TSPYYC Race Report

Our TSPYYC team was made up of two women and four men. Ailsa MacDonald, Adriana Wild, Justin Kurek, Ari Sarantis, Jon Bird and myself. We were being crewed by Kirsten Fleming, Shari MacDonald, Louise Taylor, Barry Green, and Doug Bird, and equipped with an RV and an SUV. This team was assembled by the Run Calgary group and run captain Ari and crew captain Kirsten saw to all organizing and logistics. Our run order was Justin, me, Ailsa, Adriana, Ari, then Jon. Ari set this up after carefully studying the map and understanding each member’s unique skill sets.

Now this blog post could be ridiculously long and detailed giving description of how well the other runner ran or how brilliant the crew was or even about the desert treasures Barry and Shari found along the way (see picture to the left) but instead I’ll shine a light on my perspective and how my day unfolded.

My day started just 10 km east of the Santa Monica Pier across from a gas station on Santa Monica Drive. Like clockwork Justin, our first runner arrived with a smile on his face running his first 10 km leg in 37 minutes. Strangely that smile never went away for the entirety of this race. I had not met Justin before this event but can say with confidence that he is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He arrived in either 5 or 6 place. After getting that sweaty high five I bolted east along the long line of RV’s giving high fives to 20 somethings that looked far cooler than me. The run was pretty uneventful except the company I kept. I ran the whole way with a nice young guy from Alaska. I would’ve missed my turn onto Sunset Blvd if he didn’t steer me straight. I remember him telling me that no one on his team has ever run more than a marathon. In my mind I said a little prayer for them thinking they were gonna have an ugly, ugly day but truth is we did not see them again. They went on to finishing well in front of us. Shows what I know! On Sunset Blvd after 10 km in 37 minutes 30 seconds I high fived Ailsa, hugged my team, loaded into our RV and once again headed east. It wouldn’t be another 3 hours and 20 minutes until I ran again so we all chatted, Instagrammed, ate and drank until our names were called again.

You know when you expect something to be easy and then it’s not, well that was my leg two experience. It was already getting stupidly hot out (keep in mind we’ve had an exceptionally cold winter in Alberta) but I had a flat road ahead of me… right? Nope! When reading the course description it showed a 1 out of 4 meaning the easiest grade. I guess that meant the footing and less orienteering. So I went out after the pass off with my 3:45 pace I found it really hard to hold the pace on the many hills that got between me and Ailsa. Halfway into the leg, I started getting very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to hold my 3:45 the whole way especially given that this leg was graded a bloody 1… what the hell would a 4 look like then! I was sooooo happy to see Ailsa and to stop running. My pace slipped a bit but still held a 3:55.

photo by Jody Bailey
photo courtesy of Jody Bailey

The energy with the crew was perfect. Shari and Louise were busy spinning positivity and treating our ailing bodies (they are Physiotherapists), Doug was keeping track and informing us of where we were and how other teams were doing, Barry was our local funny man, garbage collector, DJ, pint-puller and bike rider, that is until we got a flat. Our team was only complete with the greatest Race Director around Kirsten Fleming, being our coordinator, cheerleader, social media, and never once stopped smiling. I was trying to take in loads of food everytime I stepped into the RV including burgers, Stoked Oats, ham sandwiches, PBJ sandwiches, Honey Stingers, pepperoni sticks, chips……

Getting ready for leg three I was nervous thinking that it would feel a lot like the last leg. The two runs couldn’t have been any different. Leg three felt great. My energy was good, pace very solid and maybe with my old diesel engine taking so long to warm up these days, this stretch went by super quick. The Speed Project organizers drove next to me on this leg and asked if they could interview me. These guys were hilarious. They sprawled atop their limo filming me asking me questions about how we are doing. They were all dressed in wacky outfits and appeared to be having more fun than we were. After high fiving Ailsa, I looked at my Garmin, 38 minutes. Excellent, that felt like I can do that all day.

There is no other way to say this but I got lazy and cocky. Hanging out in the RV we were joking and chatting and as time went by I got away from my hydration strategy. Leg four started well , but I couldn’t help notice this incredible dryness in my mouth and general brain fog. At this point, we were Northeast of the plane graveyard and was running on dry sandy roads. Only 15 minutes in my pace I started slipping rapidly and my head throbbed. I would grab water from the SUV but I knew it was already too late. 35 minutes into the run I waved the SUV over and all I think I could say was Ailsa. Start. Early. They radioed ahead and I saw the RV slam on its breaks. It must have only been half a mile away but this distance seemed impossible. I think I was running more side to side than forward at this time. Damn that hurt!!! I haven’t hurt that bad in years but I think due to my laziness, and stupidity I deserved every little bit of it. I got back in the RV and was shivering like a leaf. I rehydrated properly and within 45 minutes was back to good. Thank god for gamers like Ailsa cuz she smashed it like an Idaho potato.

