December 18, 2011
December 8, 2011
November 26, 2011
November 23, 2011
November 13, 2011
November 9, 2011
October 16, 2011
October 2, 2011
September 25, 2011
Needless to say I had not trained for the 10km at all. I ran 37:37 last year and hoped I could maybe run a similar time this year but with jetlag (I just got back from the UK on Wednesday) and a cold/ stomach bug hitting 2 days prior I was feeling far from like I wanted to push a fast effort. It also has to be said that there are a good few 100 metres of elevation climb around 3km to 5km in the course so it's never a fast race. Excuses, excuses ...
So overall I had a fun time, I was joking that after my DNF at 90km a few weeks ago I can finally say that I have completed the 100km distance... it just took me 2 weeks to do so! I didn't have the energy to push really hard and especially found breathing hard with the cold. It was a suprisingly sunny and warm day too - 25 degrees! - which made it great to hang out after the race. I repeated my 2nd place from last year, despite running 20 seconds slower (on a slightly altered route) so I guess I can't complain too much.
Last year at the time of Melissa's I had been in full 100km training mode so remember hitting a 3 hour long run after the race, in the afternoon. I was suprised how heavy my legs felt and realised that even if I had 'only' raced 10km - it was still much faster than I was used to! Given this year I had no real need to get a real run in like that, I instead made the most of the awesome weather by a run/ powerhike up and over Sulphur Mountain. Two and a half hours, 23km, so not a hard effort but a great way to be outside and enjoy the weather, because at this time of year in Banff you never know when summer might abruptly end and the snow start to fall....
Next up... Run for the Toad 50km in Ontario on Saturday with fellow Montrail team mate Ryne Melcher, and then 2 weeks later TNF 50 miler in Chile!!! Very undertrained for a mountain course but it's all going to be about having fun and sightseeing along the race course :)
September 15, 2011
Well, that certainly was not the outcome I had been hoping for. In fact it is far off what I had been hoping for. I went in the race fully crossing my fingers for (but of course, never expecting) the win. I knew there would be a strong ladies field but despite the fact I won at World 100km in 2010 I didn't have a perfect race there in many ways and hoped that I could run faster than my 7h29. Mid way through the race this year I would have been delighted at finishing under 8h30. Goals had been substantaily adjusted whilst I continued to put one foot in front of another. But in the end I got to the point where I really felt I could not continue to put one foot in front of the other. I had got the the point of walking. And I don't mean power walking. I mean plus 10min per km pace. It looked pretty lame ;)
I started out fast. The course was 10 x 10km loops and the atmosphere lived up to all expectations. It was a-buzz at the start with lots of people around as it was also the Dutch 100km champs as well as there being a 50km race and a 10 x 10km relay. On the first few loops I soaked up the atmosphere of locals out cheering, many of whom had set up water and sponge stations in their gardens, or had opted to bring their lawn chairs out whilst barbequeing and cheering. Banners streamed over the streets and with a 10am start their were cheerers out right from the start. I aimed to hit 4.20 min/ km or so. Basically I wanted to run between 42min and 43km per 10km loop. This was ambitious and immediately put me out in the lead for the ladies field. I didn't especially intend to go out in the lead but I'd been prepared to take the lead if that is where my pace put me.
By the 3rd loop I got even faster than this and appreciated when the GB crew told me to slow down. I'd simply got carried away and then on my 4th loop focused on checking every km split and soon reigned it in to a sensible pace. Ok, back on track I thought.
The weather conditions were warm and humid, something I am totally unused to, in Banff the air is exceptionally dry and my final run in Banff before flying over for the race it had been a fresh minus 1. I knew I should take care to keep cool so was sponging myself at every opportunity and taking water form the kids along the side of the course between the two GB feedstations which were located at the start/ finish area as well as at the 5km mark of each loop. All still going well. Marathon in approx 3h01 and 50km in approx 3h37. The legs were still feeling good and no niggling pains were appearing. Awesome.
