Monday, September 10, 2012

Baby Steps - MYM50 Ultra

50 mile run... check.

It's taken a while but I finally got around to racing my first 'true' ultra - better late than never I suppose!  Why did I wait so long?  Well, the fact that I'm a bit of an injury-prone runner hasn't helped convince me that I would actually survive an effort that long - And honestly, the thought of running for 100 or 160km simply scares me.  That said, 80km seemed like a manageable distance, and I figured it was time to give it a shot...

Baby steps...

Short pitstop in Revelstoke, BC on route to Whistler - The big rig sits on a plateau high above town - It was just as much fun 4x4-ing up to the Frisby Ridge trailhead as running on the trail itself!
With the inaugural Meet Your Maker 50 on tap in Whistler, it was an easy choice to slide it into the calendar (actually, I didn't have much of a choice since it was also part of our Salomon sponsored events - so duty called - I know, I know...twist my arm!). Either way, I was keen to see how I would fare over this distance - uncharted territory for this guy!    Eager to hit the road, I loaded the big rig with event equipment and set off for another adventure.

You would think that an 80km race would warrant a bit of specific prep, but to be honest, I really didn't put a whole lot of thought into it.  Then again, I can't say that ever really put a lot of structure in my training these days.  I've followed a structured training plan for so many years throughout my (ski) career that I (think I) know what my body needs and when.  For the most part, I try to go with the flow... Between you and I, I'd say this strategy works about 80% of the time.

I've never really been a big fan of tapering for an event - not sure why - I just feel like I'm always sluggish on race day.  Everyone reacts differently to various training routines, and over the years, I've learned that I respond well to steady volume.  There's a limit of course, and it's often a very fine line between feeling good, and going over the edge...the questions, where is that line?

So what does that all mean?  In a nutshell, I take a look at my race objective(s), and figure out what I need most to succeed.  Is it climbing? speed on flats? quad strength? technical ability?  The most important thing to remember in this exercise - the key - is to ensure adequate recovery time so you can feel tip-top on race day!  As simple as it may sound, most athletes have difficulty grasping this concept, feeling like they always need to do more. 

Curious? Here's a glimpse of the few weeks leading up to the race.  It's a short window but may give some of you some ideas on how to prepare for your next event:

  • Aug 6-12:  Focused on volume - 132km of running w/ 5,000m +gain (including 2 long back-to-back runs - Rundle Loop 42k + Rockwall 54k).  Couple easy road rides to let the legs recover. 19hrs total.
  • Aug 13-19: Focused on recovery early in the week, then volume/speed - 70km of running w/ 2,000m +gain.  110km of riding to recover from previous week. Finished off wk with 40km hard effort around Ironlegs course. 10hrs total training.
  • Aug 20-26:  Focused on recovery - 20km of running.  212km of riding.  Body was quite tired so decided to stay off legs for the week.  Few longer rides to keep volume up.  10hrs total training.
  • Aug 27-Sept 2:  Focused on quad endurance & rebuilding - 150km of running w/ 6,000m +gain (includes 82km MYM50 w/ 3,800m +gain).  16hrs total training.
    • Mon: Hard up/down Lady Mac 15km w/ 900m +gain
    • Tues: 15km easy run
    • Wed: Frisby Ridge Trail (Revelstoke) 25km w/ 900m +gain
    • Thurs:  Day off
    • Fri: 14km - Easy
    • Sat:  Worked all day at Salomon expo - 30min run
    • Sun:  RACE DAY!!
The last week may have seemed like a bit of a gamble - especially the hard run on Wed in Revy - but my energy levels were good and I knew that I had enough days to recover for the race - It just 'felt' like this was the right thing to do!  Plus I couldn't pass up an opportunity to run Frisby Ridge Trail :) 

...and am I glad I did - Phenomenal views on Frisby Ridge Trail near Revelstoke, BC!

High alpine flowers were in full blown!  The trail gained 900 vertical metres up to a max height of 2,000m in altitude.  Weather was touchy, ranging from cold showers to sunny breaks - perfect temp for running!

Seriously - It doesn't get any better than this!

