Thursday, January 3, 2019

Looking Back on 2018

So here we are in 2019, which usually has meant I look back at the previous year and see how things went.  All told, I think it went really well. I had no sidelining injuries, I had achievable goals and I continued to help other runners get to their goals as well.

January started with a blast, as I paced Lindsay to a PB in the MEC 5K PPP race. I hadn't planned on even being in the race, but it was a great way to get moving and get Lindsay her first sub 20 minute 5K.

Then came February. Welcome back Tri-the-Oval 6. Speed skate, Mountain Bike Ride and Run. I had done all the previous ones and this was my breakthrough year with the win. Yes, it was a small field this year but it was great to finally take home top spot in this event, which really was the event that forced me into speed skating to start. 

After my return from Australia and some great running down under in March, I was back at pacing and paced Pat at marathon pace for the Moose Run, a 25 km fun run in Eastern Passage. We paced in a little faster than his ultimate goal pace for the Boston Marathon and then celebrated with some food and drinks. 

April was light in the racing department and was mostly me running around Clayton Park trying to build some hill pounding kilometers into my legs. But Early May saw me hitting Citadel Hill for MEC Race 2. This was tough one, with a cold rain, a change in the course (though this is an every year kind of deal) and a tough field of runners. I decided to run it going for broke and see what I could manage. I remember hitting the first kilometer at a 3:18 pace and thinking, uh oh. I ended up coming home in 3rd for one of the hardest 5k races I have done in a long time.

Finally the big show came about with the Bluenose. I had trained hard and it was all about bringing home a PB. And of course race day was rainy and humid. Oh well. As usual I got dragged at the start a little too fast, finally settling in for what would be a really lonely race. I wasn't ultimately as happy with the changed route from previous years, but it was the race so I ran it. The final push was tough, but I did manage to get my 1:20 half result with a 3:48 avg pace.

June saw a couple of Duathlons, both with decent results, though in both cases my bike just isn't up to par with the other racers. My focus on running has made huge strides, but really if I want to place higher in these events, I need to up my biking game. June also saw another 5K race. The Bridgewater Tire Trot was kind of a last minute idea, but I cam away with the win and a sub 18 minute 5K. So a total success in my mind.

Then came the summer. I managed to start the Aylesford Triathlon as the top placed male in the Triathlon Nova Scotia points series and wore the coveted Golden Swim cap. That was pretty cool. The race went well, though my swimming hasn't been up to the level I had it to two years ago.  

Back to pacing, and Lindsay needed a little help in her next goal of getting below 19 minutes for the 5K. Oh yeah, we did that.

As the summer progressed, I switched to trail running in my quest to kick some hilly butt in October. So it was 2 hour trail runs every weekend. I will say, I loved the off road and relished in the tight twisty, rooty, rocky trails that we have locally.  This training gave me the desire to even enter an off road mountain duathlon. Loads of fun.

In between all this distance trail work, I managed to get a one mile event in. The MacPass Mile is a tough, but fun event, and this year we had decent weather. While there was rain, it didn't rain during the race. So that was nice.

I managed a new mile PB in 5:02. That sub 5 minute mile is still eluding me, though to be fair, I didn't train for it.

More off road and lots of hikes with the pups kept coming.

As September hit us, I found time to host a canicross race, and get 2 races myself in. The Rum Runners Relay was a blast, as I ran Leg 1 and did really well with an average pace of 3:43 over 13.6 km. I had prerun the route and knew how tough it was going to be. Prior to Rum Runners I managed a great second place finish in the MEC 15km race 4, beating my previous 15km PB with a sub 56 minute run. 

That shows the effort I gave in that race. Ouch. Gas and go!

Finally my A race came and off to Cape Chignecto I went. The result of the race went my way, the race itself was quite the adventure with some missing volunteers and a little extra distance. Still, it was a great run and I enjoyed every up and down that Chignecto had to offer.  I came away with the win and I know I will race the trails again.

In fact I hit the trails a few weeks later to run the Flying Nutz 10km race near our home. I wasn't sure what shape I was going to be in and whether or not it was going to be a fun run for me or a good effort event. In the end, I gave it a good effort, and this twisty course with punchy hills really suited me. The cold rain fell, but with a hard effort I stayed warm and took the win.