A little into the 6th loop I began to slow. My stomach was beginging to feel a little off. Not awful, just not great. The eventual winner (of Russia) slipped by me to take the lead. Of course not encouraging but the bigger concern was my stomach and just a general feeling of wanting to sleep. I just felt plain tired. At 60km I pulled in to see Brian, Walter and Anne at the GB station. I told them I just wanted to stop. I had no energy. It wasn't that my legs were tired, it was just I didn't feel like battling on for 40km. Things had gone downhill quick and I felt like I didn't have my usual will to fight. The GB crew tried to get my going, they asked if I would regret quitting tomorrow and I said I knew that I would but I really didn't know I could carry on. I took off my bib and say down. I was done.
Well, that's what I thought. After sitting for maybe 5 minutes the crew continued to talk to me and I knew I had to give it another shot. Bib back on and I was off before I could change my mind. My stomach was still not feeling great and I moved on as solidly as I could. 40 more kms didn't seem overly far but I wasn't in the spirit to push hard but I knew my race still had plenty of time to turn around.
At 65km I pulled into the GB crew of Adrian and Peter. My stomach definitely didn't feel great now. They offered me all sorts of choices of things to eat and drink but none of it seemed remotely appealing at that point. Then my stomach turned and I vomited. Having had this happen at Western States, I was actually quite positive about this - hopefully now I had a fresh stomach and could start getting on board new calories for more energy. It was also much harder to quit half way through a loop (though is was a still a tempting thought at this point). Ok, off I went again with a bottle of coke in hand which I drank in very tentative sips.
Now I was running each 5km betweent the stations at a time. I would pull in, get a few words of encouragement as well as some coke and Clif drink on board and then would psyche myself up for another 5km. I was still at the stage that the thoughts of anything more than liquid was just not bareable, though I did force a gel at one point, knowing that any calories would help. At 78km I pulled over to the sie of the road and as I vomited for the second time a very kind Dutch lady came to offer me a baby wipe to blow my nose - much appreciated as I had no water to clear my mouth. Nice!
Now I decided to stick entirely to flat coke. It was possibly my electrolyte drink that was upsetting my stomach (despite it being what I always take, the pounding on tarmac is never easy on the stomach). Just before 80km I ran past Jason Loutit of Team Canada. I told him it was getting tough but I was feeling surprisingly good and 20 more kms seemed totally manageable. I was delighted at the thought that I might finish the race under 8h30, not bad considering the things I had gone through. From 80 to 85km I took no walk breaks!!! Woo hoo!!! This was my first entire 5km run with no walking since 65km, and I was finding that although ladies were passing me as I would pull into the aid stations for a few minutes I would then gain on them again once I was moving.
By now I had resolved to enjoy the race as much as possible and was waving at supporters and followed Amy's (Team USA) lead and high fived kids along the side lines. I am sure supporters wondered why the runner who had led the race for the first 50km was now so delighted to be close to an hour off the lead lady! I was just happy it was almost over and hopefully 1h30 and I would be done.
But as I was at the 85km mark I didn't feel great again. It would be the final slump that I couldn't pull myself out of. My 5kms of running had zapped me and it was the first time that I walked out of an aid station. I tried to run but it was a short lived shuffle. I walked. I suddenly just couldn't run. Despite having switched to entirely coke my stomach was feeling upset again and the legs like lead, there was no energy left in them. From 85km to 90km it was a long slow walk, I maybe ran 500m (though it was maybe only 200m). I was done. Pam (Team USA) ran by and I was so touched when she told me to come with her. But I just couldn't. I would run maybe 20m and then grind to a stumbling walk. I crossed the start/ finish at 90km and then continued the few hundred metres to the GB crew. Just before then I met my Canadian friend Dirk who came to my aid as for a third and final time, vomiting ensued. I was definitely done. 10kms was just not possible. I was checked out. I could not believe I had been running so positively just 7km before, sure I would make it to the finish, and now I was a weak and stumbling mess.
All in all - why did the stomach fail me? Who knows? I think the humidity is likley. I am questioning the cleanliness of the sponges and the water at the aid stations. Other than that, it's hard to tell.
Did I go out to fast? I'll never know. My stomach went before my legs had the chance to fail me. I personally don't think I did and I don't think my fast pace early on was the reason for my bad stomach.
