March 30, 2010

Running Sick. Running Yourself Sick.

It's always a tough decision when you have a cold or are feeling 'under the weather' (nice British phrase!) whether to run or not. I usually carry on regardless, I never like to have anything unexpected interupt my training and I figure that if I can manage to run then I should and that running can even help clear out the lungs a bit.

Right after Chuckanut I got a sore throat which steadily by the end of last week turned into a cough. Now if I wasn't a runner I'd have been none too bothered - ok, a slightly annoying cough, not quite so much energy but other than that I was pretty ok. But as runners I think we are generally pretty in tune with our bodies and I was definitely feeling a little lethargic and sluggish yet still getting some good runs in when I felt great. However by the end of the week I was definitely feeling worse and oh no - it was coming up to the weekend when I needed to get my long runs in! I am definitlely getting a little paranoid about my upcomning first 100km on May 1st so had really hoped to log some good long miles this weekend. As it turned out I aimed for 4hrs on Sunday and headed back in the door after just 2. I was too tired and just struggling and couldn't get my legs going. I told myself that it was ok to go home as I would go the gym later, which I did - and logged 2hrs power walking at 15% incline on the treadmill! What!!! Ok, I know that was a little crazy but I figured it was time on my feet, something rather than nothing and mentally I felt better for it. Plus the treadmill is suprsingly ok when dancing along to Ricky Martin! Monday (the 2nd day of my weekend) I again ran 2hrs on the road, it felt easier than Sunday and I could have carried on but told myself not to push it and turn back. So I headed home, grabbed an hours sleep and then hit the treadmill for 90mins at zero incline and easy pace. So all in all, not the weekend of long runs I had planned but I still got some decent training in. But today I am not sure if I feel ill or whether it is now just the drugs! I am rarely ill and hate to take drugs but once a in while it's the smart thing to do. This invariably means that I stumble to drug store, really ill and am totaly bewildered by the array of expensive promises to make you feel better. In my ill state I forgot that if a medication states 'may make you drowsy' then for me that's pretty much 'will knock you out cold into an outer body experience for 24hrs or more'. Before my run yesterday I took some cough medication but don't think it had really kicked in by the time I was running. Today I took it before work and ended up being a computer staring zombie all day. After work I figured that I would be good for a 2hr run but soon at the door I realised that I was in some druggie-haze! I really had to plough on through and focus, though in another weird way my legs just kept, albeit heavily, moving. After 75mins I called it quits. Afterall there does come a point when the quality/ quantity aspect of running can get totally out of whack!

From this I think I have learnt that running when sick is ok, until you are sick to the point that you need to take medication and then it's best to rest! Likely I have got a quite few rest days ahead of me as my mum arrives for a visit from the UK tomorrow so I'll be entertaining and being the tour guide :) And even with all my doubts I do, deep down, know that even if my 100km doesn't go great I am pretty sure I can make it over that finish line even if a few training runs haven't gone to plan!

March 23, 2010

Chuckanut 50km Race Report

Ok, so it's taken me a few days to sit down and get the time to write this and I'll try keep it from being too rambling, but I am thinking that it could turn into a Gary Robbins stylee-epic!

I raced Chuckanut for the first time last year and loved it! So many great runners, Krissy is the most hard working and fun RD, and an awesome course that has a nice mix of laying down some speed and then also working some technical trails. Like 2009 I headed down the night before (us Brits can take a while to get into the US!) and with a few friends we stayed at an awesome friend-of-a-friends place on pretty Lake Samish - just 15min drive from race start.

We rolled up to the start about 45mins before the race and I immediately got excited by the number of familiar faces that I've seen far too little of over the past few months :) But no time to get excited - with about 300 racers and a bib to pick up Jackie and I switched saving places in the timing chip line up and the washroom line up to make sure we were all set for the 8am start. 10mins to go and I was at the start line, noticing that I was a little eager and was further up front that Team Montrail team mates Gary and Ryne! Uh oh, better shuffle back a bit!

It was the most perfect day for running so I was overjoyed to be outside in shorts, t-shirt and sleeves - having left the winter layers back in Banff. It was a little chilly for the first few minutes but soon the sun got warmer and the blood got pumping. Chuckanut starts with 6miles/ 10km along the pretty flat, non-technical Interurban trail. It's tempting to go out fast and wow - a whole pack of guys shot off and I thought I picked out at least 3 women ahead of me. I soon settled into a strong, without being crazy fast, pace with Dave Papineau and Chris Rennaker and clocked into the first aid station just shy of 6 miles in 44mins. The aid stations are super enthusiastic on Chuckanut and it was great to hear friends cheering me on and general merry making of the volunteers.
The mid section of the course is more technical and hilly terrain and I feared that my training hadn't allowed me enough hill practice so I figured I just needed to hang in on them and then get back to a good clip on the flats and blast the downhills. I was pretty content to be in 4th place female, I would never chose to go out in 1st place in a race as I always feel the pressure from being chased from behind. Sitting in 4th I was content I was running well and might be able to gain a place or two later on in the race, for a change I felt like I was running in the more advantageous position.

