Roots: Issue 5

Roots: Grounding your running, mindfulness, health and wellness

ISSUE 5

Life is a rollercoaster filled with peaks and valleys. No one is living at the top the entire time, and its not meant to be that way. Everyone experiences the lows too, but its important to keep grounded during these times and realize that it doesn’t last forever.

The highs and the lows each come with their own set of challenges and it’s important to stay grounded and aware through it all and remember that you are playing the long game…. Life is an ultra!

Issue 5 is going to explore both of these extremes to try and help you stay level through it all.

 

THE LOWS

I understand that not everyone can relate to that point in an ultra when your mind is telling you there is no way that you are going to finish. Flash back to when I was running the triple looper at Cape Chignecto…. I was 100k in to a 142k run, but all I wanted to do was hurl and go to sleep. No way I could run another marathon right? Well sometimes when things are looking impossibly hard and you really don’t think you can go on, all it takes is a few steps in the right direction. Then the key is to forget about how far you have left to go and just focus yourself on the present and what you can do to keep moving forward in that moment.

There are often points in life where I’ll struggle feeling like I am not making progress, or that I really just don’t feel like getting out of bed today, or how am I going to make it through this week?! I’ve got no energy, and a ton of work to do. Enter the mantra “This is ultra training”. Feel free to substitute what ever your working towards “this is marathon training” or “this is 5k training”. Any time you can shift you mindset in a life situation to be able to tough it out, your training your brain to be able to tough it out in a race or training when it gets hard.

And the cool thing is…. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Think of it like push-ups for your brain. Every time you have that mental battle it’s a workout and you get stronger.

 

THE HIGHS

When your running for 30 + hours straight you will often find yourself fluctuating between feeling fantastic and feeling terrible (not too much time just feeling ok haha). If your not careful and lose sight of the fact that you still have a long way to go, you can get carried away go to hard and cause yourself to completely crash and burn. The key at this end of the spectrum is to proceed with optimism but always staying mindful of the goal. Sometimes if you hit the sweet spot you’ll be able to coast feeling great for longer and be able to cover more ground feeling better then if you were to give into temptation and let to pace fly with reckless abandon.

Everything in life is going great, you’re feeling like you have endless energy and there is nothing you can’t do. Similar to running an ultra you want to lock in a cruise towards your goal. If your not careful and get caught up in the bliss of feeling fantastic you’ll look up someday and find yourself over committed and possibly spiraling down to a deep low. Its that quick burn out you want to avoid.

 

IN CLOSING

In life as in ultras there are many highs and lows. When your feeling low, just hang in there and know that it’s not going to last forever another high will eventually come, you just need to stay focused, put one foot in front of the other and endure. When your feeling high embrace it and enjoy it, but don’t over extend yourself and cause early burnout.

So that’s a rap for ISSUE 5. If you enjoyed it please let us know in the comments. Share this with someone you think could find this useful and Subscribe so you can get our next News Letter. Also let us know if there are topics which you would like to see discussed in future issues.

Root: Issue 4

Roots: Grounding your running, mindfulness, health and wellness

 

ISSUE 4

This one comes to us from one of readers and it’s an important one for this time of year. As your training throughout the winter something inevitable happens… people around you start getting sick, and you yourself might feel something coming on.

What are you to do? And what happens if you get sick?

There are often a lot of questions surrounding this topic and sometimes there can be a bit of mentality of “if it doesn’t kill you… it makes you stronger” So maybe you should just suck it up and train through it then? Well not necessarily and this is where Issue 4 takes us.

 

PREVENTION

As one might expect you best defense against having to deal with being sick while your training is well…. just not to get sick in the first place!

There are a few simple things one can do when everyone around you is getting sick and it seems that any day now its bound to be your turn.

 

  • Wash you hands… now it don’t mean to become obsessive with the purel but just be mindful about washing your hands, for example if you take the bus to work, make sure to wash your hands before sitting down at your desk (you’ll probably end up touching your mouth at some point..)
  • Try to get even more sleep than usual. Sleep helps your body fight off anything that you might contract throughout the day. So if you normally get 7 hrs, make an effort to get 7.5 hrs instead! it will make a difference.
  • It’s come up a few time before… but making the extra effort to eat an abundance of whole foods and drink lots of fluids (2L + water a day, helps your body filter out harmful germs).
  • You can take immune boosting herbs and supplements like cordyceps or macca root. Or for example if your kids are sick, you could start taking Echinacea in an effort to help prevent getting sick.

WELL THAT DIDN’T WORK I’M SICK NOW WHAT?

Sometimes you can feel a sickness coming on. If your lucky and you can catch it early and try to get some extra rest and fluids (and perhaps the above mentioned Echinacea) can help head things off before it gets worse. At this point in time your not quite sure if your sick or not, so its usually advised just to proceed with caution and perhaps back off on the intensity.

Nope… you are really sick now what?

SYMPTOMS ARE ABOVE THE NECK

Generally speaking your symptoms are all above the neck, maybe you’ve got a super runny nose etc. Use you judgment, but it’s probably ok to train through this.

Things seem to be getting worse? I’m really tired, kind of achy now what?

SYMPTOMS BELOW THE NECK

At this point its really just best to give your body the rest that it needs and try and get better as quickly as possible. Training through your sickness at this point can likely prolong and potentially worsen what’s going on, so in the long term your best bet is just to focus on getting healthy!

 

I’M STARTING TO FEEL BETTER…. WHEN CAN I TRAIN AGAIN?

Again it’s a bit of a judgment call here. But its best to proceed with cautious optimism and not to jump right back into an intense workout.

Plan to have a feeling out easy run, and plan a route with short loops so you can bail early if your not feeling well during the run. It’s best not to push through the run if you start to feel miserable, so leaving yourself a way to get back home quickly takes the pressure off of finishing the run. Give it a few days of easing back into things before you resume your full training load. Remember you body is probably still fighting something off at this point, or worse your immune system is weaker than usual and you might catch something else if you jump back into training at full speed too soon!

 

IN CLOSING

If you do find yourself getting sick, do what you can to help your body fight it off as fast as possible. If your symptoms are below the neck…. then “nobody needs a hero” resting up is your best bet to being able to train at full capacity in the shortest amount of time.

So that’s a rap for ISSUE 4. If you enjoyed it please let us know in the comments. Share this with someone you think could find this useful and Subscribe so you can get our next News Letter. Also let us know if there are topics which you would like to see discussed in future issues.

Roots: Issue 3

Roots: Grounding your running, mindfulness, health and wellness

 

ISSUE 3

Every once in a while you come across something that just makes you take a step back and think for a bit. Recently for me there was an instagram post showing a man who was climbing an epic mountain for his 80th birthday. Or when you see a 70 year old woman become the oldest finisher of the Western States 100 mile ultra (shown here ) I cant help but pause for a minute or two and think that’s what I want to aspire to do. More specifically I want a body and a mind that I can thoroughly enjoy right up until the end. I don’t know what your end game is, and why you exercise and take care of yourself… but this is mine. I’m going to be climbing mountains until the end.

So what can I do to make sure that I can do this? Issue 3 dives in right here.

 

FIND YOUR TRIBE

Research into the in to the communities that live the longest and are the happiest on the planet conducted by Dan Beuttner shows that one of the largest contributors to a long and healthy life is community. How strong are your ties to your community, and how much do you feel like you belong. Being an active member in a community keeps you engaged and it helps give you purpose and makes you feel appreciated.

For me this couldn’t be truer. The more I surround myself with like minded supportive people the more drive I have for life and I guess that’s the secret!

I used to be intimidated by social running groups and I chase to do all of my training on my own, but incorporating social group runs once a week has made a huge difference for me.

 

YOU NEED TO KEEP YOU BODY MOVING

So you runner and you think that you do get out and move you body pretty good a few times a week and this should be enough right?

I used to think so too… but then I had a light bulb moment. I was at the SONOFA GUNOFA race this year and I was just astounded by how well the cross fitters we doing. How was this possible that their bodies were allowing them to continue in this race for so long? Well they had durable bodies.

So decided that I needed to look into this some more… so I reached out to some friends that I used to coach at Mayo Brothers Calisthenics and got them to get me started out with a strength and mobility plan. What I found was that the results came quickly and were fairly notable and I was only doing these workouts 2-3 times a week. Return on investment here was huge! (We have since partnered together to offer running specific strength and mobility programs)

So incorporating strength and mobility work outside of running helps you move your body into positions that you wouldn’t get into running, helping you maintain a full range of motion in all of your joints while giving them strength to make your body as a whole more durable and ready to take on any challenge.

