p.s Check out my article in Canadian Runner, "On the Run in...Whitehorse at http://www.runningmagazine.ca/
Friday, December 31, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Well, apparently my blog is growing some cobwebs! So.., here is my recap of my race experience in Gibraltar especially for Darin and Rick =)
The World Championships in
The race had a 6:30am start, right outside the athletes village. I woke up at 4:30 to eat a good breakfast, and was feeling slightly nervous, but perhaps more than anything, felt anxious to get the race started. I always look forward to tapering, but by the time the race rolls around, I start feeling cagey and like I need to get some blood and oxygen flowing again. As the self doubt started to creep in, I reminded myself that’s the feeling I always have, which signals the taper has been sufficient and I should be rested and hopefully ready to run well.
After breakfast, I finished getting ready and dropped my support bag off to our excellent support crew. I had every snack imaginable packed in my support bag, figuring I’d likely never touch any of it, but you just never know once you’re out there what you’re going to crave. Besides, having a support crew and not having to carry your own supplies is a big luxury after years of adventure racing and having to be self sufficient. I figured I’d likely stick to my gels and carbpro/electrolyte mix, which has worked great the last couple of races.
I milled around with the rest of the team in the starting coral and you could feel the nerves and anticipation in the air, with 250 athletes lined up. I remember thinking, “What’s going to happen today - is the hard work going to pay off?” Standing in the coral, I could hear the various languages being spoken around me and thought, whatever happens, “You’re in Europe, surrounded by many of the best ultrarunners in the world, and the surreal feeling of thinking, “Wow, could I actually be one of them?”
Back to reality....the 1 minutes countdown began, a quick group hug with the rest of the Canadian team, and everyone was off in their own head space and the task we were about to embark on. I reminded myself, 8 hours, that’s just a day at work, piece of cake, right? The starting gun went off, I rubbed my lucky necklace one last time and we were finally off and running through the darkness of the
We were to run 5 km out to the start of a 5 km loop, which we were to complete 19 times. (yes, you read that correctly, not generally my idea of a good time either). I was concerned about the mental challenge of repeating a loop that many times, but figured we were all up against the same struggles, and regardless of the monotony, it would be over the same day, which helped me mentally prepare for the upcoming hours. We ran about 15 minutes or so, and all of a sudden I saw runners ahead stopping and looking around. As I approached the confusion, we were directed to turn around and take the round about and head back in the other direction. I instantly felt my heart sinking, thinking if they’ve messed the course up for the front half of the pack, I may not make my 8 hr time goal. Knowing, my goal was already lofty, I knew I didn’t have the luxury of any extra mileage or stop times. Apparently what had happened in the end, which we found out later that morning, is they had sent us too far and they worked out the extra 1.4 km distance later in the course, by shortening the 12th lap. As I made my way through the start/finish line of the 5km loop, it crossed my mind that I was going to have to cross that line 19 more times before I’d be done!
We started our first loop, and I have to say I was a little dismayed by the concrete industrial jungle we were running through. Later in the morning, when I was again thinking how dismal this course was, I turned a corner and caught a glimpse of the rock of Gibraltar, and reminded myself that once again, I was running in Europe, and had just ran by the Rock of Gibraltar and that’s actually pretty cool, so suck it up! I fell instep pretty quickly with a girl from the
Between 20-25km I began to feel the first inkling of tightening in my quads, and felt some concern that I felt that so early on in the race, with only a quarter of the race completed. I carried on at the same pace, and hit the marathon marker at 3hr:13 mins, which was almost 9 minutes up on the 3hr:22 I needed to be at, so I knew I had 9 minutes to play with at that point which would likely come in handy later on. My quads continued to tighten to that, “Stiffed leg, I’ve been running on pavement too long feeling”, and I cursed myself for not doing more pavement miles. I had far run more pavement miles this year than I had for last years Canadian championships, but started to feel some self doubt trickling in. I tried to re-shift my mental focus to thinking how great it was that I had one marathon down and only 1.5 more to go, and that I was generally feeling okay, had no major issues, just some early discomfort that I knew I could work through.
