ENDURrun Simulation Week

We have our first ‘Stage Race’ in August – the ENDURrun Ultimate, AKA the Tour de France of Running Events. Though we run everyday, at 160km total this event is daunting. As such, we discussed holding a ‘simulation week’ with our Coach, and got the green light as long as we kept it to approximately 80% effort and 60-80% distance. We had to change things around at the last minute due to a little marathon we threw in, so the week didn’t unfold exactly as ENDURrun would have, so we improvised! The week went as follows:

Saturday, July 12: 18k Alpine Run (Stage 5 – 25.6k Alpine Run)
Steve has been struggling with some nagging issues from rolling his ankle a few weeks back, so instead of running the ski hill at Camp Fortune we opted for the next best thing – Hill Repeats on Blair Hill. The city of Ottawa proper is flat, so this little gem, only 1km from my house if perfect for hill training. The water’s edge to the lights at Montreal Road is almost 2km, however there is some flat there, so to make it worthwhile we chunk off the flats and focus on the hill parts (including the false flat to Davidson), so in total just over 1km, 8% grade. We also do our best to hammer the downhills to get the quads feeling it! I felt really good and completed 18.5k including the warm up and cooldown to home. Steve sat out one repeat because of his ankle, the downs really cause him grief.

After our hill run at the Gatineau Park

Sunday, July 13: 12k Hill Run (Stage 4 – 16k Hill Run)
We started Sunday by volunteering at the Hintonburg 5k Road Race as road marshalls. Boy did it rain! We were absolutely drenched by the end of the run, and really cold. Slight change of plans as we decided to go home to shower/warm up, and then head to the Gatineau Park to run the Gatineau Parkway to Pink Lake. I waffled on whether to run on the Fortune Parkway, but decided that it might be too hard to be effective, and also with Sunday Bike Days and the later hour from volunteering, too crowded. Besides, it’s been a long time since we were on that side of the Park! In a nutshell – this was seriously fun! Somehow we couldn’t find the entrance to the parking lot (I lived in the area as a teenager but sometime over the past 5 years they changed everything!) so we parked at the gravel lot on Gamelin and ran to the Parkway. Other people found the parking lot apparently :|.  It started pouring again but we put ourselves in gear and went for it. Sidenote, I used to bike this hill years ago, and found it really tough. Um, the run should have felt harder shouldn’t it? It was too easy. Even after the Blair Hill repeats the day before. Hmmm. We turned around at Pink Lake and again hammered the downs and it felt amazing! Day 2, done with 13k!

Monday, July 14: 10k Time Trial (Stage 2 – 15k Time Trial)
It wasn’t raining! It was warm and windy though as we headed out, at noon, to run along the Rockliffe Parkway on the paved road shoulder. This seemed to annoy a few of the cyclists along the way, but seriously, it wasn’t a busy day at all on the parkway, and we were facing traffic the whole way. Thankfully none of the cyclists forced us onto the gravel, which has happened before (what’s up with that, anyway?? – there’s LOADS of room and no cars behind you!!). 80% effort somehow equalled my 10k PB. Ok that was cool! And on 32k of hills in the past 2 days. I was feeling really encouraged. Steve had to stop and work on his ankle flexibility a lot, however.

Later in the afternoon we both had Sport Massages at Holistic Clinic. OMG, that’s a workout in itself. There was a lot of work to do on my hips which are, like most runners stupidly tight, but it is what it is!

Tuesday, July 15: 20k Trail Run (Stage 3 – 30k Trail Run)
Still feeling the massage in my calves, hamstrings and glutes, we headed out to the Gatineau Park to run the trails. With Steve’s ankle feeling better, but not even close to 100% we opted to run out 10k on trail 1 from the Visitor’s Centre in Chelsea and back. I was definitely feeling the burn by now, but as the lactic acid cleared I was able to continue. Not gonna lie, I would have preferred to walk a bit, but we had our Trivia Fundraiser for our Sears Great Canadian Run (#EndKidsCancer) to get to! Knowing this also puts it all into perspective, I can suck up tired legs, I am healthy! And I’m going to need to run on very tired and sore legs at the SGCR!

