Sunday, June 25, 2017

Belfast24 Preamble

On Saturday July 1st (Canada Day) Ill be taking part in the World 24 hour championships in Belfast, Ireland. This is a 1.65 km loop around beautiful Victoria Park. The average temperature this time of the year is 15 degrees and rains an average 12 days out of the month meaning its the perfect venue to post some big numbers. The course is very flat with only four rounded bends per loop. The surface is all concrete which may pose issues with consistently hitting hard roughly a quarter of a million times that day. Canada is sending a strong team consisting of 5 men and 6 women. Sharon and my daughter Julia will be crewing me which is no small task as they will be seeing me every 8-9 minutes nonstop for 24 hours straight. The race starts at noon (5 am MST).

My race plan is simple but heavy. The first hour of running I will not look at my watch, instead I'll shake out the cobwebs and relax into the day most likely talking to other runners and enjoying the moment. After that I'll go out at a 5 min/km pace and just hang in there. This is my all day space and place. If all goes well in the front half by midnight (the 12 hour split) I'll be banking 144 km in the front half. My hope is to hold onto that pace for the first 14 hours, after that time I understand my physiological pace will slow down and maintaining the same effort level will produce a new pace. My goal pace for hours 14 through 18 will ideally be ~5:30 min/km. The wiggle room in my pace chart lies in the back 6 hours. From hours 18-24 I have placed my speed at that time ~6 min/km. This is where all the work and mental prep will come in as when the sun rises with 6 hours left to go and the other runners are finding a new gear I'm hoping I will find mine as well. The last 4 hours will be spent knowing where the other runners are and focusing on my turnover to keep the speed reasonable. This pace plan will result in 271 kms.

The keys to a successful race will be:
Crew efficiency - Sharon and Julia will have their work cut out for them being very organized, calm, and able to change plans on the fly. The weather may play a role in their delivery methods but I have the utmost confidence in their skills.
Pacing - My fitness level is quite good at this point so it's important to not get caught up in others' racing early on. If I can get to where I want to be at 14 hours my pacing work is complete.
Fueling - Eat 50% more than what I'll feel like eating.
Shoes - Change from the New Balance Zante to the NB 1080 if I feel the surface is hurting too much. Don't hesitate, just do it.
BE CALM AND TRUST IN MYSELF AND MY FITNESS

Friday, June 2, 2017

Calgary Marathon Confederation 150K

At 10pm while the sun set to the west I toed the line at the line in downtown Calgary for a truly unique experience of running a 150km race finishing up on the Calgary Marathon course the next morning. This course would see us run a 10 km loop around the Bow River pathway overnight to complete the first 100kms at the start line of the Calgary Marathon at 7am on the world famous Calgary Stampede grounds. There we complete the 150km race by running the 50km course.

All other runners started earlier, some as early as 6pm to strategically pace the front 100. For me, I knew I'd place my first 100km somewhere between 8hrs and 8hrs20min. 

My training for the world 24 hour championships in Belfast on Canada day has been going extremely well. Today was a pace test to see what pace I'd go out at, along the way checking comfort levels and practicing fueling strategy. Starting the day I was struggling with the notion of pacing at a 4:50min/km or playing it conservative like a good Alberta boy and going 5min/km. I know this doesn't sound like a big difference but it is. Over 150kms that's a difference of 25min and over 24 hours it's way more. 

The horn went off and myself and wheelchair athlete Brian Martin took off. As he zipped past me I settled into a nice rhythm, started a great conversation with the lead cyclist and with a smile on my face got into my happy place. Overnight looping the river I passed by friends, created new ones, had some laughs, ate a Big Mac (thanks Terry), and generally felt very good. around 2am my pace started to slip a bit and my mood started shifting, after processing this it was decided that I need a Red Bull to give me some wings. Like that, poof, problem solved. All's I needed was some damn caffeine (and whatever the hell else is in those beautiful little cans). Around 2:30am I noticed a bright green streak of light shooting up from the west. Very quickly as the light extended to the east and started to dance the dance that only the Aurora Borealis can and wide-eyed watched the Northern lights put on a show worthy of applause. It
was one of the coolest moments I've experienced while running. The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, as I passed other runners I noticed the exhaustion in their bodies and offered words of encouragement. The welcoming sun arrived just after 5am nearing the completion of the first 100km and signalling me to get my ass over to the Stampede grounds for the start-line of the final 50. 

