Cross Training at the Drop of a Hat

On a whim, my 14 year old daughter and I signed up for an open water 500m race. We had one day to prepare. We had been swimming weekly in April but not much since. She has never swum much in a lake and was freaked out about the fish and weeds. We got out twice the day before to calm out fears but it didn’t help much.

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Last minute warmup swim the night before

The lake was choppy and it was chilly water. But in the excitement and the mass start we forgot our fears and ran in and joined the throng.

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Mass start of 100 people or so. Crazy!

She is a great swimmer and was confident in the length. She was ahead of me in no time. I was struggling to get in the swing of things and took a long time to get my stroke dialed in. She beat me by several minutes. Probably not the last time I will get beat by her, I’m afraid.

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We are out there somewhere

Her fears propelled her to finish with a great time. She conquered her fears and is ready to go even longer next year.

I had signed up to swim with her and talk her through it but I sure got my workout too. I was exhausted for the rest of the morning but she recovered quickly.

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My amazing daughter

I love being able to just jump in and join in whatever cross training presents itself. Even if I am not fully prepared. And hopefully my kids are learning that it isn’t all about winning but doing your best. And trying something new even if you know you aren’t that great at it.

Easy Does It

It has been 14 days since my race and I am still taking it easy. Those around me don’t think I am taking it easy but it is all relative. We are on a family vacation and I am still running nearly every day and going on long bike rides. We played golf and tennis and went swimming on the beach. In our family of 4, half of us appreciate the extra time on a vacation when you can do this sort of thing. The other 50% are sleeping as long as possible and devouring books. Either way we are rejuvenating.

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The back of both my knees still feel stretched and ache when I walk a long ways but when I run it is okay. Biking is okay since my legs don’t fully extend.

We only have one more full day so we are currently in the planning / negotiating stage of how to fill that day. I of course want to keep going hard. The rest of the family, not so much.

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The next 2 weeks will be packed full of busyness with school starting, me leaving for 2 weeks for work, and catch up from vacation. So running priorities will be altered from the optimum.

Trail Feature – Campbell Mtn Penticton

I had to search a little for running trails around Penticton but I found some good ones. I was looking for something between the flatter old rail beds, and the extreme downhill mountain biking trails.

Campbell Mountain overlooks Penticton from the east side. I drove just past the compost land fill and found a pullout with 3 other cars. There is a forest service road with a gate leading up the mountain. I started up this road but quickly found the trails that headed in the same direction. Some of the trails were more extreme than others and only a few were runnable in the uphill direction.

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The top of the mountain was 3 km along these trails. I kept the road within a few hundred meters so I wouldn’t get lost. It wouldn’t be that hard to get lost or head in the wrong direction, especially when getting back to the car, unless you can keep an eye on the road.

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Beautiful trails. Very quiet on a weekday morning. There was one other runner and 2 vehicles of bikers. Otherwise it was very quiet.

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I met a coyote but unfortunately otherwise no animals. And the view was rather smoky today (and all week).

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6 km return to the cell towers and back. 200m vertical.

I need more time around here to discover a few more of these trails.

Trail Feature – KVR Penticton

I love exploring new running routes, especially trails. Yesterday while visiting the in-laws, I ran along an old rail bed turned into a trail.

This section was on the west side of the city on the old Kettle Valley Railway running toward Summerland. The rail got ripped out maybe 20 years ago and it is now a favorite trail for locals. It is wide enough to run in groups and remote enough that you rarely meet anyone else. The are definitely cougars, rattlesnakes, cacti, poison ivy and deer in the area. But I didn’t see anything of concern on my run.

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This section had quite loose sand for much of it so it made my calves really work for it.

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Usually you can see the lake, sail boats and beach from this vantage point but this last week has been very smoky from the nearby wild fires.

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There is a lot of rock in the area and I imagine how much work it must have been to cut the rail road through here 150 years ago. I would love to have been one of the chief engineers building a railroad way back when. Hard work but very rewarding, I imagine.

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One of the nice things about this type of trail is that the slope is very predictable. Exactly 2% slope for many kilometres. I ran 11km, so it is easy to figure out my elevation gain.

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The old railway continues on the other side of the valley too. On the other side, the trail is better maintained for bikes. There are trail markers and many more tourists. You can bike for 100’s of kms. The first 30 km have been graveled and are quite pleasant for biking or running, as y pass the many vineyards. The more remote parts aren’t quite as good though.

