Wednesday, September 1, 2010

All aboard. Moving to WordPress!

A totally cool, un-named friend, let's call her Amelia F.... wait, too obvious, let's use A. Fraser instead, has moved to China. Apparently the Great Firewall of China and don't like each other. Moving to seems like a reasonable compromise given the circumstances....

See you on WordPress.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stormy in Squamish

What does one do when you lie wide awake at 6:30am in the morning? Maybe Dave's early morning mojo is rubbing off on me. Why couldn't it have been his hill climbing instead? Having rarely encountered this conundrum, it took me a good 30 mins of staring at the ceiling to figure it out. Blog.

The story of how a bunch of us from the run clinic went up to Squamish to watch Dave run 50 miles on a sore hip has been well documented (see here, here, here, and here). But I got a chance to run a small section of the 50 mile course, and I must say it confirms my previous held notion that trail running kicks road running's ass.

Prior to last Sunday, my trail running CV consisted of occasional outings to Burnaby Lake (not a trail), Burnaby Mountain, Pacific Spirit Park, and Buntzen Lake/Diez Vista. Actually, a lot of these outings should be classified as hikes. So word came down from the "Babe Patrol" that they were going to go up to Stormy, I (naturally?) assumed that there will be some running involved. So on Sunday morning, instead of putting on my DS trainers and headed to the Running Room on Broadway, I put on my Cascadias and headed down to the Starbucks a little further down on Broadway, where I found 5 gorgeous ladies all decked out in gum boots, overcoats, and umbrellas. Just like me to completely mis-read the minds of women.

After repeatedly bugging Andrea about her laziness and narrowing avoiding a smack in the head during the drive up to Squamish, we arrived at the bottom of 9 Mile hill, approximately 28 miles into the course. According to Dave's expected pace, we looked to arrived with about 10 minutes to spare. Since I'm being all dressed for the occasion, I decided to double back and try to give Dave a little time to get his best poses ready for his adorning fans. After around 1 km, I hit an aid station and confirmed that Dave hasn't checked in yet. Another couple of minutes of running and I found Dave sans his usual smile. Every time I've seen him running, he looked like he was having the time of his life. Not today.

We chatted quickly after he rampaged through his drop bag at the aid station. His hip has been acting up recently and today was no different. He was still on pace but he didn't think he could keep it. After literally running pass the cheering and the cameras of his Broadway fan club, he asked me with a grin on his face: "Seriously, they drove up an hour from Vancouver for that?". At least he's still cracking jokes, so it can't be THAT bad. After assuring him that they were planning to stick around for the finish and confirming that he didn't want someone to run with (suffering should be done alone), I bid my fair well at the start of the climb to 9 Mile hill.

Although drinking coffee and chatting at the local Tim Horton's with 5 girls was tempting, my Y chromosome nixed that idea. Plus my legs were warm and had a good sweat going, so I decided to do the 14 mile loop that was part of the course. So back to the bottom of 9 Mile hill I go.

I don't know what I was expecting, but 9 Mile hill was really 9 miles worth of hills. Although I found out from Tim that the mileage started from the highway, so for the course, it was really only around 7 miles or so. Ha! The day was deceivingly hot, and half way up the hill I had completely sweated through my shirt and went through more than half of my bottle already. I took the only gel I had with me then since I knew my water wasn't going to last much longer. That and the fact that I only had a banana and a coffee at what is now 11 am meant I was starving as we crested the worst of the climb and me being completely zonked by the end of the run. But by the end of the day, I know this much is true:

* Trail runners are the friendliness people in the world. I passed and were passed by numerous and often the same runners during the run. Everyone encourages everyone else along the way. Gels and water are offer to those who looks to be struggling. It is really a heart warming sight.

* You REALLY don't lose that much time walking up hills. I met a relay runner named Dana shortly after the beginning. We talked a little but because my legs were still fresh, decide to run the upcoming uphill section while she power hiked up the hill. At the top of the long climbed I was exhausted. I looked back and there she was smiling at me. I had gain about maybe 10 seconds on her. After that I decide to walk when she walked, at which point I realized that she walks damn fast. By mile 8 she and her power hiking skills left my tired legs in the dust, never to be seen again.

