Monday, 23 March 2015

Mental Toughness

It's been 3 days since our last long run and I finally feel I can blog about it.  Wow.  Talk about training for the mind.  Despite our AMAZING winter (or lack of it) and really early spring here on Vancouver Island, not all runs can produce picturesque postcard Go-Pro pictures worthy of travel magazine or real estate insert covers.  Last week reminded us that running on the island often involves getting wet.  And cold.  And muddy.  And repeat.

Backing up, for the last 2 weeks our family has been fighting all manner of flu and cold bugs. My kids seem to have brought EVERYTHING home from school in 2 or 3 variations this month.  I have been doggedly determined not to get sick.  I've taken my vitamins, oil of oregano, gotten extra sleep by going to bed super early (to make up for being woken in the middle of the night by sick kids), washed my hands repeatedly, even done acupuncture on myself 2x/day, all to boost my immune system to fight those nasty bugs. Going into our 2nd-to-last long run week, I knew I needed to log the miles cause there is no time left.  I managed to get 30K in on Thurs by running 2x that day - all without getting really wet, and got to bed really early.
2 hours in and still smiling

Friday I woke up to wind and light rain.  Sarah and I met in the parking lot at the trailhead at 0600.  Not many words were spoken, we just switched on our headlamps and took off trotting up Queso Grande.  First mental note of the day: my headlamp is sufficient for night road running, but NOT night trail running.  Must get new headlamp before Miwok.  It was a slow first 1.5 hours in the dark up the mountain, but the sky started lightening as we summited Upper Queso and I could relax and stop prancing like an idiot to avoid tripping in the dark.  So much for energy conservation.

Blurry pictures as reflective of how much moisture covered EVERYTHING in my pack.
The rest of the run was a blur of getting wet, wetter, cold and colder.  We looped back to the cars after 3 hours to change socks, grab hot miso soup, restock water and fuel, and say hello to a hard core friend who showed up with her baby snuggly tucked into the jogging stroller to start her own run amidst the downpour.  Ok, maybe it was a drizzle at that point, but I was wet and miserable.

Puddles and mud
At the 5 hour mark, I wasn't doing so well.  We were very high up, the wind was cold, the mist was deeply penetrating into my bones.  I was tired.  I was cold. Mentally, I was DONE.  All I could think about was, "what is the fastest way out of here?"  If it wasn't for the fact that I really needed Sarah to guide me out of where we were, I would have bailed on her.  Whoops - did I say that?  She kept me going, even though all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sleep in a puddle.  I am NOT kidding. But lesson learned again...

If you just keep going, it gets better.  After a lovely Oskri Pineapple Coconut bar snack, and descending to an altitude that brought the temp up maybe 2 degrees, I felt revived!  I was Chatty Cathy as we picked our way down the mountain, while Sarah was having her own issues with seriously cold body temps.  I bored her with a long narrative summary of my latest audiobook (Running with the Kenyans) to keep her sufficiently annoyed enough to stay ahead of me lol!

My shoes are still holding up!  I wore through 1 pair of socks today though.  Completely shredded.
When we finally made it back to our cars (total time 6 hours), we made a beeline for Sarah's backyard cedar woodfired sauna to stretch and restore our core body temps.  What a treat.  We didn't log the miles we'd hoped for during that run, but the energy expenditure in keeping warm and dodging puddles alone must have counted for 10 extra kilometres.

Miwok, please bring me warm sunshine and shoes that aren't weighed down by water and mud.  But if you don't, my mind is now tougher.

Sunday, 15 March 2015


"A lot of people talk about expecting the best but preparing for the worst, but I think that's a seductively misleading concept. There's never just one "worst."  Almost always there's a whole spectrum of bad possibilities. The only thing that would really qualify as the worst would be not having a plan for how to cope." Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

This week I've been thinking a lot about adaptability.  It's mentioned a lot in places like URP podcasts, that ultrarunners have one essential characteristic in common: we are adaptable.  We have to be.  Nothing EVER goes exactly according to plan, especially when your plan can cover several hours and kilometers of time and space, not to mention months and months of training.