This one is a no brainer for me… Strength and mobility work started now will help me reach my goal of doing epic adventures when I am 80.

 

BE MINDFUL OF WHAT YOU EAT

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a plant based athlete and I am very passionate about eating a whole foods diet. I choose to eat this way for 80 year old me.

I am not here to try and convert you to my ways…. but more of just challenging you to start being more mindful about what you put in your mouth, because it matters.

If it helps try to think of it this way… you are eating today so that 80 year old you can be out having fun and climbing mountains and enjoying life to the fullest. Don’t wait until you are 80 for life to decide for you that you need to eat better…. because by then you have all ready lost.

Its sounds intimidating I know… but when you boil it down it’s a real simple act. Just think about what you are eating. A simple way to start is to write down each day what you ate and how you felt about it… openly an honestly. I know this is after the fact… but it forces you to think about it and confront it. Doing so you will eventually change your thought process and your relationship with food. Give it a shot!

 

IN CLOSING

It helps sometimes to think about your end game. Not always thinking about what is going to make you a better person or athlete in the short term, but to stretch a bit and think how can you set 80 year old you up for success so you can still be enjoying the things that you love to the fullest.

So that’s a rap for ISSUE 3. If you enjoyed it please let us know in the comments. Share this with someone you think could find this useful and Subscribe so you can get our next News Letter. Also let us know if there are topics which you would like to see discussed in future issues.

Roots: Issue 2

Roots: Grounding your running, mindfulness, health and wellness

ISSUE 2

Running outside in the winter is tough, its cold, windy, slippery and sometimes just plain miserable… Your water freezes, your hands go numb and you have an ice cream headache just from the wind.

Fortunately there are ways to run outside and reduce/eliminate many sources of this winter suffering and that is where Issue 2 is going to take us.

LAYERS

Running when its cold outside is all about wearing the appropriate layers of clothes for the conditions of the day. Common mistakes include overdressing, under dressing, and wearing un-breathable layers. These mistakes can leave you too warm, too cold, or just plain cold and sweaty.

So lets dive in with some suggestions from the head down. Now theses are just suggestions and everyone’s temperature comfort zone is different, so adapt what helps you and leave out what doesn’t.

 

HEAD

For a typical day for me a find a buff (head wrap) around my ears is plenty and it allows for great ventilation for the top of head so you don’t over heat, however as the mercury dips below -10C I generally switch to a toque and use the buff as a secondary layer to provide extra protection for my ears and my face. For the hat it’s important that you choose a breathable fabric that allows for good ventilation or your find yourself overheating and becoming uncomfortable.

Now when its colder that -20 and the wind is howling you should take some extra precautions. You can use some Vaseline to help protect you cheeks from the cold wind, or even better a neoprene ski mask with vent holes for breathing. The ski mask also help warm the air you are breathing before you breath it in making higher output activities easier on your lungs at these freezing temperatures.

If its real nasty out and your feeing brave, the last piece of gear that helps is ski goggles. When it’s windy and snowy or haling and you’d still rather get your run in outdoors than on the treadmill these are a life saver.

 

UPPER BODY

In the winter I more often that not wear a windbreak layer, this is essential to block that bitter cold wind and will keep you warmer. Winter cycling jackets work great for this, or even just a shell windbreaker that you would layer in the summer. Underneath you can layer appropriately for the day.

Keep in mind that you want breathable moisture wicking layers. On really cold days I start with a thermal moisture wicking warm base layer (my go to is my Helly Hansen lifa), and layer another breathable mid weight long sleeve on top. On more moderate days I will start with a “dry” rather than a “warm” base layer.

If your layers are not breathable and moisture wicking you will find that as you heat up you will sweat, and instead of staying warm your sweat will accumulate and will make you cold.

 

HANDS

Many a runner will be out for a winter run, layered perfectly but there hands end up freezing. Running gloves are often very light weight and for me unless I’m doing high intensity interval training they just don’t cut it for me when it’s below -10. The solution that has worked best for me has been cycling mittens. They are warm, breathable and have a wind break layer. You could also try out some lighter weight ski gloves or mitts. Don’t suffer with frozen hands when you can fix the problem easily. You can also use hand warmers to help as well!

 

LOWER BODY

There are many great lined tights out there for running, but where a lot of them fall short is in breaking the wind. I can’t speak for the ladies, but I know it can get pretty uncomfortable down there when it’s windy and cold.

Again I find either cycling or cross country ski gear has done it right here. You need to find lined tights (or looser cross country ski or alpine pants) which are meant for high output activities and vent well, but the have the all important windbreak fabric on the whole front of the legs. When that’s still not enough, double up on the underwear!

FEET

I’ve never had too many issues with the comfort of my feet in the winter. I’ll typically just use a slightly thicker sock and my feet stay warm enough all on their own. The problem arises in wet slushy conditions, deep snow or slippery ice.

There are some running shoes out there like the Altra Lone Peak Neo Shell and the Solomon Snow cross which are waterproof and are great in these conditions, but they come at a premium. You can always waterproof an old pair of shoes with some scotch guard as a more economical solution.

For most sloppy conditions I find switching up my road shoes for trail shoes can help provide some extra traction in the snow and slush. This extra grip however is still useless when it comes to ice!

Some shoes like the Solomon Snowcross come pre studded for extra traction on the ice (you pay for it though!). However, you can take that old pair of shoes and stud them yourself with some sheet metal screws as shown in this video ( DIY studding your shoes ) for a dollar or two in a few simple steps.

 

IN CLOSING

The winter can be a harsh environment for running and other outdoor activities, but if you prepare properly your time outdoors during this season can be a lot more enjoyable!

So that’s a rap for ISSUE 2. If you enjoyed it please let us know in the comments. Share this with someone you think could find this useful and Subscribe so you can get our next News Letter. Also let us know if there are topics which you would like to see discussed in future issues.

Roots: Issue 1

Roots: Grounding your running, mindfulness, health and wellness

ISSUE 1

 

As we embark on the journey that is a new year, I always think it is important to take the time to think about what we want to accomplish. It is important to think about the coming year, but also take the time to check in on the current trajectory that your life is headed.

Do the inner work required to find out what truly excites you.

 

REFLECTION

 

Before you can chart a course forward it is wise to look backwards and evaluate the past year or years to see how you have done. Be honest with yourself, it’s not about judgment and feeling bad about what you didn’t do. It’s about growth.

  1. Write a list of things down that you wanted to accomplish last year?
  2. With that same list evaluate how you did on a scale of 0-10. (0 being no progress and 10 being goal achieved)
  3. For your goals that you did achieve what allowed you to do so?
  4. For the goals you did not achieved what were your road blocks?

One great piece of advice I read last year is that when you are rating on a scale of 1-10 you can never choose the number 7. The 7 is a very non committal number. Its high enough that things are ok and there is no major issue or real reason for changing, but its not high enough that things are great. Don’t you want to be striving for great? Keep this in mind next time you are rating anything.

Knowing what has and hasn’t worked for you in the past is a great way to help put systems in place for you to succeed in the future.

Now as perceptive as you are, you have probably deduced that this doesn’t just apply to you fitness goals. You can and should apply this reflection and goal setting process to all of your goals.

 

GOALS

Now here is the hard part. This one requires some thought. Do you know that most people in today’s world are so out of tune with themselves they don’t know what they want, what makes them happy? Do you?

Think about it for a while and write it down, what are things that you can do which will make you happy this year, what can you get excited about doing? The deeper you go on this the better. It may help to think back over years past to try and reconnect with something in your younger days.

Here is an example, thinking back to when I was younger I would spend all day in the woods playing in nature running around exploring as happy as could be. So setting goals for myself that allow me to reconnect with my inner child who loves adventuring in nature allows me to be authentic and truly get excited for the work that I know I need to put in.

Now write them down and make a list.

Most people are great about setting outcome goals. “I want to run my first 10k!”

Ok so you have decided your goals, now how do you go about achieving them? Well as it is often said “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”. So you need more than just an outcome goal.

 

BREAK IT INTO MANAGEABLE MILESTONES

If for example you want to run a 10k, you will be more successful focusing on the small steps between now and the race than just thinking about the race.

In order for you to run 10K in a couple months, you need to put in the work. Set a running plan and stick to it. If your plan is to run Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, treat each of those runs an their own specific goal.

Put your schedule on the fridge and put a check mark beside each completed run. These check marks will give you a boost of confidence every time you look at them.

When you put in the daily work and meet those millstones, the outcome goal of running 10k will take care of itself.

Also, and this has been a big turning point for me…. when it’s not all tied to the outcome (if for some reason you don’t achieve what you set out to do) you can look back at the process and know that you gave it everything that your could.

