May 4, 2015

Testing times

Having got the green light from my surgeon a few weeks ago I asked myself the question, 'Can I train for Comrades 87k in seven weeks?'  Well, and lets' be honest there those seven weeks included any sort of taper so in realty, I had far less than seven weeks to put in a solid bunch of hard, but sensible, graft.  It was time to start ramping up the miles, but also time to be mindful that if I leapt back into too much too soon then I might end up injured or just plain over worked.

First focus - just go out and run.  A few days after getting the 'ok' to run I did a 33k road run, usually this would be nothing to write home about but man oh man, I ended that run feeling beat like after my first marathon some 13 years ago.  Hmm, this was no boding well.  But it seemed that with each and every run my body very quickly remembered the usual paces that I put it through and I soon was ramping up the miles, adding quality and recovering much quicker.  Muscle memory and rested legs are two very wonderful things!

I was also very keen to race BMO Vancouver Marathon, which was this past weekend, afterall it was four weeks pre-Comrades so why on earth would I go for a long solo training run when I could join in race fun with many friends, all of which knew I had been injured and thus possibly not in the best shape of my life?  Everyone said I would be fine, but I went into 'race' day with 110kms in my legs from the 5 days prior - not exactly the usual taper.  Those 110kms included my first attempt at a tempo and a speed workout, so they weren't all easy miles.  But I had to remember that BMO was a stepping stone and not a goal race in itself, there wasn't the luxury of time to taper for this, and afterall - it was destined to be a hard training effort, not a race.

All in all BMO Vancouver Marathon yesterday was a huge success on many fronts:

- I had talked myself into the belief that a 3:00:00 finish might be realistic.  But I have the benefit of more than 50 marathons/ ultras so when I opened in a 3:55/km rather than the planned 4:15/km I ran on feel, and ended up with a 3:56/km average - pretty good pacing.

With Helen, Anne-Marie and Kristin, just some of my super VFAC team mates.  Photo: Guy Smith

- 2:47:23 finishing time, with a negative split to boot (I passed half way in 1:24 something - still not sure of the official split).

Cruising at the half way mark.  Photo: Dave Burroughs


- Whilst I not surprisingly lacked that extra gear (no taper, heavy legs) I didn't slow at the end - yes, there was no sprint finish but in my final 5kms I maintained my steady pace, good enough.

Focused in the closing kms.  Photo: Rita Ivanauskas

- I'd arranged to have a friend meet me at the finish line to go for a 10k cool down, after a quick awards ceremony (I placed 3rd female overall), off we trotted for a blissful, easy 50 minute run in the hilly Stanley Park trails.  Were my legs fresh?  No.  Could I easily run that 10k?  Yes.

So I now have one more week of really solid training and then it will be gradually reduced volume to prep for Comrades.  I am so excited to be heading to South Africa again, and whilst I might not be in tip top shape and perfectly prepared, BMO was an excellent benchmark of fitness that shows that I should be able to post a respectable showing at The Ultimate Human Race on May 31st :)  I'm excited, motivated and keen to just race as best as I can.


Pumped with my time, how good I felt, and that whilst my hand is still in need of much therapy - at least I am back running.  Photo: Salomon Store West Vancouver


April 2, 2015

A Bumpy Flight

My oh my, how did April 2nd happen?  The year so far seems to have just flown by, though to be fair it has been a bit of a bumpy flight so far!  Firstly, please excuse if there are a few typos in this post but two weeks ago I was commuting on my bike to get to a massage therapy appointment when 'bam!'  A car abruptly cut in front of me, I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting them and before I knew it I was flying over my handlebars, hitting the tarmac and going in an ambulance to ER to find out that I had three broken bones in my hand.  Left hand typing is hard!  Darn, I never did make it to that massage appointment but I did make it to surgery four days later for a whole bunch of metalware to be put in my hand as it turns out the breaks are pretty severe.
 

Not conducive to running!
I LOVE my bike!
                             
