Chunks of skin falling from my sock while changing shoes is never good. Especially considering my shoes (La Sportiva Crosslite’s) blew their sides out during the Powderface 42 trail run – resulting in my toes jamming into the front of my right shoe for the last 30 minutes. I was happy to discover the skin originated from an old dislodged blister and that the feet were generally OK (the toenails might be casualties), but the shoes certainly did not survive (my shoe review).
The Powderface 42 is a 42km (26mi) somethingish trail run through Alberta’s beautiful Kananaskis Country – this year due to a bear the course took a detour and was a bit longer. The terrain on this route is fairly challenging and the aid stations are few and far between. I’d never run anything of this distance or with this elevation profile. Needless to say, I did have apprehensions going into this event. The terrain was definitely one concern, but my biggest concern was my lack of long runs. I hadn’t run anything beyond 30km since May 6th (my Vancouver Marathon DNF) and my longest run in the past month had been 25km on June 24th (Rundle’s Revenge). I felt undertrained which reflected my race plan. The plan was to adhere to a strict 75% – 80% heart rate (HR) range to conserve energy for the last half of the course where I anticipated slowing down.
At 7:00am with overcast skies and temperatures around 15C (59F), friendly familiar faces surrounded the starting line. These trail events are small, typically capped at 150 participants. In this event the runners were spread between two distances, with 50 runners toeing the longer distance. 7:30 hits and the gun sounded, off we race into the trees. For the first 5km my HR was pushing above 80% likely a combination of too much coffee, nervs, and excitement. I chatted with some runners, but soon found myself alone focusing on the trail and foot placement. 11km into the run and the 6km climb up to the pass (500m elevation) began. I was feeling strong and made headway on my position while keeping a close eye on my heart rate. Down the other side on the steeper runnable descents I’d catch myself zoning out (road runner style) or rather my foot would catch a root and send me flying off trail – reminding me to remain alert and how quickly my run could end. At the 25km aid station I was still feeling good, but knew it was early and that anything could still go wrong. Another 10km of fairly sustained downhill and I was still felling OK although a couple minor calf cramps paid a visit and there was a good chance that more were in the mail. Some more climbing and no sign of cramps, things were looking good. 4km from the finish and the cramps began. Boy were they annoying. I worked through them by altering my cadence, running slightly sideways (zig-zagging back and forth on the trail), and running them out on the flats. After 44kms (27mi) in total I was happy to cross the finish line and surprised that I maintained an 80% average heart rate without slowing in the last half of the run.
This long distance trail running business is interesting. Events of this nature combine obstacle course traversal with a keen sense of self monitoring – a need to gauge energy reserves and anticipate nutrition / hydration needs as the distances between aid stations are fairly long. I found it interesting that while I hadn’t been logging many long runs my long (4+hrs) mountain bike rides compensated quite nicely. In future trail races I’ll need to run through the creeks and mud holes. I wasted a fair amount of time trying to keep my feet dry, but then again I was getting blisters with wet feet (in my now trashed shoes). I’m hoping that new shoes might make wet feet running more enjoyable. Next event I’ll try targeting a higher heart rate range too. Here’s my track.
Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new. – Brian Tracy
Here’s a brief summary (both good and bad) of what I’ve been up to between now and my January ambitions. My race ambitions may have been a bit too lofty at the beginning of the year – which is likely another case of Canadian Cabin Fever. If you’re unfamiliar; the symptoms generally start with a twitchy mouse finger in mid January which progresses into a race registration rampage where common sense like recovery time and logistics are overlooked.
Injuries. Oh no! I experienced a couple setbacks in the form of injuries. Heel Bursitis; I tied my shoes too tight and what initially felt like a blister turned into two weeks of downtime in January. Achilles Tendinitis; Ok, it probably wasn’t tendinitis. Let’s just say it was an Agitated Achilles and that I spent too much time looking at Achilles Tendon ruptures. Better safe then sorry. Achilles issues are scary! Thankfully a second opinion from a Physiotherapist and some acupuncture cleared up the issue in a couple weeks. The agitation was likely the result of new skate ski boots, riding a bike with the seat too high, and skate skiing for too long too soon.The Angry Piriformis. What a pain in the butt. If you’re in a small space (like a plane) for multiple hours, then MOVE. I tried to win Angry Birds in a cramped airplane seat after a couple tiring weeks of building up mileage. I should have been moving, and stretching – anything but hunching over a tiny phone screen. Upon leaving the plane I felt a pain in my buttock that didn’t go away for almost four weeks. Piriformis was weird, I could run for under two hours without feeling much pain. So… I tried running the Vancouver Marathon – which I’ll address later. I still haven’t won Angry Birds. Do the levels ever end?
Oversights. Spending time in a tropical climate at sea level on a flat island at the end of a Canadian winter while trying to peak for a marathon was a mistake. Most Caribbean islands cater to beach time not runners and running routes. In a single day I was chased by 15 dogs – 7 of those dogs were in a single pack. I ended up running with rocks in hand and sweating it out on a treadmill in a hot gym. I know, I know, insert violin sound sample here (*Wa-Waa-Waaa*). I’m fortunate to get to spend time in Turks and Caicos. I did learn how to SCUBA dive, and had a blast on the island, but training deteriorated.
Race Results. The Calgary’s St Patrick’s Day 10km was run shortly after the Achilles issue. Up to that point I hadn’t run more than 10km for a couple weeks and wanted to survive. I felt the run was a success. I tried running the Vancouver Marathon despite having the niggling Piriformis issue. I’m not sure what I was thinking. In retrospect I should have clued in and dropped down to the half while rolling out my Piriformis muscle with a tennis ball a day before the race, because at kilometre 30 (the 18th mile) the dark force and a conveniently located coffee shop became my own personal finish line. Funny though, shortly before my mid race coffee break I had decided to finish at all cost. That fleeting thought lasted for about five minutes. Vancouver is a big marathon with many spectators. I was in the first wave, my name was on the front of my bib in big letters, and EVERYONE was looking for someone to cheer on. So this slowing, nearly limping runner (me) was garnering attention. “You can DO IT ADAM!” “No pain no gain Adam!” I stopped, sat down on a curb laughed, took off the race bib, folded it up (along with my ego) and stuffed it in my pocket. I then walked a shortcut back to the finish and cheered friends over the finish line. It was still a great time to catch up with friends and an excuse to visit Vancouver – oh, and the new route is nice too. At the Calgary Marathon my Piriformis issue was still present, anything over two hours of running was out. I opted for the Half Marathon and had a good run on the new course. Rundle’s Revenge was so fun! So much mud, so many great people, and my legs were in full working order. Then there was Fernie’s Furious 3. A three day staged mountain bike race with an average of 40km per day on Fernie’s well manicured single track. I did get lost on the second day which added some bonus mileage, elevation, and time, but this was my first MTB race. I didn’t care much, I wasn’t any real competition, and now got to mix some orienteering into my day. I had no idea bike racing was so much fun and easier than running (sorry mountain bikers). The Powderface 42 is yet to be determined. It’s coming up quickly.