Well, inspired by Briwifit publicly announcing her running goals for 2014, I have decided to do the same. It’s a bit scary, because it kinda makes you a bit more committed to meet them, once you have told everyone about them! But I’ve been thinking these last few months, about personal running goals as well as about specific ultramarathons I have in sight… not to mention a major professional goal listed down at the bottom…so I’m going to share it all here!
Dave and I had a great 2013 as far as travelling and running. We ran our first race together in 2012, the 50k Sun Mountain ultra. In 2013, we did Guadarun, a 6-day staged ultramarathon in Guadeloupe, then the Edge to Edge half marathon, then the Tenderfoot Boogie Squamish-to-Whistler 50+k ultramarathon, and then Angel’s Staircare 60k ultramarathon. And then I ran the 6-day Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race ultramarathon in India in October.
However, I’ve had a bad two years as far as injuries go – PFPS (“runner’s knee”) on and off, Achilles tendinitis that lasted about six months, followed almost immediately by six months of metatarsalgia. But I seem to have worked through the last of these during my last race in India (miraculously), so I finally seem to be good in that department.
And even more significantly, I have been plagued by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for the last twelve or more years. It is a condition not well understood by “western medicine,” really more a suite of symptoms than an actual disease, because there is no known cause and no known cure. Well, this spring, I finally determined that my own CFS is caused by an allergy to dairy proteins, most likely the protein casein.
Easy fix: no more dairy for me. It’s weird – I always suspected that a food sensitivity might be a part of it, but I never suspected dairy, because I consume so little of it. But there you go, turns out the cream in my one morning coffee, plus the occasional pizza or nachos or lasagna, was enough to keep me constantly reacting. (The reaction is delayed – onset is about 24 hours after you eat the dairy, and it lasts for several days. So it’s not just like you take a bite of cheese and start sneezing – it was not as obvious as that).
The main effects of that CFS/dairy allergy were an extreme full-body exhaustion, which is hard to explain to anyone who has not had it. It’s not like being tired as in sleepy, it’s not like being tired after running an ultramarathon, it is way more exhausting than that: a thick brain fog that makes you feel SOOO lethargic, where even sitting up is tiring. And for me, it was also an extreme (and constant) muscle exhaustion and pain in my quads. I got so used to it over the years, my quads hurt any time I climb a single flight of stairs, or go up a little hill on my bike, that it became my “normal”… until now, when it’s not!
Anyway, what it means is that now I think I can try to become a faster runner. I know I will never be “fast.” But I think I can become faster than I have been all these years. My quads are no longer in permanent pain, I no longer have to walk up every little hill. I was actually doing some speed training the last couple of months before my race in the Himalayas!
OK, so thanks Bri, here goes:
Goal 1: Get faster. Well, I already explained above why I think I can do this. I have a few different loop trails that I have been timing myself on this past fall, so I will start doing that again and registering my progress. I don’t want to lose my joy of running by “training” too hard. But I think I can go faster and still enjoy it. (Dave would like running with me more if I could go faster, too).
Goal 2: Get better on the technical downhills. (Even on the non-technical ones). It seems a pretty constant thing – whether we are talking the 10k race I did in Whistler with Jeannie, or my 160k ultramarathon in the Himalaya: I pass people on the uphills, and then they pass me back on the downhills.
I was actually quite surprised in India on Day 5, after I had passed so many people on that big long
10k uphill – how many of them passed me back at the start of the 17k downhill. And that was on pavement! Same thing in Guadeloupe, there was this older couple who Dave and I kept passing on the uphills – and then they would pass us back on all the technical downhills. So I need to get better at downhill running in general – and I also need to get better on the technical stuff. Fortunately, my friend Dave James, who also happens to be the USA 100-mile ultramarathon champion, has offered to help me!
Goal 3: Run more, walk less. This kind-of goes with #1, to run faster. I don’t want to give up walking, I love walking, I think it is an extremely healthy exercise and important supplemental training for ultramarathoners. BUT – when I go out for a run, I want to make less excuses to walk (which has mainly been on the uphills, and I think figuring this dairy thing out will cure that).