Our two vehicles needed to split up at this point. The RV needed to fill gas and dump its contents and the SUV looked after getting its runners to the start points. I was in the RV and the process of doing all this took us longer than we expected. Long story short we arrived at my start point for leg five 10 minutes late. I jumped out of the RV and sprinted over to high five Justin and took off like a bolt. This was now 10:30 pm and was the very first trail run which would also be unsupported. Because we were late I was determined to make up some time by givin’r on this one. I had my headlamp on and my phone in my hand. I uploaded Google Maps onto my phone to follow the line. I was climbing the first hill and having technical troubles with my phone. I’ve got this new Samsung phone with a bevelled edge and whenever my finger would slightly touch the side it would take me off the screen. I was losing my mind!!! All I wanted to do was gun this leg, not get lost and not lose my team even more time. I spent more time looking down at my phone rather than looking where I was stepping and BOOM! Next thing I know my right foot steps on something squishy and when I toed off it rolled away underfoot. Then came the sound of loud rattling. SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT! Did I just step on what I think I stepped on?! Fight or flight kicked in and I dropped it like it’s hot. Now I can tell you with 100% certainty that I have not ever been as scared shitless and at the same time had as much laser focus on where my feet were landing from that point forward. I now refused to look at my phone when moving. I would run 3:30’s, stop and look at my phone to recalibrate, then start running again. The trail led me back to the asphalt road and I was so happy to not be on the trail anymore. Finishing up my 12 km I high fived Ailsa and immediately walked straight towards Kirsten. I walked with her for a bit telling her what just went down. She agreed we would not tell the rest of the team of my rattled encounter until the night trail sections were complete so as to not freak out our runners. Physically and emotionally shaken I got in the RV. Others on our team noticed I wasn’t cool but I told them I was just mentally struggling. Sorry guys for lying.

Leg six was another unsupported trail section. I had to walk out a half a mile off the highway to get to the trail where Justin and I would intercept. When I got there I found deep soft sand along the entirety of the trail. This was gonna be slow going for sure. After getting tagged I took off with now laser focus looking for rattlers disguising themselves as sticks. This leg was by far my slowest as I found it incredibly hard to push the pace in that deep sand.

The rest of the night was spent in the RV supporting teammates and trying to catch some zz’s. Sadly with a moving vehicle, no sleep was had. Instead of torturing myself I got up and continued the eating brigade from the day prior knowing the best chance I had at running well tomorrow was to EAT ALL THINGS. The night had to be the hardest on the crew but looking around you wouldn’t know it.

With the sunrise came Justin and my next run; this time we will do things a bit different. Successfully getting through our six 10 km sections we would now break it down to 5 km repeats, which was news to my ears. Ari had set it up where we would break into groups of two, Justin and me, the two girls, Ari and Jon. Justin would run 5 km then I would, then I’d high five Justin again then back to me. This way we would go hard for 17-19 minutes then get a short break and repeat it. The break was super short but I found it to be an effective method giving us plenty of rest while we waited for the other two groups to cycle through before it was go time again. Justin and I both felt very happy with our times and efforts all four 5 km runs between 17:30 and 19:00. That Justin dude is a frickin stud! I kept waiting for him to crack but his giant engine never slowed. Look out 100k world, Kurek has just discovered his skill set.

It was our turn to run it out again but with a long steep climb approaching, we as a team decided to activate our 1-mile repeat strategy. Simply put, we all run one mile and repeat that until the climb was over. Our overall speed dramatically increased and it almost brought us closer as a team. Fuelling was an issue for some but we stressed the importance of eating immediately after running to enable digestion. We motored up the climb and soon found ourselves cruising down the descent. After a lengthy discussion, we decided to let the 1-mile repeat ride and do this all the bloody way to Vegas. This was a heavy commitment as our intensity levels would rise with less rest. It was around this time I started noticing the unassuming Adriana Wild had not slowed her pace throughout the day. Also what was obviously glaring in my face was a great respect for Ari and Jon’ s performance. The intensity both these athletes brought to every run coupled with their steadfast commitment to getting this shit done was so frickin cool. Most runners would complain a bit about their efforts, not these two.

We continued hammering through the smoking hot 94 F desert road all day one mile at a time. DJ Barry and spinmaster Kirsten would blast tunes from their SUV window in order to boost and fill our empty tanks. Ahead we saw an RV from the Australian team Hunter and we were very quickly catching them. You could almost smell their fear as we inched up little by little. As we turned right onto the main highway they were not far away now. This brought our team a whole new motivation to push even a bit harder. With one final climb ahead we figured we would surpass them right around the top of the climb before zooming down the backside. Our strongest climber Ailsa MacDonald sped effortlessly up the steep pitch so well she could almost make eye contact with the Australians. Ailsa was the one runner on the team nobody ever had to worry about. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing her run it is nothing less than a thing of beauty. The strength and mental structure that woman possesses is unmatched.

