Vision Quest?

A vision quest? Or just an enjoyable long run?

I’m being facetious, of course. I’m not into vision quests, and I won’t be attempting one anytime soon. I am, though, very much into good runs – and I’m pretty sure the Elk/Beaver 50K Ultra on May 10 will be one of those. That said, I plan to follow two strategies at the Elk/Beaver which will push the limits a bit. The first is about fueling, and the second is about gear (or lack of it).

LCHF

First, I plan to follow the low carb/high fat nutrition regime I’ve been on for the past ten months, and run the Elk/Beaver 50 fueling only with water and a bit of biltong. Second, I plan to run the full 50K trail race barefoot.

The fueling strategy isn’t as outrageous as it sounds. The LCHF thing has worked well for me, with nothing but good to show for it. I now weigh less than I did in high school forty-odd years ago, my energy levels are strong and consistent, and my health is excellent (except for the ongoing prostate cancer thing, but that’s for another post). And there’s a significant amount of evidence, both clinical and anecdotal, suggesting that LCHF can work well for endurance athletes.

Keep Calm

The running barefoot thing is a little more complex. It’s not the distance that I’m worried about. After all, I ran the Toronto Scotiabank Marathon barefoot a couple of years ago. And last summer, I ran a short trail race barefoot. It’s the Elk/Beaver’s trail surfaces, combined with the race distance, that are going to be the challenge. According to Carlos Castillo, the Elk/Beaver’s race director, each of the 10K loops of the race consists mostly of packed dirt and leaf litter, with about 200 meters of asphalt, and 2K of packed gravel. It’s the latter that worries me. I’m not looking for a PB at this one, so will be happy to roll along at a comfortable pace. There’s a cutoff time of 14 hours for all runners, so no worries, I’ll do it. But a total of 10K of gravel? Hmm…

However, based on the following short video, which Carlos Castillo very kindly shared with me, it certainly looks doable.

 

OK, so a real, honest-to-goodness vision quest it’s probably not going to be. But it will certainly be an exploration of new territory, both physically and psychologically. And it’s only fair to note that, during my very first marathon (the 1980 Labatt’s Toronto Marathon), I did see Elvis a couple of times. So who knows? At Elk/Beaver, I might just go places I’ve not been to before…

Vision quest

ENDURrun

ENDURrun

One of the really cool things about running is that there’s always something more to discover. I grow as a runner and as a person with each event. And then look further again, to yet another new horizon.

I recently received an email from fellow ultra runner Wilf Goron, who told me about the ENDURrun International. It’s a multi-stage ultra which happens in my neck of the woods, but which, oddly enough, I’d never heard of. It looks really interesting, to say the least.

I’ve already got a solid race calendar lined up for this year (see my 2014 Races page), but will, I think, have a go at doing Stage 3 of the ENDURrun. It’s a 30K trail run, which I can do barefoot. It’ll make a nice break between the Niagara 100K on June 14 and the Self-Transcendence 12 Hour on September 27. Then maybe do more of the ENDURrun next year.

As I said, there are always new discoveries – and new challenges.

Patterns

Running Horse

Towards the end of every winter-into-spring training program, I always run out of steam. I think it’s mostly because I get tired of the pattern. Yes, I know it’s all very scientific and outcome-oriented, but the rhythm of a 16 or 18 week program eventually just gets tiresome. The result is turmoil, kerfufle, and frustration.

I’ve discovered that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Once I break through the slump/readjustment part of it – and discover a pattern that actually works – I’m better off. Over the years, I’ve become better able to let go of what doesn’t work, and allow something new (and more appropriate) to emerge.

And so it’s been this month.

At the beginnng of the month, I felt fine, but I couldn’t/wouldn’t run. It was a combination of four months training on the treadmill, really dreadful late-winter weather, and just plain grumpiness. At first, I thought that letting a day or two go by would break the slump, but there was no joy there. So I let another day or two go by. And then did that again. After ten days or so, I was getting desperate. So, I just plugged away. I ran the 1.5K lap around my suburban block. I ran short barefoot runs when it was far too cold to do so sensibly. I ran multiple laps of that 1.5 circuit. I went out the door, ran about 200 meters, and turned back. I ran my favourite 6K lap around my neighbourhood ring road, and hated it. I grumped, and moaned, and became less than pleasant company.

