"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Ultra Runner's Interval Session

One 8k New Year's Eve WAMC race.

36 minutes of 170 bpm Am-I-Gonna-Vomit pain.

I ran into several 6 Inch Trail Marathon finishers who were there for the 8k this evening and all agreed: rather race 46k than 8k. 46 is easier. (Only dissenter I know would be the 6 Inch King of the Mountain 5k specialist Himself).

Because these "short" races are really my version of a long interval/tempo session, I can afford to experiment a little. I predicted I should be able to do a 4.25 avg pace, based on previous training/races.

I started a little hard, but it felt comfortable at around a 4.15. So the experiment continued. At the 4k mark it was a 4.17 avg. Then I turned back into the wind. A breeze, but my pace slipped quickly to a 4.36. A pretty big positive split. The 27 degree heat was the factor I didn't include in my prediction.

Anyway, now I can relax and enjoy my LSD 28k single track bush run on Sunday - running with my pack. Arf.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Should be Swimming

But the thing is, Canadians aren't really swimmers. If you froze the water, then I'd feel more at home....

I thought with the niggles I've had in my legs over the past few months, a rest month was in order. The problem is that my brain and body don't seem to be agreeing to the logic behind the idea. I thought I'd cut mileage down to around 60 (okay, maybe 70) kms per week and do some cross training until mid-January.

But I'm adding up my mileage for this week and it starts to look like over 80k. Oops.

Maybe all the 40 degree days next week will get me to break out the water wings.

Other than running this week, I've been amusing myself building a very basic website. I'm feeling like my blog is getting a bit crowded. I hope it'll be useful when it's all together.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December Denouement

As I hear word of Trailtrash in Canada heading out for Christmas Eve runs, Christmas Day runs, Boxing Day runs, snowshoeing....

Here it's just me and the skinks.

No one to come out and play this weekend, so I ran solo around Herdsman Lake Saturday and then ran a maze of bush tracks south of Mundaring today for a couple hours. I always like those runs where you don't exactly know the route or how it's all going to work out in advance. An "Expotition" as Winnie the Pooh would say.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Support Research in Perth

For all you boys in Perth (kid boys, that is - you have to be 40 or younger). A PhD project at ECU:

Anatomical and physiological factors influencing force production capabilities

To be eligible for this study you must be a male endurance trained runner aged between 19-40 years and run a minimum of 40km per week, on most weeks of the year

Each participant will complete six separate testing sessions. This includes a ‘familiarisation session’ where you will be introduced to the two strength testing protocols, two separate strength testing sessions to assess both the isometric (static) and isokinetic (dynamic) strength of your quadriceps muscles, an ultrasound session to assess the architecture of your quadriceps muscles. In the final session you will complete a VO2 max test.

You will receive: A free VO2 max test valued at $150 from which you can find out your maximal aerobic capacity and training zones. Any discrepancies between your quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups may also be identified during the strength testing procedures and the information for all the tests may help add further direction to your training programs.

If you would like to participate, or have any questions and would like further information regarding this study, please contact Joanne Trezise at j.trezise@ecu.edu.au or you may call on 0435 102 182.

The Shortest Race of the Year

It was funny when I realised it last week...6 Inch was to be my shortest race of the year. I was certainly pumped for it. Being heavily involved in the organisation of the event again this year was very time consuming, but it's something I'm passionate about. So it really is a joy. There was a great group of volunteers sorted for the event - many of whom are runners themselves - so it was easy to hand everything over on Saturday night and say, "Okay, now it's my time."

I tucked a bunch of carbs by the bed and slept/snacked from about 10 PM - 2 AM and then laid there until 2.45, when it was time to get ready for the 4.30 AM start. We packed gear and drove the 20 minutes to the start line, where we mostly huddled in the car because the wind was so cold (in WA that probably means it was 16 degrees but felt like 13, a relative thing, depending on your home country!). I was really pleased with this, as I knew that cool wind would make my goals so much more possible to achieve.

Over 80 of us headed up that big hill in the rising sun. There was an additional competition this year - King and Queen of the Mountain - first to the top of Goldmine Hill (maybe 200 mtrs in the first 1.6k of the race). I didn't care at all about that prize - I had my plan carefully mapped out and just ran as I planned to the sand line - first female. A nice bonus, but the bigger thing was to manage the next 45 kms. The race was broken down into micro components to me. I had 20 splits written on a sheet of paper in my pocket. I took a guess that I'd pass 5 guys over the course of the 46k, but it turned out to be 8.

I ran on multi-hour bottles of Perpetuem, Endurolytes, and 1/3rd of a gel, which I had near the end for my final push. My shoes of choice were the brilliant Inov8 xTalons.

I was 2 minutes slower than my goal time, but I had underestimated (wilfully forgotten?) the size of a few of those hills in the second half of the course. As I hit the "1k to go" mark, I looked down and saw "4:11" and change on my Garmin. Ridiculous things come into one's head towards the end of a race, I find...for me, it was that I refused to go above 4:15 (my goal had been 4:13). So that meant an absolute total sprint (for me) in the last k in order to finish in 4:15:56.

That was good for 1st f (of 20) and 11th overall (of 79 finishers). I broke my former course record, shoving it back nicely another 25 minutes.

Post-race, I spent the next few hours helping out, which meant there just wasn't the time to get to meet others and to catch up with some I rarely see. That's always a bit disappointing to me. But I saw a lot of big smiles as people crossed that finish line, which was just so absolutely rewarding. Only two people had to make the wise choice to Do Nothing Fatal in order to save their knees.

Monday was a nice quiet day, spent running around the bush with a big broom, from start to finish, sweeping out sand arrows in the pouring rain. The course has been undone for another year.

What will I do in 2011?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

6 Inch Acid Trip

They say there's a "runner's high" that keeps people coming back for more.

So, in honour of legal addictions to get neurotransmitter alterations in the brain, here are the 6 Inch Merry Prankster Electric Acid KoolAid Toes.

I think I'll even run with their bus's name in my mind throughout the race:


(Apologies to those of you who have thus far missed out on the beauty of the Beat-Hippy cultural offerings)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Good Skink Weather

With it heating up to 36 degrees today, it's obviously just what skinks like, as we saw three of them during the 1.5 hr easy paced hill run at Lesmurdie Falls. Only covered 13k, which would suggest a really, really slow pace. However, today was meant to be about time, not distance, and not letting my HR go much over 160 on the hills. Also just spending some time in the heat to do a little more race day acclimatisation.

This place rocks on the hills-for-distance ratio. In 13k we got 463 mtrs! Fantastic! That's better than the Wungong run, even. Just that the park is a bit small for a long run, so you'd have to do some doubling up on tracks.

I figure it's time for another recipe - no treats this time - it's time to talk about day-to-day nutrition. Low GI foods consistently. And if a meal can't have chia in it, then it should probably have quinoa :)

Quinoa Casserole

1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
a bay leaf
pinch or two of cinnamon
1 cup celery chopped small
2 carrots chopped small
1 big/2 small zucchini chopped (you guessed it)
Optional: add 1/2 cup peas and 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch or two cayenne
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1/2 - 1 tsp ground cumin (the cumin makes it)
1 3/4 cup veggie stock
1/4 cup minced cilantro (aka fresh coriander) - or parsley if you prefer

Put everything except the cilantro into a casserole dish with a lid. Cook at 180 - 190 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaf. Stir in the cilantro/parsley.