By about the 12th/13th laps, my pace had gone from an easy feeling 22-23min 5 km pace, to just maintaining my 24 minute 5km pace. This is generally the point where it is pretty easy to start feeling sorry for yourself, and the mental games become a bit more of a challenge. As I started to feel some doom and gloom setting in, I looked around and noticed I had passed several people walking, one girl limping and crying and another guy on the side of the road throwing up. I thought to myself, this is where it counts, and this is where the years of training kick in and a positive mental state is critical. I had passed several of my team mates and knew several of the guys were struggling out there and hoped their races would turn around for them. Any thing can happen with a race of this length, so I figured I’d just run my pace as long as I could from this point forward and see what happened. The nice thing about a loop course, is I could see my team mates often and we could offer each other support throughout, even if it was just a nod and a half smile towards the last part of the race.
By the 15th loop, I had crept up to 9th place and had passed Emily from the
With just a few more laps to go, I made sure to keep my fluids and energy stores up. I hadn’t touched any of my food but had managed to get down 8-9 gels, 4 oranges and several bottles of carb/electolyte powder. My energy levels were fine, but my quads were tight and heavy and felt like they were seizing up by the step. I ran the 18th lap in just over 26 minutes, which was a far cry from the 22 minutes of my first lap, but I knew from the clock, I just had to complete this last lap in just under 30 minutes and I’d make my time! I started off on that final lap, and drew strength from the crowds energy. 2.5km to the half way aid station, was my next focus, and one more time up that hill which had grown considerably from the early loops. I climbed the hill for the last time, and grabbed some sponges and water from the aid station. With only 2.5km to go, I put my head down, rubbed my lucky rock, and thought only another 12-13 minutes and I’d be done…it is amazing how long 2.5km could feel and how your body seems to allow itself to feel another level of pain when you’re so close to the finish. I started counting steps to 100 to distract myself, and then would start counting over again and again. I finally rounded the last corner, and could see our Canadian support team and hear them cheering. I hit the straight away and could see the finish line for the last time. I crossed the finish line at 7hr:56:41 for a new Women’s Canadian record and the 8th place woman at the World Championships!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The race started at 5am in Carcross. Similar to Haney to Harrison, which I ran last year in Vancouver, the KRR is a 10 person relay, which runs 180km from Skagway, Alaska and finishes in downtown Whitehorse. I woke up at 3:30 to eat a quick breakfast and my friend and support crew Kim and I left just before 4am for the start. I got there just after 4:30, which was enough time to get my things sorted and ready for the start at 5:00.
The race started at 5 and my friend Keith and I took off together. Temperature was 5 degrees, and was actually a little cool for the first bit in my long sleeve Merrell jersey and shorts, but I knew it would warmup once the sun came up a few hours later. I stopped for a quick pee break and Keith carried on. I chased him for over an hour and was still not catching him. I knew our pace was pretty fast, so I didn't want to push myself to go any faster and figured I'd catch him evenutally, and better to do my own thing.
Leg 7 and 8 which totalled 33km, seemed to fly by in no time, and I felt happy to feel strong and to have quite a bit of energy. I caught up to Keith finally early on in Leg 9 and asked him what pace we were running as I knew he was wearing a Garmin. He told me we were on 7:16 pace and thought to myself, I hope this isn`t going to be a problem later on. I felt really good and figured just keep running at that pace as long as it felt fine. My excellent support crew kept me well fed and hydrated and I made sure to eat a gel or something every 45 minutes at a minimum. As we hit the first of the hills on leg 9, I could feel Keith dropping off and after running together for a bit, I gradually put a little bit of distance on him. I grabbed my ipod partway through leg 9, and it seemed to provide me with a little extra zip, as I managed to average 7:11 min miles for leg 9, which surprised me in the end. Toward the last few km of Leg 9, I could feel things start to stiffen up. I carried on until the end of the leg, and when I looked back at the Transition I realized I was on my own.