This week I was meant to be in Mallorca for Salomon Advanced Week, but instead my surgeon made me stay home for some follow ups and hand therapy.  Boo :(  But do check out Salomon Running on Facebook to see some awesome pics of what my team mates are up to and what cool new products they are testing.  I'm so honoured to be part of this team and looking forward to Advanced Week 2016!


Salomon Advanced Week

Before the injury, I started out the year as I often do with the Fat Ass 50k here in Vancouver.  Having not run much in December (end of season down time) it was a bit of a slow sufferfest of a day but I had the company of great friends Kim and Sammy, who refused to let me drop back and so good chatter was had great times shared.  Thanks guys!

with Kick Ass Kim and Super Sammy

January was then all about build up and return to speed and at my run club workouts I sometimes found my groove, and I sometimes didn't.  But I've been running long enough to know that I just need to keep plugging away and so that is what I did.  VFAC interval workouts are a guaranteed sufferfest, but shared with great friends we all smile at the end and come back every week for more.  In mid February I raced the Pacific Road Runners First Half Half Marathon and was reasonably happy with my 80min finishing time, slower than the year before but good enough and a great workout to progress my fitness.  Once again Sammy and I found ourselves side by side, and then around 15k we picked up our friend Dave and he jumped aboard our little pain train to the finish line.  There is nothing like running the last 5k of a half at your absolute fitness potential to know what suffering is about :)


First Half (credit Jay Klassen)
post speed interval workout with Tim
               

Of course with the current state of running (none until my surgeon gives the green light) who knows if the Comrades will be a-go in less than two months time.  I am not naive enough to think I can win with this interruption to training but the Comrades has never been about winning for me.  I love the Comrades with an absolute passion and if I feel I can put on a respectable performance on May 31st then I it will be an honour to represent Salomon and Nedbank through the Valley of a Thousand Hills.


with Amy after Comrades 2014

I will be participating at the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 3rd in one form or another.  On April 30th I'll be speaking at the race expo (about the Comrades), on May 2nd I'll be hanging out at the Clif Bar booth at the expo, and on race day I'll either be running, cheering my Kintec/ NSA clinic runners, or helping out the race organizers.  Keep an eye out of my Facebook page for details, I'm looking forward to chatting to many runners over the race weekend.

And one final note - I have a great deal if you are looking at buying some sunglasses.  My super sponsor, Sundog Eyewear, are offering 25% off sales on www.sundogeyewear.com until April 30th if you enter code ELLIE25 (US & Canada only).  They will also provide me with a 15% kickback from any of these sales which will be a great help for medical costs associated with this darn broken hand.


Kristin and I wearing our Sundogs whilst we are a mobile aid station for our clinic marathoners-in-training

Oh, and one very final note - a huge thank you to all my sponsors and friends, who have been so helpful and understanding when I can't run :)  Ok, time to sign off now - that was a long post for typing with my 'wrong' hand!


Happy trails,
Ellie


"Embrace your biggest disappointments, build on your greatest achievements, keep your head held high and you cannot help move forward".

March 11, 2015

The Joys of and the Reasons why Anti Doping control in Sports is a must

Congratulations!  Your prize for winning the IAU World 100k is US$2000 and the pleasure of being added to the WADA Whereabouts register!  Woo hoo!  So the IAU World 100k was back in mid November and last week I was advised that I need to report "Whereabouts" as of next week, but I've still to receive the prize money (I'm told that it is on it's way!), I guess in the grand scheme of thing I do agree with this order of priority because trying to keep doping cheats out of athletics as much as possible is absolutely essential for the whole reputation and well being of our sport.  I know that I for one don't want to watch races where I am looking at competitors and being suspicious that they are using 'a little extra' to help them perform to their best, because then it's not their best, it's some artificial best that is cheating clean athletes of the accolades, the recognition and the earnings that they deserve.