Movember was upon us and I hosted my annual Movember 6K fun run, raising almost $3600 for the Movember Charity.

I finished the competitive year with another fun run at The Keppoch (home of the Off Road Duathlon). While it was not a timed event, I did manage to push fairly hard in snowy icy conditions and finish first. 

So in all, I biked 5985 km, swam 66km, and ran 2365 km. All injury free thanks to smart training, and a little help from Seaside Chiropractic. Support from Aerobics First in some of my events and Sportwheels also made the year far more manageable.  

I achieved many great results, some of them overall wins, some age group wins, some PBs. I also ran and biked and swam with great friends and helped coach some amazing athletes to their own PBs. I sat (and continue to sit) on the boards of two sports groups, The BLT Runners and The Maritime Association of Harness Dog Sports.  And I managed to get to 98 donations at Canada Blood Services in all of that as well. 

Bring it on 2019, let's see what you have. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Running The Keppoch 2018

With my season slowing down, I had the opportunity to do one more trail event. 12 km at The Keppoch near Antigonish. This former downhill ski location is no home to mountain biking, cross country skiing, hiking, and some awesome trail running.  Certainly it is not the place for those that hate running hills. 

The trails here are mostly smooth and flowy, as they are designed for downhill riding. That being said, you need to really take care for tripping hazards and rocks, and be careful of the sheer speed you can pound into your legs on the way down.

This event is a fund raiser for The Keppoch, and as such is more about fun. It was an untimed event followed by breakfast.

We had to get up super early to get to the mountain as the drive takes 2 hours. The closer we got, the colder it got, down from the balmy 3C at home to -8C at the race start.  

Also, home had no snow and soft ground. Here the ground was hard and ankle deep in snow. Good thing I brought all my trail shoes. I ended up choosing my Salomon Soft Ground. They are light weight, so easy to pick up your feet high and offer a ton of grip.

After a briefing we weer invited to race start and sent on our way. While I could have just jogged around the mountain in a nice social way, I really wanted to see how my legs were holding up and specifically my climbing legs, before they got a winter rest.

So I took off into the lead and never looked back. I pushed at a sustainably hard pace and really enjoyed breaking through crunchy snow on this well marked and groomed course. Volunteers were out in some key areas to guide up the right way when the course went between short and long (there was an 8 km option as well).

I took the downhills cautiously to start but found that I gained a lot of confidence as the run went on and I could place some faith my my shoes and legs to hold me upright.

Certainly there were some dicey icy places that required some careful passing, but in all it was a trouble free run for me.

I finished the course in 1 hour and 1 minute with over 300m of vertical climbing, first in the long run. I was happy to "win" but more happy to feel well enough to go back out for more at the end. My recovery during these trail runs has been great this year, the only time I have found myself near my limits was when I was approaching 30km at Chignecto.

The morning finished with some awesome oatmeal with a ton of topping choices and great coffee, as I got to chat with the other BLT Runners that came up for the run as well. We all survived the cold and snow and I think we all had a good run.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Flying Nutz 2018

It has been awhile. Frankly I took a break from racing since Chignetco, mostly going into an off season mode. But I had previously signed up for a local trail race called Flying Nutz. This is a shorter but no less tough race.

Waking up to torrential rain and wind the morning of does not make one excited about leaving your bed, let alone your house.

Still, when  your ride arrives, it is time to jump in the car.

So Craig and I arrived at the race setup and a small crowd had already formed. The rain was letting up a bit but we were still completely undecided about what to wear for the run.

Sign in time, I got number 53 to pin on, a shirt and a nice reusable trail cup. I must say that little silicon cup is awesome for grabbing a quick drink on the run.

The BLT Runners came out in force to hit the muddy trails (missing is Al and Don).

Race start came, the rain let up and we were ready to go after Jodi (race director) gave us a run down of the rules and course.

The beginning is tough and quickly goes from wide to single track. With the command to run, I took off for that narrow patch and hit it first, scaling a moss covered rock and into the woods and up a hill. Not sure how fast the other runners were, I took to a pace I new I could hold for some time, I was mostly concerned that that I would find a place where I could run at my pace and not be stuck.

