Tuesday, July 21, 2015

May and June Update – A ‘two for’ not a ‘24’

Well it has been a little while since my last blog so I thought now was as good a time as any to provide a brief review of the last two months and highlight some upcoming events.

First, overall running had been ok but not stellar. In part work travel and weather have added to my general running malaise but at least I have still been out pounding pavement and even a few trails. A couple of races, a trail race in May in the beautiful Lynn Canyon Park, North Vancouver, and then the Transcendence 6 hour in Kingston June 6.

I will go into a bit more detail below on both races, but first on May 21 and 22 as lead up to the Ottawa Race weekend I had the pleasure to spend a few hours both evenings at the race expo.  For Thursday evening, I spent the time with my good friends at Skechers Performance Canada. In addition, one of the franchise owners of a Running Free store from the Toronto area was also at the booth and it was great to see how keen he was on the great Skechers products. Some of you probably don’t know that during my years at University I worked for a sporting goods company and spending time at the Skechers booth reminded me of how fun that type of work can be. The one difference was being surrounded by a product line that I truly believe in and can happily promote and the best running product available. Yes, let me be very clear on that point. If I was not a Skechers Performance Ambassador I would still buy the product! In fact even though I get shoes sent to me, I continue to purchase Skechers product.

 At the Skechers booth with Laurent Sirois

For the Friday evening I moved to the booth next door with Alain and Martin from Le Foulee Sportif. As I have written before my running has really been influenced by Martin and Alain’s early and continued support and spending some time with them was a small way of saying thank you to two great people who really care about the local running community.

Le Foulee Sportif booth

May 31…MEC Race – Seek the Creek
Let’s start with MEC events are well run, fun, on great courses and cheap!!! Inexpensive that is. This race started out as a need to find something to do on a weekend that I would be spending in Vancouver as part of a work trip. So look on the web…type in Vancouver running races in google search engine and wait for the results. The problem is that coming from eastern Canada (ie flat) when one sees a 16km trail race and one is used to doing ultra distances, well one is apt to shrug and think “only 16km as the longest…guessssss that will have to do” you know with a tone of boredom. Well if you want your butt kicked into submission but have a smile on your face while it is happening just sign up for next years MEC race in the Lynn Canyon….you will be humbled. In addition I decided I would run back to the hotel from the race site adding another 15km’s. Now that is a proper run…again I am an idiot and continue reading to see why I happily make that admition.

Ok so let’s start at the beginning…I was born – WAIT not that far back……Saturday night put out all my race kit on the hotel bed and made sure my gps watch was charged up. I also called down to the front desk to see about getting a taxi early on Sunday morning but was assured that would not be a problem. On that last item I find it really funny that Vancouver, the greenest most public transit friendly city in Canada, seems to literally shut down on Sunday mornings. No matter how I tried to plan taking a bus, sky train or sea bus to the race site it was not possible. So it would be taxi for me.
Sunday morning and beautiful weather. I get up nice and early, run across the road from my hotel to the Tim Horton’s and get a bagel and some donuts (pre race fueling). Quick shower (I am representing Skechers after all) and I am off to the race. Taxi was at the door of the hotel as promised…but I should have guessed something had to go wrong. See I never thought of having a printout of a map of the start location with me. I assumed the address and location would be easy for the taxi driver. Well it wasn’t and we got a bit lost but eventually did arrive at the race location.

Race organisers where just setting up but once ready the registration and race kit pickup was supper smooth. Plus all the volunteers where supper friendly and made all runners feel welcomed.

The start was situated across form a horse farm and the huge trees all around reminded me I was on the BC coast. Plus the drive to the site was mostly uphill and I began considering that the hills here are not back home hills but major mountains with significant elevation….crap this is going to hurt. 

Ok new race plan began to be hatched on the start line. First keep walking back to be sure I am at the back of the pack. Second start out at a reasonable pace, I still want to run back to the hotel, and finally look around once we start for a good local runner(s) who I can sit on and follow around.

The race started up a small incline then down, down, down, down to the Lynn Canyon floor and river. It followed the river for the next while into what can only be described as some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever run through. I had to stop to get photos it was so beautiful (really I stopped to get my breath back and return my heart from the back of my throat to where it belonged) and the smells of the forest where sweet and so different from anything I experience in my normal running environments.

At one point I thought the climb was going on a bit long then I realized it had really just started. The uphill was totally nuts and to the race director and course designer all I can say is both of you are crazy – but in a nice way.

I was able to stay close to two women and a man running together. All three seemed to know the area and their pace was reasonable for me to keep close. At one point though we ran down what seemed to be a rock wall not a trail and my footing was only helped by finding rocks and roots. At the bottom of the hill was another creek/river crossing. Art that point runners returning from a short out and back loop passed running back up the hill…crap I have to go up that thing.

At one point on the loop I passed the three runners who I had been following and it is amazing that even at the back of the pack you get this little urge to keep up the pace and not be passed. But it was all in fun and I really appreciated the company over the last 10km’s or so.