 

ACOUNTABILTY

You greatly increase your chances for success when you put systems in place to hold yourself accountable. These systems can take many forms such as:

  • Signing up for a race (for some this is enough incentive)
  • Tell your friends / family / co-workers / partner what you want to achieve and why
  • Pay for training (shameless plug) but hey if you have paid for the training your more likely to do it than if you have invested nothing in it other than the 5 min it took you to find a plan on the internet
  • Find a group of like minded people with similar goals and surround yourself with them (for me this is North End Runners!), FIND YOUR TRIBE!
  • Set milestones, big goals are daunting and can be sometimes be far away, setting smaller milestone goals can help keep you on track

So that’s a rap for ISSUE 1. If you enjoyed it please let us know in the comments.

Share this with someone you think could find this useful and Subscribe so you can get our next News Letter. Also let us know if there are topics which you would like to see discussed in future issues.

P.S. Here’s my accountability. My goal is to write one of these every two weeks for you guys…. So here we go!

Cape Chignecto Triple Looper

Im going to warn you up front… this is a long one, but hey it took me almost 35 hrs to run it so I have a lot to say! And just so we are clear, this was not a race, it was not an organized event just an adventure that Ive been obsessed over for almost a year.

 Why?

The myth

Let me open with when I first heard of this concept, as this story on its own is worth telling. A few years ago when I was training for the Vermont 50 mile race, I was training out at the Cape Chignecto Provincial Park. I had run here a few times previously but this was the first time I had completed a run out to Refugee Cove. A run at the time I was quite proud of. Its a 24k out and back to one of the most spectacular coves. Its a challenging route with roughly 1200m of vertical on some challenging terrain.

I got back from this run exhausted but impressed that I was able to complete it, before lunch no less. I was chatting with one of the Park Rangers when I got back and he was asking me where I had gone this morning. He was impressed and said I had made really good time. He then began to tell me an amazing story about a crazy guy who came to the park and ran 3 loops for his bachelor party. I was just in disbelief that someone would do that or could do that. There was no race, no aid stations, no support, just one crazy guy and his friends for a bachelor party to complete 3 loops. Just insane right?

A crazy guy came to the park and ran 3 loops for his bachelor party, just insane right?

 

It just seemed right

Over the past few years Ive gotten to know Jodi (the first crazy guy to run 3 loops) pretty well and we have become  good friends and he is the one who inspired me to take on this challenge.

As many of you know last year I attempted my first 100 mile race at Bromont ( you can read that race report here: Bromont 100: Race Report ) which ended in a disappointing DNF due to a navigational error among other things.  I still have unfinished business with that course but this year it was not meant to be. My brother got married on that weekend this year. So I scoured the race listings for another potential 100 miler for the fall and nothing seemed to line up that sparked excitement. I was out for a run with Jodi at some point I don’t remember exactly when and his triple looper came up again and that’s when I decided that was going to be my “A” goal for this year.

When you decide to take on a goal thats as daunting as something similar to a 100 miler your WHY has to be dialled in. Why do I want to do this?

  • It’s my favourite place to run in Nova Scotia
  • It’s only been done once before
  • I like the idea of the extra challenge of the remote loops
  • I wanted a event with lots of climbing (over 7100 m)
  • A unique experience where I get to run the whole thing with good friends
  • I know that it is at the outer limit of what I could be capable of if I train my butt off…. it will take me beyond my limits

It ticked all the boxes and then some….

The Preparations

The Course

For reference here is a map of the loop and the elevation profile of the 3 loops. 142.5 k with 7100m of elevation gain and loss.

 

 

Working on Weaknesses

I knew going into this that my weakest link was my stomach. It has always been my limiting factor, and I was determined to get it right this time. I bought the book Thrive by Brendan Brazier to better understand how to fuel on a whole foods plant based diet. It really helped me with recipes for gels, energy bars and recovery drinks. I adapted the recipes in this book to form the basis of my fuelling strategy.

Since the beginning of August I trained experimenting with different combinations of food and found that what best worked for me was a combination of long haul gels, potatoes, energy bars and cinnamon buns (I just really like these). I was determined to train my stomach like any other muscle, eating the same number of calories per hour as planed for my adventure to get it used to processes this volume of calories on the run.

The Crew

Taking on a challenge such as this,it has to be a team effort. Sure I am the only one who ran the 142k, but I didn’t do it alone.

A big step for me this year is that I hired a coach. Yup the coach hired a coach. I’ll get into the reasons behind that more in detail in another blog post, but the short of it is that I did for the same reasons I would recommend to anyone looking to improve their running. Taking your emotions out of the decision making process and having someone take an un-biased look at your training is invaluable. It has really helped me over the past few months in preparing for this challenge.

My biggest supporter and the person who knows me best is my wife Amanda. She was the crew captain and in charge of making sure I was taken care of in between loops and making sure everything was ready to go. Basically just call her VP of awesome.

For safety reasons where this is such a remote loop and this time of year with the park empty, I needed to have people running with me every loop. I am fortunate enough to have a great group of friends who where willing to each come out and run a loop with me. Keeping in mind that each loop on its own is 47.5k, not just anyone could be called on to join me. Derek on loop 1, Shawn on loop 2 and Jeff and Chad on loop 3.

Also for safety we had designated check in points to contact base camp to let them know them know how we were doing. This also gave the guys running the next loop more of a heads up of when they should be expecting to start their loop.

The Gear

No I am not going to  list all of the gear that I brought…. because it was a lot. Being that this adventure was taking place at the end of November it was quite possible that any weather could be experienced on this run. Anything from shorts and t-shit warm, to freezing cold and snow and anything in-between.

Being that each loop is 47k and I would be out there between 10-12+ hours without access to other supplies I needed to have a fairly large running pack to make sure I could fit everything. You don’t just pack for what you might need on the the loop, but you pack to be warm if something goes wrong and you end up stuck waiting for rescue for 4+ hours. So here is a basic list (not all inclusive) of some of the key items I had with me on every loop:

  • Trekking poles
  • Soloman 12L hydration pack
  • 2- dry bags
  • light weight gloves
  • heavy weight lobster claw mits
  • touque
  • Buff x2
  • spare long sleeve shirt
  • spare t-shirt
  • 2.5 L bladder of water + extra chorine tabs to sterilize more water on the loop
  • utility knife
  • lighter
  • first aid kit
  • cell phone
  • toilet paper
  • map with bail out points shown
  • light weight rain coat
  • light weight wind breaker pants
  • plastic bags to put of gloves in case of cold rain
  • hand warmers
  • 2 x 24 oz. bottles to fill up after the bladder ran out
  • emergency blanket
  • petzl headlamp with 2 spare batteries
  • Suunto ambit 3 gps watch
  • portable usb charger
  • 12+ hrs of food and salt pills
  • Altra lone peak shoes

So as you can see…. that’s a lot of stuff! But doing remote adventures like this you are on your own so you need to be prepared.

It took me a full day to prep all of the gear and food for this adventure….

Why do this at the end of November?

There is a whole list of reasons why choosing the end of November to do this was just a bad idea. When I had originally planned to do this adventure I thought I would go for it in late September or early October. This would have made a lot more sense. Its warmer then, the days are longer and the park is open (so rescue is closer).

It became abundantly clear after running the SONOFA GUNOFA this year, that my body just was not going to be up this challenge by the end of September… I just plain needed more time to be able to confidently attempt it. So I knew that this whole thing could just end up not happening at all because if it was snowy and icy come the end of November, I would have to bail on the adventure. If that happened the back up plan was to find a 100 mile race down south early in the new year.

There is a whole list of reasons why choosing the end of November to do this was just a bad idea

Here We Go!

Pulling the trigger

Its a bit of logistical challenge to line everything up for a weekend that you know has less than a 50% chance of happening due to weather. I just wasn’t going to put my self in the position of spending 30+ hrs in the cold rain… It just wasn’t going to happen. So you just have to pick a weekend and hope the universe is on your side.

Not only did I need to line everything up and take time off work… the other 6 people I was dragging out to do this with me needed to know so they could plan to come as well. Our accommodations needed to be booked etc. Its just hard to say well you know I can let you know 2 days before the weekend if its going ahead. So the Monday came and and the forecast looked ok with cool temps and some light drizzle and rain over night. I decided to take a gamble and just commit so everyone could plan to come.

As luck would have it, the very next morning after telling everyone we were doing it and booking the accommodations the forecast changed to heavy rain. This was a major cause of anxiety for me the whole week because I knew that I would not really know what the weather was going to be until around a day or 2 beforehand. Now it was just going to be what it was and we were doing this thing no matter what.