As we approached the top of the climb we were only 400-600 meters back. We lost sight of them for a brief moment as they ran down. It was now Justin’s turn to rip, as he got tagged I saw him pawing the ground like nothing before so completely motivated to reel them in. As we drove ahead to drop me off 1 mile up I kept looking around the windy bends to catch glimpse of Hunter…I never saw them. When Justin tagged me I smashed it. I so desperately wanted to see them around the next bend I dug in and only went harder. By the time I saw Ailsa with no sight of Team Hunter I felt defeated. I jumped into the RV and compared splits with Justin, we both bloody ran sub 3 min/km paces the whole way! If that’s what we ran what the hell paces did they drop!?!? The team cycled through and when it was my turn again I gunned it. Nearing the end of my mile I was rewarded a view down the valley with an unobstructed 3-mile check on where Team Hunter would be. Strangely, they were nowhere to be found. If we were running collectively as well as we were and only 600 meters away from them not long ago what the hell kind of pace were they running to gap us the way they did?!????

The remainder of the run was really quite a lot of fun. We all took our turns running, drank Red Bull and enjoyed the last few miles together as a team. Our last half mile we ran all together as a team approaching the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign. We finished in 6th place in a time of 39 hours 21 minutes. I am so damn proud of this team we put together. The strength I witnessed that weekend was truly inspiring and would be difficult to be summed up in words. I want to give a big thanks to Run Calgary for organizing this team and providing this opportunity for myself and the other athletes. The Speed Project organizers were fantastic and put on one incredible race weekend. Big shout out to Sharon and the kids for giving me yet again another hall pass to do super cool things in super cool places.

Practicing Patience

I know what I want. I want it so bad. I want it now.
In this day of instant gratification and looking past the process and focusing fiercely on the goal it’s easy to get caught in the trap of ill-advised preparation which typically yields unfavourable results. I stand here in late March squarely in the middle of the dreams and excitement of running across Canada in late June but yet having (barely) enough maturity to understand that now is not the time to push. The eternal optimism of ultra runners tends to get them in trouble when it comes to overtraining and the careful balance of when to start the push with the final training block. In my experience, most ultra runners start their training blocks too early and with too much spunk. I’ve been guilty in the past of this and more times than not will end in injury or feeling deflated come race day.
Just last week I was 50 km into an indoor training day and decided to pull the plug at 4 hours. This decision was not easy and a little competitive piece of me died inside but I do believe that this was a good and reasonable choice given my past mistakes and overtraining disasters. My big cross Canada training block starts on March 30 with running 90 plus kilometres at The Speed Project. There I will run along with 5 others on the TSPYYC team from the Santa Monica pier to Vegas as fast as we can in 10 and 5 km sections. That’s one hell of a training day!
After The Speed Project, my training will shift significantly to longer slower runs to both mentally and physically prep for the demands of running over 100 kilometres a day for over two months straight. But for now, I wait because I know very well what is coming my way. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, sharpening the pencil into a fine point, embracing the suck, and finding joy and pleasure in the fog will either beat me down reducing me to ash or lift me up into the space that I need to be to complete this monumental task.
…….wait for it.

The Speed Project

TSPTSPYYC (The Speed Project YYC Team) = 340 miles from the Santa Monica Pier to the iconic Las Vegas sign + 5 super strong teammates + 5 support crew members + 1 stanky RV +  5 x 10km then 8 x 5km repeats for each runner + a 5 am beer with Ailsa McDonald + crew of 11 wearing Outrun hats from Smithbilt + sub 4 min/km pacing for 36 hours + midnight snacking on Planet Foods + the most fun you can have with your boots on!!!
the-speed-project
To say that I’m looking forward to this year’s edition of The Speed Project is an understatement. The RunCalgary team of 6 runners will take off at 4 am on March 30 from the Santa Monica Pier, CA and book it all the way to Las Vegas, NV. Our RunCalgary team consists of team lead Ari Sarantis, local speedsters Justin Kurek and Jon Bird, the wildly talented Adriana Wild, the nail in the coffin Ailsa McDonald, and my old diesel engine rounding out the sixth. Our support crew is lead by the Oscar hopeful Kirsten Fleming, Mr. Motivation Doug Bird, bartender and mixologist Barry Green, and Shari MacDonald and Louise Taylor to make sure our fluids are topped up, wheels aligned, and all cylinders are firing.
The-Speed-Project (1)
RunCalgary has assembled this stellar team in cowboy hats to attempt to break the course record of 36hrs 20min. This is a tall order as we will have to average a pace quicker than 3:59 min/km in order to set the new mark. I went out the other day at a 3:45 pace for a couple 10 km runs and they felt comfortable enough to solidify my approach and pace strategy for this race in 3 weeks. I think this race will be all about having enough patience to not go out too fast but have big enough kahunas to really giv’r.  The key to essentially doing 10 x 5 km repeats for 36 hours will be developing a solid fuelling strategy and sticking to it. I’ll probably stick to a routine of eating 1 cup of Stoked Oats immediately after finishing each effort with a healthy hydration intake of Skratch depending on how smokin’ hot it is that day.
road
By far the best part of this race is where we finish up… VEGAS BABY!!!!! The Speed Project organisers Nils and Blue (yeah I wrote that right) will host all 40 teams at an epic, Vegas-style all-day pool party at the Mandalay Bay followed by an after party. I’ve already told the team our goal and focus for the pool party is to exit that party with our Outrun cowboy hats on our heads.

