Saturday, August 7, 2010

18 Miler in the Gowlland Tod and some early morning runs and my core dilemma

Wow - This post has been in the making for three weeks now. I can't believe it has taken me this long to write about my running exploits. School is definitely heating up as I prep for my candidacy and try to get my research rolling in the right direction.

To begin three weeks ago I cranked out an 18 mile run in the beautiful and scenic Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, in anticipation for a 50km run on the Juan De Fuca. This is the first time I ran the full "Half Monte" course which is 25 km, and then I threw another 3 miles distance in due to a wrong turn to add some significant elevation and get me really good and tired. I was running for over 3 hours without a break and ran with my hydration pack I had bought earlier this Spring (Click here to see the southern 7.1 miles of the course, this was a new course added to the gutbuster series this year but I think they had to change it due to use restrictions). This run was really a great one. I first ascended a major hill that really only flattens out once or twice along the way for a few hundred meters over several miles. I was able to run this first major stretch without hiking or walking and all my hill training really gave me deep hill climbing reserves to draw from. I summited Jocelyn and took in the amazing views and reached the next stretch which is a descent to the base of Holmes peak, a short but sweet little climb. I chose this day to run because I had cloud cover and even though I was running at mid day I never over-heated. I summited Holmes easily and my legs still felt great as I approached the six mile mark in a little over an hour. I ran to the turn-around point at Caleb's Pike and began to retrace my trail. I decided to summit Holmes again even thought the Monty bypasses the summit on the return trip I believe. I was still feeling strong. As I approached Jocelyn again, the course takes a different trail then the one you come in on, so I thought I had turned onto the correct trail I needed but really I was on a little side trail that leads out of the park via a steep descent. Well 10 minutes later I realized I made a 1.5 mile super descent in the wrong direction, so I had to regain the ridge by a 1 mile 1000 foot climb, now I had been running for over 15 miles and my legs finally started to break down (it is amazing how fast you can descend on a wrong trail and before you know it 10 minutes turns into a mile and a half, and then you have to turn around and climb the hill that was so easy to coast down previously). After regaining the ridge I began to crash a little and could tell that I was a bit short on calories. I shuffled along and finished all the uphill and flat stuff at the top and just had the final couple miles descent. This typically is where I excel but my legs were toast and I found myself gingerly picking a nice controlled trot down the hill instead of blasting down it like I normally would. I got to my car in a little over three hours but that included several scenic stops and breaks to take in the views and relax in the cool wind. I was stoked with the run and thought it was perfect to push myself distance-wise and help me understand how I handle longer distances in rough terrain a little better.

The awesome thing about this trail system is just how little use it gets. I have been on this trail a dozen times and have never observed more than perhaps 10 hikers in one day and in the case of this run I only saw two. Sometimes I worry that if I ate it really hard, like a broken/sprained ankle, it may be hours before I could find someone with a phone or who could help. If this trail system was only 25 minutes from the Wasatch Front I assume there would be 100's of hikers on it a day. I feel that many Victorians don't take advantage of the awe-inspiring trails and parks they have at their doorstep, maybe because of just how surrounded by wilderness they are. Perhaps you have to live in the desert to appreciate amazing trails and forests that are so accessible. Another great thing about this run is the views. You start near sea level and climb straight up to almost 1500 feet where you catch expansive views of the Saanich Inlet, a small arm of the ocean that splits the southern end of the island into two pieces. Another awesome thing about this trail is it is purely narrow rocky, rooty single track. I really can't talk this run up enough. It is worth the 25 minute drive to get there. In the future I think I can tack some more distance in the form of adding a double crossing of Mount Work and also Mount Finlayson making a total of 4 peaks climbed twice each and nearly a Marathon in distance and perhaps 10,000' of accumulated elevation (perhaps over estimated in elevation and distance but it would be significant none-the-less). So that is a goal I am aiming to do. I would expect that trip to take over 5 hours and even closer to 6 based on my current fitness and speed but it could perhaps be run in 4 hours by an elite. I have never heard of anyone actually doing this in one go, it would be a really great training run for a long hilly mountain ultra.

I have also started to run earlier in the morning instead of the evening. This means getting up at 5:00. I had a great run on Mount Doug the other day at 6:00 am. I was cruising in my usual direction in the early dawn light and within a km found myself surround by a symphony of sounds that I don't typically hear in the evening. Two owls with there deep hoots were calling back and forth across the trail and it was super eerie to run right through their hooting in the light fog and morning glow. As I climbed Irvine I began to hear white tail deer grunting perhaps a precursor to the rut. It was the first time I have ever heard deer. It was amazing. There was a whole cornucopia of sound I seldom hear. I really was in awe of the amount of wildlife in the park. I only ever notice the deer but there is so much more active wildlife in the morning. One of my early morning runs found clouds over Belingham to the East but a sliver in the clouds allowed the rising sun to only be seen by its reflection off the ocean and quite literally looked as if it was DESCENDING from the strand line of the water and land (like an upside down sunrise) instead of rising. I am going to try to keep my morning runs going since it allows me to be more flexible in my evenings with my family and studies. I am more tired though and have to go to bed by about 11 or I am hooped.

So I have had a "core dilemma" ever since I had part of my ab muscle removed in 2005. My Doc told me that no physical therapy would be needed since you use your core a lot and it rehabilitates itself. Well I took him at his word and didn't really do anything to strengthen it. In fact I have done almost zero targeted core work since my surgeries 5 years ago. Prior to my surgeries I had an insane core, I remember when I was 18 doing 2,000 various crunches and ab exercises in one go just to see what it would take to reach exhaustion. I think that for the last five years I have just assumed I still have that sort of core strength to draw from. I DO NOT! I tried a 15 minute ab workout the other day because anytime I run far it is my core that fails not legs. Within seven minutes into the workout I was thrashed. It took everything I had to do the 25 reps of each exercise. I had to stop in places just so I could finish my reps. In the end I can't believe how entirely weak my core is. The next three days I paid a steep price and couldn't laugh or sit up without killing myself. My conclusion is I have a core dilemma that is going to take many many hours of work to fix. I can't believe how weak my core is and that I haven't really thought about the repercussions of being gutted like a fish and having ab muscle removed. Wish me luck because I have some serious work to do and I almost can't stand the thought of assaulting my core like that again but it should become a 3 time a week ordeal at least. Yikes!! I can't believe how weak I am!

This is just a taste of my running over the past three weeks and though school is almost too much to balance in my running currently I am still trying to force in some miles and get strong. It is really a battle of will at this point because it is taking everything I have to get things done in all facets of my life due to my workload. A PhD is a daunting undertaking and I am not sure that I fully comprehended what it would take. It is a significant step up from a masters.

The song I am including today is "Ghost White" by Swedish Synthpop band Rupesh Cartel. I have loved this song for years now. It is melancholy and yet upbeat at the same time. It is an interesting juxtaposition I think. I have a great acoustic version but can't find a vid to embed. The original is great anyways. I don't know if because I am Swedish I am genetically engineered to like music coming out of Sweden but I find I have a large collection of artists from the homeland. I hope it expands your musical vocab a little!