Monday, September 27, 2010

The race from Hell - Actually no, I think this was worse

In fact I wish I was in Hell... but more on that later.

You know there are days when you get up and you feel a bit off and then the day just gets worse? Well on Saturday, I had one of those days. Unfortunately, the fact I had planned to run 22.5K up a mountain over technical trail didn't improve matters either. Not that it would. I mean, what sort of insane person thinks that running a race like that is going to improve your day. Perhaps rolling over and switching off the alarm at 5:30AM would have been a better start to the day.

So I turned up at Bluntzen Lake, South beach at 7am for packet pickup. This was probably the first mistake I had made. In my mind I was envisioning hundreds, nay, thousands of people clambering for parking spaces whilst road rage manifested itself in the only 70+ runner hitting another racer to get a disabled spot. Okay, maybe I should have not had the glass of wine the night before, but in my nervousness I ended up being perhaps 1.5 hours early for packet pickup. So here I was trudging in the cool, damp air waiting for any other racers to turn up. This mistake although I didn't realise at the time was going to cause me serious trouble later.

The early start also meant that I had an early breakfast. I had intended on taking some rice-crispy squares to eat before race start, but when I came to look for them, I couldn't find them. The only offering at the race start was some form of protein bars. I didn't want to chance potential stomach issues, so I declined. Mistake number 2! By the time I hit the race start I was hungry and my energy levels were low before I even made it up the first ascent. I know I had "Swedish fish" as my race fuel, but there is only so much the power of "Swedish Fish" can accomplish!

I grabbed a cup of coffee, (mistake number 3 - I don't drink coffee before a race) and waited. Slowly but surely the 50 or so other racers turned up. I rather eclectic mix of punk styling, serious racers, older races but everyone looked like they all knew what they were doing. I didn't, as it became apparent.

As a side note. I saw my first ever racer wearing VFF's. I went over all excited - another Canuck wearing VFF's for running. Yippeee!! Nope, he was from Oregon. He and his wife were telling me how he couldn't understand how hard it was to find VFF's here in Canada. I had to inform him, that there was only really one place in Vancouver that sold them and they only sold them for 6 months of the year. I think he went away think that Canada was more antiquated than they first anticipated. I had a feeling that they were going to contact their state senator when they arrived home to arrange aid and a shipment of technology.

Anyway, race start was pretty uneventful and as we raced into the trails my first mistake came back to haunt me. The cool, damp air combined with the hills produced a rather sudden and severe asthma attack. My asthma is always susceptible to the changes in the seasons, and September is one of the worst months for me. I have had asthma since I was a kid, so the sudden asthma attack didn't upset or worry me. I couple of puffs of medication I was good to go, but the damage had been done. From here on in, my lungs weren't going to operate as the should. They were sore and full of gunk and no matter how hard I would try I wasn't going to get the air I needed to climb the hills. No matter how I tried I was gasping like a fish out of water. (And not "Swedish Fish" either).

I had to cut back the pace, which combined with the stop I had to make as the medicine kicked in, meant I was pretty much on my own. The reason I like running races is for the fact that I like being in the middle of the pack. I like the energy, I like the pace I can pull from others. I wasn't going to get that. For the next 17K I was going to be on my own. Damn, I hated that.

Over the previous 24 hours a decision had been made by the RD to change the course. We have had a lot of rain over the previous week and the lake itself was very high, cutting off the floating bridge. Also, the forest trail was too dangerous, so we were switched to the multi-use trail instead. Multi-use meant gravel and rocks. Not the best environment when you are wearing VFF's. I also suspect that although the altitude we were reaching wasn't as high as the earlier course, the gradient on some of the ascents was worse. I had to power-hike the ascents and the descent had to be taken carefully as the gravel and rocks were very slippery. Wearing my VFF's had some benefits, I had more grip as my feet were able to "mold" themselves around the rocks, but it also meant that if I slipped I was in danger of bruising my feet. This happened before I hit the first aid station at 12Kish. On a descent my footing grave way and as I slipped my feet slid over some stones causing bruising over the arches. This was painful, but as I continued on, I could feel the bruising every time I placed pressure on my right foot. I had to go the next 10K feeling every step. I seriously cursed the increased cadence minimalist runners adopt when running. OWWW!

I had made the decision that I was going to "carry" my normal runners in my hydration pack, just in case. I shouldn't have done this. One, they were heavy and I had to carry them for the entire time. Also, it turned out that during the run, they had "slipped" in my pack and unfortunately had put pressure on the value of my hydration pack. This stopped the flow through the tube. I didn't realise this at the time and I should have stopped to check. But I don't think I was really in the right frame of mind for constructive reasoning. I had to rely on the aid-stations. This in itself is not an issue, but at this point, my morale was starting to wain and I was seriously wanting to pack the whole race in.

