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

June 7, 2013

This, That and a little bit of the Other

Hmm, well normally I reserve my blog for race reports but there will be a little interlude on racing but still quite a bit going on so time for an update...

Having had some annoying ankle pain that was limiting my running in the weeks leading up to my DNF at BMO Vancouver marathon I found out 10 days later that it was in fact a stress fracture to my fibula.  I was lucky enough to get connected with the wonderful Dr. Dory Boyer and following x-rays which didn't really show too much I was very soon in for a bone scan.  As I lay there having the scan done I could see a big white spot on the screen right where my pain was, well it doesn't take medical training to know that that means something, and something not very good!  Although no one wants a stress fracture I was at least happy to have a diagnosis, I'd had 6 weeks of mystery pain that had not been responding to rest or treatment and it was getting frustrating so at least now I know what it is and I am on a treatment and rest plan to get back to running just as soon as a safely can.  For right now it is no-impact activities, so swimming, pool running and some easy cycling.  New swimsuit purchased, oh and a new bike too (that I've wanted for years).  And before you ask, no - I have no plans to do a triathlon ... yet!

Looking not bad just metres before I pulled the plug at 30km in Van marathon, not knowing I had a stress fracture

New wheels at Deep Cove, North Vancouver

Before the stress fracture diagnosis I'd already pulled the plug on Comrades as I knew I was in no  state to race 89km.  As I sat in Dr. Dory's office the realisation that I would also not be racing Western States and Speedgoat hit.  Since then I've also pulled the plug on UTMB - yes, I may be able to run 100 miles by then but I don't want to rush my return to running by having a big race looming.  Once I'm back running a little I'll start looking for some lower key, fun races to hopefully take part in come the fall.

So what on earth have I been filling my time with now I'm not running 15 - 20 hours per week?  To be honest, I have no idea how I had the time to do all that running as the days are speeding by!  Ok, the life guards now know me at the pool very well (18 days of swimming and pool running in the past 20 days) but I've also been catching up on other things like reading good books, seeing friends and catching up on things in general.

My current workout gear

Two weekends ago I volunteered at a low key local race in North Van, the Iron Knee 25km...well it looked low key until Rickey Gates and Adam Campbell came flying through our aid station and a world class battle was on.
Sammy and Ben volunteering at Iron Knee

I've also been enjoying doing some writing and have two recent posts on my Chicks Corner column over at  Check them out by clicking here.

Finally my fundraising efforts for Dekpor School Deveopment Organisation in Ghana came to an end and a huge thank you to all fo you who doanted and help raise $3649 for this super cause!  It really will make a difference to this grassroots cause.  Big shouts out to my sponsors Mountain Hardwear, Drymax Socks, Flora Health, Sundog Eyewear, Petzl and Clif Bar who donated draw prizes to encourage you to donate.  Although my fundraising efforts have ended DSDO is always in need of funds so please do check their website out.  They are also one of the official charities for the Scotia Bank Waterfront Toronto Marathon (and 5km and 1/2) in October, so if you are running please consider raising funds for them.

Finally, I'm looking forward to spectating at Western States in 3 weeks time.  It will be fun to connect with lots of friends, runners and sponsors, and I'm particularly looking forward to being part of the Veteran's Panel hosted by AJW with Tim Twietmeyer, Gordy Ainsleigh and myself.  If you are in Squaw do pop along on Thurs 27th at 5pm to Squaw Valley Lodge, entrance is free and open to all, it will be great to see you there.

With AJW, WS100 2012
Lastly, I will continue to blog but for more regular little updates you can always check out my Facebook page here.

Happy Pool Running!

May 9, 2013

BMO Vancouver 30.29km - My Smiling Thirty in the Sun

In 2008 I ran my first sub-3 hour marathon ever at my home town race of Vancouver and placed 3rd female - awesome race!  In 2009 I went into the race with a nagging SI injury and dropped (or rather Gary Robbins persuaded me to stop running as I was a hobbling and sniffly mess at just over the half way mark).  In 2012 I ran my current PB of 2h42 at Vancouver some 8 days after moving back to the city and was first female - awesome race!  In the 2013 version of the BMO Vancouver Marathon, held this past Sunday, I went in with niggling ankle pain and dropped 2hrs/ 30.29kms in.  Morale of the story - if I have an awesome race at Vancouver under NO circumstances should I sign up the following year!

