Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week 1 training for an Ultramarathon

I finished the first week of my new training block for an ultramarathon. This first week was like the first week of any new block of training runs; some runs were great others were pitiful.

Monday found me running to the 47.5 meter (156 foot) tall Little Niagara Falls. A beautiful narrow cascade of water just off from the main road. Though it isn't as big or beautiful as it's more famous name sake, it still has a beauty and grandeur all its own. I then ran to and over the E&N train trestle that spans the Little Niagara creek gorge. Running on the 161 meter (529') high bridge with no rails and large gaps between the ties was really creepy. You would get vertigo and a bit dizzy. You can tell on the clip on this vlog that I am running very slowly and gingerly and even walking. I am not gonna lie it was unnerving. I would hate to get stuck half way on the bridge when the train came (think Stand by me). You would be in trouble. I then continued to some old mines on the Gold Mine trail and felt like I was running with ghosts. It was a great start to the week.

Tuesday saw me running an easy 7 miles on Mount Doug. You can read about it or see images on my last vlog post.

Wednesday was a flat five miler and was hot and not the best. I was a bit sleep and calorie deprived and very thirsty.

Thursday was a slow and painful 7 miles on Mount Doug with very leaden legs. I made it back in one piece but could feel the mileage from the previous runs piling up and definitely needed a rest.

Friday was a much needed rest day.

Saturday was my long run. I figured I would run two laps of my usual Mount Doug route but I ran so late that it got really dark on me. Just after passing the 8 mile mark I really rolled my ankle. One of those rolls that take you completely off guard. It hurt like crazy and for one split second I thought that was it, I was now going to be out for 6 weeks. Luckily my ankle recovered after some light running and I decided to quit while I was ahead.

All told I was aiming for 37 miles this week and ended with 33. I experienced the exhilaration of running under a waterfall, gingerly stepping on a 160 year old bridge suspended in space. I experienced some strong running with an easy and light pace, but I also experienced low lows. I had some slow labored heavy-footed runs where every step seemed a bit forced and clumsy. I ran in hot weather (relatively hot but not compared to many places currently east of here). I felt the jolt and disappointment of a really painful rolled ankle that brought my long run to a screeching halt. In short, I felt like someone training for a ultramarathon this week. What a great feeling!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

0-100 miles: Training for a Trail Ultra Day 1

I am constantly kicking around ideas to stay motivated and run consistently. Recently my friend Tim was up from Utah visiting me on Vancouver Island. We were discussing motivation techniques to aid in consistency, and I thought an idea to help me get back on track with my running goals would be to create a video blog (vlog) of what it takes for a slightly below average trail runner, that is currently out of shape and running inconsistently, to train up for a longer distance 50 or 100 mile Ultra.

I will record a few thoughts during one or several runs each week about what I am going through as I try to whittle my pathetic body into a beginning ultra-runner. The blog and idea are more for me than anybody else but I thought I would share so perhaps someone in a similar boat might see my experiment with long distance and hopefully learn from my mistakes.

The end result should allow me to run more consistently for the next 6 months to a year and hopefully will lead to a Ultra event of some sort.

Today's run was a 6-7ish mile run up and down and around Mount Douglas in Victoria. This is my usual venue for training. Tomorrow I will do a flat 5 miles.

Below is my first Vlog. I have to mention my voice can be quite monotone and boring. I often have to teach labs for my schooling and after each course the students evaluate you and you can read what they said about you later. I have to say I have been lucky to get great reviews but one student gave me a critique that follows "you are extremely passionate about geology, BUT... your monotone voice which lacks any sort of inflection makes it sound like you are quite bored, and as a result makes me think you are not as excited about it as you should be." I laughed and had to agree. I definitely have a weird monotone voice, so if this vlog puts you to sleep I apologize. Additionally I say um, uh, and so WAY too much. I am not a great orator but the idea is just to show others my life as I train for ultra distances through my eyes. It is a little uncomfortable putting myself out there like this but I will roll the dice and see what comes of it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Geoff Roes Running Times Movie Short

I found this movie on Krupicka's blog interviewing Geoff Roes for running times and I really enjoyed it. I really like how Roes is more interested in just running in the bush everyday and having an adventure rather than meeting some sort of time or mileage quota. I really can say, as I am sure many trail runners can, that it is this non-competitive connection with nature that really inspires me to run everyday. More important than mileage or distance or anything else for me is just the chance to get outside and run free and explore. It is definitely the journey for me that draws me to long distance trail running not so much the finish line. Props to Joel Wolpert for a job well done!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ben Lomond Utah Trail Running Video 2

I finally had a chance to gather up all my media and piece together my video from an attempt to run to the summit of Ben Lomond with my best friend Tim on July 2nd. You can read about the run and watch Tim's video here. My video isn't edited as well as I would have liked (issues with matching music and transitions etc) but I think it does a good job of showing what a great run it was even though we weren't quite able to summit!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trail Run up Bair Canyon Utah - following the "Bairgutsman" race route

Trail Followed for the run

During the end of June and the first week of July we traveled to Utah for a holiday. I had planned on running a couple of awesome runs with good friends. The extremely cold wet year eliminated the possibility of running the main route we had chosen so we had to get creative and find something new to run. To test how runnable the Northern Wasatch were and to see what options we had to replace our old run, I decided to take a test run up Bair Canyon which is the course for the Bairgutsman trail race, an 11-13 mile point to point trail race. I was running about 8 miles of the course and then running back so in total I was going to run 16 miles.