Yum. I practically lived off this one in Europe this past summer (Euro summer, that is), as I found the restaurant food too full of fat. If you're a vegetarian in Europe, that seems to mean you're a cheesarian (cream-arian? lactarian?)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh, yeah

And that toenail (in case you were wondering)...it's done for.

Superglue to the rescue.

Don't forget to keep your eye on the Coast to Kosci ultra starting Friday morning - the longest road race in Australia - 240 kms up to Mt. Kosciuszko.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Kilo of Pain

Last night at Bold Park, on my usual 15k hill run with mates, I hit a huge wall halfway through. I'm very fortunate in that I almost never hit a wall. I don't think it's just luck - I work very hard at getting and understanding all the science I can and trialling things outside of races.

I knew it wasn't boding well all afternoon. I've been trying to drop a kilo of weight before my next race on 19 December. But it's a tricky thing to lose a kilo of fat while training at high intensity. Particularly because I have no "junk" in my diet to lose. It's not that I can say, "I'll just stop having beer/wine/chips."

I was managing to do it carefully and cautiously and was achieving success, while noting that my mood was being flattened. And then yesterday I just felt like I couldn't get my tummy topped up before the run. Then, when I went anaerobic pushing up a hill, that was it. All my glycogen stores were gone and I was working so hard I found it nearly impossible to get any fuel in. It was one of those times that reminded me what happens to a lot of people in races.

Anyway, I pushed it out and spent the evening with stomach cramps. I felt worse last night than I did after the Victorian Champs!

But I've succeeded in getting that kilo off (so I can carry a kilo of water on my back instead!). My training's been going really well, I'm feeling good, just had a visit to Jon Tan, and my body has only been getting happier since before Victoria, when I had the right glute issue. I'm stoked to be headed out to a trail race, as I haven't had one since Europe in July. And hills! I love hills!

After 6 Inch, it's a bit of a mystery. I'm not sure what to target next. I'm thinking of a 100 Mile trail race - Alpine Challenge? Open to suggestions....

Alright, I'm off to do my last speed session before the race. In my new A3s that just arrived :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Speed Week ends with butterflies

This week was all about speed work. Speed on flat, speed on hills, think, eat, and sleep speed. Enjoying my new Fastwitch racy orange Tigger shoes, since my A3s wore out and I left them in Moe. I've noticed that the soles of the Fastwitch aren't as strong as the A2/A3 series, though, and they are getting chewed up by the few gravel tracks I've gone on. Very disappointing. So I'm rustling up some more A3s before they're all gone in the world.

I swapped my usual Friday rest with Saturday's run, so that I wouldn't have to run after being needled by the physio on Saturday (just tightens everything back up). That seemed to make today's (Sunday) run feel harder, though - having a rest day yesterday. I don't think I want to do that again!

Friday night I ran down to Challenge Stadium to watch a few guys I know race in a 1500 mtr. It was like being at the horse races. They shoot a gun at the start and have a commentator that calls out things like "Jim Smith is on the inside track with Joe Shmoe only 20 meters behind!" Makes it all sound very exciting. And they ring a bell as you start on your last lap. I think maybe we need some more excitement like this in our track ultras :)

So, to end the week today, it was the Butterfly Run:

It was an easy paced 2 hour hill session at Wungong Gorge. No where else I know of that you can run in the bush and get nearly 600 mtrs elevation gain over a 16k run, unless you just sit somewhere and do a hill repeat. The monarch butterflies are out in full force. In one section it felt like we had to run carefully to avoid hitting them. We found the old WWII airstrip, too, which was cool. I'm plotting to do a fat ass race there in mid-February, sort of "Barkley Marathon-like" in methodology (the book thing) but rogaine style. That way people can choose their distances.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

False Alarm

I think all the tea tree oil I was using on my toe nail was causing the intense pain and throbbing. It's coming good now. Just the waiting game to see if I'll lose it.

Recovery week has been steep.

Sunday - couple hours of walking
Monday - rest (Monday usually is)
Tuesday - slowest 5k ever (first k was 6.57 pace)
Wednesday - rest
Thursday - gentle 21k
Friday - strength/core
Saturday - 13k sand/dirt
Today - 23k hilly run on the Munda Biddi, reconning the 6 Inch course

Feeling like I can get back to speed work next week. But I know I wouldn't be recovering nearly as quickly without weekly visits to at least one of 3 key people: Nathan Doig, the Hands of Steel massage therapist, Ali Low, Ascend physio extraordinaire, and Jon Tan, sports chiro. My body is very demanding! :)

Friday, November 26, 2010


My toenail!!!

I'm this () close to drilling a hole into the top with a safety pin.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On the Move

The slogan on the vehicle plates in Victoria is "On the Move." Somehow, that seems fitting as the title for this blog post, having just returned from the Victorian 6 Hour & 50 km Track Championships in Moe, Vic. The goal in any running race - but especially so in ultra distances - is to keep moving forward.

The quick and dirty results: I was on the move for 4 hr 12 min 9 sec to earn 1st female in the 50k (and 1st W40) - two trophies for the price of one.

I continued moving, albeit slower, to hit 70.406 kms at the 6 hour cutoff. 1st place outright (and 1st W40). Two more trophies for that (it was seriously hot enough to warrant four trophies, I figure). Here, the trophy girls demonstrate track running:

I added nearly 2 kms to the former Canadian W40 record of 68.591. Not quite as much as I'd like for comfort, but all I could do in that heat and humidity.

Now, for the rest of the story ... for those who care to read on...

Moe, Victoria is in a pretty little part of Australia. There are lovely big green hills and creeks there that just beg to be run. But I'd picked a track race this time around - with my sights on a Canadian 6 Hr W40 record and bringing that Victorian trophy back to WA (having a little fun with the state rivalry after a Victorian came to WA back in June and walked away with the 75k Kep Ultra win).

To break the 70k race down into "do-able" chunks, I ran it in 5k sections with a different person/cause for each one. I ran one for each of my sponsors, for example. And I ran one for beer. I haven't run for beer in a few years now :) Even though my beer of choice is typically non-alcoholic these days, when I do indulge in the calories.

An interesting, unexpected thing happened while running "for" many of these people I'd chosen. Rather than running "for" them - in their honour, in some sense - it turned out that they were really running with me. When I ran for one friend, who's been working overseas for months in a diesel- and sewage-air filled compound with a 2 k dirt track, I found myself basically asking him for help (don't worry, I wasn't hallucinating!). I remembered how good his running form is and thinking of him reminded me to really focus on my chi running techniques. Make it easy, have fun.

When I ran the 5k for a friend's wife undergoing chemo, every time I thought, "This is so hard" I heard myself reply, "You think this is hard? How about having your body melted from the inside out by chemo?"

And my mum... "win or die trying." (Well, that was her approach to raquetball, anyway, so I thought I'd try it for track running!)

Anyway, you get the idea. It turns out that all those people were there in spirit, keeping me going. And they all had some influence in my even getting to the start line in the first place. Amazing.

And I haven't even mentioned my Crew yet. I'm not one to put generic nouns in capital letters (really, people, it shouldn't be done, so don't do it). But I'm making an exception right now because Rolf is so much crew for one person he needs a capital. For 6 hours straight, he read all my sign language/hand signals, gave me fuel and water every 15 minutes (yup, Perpetuem and electrolytes again), ice cubes, wet shirts and hats to change into on the move, updated me with my splits regularly, and kept it all tracked on a sheet to reference later. He accepted all my grumbles and curt responses, understanding that we just had to work through the "business" end of the race....which for this one was about the 4 hours in the middle! The first hour was great and the last was okay, but it was hot at the 2 PM start and got hotter.