I was definitely not fast on the hills and need to get back to work on running them more but as usual my steady power hike often proved just as effective as others slow runs. On the section of steady climb up a fire road I inched back and forth with my friend Mike and I was also happy to see that although I walked more than most of the people around me my run/ walk splits meant that overall I kept up with the pack.

As well as the mind numbing slog of the flat Interurban trail and the fire road there is also some awesome technical rolling terrain at Chuckanut - the sort where you can work the downhills to power on up the inclines and all the while hitting soft, lush trail. Bliss :) The Ridge trail is one such section and although I lost a few places to some men on the ridge I also gained on a few others and knew that I could catch many of them on the downhill. And of course Chin Scraper is one of the more remowned sections on Chuckanut - for me it took 15misn of steady powerhiking to work my way up. There was no way I was going to run something that steep and still be alive at the top, so I tucked my head down, hands on my thighs and pushed my way at a slowly determined pace. Just before the start of Chin Scraper a specatator had called out that I was 3mins behind the lead females; this was the first indication that I was within catching distance so this spurred me along and by this point I was pretty sure I was in the top 3 women - extra motivation not to slip back into 4th.

The one good thing about Chin Scraper is that it is the last uphill of any note and I was so looking forward to blasting the downhills after. So I hit the hammer on the downs (shouting hello to Jonathon on the way past!), knowing that 1st and 2nd could clearly run flats so i needed to gain on them in the descents. But by the time I hit the final aid station I was still 1 1/2 mins back (according to spectators) of 1st and 2nd and had 6 miles of flat Interurban to go to the finish line. This I knew was not going to be pleasant but to honest I was so distracted by chasing the lead 2 that I soon settled into a strong pace. I was so busy looking for females ahead that I was stunned when I saw the Broadway Run Club singlet of Dave Papineau and I was gaining on him! I suspected that Dave would not appreciate being chicked by me but with his legs cramping he let me race by and offered up some inavluable words of encouragement. I always react really well to cheering and support from friends so Dave gave me the boost to push a little harder especially as I now saw a woman in sight and soon passed ahead of her.

Now in 2nd place I didn't dare look back; I didn't want to look like I was running scared and knew that I had to focus on catching first place! The next racer I saw up ahead bowled me over - surely I wasn't cacthing fellow Montrail runner, Ryne Melcher???! Ryne is one running friend I have utmost respect for and would never suspect coming close to in a race like Chcuaknut. So I focused on catching Ryne but also the fact that there was still one more female somewhere ahead of him. As I caught up to Ryne I was sure that he would lay chase but most of all he gave me the extra mental kick I needed right then, 'You've got to go now Ellie if you're going to catch her. You need to push hard - she was logging 6min/ miles on the way out so will be tired but she's fast!' That was it - I was exhasted and figured I had about 15mins to the finish line but dug even deeper and didn't want Ryne to think I was a flaky runner that didn't have a finishing push! Just ahead of Ryne I passed another guy and tried to ignore them behind me and instead just chase, chase, chase. Now the Interurban is flat - but there are a few hills, and I will totally admit that the main thing that kept me running up them was the fact that I knew Ryne could still see me and I didn't want to lose face!
Soon I was rewarded - lead female (later I found out was Susannah Beck) was sporting a mini-kilt and running strong - and I could see her ahead on the never-ending Interurban. The tough thing about the Interurban is that you can see racers so far ahead that even when you are gaining on the racer in front it is so slow progress it is painful and I knew that I was running out of trail! Just back of Susannah I passed fellow Canadian Darin Bentley (wow - did I really pass him too?!) and now Susannah was the next one to catch.
But the course was just a little too short and as I hit the downhill tarmac to the finish line I saw Susannah cross......13 seconds before I did. I was so stoked to have knocked 15mins 23 secs of my time from last year (and I'd say the course was in about exactly the same shape as 2009). Ok, it wasn't first place but I was 17th overall (same as 2009), a lot faster and ahead of many guys & ladies that I respect as awesome runners. Plus I later found out that Susannah's marathon PB is 2.34 (OMG!)

Such a super-stellar race that I would so recommend and the rest of the day was spent chilling and sharing stories with some of the best people on the planet (aka trail runners :))
1st place male was Andy Martin in a crazy fast 3:49:39 (6 men broke the 4hr barrier)

On the course I used:
- Montrail Rockridges (love them a little bit more every time I put them on)
- Descente arm warmers
- Mountain Hardware pacer shorts (my favs) and MHW short sleeve T
- Nathan HPL pack
- Pink socks (the brand is unimportant, the colour is not!)
- 1 litre of gatorade, 4 cups of coke, 3 chips (approx!), 1 pack of Clif shot blocks (mmm, lemon lime)
See you on the trails...