Starting at an elevation of 4800' the trail heads straight up Bair Canyon to the summit at 9,500' leaving the total elevation just shy of the 5,000' mark. I started the run at 5:30 a.m. hoping to beat the sun since I am use to running in the mild climate of the PNW. It was quite windy at the start but it was still fairly warm. I had some concerns about the high run-off that would make each of the four river crossings a bit dicey and I was also worried about the snow fields near the summit that were going to be treacherous to cross.

I started off at a nice clip and made it to the first river crossing very quickly. The river was high and frothy but it looked relatively safe. I jumped on in and felt the icy snow melt crash into my thighs. It ended up being quite simple to cross and I could tell I wouldn't have any issues crossing each of the subsequent crossings.

The trail had not seen many hikers past this first crossing this year and the trail began to be quite overgrown. Perhaps the most challenging aspect was the loads of stinging nettle that lined both sides of the trail due to the extremely wet conditions this year. I startled some campers who were sleeping on the side of the trail and weren't expecting to see anyone let alone at 6:00 a.m. I waved and crossed the river again and kept on cruising upwards.

I was also getting covered in hundreds of tiny silkworms that were dangling from the trees. Sometimes I would stop and pick hundreds of the little creatures off of me. Then I noticed a few other unwanted guests hitching a ride... Ticks! I picked several of those off my bare legs and then spent the remainder of the time in the trees and brush petrified of having to pick off ticks when I finished my run. I also began to notice cougar scat all over the trail and was a bit nervous, when a large sage grouse jumped out in front of me. Being already nervous of cougars this opportune explosion of feathers made me nearly have a heart attack. With a huge jolt of adrenaline I powered my way up through the remainder of the trees into the higher slopes of the range. The trail was extremely faint in places making it challenging to follow but my main concern was that on the return down I could easily get lost since the trail would be harder to see as I quickly bounded down the hill. There was also going to be a bunch of branches from mountain mahogany and scrub oak and nettle to sting and scratch my legs as I made my rapid and slightly out of control descent.

I reached snowline at about 7:00 am and found my first snow crossing to be treacherous as I had to slide down a nearly vertical 20' foot snow ledge on my backside. The next challenging snow field was a large side-sloped traverse that angled steeply into the canyon and would have been really bad to slip and slide down on. After crossing this side slope I realized all the switch backs were covered in snow and ice so I just cruised right up the ridge getting scratched and torn up along the full distance.

About two hours after starting out I made it to the summit ridge. The wind was really whipping up there. I decided to summit a small peak to the north of Francis Peak and have a sandwich. I took shelter from the wind behind a communication tower and had a great time on the summit. I changed my socks and started the descent. It went really quickly and running down the snow fields was a blast.

As I predicted the branches and nettle took their toll on my exposed skin and my legs were completely shredded and stung. It is all part of the journey. The descent went extremely quick and I got off the main trail during a slide-rock crossing but found it again and finished my descent with no major issues.

It was a great run and one I will always remember. I really love running in the clouds. Enjoy the footage I took of the run!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Epic run up Ben Lomond July 2nd!

I went down to Utah at the end of June with the intention of running from Smith and Morehouse to Bald Mountain in the Uintas with my best friend Tim. The problem was that even though we waited to do the event until the first week of July, the weather had been so cold and wet this past spring that the Uinta Mountains were completely snowed over.

We had to think fast and come up with an alternate idea. I decided to take a test run to 9,500' in the Wasatch Mountains and see how the conditions were. I ran to Francis Peak and found that it was no problem if I stayed on south and west slopes of the range (more to come on that run). The north slopes were still quite snowy but it seemed reasonable that we could handle any run in the Northern Wasatch.

So while in North Ogden I stopped off at Tim's house and decided to talk to him about our options. We set our sites on 9,712' tall Ben Lomond. The idea was to hit the North Ogden Divide and run the south ridge all the way to the summit. Here is where we ran into our next problem. Tim called me that night and informed me that the North Ogden Divide was closed due to rock slides. We couldn't really get anywhere near the trail head. We devised a new plan to attack it via the east and north slopes of the North Fork Park (I knew that we would be dealing with some serious snow).

We met at about 5:30 am and drove to the trail head. The sun was already beating down on us as we started the run. We didn't quite know where the actual trail started and ran around the campgrounds a bit to find the actual trail near some corrals, which allowed us to stretch the legs and get the cobwebs out. I was still a bit fatigued from hammering a 13 mile 3,000' run just two days earlier and I could tell the elevation and heat would slow me down but in the end I could care less the mountain air was fresh and crisp, the sky a sapphire blue, and we were doing what I love most about running - propelling ourselves skyward!

