Friday, August 28, 2009

4 years post-op since total proctocolectomy and J-pouch procedure

It has been about 4 years since I had my final of two surgeries used to remove my large intestine and created a new reservoir (the J-pouch) out of my lower small intestine. I can't believe that it has been that long. It is one of those experiences that while in the midst of the drama you can't picture life outside of your current unpleasant circumstances.
I think I started having irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis (UC) like symptoms since I was 14. I believe that possible stress from dealing with my Dad's cancer and death may have been a trigger to a pre-existing disposition towards UC. I had no idea what was wrong, and would have stomach pains and discomfort off and on. I would complain about some sort of soreness but never really pushed the matter. I think it crept up on me so gradually that I just adapted to the symptoms and considered them the norm. I think the first time I really noticed that something was wrong was when I was 17 years old and hiking with Tim and Bradford in Southfork looking for my Dad's old mines. We got up there fine and everything was great, but then I started having major abdominal pain and problems. I got super sick and nearly fainted. The guys were great and helped me off the mountain (even attempting to make a stretcher), we made it down in one piece even though we ended up getting stalked by a cougar for the remaining 5 miles of the hike (a whole different story). Later symptoms were misdiagnosed as a hernia and a torn groin muscle basically everything but UC. It was frustrating for me because I was uncomfortable and knew something wasn't right but the doctors couldn't find anything, so I felt like a wuss and would just deal with it. I was really naive to the whole illness thing I seldom got sick but when I did it was usually nasty (but I did get fake sick off and on through junior high and High school). Finally in October of 1999 I started seeing blood. The first time you hit the lou and notice blood you kind of panic and run through your head what could be causing it. To make a long story short I went in for a sigmoidoscopy, a smallish fiber optic type camera used to view the large intestine. What an absolute miserable half hour. I laid there on my side and watched the second hand ever so slowly tick, and occasionally I swear, it wouldn't move at all. The diagnosis came back as UC and I was given some sulfasalazine tablets and was told that UC is quite common and easy to maintain with a few meds. I took the Dr.'s word for it and went on my merry way. Well things just nose dived. While serving in England my health really took a bomb and I began to have to use the bathroom 20+ times a day loosing ounces of blood each time. I kept a positive attitude and tried not to mention anything. 6 months over seas and I finally decided I needed to see someone. The socialized medicine was such that someone in my condition was put on a 6 month waiting list since it wasn't that pressing. This was unacceptable and I opted to go to a private Dr. 10,000 quid later and a rigid sigmoidoscopy while awake, and I was told the inflammation was pretty severe and steroids (prednisone) was needed. They started me on my first prednisone doses, and I started a seven year journey of prednisone induced side effects. Some effects included extreme hunger, unstable emotions, sweating, elevated heart rate, insomnia, skin problems (like welts and pits). The drug was terrible but appeared to take care of my symptoms. I would pop a high dose of say 65 mg's and as soon as I was well I would taper off from them. Immediately I would start bleeding again and have a lapse when I was off the steroids. It was apparent that this was a battle best fought in the States. I headed home with the hopes of serving elsewhere at a later date, but I was still naive to just how serious this illness can be to those of us who don't respond to meds.
I found a gastroenterologist at the U and began a series of tests that were beyond medieval torture. I had hoses shoved through my nose past my stomach into my small intestine and then was injected with barium until barium backed up into my stomach making the most violent projectile vomit session I have ever had. I drank gallons of barium while strapped to a table and flipped upside down while a paddle squished the barium all around. All of this while being exposed to huge doses of radiation. I had my first of what would become an almost bi monthly colonoscopy. When all of this torture was completed it was discovered that sure enough I have UC. I was put back on steroids including an enema form of the steroid (a most unpleasant medication). Once again I would roller-coaster through the flare ups and remissions of the disease. Finally it was determined that I am one of a small percentage of people who don't respond well. I began to take various pills of differing doses and ratios. At one point I was taking 35 pills a day. Each pill had its own side effects. I did not take these pills as good as I should have but was fairly on the ball. Still nothing worked. They decided to try immunosuppressive therapy and I began to take similar meds that heart-transplant patients take to prevent the body’s immune system from rejecting the transplant. Only in my case it was my large intestine that my immune system was fighting and my body was very effective at killing it.