Which leads me to the pros and cons of a 2 PM race start:

Sleep in - yay!
More time to get nervous all morning - boo!
Being awake all night due to extreme chemical imbalances - boo! (I didn't feel tired, so didn't mind being awake all night, but am paying the price two days later as I have a jetlag feeling).

This last photo was taken before the start (there's no way I'd look that good after a race and I'm not sure I want to show anyone the pictures of me in the late stages!). A racer's daughter drew it for me. She even drew my orange hair. I might start hiring her to draw some more pre-race pictures. I like her style!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Altitude Training in Perth

Fortunately for me, it's been a taper week, since the days have been around 35 degrees. I feel for all those out there doing long runs right now. And there's even a bonus, according to my pilot partner/coach/crew, who calculated that once we get close to 40 degrees, the pressure changes to be equivalent to over 1500 mtrs - altitude training at sea level!

I'd be even more pleased if that Moe forecast dropped below 24 - I don't like that at all!!

Last weekend's taper long run was a beauty - a good friend organised one of his usual running adventures - this one was dubbed the Lark Hill 6 hr fat ass (handicap). Seven people rocked up for a 7 PM start with their headlamps, to do as many 3k laps on the gravel trail as possible. Only a few actually intended to run the duration, with the rest of us just out to enjoy a night run with company. Who else, but ultrarunners would find this the best way to spend a Saturday night :) Including another (recovering injured) mate who sat in the cold breeze and lap scored for everyone. I even threw my $10 into the ring, despite planning to run only 2 hrs. With Dave's handicap system, I got 4 free laps - that's 12k free kms....And with a taper week, who wouldn't pay $10 for 12 free kms in their logbook?!?

Back to the main topic of the last 6 weeks...the Moe 50k and 6 Hr Victoria Champs. We're on the plane early early tomorrow - will get the rest of my sleep enroute. I've decided to break the race into 5k increments - I'm running 5k for various friends/causes - for example, I'm running 5k for my very good mate in Canada who got me into ultra running in the first place (but who just doesn't understand the whole track thing). I think breaking up the race into 5k increments will make it much more mentally "do-able."

And my "Moe toes" are all ready. Here's the gun metal silver. A good, cold colour to keep me cool. And fast. Like a bullet.

I trialled them out today on my last run - doing 5k at race pace - and I passed a turtle on Lake Monger. I passed him like he was...well, a turtle....I hope seeing a turtle before a race isn't bad luck ;)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Moe Equation

I'm working on my equation for Moe and I've gotten this far.

It looked good until I realised I haven't factored in the crew, the shoes, the Garmin, the weekly massage therapy (praises to Nathan Doig, his thumbs of steel, and the fact that he knew what my iliacus was), the dry needling (praises also to Ali Low and her dry needling!). And then there's chia, the low GI diet, mentors and idols.... I'm starting to think I'll need a maths expert to finish writing this one.

Realised tonight that all the speedwork is done now. I wrote my session in the log for tonight and noticed that it's easy runs on the weekend and then more easy runs next week. That's it. All I can do now is paint my toe nails (Seriously - it's become a race tradition - different colour for every race. Moe speaks of gun metal silver).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Look at all the Dirty Runners! :)

Today's trail run was a recon of the second half of the 6 Inch Trail Marathon to be held mid-December. I offered to lead an outing, since I know the course. I'm the flour girl ;)

Well, the bitumen runners are finally starting to morph into the next stage of their development in WA....we had a record 16 people out to run the dirt, rocks, and hills of the Munda Biddi trail today.

The guys at the front kept up a strong pace while I sheep dogged - naturally, to make sure there were no lost sheep.

It was a game of Battleship with the logistics to make sure it would work out for the point-to-point run, but it was well worth it (point-to-point is so much better than an out-and-back, after all).

So today capped off a pretty good week. My speed sessions all went as planned and I had a 13k run in the sand on the beach instead of hills midweek. My glute/hip is twitchy, though, so I'm going to make an appointment with Ali, my brilliant physio and give her $80 so she can tell me it's all okay. An $80 insurance policy is well spent money for the peace it gives! Have done my strength work twice this week and have felt my core a bit - I obviously let that get a bit weak.

Next week has more speed and hills before a short taper the week after.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A New Fuel for Ultrarunners?

Looks promising ;)

Although I don't want 400 babies

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chocolate Goodness Bars

Just getting ready for my trail run tomorrow and making some "choco goodness." So I thought it was time to share this recipe, which came to me via a Canadian Trailtrash ultrarunner. I get the most requests for this one and it's really easy (Well, I can still mess it up, but that's just me! One hint: don't use the Nestle stuff called compound chocolate - it's not the same as chocolate chips at all!)

Mix 1 & 3/4 cups of nuts and seeds in a bowl - you can include as you like - pumpkin, sesame, walnut, pecan, sunflower...just don't forget the chia!

Add 1 & 1/4 cups shredded unsweetened coconut and 1 cup oats to the dry stuff.

In a small saucepan, bring the following to a low boil for 2-3 mins:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 & 1/2 cups (I use a 250 g bag) of chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup almond butter (or peanut butter if you prefer)
1 tsp of vanilla extract

Grease a 9x13 inch pan with coconut oil. Mix the wet and dry stuff together and press firmly into the pan. Let cool before trying to slice.

Now, after two energy dense "recovery" recipes, I'll have to do a low GI dinner one next - just so you know I don't always eat like this :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Experiment 2

The second go of the Moe was a success. I sat on an even 2 minute pace per lap for 36 kms (3 hrs) as planned. No nausea this time around - the conditions (temp, wind) were the same as last time, so having the right level of fuel (not 4x) was a good thing. Have to watch my hydration, though, as I lost over 1 kg (2% of my body weight) and that's not a good thing. Notably, my Garmin gave me the bonus 1.5 kms again.

Now I can put tracks out of my mind for a month, do a little more speed work, enjoy some single track, and count down days (26) until the real 6 hr event.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Mini Rogaine Before Another Mini Moe

This week had some "creative" mileage as I tried to fit training in with the visiting relatives from Canada. After some light aircraft adventures to the outback, I headed south to Harvey for a "social" rogaine with my family. To add to the creative attempts to get mileage in, I had them drop me on the Southwestern Highway and I ran the backroads in to Harvey, while the sun set. A really pretty run, with lots of curious locals along the way wondering what I was up to. One 10 year old boy raced me for a few hundred metres down the road. He said he won, although he seemed to be the only one who knew where the finish line was ;)

The rogaine was the first "social" one I've done - it's so hard to turn off the competitive gene! Our 4 person family team (Rolf, mum, auntie, and I) were out for 6 hours and got just 6 controls (that's not very many, as rogaines go). But we hiked 17 kms, with hills as well, so I was darn impressed with the ladies who have never done this kind of thing. We finished 141st out of 167. Mum is still trying to understand how so many people could walk/run so fast through all that bush! Despite the "low" finish, I'm sure we were 1st International team ;) We called ourselves "So and So and Szuch and Szuch" (rellies' surnames are Szuch).

The rogaine acted as a pseudo-taper, as tomorrow is slated as the second go of the Mini-Moe.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Finally, back to full mileage!

A great week of running this week! Without anything to get in the way of a "normal" training week - no "mini moe," no moving distractions, no rain excuses.... I finally got back to a 100k+ week.