As I hit the check-point at the "start/finish" at the 15K point (the course was like a big figure 8), I had determined to call it quits. As I passed the check-point, the marshals signaled for me to go straight, which I did. They were correct, I hadn't finished. For me though, it meant they had sent me back on the course to do my last 7K. At this point I really did not want to be there. I was alone, I was thirsty, my feet hurt, my chest was sore, I was carrying a heavy hydration pack and my back/legs were starting to cramp. No matter how fearless I wanted to be, this was not something I could laugh at. I hated the run.

The pains in my legs and back proceeded to get worse. I was having difficulty even running the straights and was having to count every step to 100, just to keep going. At one point, I was running on a trail that looked so derelict I was convinced I had taken a wrong turning. I had to backtrack a little to find a trail marker and confirm I was on the right route. The relief I felt when I found the aid-station was immense. I couldn't help but laugh. Just to know that I was on the right path, that I wasn't lost in the middle of nowhere and that they were providing water. Well, if it wasn't for the fact I smelt, I would have hugged them. I had 3K to go, and I pretty much wanted to cry. It turned out that in the middle of the race, I had an early visit from "Aunt Irma" (google it). I mean could anything else have gone wrong? Well yes, world war - but at this point, I wouldn't have cared.

I plodded on for what felt like ages and I met the final volunteer. I asked how far to the end and she mentioned 2K. 2K!!! I had only run 1K since the aid station. She asked if I was okay and commented that it was all downhill from here. I picked myself up and tried to run. She lied, thankfully, she lied. After a couple of minutes I could here the after-party and very soon I was heading towards the finish.

As I rounded the last bend, I saw a sight that made my heart sing. My two running friends were there. Even though I told them not to, they had ignored me and had waited over an hour to see me come in. They were dancing and screaming as I rounded the last bend, and I don't think I have ever seen a most wonderful sight at a race.

I crossed the finish in a horrendous time of 3 hours 15 mins. I had actually predicted about a 3 hour finish. I was aware of my lack of training and I had felt that 1 hour for the mountain ascent/descent and then 2 hours for the rest of the course was about right. I was about 1 hour behind the main group, but I am glad just to finish despite all the disasters. I also ran the whole race in my VFF's. I stuck to my guns and I ran as minimalist as I could get away with.

In the respect that this was a reconnaissance mission, it served it's purpose. I know now what I need to do before I attempt the 50K next year. I know what I should and shouldn't do. I know what I need to work on. I made a huge amount of mistakes, but I have 6 months to rectify them and I hope that the 50K next year will be an event I have actually prepared for. It would be unusual; I mean me being prepared but I sometimes the universe needs an occasional shake-up.

As for wanting to be in Hell. Well, I wish I was this weekend. Hell, MI that is. A really good friend of mine, Jesse Scott, ran a 50 mile run here on the weekend. He was crewed and paced by some fellow barefoot/minimalist runners. He won the 50 miler in 7 hours 3 minutes; beating the next runner by over an hour. Nothing can express how proud I am of him and what an awesome runner he is. He has such a great running future ahead of him and I hope he has the guts to go out and achieve it. He deserves every accolade. *HUGS mate*

Friday, September 24, 2010

"T'was the night before '5 peaks'...

T'was the night before '5 peaks' and all through the house,
A little, young monster was running about,
Screaming and shouting and being an arse,
about all the injustices he had been tasked,
to be performed before his allotted bedtime,
Surely cleaning up must be a crime!!

As he was yelling and kicking a fuss,
A mother downstairs was rolling her eyes and wondering thus,
"this is the reason that I started running,
"to prevent mental breakdown and and feelings of frust..
..tration and other calamities that,
lead to groans and feelings of doubt"

As she reached for her evening glass of wine,
and realised that the most horrible crime,
was not that the fact that her "evil spawn" had created
a reason to run harder and more,
but that the fact that she had at some point clearly relented,
and in a moment of drunken weakness consented,
to voluntarily run up a mountain in vain,
only to be stuck there in rain and in pain,
whilst hoping a sexy, young paramedic would rescue,
her with a towel, Tylenol and a 4-ply tissue.

Why did she decide a 'Half up a hill",
was a sensible thing to do when you're...
not running but actually on your way up it...
chronologically speaking, of course let's be honest,
that there are things you shouldn't consider
when 40 is closer than 30 on the columns and lists,
of check-boxes you tick when you take the surveys,

[That one didn't work really did it?]