ATY 6 Day Race Report

Al Wong photography

 

Al Wong photography

 

They were lofty goals but so is running across Canada in record time. The Lord hates a coward and I was asking for collective support from all the running gods to see to a good race this week in Glendale AZ.

This was my first crack at the historic six-day race and the first to admit I had no bloody clue what to expect.
The race started at 9 am on Dec. 28th. The race course has very few but noticeable undulations around a 1.04-mile loop around pretty baseball diamonds and a pond. The majority of the surface is packed dirt with gravel and few spaces of asphalt, concrete and new to this year a super shitty section of loads of pea gravel. I started running with the lead group of runners that were entered in the 24-hour race. Most runners start a 24 hour way too fast and just as suspected within a few hours I was leading out the entire race altogether. Now my distance for 24 hours is 160 miles so my goal of running 125 miles on day one was a very conservative one but that didn’t stop the comments suggesting that if I knew what was best for me I best slow down. Sharon as always was standing trackside every 10 or so minutes to hand me food and drink. Now you have to understand that if you think running for six days is exhausting, try crewing! Sleep deprived you need to think ahead to solve problems and manage your runner. Outside terrible midnight math Sharon made few mistakes and was direct with her messaging and directives. Being direct is hugely important as this shows confidence and control and when she displays this it gets mirrored in my running. Alongside her, my parents Nancy and Randy Proctor came by every day to help. I’ll be honest, I was a bit concerned about this as my mother tends to be a constant worry about my wellbeing. If she sees me go south I thought she might lose it but on the contrary, she witnessed me in turmoil a few times but stood tall and busied herself creating solutions like making me avocado sandwiches. My dad was a pillar of strength with two things: he was in charge of tracking data and was meticulous with it; second he was the loudest man on the track chatting up everyone telling them that he is Dave Proctor’s father. He was very proud and what boy doesn’t stand on the edge of the diving board saying dad look at me, look at me. This made me glow and only run better. The two things that stood out about day one was how hot the day got given me being Albertan I wasn’t acclimatized to the 25-degree temperatures. And how very much I hated that damn pea gravel section and the fine Arizona dust that got into everything. Having never been concerned about blisters before, I felt a fluid-filled monster forming on each of my big toes giving me great concern. I shut it down at 3:30 am about 115 miles into day one. Then woke up to Sharon’s alarm at 7 am,  disorientated I rolled out from an RV generously loaned to us for the first 2 days from Nicole Foster, one of the 48-hour runners. After hammering a coffee I finished up day one in the nice crisp desert morning with 125 miles – very happy with the first 24-hour’s work.

After pulling myself out of the warm RV early in the morning, I remember telling myself “This is what this looks like and breaking records ain’t for the sleepyheads.” At 9 am a new group of eager misfits started with dreams of grandeur. Today was the day I was to break the Canadian 48-hour record held by Trishul Cherns from 1995 of 355.8kms. The morning rolled as planned with a heavy focus on eating a lot. When high noon was upon us the 25-degree weather beat down on us but knowing we only had another 5 hours of daylight reminded me to not waste any valuable hours to run in the sun and put up more mileage. I remember around 2 pm for the first time needing to stop and remove the laces from my top loop on my left shoe in order to accommodate my swelling foot. At the time I remember thinking that this must be a tendon swelling or something. There was a manageable pain in the foot/ankle at that time. Throughout the day my pace was very steady and I felt very much in control. The comments from other runners from before of concern of pace now shifted into positive messages and a lot of ‘that-a-boy’. When the night hit the cool felt nice on my body but the thoughts of running deep into the morning left a sharp taste. This was the first time I plugged my music on to tune out and ride the midnight train. The night ended for me at 3:00 am with a total of 212 miles. After caring for the monstrous blisters that looked like 2 extra big toes, I got 3.5 hours of sleep but slept terribly! I was in a cold sweat most the night. In hindsight, I now know this was an infection and my body’s response to it. Sadly I woke up not rested at 7:00 am to run 2 hours before the official 48-hour bell sounded. The record was only 9 miles away. The mornings in Arizona are a beautiful time to run especially knowing within hours I would break the Canadian 48-hour record and be able to cross one of three goals off this week’s list. After resting my legs for the night my pace was solid and was able to complete the 48 hours in 360 km –  a new Canadian record!

