A year ago, Lori and I ran the Powderface Half Marathon, it was one of the hardest trail races we had run thus far. Fast forward a year, and a lot has changed. We’ve run an ultra, a trail marathon, and countless training runs all over this general area. Sometimes you feel like you’re getting stronger, but you don’t really believe it until you have some solid evidence.
All my goals going into this race were non-time based. I had checked the previous years results and knew that our easy pace would not get us anywhere near placements. This was good, I could put my competitive self aside and know that pushing a bit would not be worthwhile.
- Have fun. I love the trails that this course runs on, this was an easy goal. As a bonus, there were a lot of trail friends either running, or manning aid stations.
- Eat. One common theme to advice I read on succeeding in ultras is that you need to learn to eat. Now, normally, I do not struggle with this one, I love to eat, and practice it often. On the run is different. I don’t eat a lot when I run, I can easily go out and run 3-4 hrs and not eat very much. I’d say I average around 300 calories over a 4 hr run. This works great for short (you know, because marathons are short… haha) distances, but from what everyone says, things change at the 7-8 hr mark, and I need to get my body ready. To start, I wanted to eat around 200 calories/hr in this race.
- Not race it. Powderface was meant as a training run, I did not taper, and wanted to use it as a long run, for time on my feet, and to get my body used to longer distances.
I went into the week feeling good. I feel like I’m totally recovered from the Calgary Marathon and ready to start building again. Tuesday night, Lori and I had a totally crazy, fun trail run through Fish Creek, there had been a huge storm pass through before our run, which had dumped a crazy amount of water. We had a blast. Then we strength trained. Taking a few easy weeks on either side of a goal marathon always leaves me feeling weak. Strength training has been kicking my ass lately. Thursday morning, I met Lori for an easy trail run before work. About 500 meters into the run I suddenly felt dizzy, like if I didn’t stop I was going to fall over. I stopped, got my bearings, and continued on, but I had to be really careful about keeping my head still and focusing on the trail. I’m just getting over a minor head cold and had taken cough medicine the night before, I thought maybe it was a hangover from the drugs. It wasn’t, I occasionally get an inner ear infection, that gives me some minor vertigo, and this is what it’s proven to be. Luckily it’s pretty minor, and as long as I don’t make any sudden movements with my head, everything stays fairly balanced, and I stay upright.
I was up nice and early on race morning (as was my 6 year old daughter, crazy kid!). I got my stuff together, ate a couple of yesterday’s leftover pancakes, and left the house with my coffee and gear around 6am. I car pooled with Rob, and we arrived at the start just before 7am. We checked in, got our bibs on, found Lori and we were ready to roll. Rob had rolled an ankle the day before, and had promised that he was going to run easy and stick with us… yeah right Rob!
The race started right on time at 7:30 am. We started off somewhere in the middle of the pack, and just focused on starting easy. It took approximately 800 m’s for Rob to put his ear buds in and leave us in his dust. The first few km’s don’t have any huge climbs, but we still took them easy and hiked anything with much grade. We haven’t done any training runs past 35 km’s during this cycle, and I wanted to take the first half of the race particularly easy. I’d rather pick up some time on the second half.
Lori and I ran easy, and started chatting with a fellow runner, it didn’t take long for us to realize that it was the same guy that we had finished the Grizzly Ultra with last fall, Richard, we chatted with him for a while again.
We got to the half marathon turn around, we were both eating pretty well, grabbing food from the aid stations, and also eating our own food as we went. After the half turnaround, you go through the Powderface trail parking lot, there’s a set of outhouses, which we took the opportunity to use, and then we were off to start the climb up to the high point of the race. The marathon has approximately 1600 m’s of climbing, and most of it happens before the 17.5 km mark when you crest the Powderface creek trail. Lori and I had first run this trail 2 years ago, and the climbs had seemed monumental at the time. I ran it a few weeks ago with Rob as a training run, and it hadn’t seemed nearly as bad. We power hiked most of the 6.5 km’s (4 miles) of climbing. My legs felt strong. I’ve been trying to get in as much elevation as I can over the last few weeks, and I could tell that it was definitely paying off.
I took a quick picture at the top of the climb, and we started our descent. I had to be more careful on the descent, the vertigo was mostly not causing me any issues, but I couldn’t make any dramatic or sudden head movements, which included checking out vistas, or even doing quick glances at the trail further up to plan my line down the hills. I ran fairly slow and conservatively down the hills. We leap frogged a few other races along this section, catching them on any climbs and being passed on the downhills. I didn’t really care where we were in the crowd, so just let them come and go.
We crossed the Powderface road around the 20 km mark. The time up to this point had gone by really quickly and I felt like my legs were getting into a groove and feeling really good. Once we crossed to the other side of the road, the trail climbed again, it also started to look less traveled. There were a number of wet spots between here and the 25 km mark where we would cross the road again. I managed to keep my feet dry for the most part, but did get my toes wet a few times. Whenever we crossed any clean moving streams we took advantage and wet our arms, head and neck. The sun was out and things were feeling a little warm. The cold water was really refreshing.