But I didn't get passed and I ran my race. A small crew formed behind me, but I was mostly watching ahead and never bothered to look back. I passed a few areas where it was heavy switch backs, and at these points I could tell I had a small gap to second and third.

I didn't want to let up too much, even with a lead, as anything can go wrong. Also I knew that as an out and back course, eventually I would be running into the other runners on the trail, which may have made for a slower return.

Well, anything can go wrong and it did. I put my head down for a second, ran past a marking flag and found myself off course for a bit. I figured it out quickly enough and returned to the spot I left at and continued. Mad at myself, I pushed on and found out I was now in second.

Caution to the wind time. I flew up and down some hills and soon found myself catching Ben. It was only half way through the race, but I needed to push reasonably hard.

Some cheering on and I ran up a stupid steep hill where Ben was at the top. I can assure you this hill is one most likely walked up, but the anger and ambition set in and up I went.

Within a few minutes I was catching back up to first and we were catching the rest of the runners. Everyone was great and moved out of the way and cheered us on.

I stayed glued to Ben for awhile and found my breath again, but knew that if I wanted to win, I needed to do so under my own steam. I made the pass (Ben was gracious at letting me by) and I took off, regaining a portion of the lead I had once enjoyed.

As we got to the heavy switch back area with around 2 km to go, I could see other runners, but really had no idea where they were compared with me. That meant one thing, run harder.

Soon I was at the pipe line section, which meant less than 1 kilometer to go and flat ground. Now I really have to say that while the flat sections of the course were nice to stretch your legs on, I really enjoyed the moss, mud, switch backs and punchy hills that dominated 95% of the course.

I made a final turn, pushed hard through the final few hundred meters of woods and emerged from that giant rock to the open finish area.

No rest, I wanted a hard finish.

I crossed in 1:04 for the win with a 2 minute (ish) lead over second. That was tough and my screw up made it tougher. But the weather was awesome, the mud a blast and the win, icing on the cake.

A trophy, jam and draw prizes awaited me. Muddy shoes were also my reward.

I cheered on as Craig finished 5th and other BLT Runners came in strong in the field of 110 runners.

Thanks to Jodi and his crew for hosting and organizing a great event close to home. There aren't many shorter tough trail runs like this, so I was happy to have been able to do it.

Next up is my race, the Halifax Movember Run and I can't wait.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

That Time I Decided to Race on a Trail - Cape Chignecto 2018

So this will be a picture rich posting.

The Spring was all about cracking into the world of a 1:20 half marathon and I succeeded. Then summer became all about preparing for the Fall and the Cape Chignecto 24km trail run. I picked this race because, it was way out of my comfort zone, but the distance wasn't too crazy daunting for me. 

I did my research, I hit the trails for constant 2 hour training runs but I also kept up some racing as well to keep the edge on my speed. 

Finally, the big weekend came upon us. The Race Director sent out an email with a list of the basic required items for the 24km and 48 km (that took place the next day) races. It wasn't huge, but having to carry your own stuff would be new for me in a race (I had of course trained doing this). A light jacket, food, phone and battery backup, water storage and a buff or warm hat.  

I have some shoe options, so I packed my 2 favorite shoes into the car and drove 2:30 to the race venue (we went a day early to be able to relax that morning). On race morning I was still not 100% sure which shoe to wear but opted eventually for my more cushioned shoes with lower lugs to deal with the pounding the hills would provide (the grey and yellow Sense Pro Max).

The sign says it all. I checked and out running route is listed as an all day hike. My goal was to run between 2:30 and 2:40. 

The view the day prior to the race was awesome.

Come race morning I was first to check in. I guess I was excited or something. Also I was quick enough that the safety pins for the bibs hadn't arrived yet. A bit of fore shadowing?

While the air was chilly, the sun was warm and I knew the weather was going to be perfect for racing.

My trail partner in crime Shane arrived shortly after I did, all decked out in a smashing BLT Runners top.

All smiles, silly us.

We gathered for a race briefing, which included many chuckles. We learned about course specifics and what to expect.