* Technical trail running is a skill, especially downhill. During a section call the "Powerhouse Plunge", I remember I was grabbing on trees and praying that I don't roll my ankles like I do often on trails. Then this blur ran by me. She went by so fast that all I remember was:
- She was indeed was a she (or a really fit drag queen)
- She was wearing a white tank top
- And me saying "wow" out loud

* Trail running also takes a lot of out you. The pound on the legs is just different than road running. 14 miles is a good distance, but after going through clinic I am happy to say I usually don't feel much after a 14 miler anymore. But this 14 miles was different and my legs felt it during the drive back and screamed it by the end of the day. The last time they felt that sore was the first time we did our 30k clinic run.

* You actually get cell service for a lot of the trail in Squamish (at least the Powerhouse loop). This can be both a good thing or a bad thing. It's good if you get stranded or need a remote voice of assurance while running. It's not so good if someone wants to talk smack to you via text :)

* It is possible to keep running even though you feel light headed and dizzy from lack of water and food, especially when you know you really have no other choice.

All in all, a great gentle introduction to trail racing. Not sure about a 50 miler, but the knee knacker next year is definitely on my radar!

Monday, August 2, 2010

All I really need to know ...

The first time I read the poem "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten", it was on a poster at a hospital. No matter what happens, it always brings a smile to my face. It reminds me that we often over-complicate things. The important things in life are usually the simplest.

For reason that will (probably) be expanded on in later entries, the last week have not been the greatest, and my running has suffered. Excluding the running done in ultimate, I've only ran Sunday (and Monday in a very lame sort of way) this last week before I left for my friend's cabin on Friday.

Getting out of the city helped. Having your friends drop you off umpteen km's away from the cabin so you have no choice but to run back also helped. But what really helped was just enjoying some of the simplier things in life with friends, such as:

Napping in a hammock...

Cooking pig in a hole in the ground...

And drinking cold beer on a patio by the lake

The only down point was missing the Sunday long run with the folks from Broadway.

Not complete panacea for all the ills in life, but it certainly put things into perspective. And a great way to get my legs and my head in gear for the next week.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer (Not So) Fast... in picture form

As promised, pictures from SummerFast.

Now Amelia, fix your side bar link on our blog!

And Andrea, could sommeone or you maybe spell and grammer checks this posts for me please thankyou? :)

The ambience...

The crew posing ...

The crew in their natural state...

Hardware baby!

Close up .... that's hot

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer (Not So) Fast

"It's the noise that destroys."
I thought I knew what that meant when I first heard it a month ago, but I didn't. Not until last Saturday.

The beginning of runs are rarely fun for me. During that first 3 or 4 km when the body first thrown out of its comfortable seditary state, before the body has become accustom to feet pounding pavement (or preferably grass), and before the shirt has been thoroughly soaked through, the mind play tricks on you. It interprets the sensation from the body as pain and question the logic of the excercise. At least for me, this is usually a prerequisite to the clarity of mind I crave in the middle of a good run. I have generally been able to fight pass these tricks the mind tries to play on me. Different strategies work at different time. "I'm going to be late if I stop". "I have to chase down those damn windmills". "Hmmm... I think she's looking at me". Or simply, "This will end. It will feel good soon. It always does." None of these worked on Saturday. In retrospect, it was because I did such a great job at convincing myself the day before that:

I wasn't going to run SummerFast.

My knee had bugged for the last 2 weeks. However during the subsequent 3 or 4 runs since it peaked, it didn't get worse. In fact the run last Wednesday was felt fantastic. For the first time I was able to catch Dave and his posse. I have been able keep them in sight for the last few weeks, but I have never caught them, and certainly never ran with them. But last Wednesday I caught up with them half way through the run and stayed with them (until they hit that gear with a km to go and started pulling away again, but let's not focus on that). It felt good. And better yet, the knee held up. Maybe I didn't need that physio appointment the next day after all.