I hit the Alaska highway with the remaining 19 km to go and a bit of a headwind. I forced some more food down and focused on just getting the 11km to the corner and off the highway knowing I`d be into Miles Canyon by then, which is one of my favorite places to run and on the home stretch. This section was definately the low point of the race, but I kept reminding myself that this was 28km shorter than the world champs was going to be, so better suck it up and try and maintain a good pace. I finally hit the turn off, Kimmie handed me a skor bar and that would be the last time I`d see my support crew until the finish line. I ran through the hills at a pretty good pace and was surprised I still felt pretty strong on the uphills, but was definately suffering some on the downhills. I crested the last of the hills, plodded down the backside and turned the corner onto Swatka Lake knowing it was all flat from there to the finish line.
I crossed the finish line in 5 hrs:28 minutes, in 1st place and with a new course record by 17 minutes, which was certainly more than I had expected from the day. I was thrilled to realize I had averaged 7:24 minute miles, which is 19 seconds per mile fast than my goal pace for Worlds. Im not sure that I could have maintained that pace for another 28 km, but hopefully with another 6 weeks of training, and a bit of speed work I still have some time to improve.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The climb up Hamel took approx 1.5 hrs or so, and I met up with a solo racer from the US. He shared some water with me and we chatted back and forth for awhile. At one of the CP's on the way up, one of the volunteers told me that Ellie was approx 15 mins or so ahead of me. As I looked up, I could see her on one of the switch backs ahead of me. It was a good check to know that I was still in the race, and I reminded myself to stay focused as I've learned through experience, that anything can happen during these kind of races.
When I reached the top of Mt. Hamel, I took a few seconds to look around and noticed what a spectacular view it was. The sky was clear and sunny and there was an amazing 360 degree view. People often ask me, why I do these types of events. One would think that with the amount of time, I've spent racing over the years and the hours upon hours of introspective time out there, I'd have a brilliant answer..., but I'm not sure there is one...the summit of a mountain is part of it, the reward of looking back down and seeing how far you've travelled..., but I also think for me, there is something primal that I am drawn to about getting back to the basics of life and working through completing a physically demanding task. It may hurt to varying degree's while you are doing it, but I know the reward and sense of accomplishment in the end, will far outweigh the temporary sweat and tears which are just part of the process.
After a quick reward of admiring the view, I brought myself back to the reality of the task at hand and the fact that the end was still 50km away, but was happy with the fact, that the longest climb was complete. I ran the out and back to retrieve my prayer flag and on the way back, I saw Simon Donato on his way out to the prayer flag station. We exchanged a couple brief words of encouragement to each other, and I noticed he looked very strong. I had actually thought he was ahead of me at that point, so was a little motivator to pick up the pace as I knew he'd be chasing me down!
My new friend stopped to refill his camel back as I made my way down Mt. Hamel and he eventually caught up and passed me. We continued to run back and forth chatting periodically for another couple of hours. Eventaully after a very long down hill we made it to the ambler loop aid station where our drop bags were. As I was coming in I saw Ellie heading out, and she looked like she was on a mission. I asked the volunteer how long the loop was an he indicated it was about 5km. I knew at that point she was likely close to 30 mins ahead of me, and would be tough to catch her now as time was running out. I had been having a difficult time eating for several hours now and was happy to get my drop bag and to be able to chug some calories in a Boost drink. Nothing else in the drop bag was appealing, but I ate part of a banana and drank some coke. I took off for the loop and at this point had caught a relay runner for Leg 4. He was just ahead of me, and as I looked up, I saw a little black bear run across the road. He didn't seem to be interested in us, and I am very used to running in bear country, but always nice to have someone else around when there is a bear sighting. We traded some electrolyte tabs for some water, as he said he was having some cramping and ran together chatting for a wee bit. Finished the loop and wished I had put another Boost in my drop bag, as still not able to eat, but pushed on for the remaining 10km or so to the end of leg 4, which was a long gradual downhill run on the road.