During this entire phase of pill popping, I realized there was no chance of serving again so I got a job. I then courted my wife and was married a year later. I started school and began to excel academically. Outwardly I looked fine; you would have absolutely no idea just by looking at me that I was loosing cups of blood a day, often using the bathroom in excess of 30 times a day 15 of which were during the night. I seldom could sit through a 50 minute lecture and not have to high tail it to the loo. The worst part was that when the urge hit me I had only a minute to make it to the bathroom or I was toast (too many stories here to go into for this post). It was a challenge but humans are amazingly adaptive creatures and I began to adjust to my life of pills and pit stops. My energy was extremely low and I was experiencing anemia. I was loosing weight but my steroids caused retention of water so I looked fat. It killed my self image and it was difficult to not get a little depressed, but I focused on my studies and obsessed over my grades and I would not settle for anything but the highest mark in every class and on every exam. I think that I used my education to redefine me and build up my self esteem again. I was still loosing the war that was fought behind bathroom doors. I fell in love with Geology and ditched several other degrees I was previously pursuing (genetic epidemiologist, radiologist, orthopedic surgeon). I found my love of outdoors and interest in the natural sciences made geology the only fit, not to mention my years of prospecting and treasure hunting with my brother.
I finally was fed up with my gastro and changed to one Tim suggested I go to. It was the smartest thing I could have done. He did more tests perhaps my 15th colonoscopy and concluded that my UC wasn't going to kill me but all the meds I was taking would. He suggested surgery. The very thought of it seemed out of question. I was set to graduate school in just under 4 years from start to finish and I was really excelling. I had a nice internship James had gotten for me at the county, and Vye was expecting our first. The Dr. mentioned that my disease was killing me and my quality of life was terrible. It was true. I was struggling to stay focused at school or my job. I was exhausted and fought every morning to get out of bed and do another day. Unless you lived with me, though, you would assume I was perfectly healthy and all was well. It was challenging to not have anyone understand me. I was super sick and was on terrible medication, I had elevated myself as an aspiring geologist to a point that I no longer could discuss my interests with average students; I began to feel quite isolated and alone.
I decided to try one last effort with the meds to see if something more drastic could work. It was about this time that I began to feel the first impulses to become a distance trail runner. I would run with James at lunch and found it to be a ray of light in a fairly dark place. The medication we chose was a batch of leukemia chemotherapy meant to destroy the immune system. I could not get sick or I could be hospitalized or worse. I started taking the new chemotherapy. It was awful! I went from struggling to focus, to someone who was struggling to function. My energy went from bad to worse and I found that running became a chore. A defining moment came as I was studying for a math exam in June of 2005, I had finally reached my breaking point. I could not do one more day in the condition I was in. I was a shattered fragment of my former self. I couldn't study for my math exam because of my fatigue and I wouldn't settle for a poor mark. I called up my Gastro and said lets do the surgery. I was scheduled to meet up with my surgeon Dr. Foley a few days later. He took one look at me and asked when the last time I left the house or functioned normally was. I told him I work and go to school everyday. He was shocked that I was able to live my life in as poor condition I was in. He scheduled my surgery for 2 weeks from our first visit July 7th. A part of me felt like I was giving up the battle like I was defeated, but another part of me was relieved. My body was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I was ready to move on. Vye was 4 months pregnant at the time.
I was told what the surgery entailed. It involved a complete removal of the large intestine, the gallbladder, and appendix. A J-pouch would be created by doubling up the bottom 12 inches of my small intestine cutting the separating wall, and in a sense creating a double wide pouch, and then attaching it to the rectum. Part of the small intestine would be pulled through my abdomen for 6 weeks as a temporary loop ileostomy while my new pouch healed. The Dr. was frank with me, "This is going to suck! You will feel terrible and look worse. It may take months or years to fully recover". He mentioned I would loose tons of weight, and my appearance will be less than attractive. I didn't care I was ready.
I will skip ahead for any of you still following my rambling dialogue written during a bout of insomnia.
The day before the surgery I had to flush my system out one last time. After doing flushing processes dozens of times before, I was not going to be sad to see it stop. After a restless night with thoughts of complications and what if I die? I will leave a wife and child behind etc. You know your typical uplifting pre surgery thoughts. The next morning came and I gathered my things in a bag and we were off. I was really nervous in the waiting room and was nearly pacing. An older woman crept in the office and demanded she receive a colonoscopy immediately from my Surgeon and she tried to bump me. Luckily the nurses hurried me into the prep room and struggled to start an IV in my nervous and dehydrated body. Finally getting my IV started, I sat with my wife for a few minutes. Her eyes were red and she had her fake, I am trying to be brave face on, but she really looked absolutely frightened. Dr. Foley came in and said he was ready. I told my mom and kissed Vye good-bye and locked eyes with Vye until I was around the corner and out of site. The thoughts crossing my mind were very sharp. I remember thinking this is the last time I will have this non scarred tummy, and when I come to I am going to be in a world of pain like I have never experienced. I was not scared just realizing that there was no turning back. This was it, my life was going to change at this exact point and time, I hoped for the better. I was placed under the bright lights and a group of 4 people began to prep me. First they placed foam wedges under my sides and then placed large Velcro straps over my arms and legs. I was pinned and claustrophobic. The anesthesiologist came in and said he was ready to give me my meds. He injected a shot into my IV and instantly the world began to spin and distort. I instantly had a violent allergic reaction and began to projectile vomit. I was strapped down and couldn't turn on my side to prevent the vomit from going back in my throat. The last thing I remember is a bumpy trachea tube being shoved down my trachea while nurses applied pressure to my trachea externally, I was still coherent, and then darkness...
