Friday, July 22, 2016

The long road

I'm a bit of a mess right now.


I'm about 18 hours away from the culmination of the most massive chunk of running I've ever put in, having hauled my chubby arse a grand total of 1,573km between January 1st and yesterday evening. Our car is chock full of camping gear and an entire running store's worth of crap "I might want at some point" as I attempt to endure through 12 hours of heat, sun and sweatiness.

This is actually an improvement from the 35c they had been calling for..

I don't know how it's all going to come out. The whole reason I signed up for the Dirty Girls 12-hour in the first place is because the very idea scared the living hell out of me. I've run a lot for me, but only a fraction of the mileage, intensity and elevation that I know for a fact other people are doing in preparation for both this race and similar ones. I haven't got much in the way of extra sleep this week (despite the best of intentions and actually tapering), and I've never even camped for a race before. There's a strong possibility I will be unable to finish, let alone make my goal of 72km for the day. I could be injured, succumb to the heat, become severely dehydrated, bonk due to insufficient calorie intake, or simply be unable to force myself to continue.

I'm trying to believe I have the fitness to see this through. More than that, I'm trying to believe in my own stubbornness, or at least the stupidity that has let me carry on to the finish of other races simply because I was too dumb to stop when it was the reasonable thing to do

These things may still not be enough, and I may fall short of what I hope to accomplish.

Yesterday, London 2012 Canadian Olympic gold medal-winning trampolinist Rosie MacLennan was named as Canada's flag bearer for Rio 2016. I heard of this news on the radio, as well as her message for athletes:

"Chase the dream, but love the journey - because that's 99% of it"

That sound bite struck a chord with me as I look back over the months of training I've put that have brought me to the starting line tomorrow morning. Watching the seasons change and the woods explode into riotous green on the trails at Huron Natural Area, Puslinch Tract, Hydrocut, GORBA, and on the Walter Bean Grand River Trail, GuelphMississauga, Kitchener and Cambridge Trails

There was still snow on the ground here in April

Summer sunshine

Some other trail users

Closer to home

Sunset over the river

Every one of those sights was an experience that stirred something in my soul, and all of those photos are from the last week alone. There are hundreds more, plus all the scenes I didn't capture in anything but my own memory. There were lousy days of running, of course - not every workout is going to feel great, and there were times I needed to give myself a severe kick in the arse just to get out the door. But all along the way there have been moments of joy and triumph, whether from conquering a climb I'd previously had to walk, spotting the first of the wildflowers starting to open along the trail, or simply gutting out a tough run in which everything went wrong.

No matter what happens tomorrow, the real value of Dirty Girls has been to lead me on the path that brought me to all those moments. Long after the medal has tarnished and the tshirt has been lost, the experiences of the day itself and all of the runs leading up to it will live on as tiny tiles in the vast mosaic of my memories. Thus, even if I can't make it through the full 12 hours tomorrow, I don't think I can possibly say that I've failed.

That said, I am bound and determined to finish this let's do it!

Even if I have to crawl.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Right where I want to be

I've spent some time whingeing over the course of this year about how much running I've been putting in, trying to whip my arse into some kind of reasonable shape to attempt a 12-hour ultra. I've complained to Tanker that I haven't had time for golf, canoeing, a leisurely afternoon motorcycle ride, or just sitting around the fire in the backyard in ages.

The waaambulance is on its way!

Last Saturday was pretty typical: rolled out of bed around 9am, then hopped on my mountain bike to ride the Grand Trunk Trail down to the Cambridge Farmers' Market.

Morning commute

We grabbed coffee from Roy's Roast at the market, picked up 80% of our groceries for the week from the awesome market vendors, then stopped by Tiny Cakes to pick up something delicious for a post-run treat. Back up to the house for brunch, we had some errands to run and then it was off to Puslinch Tract so I could get in a couple of hours of trail running while Tanker went for a hike.

It was gorgeous, despite the wind and the rain that fell for half an hour or so in the middle (and soaked my phone, requiring a couple of hours in a bag of minute rice to break it out of a boot cycle).

So much greener than the last time I was here (back in May)

Found the funhouse!
These trails criss-cross a valley - almost a mountain bike halfpipe

Lots of rocky, rooty bits in the hardwoods

I finished up just before sunset, then we headed home and Tanker fired up the barbecue to grill some chicken thighs while I made pasta using the fresh peas, mushrooms, and the homemade pesto I'd created out of a bunch of incredibly fragrant fresh basil that we'd picked up at the market that morning.

The only thing that was really different than most other Saturdays was my own perception. I realized that it might not have left us time to hit the driving range or get our canoe out, but I'd enjoyed almost every single minute of my day. From the stunningly blue skies overhead as I pedaled down to the market to the joy of discovering a bit of trail I'd never explored before at Puslinch, every element of the day added something wonderful to my existence.

It might not be for everyone, but I wouldn't really have it any other way. For me, it was a perfect day.

Especially since I got to share it with the one I love the most.

I don't know how he puts up with me.

I'm incredibly happy to be able to pursue my hobbies - sweaty and otherwise - without any impediments apart from time, and so grateful that my biggest complaint is essentially that there aren't enough hours in the day for all of the different kinds of fun I have available to me. How lucky can a girl get?