Then I went to my ultimate game after the run.

Typical play. Jumping up for the disc. Catching the disc. Landing with the disc. Sharp pain in the knee? Knee buckling? Crumbling to the ground like a little girl? Not so typical play. I guess I do need that physio appointment. Irony's a bitch.

"You pissed off your Patellar tendon", she said. Her diagnosis pretty much match what Michael and Brian said. Weak hip and glutes makes my knee rotate inward on impact, putting unnecessary strain on the tendon. My tight quads and hamstrings pulling on the tendon also didn't help. Apparently Mr. Patellar is a sensitive little bastard. Prescription? Squats, just as Michael and Brian suggested. I should have saved the 70 bucks. Ok, she did suggest a couple of other excercises, and the ultrasound seemed to helped too. It felt good to know what it was and how to fix it.

Then I went to my (other) ultimate game after physio.

Actually the game went pretty well. The knee actually loosened up during the game. However it was pretty sore after and the next day despite the ice, so I decided to not run SummerFast. I convinced myself it wasn't worth it, and may as well rest up and save the knee for the long run on Sunday. SummerFast was a diversion. The fun little loop around Second Beach pool. It wasn't the goal. Focus on the goal.

I wasn't going to run SummerFast. It's done. I've decided. I even annouced it on Twitter. And Twitter is always the final word, right?

Since a bunch of people from the clinic was running SummerFast, and I paid my $30, I was going to go cheer them on, take some pictures, eat their food, and pocket some post race swag (btw, there are no swag at SummerFast! I guess the Longest Day is just special?!?). I rolled in on my bike 10 minutes before the race started. Hey, the race package pickup booth is still open, may as well pick up my number right? And oh, the gear check tent is right there...and the nice lady is waving me over telling me "there's still time, just give me your bag and I'll check it for you"

Ok, I guess I'm going to do SummerFast.

I finished the race in 46:13. I wasn't disappointed at the time (ok, I was a lot disappointed, I ran my Sun Runs faster than that B.R.C [Before Running Clinic]), but I was very disappointed at how I did it. I had done such a good job telling myself the reasons I shouldn't be running the race that they were all I could think about for the first 3km of the race. I wasn't mentally prepared to run, let alone race. (Come to think of it, I wasn't physically prepared to run either having not loosen up, which probably made it hurt some more.) So after the first km or so when the mind games started all I could think about was the reasons why I shouldn't be there, instead of the reasons why I should.

And then I stopped running.

For that first time in a timed race, I stopped running. In fact I stopped 3 times. Yes, the knee hurt, but looking back it honestly wasn't that bad. My mind just wasn't in it. My mind was so out of it, the laces from my right shoe just keep getting undone because apparently I didn't even know how to tie a simply knot properly anymore. I even started taking off my number shortly after hitting the Vancouver Rowing club. (As an aside, I feel completely ridiculous writing this after reading Dave's Scorched Sole 50 miler race report). Wow, was this how SummerFast going to end for me? With the walk of shame?

Then the aforementioned Jurek quote came back to me. And then another saying from those hippie yoga instructors popped into my head: "If you're struggling, breath through it. Focus on your breathing." And finally: "I hate to have to blog about NOT finishing SummerFast AFTER starting it". Ok, let's start running again.

The next 2km was pretty ugly, but having decided that I was going to finish helped. Pocketing my glasses (I really wasn't going to run, so no contacts) and only seeing fuzzy blobs helped. Focusing on my breathing definitely helped. Then something magically happened between the 5 and 6 km marker. My knee stopped hurting.

I'm pretty sure the pain was still there, because it was there after I crossed the finish line. But for the last 4 km, I felt no pain in that knee. The stride felt normal and I started to reel people in. The last 4km felt fast, but more importantly it was fun (hmmm.. fast == fun?). The sprint to the finish was a blast with fresh legs from all that gold bricking during the start. I finally got a negative split I guess.