When my eyes opened I was quickly aware of where I was. I could hear nurses scurrying about and I could hear a very annoying moan. I soon realized the moan was coming from my own voice box and a nurse asked me my pain on a scale of 1-10. I think I mumbled something like 50. She hit me with a couple of doses of pain meds in my IV and gave me a button that was on a timer so I could administer my own meds. I think I pushed it thousands of times in those first few minutes. 10 minutes later the nurse came in and asked my pain and I said 10. The nurse said as sweetly as possible "I can't make all the pain go away, you will get used to it honey". Yikes!!! This was not the sort of thing you get used to. You can get used to discomfort easy enough but full on abdominal gutted from sternum to pelvis and from one side to the belly button was not easy to get used to. I was soon wheeled into my room and four people grabbed the corner of my sheets and hefted me onto my new bed. At this point I was wondering where my wife was. After what seemed like forever I heard her and my mom's voices coming down the hall. They had been given the wrong room number, and were wondering where I was.
The hospital was challenging. I read a ton. I didn't watch any TV and mainly just liked to have Vye by my side while I read hundreds of pages a day. The time in the hospital went slowly and I longed to get out of there. I was absolutely not hungry. I never wanted food. I was in shock that they wanted me standing the first day and walking within 12 hours of the surgery. Like the nurse said I became used to the pain and it wasn't too bad. My temporary ileostomy bag would fill up with blood and bile in a few hours and getting used to the whole bag changing thing was a nightmare. There is so much about this experience I would like to share but I think I should wrap up this lengthy post.
I ended up going home 10 days later and stayed with Rich and Tracy since I needed constant care and Vye had to go back to work. I really hit a low spot on my second night out of the hospital. I was unable to eat or drink anything and I was withering away. Finally my mom decided Vye needed some sleep but she was convinced that I might pass away in the night so she stayed awake watching me the entire night out of fear that I would kick over. The following day I went back to the hospital and was told if I didn't eat I was going back in the ICU. I went back to my brothers house and began to sip some ensure. It wasn't until I cranked my Depeche Mode Exciter Tour DVD that I finally felt my body make the shift to recovery. I was 103 lbs and looked like mister Burns from the Simpsons.
I tried to go to work two weeks later but it was nearly impossible. My first attempt ended with my bag exploding all over, and James had to rush me home. What an embarrassment. I think I had given everyone a false sense of timing for when to expect me to be up and mobile again. I said two weeks but I never did feel well enough to do much during that 6 week period between surgeries or six weeks after. Little did I know that my ileostomy had a hole, and it was slowly leaking acid into my abdomen, ultimately ending in the removal of part of my lower right ab muscle.
The second surgery was miserable because I knew what to expect. I was completely wasted from my previous surgery. The worst part about the second surgery was when my small intestine finally woke up from surgery. The pain was excruciating for weeks. It felt like a terrible ripping sensation as my new pouch tried to take on the responsibilities of the large intestine. I didn't want to eat because it meant terrible pain for hours afterwards. Well time went by and I began to heal. It took about 1 year before I felt well again. It took several more years to really get a grasp on this whole pouch thing.
Four years later since the second surgery and I am in some of the best health I have ever been in. I will never go back to how I was before the disease but my quality of life has improved drastically. The surgery was worth every bit of pain and suffering. I still use the lou much more than the average person. I have bad days and even bad weeks when things aren't functioning properly. Now I finally feel like I am in control of my health again. I am accomplishing things with my pouch that many healthy adults can't or won't do, such as long distance running. I am not positive, but I may be the first person to run a 100 mile trail event with a J-pouch. I have finished my degree in the top of my class and I am well into my PhD studies at UVic. Life is good and these struggles have forged me into a stronger more appreciative version of my previous self. I feel I would never have done as well in school if I didn't have something to prove (e.g. I can graduate first in my class with good marks while dealing with a terrible disease). I don't think I would be striving to run 100 milers if I didn't want to prove that I can do anything that anyone else can do. I love to prove to myself that I am capable against all odds.
This experience allowed me to read literally tens of thousands of pages of many different sorts of books. It was a great experience. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, but I feel I have taken a difficult situation and turned it into many strengths. This life is marvelous and to fully experience the lows and the pains, is to make the rest of your life experiences much more flavorful and meaningful. I am happy with my life UC battle and all, and I am proud of what I was able to accomplish in spite of my many challenges. I truly am blessed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A little over a month of serious training!