Had a 12k at "marathon pace" on Tuesday (not that I truly know what my marathon pace is, since I haven't done one), followed by 15k of hills at Bold Park Wednesday. Thursday's run was shifted to Friday, since my mum arrived from Canada that day - 21k at "70k race pace" (another estimate). Then an easy hour Saturday and a gorgeous 49k on the Bibbulmun track today. I ran solo for 25k south, starting early to enjoy the cool air, and then met Rolf to do the run back north to my car. He didn't get to enjoy any cool air - it got hot out there! I trialled a new gel cooling bandanna thing for my neck. Not bad.

Will miss my weekly massage with Nathan tomorrow, as I'm off to show mum "the outback" for a few days. Must make do with a tennis ball and roller until Thursday.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lessons from the Mini Moe

1. There will be a Mini Moe 2 (see below for explanation)

2. A Garmin 310XT will be out 1900 metres over 3 hours around a 400 mtr track. This first becomes apparent when, after running a consistent 4.48 pace for 10k, your crew says, "So, you're running an even 5 min/k?" The 400 mtrs at 10k became 800 mtrs at 20k and the gap grew from there.

3. A 4.48 pace feels really easy on a track when using a Garmin 310 because the reality is that you're only running a 5.03 pace.

4. Using two caps, keeping one soaking in ice, is really, really good.

5. Using ice wrapped in cloths around the neck is as good as Point #4.

6. Don't expect your support crew to remember how the fuel ratio from a race 3 months ago worked. It is reasonable to expect that you may be accidentally fueled with 480 cals/hr rather than 120 cals/hr. Expect perhaps to find this out in bed at midnight. The late knowledge will, however, suddenly make some things more clear....the race nausea, the bolt to the toilet, the lack of hunger post-race....

7. Sucking ice cubes is as good as Points #4 and 5, but requires careful breathing.

8. Hammer, Compressport (worn to bed, as well) and Saucony race flats still rock.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Moe 1 and Moe 2

I think Dr. Seuss wrote about them, didn't he?

I've got both my Mini-Moe booked (the mock race) and the Moe 6hr/50k booked! Rolf suggested I take advantage of the fact that my running volume was down last week (due to the move) and we call it a taper and do the Mini-Moe a bit sooner. We also want to do it before the 30 degree temps come back next week - because I want to do it as close to the real race time as possible (2 PM start). So we'll head out in the afternoon on Tuesday this week for 3 hours of brutal fun.

Then I can get back to some nice loooong trail runs ... ahhh.... trail runs....

I'm off to make some fig almond chocolate recovery stuff now, so I have something new to share with everyone after those nice long trail runs. Yes, there will be chia in it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cross Training of the Yucky Kind

The only way to cope with moving house, in my mind, is to at least call it cross-training. So, that's what I've been doing for the past week...a lot of cross training.

But squeezing in a few quality runs, especially Monday's visit to Wungong Gorge. Wow, I like that place! That's the view west, towards the ocean, with the valley below running east-west.

On another thought:

I get asked sometimes about some of the recipes I bring to trail runs (it's traditional with the Canadian Trailtrash group to have a post-run "tailgate party" and I'm keeping the tradition for myself here, anyway). So I was thinking maybe I'd post a "Recipe of the Week" or "Recipe of Whenever I Get Around To It And Have a Good One."

Here's the first - this one is a real ultrarunner's post-long run food. It's 200 calories just to look at it. (Apologies all the measurements are in the old-speak, but it's a very forgiving recipe - all recipes I make have to be forgiving).

Whitewater Granola bars


1/4 cup butter

2 cups peanut butter (low fat is a healthier choice)

1 1/2 tbsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups brown sugar (don’t press it)

1 cup agave nectar or honey

6 cups oats

1 cup coconut, toasted

1 cup sunflower seeds, toasted

1 cup sesame seeds, toasted

2 cups chocolate chips (or 1 cup raisins and 1 cup chocolate chips)

some chia, of course

Step 1: Disconnect your smoke detector. Maybe most of you don't need this first step like I do.

In a skillet, toast coconut, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds and set aside to cool. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter, vanilla, and brown sugar. Add agave nectar/honey and then mix in remaining ingredients. Press into greased 12x18 inch cookie sheet (or a couple smaller metric ones - the granola bars won't know the difference). Bake in a 350'F (that's 175 C in new-speak) oven for appx. 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly but cut while still warm.

I figure if it's cut into 30 pieces, each piece is probably about 370 cals (less if low fat peanut butter)

Very approximately: 60% carb, 24% fat (if using a 50% fat pb), and 16% protein

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How many Garmins are enough?

Three. I think.

This week I finally broke down and bought the new 310XT. I've had a fondness for my simple replaceable-battery Forerunner 101s for years now. But, they only work off a few satellites, so they're notorious for losing signals and underestimating or overestimating distance. Hasn't been enough to cause issue for me in the past. But it's become a big problem now when racing. In both the German and Swiss trail races, I lost signal so many times I just had to start racing by lapsed time. It was a lot to think about over multiple hours. And at the 24 hr track race it was even overestimating and was a mental downer at the "marathon mark" to find out I'd only gone 41k, not 42.

I bonded quickly with the 310, but the heart rate monitor has done little other than to increase my blood pressure. Undecided how much stock I'll put into the heart rate monitor at this point - but the experiment continues.

Tomorrow I'm headed down to Dwellingup to pace and otherwise support a couple mates doing a fat ass 50 Miler. I should have at least the 310 and the eTrex in tow. Last time I paced this one was at night (100 Miler) and a compass and map were also helpful. Shouldn't need those tomorrow, as the guys will have it all wrapped up with the sun still overhead.

Training this week has been good - am trying to up my "marathon pace" training run and my "100k pace" training run, with consideration for Moe. I'll need more speed to tackle the records I'm looking at. Really feeling the heat already, as spring has come on strong and feels more like summer.

I'm also thinking about whether I need some new racing flats before Moe - hence the poll I've added, looking for opinions from those who use them regularly. I often train in my flats, so the mileage adds up more quickly.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Mini-Moe

I've been contemplating the November Moe 6 hr track race for the last few days. There are two Canadian records that I can have a go at - the 50k record and the 6 hr record. However, both will be very big challenges.

With that in mind, Rolf and I have decided to do a partial mock-up of the event. We'll go to a track in a few weeks and do a mini-Moe. We'll practice everything we can - start time, pacing, fueling, clothing. I might even practice some pain and suffering ;)

An additional challenge at Moe is that you have to bring your own lap scorer. This puts too much pressure on Rolf. At Sri, he had a full time job just crewing. Lap scoring will be too much and will stress us both. So I'm thinking of putting an ad in the local Moe paper to hire a teenage babysitter or something for the day as my lap scorer :) If anyone out there has a teenage relative in Moe, let me know!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Article in WAMC newsletter

Just opened my WAMC (West Australian Marathon Club) newsletter and was surprised to see a familiar picture inside. There was a really thoughtful article on the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race by Grahak Cunningham. Grahak pretty much embodies the ultimate in ultrarunner, having finished 6th at the 3,100 mile (no, not km) Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence race in New York in 2007. He beat the former Australian record by over 4 days, as well. Grahak volunteered tirelessly at the 24 hr race as a lap scorer and provided great moral support as a fellow WA'er as well.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A 46k 13 hour Epic Training Day

On Friday, Rolf and I flew Juliet (the Fuji) down to the Stirling Range to join 4 others for the Ridge Top Walk. The Stirlings is a small mountain range in southern WA. The Ridge Top Walk is, according to the guidebook, a "gruelling walk...traversing the most rugged mountain terrain that Western Australia has to offer. It takes two to three days to complete."

That's 2 days if you are only doing the 19 km point-to-point section over the ridges - it doesn't account for the extra mileage (the 3rd day) getting to and from the ridges, if you don't arrange a shuttle.