Goal 4: Run a FAST 50k race. Dave and I have run three one-day races of 50k to 60k distance now. I think that, when you start running ultramarathons, you have to put some time, gaining the experience and the physical base you need, learning to pace yourself and know yourself and all that.
But I’ve done that now. I’m ready to try to get faster. Dave and I ran the Sun Mountain 50k in 2012 in 7:04 (I had my Achilles tendon injury then). I think I should be able to drop close to an hour off of that time now – training better as well as uninjured – so I want to go back and do that race again. This time aiming for a time between 6:00 and 6:15.
Goal 5: Run a FAST marathon. I surprised myself in October 2011 by bettering my marathon PR by over 45 minutes! And without training! My previous PR (well, my only R) was two races, my first in 4:43:02 and my second in 4:43:01. Kinda funny, actually. Well, on Wednesday October 5, 2011, at April’s suggestion, I decided to enter the Victoria Marathon running that Sunday. It’s not like I had not been running – I had been running the trails all summer. But I had NOT been training for a marathon. But there was shit going on in my life, and you know how you’re kind-of willing to push yourself to hurt a bit more at those times, and I did it. I never thought I would run sub-4, but I completely surprised myself by running 3:56!
Well, now I want to try to better that. Yesterday, I signed up for the Edge to Edge Marathon, June 8th, 2014. Not sure if I really can better my Victoria time – I’ll be two and a half years older (in fact, I turn 50 just five days before race day, maybe I can win my age group!). And also, the Sun Mountain 50k ultra is only three weeks before –
so if Dave and I do that one, which it looks like we will, I may not be fully recovered. (Alternatively, maybe it will be perfect timing – maybe I will be well rested, with lots of endurance base).
Anyway, not sure how I will do with that one – maybe it’s unreasonable to better that time. But it will be a carrot dangling before me over the coming months, spurring me on to try to train to be faster.
Goal 6: Do something fun with Dave in November. We’re not sure what yet. There are a couple of international multi-day staged races that we’ve got our eyes on. Or maybe we will run our first 50-miler together. (That’s a real goal for Dave, but I am not putting it down as one of mine this year. But maybe we will). Anyway, we are planning some time off together in November, to hopefully go on a fun running (or maybe hiking) adventure somewhere.
Goal 7: Experiment with a low-carb diet. I’m really interested in this – partly the scientist in me. I’ll write more about this in future posts… but I am exploring the idea of us eating WAY too much carbs, including (or even especially) endurance athletes chowing down on gels and bars and all that crap we eat while racing. (Check out this article on metabolic efficiency, which I originally found in the Oct. 2012 issue of Ultrarunning Magazine). Sure, carbs keep your energy up (as long as you time your eating carefully, don’t go too high or too low on the sugars). But the other end of the spectrum is teaching your body to burn its own fat reserves – which doesn’t happen if your bloodstream is constantly loaded up with glucose. I’ve been trying this a bit since Dave and I returned from Guadeloupe, and I effortlessly lost 10 pounds that I didn’t even know I had to lose. I’ve put some of that back on since returning from India (between our big car drive across the continent, and then being sick with bronchitis over the whole Christmas period). But starting in February, Dave and I are going to try the lower-carb diet along with lots of low-intensity training, to train our bodies into using this fuel source we are naturally carrying.
Goal 8: Write an ultramarathon training book. Yup, there, I said it. I’ve been making notes for this book for two years now. I’m ready to put it together and publish.
I know there are people who are way better ultramarathoners than I am out there… but that doesn’t mean they have the skills to write a good book. Just like your old profs at university: the best scientists are not always the best teachers. I am an ultramarathoner, but I’m also a really good writer and researcher, with a long background in the sport. Through a decade of race reporting for SleepMonsters I’ve had numerous opportunities to both observe and interview the world’s top endurance racers (many of whom I now count as frends!). I’ve learned a lot from them – both from watching what works and what doesn’t work (e.g. foot care, nutrition, etc.) and by asking them (about training, about strategy, about race management). I’m ready to write this book, and it will be good – not just about training programs (which, honestly, anyone can find one online) but also about everything else you need to know to be an ultramarathon runner (and to have fun with it!)… Aiming for publication this fall. If you’d like me to send you more info about it, email me.
OK, there you go… it’s out there. What about you?