually, not so much. I need to work on my navigation skills. I turned left and headed straight up a flat section of road only to find the road I thought I should go up was a dirt road..odd since I expected this to take me to the next town over but okaaay. So up I go only to find another, even more steep hill around the corner, once up that I see another...this went on for about 1.5 km until I finally reached the top and realized I had totally gone in the wrong direction. I did get this nice picture though:

A view from the top

The best part about climbing a big hill (the locals call it Blue Mountain) is the run back down. 1.5 km of blissfully fast downhill running. Feeling a bit more energized from that I headed into town, texted my husband a quick message to let him know I had changed my plans and off I went in search of another trail. Luckily the signage grossly over estimates the distance between destinations in this part of the valley and I was running through Kingston before I knew it. I hopped on an old train track that had been converted to a trail system and off I went. After I had to turn around to head back to the camp site I noticed what I thought was a man off in the distance, standing beside the trail. As I got closer I realized it was a deer. He was nice enough to wait while I took a picture :-)

Meeting the locals

Gorgeous valley scenery!
After 3 hours I made my way back to the campground to find Richard had made some eggs (awesome as I was starving!) and our daughter off playing with a new friend. After a quick shower I went searching for more food then spent the day between the pool and different campground activities trying not to be scorched by the 40 C weather. Ahh, here's to summer days and early long runs. Enjoy yours!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Race Report! Sunofa Gunofa Run!

While many of the my friends and coworkers were "running" the Mud Hero 6km race at Ski Martock this weekend, my husband and I were running a much tougher version called the Sunofa Gunofa Run. No matter which run you were doing on Saturday though the weather was going to be HOT. The humidex had the temps at 37 Celsius. With my mother watching our daughter and the family dog, Richard and I headed off to the mountain we would be spending the next 2+ hours getting up close and personal with.

We managed to arrive with just a few minutes to spare, which was fine with me since I don't like waiting very long for a race to start, it just gives me more time to get anxious. We huddled in the shade of a barn while we listened to Jodi (one of the race organizers) give some good advice for navigating the trail. Then with a 10 second count down we were off!

This year's route would be in the opposite direction of the way we had run it last year, now we would find out which direction is more difficult! The first 3 km of this 12.89km trail race was a gentle uphill on a dried riverbed and single track that wound through the forest. Surprisingly the forest gave excellent coverage and seemed to hold the previous night's cool air close to the ground so the heat we experienced in the open field wasn't scorching us under the tree canopy. The further we went though the steeper it got. In the few exposed areas I tried to keep to the shaded areas as much as possible. I was wearing my hydration pack and was really pleased that the water was staying decently cool. Richard and I had brought a bunch of GUs (50mg of caffeine for him, 25mg for me) and we employed a solid system of taking one every 30 minutes. We both agreed later the GUs played a major part of getting us both through the race.

At about the 5 km mark we began sliding down one side of a hill to reach the river below. This part of the race is run in the river-not beside it-IN the river. It felt wonderful to jump knee-deep into the cold rushing water. I splashed and threw water over my head as I tried not to slip on the rocks on the bottom. Richard and I happened upon a nice couple who Richard chatted with as I made my way more gingerly up the 400 meters of river. I managed to get my foot stuck so I had to catch up with Richard a few meters down the river where I found him sitting on a rock with his feet in the water. Then we found the next marker and started making our way up a hill, doing a fair bit of bush whacking as we went.

"So. You wanna run up this part?" My husband said sarcastically as we looked up the side of a hill face covered in loose dirt. "I was thinking more of a hands and knees approach" I replied as I extended my hand up to him and grabbed a small tree to hoist myself up the first bit of the hill we were climbing. It was the half way point and one hour into the race. The dirt was cool and felt kind of nice as I clambered up the hill, slightly dismayed that just a few minutes earlier I had gotten cleaned up in the river below only to be covered in dirt now. Ah, the things you do for a good trail race!

I'll admit it; I wasn't having my best race. I found it really difficult to catch my breath after each steep hill climb and even though I had my hydration pack, I could have used another liter of water. So I tried to get my heart rate down as much as possible after each climb and run the downhill and flatter sections. After the steepest climb we had a wonderful kilometer long decent down some single track. By then another runner had caught up to us, he turned out to be a volunteer who was prepping for the VT100 (yeah-100 MILER race) coming up later this month in the US. So Richard and I didn't feel too out of shape when he caught us. He also gave Richard some very motivating news-we were NOT last. There were at least 6 or 7 runners behind us so Richard stood a good chance of finishing well if he kept up his pace.