And what isn't a race report without a bit of post race soul searching... long list this time. Sigh.

The moments of zen from the Summer[really-slow-at-the-beginning-but-then-it-turned-kinda]Fast 2010:

1) The mind can be weaker than you think, or stronger than you think. It is about how you approach whatever you're facing and how you prepare for it.
2) "Run or don't run, there is no try". Especially in a race, because it will hurt in a race. It always does. If you give your mind excuses, it will use them.
3) Re: "Run or don't run...". When in doubt, run.
4) Scott Jurek knows what he's talking about regarding running ... surprising for a man who can only run 267km in 24 hours.
5) For the next 10 km race I run, I'm just going to run 5 km before starting the damn race.

The next day was Sunday and the Running Room's long run took us around the waters of Vancouver. I ran and chatted with Tom for a large section of the course. We were apparently pretty engrossed in our conversation because we missed Third Beach, our turnaround point, completely. We were also apparently pretty bad in our knowledge of Stanley Park because we didn't realized we missed Third Beach until we saw it... on the way back. Great job by Tom and Andy (another fellow clinic member with suspect navigational skills) who both finished smiling back at the deserted Running Room after the run. The extra distance without carrying any gels meant that by the end of the run I was pretty zonked. But the lessons from yesterday ran through my head, and the legs kept moving. That made me felt better about Saturday.

It felt good doing a little bit of repenting on Sunday. Maybe church isn't so bad.

P.S. Great times by fellow clinic runners during SummerFast. Ken (not from the clinic but close enough) broke 39 minutes. Amelia got a PB and a medal while hung over (I took a picture [of the medal, not the hung-over-ness], will post shortly). And Carolyn and Allison both didn't run as fast as they had wanted to but the important thing was they looked good doing it. Plus some great looking times by newly discovered clinic members Jason and Kristine. I really will show up one of these Thursdays.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To sleep, perchance to dream...

In honour of a certain millionaire's awesome "someone took my ball (player)" rant, I've decided to blog this in the newest cool font: Comic Sans.

Even though I usual do the Running Room ...

Ok, can't type in this font in a straight face. Let's start over...

Even though I usual do Running Room runs twice a week, I rarely run in a group. I'm more "hit and run" with my fellow running friends. Running in a group usually the pace of the group is either too fast or too slow. Plus its hard to think of funny things to say when you are sucking wind.

However last Sunday, I had a chance to get re-acquinted with Michael and Brian during the usual early morning clinic run. Other than wearing completely inappropriate attire, i.e. a orange *cotton* shirt that soaked up every drop of sweat, it was a great running and chatting with the fast kids. The weather was just about right, the pace was perfect, and I got my knee issue diagnosed. Both Michael and Brian appeared to have suffered similar knee issues in the past, and diagnose me with "Scrawny Ass Syndrome". Supposedly bad genetics (thanks mom), hours of sitting in a chair (thanks Apple), and most probably improper running form (thanks...hmmm, that one is on me I guess) meant that my knee is taking some of the load that my glutes should be taking. Prescription for SAS? Squats and bridges. Sound reasonable enough. I still need to get a second opinion of the SAS diagnosis from my physiotherapist on Thursday but honestly, I find runners are often *better* at diagnosing running issues. I should also probably sign up for the Mindful Strides running clinic that I was eyeing for a little bit to get some tips on my running form.

Maybe because we were talking about my knee, it decided not to act up too much during the run. I still felt it and it gave out on an occasional stride, and I definitely shorten my stride (especially on downhills) as to protected it some, but it didn't hurt like it did last Wednesday. Probably the 2 days off I took helped as well.

The run was an out and back to Prospect Point, and shortly after the point, Master Jedi was good enough to grace us with his presence and ran with us during the last part of the run. During the run Michael and Dave chatted about the Tour de France. Dave mentioned how he couldn't sleep and woke up at 4:30 in the morning to catch some of the coverage on TV. Can't sleep? 4:30am? I have trouble wrapping my head around this concept.