I just passed my month mark (20th) of seriously training. In the past I have yo-yo'd in mileage from almost no running to about 50 miles. This last month was the first time I have ever tried hitting weekly distance/time goals. I am using a training program that running coach phenom Aurthur Lydiard came up with through experimenting on himself, and used the techniques on his athletes. The gist of it is to obtain as high an aerobic threshold as possible through maximum mileage bombardment week after week. His suggestion is 100 miles a week. He calls this phase "conditioning". The goal is simply to: grow new capillaries, strengthen the heart, improve running form and efficiency, burn fat efficiently, and improve pulmonary O2 uptake. By running this kind of weekly distance your speed and times slowly increase as your body slowly makes the changes necessary to maintain the distance. As you run as hard as your aerobic ability allows you to each week you improve and you raise your aerobic threshold. You now start your more specialized training such as hills and interval work once the proper base is laid. I won't go into the details of these following steps because I hope to limit my anaerobic training until late winter and early spring.

This week saw me extending my weekend run by 4Km which is small but I do not want to risk injury at this point. Ultimately I would like to be running two marathons a week. This will occur some time in November. Perhaps I will run a marathon or even a 50 Km run on Wednesday and Saturday. The other day's will see the distance spread over easy recovery runs and hard aerobic capacity runs and I will have to run several times a day a few days a week and no breaks except on a rest week every three weeks. My rest weeks will perhaps be 50-75 Km and will be more for psychological reasons but perhaps I will not even do them.

I feel that these distances are manageable. I just rounded the horn and am half way to my weekly mileage. This distance came fairly easily with little trouble I saw my speeds increase as well. I must admit by the end of the week I was noticing my muscles (hamstrings, shins and lower calves) breaking down a bit and getting sore. Today (Monday) will be a rest day to help recover for the upcoming 90 Km week.

Calories are getting harder to keep up with. I burned over 5300 calories last week which basically means, I need to eat about 2.6 extra days worth of food (calories) a week, to keep up my weight. So far I am doing well and only get really hungry a few times a week. I worry about our grocery bill come November when I will most likely be burning 12,000 calories a week or 6 days worth of Calories on top of the weekly 14,000 to maintain weight. A lot of these Calories will come in a liquid form on my long runs. I will start experimenting with nutrition as my long runs approach 3 hours.

I have some great trails I would like to run on this winter and I am really anxious to start nailing 3-6 hour runs. This is the aspect of ultra that is most enticing to me. I look forward to long stretches of solitary running on single track, through some of the most "Rave Run Friendly" territory in the world with just my thoughts. I have found that it is during these long runs that I really relieve stress, solve problems, work on my thesis and research ideas, I plan my future and think about strategies for running 100 milers.

I must admit as I am writing this I want to run I am finding it more and more challenging to take rest days and the week is fast approaching where I won't be able to take a rest day and still achieve my goals. Distance trail running is amazing and has completely solved some of my problems with stress, insomnia, and it has improved my overall outlook on life and has added a very exciting facet of adventure to my already adventurous life.