I reached the final CP to see my support crew and tried to get in a few more calories for the final push to the finish. As I left the CP, the trail started to climb again and went deeper into the forest. I caught up with a relay runner and exchanged a few words and contined to climb. I continued up and up for 45 minutes or so. I realized at one point I hadn't remembered seeing any flagging for awhile, but also didn't remember passing and side trails. I took note of my watch and continued up for another 5 minutes or so until I came to an intersection. The trail continued on straight, or I could turn right or left. I went down both right and left sides of the trail for a minute or so in each direction and didn't see any flagging. I started to feel a sense of panic, in that surely this close to the finish I hadn't made a stupid mistake and missed following the flagging. The trail had been marked brilliantly up to this point, so seemed strange to not have any markings at a major trail junction. I figured by this point if I was going the right direction and hadn't missed a turn the girl that I had passed on my way up should be close behind. I yelled down the trail several time and listened to the empty void and the echoing of my own voice. I yelled a few more times and eventually heard a response back. As it turned out, the girls name was also Denise, and I asked her if she had seen flagging recently. She indicated that she hadn't but had done this leg last year and was pretty sure we were to go straight through the intersection. We continued on together and eventually she pointed out some white buttons placed on the trees. She said these were trail markers and they glow in the dark, so was sure we were on the correct trail. We ran together for awhile and evenutally came to the river crossing. I felt a huge sense of relief, knowing I had lost some time, but hadn't totally blown it and wasn't going to be wandering around in the dark all night.
We paid the grim reaper our token to cross the river and hopped on board for the short river crossing. I got my headlamp out and ready to go, as dusk was just approaching and figured I might as well get ready so I didn't have to stop in a bit to sort it out. I thanked the driver for the ride and Denise and I continued up the next hill, and I soon lost her. I carried on for awhile and tried to take in a gel and some fluids, and instantly felt nauseous. I began to throw up the little bit that was left in my system, and then started to dry heave. It was very strange, I've never thrown up in a race before and as quickly as it came on, it passed and I felt better and started running again. I was a bit afraid to eat and drink after that, and knew I only had about 11-12 km to go, so knew I should be fine to make it to the end without anymore fluids or calories. It seemed like night all of a sudden arrived and I turned on my headlamp. Was very quiet and errie out there and I was happy to have my AYUP headlight with me, which does an amazing job of lighting up the trail. I hit the 5km sign to go at 14hr:30 minutes exactly, and thought I could easily bring it in under 15 hours if I kicked it down. It's always amazing what the "kicking it down" pace is at that point, but it felt like I was going fast even though I was definately not breaking any speed records! I could see the lights of town and could hear music, and turned the corner to see the very welcome sight of the finish line. I crossed the line at 14 hrs: 56 mins:24 seconds. Greg was there waiting for me with hugs and a smile and I knew it was all worth it once again.
Monday, July 5, 2010
I just wanted to take a few minutes and introduce you to my ultra running, ultra crazy 24 hour champ friend Sue Lucas. Sue logs more hours on the treadmill as a result of cold manitoba winters, than anyone I know and it seems to have translated into the creation of one bad-ass 24 hour running machine! Not even touching on the amazing physical accomplishment, to me running for 24 hours around a 1 km loop definately takes more mental strength than this running chic has!! Truly incredible!
I took a few minutes to ask Sue, as few questions about her training and racing, and here's what she had to say;
q: Congrats Sue on an amazing accomplishment at the 24 hr world championships in paris this past spring - 1st canadian woman, and 197km- impressive! Can you tell me what the experience was like?
a:The experience was amazing! Being selected as a member of the National 24 hour team has been a goal of mine on my todo list, so it was nice to accomplish that goal and run such a great race. I can't wait for the opportunity to go again to worlds and surpass my 197.68km!
q:What were your goals and expectations going into the race?
a:I always expect 110% from myself no matter what race I'm running. I hadn't run this type of race before, so I wasn't sure what to expect and what pace to run. I secretly wanted to run 200km, but i guess 197.68km will have to do this time.
q: You seem to just keep getting stronger over the years, what's your secret??