The remainder was a bit of a blur, wanting the race to end more than wanting to enjoy the scenery which was sad in retrospect. This area of North Vancouver is a real gem for runners, hikers, walker, mountain bikers, anyone wanting to be in the outdoors so close to home.

Finally with the finish line in site it was over. 16km trail race in 2:42:42. It’s funny that a slow time like that can still be seen as an accomplishment. But wait. I was not done yet. Refilling the water bottles and grabbing a banana I was off for the 15km road run back to the hotel. This was a straightforward urban run…well that is what I thought. The thing that threw me for a loop was the crossing of the Iron Workers Bridge. Now I have crossed many bridges running. You might say it is one of the check box items when I visit somewhere. In Vancouver I had been across the Burrard Bridge and Lions Gate. In Halifax I have run the Angus Macdonald Bridge and there are many others. But if there is now a list of bridges I hate and would never run again then the Iron Workers Bridge is in first place. It is high, cars speed by and the outside wall is small tubular steel bars that rise 12 feet or so and that when you are running by create this funny vision issue which turned my stomach until I kept my glance on the traffic more than the water. It was in a word awful.
I made it back to the hotel with a number of walking breaks in @@@@. Again not a time to be proud of for the distance but it was part of what turned out to be a spectacular day of running.
So to recap…Race orginisation A+, Volunteers A+, Location A+. If you are in Vancouver you have to check out the North Vancouver MEC web site for upcoming races. These events are definitely worth attending

Shoe review – For the Seek the Creek I wore the Skechers GORun Ultra 2’s. These shoes performed amazingly in the dry trail environment and did not let me down on any of the fast descents or slow uphills where traction kept me upright. In addition the run back to the hotel all on paved road surface or cement sidewalks equally showed the excellent cross over capability of the shoe. While the recently released road version of the Ultra 2 is likely to outperform the trail version on hard pack surfaces, the Ultra 2 is without a doubt the best single shoe option for someone who is doing an event where multiple surfaces are going to be encountered. The softer sole material will wear a bit faster on pavement but that is a small negative counterbalanced by a lot of benefits if the GORun Ultra 2’s.

Kingston 6 hour Self Transcendence Race
I love this race, the location and the people. But what really puts this event on top of my best runs of the year, every time I do it is that it is one race that Joanne also participates in, and while we don’t run the whole event together, the multiple short loop nature of the venue allows us to see each other throughout the day. Now I am not going to go into detail on the course since it is a bit like describing a hamster wheel event, but anyone looking at doing something longer than a marathon or for that matter running beyond what you think you are capable of should really consider running the Kingston 6 hour Self Transcendence.  Knowing that every kilometre you are passing an aid station as well as your own spot where you can have a chair, cooler with goodies and even a personalized cheering station makes it a near perfect event. Plus the beauty of the Royal Military College campus and running along the shore of Lake Ontario is in no way monotonous after 6 hours.

The final numbers where 43.6 km’s in 6 hours for me and Joanne, whose longest run was around 6km for this year and who had suffered a hard fall ales than a month earlier which ended any training for this race finished with a very respectable 35.9 km’s.

Shoe review – For the 6 hours I ran in the Skechers GORun 4’s. Initially I had been a bit worried about the lower profile of the shoe and minimal cushioning. But by the end of the 6 hours my feet although a bit sore had no hot spots or blisters. The GORun 4’s have gone through a few design changes over earlier versions, which I had been critical about. Now the GORun 4 has the same slipper like feeling of the GORun Ride series but the design is slightly different necessitating the two models (in fact a third, the GOMeb Speed 3 rounds out the road running series by Skechers Performance and I will be using this last shoe in a race in September). I hope to have a more fulsome review of the GORun 4’s in the weeks to follow so stay tuned.

Final Thoughts and a look ahead
Running is a fickle friend. It is not always easy or willing to let you do things your way but it is also a constant companion. Once you are a runner, it is hard to consider doing anything else as a healthy hobby. Last year was not fun and I had not maintained the level of consistency I had hoped as a follow-up to 2013. But although 2015 started out in a pattern reminiscent of ’14 it does seem that it is getting better and that I am back to running at a level I can be happy with. You see running is really about you and for you, no one else. So if you are having a down week or month or even year, don’t worry. Just get moving your feet one foot in front of the other. It will get better I promise.

What is coming up??!! In a weeks’ time I will be at Limberlost near Huntsville, Ontario doing the 56 km trail race there. Then I really hope to try and run the bottom half (Smith Falls to Ottawa) of the Rideau Trail. This 150km run, if it goes ahead will occur in August and will help me in preparing for the full trail attempt in August 2016.

So stay tuned for a couple of shoe reviews, a race review post Limberlost and a few other surprises coming up in the months ahead. In the meantime drag that butt of yours off the couch and go for a walk or a run.