Other than that, I will admit, if I'd have been allowed I'd have run that final 10km later in the evening. I'm not planning on DNFing again. Thoughts of Anita Ortiz braving it out to a slow Western States finish this year kept me going for more than 20km. As Anita has said, 'I'm just not a DNF kinda gal', but I'l also have to concede that I DNF'd this one and Anita is even tougher than I can ever imagine. Absolute respect.
Onwards and upwards (fingers crossed!)
Happy trails, Ellie x
August 27, 2011
August 22, 2011
This meant I was very unsure of what pace to go out at, I wanted a solid run but I didn't want to blow up mid-way by going out too fast, and I didn't want to kill myself as I want to carry on decent mileage training this week before starting to taper off a little before World 100km (Sept 10th, Winschoten, Netherlands). It was just the evening before that I decided to target a 2h50 to 2h55 finishing time, or 4:02 to 4:09 min/ km pace. Edmonton is a flat course with a few sneaky little rolling hills in the final 10km so typically produces fast times. My PB was at Edmonton in 2010 at 2:49:54 (with a nice little sprint finish to get under 2h50!)
Immediately I went out ahead of pace, on about 3:55 min/ km pace. But it felt easy. I was unsure what to do - maybe I had more leg speed in me that I had thought? Maybe I would pay for this at the 30km+ mark? I kept thinking of Coach John Hill from Vancouver Falcons and I suspected he would have been telling me to back off a little. But I decided to roll with it and if a few kms were a little fast then better to learn now than at Worlds. About 10 men pulled ahead of me, I was lead woman and I was left running solo with a couple of men in sight in the distance. I was glad to have my garmin to help me monitor my pace and stop myself from going out even faster.
I am not sure where it was, maybe as early as the 10km mark or so and I found myself running with one other guy, who I found out to be Shane Ruljancich (member of the Canadian Mountain Running Team). Shane and I got chatting, established that we were looking for similar finishing times and settled in to a good pace, side by side. For a few kms I didn't check my pace at all as we chatted easily along and the kms felt easy. I then got back to checking pace and noticed that quite a few kms were hitting sub 4:00 min/ km and it crossed my mind that maybe I was going a little too fast, but equally I was prepared to risk this rather than pull back, lose time and also lose my new running buddy.
It was a hot and sunny day (it got up to 30 degrees) and very early on I was wishing I had a handheld water bottle. The aid stations were every 3km or so but once half a small dixie cup got spilt I was left with just a tiny mouthful of water or gatorade to quench my thirst. This was made worse as I was taking on my Clif Shot Bloks and my mouth only got drier. At a couple of stations I managed to grab 2 cups and later on I even used a sponge to get water, but for pretty much the whole race I knew I was not getting enough fluid on to really do my best.
We ran through the 1/2 marathon mark at 1:23:38. I was happy with this; it was ahead of my 2h50 to 2h55 target but not crazy fast and I was still feeling pretty comortable. Shane and I were still running side by side and we soon began to gain on and then pass a few guys which was a confidence boost that we had paced ourselves better than some, and I was also glad to see Shane gaining a few positions in the mens field.
By 30km I was definitely beginning to work a little and I was wondering if I was going to pay the price for my faster-than-planned pace. We had now hit our 2nd out and back section where although the course appears very flat on the profile it actually has a few gentle rolls that you begin to feel at this stage in the game. Shane and I were still clocking our splits which began to vary a little depending on the slight hills, but still stayed within the 4:00 min/ km range. Our conversation was now short comments rather than a flowing conversation as we began to work harder, or I did at least; Shane appeared to still be on cruise control.
The kms stretched out, each one seeming longer than the last, as I counted them down one by one. I took on my last gel with a small amount of water but I was definitely beginning to feel the effects of not being able to get enough gatorade and fluids for the heat of the day. Although I was working it was more the fact that I just felt I needed calories and liquids that was making the run hard. Even as I hit the final km I didn't have my usual finish line push, but I hadn't lost pace either and was delighted to roll over the finish line, 1st place woman with a new PB of 2:47:14. More than being delighted with a PB I was just happy to get a few bottles of water and a banana on board within minutes of crossing the line.
