April 7, 2014

Another little half marathon jaunt

The half marathon is an awesome distance - long enough that you need endurance but short enough that you also need speed, plus for an ultra runner like me I feel I can jump into one and race a decent effort without too much of a taper, and also recover quick so get right back into training for my upcoming key races the next day.  But all that aside, the real reason that I signed up for the BMO April Fools Half marathon, that took place yesterday, was for a fun day trip with my most awesome running club, the Vancouver Falcons (VFAC).

Every Thursday evening I workout on the trails in Vancouver's Stanley Park with VFAC, it is my favourite workout of the week as we hammer speed intervals hard, push ourselves to the limit, generally get frozen cold and run until we feel like we'll vomit, and yet have the best time ever with lots of fun and lots of laughs.  I'm not sure how this magic happens, but it's a great club and great training.

The Blue Train (aka VFAC - named for our blue singlets) was in full force on the Sunshine Coast of BC yesterday.  I started out the race with new member Alex by my side, Roberto and Anne-Marie just off the front, and there was never a point in the race when I couldn't see one of my team mates up ahead - great motivation.

At the 1 mile mark with Alex
Photo: Rick Horne

The BMO April Fools Half marathon is net downhill, so known for being a pretty fast course but the 435m of descent is compensated for my 285m of climbing, so it's definitely a challenging route.  But it is also a route that plays to my strengths, I'm not the best at hammering out km after km at an even, fast pace on the flat, but if I can run just on feel, because of hills, I find this much easier mentally.  The hills also broke the course down nicely - net downhill for the first 10km, make it to 14km where a long climb begins until 17.5km, and from then to the finish at 21.1km push the pace on the downhills and flats.  There was never a moment to get bored, or to be concerned about losing a few seconds or so on a km, it was more a matter of focusing on the next hill, be it a climb or a descent.

All smiles at 5km
Photo: Rick Horne

I'm super happy that I seemed to pace myself well, I was 4th female at half way, and by around 14km moved into 2nd position which I maintained until the end.  There was no way I was going to catch team mate Kim Doerksen who ran a stellar 1:14:53 for a huge PB; oh, and she was wearing a tutu!  I did run a 46sec PB though for 1:17:42, which I'm super happy with as I really just ran on effort, with the occasional glance at my watch.

With so much downhill pounding on the tarmac I wore slightly heavier shoes than I might have done otherwise, and right now the Montrail Fluid Feel IIs are my absolute favourite go-to shoe for so many runs.

All in all, a fun day out, a solid workout and a stepping stone for longer distance races to come.

Team VFAC!
Photo: Sally Guillano

Top 3 ladies - Kim, Ellie, Anne-Marie.  All VFAC :)
Photo: Nic Browne
Happy trails,

March 22, 2014

Chuckanut 50km

Last weekend I headed down to Bellingham, WA to run Chuckanut 50km for the 5th time, likely the race I have run the most, it's a no brainer - it's local, it usually has a competitive field, lots of friends always run it, and it's a nice early season opener.

It was great to be back racing an ultra again, after a 11.5 month break, and it was even better that my various niggles held out so, fingers crossed, I can start planning some sort of race schedule for the year ahead.

Thanks as always to Krissy Moehl RD who puts on an awesome show, along with her co-RD Heather Anderson and all the super volunteers who braved a windy day.

My race report is up on iRunFar here, along with a post race video interview here.

With Montrail/ MHW/ Flora team mate Max King at the start

Charge!  Chuckanut race start 2014

With Jesse, who pulled me up Cleator Road

Yassine got me into 'race mode' again, pushing me up Little Chinscraper

On the hunt, heading home on the 10km or so Interurban.  I came 11th overall but in the final 3rd of the race (downhill and flat) I was 4th overall.  Got to work on my hill climbing!

Catching up for lost time of the homebound trip on the Interurban trail

Hugs of happiness with Krissy

Hanging out at the finish with Flora team mates Yassine Diboun and Max King

February 17, 2014

I went for a run

I think I've run the Pacific Road Runners First Half Half marathon seven times now, it's a good start of season race and really well organized.  It's one of those races where everyone in the Vancouver running community seems to show up - from first time half marathoners, to club runners, to ultra trail runners, to Olympians.  So really it's a good old social and chance to try run hard and see lots of friends.

