Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015: First 50 Miler; Almost Happy

It is hard to sum up a year in review.  In fact, I waited until there was enough time to write about what transpired, in a year that represented a dramatic increase in running.  As an observation, don't wait until you are 57 to run your first 50 miler.  It has little to do with being older, slower, chronically injured and short of breath, but that you have a large enough experience set to comprehend that you are not enjoying the last 6 hours of the race...  You want to be young enough that you don't realize what a bad idea it is, to run for 12+ hours.

Note that I am recommending trying a long race.  Just do it before you are experienced!  I had 2 objectives for 2015 and I fully anticipated that they would compliment each other.  1.  I would run more long races.  I figured that in order to attempt a 50 miler, I needed to run longer.  Being slightly adverse to planning copious 40+K training runs, I reasoned that if I signed up for enough 50K races, I would be trained for a 50 miler.  2.  I would run faster.  Does it make sense to you that by increasing your weekly total from 30K to 50 - 80K, you would also get faster?  Apparently not, if you are approaching 60 years of age and have not run fast for the last decade.

So, I increased the number and duration of training runs and races, but only half-heartedly attempted to include speed work.  Result:  I remained slow, but was able to complete 6 ultras, including the Haliburton 50 miler.

Will I run another 50 miler?  Probably.  There is significant road (dirt road) at Hali and I believe this was a factor in my knees going south at about the 55K point.  There is considerable room to improve, with a 12:35 finish time.  Perhaps a gentle trail race (Sulphur?) would be better.  Will I run a 100 miler?  Not.  Training for long races is difficult with my back and knees.  I would end up walking a large portion, which would mean chasing cut-off's; it is not worth it.  Walking plays a role in ultras.  A big component of ultras is managing your resources, including being as efficient as possible.  In a 5K race, you will never reach "empty" on your leg muscle scale, so sprinting up a short hill is a good racing tactic.  In an ultra, it is suicide.  Walking up a hill that exceeds a certain pitch is more efficient than running it, which results in reaching the finish line sooner.  But I also believe that you should train so that you can run a preponderance of the race.  Planning to walk the last 40 miles of a hundred miler is not actually "racing" but completing the distance.  Might as well not enter the race and simply run and walk the distance on your own.

2015 By the Numbers


Longest:  80K
Shortest:  1K (aborted run)
Average:  6.59K (includes days off)
Average:  13.75K (only running days)


Longest:  95K
Shortest:  0K  (hiking in the Dolomites)
Average:  46.10K


Longest:  289K
Shortest:  67.5K
Average:  200.33K

Year total:  2,404K

2015 Race Synopsis

OUTRace Spring Warm-up   34K  2015-04-11

Not a race, but the first chance to run with people you normally see at races.  Running with "racers" typically results in expending more effort than during an average training run.  It is very important that NO ONE realizes you are wiped at 13K.  They can (and will) use this information against you, during the racing season.  Yes, we all claim that the SW is a fun run and a great chance to chat with running friends, but never underestimate the subterfuge.  So, after 2 loops (26K), don't mention that you are tired-beat-to-hell, but that you are starting to warm up and would like to increase the pace.  It is more important to "win" the SW than doing well in the last races of the year.

Seriously, the SW is a fun time and a great course.

Pick Your Poison  50K  6:24:05  2015-04-25

Tough wake-up call.  PYP starts on gentle trails, but after 5K, the word "Ski Hill" comes into play.  It is very difficult to train well for PYP, as most trails (in Creemore) still have snow until a few weeks before the race.  Running 26K on a treadmill will not prepare you for PYP!

Sulphur Springs  50K  5:42:31    2015-05-23

Gentle course, some recovery from PYP, but beware the "little" hills.  Heat can also play a part in this race, although 2015 was relatively good running weather.  Did not start too fast, but had hoped to complete the race in less time than it took.  This would be the theme for the remainder of the year.

Kingston   6 Hour   52.8K   2015-06-06

Had hoped to complete more distance, but the pace was too slow.  Knees held together fairly well on the pavement, but recovery from SS and PYP was not complete.  This is a great test at the 6 hour duration.  The manual timing gives this race a sheen not found at most other races.  It was cool watching Hans Maiers (76) break the Canadian record for his age category!