Gordon & Bryan, fellow volunteers at BC Athletics booth at the expo, day before the race
Dropping out this year was much easier than in 2009.  Although I hoped that miracles might happen and that no ankle pain would materialise I was realistic that it would and I just hoped to get as far as I could, without doing any damage, and put in a decent paced run.  Yes, I did hope for that miracle but I had back up plans should it not happen.

Start of the Half Marathon in Queen Elizabeth Park
At the race start line I was relaxed and just looking forward to a great day out, it was going to be hot and sunny and I couldn't wait for it - I'd not run outside for 2 weeks as right now my ankle prefers the smooth surface of the treadmill, so I'd got plenty of heat training in in a stuffy gym :)   I also knew that even if I made it to the finish line the focus was not on speed but on running solid; no need to run with my eye balls bursting out from the start.

I had friends who I knew would be at various points of the course and they'd been given strict instructions to physically remove me from the course if I was looking rough.  I also had 'Comrades' written on my arm along with a piece of my Comrades medal ribbon around my wrist to remind me that, however much I'd be tempted to push myself into the pain bucket, today was not the day to do so.  Comrades is my 'A' race and today was a stepping stone rather than the final destination.

Reminder of the year ahead...
Early on I ran along side my buddy Hassan (Sammy) Lofti-Pour, who has represented Canada at the World 100km several times.  It was great to run with Sammy and be in a pack with a few guys to keep things light hearted and social.  Early on I was surprised by how bad my quads felt despite having run way less mileage recently than usual, the little ups seemed especially tough - darn my physio Ramsey who has had me doing lots of squats - lead-like quads from the get go (and I thought I had trail runners quads, obviously not!)  Ramsey, Allison and Brooke were out on the course along with lots of VFAC team mates such as Steve, Barry and Janette, as well as Gili.  I looked forward to seeing them and would give them the thumbs up as I passed as my ankle was feeling good, especially given the net downhill profile of the first half of the course.

As we approached the top of the descent down Spanish Banks hill I looked up and said out loud 'wow, look at that view!'  The Pacific was glistening below us and the snow capped North Shore mountains looked just stunning, Vancouver was showing off for sure!  By this point, about 19km in, I was running with a woman from Seattle and tried to help her with course tips as she'd not run the route before.  I think she may have thought it was a little crazy that her 'competitor' was sharing course strategies but I let her know that I was unlikely to make it to the finish and we enjoyed quite a few kms together.

Cruising in Kits.  Photo: Ryan Allderman

Coming into Kits I knew I should drop at about the 2hr mark, although my ankle was ok it was not great and the full 42.2 wouldn't be smart.  So I decided to ensure that I enjoyed my 2 hour outdoor run and smiled my way though and even high-fived a person in an oversize blue bear costume at the side lines (normally I hate those sort of official mascots with a passion!)  On the Kits side of Burrard Bridge I pulled over to see Ramsey and Allison (physio couple extraordinaire) and told Ramsey I would drop the other side of the bridge.  I did ask what he thought of me walking the final 12km (it was such a lovely day after all!), he rolled his eyes and suggested I could go on a walk later that afternoon.  Despite being an ultra runner, I'm pretty good at following instructions so I agreed that I didn't really need to walk 12km, and off I went for my final 500m or so.  Thankfully on the other side of the bridge I could see my VFAC team mate Jo so I beelined over to him to drop out.  Note to any runner that ever thinks they might need to drop out of a race - find someone to run to, otherwise you feel kinda stupid just stopping by the roadside on your own :)

By mistake I got given a Half Marathon t-shirt at package pick up, I guess that was some sort of omen!

Overall I am really happy I took part in the BMO Vancouver marathon despite not finishing.  I had a super 'custom' run and was glad to feel part of the event and see so many friends.  A HUGE thank you to elite coordinator Lynn Kanuka and all volunteers out on the course.  Vancouver truly is a stunning city and the marathon showcases it at it's best.

Onwards and upwards to the next run....

BMO advertising and memories of an awesome race in 2012.

Men's winner, Thomas Omwenga in 2:24:09, rocking his Montrail Rogue Flys!