Now this poem is starting to go a bit 'cock',
I knew I should have stopped and looked at the clock,
before I "topped-up" my empty glass,
because now people will read and be aghast,
that I could create such a terrible rhyme,
all because I had too much wine,
before my big race, the nerves got the better,
than the carefree attitude I had set.. ter
pon adopting because I had failed to train
due to the cold, the cloud and the rain
next time I decide that rhyme is the way to go,
because of the alcoholic flow,
I will pick a style that is more cerebral,
like shakespeare, or Chaucer, or the guy selling cereal
My only concern is that I am not the smartest,
and that iambic pentameter is a bit of an arse...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shhhh....Don't tell "running", but I am having an affair..

Actually I am having several and I am hoping "running" doesn't find out. It's not "running"s fault; it's just so difficult for us to spend time together at the moment. Life seems to be getting in the way and when we plan to spend time together some emergency comes up and we have to do our own separate things.

So who have I been cheating with? Well, early in the year, I had a relationship with "Swimming". It was all very new and I wasn't very good. However, that relationship has become more long term and I don't think that I will ever be able to give it up. It provides me with something "Running" doesn't. Good core strength, an upper body work-out and of course it introduced me to my second affair - "Aquafit".

The beauty of "Aquafit" and "swimming" are they aren't jealous of each other. They both know the score and are quite happy for me to partake of one straight after the other. They seem content that I have a couple of sessions of "swimming" around the time I spend time with "Aquafit". "Swimming" is more serious, whereas "Aquafit" is just plain funny. Who knew I would happily spend time wearing big floats on my ankles for a giggle. I didn't; it was all so unexpected.

Of course, when you start experiencing new relationships, it makes you wonder what else is out there. Very recently I have started looking around. I have tried "Yoga". "Yoga" was great. Not sure if I am going to keep "Yoga" as a long term relationship. It's just too spiritual for me. All those "Ohm"s and strange breathing. I know some people are attracted to it (and I can see why), but it may just be a little to calm and deep for me. It also takes itself way to seriously. I mean have you tried to have a giggle with "Yoga"? Oh the death stares.

Today was my recent assignation. Today I tried out "Step-class". It was a spur of the moment decision. I walked into the Gym and the sign-in sheet was there just giving me those "try me" glances. So, in a moment of weakness I tried it. It was interesting. It was very demanding and a bit too enthusiastic. It's fit and very well... *cough* but I am not sure I can take it seriously. It's like a sexy 17 year old boy with designer clothes and professionally styled hair. I feel I am a little old for it. I know it looks cute, and hey, it's a great workout, but I kept expecting it to ask me what classes I was taking this semester?" I think it's the "toy-boy" of athletic recreation.

So with all these liaisons, I have found little time for "running". The problem with "running" at the moment is that it is demanding a certain amount of time and wants me to go far afield. Life on the other hand is only giving me a one-hour slot at the most and is requiring me to stay close to home. I mean today, I wanted to do a long-run. Even in the torrential rain, I still wanted to hook up. However, I had a 5 year old with Autistic Spectrum, who had serious melt-downs before going to his first full morning of school. I couldn't really go too far away in case I needed to rush back to the school to pick him up. "Running" wanted me to go further away, life determined I couldn't. So I decided to ditch "running" and go to the Gym close to the school. At the Gym was the "step-class" and you can see the situation I was in. I wanted the "buzz" that "running" provides, but "running" was just too demanding of my time. "Step-class" was happier with a quick session in the aerobics studio. Same buzz, just different ways to get it.

So am I feeling guilty? Am I remorseful? Actually no. I know in the end that everything I am currently doing is so I can keep the relationship with "running" going. I want to stick with "running", I have made the commitment and I will try and put more effort into it. What I am doing is just keeping me going so that when my schedule improves, my experience with "running" is going to be so much better. I am going to be fitter, stronger and be happier when I decide to slip the VFF's back on and hit the trails.

I should come clean and tell "running" what I am doing, but I think it already suspects. I did have a couple of weeks where I ran to and from the pool, so I would have been smelling of chlorine. I am sure if it took the time to look in my rucksack it would have found the damp towel and swimsuit. I am sure "running" understands; it's not as if it's faithful either. I mean, do you see how many people attend races these days? If "running" feels it's okay to hang out with that many people, I am sure it can forgive me my little dalliances.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Explaining stuff to the kids allows you to make sense of things...

So I have a fantastic, lovable, (on some days), curious and bright kid. (Yep, all Mom's say the same, I know)

Nope.. don't go away that isn't the end of the blog post... Honest, I do have something vaguely relevant to the world and interesting to say. (I think I do, I have had a glass of wine, so let's save that assessment to the end shall we?)

