Friday, 28 February 2014

The Biggest Question: WHY?

Aug 2006
WHY?  It's a question that non-distance runners blurt with true amazement when considering that anyone would want to run 50+K up and down mountains for the better part of a day. It's a question that I needed to answer to my husband and to my kids to get them on board. It's a question that I needed to ask and answer of myself before I started on this journey, even if not consciously.  I heard an ultrarunner once say (maybe it was Scott Jurek?) that it's good to write those reasons down so that when you are dead tired and you feel like you want to quit, you can pull from it for motivation.  So here's my attempt to synthesize the many reasons why I've chosen the ultramarathon goal.  This was not an easy post to write.

TOP 10 Reasons Why I'm Training for an Ultra

1) I get to be alone for several hours at a time.  As a physiotherapist I interact with dozens of people every day.  As a wife and mom, someone is always asking me for something and I get so tired of talking and listening all day long.  When I run it's the only part of the day I can be alone and I need that to stay sane.

2) Weight management.  I don't need to run 50K to control my weight, but I'd be lying if staying slim wasn't part of my motivation for running.  At 37 I cannot eat what I did at 27 and get away with it, but having healthy exercise habits sure makes it easier to enjoy food without guilt! Well, most foods.

3) Healthy habits.  One simply cannot run for hours regularly while eating crap and sleeping little.  We did a cleanse for the month of January, and I am using my ultra training as motivation to continue eating whole unprocessed foods, ideally gluten-free.  I am also committed to getting more sleep.  What you fuel your body with really does play a large role and I'm embracing the need to run clean!

4) Achievement. I have a fierce need to achieve and push myself.  I know the source of this goes back to my childhood when achievement was highly valued in my family.  I don't really care where it comes from, I just need to fill that need!

5) Curiosity. I want to see what it feels like.  I want to see if I really can.  I want to see what all the fuss is about. In a twisted way I want to feel the pain and run through it.

Running with ELM 2005
6) Professional development. As a physio, I want to see what happens to the human body first hand when training at such a high volume.  I am paid for my advice, and I often work with athletes.  Some of the best lessons I've learned have not come from a book.  Making mistakes and feeling pain myself, and conversely doing things right and feeling great, offers me valuable knowledge that I can pass onto my patients.  When someone pays me for my expertise I want them to be confident that they are getting their money's worth!

7)  Less pressure.  I am a very driven person and even when you tell me to just run easy, I tend to always look at my GPS and check my pace.  A friend who ran the Squamish 50 this summer said something to me that resonated: "When you run a road marathon, the first thing people ask you is what 'what time did you finish?'  When you run a mountain ultra, the first question is, 'DID you finish?'" No one cares about your pace or even your time, at least in my league of running.  I need a break from checking my pace.

8) You get to walk! "Trek" is not a 4 letter word in ultra running.  You are allowed to walk, and even the pros do it sometimes.  Even though I have yet to run my first ultra, I already am loving the culture.  It's so much more relaxed and laid back - really it's all about pacing for the long haul.

9) Set an example.  I know I don't have to run 50K to set a good example for my kids, but a large part of my running is motivated by the desire to show my kids that fitness values are important, and can/should be maintain throughout life.

My brother and I
10) I CAN. And the top reason why I want to run an ultramarathon is because I can. Simply because it is a choice that I have.  My only sibling, my younger brother, was in an accident at age 13 that left him with a spinal cord injury paralyzed from the chest down.  He does not have that choice. Although he never talks about it, I know he would give ANYTHING to be able to wiggle his big toe, more less walk or run.  I can run. I can use my body the way God created it to be used and I feel not only a responsibility to my brother, but to my Creator to move my body and use it as it was meant to be used.  Humans were not meant to sit at desks or in cars all day long.  We were meant to walk, run, hike, dance.  My brother has accomplished so much with his disabilities.  He truly is my inspiration and my hero.  His strength inspires me to be the best I can be.  Should I ever become inactive and spend my days sitting on the couch (due to choice rather than injury), I would hope that he would look me square in the eyes and tell me, "How DARE you."

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Big Race

Once I decided I really was going to run an ultra, I had to find a race.  Now that would seem simple.  However, when my husband and I laid out our schedules for the next 7 months it got complicated.  I need time to train (properly is the key word here), DH is away for a month this spring, and with our potential move this summer that left only 3 potential weekends. As much as I would love to have my family come to the race with me, realistically they would all be miserable waiting around for me.  I've made them do that enough at shorter races. So that means my husband will have to stay with the kiddos leaving me to be (necessarily) self-centered for the weekend.

Path above Thompson pass.
Photos by Jeff Black
  Descending back down...