Our long run Friday was supposed to be another building week - over 6 hours, 45km with 30km the day before or after.  But things got in the way.  Sarah's body was telling her it was time to back off, so she texted the night before asking me if we could drop down to 3 hours.  I agreed.  Even though I was game for a 6 hour run, I was exhausted from getting the house ready to list and a sick child home from school.  Thurs I had gotten up at 4:45 to run 16K before work, then other 5K that night with the ELM 10K Clinic.  Then that night, my other child woke at 2:00am vomiting.  Needless to say, but the time 5:45 Friday morning rolled around, I was just getting back to sleep rather than leaving the house for a 6:00am long run start as originally planned.

At 7:30 we met at the trail head.  Our original plan had called for more drop down weeks, which left some flex for days like this.  Thank goodness.  We took our time, running some flat miles along the river, then climbing before descending to the bluffs on Goat's Head for this great picture.  It was a lazy, sunny, perfect run day. And we did not feel guilty in the least.

I've learned that when training for a 100K race, you MUST be able to adapt.  Adapt your schedule, adapt your fuel, adapt your mindset.  Injuries. Job stress. Illness. Birthday parties. Vacations.  Life gets in the way.  The only way to succeed at ultrarunning as a working wife and mom is to weave my training into the rest of my life, while having a plan for how to cope. Thanks for the perspective Chris.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

One For the Memory Bank

Five days ago we received something we've dreaded for at least the last 5 years.  Notice that my husband's job will require him to move.  This summer we are to move to Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Where there are no mountains, no vistas, no forest.  Only long, flat roads and open prairie.  On which I might take up cycling.  But in the mean time, I want as much trail time as possible!

So, after a down week last week, I was so grateful for an amazing run on Friday in the mountains of Cumberland.  I couldn't start til 0900 after I dropped the kids off at school. Sarah had started at 0600 with another running buddy and was already 3 hours in when I joined her.  It was a perfect sunny spring day, the air still slightly crisp, and the trails almost dry.  We climbed for 2 hours to the highest point in the area and then followed the Trent River for a long loop that brought us back to the parking lot 1 hours later.  Sarah was done at that point and headed for salt hot chocolate from the Wandering Moose and I refueled and headed out for another 2.5 hours.

I had tried to find someone to share the final half of my run with me, but there were no takers.  And honestly, I was ok with that.  I retraced our path back up the mountain to the top in the mid-day warmth.  I felt great.  I had been fueling perfectly, taking Succeed caps every hour, and pacing well.  I honestly felt like I was kissing mountain with my feet with every footstep, trying to keep things light and reverent.  There won't be many more runs like this for me in this area and I was determined to take it ALL in.  The green of the moss, the smell of the ozone in the air, the creaky boardwalks on Thirty Beaver, the lonely tall tree in the middle of a logged out area somewhere near Switchback, the view of the Georgia Strait in the afternoon sun.  For once I didn't even think about cougars and bears.  I felt totally safe and comfortable out there in my endorphin-induced bliss.

I did have one interesting thing happen to me.  I had my first real hallucination.  Which seems weird as I was fueling so well, and felt great.  When I reach the highest point in Cumberland a second time at 4.5 hours elapsed time, I felt a sharp sting on my forearm.  I looked down, actually fearing some crazy bug bite that might leave me incapacitated way out there in the middle of nowhere by myself.  I saw a huge white topped boil on my arm, and I totally freaked out.  I literally blinked once...and it was GONE.  No sting, no boil, nothing.  I blinked again.  Rubbed my arm.  No sign of ANYTHING.  Very weird.

My last long run was 4:40 and I only at 2 bars and a few gummy bears (I was experimenting).  My tummy was actually growling most of that run. Not good.  If I didn't actually bonk on that run, I came very close to it.  This run was 5:40 and I was determined to eat well and kept to my fueling-every-45-min routine.  I stuffed myself with Oskri Bars and Pro Bars, as well as some of Sarah's heavily salted broiled baby potatoes.  Baby potatoes are heaven sent for a runner who has missed lunch and hasn't stopped since breakfast. Take note.

This week will be filled with getting the house ready to list.  It will be a struggle to get my runs in, which might mean some awfully early I'm off to bed!