Monthly Highlights

Total Distance = 261.5 Km or 162.5 Miles
Total Run Time = 24 hours +/- an hour
Total Calories burned = 17,258
Avg. Starting Weight = 143.2 (144.8 Max)
Avg. Finishing Weight = 140.4 (139.0 Min)
Avg. Sleep Duration = 5.9 Hours
Avg. Time since last meal = 1.7 Hours
Avg. Pre-run fluids = 770 ml
Avg. Post-run fluids = 600 ml

Weekly Highlights

Total Distance = 81.02 Km or 50.5 Miles
Total Time ran = 7:19:45 Hours
Total Calories = 5321
Avg. Pace Kms = 5:43
Avg. Pace Miles = 9:11

Positives this week

  • I ran a PR on my 14.48 Km loop in spite of running through a patch of stinging nettle, to circumnavigate some old dog walkers who were clogging the trail. They are hard of hearing and walk side by side making a pass impossible, and if you are trying to make a good time your only option is to bushwhack. They always say sorry as you run past. The stinging nettle actually gave me a little pep towards the end of the run. The stinging skin was easy to focus on taking the spotlight off my tired legs. Perhaps I will start hitting myself with nettle whenever I need a little extra kick.
  • I ran a 19 Km run on Saturday, it was tiring but not too bad and I recovered fast running 15 Km's the following day.
  • I stayed injury free and felt fairly fresh most of the week.
  • Met and surpassed my weekly mileage goal.

No challenges to report, it was a smooth week!

My pace slowed down a bit, but I am only interested in improving my time on my feet and not getting injured. All the durations of my runs were long (+14 km) with the exception of a 4 K I did with Vye and the kids Friday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

5000 meter race report

Warming up with Rob before the race.
The start of the race entering the first turn. I'm in the back and Robs up front.
Exiting the final turn just after making my final push.
Running by Vye on the final stretch.
Crossing the finish line at 0:21:30

Friday evening was my 5000 meter track event. It consisted of 3 heats of runners of various skill levels. I was in the first heat, or the heat for those who were going to run slower than 18 minutes. They had a 16-18 minute heat and then an elite, faster than 16 minute heat. This was a great opportunity for me to practice my speed and get an official 5000 meter time so I can have a base to compare my progress against throughout my training schedule this year. This was also a great excuse to immerse myself in the running culture, which is such a big part of Victoria, and to watch some phenomenal runners compete. There were some amazing athletes and Olympians there including: Jon Brown, Victoria (UK), 3 x Olympian, UK 10,000m record holder, 5,000m personal best 13:19, marathon best 2:09; Sean Chester, Chemanius/Victoria, UVic Alumni, World Mountain Running Championships competitor 2008; Cam Levins of Black Creek (Campbell River), Southern Utah University Div 1 NCAA Athlete, 14:19 personal best; and one of the spectators was Simon Whitfield the gold at Sydney and silver at Beijing Olympian in the triathlon. This race had some awesome international talent. I was super stoked to be amongst greatness.

I showed up a little after 5 so that I had an hour and a half to warm up and get prepped for the race. I had never ran on a track so this was a first for me. I am used to trails, rocks, and mud. I was excited to increase my depth of running, and I was interested to see how I would like racing on a track. My running partner Rob showed up a little after 5:30 so we decided to start warming up while the race was getting set up. We started out just walking around the track once and followed it up with a slow jog at about a 2:45 lap time. We then walked a lap and ran another 2:15 lap. We registered and got our electronic ankle bands and numbers (I was 1815) a good number I thought. We then ran 2 laps at 2:00 minutes each. This would be a 25 minute 5000 if I could maintain it. It felt manageable and I thought that 25 minutes would be very achievable. Rob talked me through some strategies and what to expect. He mentioned that the first lap will feel really uncomfortable and that my heart will be pounding in my chest. He told me to just relax and focus on hitting my goal times which at first were just 2 minutes a lap.