We were set to join the ranks of those who do it in a day. Naturally, my group of running mates suggested we'd not be content with just the 19k over the ridges, but would instead make the route 40km+, by making it a loop, starting and ending at the caravan park.

So, starting at 5.30 AM Saturday in the dark, Rolf and I ran with full packs carrying 4.5 ltrs of water, 14 hours of food, and various bits of potentially useful gear to make our packs even heavier: thermal tops, rain jackets, a space blanket, an EPIRB, cameras, a flint, a compass, knife....Other gear included my lovely Inov8 Roclites, Injinjis, the DirtyGirl gaiters, my UD Bandita pack, and Montane Venture waterproof jacket (a blessing with the wind up there!)

The route was:

Caravan Park to Bluff Knoll carpark - 8.5 kms uphill on bitumen
From the carpark, up the Knoll, across several peak to Ellen Peak, and down to the fire road - supposed to be 19 kms
Fire trail/boundary road back to caravan park - 14.3 kms

The 19 kms was actually recorded as 23.2 by my GPS. We definitely took a few unplanned detours along the way, while trying to find the "right" route. There are several caves like this along the way that the multi-day'ers camp in:
In true Australian style, most of the peaks carried aboriginal names: Moongoongoonderup Hill, Isongerup Peak, Mirlpunda (Three Arrows), Pyungoorup Peak....

We ran the 8.5k in and the 14.3k out, but the ridge tops themselves were probably 90% unrunnable. There was a surprising amount of bouldering required with some pretty remarkable drops, should you have lost your footing.

We were very lucky with the weather - some unnerving wind gusts at times while negotiating cliff edges, but dry and mostly sunny.

The peaks are known to often be covered in fog and as I discovered after seeing the route for myself, it would have been impossible to navigate up there in a white-out using a compass. We benefited from going out with a few guys who had been on the ridges several times (successful in their attempts at the entire end-to-ender about 50% of the time).

The finish was brilliant, running due west in the dark by headlamp, straight towards the crescent moon with Venus above. A stop at the cafe next to the caravan park for a Guinness for Health and a chaser of water ended a fantastic day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Today in Sum

Training: 31k Bibbulmun Track

Recovery: 36 mins Fuji aerobatics

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Reviewing my plans

I was a bit concerned that my "rest" month wasn't as much rest as it should have been, with the swap of running for riding (actually increasing training time). So I took it easy this week with the mileage and ran a few quality runs. A 15k hill run at Bold felt great and another 15k on bitumen the following day also felt good. I went out to do my "100k" pace and had to keep pulling myself back, which is a good thing. My endocrine system (roughly measured by my resting heart rate) seems to have recovered quickly from the AR, too. But, still, I kept the miles down slightly this week and just had a few quality runs.

I've re-thought Yurrebilla, and just can't justify doing it. While it would surely be heaps of fun - mud, steep hills, single track, great ultra runners to meet....it's just a $1,000 I don't need to spend. All my airmiles flying to Europe and back haven't even earned me a free ticket to Adelaide.

Although it's 3 months away, I do have the 6 Inch trail race to look forward to, which is local, so very cost effective.

But now I need some new goals to pursue for the next few months. I'm giving a lot of thought to going over east in November, instead, to the Moe 6 hr track race. There's really nothing else that fits into my calendar that gives me a goal I'm interested in. If I go to the track race, I can try to better my 50k time and pursue breaking another Canadian women's record.

I'm also now toying with doing a mtb race this month - I might come dead last, but it's a good excuse to practice up the mtb pea gravel skills over a morning!

And not doing Yurrebilla will be good news for the guy I'm supposed to be pacing at the end of this month in the fat-ass Waterous 100 miler - because it is the week before Yurrebilla, I was limited in the mileage and speed I was willing to do as his pacer. Now, I'll be free to run further and faster.

Next weekend a few of us have planned to do the Ridge Top Walk in the Stirling Ranges. It should be about 42k of hilly, rocky fun!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One new AR pic

Our team, The Tortoise and The Bear on the "finish line sofa."

I have a slightly dazed look because:

1. I'm slightly dazed

2. I have food in my mouth. The poor girl was having trouble getting a shot with me shovelling the fuel in!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More Support for my Ultra Adventures

Jon Tan at Langer Chiropractic, my chiro since moving to Perth 2 years ago, has agreed to help keep me training and racing well, with his sponsorship. I really lucked into finding Jon in the first place.... Knowing no one really to ask when I moved to Perth, I just noticed the sign while parked at a hardware store across the street.

It turned out that Jon has a real interest in sports chiropractic. He is the WA state coordinator for Sports Chiropractic Australia and the team chiropractor for the Subiaco Football Club (WAFL). He was also in the top 12 for Men's Health Man of the Year, so obviously takes health and fitness seriously for himself, as well.

And speaking of those ultra adventures....

This past weekend was the Caffeinated Espresso 24hr unsupported adventure race. This was my third AR (1999 and 2006 in Canada). I was fortunate to be asked to join three very fit and nav-savvy guys for this. So the camera stayed in the car (figuring I'd never get in front of all of them to get a good shot, anyway). I'll have to wait until some pics become available online that I can get my hands on.

Maps were handed out after a 9 AM briefing and we had a noon start. From 9 AM until noon, you have to plan all your navigation for the event and get all your gear into 3 crates, labelled A, B, and C. The race organisers take those crates to the transition areas (TA's). If you mess up getting shoes or fuel into a crate, tough luck. So while Mark and Wil planned the route, Simon and I planned what gear needed to be in what crate and started sorting things. Simon and Wil have tons of AR experience and Mark has a strong rogaining/nav background. They taught me a lot over the weekend.

The race was something like this (I don't have the "passport"/road book):

33k single track mtb (bitumen hill climb out of town first and one ~1k hike-a-bike)
~19k rogaine on foot
15k mtb (single track with a nasty long uphill grind and wide gravel up-and-down fire roads)
~25k? paddle on the Wellington Lake Dam as a rogaine, with bonus checkpoints (CPs)
9k mtb (single track and wide gravel)
orienteering event for ~1 hr (cancelled due to night fog and cold - race organisers were afraid there'd be hypothermia with racers falling as they tried to cross rivers in the fog).
15k mtb (wide gravel onto bitumen to town)

This turned out to be a "mountain biker's race" and single track MTBing was my weakest skill. I have only ridden trails once in the past two years here. Of course, this month, after I signed up for the event, I went out three more times, two being in the dark. That was so useful! Western Australia is just full of pea gravel, which is so unnerving for me.

The paddle was my favourite leg. Full moon, gorgeous night. We were six hours on the lake, getting every mandatory control plus all the bonus ones (giving time bonuses). One was on a dead tree in the middle of the lake! The last 45 minutes or so we were out there, the mist came in. Within about 20 minutes, all sight of anything beyond about 20 mtrs was gone. We had to keep the boats very close together and navigate by bearing, very carefully, as we couldn't see any headlands to aim for. We were lucky to have been one of the faster teams, off the water at 4.30 AM. Others were just heading out when we left the water and had no idea what lay in front of them. One team apparently got separated within 20 mtrs of shore and it took an hour before they got together again (one boat heading back to shore while the other headed for the CP).

We squeezed onto the podium in 3rd place, after a big push to the finish, in just under 20 hrs (unadjusted for time bonuses).