On top of all of that, typical for me my body decides to have some taper pains. Leading up to most major events I have come to expect that when I back off in my training I get aches and pains in my body that I didn’t have before. Every time on race day the pains go away and everything is fine… but its stressful. This time it was my left quad that had tightened up and was giving me a bit of knee pain in the week leading up to this adventure. I spent most mornings and nights rolling out my quads wishing my knee was going to hold up for the big day. Sometimes you just have to have faith.

The day before

Amanda and I headed up to the Chignecto park the day before. We took our time packing up and getting ready to leave. Which was really nice and low stress compared to some of our trips we have taken when we get home late from work and rush to leave as quickly as possible. We left our house around 12 pm grabbed a falafel from Tarek’s and and we own our way.

The place we had rented was really close to the park. When we got there we quickly through on our running gear and got in a quick shake out run while it was still light out. It became apparent to me on this short run by how soggy the trail was and by all of the running water that tomorrows adventure was going to be a wet one for the feet.

I was strangely relaxed and  I was feeling confident. I was even able to sleep for more than a few hours!

Loop 1: The Fun Loop

(more loop 1 pictures to come)

The planned start time was 7:30 am. I got up around 5, had my breakfast smoothie and cordyceps tea, did a final loop 1 gear check and then just chilled and watch some trail ruining on youtube.

Derek shown up around 6:30 am (he drove all the way in from Moncton that morning!) and before you know it we were standing at the green gate getting started.

My goal for loop 1 was to go easy and relaxed, have as much fun as possible and bring it back in around 9.5-10 hrs. We had perfect conditions to start the day, it was sunny and 5 degrees. We lucked out for the end of November!

On the stretch out to Eatonville the many stream crossings were very swollen and what once was easy to skip across the rocks was now a much trickier puzzle to keep the feet dry. We did a pretty good job for a while using our poles to vault over the streams a rivers. However, the trail gave way and essentially became one with the river for a while.  Aside from the many many river crossings this section of trail starts out with the third largest climb of the loop, but then gives way to some more runable trail through a beautiful valley.

With the park having been closed for for a few months there was a significant amount of deadfall down. Some we could get over, but some of it was impassable. Being the first loop we spent a bit of time trying to make my life easier on the next loops by trying to break and move any of the deadfall that we could. We were somewhat successful in some areas, but in other there was no choice but to go around.

After we reached Eatonville thats when the fun started. We took a short break, filled up our bottles from a nearby river and headed out towards to coast and seal cove. I had met Derek at many of the local races, and we had always chatted when we saw each other, but I feel we really got to know one another over this 9.5 hours together. We were telling stories about how we got into running, some of the races we had done and talked about our family lives. This was Derek’s first time around the Chignecto loop so it was a lot of fun being his tour guide.

Reaching Seal Cove checking our splits we had somehow lost around 20 min on our pace. It didn’t really matter to me at all though. The real game plan was just to make sure to run an easy effort and have as much fun as possible.

The coastal section of the trail is beautiful, and we made sure that we took it all in. The effort was very relaxed, breaking to take pictures and enjoy the view along the way. At this point on the run I didn’t even mind the first trip through the torture chamber (the stretch of trail between Seal Cove and Cape Chignecto), the infamous rugged unrelenting terrain which seemingly goes on forever.

We both got the the Cape in great spirits and the first loop was going great! A short time later as we were running along a “coyote” stopped me dead in my tracks. It was right in the middle of the trail staring back at me and I swear it looked more like a wolf than a coyote! I’ve seen a few coyotes on the trail and this guy was much larger and had longer fur then I remembered seeing before. I started wackking my poles together and yelled at it to try and get it to go away. It looked at us and the slowly walked away and disappeared into the woods.

After you reach the cape the trail is much easier going and you are able to quickly make up time even though this section has the most elevation gain. I never understood why everyone who runs the loop saves this section of trail until last…. until I ran the loop myself for the first time last year. Then it made perfect sense saving the more runable trail for last. We made quick work this this section although I made my first mistake of this adventure. I forgot to fill up a second bottle leaving Refugee cove, then didn’t stop again to fill up at mill brook. This lead to me running out of water on this last leg of the loop. Not a big deal, but I finished the loop a bit dehydrated. I also didn’t eat my last hours worth of nutrition as I had nothing to wash it down with, so I ended up a bit behind in calories as well.

We made it back to the gate in 9hrs and 32min. Right on schedule! Derek and I just finished up before it got dark enough to need our headlamps.

My crew was no where to be found. We waited around for 5 min or so and then I gave them a call and they showed up quickly after that.

After stopping running, my body cooled off really quickly. I changed into a dry shirt and grabbed a new long sleeve  shirt to wear overtop. I was starving and Amanda had brought me some hot lentil soup! I devoured that, ate a cinnamon bun and had an energy bar…. Mistake #2. I ate way too much food here.

I thanked Derek for going with me and Shawn and I were ready to head out on Loop 2 after spend roughly 30 min in the first inter-loopal period.

Loop 2: Into the darkness

I was originally supposed to have two friends join on the night loop, however one of them got called in for some last minute work. No worries though. Shawn and I headed out into the darkness.

I had intentions of being able to run this loop close to the same pace as the last one. The last one felt so easy, joking and stoping to take pictures and enjoying the views. It should be no problem to do that again right? Well it became apparent pretty early on when it felt like my pack was full of lead and bricks that this loop was going to be a bit of a different experience.

Right away as we were making away up the long first climb I knew I had eaten too much. So my game plan changed from trying to keep pace with the last loop to lets slow down and let this food digest. There was no pole vaulting over the river crossings on this loop, just a slow trudge right through it.

It was pitch dark, but I was still pointing out all of the views to him and describing them in detail haha.

We made it to Eatonville about 20 min behind pace, which wasn’t bad considering how I was feeling. I was very bloated and quite uncomfortable. Having not eaten anything in the past 3 hours I knew that I didn’t have a choice any more. Bloated or not I had to eat. I started taking in 1/3 of the amount of food I’d normally take in at once in a effort to make things a bit easier on my digestive system. The remainder of this loop was a battle between trying to get the food down which made me feel a bit better and nausea. I was very happy to have Shawn with me to keep me moving. I tried to keep my spirits up by joking with him, being his tour guide. It was pitch dark, but I was still pointing out all of the views to him and describing them in detail haha. Shawn was a big help through this section, as  I lost the trail a few times navigating around some of the deadfall but he was able to get us back on track quickly.

Through the torture chamber I faded in and out of despair, but Shawn kept me moving at a steady pace. This section of the trail was just sloppy. The whole 10 k section was just slippery mud and roots, and the river crossings were starting to take some more time to navigate. Again there were sections here where I didn’t time refilling and sterilizing my water right and I ended up for 30 min spurts of not being unable to drink as my water was sterilizing. This was the least of my worries though. I just kept thinking to myself, if you want to make the next loop you need to keep eating.

After what felt like an eternity in the black abyss of the torture chamber we finally rounded the cape. Everything seems to magically get better once you get there. I still didn’t feel great, but I started moving significantly better. Descending down into Refugee Cove I felt the beginnings of my left quad giving out. Knowing I still had over 60k left to go my only chance was to start taking the downhills easier to save the quads for as long as possible. On a positive note though I was still climbing strong! I had no issues on those long ascents out of Refugee Cove or mill Brook. My feet however were starting to become a bit of an issue. They had been soaking wet for over 20 hrs now and I could feel the skin on the bottom of my feet starting to slide around.

We finally made it back to the green gate in roughly 11.5 hrs and I was ready to hurl. I knew I had to reset my stomach, so after changing out of my sweaty clothes I curled up in the back seat of the car with the heat cranking and took a 20 min nap. I made sure to get my soaking shoes and socks off to let my feet air out and dry. Apparently as Amanda told me I kept babbling along in the back seat for 5 or 10 min so she gave me an extra 10 min after I passed out.

Just like that, I woke up and no longer wanting to throw up. I by no means felt great, but this was a big win!

Loop 3: And I thought loop 2 felt long!

Taking a full hour in-between loops 2 and 3 was exactly what I needed. It was now around 4:30 am and we still had another few hours until we would see the sun. Loop 3 was run with Chad and Jeff. I am good friends with and coach both of these great athletes and their positivity would prove exactly what I needed to get this done. I learned my lesson on the last loop and only filled up a half of a bladder this time to try and reduce the weight of my pack. I joked with Jeff before we left:

 I hope we make it back before the 2nd sunset!

The dry socks and aired out feet seemed to do the trick. I made an effort for as long as possible to keep my feet dry, and manage to do so for next 5k or so. Then it was back to slogging right though the rivers and streams again. Jeff and Chad laughed and the scurried around or hopped over them and I just bulled straight through.