My main take away from the race was that competitive womens road running is looking good in Vancouver!  In 2011 I ran 1:18:49 for 1st place female, in 2013 I ran 1:18:43 for 2nd place female, and this year I ran a PB time of 1:18:28 for 4th place female, so yep - each year I've run faster yet I've slipped down in the positioning!  And I know that there were a good few fast women who might typically run this race that were not even on the start line yesterday.

I can honestly say too, that after not much racing in the past 11 months I was keen to run hard.  I've had some solid training and decent times at workouts, and was keen to get the best time I could - even if I didn't expect a PB as the legs are still not 100%.  I've spent much of the last 11 months doing cross training or easing back into running, and yesterday I wanted to forget all that and run til it hurt ... which it did!

It was great to have friend, fellow Vancouver Falcon and also ultra runner Barry Young to pace with for a good portion of the race.  We aimed to set out at same pace so it was good to have someone to check splits with until I got into a rhythm.  We were soon joined by another ultra runner, Hassan Lofti-Pour (Sammy), and Sammy had great amusement trying to get me to talk.  But I just wanted to focus on the race environment and eek out every second I could so Sammy was pretty much met with a silent brick wall.  I promise I'll chat next time we're in the opening miles of an ultra Sammy!

Early miles with Barry.  Credit - Dave Burroughs
So all in all it was a fun jaunt around the Stanley Park seawall.  It was a good test of fitness and I'm happy I ran a smart race, managing to negative split despite some headwinds in the closing miles, and squeezing 15 seconds off my PB.

Trying to drop Sammy :)  Credit - 321photos.ca/ Mark Bates

A huge thank you to Pacific Road Runners who once again organised an amazing event, and being a past member it was super to see many familiar PRR faces yesterday!  In addition, the event raised more than $50, 000 for the childrens charity Variety - not bad for a volunteer run club race!  And of course, thank you to all volunteers - it's a top notch event and you are a huge part of it.

The pain of a PB ;)  Credit - Rita Ivanauskas
And whilst I may not be 100% back to pain free running and training, it's about time I said thank you to my wonderful sponsors who have stayed with me as I have been sidelined with injury.  Before the race yesterday when many thoughts were swirling through my head, I figured that if Topher was there (President of Mountain Hardwear/ Montrail and amazing runner himself) he'd tell me to just go run and have fun.  So that's what I did :)

January 16, 2014

Yes, I'm High Maintenance :)

It's fair to say that I generally prefer to be pretty low maintenance.  When a nagging pain, which ended up being a stress fracture, last year resulted in me figuring I should go see a doctor I had to message a friend to find out which walk-in clinic would be best to go to.  Other than seeing a doctor in Banff to get my CCC medical certificate signed, I think I'd been to the doctor maybe once in the 3 or 4 years prior.  Ok, I'd see a physio occasionally when my hamstrings flared up and would get massages once in a while before or after a race, but otherwise I'm not one to go running to medical professionals unless I otherwise really need to.

Oh, how things have changed!  From May to November I was working four and a half days a week which was pretty convenient as I usually needed that bonus half day to go see a doctor, physio, massage therapist, gait analysis expert or someone else who must surely know how to fix me!

Last week I took things to a whole new level when I went to get gait analysis from Dr. Chris McLean at Fortius Lab in Burnaby.  It's an amazing centre packed full off the best experts in sports medicine, physio, gait analysis and more.  

Gait analysis at Fortius
I spent about 90 minutes there getting assessed, which involved a full discussion of my injury and running history, an analysis of me walking barefoot and then about 15 minutes of running on a treadmill.  The results collected are far more in depth than standard gait analysis.  When I went back for a 30 minute visit to discuss the results a few days later I learned the force at which I hit the ground, pelvic alignment, hip rotation issues, how I strike the ground and lots lots more.  It's definitely worthwhile for anyone interested in either resolving an injury or possibly preventing injuries.  Results are then passed on to any treating doctors or physiotherapists so an action plan of how to address any issues can be decided.

So, if anyone is looking for sports medicine professionals in and around Vancouver, here's the main list of Team Ellie!  Thanks also to many other friends who happen to be experts (Dory, Ramsey, ...) who have offered much needed advice!