I met Paul, whom I knew from Twitter. He was Co-Race Director today, with Eric from 5 Peaks. Paul loves a good long race, I love a fast short race. seems about right for both of us.

I made sure Shane started up front with me and soon we were off. 

The start was a nice downhill (ugh for the finish) and I knew to take it easy. I was running beside a kid who would eventually win the 5.6km trail race. Then I passed him and took the lead of the whole race (there was a 5.6, 12 and 24 km race).  I didn't gun it, but ran within my ability. I knew this would be a tough race, but I also knew that 24 km, even with hills was totally doable at a comfortable race pace.

The trail is really quite nice. Flowy, a few roots and rocks, but generally nice. It is hard to say the ups are steep and the downs are fast. It has some of everything. Ups you have to walk, downs you have to walk, ups that are gradual and fast. You just have to be ready to react to what is in front of you. There were moments I was running along at a road level of pacing even.

So I hot the turn around for the 5.6km first and surprised the volunteers who weren't quite ready for me, though I did't need the water they had here anyway (it was available though). At this point I hit the first of the real downhills leading to Mill Cove. It is kind of an ATV road. Loose gravel, about 1 km long and a -17% grade. Basically unrunnable. But I ran it. If this were a longer race, I would have held back, because the beating my quads took was amazing. This early in the race I could deal with it.

Soon I was at the 8 (7.5) km aid station, well in the lead with no one in sight. Heading in, I knew I wanted to grad some Gatorade to top up the fluids and sugars and save my water supply. I had my speed cup on the ready and was in, had a drink and gone (they also take your bib number) in less than 15 seconds. Zoom.

I had planned to really focus on my heart rate for this run. Worrying about pace is tough and really pointless. Ultimately though I went by feel. I have a really good sense of when to slow and when to speed up, though I will admit that there is a bit of a mental game when you are speed walking up a hill and just have to push yourself to run when it starts to flatten. It is so easy to just keep walking.

So my watch really became my food timer. My plan was to eat a fruit leather every 20 minutes (50 calories), sip water constantly, and take gels on the hour mark (100 calories). The sugar is essential for quick brain functioning and my food choice is easy for me to digest. I didn't partake in the food stops, but if you are a slower runner, the options are fine (fruit, potatoes and peanut butter on bread).

My eating was fine. I hit my gel right before the drop into Refugee Cove which was very similar to the last crazy drop. Again, really unrunnable if you were to be going longer, but well within my ability to push through for the shorter race.  I was pretty much on pace by this point, knowing that the run out would be slightly quicker than the run back. I hit Refugee Cove (I didn't really know it was Refugee Cove) and the 12km mark right about 1:15.

So now it goes slightly off the rails. We were told a volunteer would be at the turn around to audit our bib numbers. So I kept running to said volunteer. The signs said go left, I did. The little flags continued. I glanced at my watch and now it said 12.4km. Still I didn't really trust the exact distance on it. GPS watches on twisty turny woodsy courses can be off. I mean I hit the 8km aid station at 7.5.

I kept going. But it dawned on me by 13 km that the course for the next day's 48km was the same course, and thus these flags were likely for it. So I turned around and started back, but then second guessed myself and turned back for a bit before finally turning back again (are you dizzy?). Finally I came upon another runner. My lead was gone, sigh. We stopped briefly and chatted and he seemed convinced we should forge ahead. We were both concerned that if we didn't find the volunteer we would get a DSQ. Alright let's go. So we ran together. Then hit 14 km and stopped. He pulled out his phone and tried to pull up a map but there was no detail on that map. So we found an email with the race director's phone number in it and called. We then learned we missed the turn around and headed back. Scott sent me ahead as I had been in the lead, while he did up his pack. On the way I passed a few other runners who learned their fate. In the end it looks like the top 7 runners were too quick.

Back on track, a little anger in the belly, my goal of a certain time erased, and the possible win eroded. Now to finish strong. Back up the first of the big hills. What can I say, this was a walk. A combination of walking techniques were used to push me up and over this beast and I was back to running. I knew now that I was going to have to ease back the pace a little bit, since I would be running further. I was also now "lost" as per distance and location. So I just had to run what was in front of me.