So what is the "Whereabouts" register?  Basically it is a system where an athlete has to submit online, in 3 month installments, their overnight address as well as a 60 minute time slot every single day (between 5am and 11pm) until at some time in the coming years when the athlete will be advised that they are being removed from the register.  An athlete also needs to report the dates and locations of all their competitions and there is encouragement, but not requirement, to report regular activities such as training sessions, regular gym workout locations etc.  Once that information is submitted then an anti-doping officer can show up at any time to perform doping control (a blood and/ or urine sample).  It is essential that an athlete is at their daily 60 min slot location as if they miss an anti doping officer showing up for this slot then this is recorded, and there is only the 'chance' to miss three such visits in a year before it is classed as an anti doping violation and the athlete will be banned from competition for two years!  In all other slots (regular activities, competitions etc) the athlete must provide a blood/ urine sample if an anti doping officer shows up, but if the athlete is not at these locations when they said they would be then this is not classed as a missed test - phew!

All this information is submitted on an online system, which is fortunately quite easy to use, and can be updated at last minute either by going back onto the system, using an iPhone app or text messaging new details to a specific phone number.  Given most athletes travel a certain amount and often don't have regular schedules the ability to adjust submitted "Whereabouts" information is essential.

Of course it goes without saying that the whole concept of anti doping control is to test an athlete for banned substances which could potentially increase their athletic performance, so from now on there will be no random medication popping for me, instead I will need to check before I take any medication to see if it is on the 'banned list'.  If a medication is banned then the first port of call is to try to find a similar medication that is not banned, and failing that an athlete needs to obtain a therapeutic exemption before they can take a substance that is on the banned list.  I'm just hoping that I stay healthy :)

The whole World Anti Doping Association set up works within the frame of the events that are under the banner of the IAAF.  Hence a runner can win any number of trail races such as UTMB, Western States, TNF50 etc and they will not come under the radar of being added to the "Whereabouts" register, but as soon as an athlete starts choosing to compete at IAAF events then there is the 'risk' that they may get asked to submit 'Whereabouts".  If an athlete is asked to submit "Whereabouts" information but does not want to then the only way out is to officially retire from competing in IAAF events in the future, and I think even if someone such as myself did that, there would be a cloud of suspicion around that athlete (and rightly so) and even non-IAAF events would likely not be keen that that athlete competes in their races.  Equally I think it is important to say that I 'chose' to compete at an IAAF event, because if any athlete really does not want to potentially be added to the "Whereabouts" register then they can simply not compete at those events.  It's rather along the lines of 'if you don't like the rules then don't play the game'.




Of course I am not overly excited to have been added to the register; it's time consuming and extra admin I'd prefer not to deal with, but it is the price that we have to pay to maintain the integrity of our sport and keep the cheats out, and so for that reason I'm happy to comply with the necessary procedures (though ask me that again when I first get tested as my usual 60 minute slot will be very early morning when I am sure to be at home ... and in bed!)

January 1, 2015

New Ventures

In 2008 I was approached by a friend who managed the Canadian Montrail team at the time and he asked if I wanted to join the team.  Did I want to join?  Wow!  Me?  I had a 3:18 marathon PB and had won a handful of low key, local trail 50ks.  I'd never run 50 miles, let alone won Western States 100 miler, heck - I'd not even raced outside of Canada.  Needless to say, it was an absolute honour to be asked to join the team and the last seven years have been full of lots of miles, lots of smiles and countless new challenges and opportunities.  But the time has come where it is just right to move on, so today I say a huge thank you to Montrail and Mountain Hardwear for their support over the last seven years.  It's been quite the ride!




And ... an equally huge thank you to Salomon for asking me to join their running family for 2015 and beyond.  I'm so very excited for the opportunities that this will afford me as a runner, the places it will allow me to travel, the races it will allow me to run and the people it will give me a chance to meet, and hopefully inspire. 

Wishing each and everyone of you a Happy New Year.  May your trails be scenic, your roads be fast and your adventures filled with friends and family.

Happy trails,
Ellie
Credit: DROZ Photo

November 25, 2014

IAU World 100k

Thank you, once again, to the elite ultra media team of iRunFar.com for publishing my race report from the IAU World 100k in Doha last week!  You can read about my perspective on the race here.