I'm not exactly light-footed Bambi :)
Gait Analysis


Sports Medicine

Massage Therapy
Bobby Crudo, Vancouver.

Happy trails!

December 23, 2013

The Year that Wasn't

So I guess it's that time of year where we are meant to ruminate over our achievements and accomplishments of the past 12 months.  We are encouraged to reflect and ponder over what we have done and what our goals are for the coming calendar year.  From my side, all I can hope is that 2014 is even a little bit better, running-wise, than 2013!  Here are a few of my achievements since January 1st:

- February - First Half Half Marathon (Vancouver) 1:18:41.  Squeaking a PB by 6 seconds.  I guess I shouldn't complain but my splits were all over the place and I only got that PB by realising I was going to get trampled by a train of women behind me if I didn't pick up the pace mid-way.  A PB but I needed to run more evenly throughout to get a better overall time.

- March - St Paddys 5km (Vancouver) 17:35.  Squeaking another PB, but really - who has to stop and tie their shoe lace 1km into a sprint like this?  Rookie error that left me flailing behind the group I had been tucked in with.  That shoe lace tying stop must have cost me 10 seconds and well, I'll be sure to triple tie my laces from now on :)

- March - Two Oceans 56km (Capetown, South Africa) 3:45:15.  I crossed the line in 7th but got bumped up to 6th when 1st place failed anti-doping controls.  Had I run one tiny little second faster I'd have been 5th.  Had I run 15 seconds faster I'd have the Scottish 50km record.  A great race and I knew  thatI would struggle to keep pace on the opening flat sections as my marathon PB is just not fast enough, but it seems like a race where I 'just' missed a few few targets.  I'd hoped to run more like 3:42/ 3:43 but the winds were wild and I loved that!  The final 9km downhill was a blast, and was my saving grace!

- May - BMO Vancouver Marathon.  After two weeks of very easy running due to ankle pain, I now know you can run 30km, net downhill, on a fibula stress fracture and not feel too bad.  I was tempted to finish the race but thankfully physio Ramsey at the sidelines advised me not to.  10 days later I found out that 'ankle' pain was a stress fracture.

And from then on I feel like I have limped through the year.  I ran Telluride 10 mile hillclimb (Colorado) in August and Moray Marathon (Scotland) in Sept.  Both were days that reminded me how much I love racing and I have been very glad to have those memories as from mid-Sept to mid-Nov I acquired a new injury which has limited my running once again.  But looking back to how much fun it was bombing down those 5 miles of Gold Hill in Telluride have kept me going and believing that all this crazy cross training and hours of physio exercises are worth it as I want to get back to racing as soon as I can.

Right now I am up to trying some easy and shortish runs with the hope that I can build up slowly to a point where I can actually 'train'.  At the moment I have as much confidence running on my legs as if I were running on matchsticks, but hopefully things will carry on in the right direction and I'll get over the fear of injury.  Of course I have race plans for 2014 but I'm not setting anything in stone until I am confident that I am over this injury yet.

2013 has definitely been more of year of cross training and physio than one of running, but hopefully I'll be back on track just as soon as I can.  In the meantime, a big thank you to all my sponsors who have stood by me and been understanding of my lack of toeing the start line sporting their logos.  I've been grateful to have their moral support to help me feel somewhat part of the running scene, and I've been grateful to have their financial support to pay the medical bills!  So a shout out to Montrail, Mountain Hardwear, Clif Bar, Udos Oil, Sundog Eyewear, CEP compression, Drymax socks and Petzl.

And here are some fun photos to remember the year by:

First half half marathon.  February. Credit: Rita Ivanaskas

With Nedbank team mates Tim & Camille, Two Oceans race morning.  March.

Fat Ass 50, Jan 1st.  Fingers crossed I can do the 25km this year :)

My trail buddy was getting knee surgery the next week, by tibialis posterior was jammed up.  Two runners went for a rainy hike.  September.

Montrail teammies Matt & Sean show the power of teamwork!  Photoshoot in Telluride, CO.  August.

Speaking at the PRR running seminar on my specialist subject - injury!  October.

Gran Fondo Langley.  172km on a bike, and I'm slow!  July.

I've never looked so chilled at No Hands bridge :)  That place is pure magic.  June.

Western States, tough not to race but great to see so many friends!  June.

My first tweeting assignment for iRunFar!  Western States 100 miler.  June.

