☄And That’s a Wrap (ed.6) ☄

In my past life I was a photographer. A photographer who's work focused on traditionalism and nostalgia. Every year, for 5 years, come January 1st(ish) I created a little monthly recap of the year. I have not done this since 2012. I thought enough time has passed since the death of my past and the birth of my new, that I should probably start doing it again.

You can view past years HERE 

 

JANUARY

This month marked the beginning of Track Tuesdays with Fraser Street Run Club. Still one of my favourite days of the week to coach. :)

FEBRUARY

It seems February has gone missing in my calendar of events. Might have something to do with being diagnosed with stresses and tib-ant tendonopathy in my shin.  I spent most of the month working from the ground up, trying to fix the weaknesses and build strength. 

MARCH

FSRC got new shirts and I slowly began to run again. Althoas it turns out I wasn't ready to run 50k and had to drop out of Chuckanut, making it my first DNF ever, and one of several that would happen later onto the season.

APRIL

Despite both Jess and I having to pull out of Zion 100k due to injuries, we continued with our plan and rented an RV and drove down to Utah to help crew Kat to her 2nd place finish! #FSRV for life!

MAY

Fraser Street Run Club to our first official field trip down to North Cascades WA: FsRC Fun Mountain. Pretty much one of the best weekends of the year. I finally completed a race and PBed my half by 3 minutes.

JUNE

I went back east to visit my family, run the Toronto Nike Women's 15k and race 2 Quebec City Spartans. I even got to help my 11 year old cousin through the junior race, which was pretty darn cool.

JULY

With not much notice, we were being reno-victed from not just our home of 2 years, but also our FsRC clubhouse. This left Jess, Cody and his family, myself and the rest of the club in a bit a pickle. Jess and I decided to make the executive decision to move to the North Shore. Coincidentally, only 40 meters from a trailhead. 

AUGUST

Jesse ran his longest race to date: Fat Dog 70m (and finished 2nd) FsRC spent the weekend in Squamish working at the Quest aide-station. A great way to spend an hot summer day!

SEPTEMBER

September was a busy month. Topping off a peak month of training with a fun trip to Victoria for Finlayson 50k with FSRC, and a testy race up to the Whistler Peak, FSRC also raised nearly $5000 for Watari as part of the Canadian Running Series Eastside 10k Crew Challenge.

OCTOBER

Jess and I packed up the car and headed down to Tahoe for Spartan World Championships. Needless to say that it was a good trip. Despite a tight race and lots and lots of penalties on my behalf I managed to squeeze in a win by seconds, make this moment a lifetime highlight.

   

 

 

NOVEMBER

I atte[unsuccesfully]mpted to race my first 24hrs race in Vegas at World's Toughest Mudder. Making it my 3rd DNF of the season. 

 

DECEMBER

I was lucky enough to get to go to Chicago with 47 other people to participate in the Nike #GetOutThere Challenge. Such a wonderful weekend and so many new friends made. Not to mention I now have a new favourite city and hotel. :)


a Heart broken DNF at my first World's Toughest MuddeR

It’s 30 minutes to the start of the 24hrs race. Sean Corvelle, as he does at the beginning of every Tough Mudder. starts his motivational pep-speech. The beautiful vociferous words spewed out of Sean’s smiling mouth, reaching out to everyone in the crowd of 2000+ people. 

 

“When was the last time
you did something
for the first time.”

 

I mean, who isn’t a sucker for a good inspirational quote, right?!

 

I am anxious, sitting in the dirt, trying to hide from the hot desert sun. People tower over me as they chant along side one another, “HOORAH! HOORAH! HOORAH!” I’ve had the privilege of experiencing a lot of ‘first times’ in my life and I use the word ‘privilege’ because I take it for granted. Not everyone has the opportunity to step out into the world and let those experiences like these happen.  And there I am, sitting in a crowd of people, where together, we are all about to do something for the first time.

 

I went into this race with one goal: to run for 24hrs straight. I knew if I could make this happen I would be in good standings. Till this point I hadn’t ran further than 60k or longer than 10hrs. But I trained smart. I coached myself for all the ‘firsts’ that were about to happen. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew mentally it would be tough. I knew it would be cold, wet, hot and dry. I was prepared for it. What I didn’t prepare for was the possibility that [spoiler alert] I may not finish.

These are homegirls. Arielle and Tory. Tory had just completed her first 100 miler not just 7 days before she had to stay up 24hrs for me. Arielle and I had never met till the day before the race. These girls were amazing. They waited on my every need. force feeding me and not letting me take off my wetsuit to ensure i'd continue.

These are homegirls. Arielle and Tory. Tory had just completed her first 100 miler not just 7 days before she had to stay up 24hrs for me. Arielle and I had never met till the day before the race. These girls were amazing. They waited on my every need. force feeding me and not letting me take off my wetsuit to ensure i'd continue.

 

LAP 1

The first hour of the race was an obstacle/mud free sprint. Meaning, if you were smart enough to start right at the front, you could potential get upwards to a 1 ½  to nearly 2 laps out of the way with out any obstacles. I, on the other hand, am not at the front of the start line, but rather waaaaayyyyy over on the south pit side, day dreaming (in the shade) on Sean Corvelle’s last words and about all the wonderful ‘first times’ that are about to happen. I try to scoot on over to the front of the start line. I never make it. I get stuck in a bottleneck of hundreds of walkers.

Oh dear.

It took nearly 2 miles to break through and finally get some room to run. It is so hot I’m about to explode. My heart rate is high. It’s too dusty to breath. I feel claustrophobic. I am on cloud nine.

 LAP 2

I finish lap 1 nine minutes behind schedule. Come 3pm, I had only bypassed 2 obstacles before I am forced to start on obstacle #3: ‘The Liberator’. (a 12’ high peg board)

Now would be a good time to probably mention that I have never done a Tough Mudder race, of any sorts, before-good thing I have 24hrs to get the hang on them right?

 

[sidetrack/note (if you know what WTM is all about please skip to the next paragrpah)]

Wait…wait…wait... Before I go any further into a ramble of words and obstacles, let me quickly breakdown the course into linear details:

-       The course consists of a 5 mile loop (repeated over the course of 24hrs)

-       The race started at Saturday 2pm and ended Sunday at 3:30pm

-       90% of the obstacles are either swimming in water, dropping into water, or fallen off into water.

-       As a human of shorter stature, the majority of the obstacles I needed a helping hand to get up’n over. In return, I lend a hand the human behind me. And it can me this beautiful chain of humans helping humans.

-       The first 2 miles of the course consisted of a cluster of back-to-back-to-back obstacles.

-       The last 3 miles consisted of lots of running up hill and only a few obstacles

-       There was a 35’ cliff, appropriately called ‘The Cliff’, that did not open till midnight, meaning you got a whole 10hrs to build up your anxiety before you were even face to face with it.

 

…Ok back to lap 2:

 

The first water crossing I reach is ‘The Statue of Liberty’. (a 50m swim with a tiki torch) Holy smokes! That’s cold!  This was followed by an obstacle called “Operation”: Replace the honk with a 10,000v shock and it would be just like the traditional kids board game. (But I’ll come back to this obstacle at lap 6.)

A few more muddy crawls, heaves over high walls, propels down cliffs, some greasy-ascending monkey bars and then I get to ‘The King of Swingers’.  (You start on a 5m high platform, jump out to a t-bar, swing over a pool of water in hopes you can reach the bell at the other end.) This year, every time you rang the bell at the end of the swing you received a gold carabineer that let you bypass one of four obstacles. The word on the stre(course)et is that they purposely made this year’s “Swinger” extra tough; ie. You came directly from some muddy obstacle making next to impossible to hold on to the t-bar, the t-bar itself was several feet further than in the past, and the bell was just reachable for those who were blessed with a wingspan of a condor. [sidetrack/note]:come the 12th hour people began to jump the 5m directly into the water rather than attempt swing. I never once came close to the bell, but I figured the further I can swing over the pool the less swimming I needed to do, even if I was only able to hold on for a split second. 