I also wanted a relatively close race so I don't have to spend lots of money getting there.  I settled upon the Sun Mountain 50K in Winthrop, WA on May 18.  It's the Sunday of the long weekend, meaning I have a day to get there and a recovery day after the race before I have to work. Perfect! The other issue with ultras as I'm learning is that the registration cut-offs are relatively small.  Because they are such a huge logistical endeavor and often take place in national or state/provincial parks, they don't allow that many people and the races fill fast.  Only 101 people did the 50K in 2013 and I'm not sure what their cut off is, so when registration opened for Sun Mountain on Feb 19 at 8:00 am, I was sitting at my computer ready to go.

Case in point: One of my choices was the Diez Vista.  Registration opened at noon on Dec 4 and by 1:17pm all 150 spots were filled.  Keep that in mind if you chose a popular race!  You need to plan ahead and COMMIT both for your training and registration. 

50 K Course Elevation Profile

50K Course Map

The best part: two of my best girlfriends are coming to crew for me.  We plan to make a whole weekend of it.  I am so excited!

Next post: WHY in the world would I want to do this?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Playing in the Snow!

Kim, Sarah, Pascale

Early this morning Canada won the men's hockey olympic gold medal!  We celebrated in true Canadian spirit with a 16K trail run in the snow at Seal Bay Park.  I know I mentioned in my last post that it rarely snows here...well, this was one of those rare Sunday mornings!  While most people stayed inside, we romped and played along snow covered trails and ducked under heavily laden branches, narrowly missing having one crash down on us!

This week was a drop-down week.  The program Sarah has me on builds for 2 weeks, then drops back for 1 week.  It was a perfect day for a stress-free easy run with good friends.

I have decided to try to eat whole foods for running fuel this year as much as possible.  A second huge source of inspiration for me has been the book Eat & Run by Scott Jurek.  I listened to it in audiobook format last summer during long runs, and purchased the book recently so I could have the recipes readily available.  I tried one of his Rice Balls during my run today...1/2 c sushi rice with 1/4 tsp miso in the middle, wrapped in a half sheet of nori.  Yummy!  Went down easily, no tummy upset. These balls have 20g of carbs and about 100 calories.  I plan to try them again during my 27K run next week seeing as I have a freezer full of them now.  I hope the snow melts by then!


I've always been a recreational runner.  A little track in middle school, ran for fitness in university.  In late 2003 I decided to run a marathon.  I'd hadn't even run 10K at that point. After several long months of training, in June 2004 I ran the Edge to Edge Marathon from Ucluelet to Tofino, BC.  I was so proud of myself for reaching that goal, but swore I'd never do another one. For the last 10 years I have embraced the 1/2 marathon distance and trail running, doing a few races a year simply for the fun of it.  During that time I married, had 2 kids, and ran a physiotherapy practice.

When my children were born, it was really challenging finding the time to run. My husband is frequently away for long periods of time for work. I once did about 80% of my training for a half marathon on the treadmill after 8:00 pm when the babies were in bed, which trains the mind more than the body.  I don't recommend it.  Running has always been my stress relief, my time alone, my time to think, and relax.  I would do whatever I could to sneak in a few precious minutes of endorphin induced bliss.
Xterra Oahu 2013

Now that the kids are school age and I have more time, I've thinking about the next challenge. For the past few years I have been intrigued by the ultramarathon distance, but never thought I could do one myself.  Enter kinesiologist Sarah Seads, one of my dearest friends.  She owns and operates Equilibrium Lifestyle Management (ELM), a personal training and outdoor fitness company.  I have been running with her groups for 10+ years and started coaching for her 3 years ago.

Sarah is the most positive, inspirational, amazing athlete I know.  She has a way of making you feel and KNOW that you can do anything.  Sarah has done the Canadian Death Race (125km with 17,000' of elevation change), the BC Bike Race, and numerous other adventure races and events.  She often wins, with a humility and a smile that draws people to her.  Sarah is a coach who has done the miles herself, and embraces each lesson she learns from both books and her own personal experience.  When Sarah tells you something, you tend to believe her.  And when she started talking to me about doing an ultra, I struggled to put her off.  But she had planted a seed...and I secretly wondered if I really could do it!

I live in the most beautiful place in the world...Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.  We literally have an unlimited source of trails in our back yard that are rarely covered in snow, and there are no excuses when it comes to training.  My husband's job will eventually move us, so I decided this winter that THIS is the year.  I will do an ultra even though the farthest I've run in the past 10 years is 26K. When I told Sarah I was going to do it and asked her to set me up with a training program, she simply said..."50K?  No problem!  It's easier than running a marathon."  And I have to believe her!

I decided to do this blog to both record and share my experiences, and to hopefully inspire someone else to attempt a personal challenge however big or small it may be.