Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stormy - Stupid is as Stupid Does (for 50 Miles)

My apologies to Forrest Gump. But yes, as Momma said, stupid is as stupid does. Yesterday I struggled through the Stormy Ultra Trail Run - the 50 Miler - in 10:28 and change. I say struggle because my taper in the three weeks immediately proceeding the Stormy Race was a thing of utter madness, I was beat up and tired on the day of the race and at mile thirty I knew I was in big trouble.

But let us start at the beginning. Using the Boston Marathon as a jumping off place, I worked up a training schedule for the Stormy Ultra Trail Run that included several 45 and 50 K long runs and also the Vancouver Marathon and Skidegate Totem to Totem Marathon as part of my mileage base. The Totem to Totem Marathon in Skidegate was twenty days before the Stormy Ultra Trail Run.

The Totem to Totem Marathon in Skidegate was a race that was in a bit of flux and when the time actually came to do the race, Pat and I found ourselves in the midst of a rather epic ten day journey that took us the length and breadth of Haida Gwaii and had us doing the marathon and a 32 mile long run a mere four days apart. The runs were done at a relatively easy pace, but the sheer amount of mileage and the travel - and the drinking took its toll - and did I mention the drinking? I was bone tired for a long while afterwards. During our long run I turned my left ankle quite badly on a rough logging road and I had to hobble for a few minutes. Both my ankles have been broken and twisted many times and all the scar tissue has left me with limited mobility and ankles that if I were a boxer would be akin to a glass jaw. Instead I have glass ankles. To top it off, we had an incident on our fishing boat where an attempt to haul in a fully-loaded crab trap nearly left me on the ocean floor as an anchor. Instead, I was left with a badly wrenched shoulder and a strained back. In short, the Haida Gwaii trip kicked the crap out of me!

And last weekend I went up to Smithers to celebrate with some friends and to take it easy with some leisurely 20K runs... Hah! On Sunday the run was abandoned for a "hike", which turned turned from "about four hours" into a five and a half hour summit assault on Hudon's Bay Mountain and a ninety minute mad cap descent through rock fields, scree slopes and foot skiing on snow pack. Rather than wear hiking boots or trail shoes, all I had were my Asics runners. Not the best or most protective foot wear for mountain climbing. On the way down I jammed my left knee badly, and once again turned over my left ankle on a loose boulder that nearly shot out from underneath me...

Fast forward to yesterday. The Stormy Ultra Trail Run - - takes place on a mixture of logging roads, a very small amount of pavement, Hydro cuts (powerline clear-cuts) and beautiful single-track trails. Some of the trails are very rocky, with loose footing and lots of roots. There are even one or two pretty technically challenging spots. The weather was absolutely perfect yesterday. Sixty degrees, overcast, fabulous running weather for the middle of August. At about the thirty mile mark, I once again jammed my left knee and in a few short miles I found I couldn't even support my body weight on that knee on a downhill. I was fine on the flats or uphill, but even a few degrees of descent and I was in agony. When I came to a set of stairs I had to go down sideways. Literally. It was real grit your teeth time.

I was running with my friend Rachel Nelson, who won her age group last year. Our goal was to finish in under ten hours and at the halfway mark we were ahead of our pace by nearly forty-five minutes. Eight hours and seventeen minutes into the race, I told Rachel to go on ahead of me and make her time goal. Rachel was worried about whether or not I could continue and I assured her that if I thought I was risking permanent injury I would retire at the next aide station. My primary goal for this year has been to re-qualify (maybe one last time) for the Boston Marathon and my sub-ten Stormy was a secondary goal - although it would have been nice to qualify for the the 100 Mile Stormy. Still it was tough. After over eight hours, it would have killed me to quit. And I knew that, as close as I was to the end, I could probably walk out the end and still make the time cut-off. Decisions, decisions!

Over the last dozen miles of Stormy I was forced to walk on all the downhill sections, but I still made pretty good time on the flats, averaging around ten minute miles. Rachel made her goal with time to spare, finishing in 9:50 and actually coming in third in her age group. Not a bad "easy run"! As I said earlier I managed to get across the Finish Line in 10:28. Best of all, the Race Director, Wendy Montgomery even commented as she placed my Finishers Medal around my neck that my time was probably good enough to qualify me for the 100 Miler. It was like she was reading my mind!

I had a few other running buddies, Cynthia and Laura and Victoria (trust that it would be a group of determined women), run their first 50 miler on the weekend. They did an amazing job. And there was a whole contingent of gorgeous ladies - Deepi, Mima, Shauna, June, Kris, and a host of others - from the half marathon and marathon clinics who ran the 50 Mile Relay Race as a team. And they finished in high style, popping champagne at the end! My kind of broads - as Frank Sinatra would say.

The best time of the day was 7:17, from a guy who is apparently a 2:40 marathoner. An amazing feat for Stormy. And the top 100 Miler finished in approximately 20 hours.

As usual with Stormy the volunteers were simply amazing - and there were many familiar faces, including Stu and June Kleban (Stu, I want those photos!). And Wendy Montgomery has to be congratulated on her efforts as the Race Director as she undertook the unbelievably difficult task of fielding not just one, but two entirely new distances, the 50 Mile and 100 Mile Trail Runs. In fact, the 100 Mile distance is apparently the only one in British Columbia this year and we have it in our own backyard in Squamish.

Afterwards, I downed a few cold beers, rested my knee until I could ice it at home and enjoyed the festivities. Many thanks to Michael, for being Race Crew to Rachel and myself (of course he gets to live with Rachel, so that is some compensation) and for driving us and for being continually upbeat and positive on the course.

According to my Polar, I burned 8,726 calories over 50 miles, at an average heart rate of 138.

The best part? I woke up this morning after ten hours of sleep and weighed a mere 186 pounds!

And my knee and my ankle don't feel so bad...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another great story. How's the knee?

3:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Mima said...

Vince as always your account of the race lets us into the world of Ultra running. Getting to run in the relay gave us a taste of the trails and left me wanting more. A few of us have said that going back to pavement running will be hard. You, Cynthia, Victoria, Laura and Rachel as well as all the other 50 and 100 milers were impressive to watch and an inspiration to us all.

Hopefully Smita who was also part of our relay team will see through some of the challenges of trail running, i.e. (sliding down sheer hills and getting gravel in your shorts and bee stings, or turned over ankles and buggered knees) to see that it is how we were meant to run!

We had the luxury of aid stations and course markers to guide us along the way thanks to the likes of course directors and chiefs, Wendy, Roger and Heather.

What an amazing race that was and what an amazing group of individuals run it!

11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Raph said...

Hope all is well Vince!

9:48:00 PM  

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