I started to pass runners. I made it to the second climb, out of Mill Cove and part way up passed Shane (he had also run long). At the top of this hill I actually refilled my water bottle before continuing on.

I ran when I could, and walked fast when I needed to. I came to the main aid station at what would have been the 16km mark. I grabbed a quick water and continued on as a few runners were there for a food break.

Scott had just passed me, but I need to hydrate, with 7.5 km still to go.  I knew I could salvage a good effort out of this still.

I passed more runners. It is always funny to do this up hill while walking, but it is what you have to do.

The saddest thing I heard all day was when the volunteers at the 5.6 km turn around cheered me on saying "Only 2.8 km to go!). Ugh. I knew that almost 2 km of that was up, including stairs.

My legs twinged occasionally, I knew they were done and burnt to a crisp. I was well past 24 km. At 26 km the muscles on my inner quads actually started to ripple. That was odd. They told me to stop. So I ran faster. Finally I recognized the final downhill portion of the race, this was the area I took the lead initially. I wanted to run fast down the hill, but was completely afraid the wrong step would lead to my legs giving out. So I ran as best as I could.

I cleared the trees and into the open grass field. I was still alone but felt good now. I ran.

As I rounded a corner into the final section, Elizabeth waiting and cheering me on with the camera snapping shots. It seemed to take forever to reach here.

A final uphill (remember ugh?) and I approached the gate. Scott had been there for a couple of minutes, and I congratulated him. Later he congratulated me on the win. But he finished first.

The race directors started grabbing our actual distances run and decided to determine race placings by pace. I will admit my overall pace was now way slower than I hoped. A full minute slower. The extra up and downhill was more than I could handle at the pace I wanted to go, plus the caloric needs and hydration. Instead of 6:30 I averaged a 7:27 for 28.82 km. I finished in 3 hours and 42 minutes (this also included a few stops as i didn't pause my watch while we attempted to figure out where we were).

Very soon, Shane came in, done but still strong.

After all the top runners had finished, they finalized the results and due to the fact I had the fastest overall pacing of the day, I was declared the winner. But huge props to Scott as well. He was looking strong.

Then the long drive home, but not without a stop at That Dutchman for some gouda cheese!

So an unconventional win, but the training paid off, and I still look forward to more trail races in my future. Not so sure I want to be pushing the longer distance. 30km even seems too long. Never say never though.

Thanks to Coach JZ and Kinesic for start me on the heart rate training path, which is really the best way to approach trail running. Even though I didn't need to look at my heart rate, I could tell my effort level from all my training.

The Salomon gear from Aerobics First was top notch. Find a shoe that fits! #1 thing for trail running. And if you are in the woods for any length of time, everything needs to be comfortable.

Big props to the BLT Runners who keep me running as well. It was great that Shane was there with a great finish.

Race stats:

12 km mark (1:15 on schedule) with a pace of 6:15
Finish 28.82 km with a pace of 7:28
Avg Heart Rate 156
Total Assent 1,552 m

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Rum Runner Relay 2018

So here we are at the end of September already, and that means Rum Runners. This was my seventh year taking part and now I was on my third team. No longer playing the roll of Hobo, I was running this year for the BLT Runners Men's Team, Extra Crispy. As I had done this race many times, I helped play a roll in getting the BLT Runners ready for this day as well, which turns out to be good, since our Captain got trapped in the horror of the world of Airports until part way through the day.

In case you don't know, Rum Runners Relay is a 10 leg race from Prospect to Lunenburg in Nova Scotia. Usually it is a 10 person team (ours was) and is a combination of tough racing and tough fun.

This year I opted to run Leg 1, as I try to collect the whole set (I had 1,5 and 8 left over). This had the benefit of being done early and then enjoying the rest of the day care free, but the ugh factor of having to be up and in racing form for a 6:30am start. Oh well.

So BLT Runners had not only a Men's team but also a Women's team and for Leg 1, it was myself and Heather starting things off.

Reflective vest were needed as it was super dark. Some runners also opted for headlamps, but I found there to be enough ambient light to run without one.