For the west trail that I went on, you can access the rail trail from near Docs Driving Range and go up the hill about 1 km to the first bridge. The road goes over the trail at this point for easy access.

For the east trail that I have biked on previously, you can access that from near downtown by the marina.

My week here isn’t over yet so you might hear more of my adventures of exploration. Stay tuned.

Blisters (not!)

Even after my 87 km race my toes are healthy, blister-free, and there is no sign of black toe nails.

Maybe I am lucky to have hardy feet, or lucky to be picking the right shoes and socks but I have never had trouble with blisters, chafing on my feet or black toe nails.

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What am I doing right? I am not sure but here’s some things I am doing to make sure those feet problems don’t crop up.

Many of my socks have 2 layers. One slides with the shoe and one with the foot. The only sliding action is between the two layers of the sock. These are available at running stores and probably cost more than other socks but they seem to work well. Blisters be gone!

I tie the toe end of my shoe laces quite tight to prevent my feet from slipping around. This is especially critical on the steep downhills. The tightness you get them out of the store is never enough, I find. Experiment, but definitely if there is any downhill, tighten ’em up.

I keep my toe nails short. One of my rituals before a race is to cut them. I have learned the hard way that nails that are too long can hurt when they bounce up against the front of your shoe and if they do that too long they might go black and fall off (only happened once – 30 years ago).

Be barefoot or in sandals as much as possible. I don’t know if this does anything, but I know that being barefoot toughens up your feet to prevent them from going soft. And sandals keep your feet dry. Being in Canada, barefoot season doesn’t last long, but it is worth a shot for as long as possible.

Remember those two feet are all you got, and if they start screaming, it is pretty hard to ignore. Baby those 10 little piggies.

Not the Usual Horizontal Movement at a Faster Pace

This last week has been my recovery week and so my running regime has been tempered a lot.

My race was on Saturday and I seriously did not run again until Friday. Very odd, I know. I had energy after a couple days but my left leg was complaining and I was moving quite a bit slower even while walking. I went on a short bike ride Saturday and then ran again on Sunday. Monday I rode my bike. I went on some family walks over the week too.

The other problem with running this week and next is that we are visiting and holidaying for 2 weeks. Regular schedules are much harder to follow even if I have more time to burn.

Maybe the most significant challenge with exercise this week is the smoke from wildfires. It is incredibly thick and it is rare to see anyone outside exercising. I imagine it feels like smoking while doing a 10k. I guess I wouldn’t know what that feels like but I have a better appreciation for those that don’t have full lung capacity and have burning throats. I am sure glad to not have any asthma. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the smoke is going to dissipate this week.

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Of course I can’t go to the beach without running while there. I realized again what it takes to run in sand. It does a number on your calves. Good thing I am starting with strong calves from all my hill climbing this summer. It was probably less than one km.

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Even in the middle of this beachy tourist town I did find some vegetation to run past (but it only took 3 seconds to get past). I miss the trails of the mountains already. I might have to go exploring a little further out around here to get my fix.

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So for now we are mostly biking. We did some tennis and frisbee golf so we are not being inactive. It is a bit of a relief not to have to run so much as I have over the last few months.

An ultra plan according to my kids

While driving home from my first 50 miler last week, my kids were arguing in the back seat about what my plan should be for my next ultras.

“He should do a 100k ultra next year and a100 miler the year after that”
“No he should do the 100k this fall and the 100 miler next year”
“We will be in Colorado next summer and he can do one while we are there”
“He should run a marathon on every continent”

It is great they have such high ambitions for me but right now I can’t think of doing another one. I told my wife that the next time I talk of doing another ultra she should remind me how much time it took out of my weekends to train. I am expecting to feel the urge to sign up again in January for something and I need to set up someone with second sober judgment. But I am still expecting to succumb to the peer pressure no matter what those wise words might be.

But I committed a grave error this round since I did not sign up for another race before the last one on the list. Now I don’t have a race on my calendar and I don’t have any pressure to keep up the fitness and training. I had better search around and get signed up for something.

Maybe a fall marathon or a fast 10k. I don’t want to waste this fitness I have developed over the last few months.

This running longer every year is like a nightmare of a tunnel that has no end. You think you can see some light where running might start to consume less of your life but the light never gets closer.

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Once you embark on this ultra journey is there an end to the running mania?

Race nutrition – it doesn’t have to taste good (but it helps)

It doesn’t have to taste good, it just has to get you through race day.

My family does not like the taste of my cliff bars, gels, or energy drinks. That’s a good thing because that means they aren’t sneaking them out of the cupboard before I can pack them.