My 100km split was 8hrs 11min. This was perfect, exactly where I wanted to be. I felt relaxed, comfortable and very confident about my pacing for the next 50. Both my wife Sharon and my Physiotherapist (and buddy) Shari MacDonald brought me Timmy's coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Thanks girls! As I hammered those back I went looking for my drop bag that was supposed to be delivered from the overnight aid station to the Stampede location. I had my day clothes in there among other things. Turns out there was a problem getting the bags delivered over so with 10 minutes before the Calgary Marathon start I decided to go to the start line wearing my overnight gear. No biggie, we all must adapt right. 

The thing I was looking forward to the most that day was that Sharon was volunteering as the lead cyclist for the final 50kms for the 150 soloists. I was well in the lead at this point which meant I get to share this experience on the course with the woman I love most. For Sharon to easily find me in the crowd, I ran alongside a group of my friends all dressed in pink and all ten of them tied together, These women were setting out to run the Guinness world record for fastest women's linked marathon, along the way raising money for MitoCanada. These ladies all rock! About 3kms into the race I saw my smiling wife on her bike. I knew from this point on this was gonna be a fun day. Sharon comes out to all my races and if you have the pleasure of knowing her you'd know she is the world's best crew. But this viewpoint was a very different one; she'll be side by side with me checking out all the sights and sounds of something I see so often.

The marathon portion proved to be a lot of fun as we zipped through familiar streets, saw many friends, ate popsicles (thanks Glenmore Running Room) and generally had a good time. My pace didn't fluctuate and remained feeling comfortable. This was key because in my mind that day I wasn't running 150kms, I was running 270kms and pacing as such. The final 5km stretch brought on a great warm feeling that I now know I'm ready for the world 24's and that all the hard work and countless hours of running has paid off. I crossed the finish line in 12hrs 18min with an average pace of 4:55min/km. I pumped my fist knowing that I've got another 120 in the tank, but lets leave that for another day.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Johnney's Back

Last Saturday's long run with my long time running buddy and best friend Johnny Hubbard started in typical fashion. "Who's idea was this?" followed by "We're doing four reservoir loops, right"? We then, like clockwork complained about our aches and pains, discussed work issues, debated politics (which he was wrong) and finally settled into talking about our families. I filled him in on the updates of Sam's recent diagnosis of a rare disease and John discussed this week's trials and tribulations of his son's Colitis and liver disease.

You see, John has pulled away from racing the past three years tackling family health issues. As much as I enjoy picking on Johnny's extended fat camp, I couldn't agree more with his decision to choose family over his love for running. But now with things getting back into a groove John has decided to dive back into the bat-shit crazy world of ultra racing. His first race back will be the Confederation 150 at the Calgary Marathon race weekend this May 27-28th. This will be an opportunity for him to give back to the health providers and system that played an integral role in his son's health to date.

John and Natasha have set up a fundraising page to provide a bedside bowel ultrasound machine to be used in the GI clinic at the Alberta Children's Hospital. This is a real time, rapid, non-invasive tool that can be used  in the GI clinic to monitor responses to therapy. Illness and disease is already stressful enough so to eliminate the preparation, sedation and ionizing radiation administered in other modalities is a huge win for children, families, doctors and medical staff. More information can be found here.

Anybody that knows John knows he is one of the toughest SOB's you'll ever meet but behind the curtains he has an incredible soft spot and devoted love for his son. On May 27th as John grinds out 150 long kilometers on Calgary roads showing us how far he is willing to go for his son. Let's not let him go it alone. Please show your support for this incredible family and help them help others.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Introducing my Vlog

Urban dictionary defines a Vlog as this:

A video log. A journalistic video documentation on the web of a person's life, thoughts, opinions, and interests. 