Soon we were off and I jumped into 4th place. There was a ton of tough runners on this opening leg of 13.6km. The top 3 zoomed off into the distance. My plan was to hold a similar pace to last weekend, though I knew that I might not be able to hold that pace again on a much hillier course.

Another runner came by and was running my goal pace so I tucked in and off we went. I held on for the next 4 kilometers as he eased up for a bit then ran alone in the dark. Having run this route earlier this year as a practice, I knew I wasn't missing much in the way of scenery.

Soon, Jaime, who had paced me earlier, came back by and was dragging alone another couple of runners. They eased off, but I knew I just had to run my own race as mu pace was still in the mid 3:40 range and pushing faster wasn't going to be a good idea. As much as I wanted another top finish, I also wanted a strong run and knew that my A race was coming up.

By the 10 km mark, I was getting happy that the leg was coming to a close, but I knew I also had to push to get up the hill in front of me, and it was a steep one, in fact this leg was equal to climbing 28 flights of stairs. Thanks for that info Garmin.  I pushed up the hill, seeing my pace on that kilometer drop to around 4 min/km. But i survived and a glance behind me showed I had a clear run to the end as long as I was smart.

I think the hardest thing now was essentially running by my house and not wanting to jump inside and go back to bed. But another quick hill and a downhill and I was soon at the finish line. A little push to get it over and I crossed officially at 51.15 with pace of 3:46. Wowza that was tough.

A drink and a Cliff bar (thanks Dave) and I was right as rain (did I mention the perfect weather?) and ready top face the rest of the day, cheering my team mates, meeting up with other runner friends and traveling the South Shore.

I do believe, no matter what the votes say, that our BLT Runner water stop was pretty freaking great. I managed to put and extra 2000 steps on my daily count with some fabulous dance moves.

In the end our team finished 14th overall out of 70 teams, and that is great. We didn't set out to be a super team, but one that was capable of good solid runs and good solid fun. We achieved. Our women's team finished 4th out of the women's only teams and that was also awesome.

Next year, Leg 8?

Monday, September 24, 2018

MEC Race 4 - Musquodoboit 15km

So I couldn't resist signing up for MEC Race 4, even though speed wasn't my thing this summer. The body was feeling pretty good, and this race usually allows for some fast times. Also, I figured it would give me a chance to actually regain a little speed lost during my switch to trail running, while limiting the stress on the body (it is a flat crusher dust trail run).

A bunch of BLT Runners headed out of town to take this race on, and a lot of great results were had.

I'll keep it all brief, since the story is pretty straight forward. I had a main goal and that was to run at a 3:45 min/km pace for the race. That would best my current PB at a 15km race which was set here last year while running a Half Marathon training pace run of 3:48. Last year I finished 4th, so it certainly wouldn't have hurt to grab a placing as well, but the A goal was the important thing.

So i lined up at the front with a few people and soon we were off. I jumped into the lead and felt good, settling into my opening pace, then easing back just a touch to get to around 3:45.

It didn't take long before myself and Luke put in a gap to third and I dragged us along for a bit.

By about the 4-5 km area, Luke jumped in front of me and started to pull away. I didn't feel bad, but I also knew that I couldn't burn myself up this early. And not knowing how strong Luke was, I didn't want to risk the main goal. So I stayed on at a 3:45 pace.

As I hit the turn around, Luke had a good 200 m gap on me and looked strong. I was certainly feeling the pace, but was doing fine. By the time I saw third place, I had a good 500-600m of gap and felt comfortable that i could work my own race at this point. Slowly Luke pulled away. 

For the rest, i just kept the pace as even as possible, eventually catching up with 10km and 5 km runners. There was plenty of room to pass people, so that wasn't an issue. With about 300m to go, I started to pick up the pace, though my average was right on. I eventually crossed in 55:36 with an average pace of 3:44 and was totally happy. I feel that pushing too much harder wasn't where I was that day, so any attempt at going for the win was not realistic. Second place overall, though, was wonderful. 

The cool Fall temperature was perfect for a hard effort. and I think that shows in my heart rate graph.

I was able to keep things perfectly flat, with a small surge at the end over the last 2.5 minutes. 

Now to rest up and get ready for the Rum Runner Relay.