a:There's really no secret. I just seem to be able to pace myself well and get stronger as the race goes on. I watched a lot of people during the first few hours and they were running like they were running 10k - I knew I couldn't get caught up in that and that if I could maintain a slower pace for the first half of the race, thenI should be able to run the second half faster. The temps were also ideal for me, overcast and cool.
q: What are your plans for the remainder of 2010?
a:The Lost Sould 100 miler is next on my schedule on september 11th. I've been thinking about a couple of other races still this year, but we'll have to wait and see.
q:What events are on your top 3 "to do" list?
a:Hardrock, Badwater and the grand slam
q:What's your most memorable running experience to date?
a" I'd have to say the marathon des sables in 2008. I'd wanted to do that race since 1998, but had never had the courage to sign up for it until 2008, and then placing in the top 10 in the women's category was incredible.
q: I asked Sue to tell me a few things that would surprise people to know abut her....she decided to let me answer that question, which could be dangerous, considering I've known Sue for a long time, but we'll keep it professional...=)
What can I say...Sue actually does many other things than run and is the number one pet owner in the world. If I come back in another life as a dog, I want to be Sue's dog...she is a dog biscuit baking, master painter, house renovator, do-it all kinda gal...Sue and I met in 1998, when we were both just wee girlz doing our first marathons ever, and we instantly bonded...I think it may have been my chocolate lab puppy she was coveting and the fact that our last name's at the time were the same....strange, but true....=)
Look for Sue rocking the Lost Souls in september and definately breaking her 200km goal in switzerland next year at worlds!
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Nevertheless..., I'm back with a very late entry for 2010....Lots of adventures planned for this year (see 2010 race schedule!). The later half of the year is still tentative, but the next three months are going to be a whirlwind to say the least...China in April, Oz in May, and France in June - yikes!
To start with, the big news for 2010 is, Greg and I are now both part of the Merrell/Akali Ambassador Team, and will be training and racing representing Merrell/Akali. Big thanks to Robyn Benicasa and Merrell/Akali for believing in us and inviting us to be part of their team! Check out the website at www.teammerrell.com/ambassadors
The season will start off with a training race April 26-29th, in Nanning China. We'll be racing with a couple of guys from Malaysia that we've never raced with before. Very much looking forward to experiencing the culture and taking a week to travel after wards - a vacation, how novel! The main thing will be to stay healthy and avoid any funky unidentifiable foods (could be a challenge for Greg, who generally will eat anything!), since we get home from China on the 6th of May, and back in the air on the 13th.
May 18-28 we'll be racing XPD Australia, 700km in the Australian outback with a new version of Team Merrell/Akali due to some injuries on the Team, and June will be a fast and furious 400km stage race in Graveline France to Lille, where we'll be back in the orange jersey's along side fellow Merrell/Akali ambassador Travis Macy and Jon Brown whom I raced with in Abu Dhabi in December.
So far, 2010 is shaping up to be a season of adventure and look forward to actually getting out on the race course, and getting into some warmer temps! Although we've had an amazing winter here, and are lucky to be having an early spring - I forgot how cold spring training can be! Friday we actually got out on some REAL, LIVE WATER - woohoo! .....as opposed to sitting in our basement on the indoor kayak machine. Felt great to get outside for about the first 30 mins, even though we were paddling the "TOMCAT" - (inflatable kayak), dodging ice bullets, temperature hovering around zero....a couple hours later, 4 frozen feet and 4 frozen hands, we were sitting in the truck in our gitch b/c our clothes were soaked through, heat cranked, and I had to laugh as it started to snow - I guess this is part of the toughening up period??? Let's hope it warms up for next weekend as we get out for a longer paddle, or I'll be wearing my winter boots....
Saturday followed with the first training ride on the road bikes outside. Biked to Starbucks, which is 41 km from my house, and just long enough for the feet to go numb.....a quick dark cherry mocha, and return home to a nice, hot sauna.....ahhhh......spring in the Yukon...What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, (or something like that!). Was very happy yesterday was a long run day - awesome run up pilot mountain behind our house...went earlier in the morning while the trail was still frozen - was welcomed by bright, beautiful, sunny skies....and a reminder why we live in this glorious place!