Partway through the stretch to Eatonville something magical happened…. The sun came up! This was the first time I had run though the night to see the sun come up. It was an instant pick me up. I went from being quite and slogging along, to cracking jokes! I had read about the effect of the sunrise when running through the night but I did not expect it to be quite as profound. It was like I had woken up from a bad dream haha!

Shortly after the sunrise it started to rain, but not too hard. I had a choice of jackets and I choose wrong. I picked my light windbreaker because it was more breathable than my rain coat thinking I’d be more comfortable…. but then it rained harder and I needed to stop again and switch to my raincoat. Rookie move, but hey I was over 24 hrs and 100k into this this thing.

I still wasn’t doing great on calorie intake but I was consistently getting it in and my stomach was improving. I was constantly moving forward but the effort was become much more laboured. I was starting to really struggle when I had to take any significant steps down, having to stop and plant my poles and ease my way through it. On the climbs it felt like I was at altitude, my breathing was very laboured and the effort was very high, but I could still move up the climbs well.

The section through the torture chamber was the longest 10k of my life. I started playing games with my self to keep moving. Just make it to Big Bald and you can have a break, get there and say well its not that much further to little bald so I better keep moving. I really just needed to mentally make it to the cape, but it seemed no matter how long we ran, we never got there. Jeff even told me shorter distances in-between points (he says by mistake haha), but it kept me going. “only another mile to go and we’ll be at the cape” he says.

The river crossings were each becoming a big puzzle of how I was going to get across without falling and hurting myself. Jeff was actually showing me where to step on the rocks because I couldn’t think that much for myself. I also had a hard time remembering which water bottle I could drink from. I would often have one bottle of drinkable water and one bottle of water with a tab in it sanitizing. Jeff and Chad to the rescue again remembering which one I could drink from!

We finally made it the Cape, almost double the distance Jeff said it was but we got there. Id never been so happy to see this sign.

So I promptly decided I deserved a break.

Not that I had any other choice (due to the remote nature of this adventure) but I knew I was going to finish it now. I just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We were far from done but I was feeling like we were almost there.

Progress through these next sections was much faster. I was able to run (well shuffle) through some of the flatter sections, where the flatter section s through the torture chamber were too rooty and slippery for me to run this loop. I had actually taken a fall this loop in the torture chamber but I was fortunate enough to just end up face down in a mud puddle and didn’t hurt anything.

Coming into mill brook the sun had gone down again and we once again had our headlamps on. It was also raining again, but we just kept moving. The rain eventually changed to snow as the temperature kept dropping. We had only one thing on our minds and that was to finishing this thing up.

Chad’s headlamp had died and he was now using his phone as a flash light. Next up my headlamp died. I had a spare battery but Jeff didn’t want to stop to switch it out so he gave me his headlamp and took out his phone to use as a flash light. He struggled to use it though because he hands had gone numb from the cold.

As we reached the final decent and the runable fire road down hill that takes you down through Christy field. I just started running as fast as I could. I felt like I was sprinting but looking back at the splits I was well over 8:00/km downhill. As a ran this section I teared up a bit knowing what I had accomplished and I felt extremely grateful of for all of the support that I had gotten to make this crazy adventure possible.

34hrs 45 min, 3loops, 142k and 7100 m of climbing with over 16 hrs of darkness done! The last loop took around 12.5 hrs.

The after party

Back at the house we had rented I was still wide awake. I guess it was just all of the adrenaline from running in that finish. Amanda  had heated up the lentil soup for us which was soon awesome! It was snowing hard enough that there was some debating going on about the drive home. But everyone decided it was ok to make the drive.

I didn’t get a picture of my feet… but lets just say after close to 35 hrs of being soaking wet I didn’t think they would ever be the same again.

Once in the car I think I was awake for roughly another 15 min and then I blinked and we were home.

Recovery

I am just amazed at how fast my body has recovered from this adventure. The day after my legs were a bit sore, but I could get up and down stairs with no issues. I also didn’t experience as much fatigue from missing an entire night of sleep as I thought I would. Now I still had some aches and pains yes, but Ive have felt way worse from running significantly less distance. So body this one is a win!

What went well

  • I worked really hard on nutrition though out all of my training and even though I was given a few curve balls, I was able to get through them.
  • My body was prepared to take on the challenge and it held up great! I feel that the extra strength and mobility training work that I did this training cycle really paid off to help with this.
  • I was smart enough to take the time I needed between loop 2 and 3 to reset my body and it saved the adventure.
  • I had fun despite how hard of a challenge it was, and I was surrounded by great people the whole time! Overall it was a really positive experience for me and I got everything I wanted out it and then some.

Areas for improvement

  • Cut down on the weight of the pack and be more comfortable carrying less water.
  • Be more mindful with the water supply and be diligent with filling up and treating as to not run out.
  • Don’t over eat at aid stations.

Thanks!

  • Amanda McNeil
  • Derek Lounder
  • Shawn McCardle
  • Jeff Mosher
  • Chad Gilbert
  • Corrine Malcolm
  • Nova Physio
  • Active Approach

Without you guys this never would have happened.

Now its time to hit the roads again for me and go after that spring BQ again!

Wascally Wabbit 82k Race Report and Beyond

Yes… I know this is overdue, but Ive been BUSY!

Preface

For some reason or another this racing season I wanted to test the limits of my body both mentally and physically by signing up for a string of races, with short recovery windows in between and no opportunity to actually train for them.

Let me explain… A month prior  to Wascally  I ran my “A” race of the year the Fredericton Marathon (you can read that race report HERE). I trained all winter for this race and gave it everything I had. Shortly following this race I ran the cabot trail relay, where I ran 2 legs (30k total and a ran much harder than planned) of the race and wrecked  my body pretty good requiring another full week of recovery with no running. Following Wascally  its 1 month to SONOFA GUNOFA (149k) and then another 3 weeks till Brookvale (50k). 1 month following Brookvale if my body lets me I’ll be shooting for 160k in Cape Chignecto. So now you see this ridiculous schedule I’ve set out…

With one week left before Wascally, not an ideal time to start training for your first Ultra of the year 1 week before the race, so I opted to embrace the taper and rely purely on past experience with a focus on nailing my nutrition and hydration. I knew I wasn’t going for a PR, but the challenge here was to prove to myself that you can race a distance of this magnitude based on mental strength and proper nutrition.

The Plan

In most of my previous races my stomach has been my limiting factor and this time I was determined to to make some serious headway on this issue. Being an engineer I decided it was time to isolate all of the variables to give me the greatest control over the outcome. What do I mean by this? Previously for my races and training I heavily relied on drink mixes containing both electrolytes and carbs, or just electrolytes and took this in consistently with my water. I supplemented this with real food in longer races 50K +.  The end result though, no matter the proportions was a an inability for my stomach to process what I was putting into it.

With out time to test anything prior to the race I decided to through my #1 rule “nothing new on race day” out the window. The new nutrition plan was as follows (with the bulk of calories coming from numbers 1 to 6):

  1. Digestive Bitters (15 mins prior to breakfast)
  2. Water: as required, but shooting for 750ml per hour
  3. Salt pills  1-2 an hour (I still love my NUUN, but I didn’t use it for this race)
  4. Homemade gels (quinoa, apple juice, beet juice, sea salt, almond butter)
  5. Boiled potatoes tossed in salt
  6. strawberries
  7. bananas
  8. cookies
  9. cinnamon buns (judge me if you will, but this was not vegan… contained eggs & milk and I ate one)
  10. Oreos (yes these are though)
  11. cliff bars
  12. Plain chips

The goal amount of calories was roughly 250 cal/hr.

 

For the actual run it self, I actually went into it with not much of a plan, other than listen to my body and have fun. Also unlike me, I normally plan out things in pretty great detail, knowing all of my predicted splits. I don’t recommend this approach unless you a purely just going out to have fun, and you are not attached to the outcome of the race at all.

The Race

The night before

The night before the race we packed up the van and headed down to camp ant the race course. It is always nice to wake up at the race course! I must say that we were lucky to be camping in the van though as the weather was not very nice. It was quite windy and torrential rains! When we arrived someones tent had been blown off its pegs and into the trees! Lucky for them the snowmobile club has a building there and they were able to keep dry and sleep in there for the night. It always fun hanging around the night before the race and getting to see some people that you have not seen since last year and get caught up!

We got set up I hung around a bit and chatted, but I do like my sleep, so It was lights out by 9:00pm for me. With the race starting at 8am even through I wasn’t going for a PR I still like to get up nice and early (4:30am) to make sure I am up and breakfast has had lots of time to digest before the start of the race.