The Hammer Perpetuem served me well again - I used multi-hour bottles so I could drink straight water from my hydration pack. I tried one of their bars, as well, for variety (it stays soft even in the cold, which is nice to know if you've ever tried to eat a hard energy bar). And I had a few cashews and almonds. I pulled up well, body-wise, but am still headed to the massage therapist now for a little post-race care! :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ahhh, Taper Week Ahead....

Was feeling pretty tired yesterday afternoon and couldn't quite figure it out. Nutrition good, electrolytes good, sleep good. And it's my "rest" month, so my running mileage is well below 100k/wk.

This morning I had a look at last week's stats and I just wonder:

running (some flat, mostly hills, sand, and trails) 60k
mountain biking (all at night on trails) 85k

Still, that doesn't look too bad. But then I thought in terms of time. A typical running week might have me actually running for 9 hours. This week:

running ~6 hrs
mtb'ing ~9 hrs

So my training went from 9 hours to 15 hours this past week. And involved a lot more pushing a bike up a hill, where I used to just have to push myself up a hill.

But it sure has been a lot of fun! Even the massive stack "baseball player" style into a big puddle last night. Too bad I didn't get a picture of that. My white Compressports are now dyed Australian red-dirt. I might have to talk to them about bringing in a new colour for adventure racing!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Welcome to my New Sponsors!

The week just gets better.

Yesterday I signed a contract with Hammer Nutrition. These guys know their stuff. On the advice of a few very strong athlete friends of mine, I tried Hammer for the first time at my 24 hr event. In fact, I fueled solely with the product - how's that for a trial?!? And I found it brilliant. I am really pleased to have such quality backing me in my training and events.

And today I went in to meet the manager of Mainpeak (Osborne Park), who are also sponsoring me now. Mainpeak and I first started talking after my 24 hr race, as well. I had gone in there to kit Rolf out for crewing me for the 24 hr race (concerned to not have him freeze to death during the night).

I feel a special link to Mainpeak. They are a WA-specific outdoor adventure shop. When I moved to WA, my trail friends in Canada (Trailtrash) took me on a final mountain run and filled a running sock full of money. They gave me a little booklet signed by everyone. At the beginning of the booklet, one friend wrote "The Trailtrash gang wanted to give you some pocket money "Ozzie Outback Bankroll" so you could get properly "outfitted" for your adventures down under. Check out "Mainpeak" a MEC type store at 858 Hay St. Perth for maps, guide-books and gear."

And so I took my bankroll down there on arrival and did as they said - bought maps and books of my new world down under. (MEC is an awesome community-driven/co-op Canadian outdoor store, by the way).

Tonight I had a fantastic 15k hill run at Bold Park, steady, with some good pushes up the hills. I think there's some more night riding and paddling in the works for the next few days. My rogaine partner and I have decided to scrap the plan to compete this weekend, as it's not wise with the AR coming up.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yay, I'm not an Ironman!

See my friend there in the distance headed for the ocean in her wetsuit? She's a multi-Ironman. Me, I'm not. So after our sand run, I got to do more sand running while she went swimming. Brrrrr!

It was such a nice day we had to top it off with 10k of paddling on the Swan River. My shoulders and neck needed the workout in preparation for the AR at the end of the month.

Then I heard that the latest issue of Runner's World is out. There were just a few slight inaccuracies. For example, my canoe paddles (which are sitting in my brother's basement in Canada) are actually bent shaft, not straight, as shown in the picture :) The maple leaf's pretty good, though, eh?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another Month of Excitement

Landed back in Perth very late Sunday night (or early Monday morning, depending how precise I am). It seems that winter has hardly set in. The mornings are cool, but we've hardly had much rain.

It has certainly been nice to have the luxury of my regular feeding plan back - it was hard, hard work while travelling in Europe to avoid all their "fat sauces" - cheese and cream everything - with loads of bread on offer. And being vegetarian just complicated things further. We used an Esky (that's Cooler in Canadian) to keep some fresh things with us, but ice is almost completely unheard of over there. Only once did we every actually find ice for sale at a service station.

I haven't had to worry about any post-Europe blues setting in this week.... First I got hooked into a 24 hour adventure race (Espresso) for the end of the month - and then I found myself unable to resist the urge to at least have a fun "go" at the 24 hour rogaine the weekend prior! The month is shaping up to be heaps of fun! Since it's my "R&R" month from running, it actually seems to be working well. It's making it easier to take my mind off all the runs I might feel drawn to do, allowing me to do some lower impact cross training like kayaking and cycling. I've still had a few good runs this week, including hills, and will do a long hill run on Sunday, as well. I've also had a chance to go night paddling, which was just gorgeous.

Tomorrow I'm up for some mountain biking. It's been many months since I've done that! I don't think cycling to Busselton in March counted, either, even if it was on my MTB!

I had some very nice news from the Association of Cdn Ultrarunners - they're having a little presentation ceremony in Ontario at the beginning of October to acknowledge the 2010 100k and 24 hr athletes, giving out the "athlete of the year" award, and giving out little plaques to the new age-group record holders (this last one applies to me now for my 200.89k performance in June). I am just like a little kid, so excited to see my plaque, it seems silly! But, sadly for me, I'll just have to wait, as I don't have a teleporter machine to get me to Ontario.

I am also pleased to be part of the new Compressport "test team" - a group of us are going to get to trial some new product before it hits the street. Looking forward to hearing more as this gets underway.

And...other good news of the week is another sponsor! I'm really, really pleased to have this sponsor supporting me now, but until I have the Big Meeting next week, I shan't say anymore!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Swiss Alpine Marathon 31 July 2010 - 25th Anniversary

After two days of altitude acclimatisation in Malbun, Liechtenstein watching the marmots on the ski hills, it was off to Davos, Switzerland.

I knew this was a big race in Europe, but was still amazed when the numbers started to settle in … 7 events, ranging in length from 11k to 78k (plus the kiddie events). I don’t know how many starters there were, but there were nearly 5,000 finishers for the various events. Big numbers are pretty common in road marathons, but not common in the ultra running scene, especially in trail settings! The expo ran over two days and included a free “mini-medical” where I got things like my max lung function and body fat measured (I’ve been curious about my body fat – it’s 12%, exactly where I’d want it to be).

I had a bit of trouble motivating myself for this race. I had put the 78k out of my mind, with the intention of focusing on the Barenfels race. But after that one fell apart, I had to plan a quick recovery and re-engage my brain for an attack of the Swiss Alpine 78. I was incredibly fortunate that my former massage therapist (actually a brilliant physio) from Perth had moved back to Germany in January and was able to provide a bit of treatment for me. It was uncanny that she even turned out to be in Davos during the time of my race, as she was with the German national triathletes on a training camp.

It had been rainy and cold all week in Davos, but on Saturday morning the skies were clear and the forecast was 19 degrees at the start/finish (1500 mtrs) and about 9 degrees at the top (2632 mtrs). I think the coldest part of the day was actually when the video helicopters would swoop in close and blow gusts off their spinning blades!

The 78k is a big loop, starting in town with about 6k of bitumen before heading onto gorgeous forest tracks. The alpine climb starts about 30k in, after a descent to 1000 mtrs. The total elevation gain/loss is 2260 mtrs.

For the first time that I can remember (including my few little 5k races!), I ran without a hydration pack. There were about 20 aid stations and I noted that the fastest racers from previous years all ran without packs. I did wear a little waist pack that held fuel and electrolytes, labeled with my "don't-speak-German" badges.

As usual, I was all kitted out in the Dirty Girls and the Compressport and chose my Inov-8 x-talons again. Injinjis, as always. All the gear choices were perfect. Oddly, it seemed to me, although Compressport is a Swiss company, no one I saw was wearing the product. There were a few other brands around and I spotted a few racers throughout the morning with “compression” gear around their ankles. Can’t be very effective if the stuff doesn’t even stay on your calf.