But here as some extra little memories of the event that didn't fit into the race report:

- Anti doping control knocked on our hotel room door at 7.20am on the day before the race.  You have to answer the door right away so the doping control office in a full length hijab was met by Ellie in her underwear ;)

- It was on honour to be mowed down on the 20 x 5km lap course by a pack of the leading men, Max King, Jonas Budd and about 8 other men stormed past me like I was standing still.

 - Meghan Arbogast is amazing!  The course had lots of out and backs, and each time I saw Meghan she looked rock solid and smiling, 8th in the World at 50yrs+ is outstanding.  And she looks better in bun-huggers than me ;)

- Max King and I like to win together!  Chuckanut, UROC, JFK, World 100k wins together.  What's next on the schedule, Max?

- On the GB crew we were honoured to have Eleanor Robinson helping out along with Walter and Adrian.  Eleanor was IAU World 100k champion herself in 1990, the year the race was held in Duluth, MN and Ann Trason came 2nd.

- It was very nice of the BA cabin crew to offer us all champagne on the flight out to Doha, but being well-behaved runners we all stuck to just water :(  Being in Qatar, even a celebratory glass of wine after the race had to wait until the flight home.

- Thank you to Team Canada and Team USA crew for the additional cheering, the ultra community is awesome :)


Course preview with Emily and Jo pre-race

Team GB arrives in Doha

Yippee! Credit: Aspire Zone Foundation

Thanks Adrian for the Union Jack :) Credit: Aspire Zone Foundation


Ok running form for a trail runner :)  Credit: Aspire Zone Foundation
The Torch Hotel, Aspire, Doha

With Montrail/ Mountain Hardwear teammies Max King and Amy Sproston

Posing for the cameras.  Credit: Aspire Zone Foundation


Team Sweden friends at the Opening Ceremony

We love a 7.20am call to doping control ;)

Doha souks
Jo, myself and Jo with Eleanor.  GB 3rd, 1st and 4th. 

Pre race smiles with Emily and Jo.  Credit: Bryon Powell



October 9, 2014

Moon walking on an Alter-G

A while back I got an email inviting me to go try out an anti gravity treadmill by Alter-G.  Being that I like the convenience factor of running in that it is something I can do right out my front door with zero commute time to get to my workout it took me a while to accept the offer of trying one of these fancy machines.  But I figured that, although I like to be generally simplistic when it comes to my running, it would be fun to have a go on an Alter-G so yesterday I headed off to Burrard Physiotherapy in downtown Vancouver, the closest location to me where an Alter-G is available.  No doubt due to the expense of these fancy treadmills, I don't think we'll be finding them in our local rec centre gyms any time soon but I would guess that most decent sized cities have a few locations (likely at physiotherpists) where they are available.

I had expected the procedure to be somewhat complicated but in fact it was amazingly quick and simple.  I pulled on a pair of what looked like neoprene shorts with a skirt at the top, rather like a kayaking skirt.  The 'skirt' portion then zips onto the machine, the body of which comes up to around your hips. 

What I hadn't realised is that although you can remove 100% of your body weight (for zero gravity) it is also possible to easily adjust the setting to allow you to run on a certain percentage of body weight.  This makes the Alter-G great as a rehab tool as a recovering runner (or anyone recovering from an injury which is aggravated by impact) can start at 0% body weight and gradually add a percentage of their body weight as they can tolerate more impact, until ultimately they can start walking/ running outside (100% body weight).  Yesterday I set the Alter-G up at 40% of my body weight and although at first I felt slightly like I was floating (even though in reality your feet are running on the Alter-G belt just like on a regular treadmill running belt) I soon got used to the feeling of it.  The oddest thing was running at a speed and for a duration that I knew should feel somewhat hard (my legs were turning over pretty good afterall) and yet I wasn't breathing as hard as I would normally be as of my muscles weren't pounding away quite as much as they would normally be.