Finished Telluride hill climb with no fibula pain!  The quads were kinds hammered though!  August.

Some very awesome friends in beautiful BC.  September.

Team Ellie after Moray Marathon, Scotland.  September.

Fun times attempting to mountain bike and surf at Team Clif Bar Athlete Summit.  San Fran.  November.

Talking nutrition and drinking beer with some great people and fab runners.  November.
Fun evening speaking at Cambie Running Room pre-BMO Vancouver marathon.  May.

Volunteering at IronKnee 25km.  North Vancouver.  June.

MacAllans whisky for a marathon win!  September.

What would injured Vancouver runners do without the BCMC (and the gondola down!)?  One of my MANY repeats this year.

My most common training location in 2013 :)

September 6, 2013

Whisky Galore! The Moray Marathon

When I knew I was going to be visiting my parents in Scotland I decided to google 'Scottish marathons' and hey presto up popped information about the Moray Marathon in Elgin.

with my dad at the start
It looked ideal; in a beautiful location, on the right date, and a low key yet well established event.  Given I was still in the very early stages of returning to running post forced lay off due to my stress fracture I resisted the urge to sign up right away but already scoped out the opinions of my sports med Dr and my physio, both of whom thought the time line seemed realistic for a 'participatory' rather than 'racing' marathon.  Perfect, I was in need of a race to look forward to and to motivate me to get back to a regular running routine.  It was nice to have a race too that I'd not know anyone else competing in, I didn't need that sort of pressure and in fact only told a couple of friends when I signed up.

start line in Elgin
Roll on a month or so and I was still only at running every other day and at about 50% of my regular training volume but race day was looming near and I'd got a few 2hr road runs in the bag, along with a 35km/ 4h15 trail run and 3 interval speed sessions with my run club.  Hmm, so what time was realistic to target for?  I really didn't know, my speed sessions had hardly been speedy and I was aware my legs lacked tarmac pounding acclimatization, but I figured that starting somewhere in the 4m15 to 4m25 range would be doable.  I resolved to ensure I kept a close eye on my Garmin for the first few kilometers, to try avoid getting carried away with excitement to be back racing.  My first km was 3m59, uh oh 'SLOW DOWN' I could hear my run club coach shouting it me in my head so I eased back and let a group of guys pull ahead.  I was left on my own in no woman's land - so much for hoping to meet some local runners!

The course was rural farm roads, followed by North Sea coastal views, mixed in with stone built villages so typical of Scotland, it was beautiful!  The views and my parents popping up along the route kept me cheery and I was happy to soon form a merry trio with local runner Tim (thanks for the course tips!) and an Aberdeen runner.  I was aware that we were picking up the pace a little but I decided to stick with it as it seemed manageable and the company was very welcome.  We rolled through half way somewhere around 1:28:30.  I figured now would be crunch time - could I hold on for a sub-3hr finish or would my lack of long training runs come to haunt me?  Only the next 21.1km tell ...

running with Tim and Tako
With about 16km to go the half marathon route merged with our full marathon route and soon the empty roads were much more full of runners.  Although I didn't like this intrusion at first, as it was now hard to see who was in which race, I soon began to use the half marathoners who streamed past me as targets to keep in eye sight.  One woman passed me and asked if I was leading the women's marathon to which I said I thought I was (though I now started to second guess whether I was or not!), she then pulled past me but I felt encouraged by our short exchange and decided to try start picking up the pace a little to try keep up with her.  It was great to have a moving target to follow.

As we entered the town of Lossiemouth there was a short climb and then the most spectators at any point along the course, this was great timing just as the going was starting to get a little tougher with about 10km to go.  At this stage I clocked a few sub 4 min/ kms and to help keep me going I aimed to keep all the remaining kms under 4 minute pace, in the end I didn't manage to do this but it kept me going as I would count of each km on my Garmin.  With 8km to go I was working to hang onto my pace and encouraged that by doing so I passed at least one marathoner and quite a few half marathoners.  The wind had been blustery all day but it was with 2 miles to go that we seemed to hit the strongest head wind of the day, not exactly welcome but in some way trying to battle against it distracted me from the fact that I just wanted to be at the finish line.