The King of Swingers

The King of Swingers

Then came, what appears to be everyone favorite obstacle on course, ‘The Rolling Dice’. I’ve attached a little video because when I try to explain how it works I usually lose people as soon as I start talking dimensions…“So you have, like these 3 huge rectangular cubes, they are like, 3x3x3x3x15 and then they spin horizontally! And your chest deep in water! And half the people push and while the rest pull! It’s so cool!” … yeah, I know…WTF is she talking about? So please just refer to the video below.

Lap 2 came to end shortly after the rolling dice and I am back on schedule. I decide to switch into my 2-piece wetsuit a lap early (In theory I should have just switched into my whole piece wetsuit because putting on a wetsuit when you are already wet and kind of cold is just so much fun…said no one ever.)

LAP 3

Tramp Stamp. All those years of gymnastics came in handy for bouncing off the mini trampoline.

Tramp Stamp. All those years of gymnastics came in handy for bouncing off the mini trampoline.

I have finally found my groove. I’ve got this. My heart rate is now back to normal, I’m floating through the water nice and toasty in my wetsuit, I’ve got the hang of most of the obstacles. I even managed to channel my childhood spent as a gymnast and perfectly rebound off the mini-tramp, catch the zip line handles and slide to the other side of the pool ever so gracefully on the “Tramp Stamp”. (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself)

            Despite running through the remainder of the loop with relative ease, and coming across the pit area 10 minutes ahead of schedule, I start feeling some niggles in my knee/ ilio tibial area. “Oh it’s fine… it’s going to go away in a few more kilometers. I know it!” I try to ignore it, grab my lap 4 goodie-bag and head out for round 4.

 LAP 4 & 5

Despite running both these laps penalty free, my ITB goes from not-so-good to really-not-so-good. I manage to walk/run both the laps adding a bit of a peg-leg gate to my downhill running, “Just keep truck’n” I tell myself.  Both pit stops the girls try to rub out my ITB and I stop when I can to give it a little stretch, but it’s just not going away. Even if I have to walk the rest of race, if I can just make it to 2am I’ll thenI will be over the hump and time will start counting down quickly. Just….4….more…hours…to…go….

Jaime so kindly trying to roll out my ITB

Jaime so kindly trying to roll out my ITB

LAP 6

This is where things start to get a bit silly.

 

For the first time in the race I am electrocuted on “Operation” not just once…or twice… but three times. Once it became dark, the rings (which you were trying to fish out with your 12’ long metal rod, through a tiny hole that was full of electricity) were next to impossible to see with dark shadows casting over them.  I had already failed the obstacle on the first zap, so the second and third zap was just cruel and immediately sent me in a rage on uncontrollable crying. Not just puttering of the lips, I mean newborn baby sobbing. I’m not normally an emotional person, nor do I get lonely often, but all of a sudden I had an over whelming sense of homesickness for my husband. Jesse has always been at races with me, usually he is racing them himself, but this would be the longest race with out having him by my side. All I wanted in that moment was for him to be running alongside of me, telling me to keep going.

I recently listened to a podcast about how the Ginger Runner had to call his wife in the middle of the New York Marathon because he was in such a dark place. I remember making fun of him for being such a wimp. Well, I take it back. Here I am, a grown woman, who prides herself in her independence, wollowing to call her husband not even half way into race. What a baby! Right?! A doctor friend recently told me that getting electrocuted is the closest way to simulate the feeling of sheer terror with out actually experiencing it. I’m pretty that sums up that experience, and I’m just going to pass it off as a moment of “sillyness” and move on.

Despite this little glitch of vulnerability, and my IT getting worse, I am still feeling really good. I’ve managed to stay warm, no other part of my buddy hurts, I am full of energy and have fueled exceptionally well to this point. So when I come into the pit area it was short and sweet and was able to move onto next lap with no hesitation.

LAP 7

That's not me. unfortunatly  have no evidence that I actually jumped off, but regardless, here is evidence of the

That's not me. unfortunatly  have no evidence that I actually jumped off, but regardless, here is evidence of the

Despite feeling well otherwise, at this point my knee has gone from really-not-so-good to reall-reall-really-not-so-good. The only time my knee doesn’t hurt is uphill, so I try to run up hill, but everything else hurts. The swimming, the walking, the downhill, the kneeling, the bending all hurts and knowing that the first cliff jump will be coming up at the end up the lap and that doesn’t seem to be helping things.

 Fear is a funny thing. I’m not scared of heights or of falling, or of the swimming part. I might be slightly scared of getting hurt landing in the water, but nothing out of the ordinary, so when I try to break down why the heck “The Cliff” makes me so freaking anxious, I can’t quite figure it out. It’s just one step over the platform and down you go. I practiced with Allison Tai at the Vancouver Aquatic Center and was completely comfortable falling from the 7.5m platform. 11m is pretty much the same as 7.5m right?!

            The Cliff is located about 100m from the finish line of the lap. As I approach The Cliff I am greeted with about 20+ other mudders waiting to jump off. 5 of which are in the middle of having a panic attack. This is not helping. I wait around or about 60 seconds and the line doesn’t move so I thought, “I’m gunna give the penalty lap a go rather than wait here and stress myself out more for the next 5 minutes. How bad can The Electroshock Therapy be?” Well let me tell you: I will now, and forever, always jump off a cliff before every going through that obstacle again. It didn’t help that I didn’t realize you were suppose to crawl under (rather than run directly through) the thousand of dangling live wires that stretched for about 30’.  On my last stretch of wires I got zapped by a big guy and it sent my flying about 10’ forward head first into the mud. And than the tears started, again, uncontrollably.  

Thankfully, Tory and Arielle were right there to great me. That lap was significantly slower than the previous laps and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it through another lap. By the end of the lap I couldn't even put pressure on my leg with out a heck of a lot of pain. The girls were so wonderful, and assured me that I could keep going. They told me I had moved into 5th place. (which is not bad since I walked the last 4 laps) I knew 4th place was just slightly ahead of me since we had been running together at the beginning of the 7th lap. That was enough motivation to get my ass in gear and head out for another lap.

 

LAP 8       

 Well... to keep things simple: Lap 8 sucked.

Pretty quick into the lap I realized I could barely walk anymore. I also realized pretty early on into the lap, that this was most likely going to be it for me. I also realized if I didn't jump off the damn cliff I would regret that more than anything. 'Just-get-to-the-cliff-Michelle" I was saying to myself.  I had to side shuffle backwards down the hills, and anything involving swimming results in a weird limp body doggy paddle. It took me nearly 2 hours to get through the first half. And it took everything in my soul to not quite at the tramp stamp. It was nearing 3am, I was awake, mentally doing pretty darn good all things considered and in the beginning stages of a WTM broken heart. 

I pulled up to The Cliff 2hrs30mins into my 8th lap. No one was around this time. I didn't hesitate. As soon as I got the go ahead, one foot stepped off and the rest of me followed.

One rolling down of the windows .

Slap arms around my body.

cross legs.

**SPLASH**

HOLY SMOKES! THAT WAS THE BEST THING EVER! 

I couldn't believe how good that felt. How much better that was than being electrocuted. How warm and inviting the water was. I wish I could have had a chance to do it all over. But alas, as I pulled myself up and over the cargo net and made by way to the finish line I had to surrender into the medical tent for the night.  