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I had no idea what my food intake would be for my 50 Miler but I knew I would be burning a lot of calories and would need to replenish. I had heard all the horror stories of not being able to keep food down on these events.

For the most part, nutrition intake went well enough, although I didn’t eat nearly as much as I thought I might. I started with 3 cliff bars, 3 gels, and 2 litres of water. At the end, after 13 hours, I still had 1 bar, 2 gels, and 1 litre of water left. I grazed at the 6 aid stations: a few chips, and gummi bears at each, plus a couple cups of soup (and some Gatorade and coke).

I must have burned a lot more calories than that. It was cold enough that perhaps I didn’t need more hydration but I though I would have needed more electrolytes. I was feeling low on fuel for the last hour and I should have had another cliff bar or gel but the finish line was so close, I thought I would go without it.

And I hardly ate after the race. My stomach just wasn’t up for it. But over the next few days, oh yeah, I downed a lot of food. I am still downing a lot of food and barely exercising.

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Shoe Saga

I had a no-win shoe choice for my 50 miler on Saturday. But I am glad to report that it wasn’t as bad as I feared.

As per my blog last week, my new trail shoes were still numbing my feet even after 100km of being broken in. So they were out. My very well worn road shoes had no grip, and my old trail shoes has lost both their cushioning and their grip. And I figured I couldn’t break in a new pair of shoes in a couple days.

So I brought both old pairs of shoes and planned to trade them and dry socks at the half way point.

The trail was very wet with numerous creek crossings so my feet were fully wet all day long. The dirt and mud caked my feet as I discovered when I swapped the shoes. And when I had to occasionally fish out sand and tree needles.

With 1 hour to go I suddenly had a blister coming on. I searched for the cause, perhaps some sand but frustratingly I couldn’t find it. It sure was painful though. But after inspecting after the race, a blister had not even materialized. I have super sensitive feet but I was sure they had been falling apart.

The very rocky terrain did a number on my grip. It seemed that well over half of the trail was loose sharp rocks that kept moving under my feet. With no grip to start with it was a bit hairy in sections. And for the parts that were not rocky, they were muddy. Better grip would have been very helpful but it probably would have been worn off by the end too.

And cushioning? I would have loved some cushioning. I was jealous of all those Hokas I saw out there.

This week I will be babying my feet. Sandals and bare feet will be my main choices for a while now.

And I will be doing some shoe shopping before my next race.

Trying to Smile for 50 Miles

Well we found the start line easy enough even in the pitch dark. We just had to find all the head lamps lined up listening to the final instructions. There seemed to be lots of nervous energy, me included.

The start of the Ironlegs 50 Miler race was in the rain and it rained for much of the race. It made for some parts to be very miserable but luckily rarely was it a down pour. Despite the weather, there were smiles and joking everywhere, throughout the day. Everyone was in the same boat (or maybe in the same flood).

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We only needed head lamps for the first 5 minutes of the race so many of us just relied on other people’s head lamps for that first bit. It made for a tentative slow start with everyone bunched up but it spread out soon enough. When there are so many hours to go it is not worth getting stressed out what part of the group you are in. Within several kilometres the amount of passing slowed down considerably as we found our place and as our legs woke up to the realization that this was going to be a long day.

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At first we were dodging the puddles until someone chided us that our feet were going to be sopping wet pretty soon any way. What were we doing? We had lots of creeks to cross yet. And yes there were a lot of water crossings and puddles throughout the day. And we soon remembered that getting wet when you are wet already is a lot of fun. And it didn’t take long until we couldn’t get wetter.

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Those of us who had done reconnaissance on the trails at least knew what the views were supposed to look like without the fog and rain. I felt sorry for those who hadn’t seen the area before that day. They missed out on a lot of mountain scenery.

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The hills were relentless. They just kept coming and coming. On average, half the race was 10% uphill and the other half was 10% downhill. That’s 4200m up and 4200m down over 87km. It felt like it would never end. There’s a reason it is called the toughest 50 miler in Canada.

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Well it did end. 13.5 long hours later. I came in 20th overall out of maybe 80 runners. So I am pretty proud of that. I didn’t smile all the way, but it is pretty amazing to be out there and to prove to yourself that you can do this.

Thanks for the amazing volunteering and aid stations in that drizzling rain all day. And my amazing family who came out to a couple aid stations and to steady me after the finish line.

Don’t ask me if I am going to do it again. The pain is still pretty fresh and the couch will be aiding my slow recovery for a while yet.

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