4:30 am

I slept well and woke up before my alarm around 4:15am. I had my bitters, oatmeal and chagga tea and just relaxed in the van for a while. I was happy to see that the rain had stopped, and it looked like it was going to be a pretty nice day, although I knew it was going to be a wet mud-fest out there!

That being said, and knowing that I did not have any ultra training under my belt, I opted to use my trekking poles for this race. 6 am came soon and it was time for the pre race gear check and before I knew it we were lining up for the start. I had no pre-race anxiety but I was pretty unsure about how this day was going to unfold.

Loop one – The fun loop

The course start out with a pretty steady long climb up a dirt road. Its hard not to get caught up in the start of the race and run this first hill slow starting with all of the runners who are running 1 and 2 loops. So yes I happily chatted along and ran this first hill a bit too fast.

Once we turned off into the trail it didn’t take long to be into the wet and the mud. Our first dealings with it were knee deep thick sloppy slippery mud. Some people were going to great lengths to avoid it, but I knew what we were in for and it would be a very long 3 loops if I was going to be concerned about staying out of the mud. Shortly after the first mud section I had to stop and empty some rocks out of my shoes (this becomes an important point later on so stay tuned).

No where on this loop did I feel like I was running beyond my limits. I was running pretty easy steady pace, eating my potatoes  and gels and staying on top of my hydration and salt. I know not having the specific ultra training my specific systems were not fine tuned to go all day long, but things were feeling good.

So much of the first half of this loop was a slog through the mud, and “lakes” where the trail should have been, but thats all part of the adventure. It was a welcome site to finally get to the steep 2k decent down into Gerry’s Place around 13k and the only aid station out on the course. The decent down was quite steep and was very slippery and muddy in places, I was glad to have my poles for stabilization. Getting there and stopping was my first realization of just how bad the bugs were out there. Hats of to the volunteers out there spending all day out there, man you guys must have gone to your zen place.

By the time we got back onto the first road to run the final 5k back to base camp I had caught up to some friends and was happy to close out the first loop with them. I was running a bit short on water at this point as things were heating up, but at no point was a feeling desperate. During this time a ran a body check, stomach good, quads good, hamstrings good, IT’s good. No worries closing out loop one feeling good.

I was in no rush back at base camp, filled my bottles, ate a tone of strawberries, some banana, refiled my gels and stocked back up on potatoes. I did not however gab extra water carrying capacity…. oops. Amanda was awesome, she was there, took care of my, re-stocked my supplies and helped be get ready to head back out onto the course.

As I was about ready to head back out, I ran into a knew friend Mike, i decided to wait a few extra minutes for him and we headed out on loop 2 together.

Loop 2 – The decent in dark despair

I was pumped to be heading out onto loop 2 with Mike. We again chatted away and ran up the first road climb out of base camp. It quickly became evident that he was running stronger than me, but we stuck together for a while and had fun slogging it out through the mud, trading stories, talking about eating plants, training and running.

Again I had to stop and try to get some rocks out of my shoe, I shook them out good but it didn’t help. I was really starting to get some pain in my right foot near my small toe and under my ankle. I knew in order to finish this thing I needed to slow down and and run my own race.

Its amazing how your mindset can shift so quick when you end up on your own. The pain in my foot was getting much worse and being out on the trail all alone things started to get a bit dark. It seemed like I should have made it to Gerry’s Place hours ago but I never seemed to get there….. every turn I thought it was time to start that decent, but it was never there. Man this was taking for ever, time was standing still. I still kept moving forward though. Things were heating up and I took the time to stop at a river crossing and thoroughly cool off. I felt like a new man! And wouldn’t you know it there was to trail down to Gerry’s things were looking up.

Arriving into Gerry’s I was starting to come out of that low I was experiencing I actually passed quite a few people on that downhill, maybe I wasn’t moving that slow after all?? I passed even more on the steep climb leaving the aid station. Things were looking up.

Reaching the road again, I was still running low on water, why didn’t I bring more with me on this loop?? I knew this was going to be a problem. I saw lots of friend faces heading back out onto loop 3 and for the most part it was a pretty nice downhill run back to base camp, although I knew loop 3 was going to be a battle with these foot issues I was having.

Finally getting back to base camp Amanda was no wheres to be seen, can’t blame her I was an hour slower than I was on the first loop, can’t expect her to hang out at the start finish area all day. I wondered over to the van to find her and sat down, and preceded to eat all of the food. This is when it hit me, my stomach was still feeling great!  I knew loop 3 was going to be a slow loop given how my foot was feeling, but now having a solid stomach and feeling great otherwise I knew  could do it. I grabbed a larger water bottle and also put a bladder in my pack to make sure I had enough fluids for this long adventure that was to be loop 3.

Loop 3- The lowest of lows, the climb out and a new friend

Heading out onto loop 3 on my own I guessed it would likely take me 5 hours. I was ok with that. I just wanted to get it done.

Remember that first road hill I ran up on the first 2 loops… ya that was not happening this time. It was hot, I knew it was not going to help me to run it, so I power hiked the whole thing.

Turning of into the trails it seemed as if the mud had gotten deeper and and more slippery. The bugs were now relentless at this slower pace. After getting though this first mud section I was getting pretty frustrated, it really felt like there was something very hard in my shoe. I sat on the side of the trail took my shoe of and no rocks came out… It would seem the rock feeling was just a symptom of my foot pain. I sat here a few minutes feeling sorry for myself getting eating by bugs and wondering why I was out here. Yup that happens in ultras. Its just about getting up and pushing though the lowest of lows having faith that things will turn around. There was no good reason not to keep moving forward so I did.

Soon after this giant pity party I heard someone come up behind me. It was Blair. Just having him catch me and start talking with me things instantly turned around for me. I didn’t feel any better but my mindset shifted. I stayed with Blair, we chatted and we were both having a rough go at it. We ran when we could and hiked when we had to, but the twoof us were working well together to keep moving, and that is what you have to do to finish these things, Just keep moving.

Reaching Gerry’s things really hurt, although it hurt more to hike than it did to run so I guess that was a bonus. I ate a ton of Oreos  and some of a cliff bar. Thats when I noticed Blair was not eating. Shortly after I learned his stomach had turned and he was not able to really eat or drink anymore.

We made the long climb out of Gerry’s together, however after reaching the top he told me to go on with out him. I had gotten so much strength from having him with me it was hard to strike out on my own, but it felt better to manage a shuffle of a run then to hike.

Later Blair would catch and pass me while I was having a bathroom break (side note, I have never seem so many mosquitos swarm in one place before…. that really sucked to stop). I would eventually catch and run with him for a while, and then continue on my own.

I finally reached the road, 5 k to go. I was moving slow but still moving. My friend Jo caught up to me while i was hiking up the last climb on the road. I was happy to see her and have some company. I am glad she didn’t catch me until the last climb was over, as she would have past me for sure, but I was able to keep up on the down hill the rest of the way back. Big props to Jo, who was last coming through Gerry’s on this 3rd lap but continued to run strong catching a passing manny runners on the last half of this lap!!

We crossed the finish line together and I was pretty close to my 5 hr prediction. 4 hrs and 45 min for that last loop. It felt great to finish though!

The Veggie Burgers!

This race was a big victory for me. No it was not my fastest time, but I did what I set out to do. I finished with a solid stomach!

Jodi (the race director) even had veggie burgers on the grill ready to be eaten, like it was meant to be as a reward finishing and still being able to eat! Man did those taste good!

Post Race Recovery

Initially I was pretty stiff and hobbled around for a few days as one expects after running a race that is that long. The stiffens passed quickly but the pain in my foot remained.

Into see Rob a Nova Physio I lean that it is my peroneal tendon leading to my foot pain and he treats it.

The next week Amanda and I headed off to Baxter State Park for some hiking in the mountains. This trip was a lot of fun, but I was constantly working damage control on my foot. We’d go out for a hike and by the end of it I would be in pain again. I’d work hard after to manage the pain and get my foot back to a place where I could hike again the next day and then repeat the cycle. No regrets here this was an awesome trip!

Oh and I forgot to mention that I found out on this trip while hiking what caused my injury! I was experiencing pain again while hiking and I took my shoe off and no rocks. Fed up I took my insole out to find that there was a large lump of hard mud caked on it right under my outside to toes…. thats what did it. So if you are running a muddy race, it may be worth taking you insoles out to see if there is any mud build up in your shoes!