Our eyes were set on the next marker-the Lookoff-at the 10 km point. From that point Richard and I both knew it was about 3 km to the finish and most of it would be downhill. Richard took off a bit ahead and then another couple passed me as I was going down another decent. I caught up to the couple at the Lookoff where they were admiring the gorgeous view of the Wentworth valley below. We stuck together for a kilometer or so before they got ahead of me. I figured that Richard had decided to make a go for the finish; he was feeling much better than I was and was having a great run so I couldn't begrudge him for that. It was then that my dehydration started to really kick in. I was thinking if I came upon another stream that I'd take some water-screw the possible parasites. Unfortunately I only came on some standing water, which I wasn't too keen on taking since that's the stuff mosquitoes like to chill in. I enjoyed the single track as much as possible while trying to keep myself upright as the trail had become really rooty. I turned one corner and thought I saw a car behind a tree. I tried to figure out of a road somehow came up the side of the mountain and boy was I grateful it was there..maybe whoever was in the car would have water! But then I ran a bit closer and realized my so-called "car" was actually a bunch of tree branches bleached in the sun. "Oh man." I said out loud as I realized my delusion and then re-focused on getting my butt to the finish as soon as possible. Clearly my dehydration was starting to affect my mind!

I recognized the trail section that laid ahead of me and knew I had only 1 kilometer left to run until the finish. I pushed as hard as I could and found myself catching up to the guy Richard had chatted with in the river. There was no sign of the woman he had been racing with and he was looking about as bad as I felt. We exchanged a few words and wished each other luck as I found one last reserve of energy to push to the finish. I ran through the last checkpoint at the train tracks and waiting there were Jodi and Micheal. Micheal had run with me and my friend Andrea for part of the Cuddly Coyote back in October-and he had completed the second only known run across Prince Edward Island last summer. Jodi cheered for me then said Richard was ahead of me. I was happy to hear Richard hadn't gotten lost but then another realization occurred to me-I had created a monster! Richard had done so well that now he thinks he actually races better if he doesn't train at all! Oh frig.

I held my pace down the last grassy section where a sweet girl was waiting and cheered me on as I ran the last few hundred meters. Then out of the bushes popped Richard who ran the last few feet to the finish with me. We congratulated each other and then frantically started to share a bottle of water between us. Richard had finished 48th out of 54 finishers. I finished 50th. And hey, this time we weren't last ;-)

Post Race Runner's High

After the race it was back to Tatamagouche to pick up the rest of the family and then back to the campground we were staying in for the weekend. Rum and diet coke by the fire never tasted sooo good.

Getting ready for supper back at the camp site

The evening fire-time to relax after a great race!

Will we do the Sunofa Gunofa run again? I hope so. Richard had sworn off that race last year, but after his epic come back this year he might actually consider doing it again in 2014. As for me I'd love to do it again. It's a true trail race to its core. Running it I experience every emotion out there; the highs of running well through stunning forest scenery, struggling up the steep hills laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, the lows and self-doubt that require strong mental fortitude to overcome and keep going and the camaraderie of my fellow trail runners all out there doing the same crazy thing. So...yeah I'll be back. BIG Thanks to Jodi and Karine for another epic race. You guys rock!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Anticipation of the Next Trail Race!

Oh my, I didn't realize it had been a couple of weeks since I had written a post, wow time flies in the summer, even with crappy weather! I've been training and cross training in preparation for the big LOU52 trail race in August and so far so good (knocking on wood), things have gone pretty well all things considered. As I mentioned the weather in June really sucked. Wet and wild, it caused my husband and I to cancel a family camping trip last weekend so we're making up for it this weekend and combining it with a great trail race-what could be better?! Long runs have not gone beyond the 15km mark, which I'm not stressing over...just yet. I know this weekend's race, the Sunofa Gunofa Run, while it's short (12.5km), it will take at least 2 hours since it's more of a mountain trail race. My weekly mileage has been pretty much on target but I've been splitting up my long runs so I don't have to spend too much time out in the rain.

So, this weekend's race should be interesting! My husband and I ran it last year-he was so thankful to have survived it he waved at everyone on our drive back home..a true Runner's High lol. It is a very challenging course. Essentially you spend about half the race running up a mountain until you're screaming-"Really, MORE Up?" then you careen down the side of a hill until you hit the river-which you must run through (not beside) or you face a time penalty if you're caught. Last year I took an unintended dive into the river water-which felt pretty nice actually, but cut up my arm. Then up the other side of the hill to run more uphill, then a loooong downhill to an amazing look-off that showcases the gorgeous scenery of the Wentworth Valley and then down through a hobbit-like forest of ferns to the finish. And yes, my husband, in a drunken commitment, has agreed to go again :-)

A group of runners climbing out from the river below-there is more hill ahead!

This year we're adding on the camping aspect so there won't be a nice cushy bed to crash into once we're done. The campground's pool will have to suffice I guess. With temperatures expected to be around the 30C mark we will definitely need to cool off a bit. Wish us luck and look for my race/camping report early next week! I hope the sun is shining (finally) wherever you are and Happy Independence Day to our American neighbors!