It was almost 6:30 and all 15 runners began to congregate at the starting line on the back straight away. I was a little nervous but not nearly as bad as I had been earlier in the day, the warm-up helped cool my jitters and my task began to come into focus. They went through a role call and talked us through the procedures and then they said that the faster guys (those expecting to finish in the low 18's) should line up front. I instantly found my place in the back, whereas Rob hopped up front. They counted down and said GO!! I felt my body lurch forward in a slight delayed reaction but soon found my pace. Everyone was in a tight group ahead of me and I was in the second lane through the first turn. The pace was quick, I couldn't believe it! It was much faster than 2:00 minute laps. I instantly began to realize I needed to come up with some sort of game plan to be happy with my performance. The group began to stretch out and I saw Rob ahead of me several positions. I have been running with Rob for 8 months and he is a very calculating and consistent runner. He also lives for the 10 Km run so I feel he was my best chance at getting a good time. I quickly caught him through a difficult and slight increase in effort. My blood was really pumping and my body had no idea why I was forcing it to run so fast. My body is used to slow long runs and this fast pace felt unnatural. I focused on Rob's back and positioned myself 2 paces behind him. I visualized a chord connecting us together and I was determined not to let that chord stretch or break. The first few laps saw this as a very difficult challenge. I was in last place and the pace was ridiculously fast. I began to tell myself that I am a distance runner and that my ability to endure is what I am strongest at, and so I just needed to hang in there and I would find my wind. Around lap 3 we passed a woman who's pace had slowed, and this was a sign that we were maintaining our speed and our stamina. It was a boost of confidence to know I was no longer in the last spot. The most challenging spot of the whole run occurred at about the half way mark. Between lap 5 and 7 I really had to fight to keep that two pace distance between me and Rob. I would feel the gap widen and instantly I would grit my teeth and push with all my might to tighten the gap back up. This was the story for those three laps. Slip back and fight forward. I reminded myself to run loose and noticed the last 6 laps had slowly tightened my upper body. I forced some relaxation and kept trying to run efficient and strong. Lap 8 came and my body finally accepted the fact that I was going to be going this pace for the duration and I was going to ignore all signals to slow down. This marked a turning point in the comfort and effort of the run. From this point on my pace was strong and maintained and I no longer fell back I was now in perfect unison with Rob. We maintained a trance like pace of 1:45 laps through almost the entire race. We were running consistent and weren't slowing at all. It was at this time that we passed a second woman who couldn't keep up her previous pace for the full distance. I now was settled into the event and was intently focused internally. I often thought that I would be so utterly bored when running on a track because of the countless loops of unchanging scenery. This was not the case. I was so focused on my legs, pace, breathing, form, and a million other things that I didn't have any time to notice my surroundings. To let my focus slip would be devastating to my whole race. I remember passing the 10th lap mark and realized I was feeling great. I knew I had enough to keep up the speed I was running and I even began to strategize where and how I would give my final push. The 11th lap was spent sitting right on Robs heels and I suddenly felt my wind come on. I typically, on any training run, don't feel good or find my wind until about 4 or 5 km into the workout. I now felt those same effects take hold and I sensed my body lurch forward with new vigor. I was tempted to start my sprint a full lap early but I held it off and decided it would be unwise. We passed a third woman and now we were on the last lap of the race. I rounded the second to last turn and began to intently focus on how I was feeling. I felt good and knew I had fuel in the tanks still. I had to force myself to hold back. Finally I was at the half lap to go mark and I couldn't hold my body any longer. It began to speed up. I was surprised how easily the speed came to me. I passed Rob half way through the last bend and found the inside rail. I kept waiting for him to take off during the previous few laps but he never changed his pace. I then knew I had to really crank because he would be turning on the speed at any second. I am sure he wasn't too thrilled to be seeing my back. I came out of the turn and felt my pace slow as a slight dizziness began to take hold. I now had less than 90 meters to go. I suddenly heard Vye yelling for me to "pick it up, pick it up" which meant Rob was making a rally. I felt a third wind and I sprinted to the finish line. I had done it. I had no idea what my time was. I was so focused I didn't look at the clock or my watch. I felt a slight dizziness and little queasiness in my stomach but quickly walked it off. I found my family and was superproud. I had run way better than I expected. I have only been training for three and a half weeks and I have been building distance that whole time. I was super happy with my performance. Rob and his wife Pam came to see us and Pam told me my official time was 0:21:30! Rob was 1 or 2 seconds behind me. I know that the only reason I did this well was because of Rob's consistent and strong pace. If he was not there I may have finished minutes slower perhaps closer to my 25 minute race like I initially predicted.

