A lesson from an unlikely source…

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I fancy myself an ultramarathon runner so some things I generally do NOT like are :

– Running on the road

-Road running races

– Short races

-Short road races

….in no particular order. SO it should come as a bit of a surprise (or not if you know me well enough), to hear that I ran the Chilly Half this past weekend in Burlington, ON Canada.

I originally signed up for this race with my wife. E was looking for her first half marathon and wanted it soon, so this was all hers and I was going to happily pace her out on her first go at the distance. Injury intruded on E’s plans and I was left to decide whether to run this thing or not. My mind was made up in short order when I realized some awesome people from my run group where taking part this year as usual. I offered to drive a few of us and everything was a go.

As I mentioned earlier, a road half is NOT my kinda race and my wife could tell the morning of, that I wasn’t exactly JAZZED to be running it. Waking to a fresh layer of snow and -15C wasn’t helping either. My run group mates helped warm me up a bit and we were in Burlington in no time. We were also lucky b/c a few of us had a hotel room basically on TOP of the start/finish – so awesome to have a place to change and prepare – thanks guys!

SO I had ZERO plan for this race and realized it as the gun went off. After  the first couple of k’s I felt I had a decent pace which turned out to be a 4:35 km/min. Felt comfy and that was my new plan – hold this pace.

The route was basically an out and back along the lake shore that was, forgive me, a long stripe of pot-holed slushy, icy, shit. The footing wasn’t horrible but it was SO bloody nasty – my god. In short order I found my apparently VERY sensitive toes were losing their sense entirely. Tips of all 10 of them TOTALLY numb. I was wearing a very fast and light pair of New Balance RC1600’s that did nothing to protect me from the elements but they felt pretty fast.

At about 8k I started to feel a little burn in the calves/quads and also felt a little out of comfort because the feet I was running on – I couldn’t feel so much. I hadn’t run a half in a long time, I was going faster than I normally race in a trail ultra and I was losing feeling in my body. My brain started immediately planning an exit and rationalizing a slow down or a quit. This was met opposite thoughts of “F that – I’m not going to die – suck it up ya big baby”. The pain and irrational frostbite fears were real though and they were playing with my head. I decided that in the meantime I would maintain my pace as I acknowledged my fears and the pain AND numbness. These played out for a while until I was able to set them aside and frankly, just run.

I found a place of acceptance and was just able to get forward progress happening until about the 19k mark. At this point my nose closed up, as in I couldn’t inhale or exhale – my nasal passages were I guess frozen or cold to a point that they literally swelled shut.

I normally, like most human beings, panic a little when I can’t F#$!%ing breath but I calmed right down as I kept cranking away into the home stretch. Deep mouth breathing and a mantra of “light & fast” carried me into the finish.

My feet were totally numb, my thumbs where numb, my nose was frozen shut, my calves where beaten up and my garmin said 1:38. Not bad  for crazy conditions like these I thought.

I hobbled over to my friend’s hotel room and found the speedy couple had blazed some serious times. My nose began to thaw almost immediately as well. We chatted and laughed as 2 other friends came in…frozen..with stories of falling at 11k, getting up and finishing (i woulda called a golfcart and packed it in) – that grit inspires me. The feeling in my feet came back as my soaked shoes and socks came off and the rest of me warmed with a saintly cup of coffee that was bought for each of us by our speedy friend. Other than the fact that I had the soft warm post race “body buzz” feeling, you would never have guessed I had just been through the suffer fest I described.

Physically I was totally fine – great even – mentally I had changed though – ever so slightly but still different than when I started. I was reminded how tough I can be when I get out of my own way and how things are rarely as bad as they first seem when I’m in the midst of them. This half marathon of the road variety had taught this ultra trail runner  a few things and I’m glad for it.

As I sat reflecting on this I checked online to see if actual finish times were posted and found them. Found my name. Scrolled across to confirm my 1:38 finish. What I found was a 1:37. My Garmin was off and I was reminded that things are also often not as good as they first seem either – sometimes they can be better:). PB.:)

Happy Trails.

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F@#K YOU WINTER:)

F@#K YOU WINTER:)

Being Canadian, I have had to deal with training in some seriously inclement weather of late. This year the snow and cold has been in a word – brutal.  Some snow, slush, cold temps don’t bother me all that much but when a sustained “POLAR VORTEX” swirls over our heads for weeks at a time, pushes come to shoves.

Being Canadian I like to think of myself as coming from hearty stock but this, my friends, is Bullshit.

Maybe I should bring Earl Grey - HOT instead of gatorade?

Maybe I should bring Earl Grey – HOT instead of gatorade?

SO. For the past weeks I have been judging my rocks and hard places and have ended up doing short, interval and long runs on – YUP – you guessed it – the treadmill.

Before you say anything – I agree with you. You’re right. The treadmill is a soul-sucking, mind warping, bastard child of the Inquisition that is second only to the Pear of Anguish in it’s fiendishness. It’s all these things and each time it was a better choice for me than running out in the cold grey bucket of post x-mas shit that has been the weather around here until basically today.

Perhaps greatest among it’s ghoulish qualities, the treadmill is, in my opinion, dreadfully isolating. While we step onto one often sandwiched between two others in what can be a wide bank of “‘mills” – the disconnect is obvious to anyone. Personalized incline, speed, towel placement, time, TV channel sometimes, music ALWAYS, headphones in, ME, ME, MINE, GO AWAY, ME.