I'm not sure, but I think that is me, if it's not, this image still sums up exactly how I felt in that moment and I crossed the line for the last time.

I'm not sure, but I think that is me, if it's not, this image still sums up exactly how I felt in that moment and I crossed the line for the last time.

Super attractive photo of me in the med-tent at 4am. :p

Super attractive photo of me in the med-tent at 4am. :p

THE SLEEP and THE MORNING AFTER

Tory made me go to bed in my wetsuit. Which only a few days after the race did I realize that she did this in hopes that I'd be able to get back up in the morning and get out there again. Unfortunately things only got worse while I rested and my knee was now 100% locked/seized and I officially made the executive (and it wasn't very hard at that point) decision to pack it up for the remainder of the race. 

Despite the pouty face, I was still in good spirits.

Despite the pouty face, I was still in good spirits.

THE AFTERMATH

one word: REDEMPTION


#SpartanWC15 (Part 2)

THE RACE.

[2x the Beast 15mile loop: 49.8k/8900ft/240 burpees/8hrs52min]

LAP 1.

The morning of the race it was 7°C.  I thought, "Great! if it's 7°C now then its gunna get nice and toasty just in time to get to the peak and hit those water obstacles." Logical right? No, it wasn't. Maybe, if we were in the prairies and weather is 100% predictable, but we weren't. We were in the Sierra Nevada. At altitude. Where the weather went from 'not-totally-freezing' to 'gail force winds-totally-the-coldests-i've-ever-been-kinda freezing" pretty darn quick. 

We huddled around the start while we waited for the announcer to finish telling us how only 78% of us were not going to finish. [I rolled my eyes at the time, but in fact he was correct. 1000 racers starts and 150 finished] Ok let's gooooo already! So finally after 15 minutes of fear mongering aroo-aroos and a homemade national anthem, we were off. 

I'm a negative split kinda runner. I really struggle with redlining discomfort. (please refer to equine metaphor in Chapter 2 of Part 1) I like to take my time warming up. Sometimes this can take upwards to 2-3hours to happen. So I took the first mile loops pretty easy, getting passed by everyone. "Run my own race, just run my own race". I was sitting in 6th place when we looped back to the start and arrived at the vertical cargo net. Up and Over and immediately to the monkey bars (please refer the video in Ch.3 of part 1). I had heard the bars had broke the previous day and therefore must have changed them because I had no problem scooting across them (ahem...the first time around that is)

Log Carry (2nd lap)

Log Carry (2nd lap)

I slowly made the climb up to the peak reach the log carry. Now in 5th position, I strategically grabbed a log and heaved up and down a 400m loop. It was on the carry obstacles that I struggled a lot on last year in Vermont. Despite warnings that the altitude would make it challenging, I managed to scoot it up and down relatively easily. 

As we approached the 9000' summit of Squaw Valley, the weather started to turn for the worst. The clouds rolled in and the wind picked up to gusts so strong I felt as though I was running...err..hiking...ok walking...sideways.

By the time I got through the 1st Sandbag carry (about 8 miles in) I had moved into 3rd and was just meters behind 2nd. It was still early in the race, I wasn't too concerned about my position, especially with the majority of the obstacles coming ahead, including the swim and the dunk (which would come down to a game of survival).

The majority of the climbing was over. It was now all down hill (until the 2nd loop). I love down hill running. What I lack in uphill ability I make up for in downhill speed. It makes me so happy to racing down beautiful single track switch backs. So down down down down down I went.  The joy came to a sudden halt when we approached the lake. A 200m hairpin swim in a 11°C lake at the top of the mountain, where it was nearly zero out and windy as heck. Due to the cold, lifejackets were mandatory. Which, quite frankly, I was ok with. 

1st & 2nd lap of the summit (9000') It may look more goth in the 1st summit, the 2nd summit was much colder and windier.

1st & 2nd lap of the summit (9000') It may look more goth in the 1st summit, the 2nd summit was much colder and windier.

This is the diagram of the swim.

This is the diagram of the swim.

safety first! 

safety first! 

I made it through the swim relatively easy. I didn't actually find it terribly cold. As long as I kept moving at a good speed I was able to maintain body heat.  Body heat did, however, become problematic as soon we got to the long barb wire crawl.  

The barbed wire was incorporated into a circuit of obstacles that went something like this: barbed wire --> 6' wall --> barbed wire --> turn back into barbed wire --> wall --> barbed wire --> dunk wall (I highlight this because this is where the problem began for the majority of  people) barbed wire --> wall --> barbed wire -->barbed wire . 

Dunk of loop #2.

As I entered the circuit I could see 1st place female struggling at the dunk. I was currently neck and neck with 2nd and 4th was not to far behind. We slowly scooted through the barbed wire where immediately  I began to feel the cold for the first time since the swim. My hands were numb, my toes weren't far behind. As I came up to the dunk wall I didn't hesitate and I just got'r done. 'm sure you are thinking, "what's the big deal, she just spent 2minutes swimming in a lake, why is she concerned about dunking for 10 seconds?". Well, in the lake I was able to keep my head, neck and top of my chest relatively dry. Dunking would be full submersion and with the air being so cold it made it rather difficult to get the body temperature back up.

The 1st Bucket brigade. Sport'n the stylish buff turned balaclava and gardening clothes. An obvious fashion before function statement. ;)

The 1st Bucket brigade. Sport'n the stylish buff turned balaclava and gardening clothes. An obvious fashion before function statement. ;)

I have never experienced cold as I did in this part of the race. Somehow I was able to get up the rope climb, despite not being able to feel my hands and losing all function in my wrists. One foot in front of the other. My toes were rock hard. My teeth were chattering so much my jaw was starting to get sore. Just keep moving. Atlas carry --> Tyrolean traverse --> Spear toss. Back to back to back. I struggled with the traverse rope. I tried to get on to my stomach so I could pull myself forward, but rolled over and had to traverse under the rope. It was a struggle. With the cold, I had lost all my strength in my forearms. I made it across, but I knew It would be struggle come lap two. I obviously missed the spear toss. So did 1st place. She was struggle with the cold and couldn't get through her burpees. I got through my first set of penalty burpees with ease and raced down the mountain (now 1st female) to the bucket brigade where I finally began to warm up. I got through the bucket carry easily and headed to the finish (of the first lap). 

Traverse wall --> 60' ring/tarzan rope rig. I got through the traverse wall, although I did find it a lot more difficult then walls in the past. I attempted the rig for a hot second, but jumped off in attempt to save what little grip I had left. 30 more burpees. Jesse (my husband) kept telling me to put my gloves and jacket on to help me warm up. I shouted "I'm warm! I'm great!" (Only after the race did he tell me that he'd never seen my face and lips so blue before and was slightly concerned)

1/2 of the rig at the finish line.

1/2 of the rig at the finish line.

They detoured me through the finish to head into the drop bag zone. I had about a 3 -5 minute lead on the 2nd and 3rd place females at this point. I was feeling great. Mentally I was a little anxious about going through the two water obstacles again, but thankfully was warm enough and energized to not be overly concerned with the battle.

LAP 2. (Short and sweet)

As I headed out of the drop bag area I made it back to the vertical cargo net and straight to the monkey bars that felt a whole heck of a lot more greasy the 2nd time around. Needless to say I fell off of them immediately.

30 more burpees.

I moseyed up the hill and got to the hercules hoist. I was wearing gloves, which I think was my down fall, and couldn't get a good grip and by time i took my gloves off it was too late and the rope slipped from my hands and crashed down.