A vlog can be topical and timeless, instructional and entertaining. The main thread is trying to communicate on a personal level with your audience.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Alberta Runners Shop Local

Please share this with all your friends

Alberta has fallen on hard times the past few years with many having felt these effects and particularly small business owners. Countless Albertan consumers have lost their jobs or had their hours cut leading to less funds to spend on consumer items like running shoes and gear. It would be a real shame that by the time the economy sorted itself out one or more of the treasured Alberta independent running stores might close shop succumbing to the enormous pressure put upon them at this time. The national and international chain stores have an incredible leg up on the competition to the point that a regional economic downturn will certainly not result in these companies going under.

Gord Hobbins
I've preached to my friends for years the numerous benefits of shopping local. The obvious is the fact that when you shop local the money stays in the community, roughly 70% compared to the low 30% with the chain retailers. The inventory is also a huge bonus as the large retailers only carry a small range of sizes. So if you are smaller than a men's size 8.5 or larger then a 12 you are out of luck. Whereas Gord's Running Store will carry sizes 6 through 16 in all widths. Included in the inventory are the options of clothing that break away from the cookie cutter jackets, shirts and bottoms. Jeanette Deere, part owner of Strides Running Store and former national level middle distance runner, orders all the women's apparel including the undergarments for the unique Calgary weather patterns. Locals know this just makes sense.

Inside Gord's
A friend of mine went into a running chain retailer last month asking if they had the New Balance Zante in her size. After asking my friend what distance of a race she was training for, the young salesperson refused to bring out the shoe trying to convince my friend that this shoe was a short distance shoe and isn't designed to handle running a marathon. THIS IS A DISTANCE SHOE and is my preferred shoe for 24 hour racing (260-ish kms)! Now can you imagine receiving this advice in an independent store like Gord's Running Store, Strides Running Store, Fast Trax, or Runners Soul either from one of the owners (they seem to live there) or a staff member under careful oversight.

Gord's store front
Gord's Running Store in Calgary has been serving Calgary runners for the past 27 years. Owner Gord Hobbins works meticulously to insure top of the line customer service, a wide range of product and a feeling of travelling back in time when a store owner would welcome you into his store as if he was welcoming you into his home. Gord prides himself in offering a satisfaction guarantee so you can take your shoes home, run indoors or on a treadmill and if the shoes don't feel quite right just bring the non soiled shoes back in to swap them out. Good luck finding this service at a large retailer. On a personal note, I've been sponsored by Gord's for 5 years. I am generally uncomfortable with sponsorship or ambassadorship as I find it's an obvious ego stroke and pigeon holes oneself as an athlete. When Gord and I spoke about this years ago I asked him what he'd like in return. I'll never forget his response; he said he wanted me to motivate others in the running community, act as a positive role model, and most importantly keep smiling and have fun out there.
Inside Strides

Jeremy Deere
Strides Running Store in Calgary is owned and operated by Jeremy and Jeanette Deere. Other than being a couple of the finest people I know, they are passionate about sharing their love for this sport with anyone willing to listen. Jeremy is a local running giant winning the Mother's Day 10K 17,000 times and even still at the youthful age of 41 still flirts with the sub 15 min 5K. They have assembled an energetic and knowledgeable staff in their two locations. A general misnomer that stores like Strides are for elites and the chain retailers are better suited for the beginner runner is completely false. The Strides staff are extraordinarily welcoming and more than happy to answer all inquires from the detail oriented questions towards gear or more beginner questions like "How do I train for my first 5K?"