Niagara Ultra  50K  5:34:59  2015-06-20

I had forgotten how I fared at Niagara (always a bad sign) so I had to read my race report.  How could I forget?  3 ultras in 4 weeks...  Yes, the 50K times are trending downward, but I recall being sore and tired at the 15K mark.  This is not the best mental frame for running fast, with 35K still on the horizon.  I will likely have to take a longer break, should I want to push for a faster finish.  I also have trouble running on pavement.  My knees and back don't take kindly to performing the same mechanics for 5.5 hours.

Stayner Duntroon  8K  42? Minutes  2015-07-01

This is a fun little race, with free entry.  In terms of race strategy, it is a killer.  The first 2K is a gentle downhill on a paved road (or gravel shoulder), followed by a gently uphill for 2K, then 4K flat.  If you want to podium, it is virtually a sprint for the first 2K, but don't let up there!  No!  Maintain your pace during the uphill...  Lee Anne and I ran "fast" for the final 4K, resulting in an acceptable finish time, given that we started slower than a 6 minute kilometre pace.

The Limberlost Challenge  28K  3:52;29   2015-07-11

If you are unhappy with your pace, you need to shake things up a little, to see what happens.  My race strategy for TLC was a bit suicidal.  I would warm up at a decent pace, then simply crank it until there was nothing left.  Then hold on or crash for the remaining distance.  Guess what happened?  I enjoy the TLC race course.  The trails are not overly technical, but there is never any recovery.  If you want to go fast, you have to expend vast quantities of energy.  Period.  I was in trouble at the 5K mark, but decided to tough it out, in the hopes of a miracle.  There was no miracle...  I was already slowing down before the end of the first 14K loop.  My splits tell a very sad tale.  1:41 for loop one and 2:11 for loop two.  Ouch!  Did blasting the course and trashing my legs have any redeeming features?  No.  Chalk one up for the "Don't do this - ever" book.

Dirty Girls  12 Hour Day   56K   2015-07-25

I had more trouble at DG than at any other race in 2015.  I was so focused on bagging more than 60K during my first 12 hour race, that I ignored a plethora of warning signs that the weather was hot and humid, and that it was taking a BIG toll on my body.  My fluid intake alone should have been enough warning.  Suddenly, a half litre bottle was not enough to cover 4K.  I met some 24 hour runners who were walking during the afternoon because "it was too hot to continue running".  These are experienced runners.  Even Kinga Miklos shut it down after 64K.  The warning signs were all there, but I chose to continue running at a pace I could not sustain during the heat of the day.  Result?  After only 6 loops (48K), I could no longer run and was very dizzy while walking.  After an 8K loop that took 1:48, my race was over.

Haliburton Forest   50 mile  80K  12:35:26   2015-09-12

Too much taper and mountain hiking before the race.  This might seem a bit contradictory, but I feel that I lost some running stamina while hiking in the Dolomites, yet I also over-used my hamstrings.  A mere 15K into the race, my hamstrings became tight and stayed that way for the next 65K.  50 miles is a long race.  I compared it to a 50K, but with an extra 30K of "pushing" on very tired legs, to get to the finish line.  If I run another 50 miler, I need to train more, taper properly and avoid running on roads.  I really like the Haliburton 50K course and plan to be back.  From the 25K point (50K turn-around) until the 40K point, is a lot of road.

Run for the Toad 50K  DNF  2015-10-03  (finished 25K)

3 weeks was not enough time to recover from my first 50 mile race.  After only 15K, there was not much left in the tank and walking / staggering for 35K did not appeal to me.

Horror Trail  6 hour   DNS   2015-10-31

Running after the Toad DNF simply emphasised that I was not recovered from Haliburton.  My run-down state probably also led to a bout of the flu or a cold.  With the bathroom project and being sick, training was negligible.  I saw no good reason to enter a race where I had little chance of even a mediocre performance.  Also, I could not afford to take the time, since at that point the bathroom was not fully functional.

Plans for 2016:

This will have to wait for another post, as the 2015 review is long enough.  I will incorporate more speed work, as I want to improve my finish times.  I will probably run about the same number of races, but mix up the distance a bit more.  I think that running 6 ultras during the summer does not allow for sufficient recovery.  One reason my race times remained slow was that I was taxing my legs with another 50+K race every other week.

This February, Lee Anne and I will be joining new friends for some hiking in Ecuador.  I like the idea of getting the hiking out of the way early, before any serious training begins.


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