At the next road crossing at 25 km’s was Leo’s
party bus Aid Station. It was staffed by friends from the Calgary Trail Runners club. It was pretty awesome to see lots of familiar faces, and it sure would have been easy to grab a beer and stay a while linger at this station. We kept our wits about us, and refused any alcohol, grabbed watermelon, and Oreos (Thanks Joanna!), and high tailed it walked out of the aid station.
The next section was mostly easy running, with a few short climbs, and lots of
bears cows to dodge on the trail. We kept running the flats and downs, and hiking the hills through here. This is where we started to pass a few people, I had anticipated seeing some runners again, when they took off from the start at what seemed like a un-maintainable effort. We kept moving, and were eager to get back to the second to last aid station that we had passed just before the half marathon turn around. I felt like getting here would put us in the home stretch with just over 10k to go.
It was just before this aid station, around 32-33 km’s that my foot caught on something, and before I knew it I was flying at the ground. Normally I would have some ability to react, stumble and right myself, but the vertigo made this impossible. Once I was off balance, I sped towards the ground, and broke my fall with my shoulder, and then my head hitting a rock. I heard the thump as my head hit the rock, and it took me a few seconds to do a quick self check. I realized, I think I’m ok… Sure I had some minor road rash on my leg and shoulder, a cut on my hand, and my head hurt, but none of it was race ending. I got up, shook it off, and started to run again. It was a lucky break that I wasn’t hurt worse, and as I went, I really felt fine. I could feel a goose egg forming on my head, but it was all surface level injury.
We got to the 34 km aid station, and once again grabbed some food, filled our bottles with water, I grabbed a wet wipe and cleaned off my hand, and we were off. Just 10k left to go! The next section, though easier and more runable by comparison, had some decent climbs, which felt especially decent since we were 5 1/2 hours into our race. I knew that my initial guess of 6 hours was not going to happen, but I was feeling ok with thinking we’d get in under 6 1/2 hours. I was happy with that, considering we passed the halfway mark around 3 1/2 hours. Negative splitting a 44 km trail race would be awesome!
We continued on to the last aid station at around 39 km’s. We passed a few people, but were not passed in the second half of the race. It was a good feeling to have paced ourselves well, and to feel so strong so far into this race. Right after the last aid station, there is one final climb, my legs were definitely getting tired at this point, and I was ready to be done. The climb was hard, but we pushed through it. There was a nice 4 km’s of mostly downhill from here, I would have loved to have opened up and run hard into the finish, but my balance wasn’t 100% and I did not want to fall again, so I ran easy and tried to allow gravity to help me as much as I could. As I came in during the last half km, my garmin registered a 5:13/km pace, and it felt really good that after more than 6 hrs and more than a full marathon, my legs still had enough ‘go’ in them to cruise. Lori and I cruised into the finish, side-by-side, just as we had for the half a year earlier. It was a great feeling, and an even better feeling to see friends, and have Rob hand us each a beer! Also a shout-out to Rob, who despite leaving us in his dust, managed a fantastic finish almost 50 minutes ahead of us, this only a week after podium’ing in a 50k at Rundles!
I think, so far, this is one of my favorite things about trail running, and ultras, the recovery. I feel really good post race. Like really good. I had thought about possibly running on the Sunday, the day after the race, but hadn’t put anything on my schedule. I didn’t want to feel pressured to run, or to do anything stupid. I woke up on Sunday, and my legs felt good, I wasn’t really sore anywhere. We had a busy family day planned, but I had about 90 minutes on Sunday morning that I could squeeze something in. So I did. I ran 14 km’s, and I could have run further, my legs felt good the whole time, I was sleepy-tired, but more so because of my 6 year old’s inability to sleep past sunrise, and I was hungry, but otherwise felt good. I ran slow, and walked the hills, even on pavement. I also watched my heart-rate, I wanted it to stay in a definite easy zone.
Today, on Monday, I still feel good. I’m still hungry, more hungry than after any other marathon I’ve run, but I feel good. I’m taking this week as a cut-back week, because that’s what I have on my schedule, and because I think it’s a good idea to do so before my body is begging for a cutback.
Mostly I’m encouraged, and excited. I’m running the IronLegs 60k in August, and as of today, I’m really excited for this race, and encouraged that it’s going to be a good experience. It is another challenging race, there is a lot of elevation, and it’s going to be a long day, but I think that building on this past weekend’s effort, that it will be a good race, and will be helping to get my body to where it needs to be to finish Lost Soul.
Distance run: 44.4 km’s
Place: 8/9th for Lori and I.
- 7 oz homemade Chia Pineapple Orange Gel (770 cal if you believe their calorie count, this seems really high to me)
- 1 package Skratch gummies (160 cal)
- 5 slices watermelon (150 cal – total guess here)
- 2 Oreo cookies (106 cal)
- 3 scoops Orange Skratch in my bladder (240 cal)
- Coke – 4 small cups (150 cal – another guess)
- Chips – approx 1 ounce or 10-15 chips (150 cal)
- Picky Bar – 2 small bites, I suck at eating bars, blech… not taking any calorie credit for this one.
- Total calories: 1350 (I’m giving myself 400 calories for the homemade gel – 770 seems like a lot)
My goal was around 200 per hour, so I’m calling 1350 a total win here!