Al Wong photography
Day three at 9:00 am started well running with a fresh new group of runners entered in either 24-hr, 48-hr, or 72-hour races. My pace and energy were solid for the first couple hours until right around 11 am I started noticing my pace was slipping and my lap times were hitting the 13-15 minute range instead of the 10-12 I’ve been used to. I decided on the fly to take a 10-minute lie down break every 10 laps. I was very strict that the time not be longer than 10 minutes as I still had a schedule to hit. Sleep deprivation was hitting me hard and I would tend to fall asleep every time I would rest. This would kill two birds, one I would quicken my pace between rests to 10-11 minutes per lap and number two it gave me something tangible to look forward to lessen the size of bites I’d have to take. This plan of attack brought me well into the night hours. At this point, my fueling had been excellent. I was filling up on smoothies, sandwiches, bacon, peanut butter cookies, protein powder, and applesauce. I was drinking Skratch, iced tea, coffee, and the occasional sip of my dad’s beer. I was regularly taking vitamin B and as well a new natural supplement I have been experimenting with in the past 3 months. In my experience, this natural supplement has made all the difference in the world when it comes to ultra-endurance. Explaining this product deserves its own post which will come soon into the future.
Al Wong photography
Something I learnt about myself during this run is that with sleep I can pretty much do anything, without sleep I am reduced to a rotten pumpkin. At midnight I looked at my daily mileage and realized that if I were to get the 100 miles I wanted I would have to run late into the morning and only get about two hours sleep. With the night I had previous I thought it best to run up to 300 miles and catch some much-needed shut-eye. The miles leading up to the 300-mile mark were run with droopy eyes but as I inched closer to that mark I started receiving countless comments from runners on and off the track. They said they have been running these races for years but this is the first time they have witnessed a runner exceeding 300 miles by day 4. A few mentioned they predicted me breaking Joe Fejes ATY record of 555 miles. This made me smile and when I laid down to rest at 3:30 am I knew I could get 4 hours before waking at 7:30 am to close out day 3 and break the 72-hour record. This night’s rest was better than the night prior but still, I awoke a couple times with a cold sweat.
Al Wong photography
Great Canadian running history was top of mind at 7:30 the next morning to round out day 3. The 72-hour open record was about to become mine. This record was the oldest standing Canadian running record that stood strong since 1881 from Richard Lacouse. Yes, this is a pedestrian record!! This is an incredibly colourful history of running between the 1860’s to the 1890’s more information can be found here and here. Looping the course in the morning I remember imagining what it must have been like to accomplish these feats 136 years ago with subpar footwear, clothing, and nutrition. When I broke the record I realized I have time to run one more lap and that would be my official 72-hour number. Now I know it’s silly but my 24-hour Canadian record is 257.093kms and will be a number I forever will memorize. After running back onto the course for one last loop I started doing the math. The loop is 1.04 miles and there is 1.61 km in a mile so as I started doing the math I got super pissed off! My number that I’d be left with as my new Canadian record will be 499.9 km!!!!! NOOOO!!!!! It was to my absolute delight that upon completing that lap and being terrible at math that my number was 500.1 km. HOORAY!!! Now on to day 4. This day brought a new and enlarged group onto the track as most runners in any distance want to run over the New Year and this day marking the 31st on the calendar is just that day. My pace was consistent and I decided to stick to the 10 laps 10-minute rest schedule. Around 11 am I remember stopping to again further loosen another shoelace loop from my left foot. At this point, my foot was throbbing all the time and I had no mobility with it. For whatever reason, this didn’t strike me as odd and just continued thinking I just had an inflamed tendon. Today I drank a lot of green smoothies and ate a lot of everything. Not once in this race did I ever feel queasy.
Al Wong photography
In the early afternoon, I had a sit down with Sharon and my parents. I told them that I think we need a change in plans. At this point, I was already feeling super tired and sleepy and started realizing that if I were to keep up the pace I was going I would end up with 540-580 miles. I simply didn’t want to bury myself in a hole too deep that it’d take months to get back out of with the Outrun Rare TransCanadian speed record attempt coming up in June. We decided as a group that if we claw back our daily mileage to 75 miles per day that would still put me in striking distance of the Canadian 6-day record of 540 miles but allow for longer nights in bed. With our new plan in mind, we ran into the night counting down the hours until midnight and 2018.