And then… breakthough. The weather changed (slightly) for the better. The 6K laps became fun again. My body came back to looseness and strength and fitness. I’d come back. And I found a new pattern.

  • Now, I run on alternate days. Well, not quite. I run on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. That means back-to-back long runs on Sundays and Mondays, which is perfectly OK when you’re training for ultras.
  • I do two runs a day, except for Sunday, when I do one longish run. That’s partly to accomodate my daily non-running life (I do have one, you know), partly about not working so hard at running that I get fatigued, and partly because it feels right.
  • On days when I don’t run, I usually go to the YMCA and have a whirlpool and a sauna. Sometimes I run to the Y on those days (it’s only a 6K round trip), and sometimes I don’t. When I do, I run very slowly.
  • I build up my distances each week. Not by any prescribed amount, just by what feels right.

It’s working very well. I’m getting my distances, I’m getting the recovery times I need, and I’m back to being a happy runner again.

And you know what? I’ve become very fond of running laps.

Getting Ready

I’ve spent the past few days putting my ducks in a row for the upcoming Elk/Beaver 50K trail ultra, which happens on May 10. Since it’s an “away” race, there’s more to preparing for it than for my usual local races. Long story short, it’s going to involve a little travel, a little visiting, and a little personal holiday time. Oh yeah – and running a barefoot 50K trail race.

Here’s how it all plays out:

1/ Fly to Vancouver;
2/ Spend a few days visiting with family;
3/ Do some “tourist running” in Vancouver (Sea Wall, here I come!);
4/ Take the ferry and bus to Victoria;
5/ Run the Elk/Beaver ultra;
6/Explore Vancouver Island for a couple of days;
7/ Fly back to Toronto.

That’s a fairly dense package, but I think it’s all going to fit together. Hope so, anyway.

Slump End

Breakthrough

Well, the slump I mentioned in my last post is over.

Kaput. Finis. Done like the proverbial toast.

As expected, all it took was a few barefoot outdoor runs. On Friday and Saturday I did a couple of short ones. They were short because the temperature was -5C, and, because I ran early in the day, the pavement was very cold. I didn’t run yesterday, when the temp went down to -19C. But today the high temp was +5C (1C with the windchill factored in), a mix of sun and cloud, and a light, 17 km/h wind. Now that’s the sort of thing I can deal with. (I am, after all, Canadian. This is mild spring weather for us.)

I just came in from a delightful run around the neighbourhood. 7.02K in 44:34, with no goal in mind except to run. Bare feet, shorts, a long-sleeve t-shirt, and shades. No hat and no gloves. The pavement didn’t feel very cold, though there were lots of icy puddles on the sidewalks. It wasn’t a long run, and it wasn’t a fast run. But it was a good run.

And it took me out of the slump. And that, believe me, is a good thing.

Slump Time

Slump

I’ve been in a running-related slump for the past ten days or so. Can’t raise the motivation to run, therefore don’t get out the door, and that just builds and builds. It’s a downward spiral, and I haven’t been able to come out of it.

Note that it’s only running related. Otherwise, I feel good, emotionally. cognitively, and physically. I’m facing some medical issues (more about them in a later post), but I don’t think they have anything to do with the slump.

For now, I’m blaming the weather. I can see spring on the near horizon, but it’s not here yet. I tell myself that, once it gets milder, I’ll be able to run barefoot on the roads, and that will make all the difference. I sure hope so.

Meanwhile, we are not amused. Not one little bit.

How It Is

I thought I’d chart “the state of the nation” for you, so there’d be no mistake.

Personal Threat Level

It’s almost the end of February. I’m in week six of a sixteen-week training program for the Elk/Beaver 50K. I’ve run on my treadmill for the past four months, and I’m feeling something akin to cabin fever. So now I’m running outside. But it’s really cold and windy, and I have to cope with icy streets and sidewalks. Sometimes I just feel old and grumpy.

All things considered, I’m doing OK.