I love to sleep. It is possibly my favorite past time. It's easy, it's affordable, and you can do it anywhere. It's a running joke among my friends that during road trips that I am out like a light within 30 minutes of hitting the road. Other than a brief bout of insomnia in my early 20s (for reasons I won't get into), sleep just comes to me. During the last marathon clinic, one of the guest speaker on pre-race prep told us to get a good night sleep 2 nights before the actual race, because "you won't be able to sleep at all the night before". When I heard that, I remember muttering to myself, "just watch me". Yeah, I slept like a baby pre-race night.

Waking up... now that's a different story. I wished I have some of Dave's early morning mojo, but I don't. My personal record for hitting the snooze button is 12 times. But until recently, it is a struggle that I've been pretty happy to lose. However, the last little bit, work has been on a hellish schedule, which means my usual evening runs was no longer possible. In the sober light of day, the obvious solution was to wake up earlier and get my run in then. Hence the plan was to be:

Sunday: Wake up at 7:15, do the 9km to the running room before the prescribe 16 km route to keep the Sunday mileage up
Monday: Get up at 7:30, do the 15km detour route to work, into work by 9am
Tuesday: Get up at 8:00, do the 10km direct route to work, at work by 9:15'ish
Yet, out of ashes of hazy post slumber logic, we get the reality of:
Sunday: Alarm goes off at 7:15:00. Suffocating the alarm with my pillow at 7:15:01. Play the left shoulder/right shoulder debate game on the merits of sleep vs run until 8am. Sigh.
Monday/Tuesday: ... ok, you are all smart people. I am writing this for a reason. I really don't need to repeat myself, do I? ...

Counting the 2 days break I took for the knee issues, I essentially only did 18km in the last 5 days. I did yoga. I was on the bike. But those are different. It feels different. And my legs knw it. I ran into Carolyn this morning right outside the office and I was whining to her on how my legs were starting to feel twitchy. And this (the legs and the whining) just got worse during the day. It got worse when 5pm rolled around and I realized that right about then Amelia and Ken were starting their weekly intervals around the UBC track, and I am stuck in the office.

By the time I got out of work, it was starting to get dark outside, but the legs were actually starting to thob. Taking a page out of Tera Moody's play book, I ended up running around the Brentwood Mall parking lot being stared at by rent-a-cops. Classy. Fancy Kits runners, eat your heart out.

Tomorrow is Wednesday, better known as "Chasing windmill" day. At least I don't have pretend that I'll wake up early to run tomorrow.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sympathy Pains

A good friend and fellow peer-pressure-induced blogger Andrea has been suffering from issues with her right knee. She is doing the smart thing by taking it easy for a week. When I read her blog, I commented that I was being supportive and getting sympathy pains since I felt a little twinge in my right knee as well. I thought it was pretty funny.

It is no longer funny.

The knee felt fine during an abbreviated track work out with Amelia and Ken (thanks Amelia for setting it up, and Ken for dragging me around the track!), but sort of flared up later in the night. The "twinge" blossomed into to a "grimace" and is both above and below the knee cap. I definitely feel it going up the stairs the next day.

But it didn't concern me until at the end of my run yesterday, the twinge/grimace turned into a full blown case of "gimpy asymmetric shuffle" going up the bit of hill on Kits Point. "Why is that man running funny, mommy?" was what I heard when I ran by a kid sitting on the grass. Ok, I think he was actually asking his mom for ice-cream, but that's not important. What is important is that this is first time the knee has affected my running stride since issues with the IT Band 4 weeks prior to the BMO. And it doesn't feel like it's the IT Band this time. It feels, dare I say it, structural?

I should have probably skipped the subsequent ulti game but it was a nice day and it only seem to hurt when I do stairs or run up hills. Obviously I am not as smart as Andrea. That was evident with how I felt after the ulti games.

Not quite sure what to do now? Visit the family doctor? "Stop running for a bit" is what he'll say. Massage? Chiropractor? Physio? Acupuncture? Prayer? Medicinal marijuana?

Like I said, not funny anymore.