Wednesday, July 16: 16k Fast Run (Stage 1 – Half Marathon)
Our original plan was to run a local 16k evening race, however we had to change that plan due to some evening commitments that arose. So we ran it earlier in the day on the paved paths of the Aviation and Rockfliffe Parkways, and felt tired, but awesome. We both really pushed it as hard as we could, and I wasn’t too far off race pace.

Thursday, July 17: 5k (Rest Day)
This is a rest day at ENDURrun, so we defaulted to a 5k to keep the runstreak alive. Nice and easy. Then we hopped in the car and drove the 7.5 hours to Massey!

Friday, July 18: 8k Time Trial (Stage 6 – 10k Time Trial)
This didn’t work out as planned at all. I don’t know if it was the sitting down in the car all day Thursday, residual fatigue from the early part of the week’s training, or the fresh air that I wasn’t used to, but I had no legs at all. This run became a race recon instead. I have to say, the effort I put in to this really slow and choppy run was 80% of best effort. I had nothing. We lazed around reading and taking naps all day. We never do this, so it was a real treat.

Saturday, July 19: 5k
ENDURrun doesn’t have two rest days, but because we spread our simulation over 9 days (instead of 8) to account for travel, we tossed in a 5k to keep the streak going.

Sunday, July 20: Friendly Massey Marathon (Stage 7 – Marathon)
I’m going to do a separate race report post, but let’s just say that this race was a total bust for Steve, and pretty humbling for me. I’m happy I got it done, and again it was a really strong effort to get it done!

I’m writing this post 4 days after the end of the simulation, because we wanted to gauge our recovery from this experiment! Monday I was pretty stiff, which I attribute to another 7 hours in the car. We had a run when we got home, and then helped out at the Run Effortlessly clinic (if you are in the Ottawa area, I highly recommend attending this technique class!). We didn’t get to bed until 11:30PM. Tuesday was another stacked day with back to work, running and then sprinting out the door to a dinner date with friends, but again not in bed until 11:00! Wednesday’s run I still felt a little stiff but by the turnaround my legs felt great. We didn’t get to bed until 11:00 again due to a working dinner and getting caught up on camping laundry. As I type this on Thursday morning, I am feeling tired, but my legs feel great. Could I run 100k this weekend? Um, not so sure about that, but my confidence in racing ENDURrun has certainly improved!

Niagara-On-The-Lake Marathon

It seldom works out the way you expect it to.

I headed off to Niagara-On-The-Lake for a second kick in 3 weeks at a Boston qualifier marathon. I had my first ever marathon DNF at the Ottawa marathon thanks to throwing my back out 3 days before the race changing a flat tire. I now really wanted to get that Boston qualifier done and over with, and this was going to be the race to do it.

I headed out on my own, leaving Una at home so I could focus on the task at hand without pressure or outside influence. She would have loved it there as it is so beautiful and I regretted not bringing her as soon as I arrived. After the 7 hour drive (because of traffic, accidents, and going through Toronto) I went to race kit pick up and got my bib, timing chip and an awesome hoodie – so much nicer than a crappy cotton t-shirt!

I booked myself into the second floor room of the Angel pub. Built around 1770, it is a great place with lovely slanted wooden floors and ceiling beams. I settled in for my pre-race dinner of gluten-free crackers, take-out salad and sliced meats and read my book. I was warned about the live music but I can usually fall asleep pretty easily, but it wasn’t until they finished at 12:30 that I drifted off for a few hours, but awake before the 5:00am alarm. I had my usual pre-run breakfast of a hard-boiled egg and 16 ounces of Generation UCAN. UCAN is a slow release ‘superstarch’ that does not cause the insulin spike of a sports drink or sugary race fuels, but a nice even distribution of energy lasting a few hours. I highly recommend it.