Anyway, I was making paper dinosaurs, eggs and a nest for D the other day. That's isn't the wine talking - I was actually doing it. Yes, a mother's life is strange; there are days I look at what I am doing and think, "Boy, bet you never saw this coming!". I digress.. okay..

So dino's, egg and nest stuff. D had decided to make his nest into a shape of a black hole. He is also a bit of a science freak and the conversations we have when he mixes interests are amazing. He asked, "Mummy, why aren't the baby dinosaurs scared that their nest isn't going to squash them?"

I reply, "well, they are only babies and they don't know what a black hole is, why should they be scared? They don't know a black hole can hurt them. You can only be scared if you have fear and you only have fear if you realise that what you are experiencing is scary. Even if it is scary, the black hole is pretty, perhaps they like the black hole"

As I mentioned in my previous blog post I am going to write "orädd"; the swedish word for fearless on my arm with a sharpie for my next race. Why? Because I am beginning to challenge myself, I am nervous and I want to beat my fears. I want to be fearless! I want to do things that 5 years ago.. no even 2 years ago, I never thought I could or would do.

I have always tried to beat my fears. I had a violent fear of needles when I was a child. Even till I was in my Twenties, I had to be restrained if I had to have an injection. Then I realised that this was a stupid fear, so I forced myself to give blood. I think I gave blood about 10 times before I moved countries and had to stop. Now my fear, although it is still there, no longer rules me.

I was scared of thunderstorms when I was a child; I saw a documentary on Discovery about how a man died when a lightening strike hit the plumbing in his house. Admittedly, the cure for that fear was more extreme; I moved to sub-tropical Australia. The storms there were amazing. Thoroughly violent and awe-inspiring. Despite beingpetrified to the point I could have done with a few "loo trips", I couldn't help but be dumbfounded by the beauty in the power. Last night, we had a thunderstorm, and as I lay in my metal bed, I couldn't help but smile and remember everything about Australia; the gum-trees, the kookaburra's, the smell. *Sigh* Fear subdued.

I was also scared, (but only a little) of spiders. Australia cured that too; when I encountered Red-backs in the house. It didn't necessarily stop me being scared of spiders. At least now, I know which ones to be scared of and have a huge can of poison on hand. God, they are hard buggers to kill!

That was another tangent; sorry.

So, my revelation. Children or babies aren't scared of anything, because they don't know that they should be scared, and if they do know, because of some rambled conversation they heard from us; they don't care. What they are doing is a lot more fun. Admittedly, this isn't always a good thing; fear can be a saviour too - not jumping out a 3rd story window for example. It is only Adults that develop fear. We learn what would hurt us so that makes us scared. I am nervous about the races I am planning to do. Why? Because I think the races are bigger than me and I will fail. Why should I think that? I have no expectations, no knowledge of what I am attempting to achieve; so why despite all of that am I nervous?

I have maintained (along with my "non-runner" status), that I am a 6 year old kid. I admit, I have occasional "adult duties" I have to perform; usual revolving around dragging kids around supermarkets and wiping poop of various things. Underneath that adult persona though, I am really a furry, super-hero mammal, (I haven't decided which one yet) with a cape and a mask. I defeat evil; I stop unfairness; I help those in need; and occasionally stop-off for a "Nut slushy". Before you get worried; this isn't the wine talking, it was actually an internet chat with a friend of mine - you know the phrase, "great minds think alike, but fools never differ"? He is my Twin in pretty much most ways it's scary. Sorry Nutty..:)

Having to explain to D about fear and black holes, made me realise that some days I am more 26 than 6. That's something I need to address. If I truly want to be fearless; I don't need to conquer my fears, I just need to "not know about them" until, perhaps after the fact. :) Along with the air-drums, the "swedish fish" and the funny pink feet for running, I really need to embrace the true part of being a kid. Of doing something, not because it challenges me, but because it is fun and I don't know any different, or if I do, then I will ignore it because the "fun" element is greater. Would I have registered for this race in a couple of weeks, (or in fact my last two races as well), if I hadn't been completely drunk? Probably not. I committed myself to them because I was too bladdered to know different. I was nervous before because I place "adult" expectations on myself. In the end, I did them because I wanted to laugh.