My run started well. At the 31k checkpoint I was 15 minutes ahead of plan and in 11th place (for women). By the top of the mountain at 52k I was about 38 minutes ahead of plan but had dropped back to 18th place, obviously finding the big climb in the thinning air pressure more taxing. I had no idea of my placement during the race, however.

Then I encountered an unanticipated glitch. The next 8k’s were gnarly single track along a ridge over to Scalettapass. It was a gorgeous view, but the single track was really technical and narrow, with quite the drop off one side! With hundreds of competitors, that section became a walk at the slowest person’s pace. My frustration mounted as I watched my “banked” time getting eaten away. Then a few men and women passed me – being much more forceful and daring along the cliff edge.

Finally, with about 2k to go in that section, I started to do the same thing. I took one guy with me – a Spaniard, I think he was – who was also rather frustrated. We started a constant stream of “excuse me” and “passing, please.” By the time I made it to Scaletta, though, all my bonus time was gone. Then began a downhill push to the finish of 18 kms. The first 4 k or so were steep and rocky, but wide and totally runnable. It was a riot! I opened it up and felt like I passed about 50 people. No one passed me on that section.

I knew I had lost my dream goal of 8 hrs, but pushed to get back as far from 8h30 as I could. And I finished in 8hr22min, very pleased. In fact, for the first time, I felt a wave of emotion at the finish line, almost as though I was going to cry…amazing what chemical imbalances can do after running!

Final result was 15th/252 women, 6th in my age class. Overall, I was 153rd/1,484 finishers. The top three women were from Switzerland, with the top 10 also including a German, Swedish, and British woman. At least 5 of the top 10 women have done this race more than once and the winner this year is a former Olympic cross-country skier and has two previous wins under her belt. The winning female time was 6hr39 and the winning male (a 4x winner) was Swedish and did 5hr49. Just mind-boggling times for those top racers.

It was a brilliant event and I was honoured to be surrounded by such a group of athletes. The support for this race is remarkable. Running along forest tracks and up mountain passes, there were always spectators (including some day hikers) who clapped and clanged cow bells and shouted “Bravo!” and “Super!” (which sounds like Zuper in German) and “Hop hop hop!” (which means Go!). The children held their hands out to slap as racers went by, also cheering us along. I’ve sure seen that the support for athleticism runs deep in Europe.

Now, it’s time for a little r&r (r&r can include adventure racing, can’t it??) before the plan to hit the Yurrebilla ultra in eastern Oz in two months’ time.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Visit to Brugg; Headed to Davos

Yesterday I went to check out the site of the 2011 World 24hr event, which just happens to be in Brugg, a short 20kms from where I'm staying right now in Switzerland.

The track is a military training track, so those hardcore guys naturally run on bitumen! And, I guess to stop them trying to escape the brutal training, they put this barb wire roll along the side of the track!

Today I'm headed to Davos, Switzerland, for the last of the European races. Way back in February I registered for this 78k alpine race. It was going to be my first race back post-surgery. A lot has changed since then!

In the last few months I found and registered for Baerenfels and had figured I would probably end up switching out of the 78k at Davos and into either the 31 or 42k trail event. But after Baerenfels fell apart, it seemed like this was my only chance left to complete an ultra in Europe on this trip.

Davos attracts the best of the best. Here's what they say about the K78 event:

78.5 km +/-2260 m
"The biggest mountain ultramarathon in the world, and the ultimate challenge. 21 km of the race is on high alpine terrain, the highlight being the Panorama Trail (a narrow and, in parts, exposed mountain path) at an altitude of 2,600 m."

The winning women include women who do 2h47m marathons and 6.5 hr Comrades! There is prize money for the top three, which may also help attract the most talented from around the world. I will just watch those women sprint off into the distance and marvel at their 4.30 pace for the first 30k all the way to Filisur (of course, by then I won't be able to see them in the distance anymore and I'll just mentally marvel at them!).

There are over 3,500 entrants for the Swiss Alpine Marathon. They have no limits on entry and have 7 different races. It's actually a week long event, in terms of day hikes, lectures, expos, and the like. Accommodation in the area has been sold out for a few months. It's going to be pretty full on for a girl who likes her nice, quiet trails with a few good mates! My event alone has over 1,600 entrants already.

I've been doing a bunch of reading on altitude training and how hypobaria actually works (there's no less oxygen in the air at 3000 mtrs than at 400 mtrs - the problem has to do with air pressure). I've decided to get to altitude (above 1500 mtrs) a good 48 hrs before race on Saturday, so that's why I'm off today. We're going to stay at a ski resort area in Liechtenstein for a few days before heading to Davos the night before the race.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When is a Race Not a Race?

When it's supposed to be training.

The Corvatsch Trophy Mountain Race

On Friday we drove to St. Moritz, about 3.5 hours south, to do this short race. I made a bit of an excuse of it being altitude and hill training, but have since been reading more about altitude training and have learned it probably wasn't very useful in that regard.

Anyway, the race was part of the Alpinathlon - a 5 stage race with road cycling, two mtb legs, and two running legs. The last leg of the race is a 10.8k "run" up 1626 mtrs to the top of the Corvatsch peak. At 3303 mtrs, it's claim to fame is that it is the site of the highest race finish line in all of Europe. Participants were allowed to register for Leg 5 as a separate event this year, which was great for me!

Unfortunately, though, there was snow on Friday night at the top, so the race course was shortened to 8k. The finish line was altered to be at Corvatsch "Mittelstation" - the middle station - at 2702 mtrs. The race organisers decided it was too risky to have racers going across the glacier to the finish at 3303. We didn't even know the race was altered until 4k in! (A problem for me not being German-speaking, as I'm sure announcements were being made that morning and it was probably all the talk around the start line).

We started at about 1780 mtrs, so got about 900 mtrs gain over 8k. Then, to get the full experience of the hypobaric air, we took the cable car up to the Bergstation at the top and had a late lunch. We took the cable car back to the bottom and then opted to run back to the car (4k) rather than take the free shuttle bus (I was obviously grumbling a bit about having my training run shortened).

The scenery was fantastic and it was awesome to watch some of the full competitors coming in after 8 or more hours of racing all day through the mountains. It's so inspiring to be surrounded by all these athletes.

It was mentally much harder than the 24 hr Sri Chinmoy race, which probably sounds odd. What was hard was making myself start at the back of the pack and to jog and hike rather than run full-out. I had to keep reminding myself that if I want to run the Swiss Alpine Marathon (78k) the following weekend, I wasn't there to destroy my legs or endocrine system. I needed to keep it more moderately paced. But allowing myself to finish in near last place was incredibly challenging. I think it was good training for the mental side of racing - running your own race and not getting caught up in what others are doing ... the "ego" side of things.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Barenfelslauf 64.8k IAU trail race (Germany)

Well, I am here in Germany, having attempted to run the Barenfelslauf race last weekend. This is my race report for my "almost" race.

Barenfelslauf is a 3 lap course (21.6 k per) with 700 mtrs elevation gain (plus 700 loss, of course) per lap. It was a really pretty, well marked forested course that sure reminded me of running in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We started about 30 minutes late because so many people turned up to register on the day. There were over 200 competitors, with probably 60% in the half and the rest in the marathon and ultra.

I was all geared up in my Compressport, had the Perp ready, and to show I was non-partisan, I was flying both the Canadian flag and an Australian decal on my hydration pack!