The other two locally owned and independent stores I'd like to draw attention to is Fast Trax in Edmonton owned by local guru Jack Cook and Runners Soul in Lethbridge owned by local enthusiasts Erin and Shawn Pinder. I've had brief experiences at these stores and much like Gord's and Strides they had the same excellent feel embodying their local running community spirit. I challenge the local bloggers in Edmonton and Lethbridge to pay it forward and give their local independent running store the respect and attention it's been giving its customers for the past many years.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Gord's Frozen Ass 50

Photo Leo Fung
Gord's Frozen Ass 50 on Family Day was more of a test to see where I am with my fitness and where I need to focus to get where I want to be come July's World 24 hour championships in Belfast. The race started in typical hot ass style of the runners from the back of the start line yelling at the front to "Get going!" This had me in stitches for the first few kilometres while jumping, dodging and carefully focusing on the uncontrolled ice underneath our feet. This course runs from the Bow River Canoe Club on the corner of Deerfoot Trail and 17th ave SE along the unmaintained pathways of the Chestermere canal to Chestermere Lake and back again. This is a very flat but slow course due to the thaw freeze ice cycle.

The front pack consisted of friends Chris Hooper, Myron Tetreault, Mike Hamilton, and myself. We fell into a comfortable 4:10 min/km pace. Around 8 kms into the foggy day we looked up to see none other than a big honking train blocking us from continuing on the path. We laughed and took this opportunity to eat something and wait the 4.5 minutes until the train passed and granted access to the remaining 42 kms ahead of us. We continued our run falling into a steady groove ticking the kilometres off one by one. I told the guys I wanted to pick things up on the back half to get a solid workout in. I mentioned I wanted to sit under a 4 min km pace. Both Myron and Chris said they'd both assess how they are feeling at the lake and get back to me. At the lake I saw friends Tony Gordon and Leo Fung serving a delicious buffet. I grabbed a bit of an almond croissant and turned around to face the final stretch home. Within the first 3 kilometers I was hitting 3:40 kms but felt comfortable so decided to let it fly.

Photo Leo Fung
The best part about the Frozen Ass is seeing all the smiling faces. Everyone I passed along the out and back on the return to Calgary had great smiles and shouted encouragement. The Calgary running community has got to be the best around. There were plenty of dodgy sections where I saw my pace drop considerably but I was very happy to see that these old ultra legs could still hold a good pace 30 km into a race. In the last five kilometers of the race things got really sketchy as the sun emerged from the clouds and made the once sticky ice now perfect conditions for a triple sow cow. With only a kilometer to go I must have let my guard down and BAM! I landed square on my side. I layed there for a minute or two. Did a system check, realized all is good, got up and finished the damn thing. In true hot ass racing form,

the finish line consisted of one volunteer in a lawn chair. I asked him if this is the finish line and he replied "Yep".

Thanks to Gord, his family, and all the volunteers for putting on such a great low key race. Rumours were swirling that this was the 30th showing of this event but knowing Gord and his laid back attitude he wouldn't take any congrats but instead put the praise out to the Alberta ultra community for coming out strong 30 years in a row.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Priming The Pump

Howdy y'all. Just thought I would check in and fill you all in on how I'm readying myself for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Because the sport of ultra running is really still a group of outliers, there is no set way to prepare for this ridiculous sport. Instead there is a mish-mash on ideas and loose principles eventually leading the athlete to a state of readiness, or at least we hope so. I'm constantly curious what my running friends are up to and always adapting my strategies combining the tried and true principles, new to me concepts, and the weird and wacky in hopes it all pans together producing the results I desire.






Up until now I've been in a stage I call Priming the Pump. This is an awkward stage in which I want to get my body and mind ready to tackle some serious training mileage but still not wanting to jump the gun. I need to avoid pushing the weekly mileage too soon in training which can lead to burn out or injury. So I've developed a plan to get longer runs in while still keeping the weekly mileage down. This means I have only been running 2-4 days per week with plenty of days off. I know of runners this time of the year that crush big mileage by cramming in a shit ton of 10 and 15 km runs, doubling up on most days. I find this inefficient and doesn't create reasonable adaptive stresses to create the change desired. Here is an idea of my mileage on my last 8 runs in a span of 2.5 weeks: 62km, 29km, 11km, 63km, 41km, 42km, 47km, and 38km.


Two things are being accomplished at this time, my body feels rad because I am giving my body plenty of time to recover and my mindset is positive about where my head space is at the end of these longer days.

So is this what the calm before the storm feels like?