I know that what I am saying is bordering on a fine line. There is a lot to be said for acknowledging your fear but doing it anyway even though you are scared; courage. People who go to war; this is courage and we should thank them for the courage we may not be able to reciprocate. Some people may say that doing something because you are too stupid, (or drunk, or both) to realise the difference, isn't fearless, it is, well because of the first reason, you are stupid. Perhaps, fearless is knowing that something should be fearful, but instead of continuing despite your fear, you sit there and you laugh at it. You turn the fear into something wondrous and fun.

So to be fearless, I need to ignore my fear and when I have to actually face something I NEED to be scared of, I should just laugh at it. Not conquer, not endure, but change it to something enjoyable.

"Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy" is a huge, cultural part of being a Brit, (like the Beatles, Monty Python and "Daddies Sauce"). Do you remember those glasses that Zaphod Beeblebrox had when he went into Magrathea? You know, the ones that go dark when it senses danger approaching? Does anyone know if Amazon sells them? If they do, do they come with flashing lights?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hey, I got "Stomped" and I like it...

Just a very quick post to say that I have been "stomped" by the Barefoot Running Society. They are happy to approve my blog.

It just means that somewhere in my inane drivel I somehow promote Barefoot or Minimalist running.

Doesn't mean much more than that - not unless they can magically produce more readers (actually not a good thing for the Worlds level of IQ), or it means lots of people ask my opinion, (again not a good move - IQ is a fragile thing), or it means I get a night with some hot-shot movie star who thinks I am the best thing since toast, (not really going to happen).

Saying that, I am proud to promote the BRS and everything the are working for. I wish them and all their endeavours the best.. Glad to be a part of you. (Although the same MAY not be said in return) :D

Monday, September 6, 2010

Things you should never do whilst drunk #479

Give a runner an internet connection and a valid credit card. Why?? If you do then the said runner will get a big shock when he/she opens their in-box the next morning to find race registration confirmations..

I unfortunately say this from experience. Actually, experience from last Friday to be fair! After a fantastic night out with a friend of mine and a couple of bottles of wine later, I stumble home and make my first mistake. I switched on the computer!

Okay, a bit of a mistake, but in the scale of things not a disaster. Second mistake; oh look, I am connected to our secure home wireless network. Cool, but you know, worst things have happened to drunk people; ummm... affairs and consequently babies, secret kisses and then resulting cold-sores, visits to prison cells, hidden flashing traffic cones under the bed. (I speak from experience on the last one - again another story!)

So all in all, not much of disaster. In my drunken haze I start browsing. Let's look at this race I am planning in April. I am guessing this is what I am thinking. I actually don't remember. However, it's the only logical explanation of have for what is to follow. I look at the hill I am going to climb during this race and SOMEHOW I come across the '5 peaks racing series' website.

'5 peaks' is a series of races which take place over the summer where the goal is to run a race between 11-15K (about 7-9 miles in imperial), during which you have to climb a mountain. It's all trail based and the inclines/declines are usually around 500-600m (1500-2000ft).

Interesting, I MUST have been thinking that I wish I had known this, because it would have been great preparation for the 50K in April. The series is just about ended. This is where the biggest mistake happened during the night. I thought the word JUST; but look there is one race left. Again, look, it is over the Diez Vista trail. Look, even more, it goes over the mountain I would climb.

The drunken consequences happen quickly after this point. Before I must have realised (remember I am still very drunk), I had my credit card out and I had registered for the 26.5K run. The longest race of the series. How in the Hell I had managed to type in my details correctly I have NO idea. At this point I am not even sure I could see.

So, the next morning, with a hangover to rival most I have encountered (and that is saying something!), I look at my in-box. Puzzled, I look at the congratulatory email from the 5-peaks series. I am not sure what I thought then; I think I have blocked it out of my memory. Oh the horror!!! (As a side note, I don't think they accept 'drunken registrations' as a valid excuse for a refund do they?)

Needless to say I am now registered for the longest run I have ever done. Over a mountain. On a very technical trail, (I have yet to do a trail race) and it's at the end of the month. Oh, did I not mention that? The race is on 26th September. I have 3 weekends to train and taper.

As you can imagine, I am using this race as a reconnaissance mission for the race next year. I think I will be happy to come away from the race without getting lost OR needing an ambulance. So in that respect I think it will be good. I have no expectations on myself and that usually makes the situation work out for me.

The whole experience has made me look for a 'motto' for myself. Something to spur me on; A mantra. This I also found in my in-box. A mail from myself, written at the same time as the registration email. All it said was:

"Swedish for fearless is 'orädd'.."

Why I had been looking for translations for fearless and why I had just picked out the swedish translation I will never know. I think it is going to be one of those hidden mysteries of the universe. However, I think I will sharpie that on my arm to remind me, that even in drunken hazes there is a meaning to everything I do.