Unfortunately, I was pulled from the course just before I completed my second lap (43k mark at 4 hr 26 min). A half-marathoner had a heart attack at the finish line and could not be resuscitated. The police arrived and said the race had to stop so they could do their investigation. Rolf said there was a lot of angst around the finish line as they tried to determine whether they could or should continue the race.

As far as my race was going, I was on track to do 7 hrs (or slightly less). That was my goal time and it's been the women's winning time for most every year. I was leading for women when the race was halted.

An unhappy ending to the day for all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour Track Race: Brisbane 19-20 June

Trail running and track running never mixed. Or so I thought. At least I certainly never had an interest in doing a track race. But in western Canada I was never exposed to the track. In Australia, it's a different story.

After the Bunbury 50, I got curious. What else could I do? Bungy jump? Sky dive? Walk across a bed of hot coals?

Well, how about a 24 hour track race?

It was a hard sell to my pretty new partner, who only six months before had never even heard of ultra running. But once he wrapped his head around the fact that I was serious about it, we set out to plan the event. Both of us have quite scientific and technical minds, so we were a perfect team. And racing on track is probably the most “team oriented” of all ultra running events.

I had a six-page document for him to work from. It detailed my fuel and hydration plans in 15-minute increments for 24 hours. It also detailed electrolyte consumption, mileage plans and paces, and had a place to note any intake of caffeine, painkillers, and other incidentals.

In addition, I had created a “road book” which detailed the point-to-point run I was doing in my head. My plan was to run from my old home in Calgary to my old rural property, which was 200 kms north. I had three goals: (1) break the Canadian women’s 40-44 age group 24-hour record of 186.361 kms, (2) reach 200 kms, and (3) have as much fun as possible.

At 9 AM, I was off in a field of 23 24-hour racers and eight 12-hour racers in nice mild weather – a forecast high of 21 degrees. At 1 PM ten 6-hour racers joined us. The other excitement at that time was that we got to change directions. Every four hours we changed. Woo hoo.

I’m a social runner when training, but have always been quiet while racing. So I was a bit concerned I might appear standoff-ish to the group on the track. Many seemed to know each other, as most were from the eastern states and had raced together at different venues before, some on trails, as well.

I ran solely on Hammer Perpetuem. An experiment, but one based on good science. I took electrolytes at regular intervals. I never touched a pain pill. I felt a few waves of nausea during the event, but it was nothing compared to what I saw the majority of people go through. Several vomited numerous times.

At 6 hours, I planned for 58 kms and was at 60 k. I hit the 100k mark at 10hrs 24 mins, about 3-4 kms ahead of schedule. I had to be careful not to get behind, but also not to get too far ahead of my plan, either, or that would imply I’d tax my body too much too soon. Every 5k I did some high knee skips and butt-kicks, until that got too tiring. Then I did a one lap walk break instead.

It got dark around 6 PM. People came and went from the track – racers having to retire early with injury or illness – one fellow getting a free ride with the medics to the hospital. A sick part of me felt jealous watching him reclining on that warm stretcher in the ambulance, although I knew he’d happily trade places with me to be back out on his own two feet. I switched from a singlet into my long-sleeved Trailtrash shirt for a touch of connection to my running roots in Canada. I was also wearing a “frog” necklace, as the frog is Trailtrash’s unofficial representative animal.

In so many ways, I had it good. Crews were standing still in the 7-degree clear skies freezing. Many other racers were hobbled with nausea, blisters, and cramps, which reduced their paces and allowed the cold to seep in to them, as well.

I hit 100 miles in 18 hrs 17 minutes, still 3 kms ahead of plan. Around 5 or 5.30 AM, the kookaburras started up their cackles in the trees. They sound like monkeys. The sun came up around 6 AM. Just after 7 AM, I broke the Canadian record. A few of my Oz friends found the exact spot on the track and met me there to cheer me past. I was still ahead of schedule. But my mind broke a little at that point. I was tired and it was tough to keep running while watching so many others around me walking. (Most would have rather been running, but were too plagued by various leg or gastro issues to be able to). I found myself thinking that everything else I did was just a “bonus” after that point and was quite prepared to let the 200k goal go and “settle.”

Fortunately, the Sri Chinmoy race organisers had been keeping close tabs on me and noticed the slip in my pace. They were keen to see a racer get to 200k; several of the strong guys had been forced to retire early. With about 45 minutes to go, my current lap counter commented on how near – yet far – the 200 k goal was for me. I had used up my bonus kms and was getting close to going into deficit. My right knee started twinging for brief moments. When it did, it would make my leg feel like it was going to give way. To be expected after the repetitive firing of the muscles non-stop for 23 hours. The nerves were just getting confused – fire, release, fire, release, fire, release, release…whoops!

Everyone got behind me in a big way. With 15 laps to go, I put the push on. I just wanted to get the 200k, get the pressure off, and enjoy the last few minutes to walk it out. I hit 200k with 7 – 10 minutes to go. And from there I basically enjoyed a walk and cheering on the other racers who were pushing to their own goals. I had a new Canadian record, 200k, and an outright win of the event. I believe somewhere around 9 PM I had taken overall lead and never lost it. I tried not to pay attention to that. In fact, when my partner told me my standing, I asked him to stop. My race was never about winning or beating anybody else. Although a win is a lovely personal thing to achieve, it’s incredibly bittersweet out there on a track. Every few minutes you pass the same people and you see and appreciate everyone’s struggles. You see their pain. I wasn’t motivated to win while looking at those struggles. I was inspired by everyone out there. People leaning over to vomit, then standing up and moving on. Walking with bleeding toes with the tops cut out of their shoes. Going to the hospital for an IV and then coming back to continue racing 9 hours later.

My push at the end finally taxed my system, too. I had an 11,000 calorie deficit by then. I was running mostly on fat stores, so pushing to run hard at the end was a lot of ask. About 10 minutes after the finish, I sat down and then slowly tried to take in a few bites of banana. I thought it would help to try to keep my stomach “open” and receptive to fuel. No go. My right knee (the non-surgery one) seized up after sitting and I couldn’t load bear on it. When I stood, I got dizzy. I couldn’t stand to get my award. I started going into shock. Despite having three shirts on, I was shivering. Fortunately again, I had brilliant support from the wife of another West Australian racer. She had crewed her husband through years of world championship events and knew exactly how to help me in a most relaxed, yet uber-effective way. Most of me just wanted to give in and lay on the ground. But the fighter in me refused to give up like that – after working so hard for 24 hours, I wasn’t going to be taken to the ground by a little dizziness! Standing up to leave, though, caused a wave of nausea. I sat back down, announced my intention to have a good spew and the nice fellows from St Johns came over. They figured I had low blood sugar, but all my tests were good: glucose, blood pressure, and heart rate. Free post-race tests, how cool is that!

I managed to squeeze two bowls of plain instant porridge down over the afternoon – 320 calories. I could drink water, but food just made me feel sick. Because I was unable to eat, I was basically living on my fat stores. That meant I could survive another month, but I had to move at the pace of a koala.

Monday morning I woke up hungry. Only down 2 lbs, which basically represented 7,000 calories I didn’t eat on Saturday and Sunday. Pretty darn good. I like science.

Had to wear Rolf’s shoes on Monday. Mine wouldn’t fit. My legs from the knees down were nicely swollen for a few days, but lots of elevation and an ice bath helped immensely.

Final race result: 200.8864 kms. 1st place overall. The first female to outright win the race since its inception in 1981 or 82. Canadian W40-44 24 hour record.