Now 4 days in the fine dust on the course filled my throat and lungs and that damn pea gravel section just wouldn’t go away. My feet would ache with anticipation when approaching the bend with the loose gravel knowing there were sharp stings of pain every step across it. At this point, I got to know all the other runners on the course and had some incredible conversations. The runners, volunteers (Ron!), and those working the timing of this event make this the happiest race going. I truly made great friendships and got to know some superhumans. For that, I am so very grateful! By the time 10:00 pm rolled around, I very quickly started bobbing and wobbling, I needed sleep and I needed it yesterday. Sharon saw this from aways out and walked out to gather me. She told me it was night time and even though it was still two hours away from midnight and celebrating New Years I was very okay with that. She told me that with a full nights sleep she suspects I would get up and crush it tomorrow.
This night’s sleep was a disaster! I can still describe to you three vivid dreams I had. I woke up countless times in a cold sweat, kicking and screaming. I remember my left foot pulsating and throbbing and even recall sleepwalking. At 5:00 am I lied there fully awake telling Sharon about my dreams. Sharon asked me what the single number one thing I wanted most in the world was and I told her a hot shower. All I remember is she said okay and quickly jumped into the front seat and started driving the van. When we stopped I looked over as I laid on my back still in the rear of the van and saw a Denny’s sign. I quickly fell back asleep. I awoke when Sharon opened the sliding door and handed me 3 pancakes, 4 eggs, and 6 slices of bacon. She tells me you have 20 minutes to eat all of this. I devoured the food lying on my back. The next thing I know we have pulled up to the condo we were staying at. I rushed upstairs and into the hot shower. Bloody hell that felt like heaven. In this shower, I found motivation where all I could think about is how quickly can I get back to the track. All was good until I looked down and for the first time noticed my right knee was twice the size of my left knee. WHAT?! When did that happen?! I got dressed in a new set of clothes, this felt glorious and we rushed back to the van and back to the track. I lied down in the back to get any extra rest I could but I felt so thirsty for miles that all I could do was fantasize about getting back running. We got back around 7:30 am and noticed the legend Ed Ettinghausen who was in second place used the time I was away to chisel away at the lead I had on him. I jumped out of the van and started running. I was so excited that I realized I forgot my ankle chip reader so I circled back to get it. Chip on the ankle I started looping and looping. I saw 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 minutes like a metronome all at a very comfortable effort. About 2 hours into running I started feeling a burning pain in my right anterior/lateral knee. This was the first time in the past 4 plus days that I felt concern about my body not holding up. The fact that it was more of a burning sensation reminded me of previous tears. I started having the very real conversation with myself about the importance of not leaving this weekend with an injury that’d keep me out for more than 4 weeks. Doing a self-assessment I pegged this recovery if I stopped now at being no longer then 3-4 weeks but if I continued it could be 3-4 months. I had a brief conversation with Sharon about this and decided to stop to see massage therapist Kerri English Wagensveld for her advice. She massaged my hip and leg and it was there I decided to no longer go on. I chose to hand in my ankle chip so I wouldn’t have a change of heart and get back on the course. I left the course 4 days and a couple hours in at 373 miles and in the end was still good for 3rd place in the 6-day race.
Al Wong photography
That night I went to the hospital and discovered I had a major infection in my left toe and foot. The fact that I could run as well as I did with that foot for as long as I did is a testament. After day one blisters that damn sore must have got infected by the gobs of fine dust on the course. My thoughts are that the infection and compensation in my hips created a loading that drove my right ITB and Patellar tendon and brought on the minor tear. I’m now on antibiotics to fight the infection.
Many have asked am I happy with my performance. F* yeah I am!!! My fitness and flow out there on the course brought a crazy amount of confidence into 2018 with Outrun Rare. I have never in a race felt as in control and comfortable with my pacing. The fact that things went pear-shaped on day 5 is a part of the sport and to think I would nail my first 6-day race the first time out is fool hearted. The 6-day record isn’t going anywhere and I am definitely making plans to go get it.
Al Wong photography