All in all, I didn't go out to get a PB so I'm super happy with getting one but oddly not stoked about it as this wasn't an 'A' race so it wasn't something I was specifically dedicating my training towards as a goal. I am more happy that I felt steady throughout the race, a have the confidence that I have got some road speed in my legs for the Worlds, and I feel only a little tired today which is indicative that I didn't push crazy hard to get a good time and that 42km is really a good little 'jaunt' and I should be more than prepared for World 100km. I'm also pretty excited that I clocked the 17th fastest female British marathon time so far for 2011 :)
Tonight will be a trail run, no pushing the pace, just stretching the legs out on some soft spongy trails to minimise the impact, and then hopefully a few more solid road and treadmill runs in the next 6 days before I start to taper a little....
Big thanks to Brian Torrence (elite director) and all the fab volunteers who make Edmonton a super event, and one I'll be sure to go back to in future years.
July 16, 2011
By 25km I had hit a groove (clearly an ultra runner if it takes this long to warm up!) and was enjoying the rolling terrain with the big climb well out of the way. I hiked the ups (still not much gas in the uphill legs) but I blasted the downs and cruised along the rolling flats. I also like to think I would have done Nicki and Brenda proud - two of my Alberta running buddies who I have never seen on the trail without a beaming smile of sheer delight and enjoyment on their faces. Fun, fun, trail times :)
But ok, I do admit I got a little competitive and when I saw my buddy Fitzy at an aid station with about 10km to go, I made sure I gave him a friendly elbow out of the way as I stormed up the hill (well, at leat until I was around the corner and could start powerhiking again!) The final 10km or so we passed half marathoners both on their way out and in (they had started 2hrs after the full) which was a great set up for us to all cheer each other on and motivate each other up the final few hills.
And strangely enough it was one of those races where I swear my legs feel better after the race than they did before! Some aches and pains are gone, and sure - they are a little tired, but I somehow feel looser and less lead-legged than I did at the start line. Yay!
Icebathing it post-race. Fitzy, me, Phil & M-J. Photo: Nadja
Sunny fun times on the trails for sure, and a big shout out to the Powderface organisers (Bruce, Doug & team) and vollies who were just excellent for such a relatively small local race, as well Out There store in Calgary, the main race sponsors who made sure everyone went home with a nice goody bag and Mountain Hardwear race shirt.
One final WS100 note: if you really want to hear more about my WS100 race then check out Running Stupid podcast with Ken Mical.
July 13, 2011
July 6, 2011
As ever, with these things I will not go into all the scientific surveys that show improved circulation both during and after work outs, and increased blood flow and recovery, but I'll simply say that compression does seem to work. Although I will admit that I am yet to try my own scientific study which would be to run a race in one regular sock and one compression sock and see which legs feels better the next day ;) I'm seriously tempted to do this, except for the fact that I mostly wear compression for recovery rather than actual racing, although I have found the calf sleeves great in longer races as they provide the benefits of compression whilst still allowing me to wear my favourite socks on my feet.
I had tried on various 'compression' socks in stores and was so so on whether they were worth the money. But last year I checked out the CEP booth at Edmonton marathon and finally found a pair of compression socks that seemed worth the investment. Firstly I was impressed that I got measured for them - I mean it only makes sense that you wear the right amount of compression, would you buy a pair of running shoes without getting your feet measured after all? And I can honestly say that I think wearing my CEP compression socks after Comrades and for the 22hrs of flying to get back home after was one reason my legs recovered so quickly after that 87km of tarmac pounding.
So yep, I am delighted to now be on board with CEP and why not check out their site . As well as making compression socks and sleeves, I am excited to soon try out their compression shorts and the very latest product in their line - Clone - a pair of tights designed for recovery that are pesonally tailored for each individual after being measured in something like 41 points on each leg!
And it's always nice to spread a little love, so if you would like the chance to win a pair of totally free CEP compression socks or sleeves please simply post 'compress those calves!' as a comment to this bost on my blog (not on my Facebook page). Entries will be drawn on Thursday 14th June at 5pm MST. Only for Canucks and Yanks, sorry to all others - I'll try have more give aways soon.