The night was only 1/3 over there was still two heats to go. We all flocked to the starting line and watched the second heat start. It was amazing to see these athletes consistently run 1:15 laps. There was a competitive finish in the second heat but the elite heat belonged completely to Sean Chester a competitor of the World Mountain Running Championships in 2008. He was awesome to watch and consistently ran 1:06 mins per lap.

It was a great time, I have some huge expectations and lofty goals for myself, but I feel I will be running this event in the high teens next year. I am excited to see where I will be then. It was an amazing experience and I learned I could definitely run track events, and will do so in the future. Running this race was so different from my many trail runs but was new and exciting and I couldn't stop beaming all night and into the next day. The crowds were great and though I took 10th I still got words of encouragement from elite runner's from around the world. I loved the experience and can't wait to race some more!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Week # 3 It is great to run Mt. Doug again

This last week was a great week for running. I cranked out some great mileage and started running on Mount Doug again. Mount Doug is an amazing chunk of rock to run on. It has over 15 miles of single track trails. The trails are varied from soft, wide, and flat to rocky, rooty and steep. I think I can do just about any work out I'd wish on the mountain, from speed work and intervals to hills and long distance. Since I have moved to UVic it is a bit further away. It takes 2.5 miles or about 4 km of running just to get to the trails. Once I run to the mountain from my house, I have been running a very simple trail that circum-navigates the base of the mountain for now. It is a simple route with little elevation and steepness but it is just right while I am building my base. In a couple of weeks I will start incorporating the full 11 km Mount Doug Gutbuster route (almost 20Km total distance round trip from my house) once a week and then twice etc. It is a nice way to snag 20 Km on, and has everything I need to build my endurance and increase my trail running skills. There is something about running there that gives me extra incentive and enjoyment out of each workout.

Last Tuesday I was running the base loop around Doug. It is awesome when you experience those runs where everything seems to click. You feel like you got enough sleep, you are hydrated and have plenty of carbs to draw off from. Starting this run I knew it was going to be a strong run, I just had a rest day prior to the run. I started out with a nice pace and every step came easily. I flew through the road section (always my least favorite part of my runs, in my opinion roads are a necessary evil to get to the trails), I reached the trail and my body took off. This seems to happen to me about once a month when I am running hard and consistent. I will experience what I term a "perpetual run". This can be defined by the fact that you experience tremendous output from your legs, lungs and heart, with very little effort or input. It is like you are being pulled through the course, or your legs are like wheels rolling down an undulating slope. It is really hard to explain but always accompanies a runner's high. Perhaps it has to do with the release of endorphins and other chemicals, but it also has to do with an absolute adoration of the current run. The conditions were perfect. It was sunset and a perfect 18C (65 degrees). The packed soil was parched from the dry Summer, but still felt spongy underfoot due to the accumulation of organic debris. The August sun was a flaming orb hovering just above the horizon, only visible through the occasional break in the canopy. The sun cast ochre and crimson stripes across the path while the Douglas Firs and Garey Oaks stretched their elongate shadows eastward. My feet seemed to dance over blisters of diorite breaking the organic rich soil, and tiptoed over the thousands of rope-like roots strewn across the trail. I reached the highest point of the run and then felt the welcome pull of gravity speeding up my already rapid pace. The Earth now spun herself between me and the sun and the welcome dusk took hold of the peaceful mountain. My only spectators were the white tail deer that frequent the mountain, trails and road during the magical hours at twilight. They seemed particularly unaffected by my presence that night. I was really cruising and my legs felt awesome. I almost felt like I was floating with my feet barely making contact with the trail. Before I knew it my trail run was finished. I gave a strong effort on the road run home and made good time. I felt amazing. It was great to be back on my favorite trails.

Since that run I have made 4 attempts at the time I made that night and I couldn't get within 3 minutes of it. Last night (Tuesday 12th) I finally smashed my previous time by two minutes. There was a major difference from last nights P.R. and the previous one. Last night every second and every meter was hard earned and took crazy amounts of effort. I never felt good the whole run but I was really pushing. Lastly I didn't get a runner's high until I saw my watch at the end of the run and realized I had broke my previous record by over a minute!