Coming back from this trip my foot was actually feeling ok so I started to run again. After a few runs a came to terms that I was just aggravating the issue every time I ran, so It was time to take this recovery seriously. With I had 2.5 weeks to go before I would be attempting my longest run ever at the SONOFA GONOFA. I needed this to get better.

I call up Active Approach and they are able to fit me in that afternoon for an appointment. We decided the best course of action is no running until this thing is better. Its normally a 2-3 week recovery! Not good.

Where I am at now

It is currently 1 week out to SONOFA and still no running. Ive been for many appointments at both Nova Physio and Active Approach and working with them my injury is healing but its still not there yet. With 1 week to go I am not chancing going for a run. All of my energy is going into recovery. I have no idea if am going to be able to pull this off. But next Saturday I will line up and see just how far I can make it.

 

 

Fredericton Marathon: Race Report

The Day Before the Race

The Drive

All packed and ready for the 4 hour drive to Fredericton. I had pre-made all my meals for the weekend. Vegan Pad Thai for lunch and supper and Oatmeal with Peanut Butter, Maple Syrup, Hemp Seeds, Chia Seeds and Chocolate Chips for Breakfast. I also made a loaf of vegan banana for snacks. My water bottle was loaded with some Nuun for the drive to start pre-loading some electrolytes for tomorrow’s race. Amanda could not make the trip with me this time so I was traveling with my friend Damian.

Damian arrived at 10am to pick me up and we started the drive. The drive went fast although my left hamstring was starting to cramp a bit by the end of the drive. We arrived at our hotel and quickly got ready to go out for a shake out run.

Shake-Out Time

To our surprise Damian’s girlfriend had somehow purchased some of his favourite beer and had it delivered and chilling in the fridge for tomorrow, with an encouraging note to go crush it tomorrow! This was pretty awesome.

It was pretty warm out this day, but it was really nice to finally be able to go running and actually feel warm for a change. Something that has alluded me for most of spring. Besides it was supposed to be much cooler tomorrow for race day so nothing to stress about.

We ran down the rail trail along the river to go and pick up our race kits. The intention was that this route would serve as a warm-up jog to tomorrows race. However, it was roughly 2.5k to pick up the race kits and another 1k to get to the start line. So a bit longer than I would have like for a warm up before a marathon.

This was a super nice run along the river and my legs were feeling great.

We ended up waiting in line for our kits for well over an hour. For some reason I had it in my head that this was just going to be an in and out kind of thing. Not a big deal though. We met up with a few fellow runners from Halifax and wished each other luck.

After picking up the kits, we walked the additional km to find the start line. Something I like to do before my races. We then easily jogged back directly to the hotel and found the direct route back was close to 2k. Perfect for tomorows warm up.

Back at the Hotel Damian was looking for a microwave. I jokingly said I bet if you ask they will deliver one to the room. Sure enough minutes later there was a knock at the door “here’s you microwave” haha, what service!

I ate the remainder of my pad thai, and we then took a quick trip to Trailway brewing to pick up some celebratory brews for after the race tomorrow. Keeping in mind I have not had a beer since New Years!

RECAP

All in all it was a very relaxing day, and my head was in the best space pre-race that it has ever been. Relaxed focused and ready to go for tomorrow with  minimal time spent on my feet. The rest of the evening we spent watching an old Start Trek movie, I had my Tulsi Tea and then meditated before bed.

Lights were out for me at 8:30. It took a bit for me to get to sleep, but I was not stressed about it, I knew my body was resting.

Race Day

I woke at 4:00am before my alarm which was set for 4:15. Ate my oatmeal had some water then sipped on some chagga tea and watched some of my favourite youtube running movies. I made sure to stop drinking by 6:00am to ensure that my bladder would have ample time to empty before the race.

Damian and I left for our shake-out run down to the course at 7:15. It was cool outside and I ran down with a sweater on. Perfect temp to start running the race in. In retrospect this warmup jog was probably completed too early to actually warm me up for the race, so I think it was just more of a mental shake-out. Don’t think the the timing of this had any influence on the race.

Arriving at the start line, we found my parents who had driven down for the race and I also got to meet a few runners who I had been following for a while on Strava and Instagram. As it turned out there were going to be running around the same pace as me so I would probably see them at some point during the race. One last dash to the porta-poty with less than 10 mins to start and I downed a salt pill. Electrolyte levels had previously been an issue for me.

Standing on the start line it always seems like the last few mins before the gun goes off that time seems to stand still. That 10 mines took forever to come. I lined up near the front, but a few rows back.

The Gun Goes Off!

Off the start, I settled in to race pace fairly quickly. Checking the first few splits coming in 4:14, 4:09. I found myself getting a bit to obsessed with checking my watch and I decided that was enough of that.

There was a group of 4 or 5 of us that from the start seemed to naturally settle in at the same pace. Near the beginning I was a bit impatient and started to pass them, but told myself, not to. Settle down, there is a lot of race left.

I found in the beginning of the race my mouth was a bit dry, so I sipped on my bottle which I had in a waist belt and also grabbed some water at the first few stations. I was feeling strong, relaxed and confident.

The first 7k went by really fast and before I new it it was time for the first shot of maple syrup. It was around this time that I realized maybe things were not quite going to plan. I was still feeling thirsty, but water was sloshing in my stomach. For some reason my body was not processing the fluid as it should? It was not bothering me, and I kept on taking in fluids as I should.

I also found the cups at the aid stations were smaller than I had anticipated. On the first lap of the course I was only grabbing 1 cup and probably not actually getting enough water.

Getting to the turnaround point near 12k I was still feeling great… for the most part. I was starting to feel like I was running a bit hot. Not in my core, but in my head. I had the volunteers dump some water on my head at the remainder of the aid stations. This seemed to help a bit.

Coming through the half, I found myself stuck in a pack of runners running a different distance, probably the 10k. Unfortunately, myself and 2 other marathoners ended up missing the point were the course splits and a ended up being funnelled into the finish area. I did not lose much time here, just a brief moment of panic and I spotted a way through the barricades. I came through the half in 1:29, on track for the sub 3 hr goal.

At this point in the race, I remember thinking to myself, you’ve got this your still feeling great and you should be able to pick it up in the home stretch. Just don’t get too excited now, stick to the plan.

As we made our way over the bridge again, I found the bounce of the bridge starting to suck some of the life out of my legs. Still feeling good though.

It was around the 26k mark, all of the sudden I felt like I was working twice as had as I was seconds before. Not good. Ok Rick decision time. You can be tough and try to gut this out at your current pace and risk a huge blow up. No, lets adjust try to salvage a BQ I can still bring this in under 3:02. So I adjusted pace to roughly 4:25/km.

After 30k, things were continuing to spiral. I was still moving but slowing down substantially. This was a huge bonk…. again. I shifted into survival mode at this point. Up until 35k I was still holding on to the possibility of a BQ, but now the only goal left “Goal D” was just to bring this thing home to the finish. I was now walking through the aid stations, getting lots of water dumped on me, and drinking 2-3 cups of water. A later points getting a bit desperate I started grabbing a cup of Gatorade as well.

At the last aid station I believe with something like less than 2k to go things went from bad to worse. Roughly 1.5 months ago I sustained an injury to my oblique by sneezing in a awkward position at work. Yes an injury from sneezing. Anyways, it was at this point in the race that it instantly felt that someone took a knife to my side and just ripped it open. It was very painful to breath.

Not a fun way to finish a race, but it was my reality. A race that started out so strong and with so much promise I was reduced to a hobble gasping for every painful breath in the last 2k. I kept moving though and eventually made it to the finish. This last 2k felt like it took an eternity. But I made it.

As I came around the corning and saw the finish clock to my surprise it says 3:09 xx. Being the type of person that I am, I see the opportunity to get sub 3:10. Its going to hurt, but I went for it. Finishing in 3:09:58. I’ll take it. Not a BQ, but I finished with a 12 min marathon PR.

Post Race

Surrounded by friends and family at the finish line, I was a mix of emotions. I was disappointed that I did not get the BQ, but I knew that I did the best that I could have done on this day. The hardest part was making the phone call to Amanda at home to tell her that I did not get it. She’s always been so supportive of me and we both really felt like it was going to happen this time. But in her fashion as always I felt better after hearing her voice.

Not to be forgotten both Damian and my parents were amazing to have around at the end of the race, swarming me with snacks, drinks and support.

(A banana never looked so good!)

My Dad even pulled the car around much closer so I did not have to hobble that far. The walk of to the car was funny, we were going over some grass and I remember saying that I wasn’t sure if I could navigate this off trail section to the car haha.