30 more burpees.

This is also where 2nd place, the lovely Ashley Seeger, was able to pass me. (clearly she spent much more time working on her grip strength then I did) We headed back up to the summit where I caught her just at the top on the sled drag. My sled got caught in a foot of sand and I have to heave extra hard to get it moving again. She passed me again. Unlike my grip strength, my ultra legs were just getting warmed up and I was feeling stronger than ever running and was able to scoot passed her and down to the lake for the 2nd swim. It was little bit more of a mental challenge this time around, but in I went and out I came and down the hill I continued to dunk wall numero dos. [see video above]

Then came the tyrolean traverse. I struggled with this on the first lap, so I wasn't expecting much come the second time around. I tried to get on top the rope and immediately well around to the bottom. I used my arms (rather than hands) hoping it would help. It did. For about 3 feet. then I looked back and realized I had 20+feet  left.

30 more burpees.

Ashley powered right by me on the traverse like tarzan himself. I met her as she was half way through her burpees from a missed spear toss, where I too did:

30 more burpees.

With only 2.5 miles left I ran my heart out. Knowing that I was most likely going to fall off the travers wall at the finish line, and then again on the rig, (meaning I still had 60 more burpees left) I booked it as fast as I could down the hill to the bucket brigade. Oh gosh my forearms were on fire. I had to rest the bucket on my leg every 20 feet or so, making it easy for Ashley to catch up to me at the end of the carry. 

1 mile left.

The trail was full of people who were completing the sprint and beast distance. It was a bit of a salmon swimming up stream feeling. Then came the final two obstacles: the traverse wall and 60' rig. I made it about 2/3 of the way across the wall and then fell. Oh shoot! I had about a 45 second lead on Ashley, I know that wasn't going to last long. And after already doing 180 burpees, my burpees were running in slow, horrible, sloppy motion. (did I say slow?) Then I looked over and Ashley also fell of the the wall. Holy Smokes! After racing for nearly 9hrs this race was going to come down to a burpee off!

30 more burpees. 

I opted to jump on and right off the rig and get straight into my final set of burpees. Jess was counting down for me. Total soccer dad style (I definitely needed it). Hands to the ground, step back, step back, flop down, kneel, one leg up, another leg up, 1 inch jump of the ground. Repeat. 29 more times. As I neared the final 4 burpees I knew I had it. 4,3,2,1... finish line!

The finish line.

The finish line.

 

THE POST-RACE.

When I crossed the finish line I felt great. I felt like I was just getting warmed up. I felt as though I was ready for another lap. I was ready for the next adventure. I woke up the next day with a couple of sore calves, but otherwise ready to run.

There was a lot of chattered from racers regarding the lack of heavy carries compared to Vermont's course and disappointment in that it came down to a running race, that course was too quick.  To be honest, this is what OCR is all about. Versatility, the ability to adapt to anything, the unknown, the mountain. To be an all around athlete and a great runner, especially technicalrunner, a confident downhill runner.

Canadians finished 1st (Kevin Lavoie) & 3rd (Alex Devine)

Canadians finished 1st (Kevin Lavoie) & 3rd (Alex Devine)

What's next? A trip to Vegas perhaps. :)


#spartanwc15 (part 1)


THE PREFACE.


Three months ago the Spartan World Championships (Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe) weren’t even in my radar. After last year’s delirious race I thought there was no way I was going to put myself through all that again and they add 9000 feet of altitude to the whole thing.
Then the email from Denise Mast came. (the Spartan International Quality Manager)

 It went something like this:

“Congratulations for qualifying for Spartan World Championships 2015 in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe!…. yadda yaddda… FREE RACE ENTRY… yaddda yadda…FREE HOTEL… yadda yaddda yaddda… aroo aroo.”


I like free. And I didn’t really see a reason why not to jump at the chance to go redeem myself and spend sometime in beautiful Lake Tahoe... for free that is. (and apparently so did 200+ other international athletes)


I had a pretty solid race season already. Landing on the podium in 3/4 Canadian races was is pretty darn cool, but I also raced in the Pacific NW race, got my butt kicked and barely squeezed in 11th place finish. I know my strengths and I know my weakness even better. I’m more of a strategic mule that can pace itself through 10 hours with a giant pack on its back (even if it’s only a 60 minute race) rather than the thoroughbred racehorse that wins the Kentucky Derby.


So where am I going with all this equine metaphors? I had decided not to race the actual championship “Beast” race but save myself for the “Ultra Beast” the following day. As someone who lives full time at sea level in a coastal mountain range where, despite having lots of mountains to climb, our highest peak is 6000 feet above sea level, I knew I would be able to race myself up a mountain at 9000 feet as fast as I would have liked to.


THE TRAINING.

For the next 6 weeks I crammed hard for this race. I focused mainly on four things:

  1. Ascents (aka running up hill) 
  2. Ascents carrying heavy and awkward things.
  3. Ascents & Ascents carrying heavy and awkward things on tired legs.
  4. Doing the Grouse Grind. A lot.  (often referred to as “nature’s staircase” this is a 2.3k/870m gain hike)

[NOTE: Looking back on this now I would have added a 5th element: grip strength. All of my penalty burpees during the race were due to lack of grip strength causing me to slip/fall off an obstacle, but you can hear more about that later on]

Here is a break down the 4 weeks leading in the race:
4 WEEKS OUT (TOTAL:  90k & 17,000 feet ascent)

The Peak Of the Lions

The Peak Of the Lions

Mon: Crossfit & Recovery Grind
Tues: 40min trail tempo run followed by 35 minute 70lbs bucket carry
Wed: Conditioning Crossfit & recovery Grind
Thurs: Interval speed work with VFAC
Fri:  6k easy morning run & Crossfit & 6k easy evening run
Sat: Race Whistler's Valley to Peak. [3.5hrs and 21k trail race from the base to peak w/ 6800feet of gain and peaking at 7000' elevation]
Sun: run the Lions [6hrs and 22k w/ 5200feet of gain] & finishing with a 20 minute 70lbs sandbag carry up skill hill]

 

3 WEEKS OUT (TOTAL:  102k & 15,000 feet ascent)

Mon: Trail run [3hrs & 18k w/3300feet of gain]
Tues: Recovery Crossfit
Wed: Conditioning Crossfit & 3x2miles @ 10k pace w/ 5min rest (on track) & 3x10 bucket carry
Thurs: Crossfit & 20min stairs with bucket & recovery grind
Fri:  Crossfit
Sat: Finalyson 50k Trail Race [8hrs & 55k w/8200 feet of climbing @ easy effort]
Sun: recover :)

2 & 1 WEEK OUT (TOTALY: 110K & 14,000 feet ascent in two weeks)

I took it down a pile of notches trying to get wake those legs back up again after two hard weeks of climbing, squats and carrying heavy and awkward things. I stopped Crossfit and just had fun and relaxed runs.

Sun Peaks had a double sandbag carry which I loved!

Sun Peaks had a double sandbag carry which I loved!

The week before the race I did however sign up for Sun Peaks Spartan Beast on a whim. Len-dawg and I drove the 4hrs to Sun Peaks, slept at the Chateau Mazada 3, raced (len-dawg decided to sit that one out) and drove home all in 24hrs.  I went into race treating it as a final practise  before the Ultra Beast 8 days later. I attempted to keep an easy effort, similar to that if I had to complete two laps of the course. Work out any equipment kinks or obstacle strategies  etc. successfully did. I did however fall off two 2 obstacles I've never ever fallen off before causing me to finish in 5th. But Alas! It was a great day and great race.