I soon felt relaxed and ran just like I normally would, and was comfortable enough to play around with the incline setting (just like on a normal treadmill) and ran up to a pace of 14km/ hr and soon pretty much forgot that I was on anything other than a normal treadmill.

I can definitely see that using an Alter-G treadmill could be invaluable for injured or recovering runners or walkers.  The owner was telling me how some people use it to walk/ run on when they are waiting for say knee surgery, so can't run outside, or how they can be great for runners to help maintain fitness when unable to run outside due to a stress fracture, and let's be honest - it's a great addition/ variety to add to pool running!  In addition, the advantage of training on an Alter-G compared to pool running is that there is not the resistance of the water and so it is easy to maintain a normal running cadence/ turnover.

Thank you to Alter-G and Burrard Physiotherapy for letting me have a go on the Alter-G treadmill, I can certainly see that it is something I will add to my list of training tools when wanting to cut back on full impact running whilst still maintaining fitness.

Finished my workout on the Alter-G!

September 14, 2014

The Rut - a Real Mountain Run




Whilst I'm certainly not unfamiliar with running in the mountains and have raced in many trail events, it is fair to say that if there was ever any doubt whether I'd raced a 'real' mountain run then that doubt is now 100% gone given I survived The Rut 50km course in Big Sky, Montana yesterday.  When I signed up for this race, which is the final of the World Skyrunning Ultra Championships, I knew it would be tough but the more I saw of the course in the few days prior to race day and the more I talked to folks I began to wonder what exactly I had got myself into.



Checking out Lone Peak in the snow 2 days pre-race

Terrain for mountain goats.  I am not a mountain goat.

A well earned view from Lone Peak

The start line was at over 2300m, which is about 2150m higher than where I live, and the course would only climb, climb, climb until it topped out at Lone Peak, the imposing summit which looms over the mountain resort of Big Sky at some 3400m.  Yikes!  I anticipated that the lack of oxygen could pose some challenges.  If that was not enough, in order to achieve the panoramic vistas from the summit of Lone Peak, I would have to scale not one, but two, scree/ boulder fields and mountain ridges, and given the start and finish line were in the same location, well I'd have to also descend some hair-raisingly steep slopes to reach the finish line.  How hair-raising?  Well, there were ropes on hand and a few yelps and whimpers may have escaped my mouth as, at times, I would descend haphazardly and ungainly down a trail-free mountainside, quite simply trying to do my best to remain upright and juddering from one  bright yellow course marker to another.


Local trail friends

But the course was not all scree slopes and mountain vistas which is what made the course so intriguing; many of the early and latter miles were cruisy wide double track trails or single track bike paths, buttery smooth and oh so runnable (especially if my red blood cell count had been a little higher).  These were easy miles where I managed to comfortably click off a 4min/ km on a smooth and sweet descent about 5kms from the finish line, and these miles lay in sharp contrast to the middle miles where I huffed and puffed and slipped and slided my way up a scree slope, knocking off a none too impressive, but very hard earned, 24min/ km!


Early miles on easy trails
The 'trail' up Lone Peak

All in all, just like Speedgoat 50km back in July, I felt that I held my own and I am more than happy with my fourth place finish.  I knew that it would be a likely unachievable goal to keep apace with the mountain gazelles of Emelie Forsberg, Kasie Enman and Anna Frost so I was just happy to share much of my time on the course with Hillary Allen and Becca Much, as we would switch back and forth between 4th and 6th for much of the course.  With a strong finish I managed to sneak into 4th place for a final time about 9kms before the finish line and then kept my legs spinning faster to maintain this position and earn my sub-7hr finish (6:57:33).

Full race results are available here
And a super photo album, which captures the pure beauty of the course, is available here.

A big shout out to the two Montana Mikes (Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe) who pulled off a true Euro-style mountain race and a great party!


Petzl-ing it up pre-race start.  Photo: Bryon/ iRunFar

3400m and looking forward to a screeching descent.  Photo: iRunFar