 

Running forward with Altra

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Since winning the Lost Soul 100 mile in 2013 I have partnered with New Balance. Over the past four years, I’ve gone through countless Zantes, 1080s, and Summits with success. New Balance Canada has been very good to me and I believe this was a mutually beneficial relationship. In short, I have been very blessed to have had the opportunity to lace up with such an excellent product and company.AltraAltra toe box

Just recently friends have been suggesting that I try Altra running shoes as they noticed my stride and running style mirrors the unique design of Altra shoes. Me never saying no to anything I decided to give them a go. Now I know when introducing a drastically different shoe you should always use a graduated method and not just jump into the deep end. But me being me, I laced them up and went out for a 50 km run. To my surprise, they felt great! Not only did they feel good during my run but I was nursing a posterior knee issue that I was wavering taking a couple weeks off running to let the tendon settle. The night after the run I noticed my knee felt better and happy to say that since then the knee has been golden. My thoughts on the knee are that with a zero drop a runner’s stride changes for the better from the foot up to the back. In addition, the zero drop positively changed my hip position and ultimately solved my knee problem. The other thing I love is the real estate in the forefoot. Having space for the toes to roam and adapt to the running surface is quite dreamy. Altra running form

So aside the welcomed zero drop and the comfy toe box, the single biggest difference with running in the Altras is the fact I am way less stiff after runs and recovering way faster. By the time my next run rolls around my body feels 100%. This is an obvious benefit leading into the ATY six-day race and the cross Canada Outrun Rare project as recovery is top of mind.Altra running 1

I have tried both the Torin and the Paradigm. The cushioning in the Paradigms feel very nice during the long runs. Yet with the Torin’s superior ride and how my body feels after big efforts make the Torin my obvious choice.

It’s my absolute pleasure to announce the partnership between Altra and Outrun Rare to show Canada what the body is capable of when you wear the right shoe providing the optimal stride. 7200 km in just 66 days seems impossible but with a proper foundation and what is produced from that, I would beg to differ.run

Movember & Mindfulness

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November was supposed to be a month devoted to slowing down the pace to ready the body for multi-day racing but it has been anything but. With my new and improved face thanks to my gorgeous moustache, women have been virtually appearing out of nowhere chasing me for miles, clawing and foaming at the mouth. For instance, Tristan aka TJ Dangles and I were running at the Fieldhouse one Sunday when the soccer moms picked up the scent. It started with catcalls but before we knew it, hoards of 40 somethings, Starbucks in hand, were sprinting ferociously after us. To make it worse the husbands, obviously threatened, took up the chase. We narrowly escaped with our lives.image5

Jokes aside, November has been a solid month. It was my 37th birthday, feeling closer to 57 most days. Started running further again building off a solid base from earlier in the year. I’ve been hesitant to push the fitness too much as I feel the fitness base is already where it needs to be going into the ATY 6 day in late December then further the Outrun Rare (Prev XCanada4Rare) run across Canada next June. Instead, I’ve taken the time during the long runs to work on mindfulness and mental aspects of endurance running. This is super fun for me because this is an aspect I think all runners, myself included, could benefit from most.image4

I could write on this topic for hours but to summarize, I’ve been smiling more these days. One has to ask ourselves what is your default. In a sport described with words like painful, hard, hurt, and exhausting we often find ourselves returning back to these thoughts and feelings when times get tough deep into a racimage1e. It should be no surprise to all of us that most of us physically fall apart to the point of calling it quits when our internal chatter starts mirroring the poisonous redderick. In my opinion, the body can only take so much when the mind is hurling garbage in the form of endorphins and hormones its way.OutrunRare-LOGO2 (1)

Alternatively, the simple act of smiling has been proven to increase a runner’s efficiency, a result mentioned in this article by SweatScience.com. Furthermore, it’s my opinion that having positive thought and attitude while running bombards your system with feel-good hormones and endorphins lowering your heart rate, percieved effort and almost making you forget you have just run hundreds of kilometres. Eliminating words like pain and agony and replacing them with feelings of gratitude and joy and reaping the benefits of this exercise is a necessity when running big miles.image7

In a conversation with a decorated ultramarathoner earlier this year, after he introduced himself to me he continued to tell me stories about his grueling ventures. He verbalized his experiences in great detail describing the pain and suffering that took place using phrases like “near death situation” and “indescribable pain and anguish”. Thirty minutes later after he stopped talking he asked me to share my stories, my guess waiting for stories of my punishment. Instead, I described that the last time I felt an element of despair with running was when I allowed myself to feel those feelings and dated that to be about 5 years ago. I shared with him my experiences of gratitude and the sheer enjoyment of being able to experience this life through a runner’s lens. Needless to say, the conversation didn’t last long.

I do believe that he is limiting his performance having conversations with himself and others like that. Sadly messages like these play extremely well in media and social media. On two fronts: 1 – it makes us believe others think we are gods and indestructible and 2 – it allows a heightened self of importance and dominance. Rather than raising up others, it makes others feel that they could never conquer these impossible feats.image6

The direction I am leaning going into my next stage is with gratitude, joy, and happiness first. There are 144 hours of running awaiting me at the ATY 6 day a month from now. I will be given 8,640 minutes to consider how terrible this pain is, or countdown the 518,400 seconds until this wretched, horrible experience is over OR I could enjoy this once in a lifetime experience and reflect just how lucky I am to be able to do what I love with those I love.