I stopped at Starbucks for a fantastic latte (I may have defeated the UCAN with that move!) and chatted with a fellow and his father who were up from Georgia to visit the wineries in the area. It was only a quick 5 minute drive to the race, I parked the car and headed to the start. This race also had 100k, 50k and 21.1k events. I watched the awesome 100k and 50k racers start before me. I saw a few friends that were there and we chatted a bit. I jumped around to stay warm, but felt really good – I was ready for my 3:29 marathon.

Photo Gesine and Steve_Niagara42 I lined up in the middle (I normally line up closer to the front because I always go out hard at the gun and then slow down, but I was not thinking of any placing in this race, no age group awards, just sticking to my time and nothing else. I wanted my Boston time, I wanted to go to Boston with my wife as a runner, not as a spectator. Off we went, with my first km 20 seconds slower than normal mainly because of the puddles and the race starting on wet grass. I settled in to a 4:52-4:55 per km pace, knowing that I could make up the 20 sec in the next 41 km easily.

By 5 km I had made up the time and was feeling quite relaxed and focusing on technique. By 10km I was at 49:40 and had 20 seconds in the bank. All was good. By this time I had passed several people and had my eye set on a fellow in front of me that I thought I had heard say he was going to run just under 3:30. At 15k I still on pace, but just between 12-13 km was a 1 km hill that was somewhat challenging. By 20 km I was having a lot of problems with my adductor muscle that has been causing me problems since November. I was finding it really hard to get any real forward propulsion, so I worked more on relaxing my legs and adding a bit of a lean in an attempt to try to disengage the adductor completely, but I just could not. By 25 km I was walking. Ok, more like crawling – I just could not move forward. I was at approx. 1:50 at the half but I ended up with my worst marathon time ever at 5:15 – 3:30 for the second half. Ouch.

Photo Steve Niagara_42 As hard as it was and as bad as it was I never gave up. I walked, shuffled, ran, did whatever I needed to do to finish because I was not going to DNF again. It was not the outcome I wanted, but it did motivate me to train harder and longer for my next attempt at a 3:30 marathon. And the really interesting thing was that the next day I went out for 16 km with minimal pain at around 12 or so, but not as bad as the day prior, and my legs felt GREAT.

I really cannot wait for my next marathon!

Next Steps – Jitters and How I’m Handling Them

Books imageNow that the Ottawa Marathon is in the books, it’s time to focus on what’s next. As per my coach I’ve taken it easy by doing a couple of weeks of easy running, but it’s time to get the new plan going so I can be fit enough for what’s next:

  • Aug 10-17 – ENDURRun Ultimate
  • Aug 23 – i2P 100k
  • Sept 20 – Sears Great Canadian Run 100k (Toronto to Blue Mountain)
  • Oct 4 – Sears Great Canadian Run 100k (Ottawa to Montebello)
  • Nov 2 – MEC Marathon – Gatineau Park

Needless to say anytime these events are mentioned, my stomach takes a flip. I’m not sure I can do all this. I’ve never run further than a marathon. BUT I’m stronger than I ever thought of, and fitter than I’ve ever been. So why not?

I’m meeting with my coach on Friday, and he will get me there, I have no doubt. Or rather, he and I will get me there. But I like to learn about the process from all angles, so I turn to my reading list and to podcasts (they will be covered in a later post!). This picture is only a few of the books in my pile. The top one is my kindle, where I have started reading Relentless Forward Progress, and have Born to Run, and Ben Greenfield’s Beyond Training among others.

The books cover training (which I’ll flip through and glean bits and pieces here and there), nutrition, and the mental side of training. Considering my comfort level with these events right now, I think that’s where I will focus.

Stay tuned for book reviews!

*if anyone has any book recommendations… please let me know!