 

 

Here is a photo of Lenny. Cause who doesn't like seeing a photo of a dog eating an A&W Mama burger.

Here is a photo of Lenny. Cause who doesn't like seeing a photo of a dog eating an A&W Mama burger.

THE PRE-RACE.

(I promise the actual race report is coming soon)

Jess, Len-dawg and I packed up the ol'hatch back (aka Chateau Mazada 3) and made our way down to Tahoe over the course of the next two days. 

I felt strong and ready for the race, but was super worried about the altitude. Even the few races I did over 6000' I found quite the struggle, I couldn't even imagine a race starting at the elevation. Yikes! On the Friday before the race Jess and I headed down to Yosemite to try and hit 10,000' and hoping it would help me get acclimatized faster. We decided to run up Clouds Rest, a 20k out-and-back that started at 8700' and peaked out 10,000'. Oh and did I mention it also had the most epic view of Yosemite Valley. (please refer to image below) At the time I didn't know if doing a 20k shakeout run was the best way to get ready for a 50k race two days later, but now after the fact I'm very happy we did it. Despite struggling... a lot... climbing the final 2k and then struggling ... double a lot... even on the descent back to the car, come race day, I indeed felt like a million bucks and hardly noticed the elevation. 

[The summit of Clouds Rest w/ view of Half Dome]

[The summit of Clouds Rest w/ view of Half Dome]

Although I had initially registered for the Championship Beast race on the Saturday, but decided not to race it. This meant, for the first time ever, I got to watch the elite race (and by elite I mean that thoroughbred - Kentucky Derby winning - kinda athletes) Gotta say there were some pretty magical moments and I couldn't help but get a little FOMO watching everyone come in through the final rig. Oh gosh! What a day for the OCR community. The caliber of athletes this year was unprecedented.  I believe the difference between 9th place and 30th was just 10minutes. And the top 50 being all finishing within another 10.






The Injured Runner Diaries ed.1

Well, the inevitable has happened: I’m injured.

I have always taken pride in being injury free; being smart about my recovery and training load. I’m a firm believer in cross training, lifting heavy weights and training smart to race hard. But eventually, the endless miles, time on legs, ankle roles and naiveté of what’s just a niggle vs. what’s actually an injury caught up with me.

It all started in August last year. A week prior to racing Squamish 50k, I rolled my foot pretty badly at the beginning of a run. Looking back I should have probably stopped running, but like many of us do, I kept going…for another 31k. The following day I experienced some soreness along my tibialis anterior, (the muscle the runs along the outside of the shin bone) but I thought that it was just a pulled muscle, how bad could be if I continued to run it. So I just kept going and going.

My race season was just starting. I had a few big races planned (including a trip to Vermont and California) and I wasn’t going to let a little niggle get in the way. Looking back on it now, the weeks leading up to the Spartan World Champs I was in a lot of pain. In fact I can’t believe I was able to work through it and didn’t do more damage to it. At one point my dad asked if there was any chance that my leg was fractured. “Nah..” I think were my exact words, although deep down I felt like he may be one too something.

After Spartan Vermont, I took it easy. I ran no more than 16k at a time, I took some time off Crossfit to travel to California for another race and it seemed the pain was slowly getting less and less. Which in my mind meant that if it wasn’t as bad as it was 5 weeks prior it’s probably healed right?!

Despite “taking it easy” and “feeling better”, I never dealt with the pain properly, never saw a specialist, never went to physio and just kept telling myself I was fine. It wasn’t until I started back up my training in January still with pain, after haven taken 6 weeks off, that I realized it might be time go figure out what the heck is going on.

I started with physio first,(Greg Kirk (Health Science Lab) is the best physio guy out there FYI) then the X-rays, then the bone scan, then 1 week of convincing myself that it was indeed a stress fracture and then the official diagnosis from the sports doctor; No fracture but definitely stresses and a bad case of Tibialis Anterior Tendinopathy. Laymen’s Terms: Tendonitis of the shin aka a very bad case of s.

So what does this mean for my running/racing/training? Well the bad news is that I had to DNF Chuckanut 50k at kilometer 25 (I know you are probably thinking why the heck would she even try to run 50k right now, but I’ll save that story for another entry) and I had to drop out of Zion 100k, I won’t be ready to race BMO marathon and I’m not to sure when I’ll be running full mileage again. BUT there is still good news in all this; It’s not a stress fracture, which means I can still keep running at lower weekly mileage and keep doing my workouts with VFAC as long as there is no pain and I can keep weight training.

This all make me so very happy that at the end of the day I didn’t end up in an air cast for 2 weeks, however there is some fine print. I’m not entirely feeling pain free. The pain is about 10% of where it was in September, but I can feel how sensitive my shin is all the time. It’s always in the back of my mind. In my sleep, when I walk, when I stand, as I type this now I feel its weakness. I can’t tell if it’s placebo paranoia or if my tibia is actually just struggling to heal.


Spartan Dallas SPRINT (part 2)

Post team awards, Caroline suggested I ask the race director if I could get a free entry into the sprint (8k) the next morning. If there is one thing that I hate more than asking for help, it’s asking for favors. Reluctantly, I put on my best Canadian charm and asked the RD for the  compped entry and much to my surprise he actually said yes. Which was fantastic because race day entries are a pricey $180 for elites. Yikes! Right?!

I woke up Sunday morning to yet another very very cold day and a pair matching large bruises on my legs from falling off the rope climb, so I opted for pants rather than shorts. I didn’t have any expectations for the day, I just wanted to go and race hard and gain more experience. Most of the elite females race 2-3x a month and know the obstacles like the back of their hand. I, on the other hand, only raced 3x the whole season until that weekend, so needless to say, I’ll take all the practice I can get it, even it means running on sore and tired legs in negative degree weather.

Since I raced the course the previous day I was pretty familiar with what was ahead of me. I knew that most of the obstacles would be the same for the first 3k (which included the infamous 100m long swampy creek bed) as it was for the team event. Mentally, this made me quite calm at the start line. My only goal for the day was to not bonk on the rope climb like I had during the Team event. (Back in August, I had joined Crossfit just so I can practice my rope climb: there should be no excuses for failing this obstacle.)  Also, being a relatively fast and short course I would try my hardest to stick with the front of the pack from the get go.

Sledging through the swamp [o] Jenn Willis

Sledging through the swamp [o] Jenn Willis

As soon as the gun blasted I took off with the lead ladies. We headed straight for the swamp to find ourselves now chest deep, rather than thigh deep like the previous the day, in warm muddy water. Having had 6000+ racers romping through the warm waters the day before it had kicked up the muddy bottom making it much more difficult to trek through. Also unlike the day before, I was not able to get the same head start through the water, however I was right close tucked in behind the top 4 or 5 women.

Around 2k I was sitting in 6th place with no one insight behind me. Coming through the 2nd section of swamp my shoe became untied. Uh Oh! I clenched onto my shoe with my toes hoping that it would get stuck in the mud and raced to the next clearing to tie it up quickly, only to have it become untied again a few minutes later. In a race where 30 seconds separates 6th place to podium, every second counts.

The 3rd obstacle was a log flip. There were no volunteers at the entry of the obstacle to tell me that I was actually flipping the men’s log and not the women’s log. Only after the fact of completing all 6 flips did it come to my attention. It may have slowed me slightly, but I was still held on to 6th place.

At the traverse wall I was able to take over and move myself to 5th place. Since I don’t actually get to practice the obstacles, I spend a lot of time watching ‘How-To” YouTube videos and visualizing them in my brain, so that when it comes to the traverse wall, or vertical log hops I can be a bit more mentally prepared and scoot through them relatively quickly.