Also an honourable mention was when Damian offered to wheel me back to the car from the hotel in the luggage dolly haha. I guess I was in pretty rough shape. One thing I do know is that post race beer was delicious.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot more to running a marathon than just being fit enough to reach your goal. Some people have an easier time than others figuring out the nutrition side of racing and I am one of the ones that struggles with it.

Distance running nutrition is not something you can simply copy from someone who has it figured out. Everyone is different and depending on your body and metabolism. Some things will work for you while others won’t.

I tested my race day nutrition extensively in training, I had no issues with it and no signs of bonking. You do your best to simulate race day in your training but ultimately you are never reaching race day stresses on your body for the same duration of time.

Ive been trying hard to take a natural approach to fuelling and I will continue on this path. However, at this point I think maple syrup and I are breaking up. Its not you maple syrup its me. My body can’t metabolize you as fast as I need it to.

Thanks to my family, friends, North End Runners for all of the support. Could not do this without you guys. Also a big thanks to Nova Physio and Active Approach for keeping this body going.

Races like these are not possible without the hard work of the organizers and volunteers. This was a great event and a great course. I will be back some day for my revenge.

 

It’s all in your head: Mental Toughness and Body Awareness

It’s all in your Head

We’ve all heard the expression distance running is 90% mental. So what exactly does that mean?  it means that running your beast race comes down to mental toughness and body awearness.

Well I am going to try and unpack that as best I can and explain how I relate to this. I will warn you up front that you may find what I have to say a bit out in left field but sometimes if you have an open mind that’s where you find the best ideas.

So anyone who runs knows that there is always a point in a race where things are getting tough and you are presented with a choice. It doesn’t matter the distance, believe me I have run the full spectrum 5k-100k and this point always shows up. For the shorter distance races it shows up fast and furious, lung searing, leg burning pain. In Ultra distances it can take a while, and sometimes it sneaks up on you but eventually you end up in a deep dark cave of despair, you 15hrs in and somehow you have 15hrs more to go?? You climb out of that dark cave, up a mountain, only to end back in it again, and again and again.

THE CHOICE: Do I give in, slow down and let up, Do I drop? There is no way I am going to finish. I have un bearable pain in my quads, I can’t run downhill hill anymore…. should I keep going? If you haven’t read my 2016 re-cap post  you should check it out. I have to face these choices all the time. So I will take any help I can get.

That’s me…. soaked head-to-toe in sweat on a 35 degree day during the Brookvale Ultra. Just keep moving forward…. one step at a time. Literally…..

How do you prepare to make the best choice on race day, or in training? I believe that It all comes down to mental toughness and body awareness. Let me give you a hint… It’s all in your head!

Mental Toughness

So what is mental toughness? Simply put if you have a goal, and it is really important to you achieve it. Just how far are you willing to go to get there? Its your ability to keep moving towards your goal even when it looks like there is no way you can reach it. Everything is trying to stop you, the world conspiring against you, everything is going wrong. Your body is TELLING you not to continue (I’ll get into this later in more depth when I talk about body awareness). But YOU are strong enough, you are mentally tough enough to overcome this.

How do we become mentally tough? That sounds hard right? Well thats a yes and no answer.

Suffering

Here is the yes answer. If you want to be mentally tough then you need to suffer. Its a simple answer and it makes sense. The more you suffer and the more you overcome you increase your suffering threshold and you become tougher.

What do I mean by this? The more times that you can tough it out the tougher you will get. For example, its -20 degrees C outside, the wind is howling and its 5 am. You have choices, you can go back to bed, you can go do the workout indoors on a track or treadmill OR you can suffer through it outside.

I am not saying that you need to or its good to choose the hardest option all the time (although I seem to just gravitate to the hardest path more often than not). But, think of it as an investment. The more times you accumulate when you overcome a situation when you were sure you were going to have to quite, the more experience you have to draw on in your race when every ounce of your body is telling you that you hurt to much, it’s time to let up, it’s time to quit. You can say It’s ok body, I’ve  been in worse situations than this and we have survived, YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK let’s keep going. Yes I do talk to me self… a lot. Is that weird? I’ll leave that up to you.

So Rick… you’re saying that I need to SUFFER in order to get tough??

Re-train your brain

NO. You don’t have to just suffer all of the time to get mentally tough. You do need to do it. But how do you get to the point of convincing yourself to take the hard way?

Ever notice that sometimes you can have the best plans to change a behaviour but when it comes time to execute you just fall right back into old habits?

Heres an example… I want to be a morning person, I want to wake up earlier and run before work. But when it comes time to get up in the morning you just can’t seem to break the habit of rolling over and going back to sleep. It’s a thought pattern. Just like when you are doubting yourself at the 30k mark of the marathon and you brain is telling you that you no longer care about your PR anymore, it’s ok to walk. It’s all just that… they are thoughts.

So what if there was a way that you could re-train your brain to have different thoughts? Well that one I don’t know it exists, if you can find it let me know!! Ok then so what if there was a way that you could train your brain to process these thoughts, acknowledge them, but be able to mover forward and change your behaviour? This you can do. Its not not a sexy quick fix but if you work at it you can re-train your brain. How?

Meditation!

Meditation. Yup, this is where we take the first trip out in left field. Yes meditation can make you a better runner, and a better person really.

But Rick, I don’t have time to do this meditation stuff, I am way too busy. What if I told you that with 10 min a day you can have profound results. You can learn to acknowledge thoughts, refocus and move forward with the task at hand. Trust me…. Its a game changer. That is how you train mental toughness without the suffering. IT”S PUSHUPS FOR YOUR BRAIN!

Don’t know where to start? Check out headspace. Its a great app to get you started and one that I use frequently. The website also has all kinds of great information about the other great benefits of meditation.

For the record, I am not a perfect meditator. I don’t do it everyday. I understand it’s value, and what it can do to improve my running and my life, and I am actively trying to incorporate as much as I can. The key is not to beat yourself up if you miss a day. Consistency is key, but once a week is better than no times a week and you will start to gain momentum. Give it a try!

Body AWARENESS

Body Awareness or understanding what your body is trying to tell you. This takes practice, but time you invest in doing this pays off big.

This is not hard, I am a person, I have a body and a brain I know what my body is telling me. WRONG! Did you know that most people are so out of touch with their bodies that they don’t even know when they are thirsty? If you don’t even know when you are something as simple as thirsty how are you ever going to know when your body is trying to tell you that you are approaching overtraining and you need a rest day, or a recovery week?

This is our next stop in left field. But it starts in a familiar place. Meditation. Doing this inner work puts you more in touch with what your body is trying to tell you. Taking the time to quiet your mind and take 10 min to do a thorough inventory of how you are actually feeling can be pretty enlightening.

Going Deeper

What if I told you there was a way to go even deeper into your sub-conscious and actually influence your autonomic responses. Crazy Right? The mother ship has landed, and we are no longer in left field, we have now left the ball park.

There is a man named Wim Hof who has mastered this. He has climbed up to 20,000 ft on Mt. Everest wearing nothing but shorts. Luckily for us he has devoted his life to teaching others how to have better control over the nervous system. You should google this guy and read up on him. What he has done defies logic. Also check out his website for more information https://www.wimhofmethod.com .

I have been doing the Wim Hof method training now for 5 weeks. When I started I could hold my breath for 30-45 secs. Now I can hold my breath for over 3 min and 30secs. I can also do 80 push-ups without taking a breath. Before starting the training I maxed out at 35 pushups with normal breathing…. crazy. I can also stand in a ice cold shower for 10 min and not get cold or even shiver. I am becoming more in touch with my body and what it can do when I put my mind to it.

There are many other benefits to breath retention exercises and cold exposure that relate directly to performance enhancement for running…. but this post is already getting pretty long so I am going to save that for another day. I hope I peaked your interest enough to visit the Wim Hof website (link above) and do a bit of research on your own, because really thats what’s its all about.

Taking this journey and having a greater understanding of your body you can begin to understand what it is telling you. What pains are ok to run through, or when you need to stop to avoid doing real damage. When you can keep pushing in training or when you need a recovery week. Sometimes you learn the hard way, but if you learn how to pay attention it doesn’t always have to be the hard way. Sometimes you can catch things before they become big problems, and sometimes you can push beyond your perceived limitations with faith that you understand your body.

Take your training beyond the workout

After all of that if you are still reading this…. THANK YOU!

I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Try implementing one small thing this week outside of your normal workout routine to up your game. Weather it’s 10 min of meditation per day, trying a yoga class. Or you could be crazy like me and try holding your breath for 3.5 mins and take ice showers.

The point to all of that is that in order to really take your training or your life for that matter to the next level, don’t forget that IT’s ALL IN YOUR HEAD! So take care of your brain and invest in some mental training!