The first few miles were beautiful and the trail was in great condition. We were able to quickly move up the mountain in good time. We purposely held back and took our time because we knew that the upper reaches of the mountain weren't going to be a picnic. After several miles of smooth sailing we began to ascend into ever higher trails and then ran into our first snow bank. The snow was soft and made a steep bevel that covered the trail. The edges of our shoes bit into the snow and we navigated the bank with little difficulty. The next bank was a bit longer and more solid than the previous one. Tim, being a road marathoner, was wearing his Mizuno Wave Runner's which have about 600 miles on them. We joked that he was doing an off-road event in racing slicks. This was Tim's first real trail running attempt and as we ran the snow I could see that his shoes were not going to handle too much snow but I thought "it is July, how much snow could there be up there?"

As we made continual progress up the slope we found the snow becoming more and more common. Finally it began to no longer be just a hindrance but a hazard as we side-sloped large ice fields with seemingly endless drop-offs. The once amazing and runnable trail was masked by large snow fields. We would continually lose the trail and have to find it after zig-zagging the snowy slopes. With all the challenges the snow were posing we began to work out a system where I would kick steps into the icy pitches and Tim would follow in my footsteps with his racing slicks. We found a smooth rhythm and began to make some good progress again. After several slow miles of kicking steps and finding the trail we reached a large gully that was choked with snow and ice. We could see that it lead toward the saddle that marked the beginning of the final approach to the summit. All we could see though was white. There was little hope of being able to ascend the last 600 feet without a better form of traction. With disappointment I told Tim that with a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes we would be able to launch ourselves right up the slopes.

We decided to run around a large hip that protruded from the slopes of Ben Lomond. As we rounded the corner we were met with the awe-inspiring 9,764' crags of Willard Peak. All I could to do was drool as I imagined myself standing on its summit in a perfect "snow free" world. Alas it was not to be. It would have been unwise to continue with racing-slicks and besides our unprotected eyes were now looking at the blinding light coming off the snow fields for an hour or two and snow blindness is something neither of us wanted. We decided to call off our summit bid and we anxiously looked back over the miles of mushy snow that stood between us and fast downhill running.

We picked our way back but continually were having issues following our footsteps back and after some confusion we realized there was a subsequent pair of insane runners like ourselves that had attempted the same run. We eventually ran into them as they descended as well having suffered our same fate of getting snowed out. We joked and shared running stories and enjoyed the unspoken bond that links all crazy runners. We all parted ways and began to pick up the pace as the snow thinned out more and more with each step.

Finally we reached the sloping trails leading back to the trail head. After several hours of slipping and sliding and kicking steps in the snow we were able to finally run! We pointed ourselves down hill and really turned up the heat! We floated down the gentle curves of the wooded apron that surrounds Ben Lomond. Leaping streams and flying across slopes covered in lush green grass and wildflowers, we finally felt more like runners and less like mountaineers.

The heat of the day and humidity rising from the dense vegetation gave one a sense of running in a sauna. Before we knew it we were down from the mountain and just meters from the trail head. Our water had run out just as we reached the car. We had given it our best shot and though we were unable to summit something told me as we stood side by side gazing at the blinding jewel that marked the summit we would be back. Tim may be able to run it quite soon but I live 900 miles to the northwest and will have to wait for another year. Perhaps next year I will be able to give it another go and we may even be able to nail Willard while we are at it.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was running with Tim. Our running journey's have followed completely different paths. I have been running for almost 5 years now and have found myself drawn to the trails of British Columbian, where Tim has been running for only a year and a half and has spent most of his time on the roads training for half and full marathons. That being said two best friends of nearly 20 years who have polar opposite running styles and backgrounds were able to reconnect and share our first of many running experiences together and enjoy the camaraderie and joy that comes from running. Something tells me this is just the first page of a whole new chapter of our friendship.

Tim is currently spending the week with me on the island and we are already creating new and amazing running experiences here. I will blog about these amazing runs in the weeks to come.

Here is a video made by Tim of our amazing run. I have not been able to gather all my multimedia from the trip yet but will post it soon. I love the video Tim made and I feel it does a beautiful job of catching the amazing time we had during our first run together ever. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Run up Ben Lomond July 2nd, 2011

I went down to Utah at the end of June with the intention of running from Smith and Morehouse to Bald Mountain in the Uintas with my best friend Tim. The problem is that even though I was waiting to do the event until the first week of July, the weather had been so cold and wet this spring that the Uinta Mountains were completely snowed over.

We had to think fast and come up with an alternate idea. I decided to take a test run to 9,500' in the Wasatch Mountains and see how the conditions were. I ran to Francis Peak and found that it was no problem if I stayed on south and west slopes of the range. The north slopes were still quite snowy. I had a great run and will block about it later.