Here are a couple ladies climbing the rope, just give you an idea of the obstacle [o] Jennifer Willis

Here are a couple ladies climbing the rope, just give you an idea of the obstacle [o] Jennifer Willis

Now on the topic of mental preparation; next up the rope climb. I took a few deep breaths as I jumped into the water, looked for the driest rope, and started my way up. I opted for the “s’ hook this time around and was able to get up to bell with relative ease in comparison to the day before. Goal accomplished! Anything at this point would just be the cherry on top.

SpartanTEXAS_sprintfinishline.jpg

I raced the final 2k through the cactus patch, down the grassy hill to the spear toss. (Another obstacle I spend a lot time visualizing)  I noticed that 4th place runner was doing penalty burpees, I just assumed I’d be joining her real-quick as I have yet to even come close to hitting the target. I grabbed the spear, ran through technique in my brain tossed a perfect throw straight into the target. I scream in victory! I couldn’t believe. I didn’t waste any time and booked it to the finish line. Although 3rd place was still 90 seconds ahead of me, I could feel 5th place right behind me. I don’t think that smile left my face until…well.. until a week later I’m sure!

I couldn't be more happier to have my name sandwiched between the likes of April Dee and Rose. Two of the top ladies in the world.

I couldn't be more happier to have my name sandwiched between the likes of April Dee and Rose. Two of the top ladies in the world.

I finished the race with a nearly perfect performance, with the exception of the 2x shoe-tying and the flipping the men’s log, and I was just the happiest person to ever come 4th place. The Texas race was the last of the season, and after a disappoint trip to Vermont, I couldn’t have had more confidence boosting, fun, and positive race to end the season.

Spartan Dallas TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS (part 1)

[better late than never: 1st edit November 14th, 2014]

Shortly after my, somewhat disappointing, performance in Vermont I received an email from a fellow East Coast elite racer, Helen Dumais, regarding putting together a team a Canadian team for the Spartan team championships in Dallas TX. I was eager to redeem myself from the World Championships and before realizing what all this entailed (you know... like flying to Texas etc.) I jumped at the chance. 

Allison, myself, Caroline Drolet, Helene Dumais

Allison, myself, Caroline Drolet, Helene Dumais

In the last month since Vermont I have changed a few things around; I started to take a B-12 vitamin with my iron supplement I had recently been prescribed and I also introduced beet crystals into my daily diet hoping these would help with getting my VO2 back to normal. I also have been running less distance and spending more time focusing on speed work keeping my runs no longer than 16k. Whether any of this had anything to do why things went so we'll this weekend, or if I just had a good weekend, I’ll take it either way, cause this weekend was just the best!

On to the actually races itself:

WATCH OUT! swamp ogre coming through.

WATCH OUT! swamp ogre coming through.

Saturday's race consisted of 10 team obstacles (10' foot wall, relay sandbag carry, swimming across a large lake, extra large tire flip and extra large tire pull and one very large log flip) as well as 14 individual obstacles (traverse wall, stump crossing, tyrolean traverse, rope climb, he spear toss etc.) The only other rule we had to watch for was that our first runner and our third runner had to cross the finish line with in 30 seconds of one another. Going into Saturday's Spartan Beast (23k course) team championships I was really concerned with not being strong enough to keep up with the rest of the girls, that I would be the one to hold everyone back. I don't know if I had redemption biting at my heels or what, but I felt like a race horse right out of the gates. vroom! No stopping me! With in the first 100 yards we had to run about 100m through waist deep muddy creek bed and before I knew it I somehow was leading the pack. Yep, everyone! Including the American Spartan Elite. Now I know what your thinking "Michelle, isn't this suppose to be a team event?" Yah yah, it was and when I looked back for my team, Helene told me to just keep going, so yah, I'm gunna baste in this small moment of packing-leading glory because it didn't last much longer than that.

The 1st creek bed. (I should also mention is was 0 degree out when we ran through this)

The 1st creek bed. (I should also mention is was 0 degree out when we ran through this)

[o] courtesy of Allison Thai's Husband, John.

[o] courtesy of Allison Thai's Husband, John.

For the most part we ran great as a team. We had fallen to third place right off the start but with every obstacle it seemed like we were getting closer to the 2nd place team ( at leas that's what the volunteers kept telling us.) It took about 5k to really find our groove as a team. We were all very much the same pace; where two of us fell on an obstacle the other two would fall on another obstacle together. I managed to breeze through all the obstacles until we hit the rope climb. Boy did I really struggle with this guy. I couldn't get my feet right and I was slipping, at one point I made it just a foot below the bell and slipped down the rope another 3 feet only to climb back up to the same point to slip down the rope like a fire fighter on a pole. Not cool Michelle, not cool, I got some serious war wounds from that, not to mention wasted all the effort only to have to do 30 burpees regardless! Yikes! It's ok though...we got through as a team and continued on our adventure along the diverse ranch lands to the spear toss... Aka the game changer. I was up first...missed...than Allison went...miss again...than Helen-miss- and Caroline missed too. Down we go 30 more burpees. (Although I can tell ya that 60 burpees is much better than 300) Off we went to finish up the last 1/2 a mile. In hindsight we should have all waited for each other and finished as team across the fire rather than individually crossing but that's only an after thought.

Allison and I crossing the finish line.

Allison and I crossing the finish line.

We finished third. My first podium finish at an American race. The awards were very glamorous in comparison to the 'very poorly organized-almost didn't happen'awards in Vancouver. Cameras everywhere, a million photos, we got our checks on the spot. Everyone was fantastic.

The course played to every part of my running strengths: flat and technical with lots of time to run. My favourite! At one point in the early morning myself and my three teammates were running in waist high grass as the sun rose over the Texas farmlands and it was just the best site for sore eyes

I really like Texas.

 

 

Spartan World Championships: 25k/7000ft/305 burpess

SHORT FORM

I would be lying if I didn’t say I am slightly…er…embarrassed…by my performance last Saturday in Killington. It was not my day. I finished about 15 places further down then I would have liked to have. I couldn’t get my legs moving and I was falling off obstacles left right and center. But! With that being said I am very proud at conquering & completing what were some of the toughest moments (physically & mentally) of my life. And at the end of the day I learned to just have fun and make some new friends While I was at it.

image

There is me trying talk to my new friend Chris at one of the last obstacles. [Note how he doesn’t seem so keen to friend me back. :)]

LONG FORM

Well, Saturday was the most ultimate ass-kicking of my life. I went into the Spartan World Championship enamored by the athleticism of the women around me but excited to test my hard work against them. Wooophhh!  Boy… was my performance far from what I was hoping for. It was not a ‘bad” race by all means, however it was far from being a “good” race. I was under prepared mentally and felt even more under trained and just couldn’t seem to get my legs going.

Anyone who knows me is familiar with how slow I am at running/hiking uphill. Climbing has never been a forte of mine, (I like to blame on my extra long femurs and the lopsided leverage they cause) so I’ve been working hard on this weakness, or at least that is what I like to tell myself. Therefore, coming into this race I thought to myself “I’m from the West Coast, I’m use to elevation gain, I spend lots of time on the grind and technical trails, Vermont should be a piece a cake…right?!”  Well let’s just say I was served biggest piece humble pie you’d ever seen two days ago. [Spoiler Alert: there was 6600ft of gain in 23k. Then throw in 305 burpees on top of 30 obstacles and you a recipe for things to get a wee bit silly for Michelle…yes first person type of silly]

image

 Those are a lot of steep inclines eh?