My first track event is on Friday. I am going to take the next two days off and go into the run with fresh legs. It should be a ton of fun. I will be last, no doubt in my mind. I am not a 5000 meter track runner, I will be wearing trail shoes, and I just finished a 3 week building session from 50 to 70 km. I hope to run it next year and blow this year's time out of the water at that point I should be peaking for my Ultra Event and have thousands of training miles under my belt. That being said it will be a ton of fun and I am excited for my family to see me run. Once I get lapped a few times you won't even be able to tell I am last place. It should be a good time a fun way to grab 5Km and exciting to be competing with great runners.

Here are some stats from the last week.


Total Distance = 66.12 Km (41.08 miles)
Total Running time = 6:23:10 hrs
Avg Pace Km = 5:45 mins
Avg Pace Miles = 8:56 mins
Total Calorie burn = 4351
Avg Starting weight = 143.0
Avg Post-run weight = 140.4


  • Without a doubt running on Mount Doug again
  • The run in my above description
  • My mileage


  • My toe blisters are pretty bad
  • some shin splint issues/tight calves (They are doing better now)
  • Bad sleep schedule
What a great week. I am very happy with my progress and look forward to this rest week and race on Friday, but then get right back at my increased mileage next week.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Training week # 2 Mileage is pileing up

Another 7 days have gone by and I have now completed week two of my 58 week training schedule. I am feeling it. The miles this week piled up like a derailed freight train. I have ran 12 of the last 14 days. So I have only had two days to rest. The reality of adding another 100 km to what I ran this week is starting to set in. This is not going to be easy. Last nights run was my first run that my times actually didn't improve. This indicates that I am completely knackered. On Friday night I had insomnia until 4:00 AM another classic sign of over training. I am going to stay consistent and slow my runs down a hair rather than try to improve my times every day. It may be the speed not the duration that is burning me out. I am really happy that I have stuck to my training schedule for two weeks now. I have met my goals. I did have to change up my distance for each loop I have been running. Last week I was calling one loop 4.6 km and after thinking about it I realized I had overestimated the distance. I recalculated it based on a close guesstimation from map my run and some other peoples distances and I concluded my route is 4.1 km so 0.5 km shorter than previously thought. The repercussions are that my last week's distance of 51 km was wrong and I only ran 47. So this week I jumped from 47 (29 miles) t0 56 km (34 miles). A five mile jump in a week at these lower distances is significant and that has added to my tiredness. That also added time to my average pace. My running partner and his wife have been running with the youth so I started to join them on Saturday mornings along with Vye and the kids. We "jogged the bog" this Saturday which is a small 2.8 km loop around a swamp. It was a nice little jog with some walking and faster pace running. Overall it made for a slow run taking over 18 minutes to run the 2.8 km loop. This takes my average pace down quite a bit for the week. If you throw those times out though my average pace really improved this week by 12 seconds per Km and 30 seconds per mile. Here are some points about this week.

Week 2 Review


  • Total Distance = 56.1 Km (35 miles)
  • Total Time = 5:23:39 (47 minutes longer than last week)
  • Avg pace in mins per Km = 5:41 (5:53 last week)
  • Avg pace in mins per Mile = 8:59 (9:28 last week)
  • Total Calorie burn = 3728 (3110 last week and 3500 = 1 lb of fat)


  • Obtaining my goal distance of 56 km.
  • I ran with Vye and the kids twice this week.
  • I got a runner's high last night for the first time in months.
  • Improved my pace.
  • I could feel my body settling into the running routine and each run felt like it was not as difficult as last weeks.
  • My cough is just about gone.


  • I didn't wear my nylon base layer one day and obtained toe blisters and have had them since.
  • I got insomnia on Friday night and my times slowed this weekend indicating I am over trained.
  • I didn't run in the morning once this week.
  • THE HEAT! (It was fun though and a welcome challenge).
  • A tight or torn hamstring/glute that has hindered me since Feb, I really need to see a masseuse/physiotherapist.

Well I am happy with my training it is fun to start to finally get some data and I can start to watch my times improve and can compare various aspects of my 65 column spreadsheet. I feel I am walking that knife's edge between over trained and the safe maximum amount. Next week will really let me know if I am over trained or not. If my run times for the same distance increase and it is much harder to obtain the same distance and times, or my sleep is too disrupted I may need to back of for a few days and take a lower mileage rest week. I hope it doesn't come to that I have 61 glorious km to run next week.