Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I DNF'd and I'm totally fine with it

It's the race that's heralded the start of the spring races for me these past three years. Although its been held on a different route each year, this year's format of running 6.5km loops seemed to spell success. It was Wascally Wrabbit race day. My brother had a fit of insanity on the previous Monday (I figured) when he readily agreed to run this 50k with me. I was anxious the whole week, worrying about not getting enough rest, the odd pains I was feeling in different spots on my legs, and concern for the incredible elevation gains the race route boasted...all typically pre-race worries. Come Saturday morning though I was focused and ready to do this thing! The race field was smaller this year after a longer than normal winter left many runners undertrained. We all waited inside the community building as long as possible to stay warm before heading to the start line. Jodi (the race organzier) held a moment of silence for a runner who passed away during a race the previous fall, Josh Grady. Once we noted where we could see Josh's memorial Jodi signalled for us to GO! The local trail running group took off ahead of the rest of us as my brother and I hung back, saving our energy. Not 400 meters into the race we made a sharp right turn and began to climb (literally, hands and feet) up this huge hill. The hill had a 40% grade for about 750 meters. I grabbed trees and rocks and tried to scramble my way up as fast as I could. My brother-the ever joker-was a bit ahead and took the opportunity to make me laugh my doing his best LOTR impressions. Once we got to the top we ran/hopped a single track cut out of the brush that covered the top of the hill. We zig-zagged around, jumping and slidding until we came to "the rope." I just stood there for a second, looking at it. It stretched about 20 feet above me, a shear rockface with a single rope to help. At this point (only 2 kms into the race mind you), I knew my 50k was not going to happen. I knew that after each loop all of this was going to get harder and harder (and muddier)and I seriously doubted I could haul my butt up this rope 8 times. I didn't tell my brother that, he was in such good spirits and really thought we could manage the 50k even though it was clear the route was not going to let us accomplish that. After the rope we ran along some more brush until we got to a swamp of fallen bleached trees and thick (suck your shoe off) mud. We ran as quickly as we could hopping and trying not to fall. After a few hundred meters we came to a dirt trail, that was for the most part, quite runnable for about 1.5km. Then we hit the grassy section that was probably an old riverbed since these small loose boulders were everywhere and finding sure footing was very tricky. I was kind of worried I would twist an ankle but thankfully neither my brother or I did. Eventually we got to the bottom and hit the 1.5km dirt road back to the check point, finishing our first loop in 1 hour and 12 minutes (more than 20 minutes slower than my usual 6.5km time!). In the end we managed 5 loops of the trail, finishing just before the cut-off of 8 hours, coming in at 7:30 (clearly we got slower as the day wore on!). In total we ran 32kms, just 18kms short of my goal, but I did accomplish two things; I showed my brother the trail community is awesome and he agreed to run a more "sane" 50km race with me this summer in Prince Edward Island (the Brookvale Ultra). Did I accomplish my 50k goal? Nope, but that's okay. I had a great time (the best I think in 3 years) and did manage to get in some serious trail training while surprising myself that I could haul myself up a rope! But the best take-away for me is that my DNF has given me the fuel to train hard and eat well before this next race in about 10 weeks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Race Week Freak Out!!

I've got my favorite race of the year coming up this week; which is actually kind of a funny thing to say since the trails have changed location from one year to the next, so I guess this is a compliment to the race organziers (Jodi and Karine) who keep the atmosphere of the race welcoming and fun each year regardless of the trail. Yup, its Wascally Wrabbit time! If you're a fellow runner you know the ups and downs of the last taper week before a big race. Waves of excitement followed by feelings of panic ("Oh my god-what have I gotten myself into" thoughts frequently pass in my mind). The best countermeasure to the negative thoughts is to review your training. If you've had a solid training block, it gives you the confidence to step up to the line. This year, I have had much more consistent and injury free training than I had last year. I've also learned a few new things this year, especially how fast I should increase my overall weekly mileage before I burn out. One big boost to my morale this year is that my brother, Joshua, is going to join me! He and I have finished a few half marathons, a full marathon and a bunch of 10ks together. He's great at keeping the mood light for the majority of a race and I try to keep us on track strategically. With both of us spending our childhoods running through the forest by our home, and then he experienced the trails of BC these past few years, I know he can handle this trail...just how much of it though remains to be seen. I'll certainly fill him in on the fact that the first 30k or so (for me anyway) is about my training. If I've trained well enough I don't start to feel the miles until the 30k mark. At that point the race turns mental-no not "crazy" mental- but the challenge isn't that you'll finish (physically if you're not hurt you can walk it), but staying focused and positive mentally until the end. Last year I totally lost it with 3km to go. Feeling sorry for myself, I cried and stomped my way into the last check point before trying to shake it all off and head out for the last 2km. I remember having next-to-tunnel vision, knowing 2km stood between me and the finish. Every bone and muscle hurt. I shuffle/walked with my husband and daughter to the end with a time I'd rather not repeat. When I look back at that race I know I did the best I could with the horrible training I had (months of blistered feet, bad shoes and inconsistent runs), coupled with the fact I had spent the previous week on a work trip, socializing late into the night and flying home the day before the race. So, this year I have more confidence going into the race and the new format will also play to everyone's benefit as well. This year we're doing loops of 6.4km. So, if my math is correct I'll need to do at least 8 laps to get 50km or more. Last year we did loops of about 13km, and the year before (my first 50km) we did one loop of 6ish km followed by a larger loop of about 9km, we did both loops 3 times and the 6km loop a fourth. This new format will not only allow people to rest a bit between loops, but if I manage to complete all 8 loops I'll have run my furthest distance yet of just over 51km. The goal is in my sights. So what do you do the week before a big race? Rest. Sleep as much as possible, hydrate as much as possible without overhydrating, make sure you have all of the supplies you think you'll need for race day, don't run a lot, walk if you have the pre race jitters and for god's sake don't eat anything different the night before the race...and don't forget..breathe. ;-) Here goes..again!