With the few final kms through the streets of Elgin I was concerned I'd get lost but the course was well marked and I glanced back once or twice to check there were runners behind me!  All in all I was delighted to cross the line in 2:53:52 - good for 1st female and 6th overall, and it earned me some grocery vouchers and a very nice bottle of MacAllan's whisky!

with my trophy and whisky!

finish line friends

August 13, 2013

And finally ... a race report!

Well, it's been a bit of  gap between race reports given the fragile fibula status.  Since pulling out of Vancouver marathon in early May and then 10 days later finding out I had a stress fracture to my fibula there has understandably been a big fat zero racing miles.  Well, not unless you want to count the 160km Gran Fondo cycling event that I did in Langley, BC back in July, which was more of an effort to make it to the finish line under cut offs rather than a race per se... and despite adding a bonus 12km, I made it to the finish line in a very pedestrian 6h44.  That's slow, very slow, but it was a great day out and fun to do an event given my running race calendar for the year had been scrapped.

Telluride, CO
But this past weekend I jumped at taking part in the Telluride Mountain Run Hill Climb, a first year event put on by Dakota Jones and Reese Ruland in awesome Telluride, Colorado.  My main running weaknesses I consider to be:

- uphill
- sub-marathon distances
- anything at altitude

Cool down run with a pre-Leadville-mid-Grand-Slam Ian Sharman
So given I am at nothing like normal fitness and training volume it was fun to try an event which I would never normally contemplate - 10 miles total, 5 up, 5 back down and a total of 1200 metres of climbing so we'd top out at a lung-sucking 3823 metres!

Rainy runners at the awards
The main sell-out event was the 40-miler Telluride Mountain Run, so it was a chilled out affair when about 30 of us began the hill climb at a leisurely 10am.  I'd grabbed a Clif Bar and a coffee for breakfast, hung around chatting to Cam Clayton, who being more used to these shorter distances runs than me suggested that I might actually want to do a warm up, and I had survived the altitude with a 10min jog along the riverside bike path in town.  Ok, ready to charge up the hill!  Well, except there was not much charging going on, more of a steady jog until the grade steepened and very soon I switched to a power hike, and resolved that there was not going to be much uphill running at this oxygen-deprived elevation.

RD Dakota Jones surveying his domain
I had zero expectations other than to hike as fast as I could and where the path levelled out a bit to try run if my legs and lungs would allow, and soon I settled into a pushing yet comfortable pace and was pulled along by the lead woman in front of me as well as looking enviously ahead at a guy who'd had the smarts to bring trekking poles.  Soon our efforts were rewarded with stunning mountain vistas, made all the better as this was my first trip to Colorado and the first time I'd seen Telluride in daylight.  Immediately I knew why the San Juans are a trail runners paradise.  It was just stunning!  But there was not much time to admire the views as on I trudged until we reached the final 1/2 mile or so scramble to the top; hands on knees, up on my toes and just keep moving, however slowly.  The very top flattened out and I forced myself to run around the summit cairn despite the air seeming exceptionally thin.  A quick look at the stellar mountain scenery around me and then time for the fun part - bomb back down the way we had come, 5 miles of down down down.  Suddenly the uphill climb definitely seemed worth while!  I knew that 5 miles of 100% descent would be maybe a bit too good of a test for the still-recovering-stress-fracture but I soon drew past the lead woman and I got into race gear.  There is nothing more fun than hammering downhill on trails and I hammered almost as fast as I could.  There was little time to look up, I just kept pushing and knew my quads would be complaining later but it was definitely worth it for the fun of going full tilt down the trail.

Sean Meissner post-race modelling
And before I knew it I was back at the bottom, a souvenir race glass in my hand, a keg of beer and awesome homemade soup at the finish line and having fun hanging out and cheering the 40-mile runners in.

A really fun race, definitely the first of many trips to Colorado, and I'm already figuring out an altitude training plan so I can race the 40-mile event next year :)  Big shout out to Dakota Jones and Reese Ruland on a fantastic first-year (of many, I hope) event as well as all the local volunteers who helped this event happen.

There might not be an ultra for a while yet but in the meantime I could get used to some shorter mountain racing :)

Simon, 13yrs, I passed him just at the top of the climb.  Congrats on a great race Simon!
Telluride from the Gold Hill climb
Towards the top of the Hill Climb
RD Reese on the mic
Classic Colorado