March 8, 2010

Battling the Elements

This weekend I've definitely had two challenging runs mostly caused by the weather. Yesterday I wanted to get a 4 plus hour run in and it was a stellar sunny day. The skies were blue, it was calling for a high of plus 9 (!) and I even got my bike out for the first time since moving to Banff and ran my errands around town on my bike. So it was an awesome start to the day and the roads have been bare for quite a while now so I was lulled into a false sense of security for my run. I decided to do a pretty standard route - along Rundle riverside followed by a powerhike up Sulphur. I'd last been up Sulphur 2 days earlier and although slippery at the base it was do-able and fine after the lower section. Rundle riverside rolls gently up and down but yesterday it was a death trap!!! With the mild temps much of the snow had turned to ice and black ice at that so it was really hard to spot until the last minute when I then had to quickly find a spot of bare ground. A couple of stretches were beautifully clear dry trail but for the most part I welcomed when I hit real snow - trudging through that might not be easy but at least it was safe! The rest was not exactly the most relaxing running as I tried to hop and skip around the ice, with some interesting dance moves thrown in! I was pretty lucky to get off the trail with only one graze to my hand and one scrape to my elbow!

I was almost tempted to skip the Sulphur hike portion of my run but I wanted to get more time in plus I wanted to get some elevation in. My usual detour from running on the road to the base was slick with ice so I bailed off that and made do with running along the side of the reasonably busy road - not much fun. I was optimistic when I got to the trail head that it would be no worse than Friday but soon reaslised it was got waaaay icier and it was hard to spot the slippy sections as it was packed snow rather than real ice. I kept going but it was so slow and I'm not really sure it was much of a work out so I ended up turning around before I made it to the top as I was worried about losing daylight without my headlamp. The descent of course was even more interesting; I'm not sure that the Olympic luge run would have been any harder to attempt to run down. I pretty much ended up cautiously walking whilst clinging onto tree roots at the side of the trail! Or when it got really bad, I just sat and slid down on my but. Hmmm, not sure this can really be classed as run training!! So all in all, what would normally take me 4h20 or so took me 5h05 and it was definitely more of a hike than a run. Oh well...

So today I decided to embrace the season and get some skiing in. They'd forecast snow for tonight but I guess it came early and it was great to be up on the hill with the first fresh snow in a full five weeks. It was flurries all day up on the hill and was fun to get fresh tracks most of the day. But I still wanted to get a run in so headed down early and thought that if I hit the roads then I would be pretty ok. However just as I headed out the snow decided to get heavier and soon I was running head first into driving snow. Maybe I should have kept my ski goggles on because I sure couldn't see much! It was a pretty fun run but definitely a winter adventure. I headed out to the Banff Springs golf course where there is a closed road and at the turn around I could see that my tracks had got covered within about 10minutes. A really beautiful run though and definitely not just a boring 2 hours on tarmac.

So I guess it is wait and see for running over the next few days. More snow is forcast - my bike is back inside :( - and I'm thinking that it's back to the treadmill tomorrow...

March 4, 2010

Take a Break...

What! I hear you cry! Take a break? But I'm a runner, or even worse (or better, depending on your perspective) I'm an ultra runner! I don't take a break. I log miles, I track vertical climbed, I record distance and pace and effort and if I take a break that means I don't run, but I do some other work out instead because I'm injured or hurting.

And I'm as guilty as anyone for not taking a break, I definitely find it hard to settle the quality/ quantity balance as my run is an important part of any day for me and all too often I vere in the quantity direction of the scale. So I had a short trip to visit family in the UK looming and I knew I wouldn't run for four days. Four whole, long stretches of 24hrs consecutively with no running. Ok, I could have run had I wanted to but with such a short trip back I knew I would be too busy spending time with the family to run. So I stock piled on runs before heading out, ending with my final run an hour before I got the bus to catch my flight! I'd not taken a day off running for over 2 weeks and not a day off since running Frozen Ass 50km so I was getting pretty tired and maybe in need of a rest.

And today was the post-rest test and man did I hammer that treadmill! I logged a solid two hours on the treadmill after a 9hr + day at work and it seemed so easy. I was flying and so full of energy, my legs felt fresh, the pace felt easy and I didn't tire even towards the end of the run. Awesome! I probably looked a little crazy as I happily mouthed along to the tunes on my iPod but I didn't care as I was just buzzing.

So I guess all in all it's lesson learnt (though I know I shall soon forget this lesson - old habits are hard to break afterall!), taking a break once in a while may not only not do us runners damage, but in fact it might actually do us good!

But tomorrow's run plan is already in the works.....

(random aside, but for some good alternative tunes from an old school friend of mine check out