Around 7k, just after the first water obstacle, (aka the 100m swim, in a freezing cold lake, sans lifejacket, to a rope ladder, proceed by a Tarzan rope swing, proceeded by another 100m swim to shore, only to have to complete 30 burpeees because no one could actually make it across the Tarzan ropes-obstacle… oh! And did I mention it was only 7 degrees out?) I was sitting pretty just 5-ish minutes first place lady and feeling pretty darn great. That is until we headed deep into the woods, of a barely their trail, to the top of a ski hill, for the next 10k. Apparently they never heard of ‘switchbacks’ in the world of Spartan racing.

 There is a view of the Tarzan Swing obstacle.

Through out the next 10k we came across the first barbed wire crawl (easy peasy), followed by a balance obstacle (also ruled it) then the 300m log carry (pretty sure I grabbed the largest and longest log in the pile). When we reached the top of mountain it was about 3· and gusts of winds upwards to 65km/hr. It was a pleasant surprise to see my folks up there cheering me on and braving the poor conditions. My pops told me I was now 22 minutes off the lead. Ok! No biggie, what goes up must come down right? What I lack in my climbing skills I usually can make up on descending. One problem, despite taking 10k to reach the summit it only took 3k to reach the base. (funny how that is eh?) When I reached the 2nd 300m bucket carry at the base, my dad said I made ground and was only 14 minutes off the lead, which made me feel empowered for all of 120 seconds before my dreams came crashing down as soon as I looked up and saw our next climb. Up…up…up…straight up… under the gondola…right back to the summit: the summit I just so proudly raced down in record time.

image

Proof that I probably indeed chose the biggest log I could find. Look at the girth on that bad boy!

Right from the get-go my race legs weren’t feeling so spry, however this is when things started to turn for the worst (mentally and physically). I just couldn’t get my legs moving and my brain was over it. After descending the mountain for the 4th time, around mile 11 of 13, we were faced with the worst obstacle of the day: a 1k, 60lbs (double if you were of the male gender) sandbag carry back up and down the ski run.  I could honestly say that this was one of the most challenging mental moments of my life. There was human carnage everywhere. The poor men had to carry two sandbags. Most of them had resorted to carry one bag up 30ft then running back down to bring the next bag up. I don’t like to say here is where I gave up, however this where I decided to it would be a good time to sit down and enjoy the view for a few minutes. I made the mistake of grabbing a sandbag wrapped up like a brick, rather than the ones were in over sized bags that allowed people to sling them over their shoulders with better grip. After reflecting upon this mistake for way too long and being passed by half dozen females, I though it would probably be a good idea to suck it up, play thee ol’ Booi family card and use comic relief and a forced smile to get me through the remaining 2 miles in good spirits. According to Strava the only CR I received that day was on this sandbag carry. It took me 24minutes to move 800m. (I should probably mention that I was the only lady on Strava who raced.)

Here is a funny video of the carnage on the Sandbag carry.

When I finally decided to let go of the fact I wasn’t actually going to win this thing, I loosened up and pulled yet another card out of the Booi deck decided to befriend everyone in site (whether they liked it or not). And quite frankly, I was so incredibly excited that I made it across the Tyrolean traverse (mile 12) that nothing else seemed to have mattered. Even though…with one mile to go… I managed to fail the rope climb (never had that happened before), the spear toss (definitely only ever had that happen before), and two sets of monkey bars (how ridiculous is that?) and bring my burpee total up 305, I still managed to find some energy to poke fun at myself and finish with a smile as I hurdled over the final fire obstacle.

image

Coming through the one of the final obstacles and very happy to see that there was no more barbed wire to crawl through.

Overall what do I think? My fueling was a little all over the place. My bladder didn’t work, this meant I was carrying 750ml of water for no reason and I could only drink at aide stations. Thank goodness it was not hot out. The course marking was superb. Which is quite the blessing as most of the trails had more of a bushwhacking feel. I loved loved loved the water obstacles and hated hated hated the climbing. But that’s not a complaint. Will I go back next year? If you asked me during the sandbag carry I would have say no way and also told you how I was really thinking about how much I rather run a 100miler instead of doing this, but now a few days past I cannot wait to redeem myself!

image

I love this photo.

PDX 42.2 @ 3:26:00 & PB :)

* a little overdue, but never too late…right?

In the beginning of October, Jess, Cody, Kat, Amber, Louis and I packed up two dogs and two empty beer coolers into two cars and headed south to Portland for the marathon.

My one complaint about the BMO was that I wish I had spent more time training at my marathon pace (M-pace). So this time around I made conscience effort to run my M-pace at least 1x every 10 days. How did I figure out what my new M-pace was going to be? It just happened organically I suppose. 4:48/km. This meant I should be able to run a 3:23 marathon, which also mean I’d accomplish 3/3 of my goals; 1.)  finish the race happy.  2.) PB  3.) BQ (In case you didn’t read my BMO race recap I ran 1sec shy of a BQ)

Training went great, with a slight set back of being bed ridden due to the infamous  Vancouver seasonal-everyone and their cat has it -flu, leaving me just about bed ridden for a week and half before the race.

Despite this little bump in the road, come race day I was feeling 80% better and itching to just get it over with. It was still pitch black out when we lined up at the start line. I had lost Kat, Jess and Cody at the porta-toilets and scooted up behind the 3:25 pace bunny. Due to my lack of running the week leading up to the race I felt as though I wasn’t going to be able to run exactly what I was hoping so I went to plan: Hold on the 3:25 pace bunny as hard as I could.

If you have ran the Portland Marathon before you can understand what a wonderful race it is. You start downtown at dawn and run through the streets up Chinatown and continue to make your way along the river and loop over the water and back to downtown. The first 5k was mentally a little tough, seeing as I already was contemplating a DNF, but once I saw that sun rising behind Mt Hood has the fog burned off into the purple sunrise  I sucked it up and just went with it.

Unlike the BMO, there was no low-point for me. I kept waiting for the pain to kick, for something to start hurting, for me to slow down but it never happened. I rolled through the final 5k and crossed the finish line three minutes shy of my goal pace and with a 9 minute PB in a time of 3:26:00.

Eastside 10k

This past Saturday, (no thanks to a hand-me-down entry from a client) I raced my first ‘official’ 10k. I say ‘official’ so officially because 10 months ago I casually, and yet so painfully, raced one of those community MEC road races in North Van, which I believe to be not so official.

This was the inaugural Eastside 10k, and correct me if I’m wrong but I do believe it to be one of the first (or is it last?) 10k races in Canadian Running Series Season. The route took you through a rather rolly-polly course of ups and downs along Strathcona and into Gastown and back.

It was kinda  a last minute decision to run. I hadn’t been training for a 10k and we had just finished a really tough week of training for our upcoming marathon in Portland, so my legs were a little more thrashed than normal. And not that I was concerned with placing (only in my wildest dreams would I ever be able to run a 35min 10k) I was however terrified of having a relapse of what happened when I ran the MEC 10k just 10 months prior.

A little less than a year ago this is what my splits looked like on that 10k:

image

Kinda all over the place eh? I also failed to mention that I ran myself into a deep dark place that race, you know one of those mental breaks downs where you begin to doubt why you ever took up running in the first place. Also not to mention I had the worst stitch and I felt like vomiting  for the entire last 1/2 and probably the 2 days to follow. Not a word of lie.

So… my biggest fear about the race Saturday was how much it was going to hurt me. Obviously my training regiment has change drastically in the past 10 months. I knew I would be able to run this race sub 46… but my ultimate goal was really sub 45. I didn’t really have a strategy, other than to keep an eye on my goal pace and try and get a negative split. I did make sure to have a really good warm up. Cody (who also was racing his first 10k and still managed to finish in 33 mins) Jess and I ran the 3k to start line where I completely my Wharton Stretches and warm up drills Alicia Shay taught us at the retreat and felt pretty good to go.