As for the race... I won't bore you with all the details, so here's the quick version:  
  • 6am start...Off we go
  • Leg 1: 10km...Speedy pace on flat-ish leg.  Lots of chatter with Mr. Coo...Let the leaders run up the road...Feeling good - should be a fun day!  
  • Leg 2 - Comfortably Numb: 22km... Technical is the name of the game...What a great trail!  This section kept our brains alive.  Caught up to 2 leaders (Mike Murphy and Mark Bennett) who I would end up playing cat & mouse with the entire race.  Watched Mike take about 5 spectacular crashes... good entertainment!  By the end of this leg I was done with technical... just give me some f'ing flat road! 
  • Leg 3 - BlackComb Climb: 10km...Monster grind to the top of the mountain!  Mark had a fast transition and flew out of the feed station.  I grabbed my poles, some food and chased!  Not sure what Mike was doing but he lingered just enough that a gap was formed...I caught up to Mark and we both paced each other to the summit.  Became a race to the gondola! Left knee was quite sore...Popped a few Vitamine - I's... good to go.
  • Peak 2 Peak chair - AWESOME! What a view... wow!  Adding the gondola to the race was brilliant - It was great to have a break at the 40km mark.  Enjoyed the best tasting soup EVER.  
  • Leg 4 - Whistler descent: 8km... Steep and fast.  Gapped Mark a bit on lower technical to dance down the rooty sections.  Definitely felt good in this section... lots of juice in the tank.
  • Leg 5 - 10km or so...Wasn't ready to run solo for the rest of the way so 'waited' for Mark to catch back up...Good to have him with me to maintain our pace... took a quick detour to dip in the river - so refreshing!
  • Leg 6 - 10km or so...I heard that the Flank trail would be a doozy, and it was!  Gaped Mark in the first climbing section - was feeling good so pushed the pace!  About 5km in, I tried to take some electrolyte tabs but stomach didn't agree with the horse-sized pills and out came my entire feed refuelling... ugh-  Feeling 'lighter'... I pushed on.  Couldn't eat from here on in...
  • Leg 7 - 10km or so...again.  Get me to the finish line.  Physically, body was ok.  But my energy was starting to fade as fuelling was not adequate...Coke was about the only thing I could choke down, but it wasn't enough...As I popped on the paved path in town, the energy was being sucked out of me - And then all of a sudden, Mike (who I hadn't seen since 30km mark), appeared out of nowhere and was flying! Nothing I could do...I tipped my hat and watch him cruise away...
  • Happy to finish 4min back of lead...another 6min ahead of Mark.  
And that was that.

All things considered, my 8h35min 'work-day' actually flew by surprisingly quickly.  A few little kinks but overall, the body held up pretty well...

Will I do it again? Absolutely.  The MYM50 course was spectacular - and included a ton of variety to keep your brain alive the entire way.  Just when you would start getting tired of a specific section, the course changed, and you were confronted with another type of trail, terrain or view to keep you motivated.  The perfect mix for such an event.  

But what about taking that next step to the full ultra distances?  Put one foot in front of the other and follow the pretty flags...for 160km.  Seems simple really. 


Never say never I suppose...

Suunto Ambit Beta - A big day on the Whistler trails... good way to tour the local area ;)

At the 50km mark...Poles in hand - Up I go!
Final Notes:

  • The course, the logistics, the markings, feed stations were top notch - kudos to the 5 Peaks crew for putting on a great year-1 event!  As usual, there are always a few kinks to work out, but all things considered - a flawless event in my mind!
  • Congrats to all the MYM50 participants - It was great to watch solo and relay runners funnel into the finish lines, greeted by family, friends and teammates - and sporting big smiles (most of them anyways ;)
  • See you on the trails...


BarbC said...

Great job, Phil! I love your concept of training based on what you feel your body needs at a particular time. Even though I don't have your long athletic background, I find that works well for me too - but it seems unorthodox.

Congratulations on a podium finish in your first 50-miler!


Keith Iskiw said...

Looking like a star! thanks for the report and peak into your training! can't wait to race against you soon!

Phil said...

Barb: I think we all have to adapt to our own training needs...Work, family, life all play a role - Most know this and adapt accordingly. Personally (and I think you're in a similar state of mine), I've practiced sport for so long that I struggle to follow a set training plan - so my solution is as described. May seem like I'm winging it, and for the most part I am, but the knowledge that I (we) have acquired over the years allows for a bit of 'calculated' on-the-fly planning in there... plus it's more fun!

Keith: Looking forward to sharing the trails with you too!

Johnny said...

Great race, Phil. Glad your first 50 miler went so well.

Derrick said...

Congrats again Phil! Great to see you out there mixing it up in a 50miler...100km (or miles) can't be far behind!

Some seriously beautiful scenery there!!!

Sara said...

Congrats, Phil! It sounds like a very fun race.

Schmidty said...

Great stuff Phil. Congrats on an impressive finish.

Phil said...

Thx all! Hope to see you all at the race one of these days - no better way to tour the Whistler trails!
Thanks for following!

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