Wishing you all a weekend filled with joy in your endeavours!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Trying to be SMRT

..make that smart.

You can see how well it's going.


In the days after we got home from motorcycle touring, I got right back after it, piling on the running mileage like it was my job. I knew I was nearly out of time to get back to peak in order to have physiological adaptation time prior to the Dirty Girls 12-hour, and I had basically taken two weeks nearly off from running as I recovered from the Conquer the Canuck 50k and wandered through (and sometime up) the majestic Laurentian Mountains in Quebec.

8k on a local trail Monday, June 27th, just to test out a new pair of trail shoes and reacquaint myself with how beautiful my home is.

I can live without mountains if I have this.

Stepping it up, I ran up to the pool on Tuesday - 10.5km almost all uphill and into the wind. I had planned to get in another 13k run-commute to my mum's place on Wednesday, but that got shortened to 10.5km. Still not bad, considering it almost didn't happen at all.

The story of me flashing my fishy belly around Mississauga was already told.

Another 6.5k Thursday - just a boring road loop around our neighbourhood, but Tanker the Wonder Sherpa rode his bike along with me to keep me company, so it was a little more fun than it would have been otherwise. Friday was, of course, my day off - it happened to be a day off work for Canada Day, too, so we hiked some trail, walked up to the store to get ice for the cooler, then strolled down to Riverside Park to watch fireworks and back up the hill again. A total of just over 9km of walking, so definitely some time on feet there.

Saturday would be my last long (3+hr) run before I'd start to taper for Dirty Girls. I had Tanker drop me off at a park in Guelph and ran along the Speed River up to the GORBA trail system, where I spent a couple of hours chasing whatever trail looked interesting before running back down the way I'd come, and ending up at a friend's house where Tanker was enjoying said friend's birthday barbecue. After 3h15m and 26km, I was just in time for cake!

Which was truly just the icing after running through beauty like this.

Sunday presented the opportunity to get in a decent back-to-back, so I headed out with Tanker to a section of the Walter Bean Grand River Trail of which I'd only run a tiny portion previously, as part of the Heels & Wheels 5k course.

The Economical Insurance Trailway is stunning, and we got to see it right around sunset - my Wonder Sherpa hiking while I trotted along.

Near Kolb Park

In the woods by Bingemans

The hills presented a perfect challenge to further test the new trail shoes (which I really like, and intend to have as a 2nd pair to change into at Dirty Girls), and I seemingly couldn't go 5 minutes without seeing some wildlife: bunnies, a gopher, a deer and even a coyote. 15.2km later I had thoroughly enjoyed myself out there. I'd also clocked 76.8km for the week - my second highest mileage ever!

Back to work after the long weekend on Monday, July 4th, I didn't get out running until quite late as I had to spend a great deal of time procuring and setting up a new phone for Tanker (his took an unfortunate swan dive into a cooler full of water on Canada Day and could not be revived). It was 11pm by the time I'd cranked out a boring 11.8km through a local industrial park, chosen merely because it was reasonably flat and well-lit.

No fun at all.

I was starting to feel a bit fragile by this point, but pressed on through Tuesday - I finally got in an evening swim at our beloved local outdoor pool, but the adductor in my right leg that had been cranky and sore seriously objected to whip kicking during breast stroke. I still ran 10.4km home from the pool, but I had to do so rather cautiously so as not to aggravate the damnit-it's-not-an-injury.

While wearing the most obnoxiously loud running outfit ever.
Pretty sure Tanker wouldn't have given me a ride home even if I hadn't intended to run.

Things weren't feeling so hot by the time I got home, but "hot" is precisely what Wednesday was shaping up to be. Even as I packed up a bag of kit to take to the office with me so I could run to mum's after work, I suspected that I'd be better taking a day off to recover and avoid the additional stress that running during a heat warning would cause my already-damaged body.


Come Wednesday morning it was clear even to an idiot like me - I could shorten the run or try to make some other lame adjustment, but I would benefit more from rest and recovery than any workout I could put in. All told, I'd clocked 98.95km in the 9 days since my return to running after our vacation - an average of 12.37km for each of the 8 days I ran, since I had only hiked and walked on Canada Day. Furthermore, since I'd had no more than 5hrs of sleep any night since Saturday, I figured the best thing I could possibly do was get my dumb arse to bed at a reasonable time.

So I did. Tanker (who wasn't feeling well on Wednesday anyway due to some rather nasty dehydration - that poor lad works far too hard and has no reprieve from the heat) and I went home after work, I made dinner, and we were in bed by 10:20pm. That's a full 3 hours earlier than any other day this week!


It was magnificent. By Thursday morning I was ready to kick arse again, so plowed through a bunch of work at the office and then went out to see how my legs had responded to the day off. It was still incredibly hot out when I snapped out a 5.8k progression run, but my legs actually felt better afterward than they had when I stepped out the door!


I treated them to a bit of hydrotherapy afterward in the form of an 1,100m swim and then a nice stretch in the swirlpool, and today I'm feeling pretty good. It's my day off from training again, so I'll get some further rest and recovery before heading out to the woods tomorrow for my last real distance (hopefully around 2hrs of run/hike) before going into full-blown taper mode to try to arrive at the start line of the 12-hour in some sort of healthy state.

You never know - it could happen!