When I’m on a treadmill its an antiseptic speed exercise.  Get IT done as fast as possible and hit the showers and move on with the day. It’s pure work and the antithesis of why I run. While I feel I train as hard as anyone out there I do NOT choose to slave and the mill feels that way to me.

 

This past Sunday after one last Saturday long run on a treadmill – I finally could take no more and manned up to join my group’s Sunday long run. What a difference. Sunny, sweetly sarcastic frosty faces smiling at & with me as we loped along Lake Ontario’s frozen shore.  A complete pleasure and a feeling of reconnection with my tribe and my world. Joyful warriors all of us.

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My steps were light and fine form found me easily –  effortless. That’s why I run – all that.

Spring is just around the corner and I can feel my rut melting away….with a little help from my friends.

 

Ps – Go F!@K yourselves treadmills. All of you. 🙂

 

RunBlog = Epic Humblebrag?

By even describing what I’m doing here as epic is a lovely display of lack of humility. Me with the 8 followers (max?) who read this (see scan:)) does not equal anything epic. I suppose I can include that in my hyperbole rant.

I’ve recently found myself in a conflict of feelings as to why this blog exists. I’m questioning myself and my motives as well as the act of writing this itself.

The question I’m asking myself is  whether this blog is just one big humblebrag veiled in helpful, ultra-runnery informativeness. IS it?

HUMBLE-BRAG
Definition: Subtly letting others know about how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humour or “woe is me” gloss.
Example: “Uggggh just ate about fifteen piece of chocolate gotta learn to control myself when flying first class or they’ll cancel my modelling contract LOL :p #humblebrag”
humble

As I’ve matured in years I’ve grown to realize how important humility is to me in my life.

Humility is the the only place for me that gratitude can take firm root and flourish. While gratitude may be fleeting like blossoms on a tree – it comes back as do they-  to a healthy host with strong roots and branch. When I’m in that “attitude of gratitude” I can’t be anywhere but in the moment – present. When I am present I enjoy my life – which is really JUST that moment – to its fullest. I’m better in every way to everyone and that’s why it’s so important to me.

Humility based gratitude, the real stuff in my books, is a big reason why I run.  There was a time when I thought the mere presence of my gazelle like self running trails or the city streets could inspire awe in those looking on.  Viewing one 5 second video of myself running smote that fantasy like a bolt from the heavens.  I suppose that was the universe’s way of guiding me to the essence of what’s good.

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When I run outside I feel like a small piece of the world deeply connected and flowing through it’s space. I’m invited, allowed and encouraged to play in our world and it’s wonder and it’s amazing. I can’t feel the way I’ve just described truly if I’m mired in self centred promotion of my unequalled awesomeness. Nor can I when I’m slipping a little humble-brag into a tweet, blog or IG post.

I’m not sure I Can answer my question here but I can say this – I DONT want this to be a humble-brag and I DONT want to be a humble-bragger and the only way I can be humble is to ACT with humility. No mileage “just” updates, no detailed tweets of my workout making sure to include killer stats- just honest to goodness passing of info, humour, race reports and hopefully something good.

That’s where I’m at today – with this.

Pete

VERMONT 100 Mile Training

So I got in. Awe-SUM!!

That was a week of hand wringing and a morning of coffee and checking in waiting for the 10am sign time to hit.

I get SOOOOO anxious and FOMO-y nowadays with races selling out so fast that signing up is a semi-traumatic experience. On this occassion I was very happy to get into a legendary, grandaddy of an ultra – the VERMONT 100.

Below is my training sched for those interested in distances and days etc. This was taken almost verbatim from Bryon Powell’s epic “RELENTLESS FORWARD PROGRESS”  which I feel is a MUST OWN for any hopeful ultramarathon runner. It helped me a shit ton. I post this ONLY to display what a potential training sched would look like to someone looking for one and that’s all –

VERMONT 100 MILE TRAINING SCHEDULE (miles)
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total
1 Rest 6 5 6 Rest 12 5 34
2 Rest 6 5 6 Rest 14 5 36
3 Rest 6 5 6 Rest 16 5 38
4 Rest 5 3 5 Rest 14 5 32
5 Rest 6 5 7 Rest 16 7 41
6 Rest 6 5 7 Rest 18 7 43
7 Rest 6 5 7 Rest 18 10 46
8 Rest 6 4 6 Rest 14 7 37
9 Rest 7 5 7 Rest 63* Rest 24
10 Rest Rest 5 7 Rest 14 12 45
11 Rest 7 5 7 Rest 24 5 48
12 Rest 6 5 6 Rest 32* Rest 17
13 Rest 7 5 7 Rest 18 7 44
14 Rest 7 5 3 Rest 31 Rest 46
15 Rest 5 4 7 Rest 14 10 40
16 Rest 7 5 7 Rest 24 5 48
17 Rest 7 5 7 Rest 18 14 51
18 Rest 5 4 7 6 Rest 50* 22
19 Rest 6 Rest 3 Rest 20 12 41
20 Rest 6 4 6 Rest 14 5 35
21 Rest 7 Rest 7 Rest 24 14 52
22 Rest 5 5 7 Rest 18 Rest 35
23 Rest 5 Rest 7 Rest 10 5 27
24 5 Rest 4 Rest 2 100* Rest 11

* indicates a race.