I contemplated following the 45 min pace bunny but decided last minute to just do my own thing. And as per usually the gun went off, along with everyone else, leaving me in the dust running a 4:10 pace. (a good 10secs/km faster than I should have been going) I stood my ground and slowed right down and reminded myself to run my own race. I was feeling great! Fantastic! wonderful! laddy-da, I was cruising! And before I knew it were at 8k and I looked down at my watch and was like “geeze… keep this up and I could almost get sub 44mins” I better pick’r up then I guess. Unlike a marathon, a 10k is only 10k. I don’t have 30k to make up time. I picked up my pace and probably try to jam up that last hill on prior (a bit too fast as it took a little bit out of me) and ran through the finish line in 44:03. (both strava and garmin told me it was completed in 43:40…just saying…) I really gotta start showing my time on my watch. (I usually just keep current pace and average pace so I don’t think to much about the time)

Check out my splits this time around:

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Pretty much almost a 5min PR… and a negative split… and also unlike a marathon, I was able to run home and proceed to work on my feet for 8hrs that night.

imageJesse is very great at capturing post-race moments of mine. Also taking funny photos of Cody and I.


Do you every wonder how fast you are capable of going? Like, how far, as an adult re-learning to run from those since high school track days? I wonder all the time. Will I ever be able to run sub 40min 10k? Let’s find out!

Heart burn hill(s) & and a big brick wall

(sorta) short and sweet: Squamish 50 race report.

I went into Saturday’s race feeling anxious and yet semi-confident. Minus not having ran longer than 37k leading into the race, I felt as though I (or rather we) trained very well. Back-to-backs, recoveries, hill training and strengthening training, the whole nine-yards I prepared for it, except for one tiny thing…fueling.

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Kat, Jess and I waiting for the shuttle to bring us to the start line.

By 4k I was already crippled by heart burn, and despite my legs feels strong and ready to power the 2nd half, leaving the Quest aide station the nausea started. (on top of heart burn) I tried to fuel but the idea of any sorta of substance just made me dry heave. 

The 2nd major hill climb came right around the same time. I hadn’t ran this part of the trail thus I was not prepared for the 5000 switch backs peaking at 30k. But that’s ok.. despite the heart burn, the nausea and the 5000s switch backs my legs were on a roll. No knee pains, no cramping, no problem!


Sure… no problem.. if i was a camel maybe, but I’m not, so when I’m burning an average of 700+ kcal/hr and consuming only 200 kcal/hr for more than 5 hours, I was pretty much doomed to the “the wall” eventually. And sure enough, heading up that hill to the final aide station 40k there is was. A big brick wall with my name on it.

Now I don’t know if many of you have hit the wall before… before Saturday I hadn’t either. Things started to get a little loopy, my legs were like "go go go go", but my body was like "f—- you! I want to stand still and make you paranoid about hyponatremia and dying on the trail" ha! This seems rather funny to me now, but at the time it certainly wasn’t. By this point I’d been continuously suffering with a horrible stomach ache for about 6 hrs and finally gave up holding it in and hurled up the few electrolytes that I left in my body. Erik, a 50 miler who I met on a few orientation runs, stopped to check in on me and see if he could help. (goodness how I love the kindness of trail runners vs road runners) Then Adam, another 50 miler who is also my best friend’s little brother, picked me up at 43k and paced me along up to the top of the last hill, saving me from an extra 30 minutes of walking, I’m sure of it. Thanks Adam and Erik. 

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Crossing the finish line and completed my first ultra.

One step in front of the other I made my way down the last 3k of road across the finish line in a time of 7:30:34. Jesse, being the amazing husband that he is, was waiting with open arms, unfortunately I wasn’t so receptive and welcommed him back with tears of exhaustion and confusion statements like “don’t touch me your  toosweaty, I need the hose, no I need ice water, I can’t go to the beer garden with you I need to stay here…but I need to wash my legs…quiver quiver wanh wanh” Jibber jabber pretty much.

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This is what someone who just ran for 7.5hrs straight up the most ridiculous, never ending set of hills over the course of 50k.


I didn’t think much of my results. It was far from a perfect race, however after looking at the results today turns out I finished 3/29 in my age category and 11th out of all women… pretty cool if I do say so myself.

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Some how both Jess and Ben (who placed 7&8th respectively) were able to guzzle back a bunch of beers, meaning while I sat there gather my brain back into one piece and contemplating the next race after this.

If you take a quick gander at the Squamish 50 FB page You notice right a way the overwhelming “thank yous and congratulations” from both Gary and Geoff, the volunteers and the racers. I said this before and will say it again how wonderful all the volunteers were. from the first orientation run, through to having our drop bags ready for us at Quest, to the constant positive energy and motivation from fellow racers, never have I had such the pleasure to participate in such great acts of humanity. Thanks Gary and Geoff, you guys deserve the biggest congratulations of all!

The Run S.M.A.R.T Project running retreat.

When I told people that Jesse and I were going to Arizona in the middle of summer for a running retreat as our honeymoon I got two reactions: Those who knew us and appreciated our affection (rather, infatuation) for running and thought it was the perfect adventure to catapult us down the path of marriage, then there were those who didn’t really know us and assumed we were pulling their leg and called us crazy.

I have to admit; I wasn’t too sure what we were getting ourselves into either. Going into it, all I really knew was that we were going to spend the week in Flagstaff at 7000ft, we’d get a chance to run The Grand Canyon and that we were going to meet Jack Daniels. (And no, not the JD the comes in a glass bottle from Tennessee.) And when we showed up to our initial meet and great headed by three cool-cat coaches wearing Vans and Wayfarers around the same age as Jess and I, I could help but feel as though it was like Fraser St. RC was running the whole thing. But it didn’t long to realize the mile high credentials these guys carried and the big hearts that came along with them.

Apart from the elevation, the running itself was pretty easy it was definitely retreat/holiday style running. Which was just fine, because this meant there was plenty of time and excused to stop and enjoy the views along the way. [See photos below for examples of ‘views’]

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  [NOTE: I’ve written and rewritten this entry the whole length of the flight from Phoenix back to Vancouver and I just couldn’t get the words out quite right. Often less is more and I’ve never been much a writer. I’m a photographer, and that is how I chose to tell my stories and I’ve kind have left it at that for this one too]

ᗗ ᐐ ᐬ Peak Week ᐬ ᐐ ᗗ

This past week marked the peak week (pun intended if you will) in the training curriculum for the 50k on Aug. 9th. This means the last two weeks have been the highest/toughest mileage of my life. July 1st-7th I ran 83.5k, although not much for most endurance runners, It’s a pretty big step up from the average week being around 55k throughout winter. This past week’s goal was to try and get closer to 100k, but with over 4000m of uphill running, running my fastest 800m since high school, 3 work outs, 4hrs of snatches, cleans & jerks (these are olympic  lifts for those of you who can’t seem to get your head out of the gutter) in our weight lifting clinic, I’ll settle for an 85k week.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get a 45k+ (or 6hr+) run in before the race,  but with that being said we managed to get multiple back-to-back runs in these past couple of weeks and I feel pretty darn ready for race day.

HERE’S A LOOK AT THE PAST WEEK:

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On route to Panorama Ridge with Kat on one of the most epic run days of my life.

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Running up Mountain Highway for the first time and coming around the corner out of the trees to find the most magical view of the back side of Grouse

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Kat and I at the top of Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Park. 15k up / 15k down.

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Cody caught this photo of me racing down the BCMC under the a suns spotlight.