Grizzly Ultra Race Report

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Remaining consistent with training, my day started the day before the race. Sharon dropped me off at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary at sunrise. The temp was a cool 2 degrees and the wind blew hard from the west. I took the first of my 90,000 steps onto Highway 1 hoping to get to Canmore before dinner time. The first hour I spent daydreaming about how it’ll feel to run on this same highway next summer during my XCanada4Rare Trans Canadian speed record attempt. I’ll be at this same location, just headed the other way highway tp canmorein Calgary on Canada Day July 1st.

By the time I got to Calaway Park the wind really picked up and mentally I started to shutter. This was gonna be a hell of a long day. My friends Lisa and Al met up with me alongside the road just after the Petro Canada about 25 km into the day, they had a dozen donuts, sandwiches, candies, a meat and cheese platter, and a decorative bat balloon blowing in the wind. Beaten down by headwinds this changed my mood immediately. We hugged, I grabbed two donuts and left smiling. I saw them every 5-10 km the remainder of the day’s run. Thank you Al and Lisa, your friendship and kindness are truly astonishing.

Al ran with me on and off throughout the day (in a wetsuit, you’ll have to ask him the story). We yelled back and forth to be heard through the wind, took turns running in front, and kept one another company. Every time I’d look ahead and see a slight bend in the road or a hill that may possibly break the wind long enough to regroup, but rather the gusty wind seemed to pick up. Angrily I would stomp my feet and curse as that was the only outlet I had. Al and Lisa continued being incredible supporters counting down the kilometres remaining. With 7 km remaining Lisa, Al and friends Brayden and Julia saw me at my worst where I lied in the ditch for a few minutes. With a ham sandwich that Al made me, I fuelled with Coke, embraced the love of my friends, and the burning desire for A&W onion rings I ran the rest of the way into Canmore alongside Al and Brayden.me and lisa

That day ended with 90kms, 5:15 min/km, 8 donuts, 1/2 burger, ham sandwich, 10 fig newtons, 1 chocolate bar and a bag of A&W onion rings.

The next morning I awoke with muscle spasms in my core and my hip flexors were tighter than guitar strings. This day’s 50km trail race is gonna suck big time! After eating breakfast Sharon and I made our way to the Canmore Nordic Centre for the start of the Grizzly Ultra Marathon. I’m normally relaxed before races but that day I was very quiet; I knew the hurt was gonna be ugly and I was worried how my body would hold up. After presenting alongside race director Tony Smith and friend Blaine Penny atop the stage I hugged and greeted friends at the start line. The gun sounded and I soon fell into a comfortable non-taxing pace, luckily this was the same pace my friend Jay Kinsela was running. For the next 2 hours, we caught up like good friends do. Thanks Jay for the great company!! At the end of leg two (around 24 km) my friend Arielle FitzAwesomeness ran off course; she was running a relay with Joanna Ford. I told her I’d pace her fast into the transition. This was the first time of many where I felt my core spasm. “What the flecknog!” was what I thought. Leg three was full of beautiful, rooty single track with many short climbs. On any other day, this would have been a rad run but my hip flexors and core were tormenting me by giving me little kicks in the nards. At the end of leg 3, I saw Sharon, Julia, Sam, and Adele. I hugged and kissed them and told them that I was having SOOO MUCH FUN. Hahahaha, Sharon sees right through my lies. When leaving the stadium I saw friends Duncan, Sarah, Blaine and Evan. I stopped to chat about Duncan’s recent 2:27 marathon finish. They sensed that I didn’t want to leave the comfort of friends but politely urged me to get back onto the course. Duncan has been trying to break the 2:30 mark since he started marathoning in his 20’s and now in his early 40’s with three children has crushed that mark! With a 4 minute negative split!

Leg 4 everything started to unravel starting with my hip flexors. The climb early in the leg right around the 40km mark brought lock down cramps in the tops of my thighs. I was now power hiking and using my arms to press on the thighs as much as I can. The flats and downhill brought some reprieve but I found myself not running tall anymore but best mirrored an image of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

Now I may be a lot of things but I’m no quitter. I was really happy how I grinded in the last hour of the race. My body was shutting down but I still gave it my all. I crossed the line at 4hrs 39min and in 8th place.

A huge lesson was learnt! I can no longer get away with neglecting my core strengthening work, even if I hate it more than the cartoon Caillou. The 90kms of intense headwind suffered the day before was too much for my weak and feeble hip flexors and core. Along the 66 days across Canada next year there’ll be many days with significant headwinds and this is something I must be prepared for. Simply, better I learn this lesson now than mid run next year in Manitoba.

kids at grizzly