June 30, 2011
I had trained hard but was unsure if I had trained hard enough. In knew the course, but not much - having never stepped foot on it before. I knew the competition, and wow - there was going to be some serious competition.
About 5 days prior to the race I was a bag of nerves. Last minute packing and prepping and a feeling that I really wasn't prepared in so many respects. But the day before, and even the minutes before, I was bizarely and unusually not nervous at all. I was concerned that it hadn't set in that I was about to run 100 miles. That's 160km! At Western States! That'll be the most well known 100 miler in North America! Ellie you should be terrified! Oh well, we were at Squaw, it was 5am and we were soon scampering up the snow covered escarpment. Too late for nerves now, we were racing!
I let a whole pack of ladies move ahead. I'm slow on hills at the best of times and decided that at mile 1 with 99 left to go was not a time to try to learn to run hills. But my power hike is decent so I kept in the mix as we crested the top of the escarpment and the sun rose over the snow. We hit the first descent and I shouted out 'it's a beautiful day!' Yep, I really did, and I think fellow runners agreed, though were possibly a little less vocal in their sentiments.
The snow was fun, my focus so absorbed in my footing that I could relax and not think about anything else, especially as Meghan was kind enough to yell out when I took a step or two off the yellow flagged route a few times. Thanks Meghan! There was no trail, it was just follow the flags and try to stay (mostly) upright.
Once we left the snow it was good to hit the trail though and gain a little speed and rythym. The field soon spread out and I would catch a glimpse of a runner here or there but I was mostly on my own. My aim was to get to 55miles/ 90km to my crew at Michigan Bluff in a state they would be proud of. It neatly split the race into a first longer half where I would be solo and a 2nd shorter half (45miles/ 60km) where I looked forward to seeing my 2 sets of crew regularly and having my pacer with me. 2 mini races seemed mentally much easier than one massive 100 miler!
Early on once we cleared the snow I just couldn't get my groove. My legs were just heavy and I didn't seem to have much energy. Nothing was exceptionally wrong, it just seemed harder than it should at this early stage. And soon nagging pains appeared. The usual suspects of tight hamstrings and tight glutes. i think I even promised myself to go to the physio when I got home at this stage :) I tried to remain calm but I wasn't one quarter into this race and it was hurting. I tried to ignore the fact that I had 120km (yikes!!!!) to go and already I was feeling less than ideal.
My first melt down at an aid station was on 4 of the best volunteers all day. I had learned to hand my handheld to one vollie to refill with water, my pack to another to fill with electrolyte drink and now a 3rd vollie was telling me to eat calories and not just fruit, whilst the 4th calmed me with his Dundee accent (my home town in Scotland!) Now just 5 days after the race this whole section leading up to Michigan Bluff is a jumbled mess in my memory - which is probably reflective of how I was feeling at the time. Downhills were good, uphills (even small ones) I was walking) and flats were so so. I made it from one aid station to the next, asking each one as I left where the next one was. Mentally I set tjhese as check points as well as distracting my grumpy brain wioth some math - calculating percentages done of the whole race, or the portion to Michigan Bluff, and taking it 10km at the time.
The canyons were fine and suprisingly cruisey and uneventful miles. The whole day I was amazed who hot it wasn't! The canyons were in fact a mental boost - I enjoyed the downs and hiked out of them, deducing that even if I was feeling stronger I probably wouldn't have been running much of them anyway. I was 4th female, and had heard progressively less encouraging times of how far back of the lead the further I moved on. Not really what I wanted but I just needed to try maintain my position. Then the worst came - whooooosh! - Kami ran past like she was on a 10km training run. Breezy, light, strong. I had my cap in the creek at a time. I looked a mess. She offered if I needed anything but I just whimpered that I was ok. I wasn't. I was beat, mentally as much as physically.
Move. Just move. One foot in front of the other. Keep on moving. The hamstrings were better (Tylenol from the aid stations, thanks Sean!) but I still lacked energy and as my stomach began to bloat I realised I had to stop drinking and eating for a bit but this was hardly going to help the energy levels. I had no choice. After maintaining my (rather hefty my female standards) 127lbs at the first few weigh ins, I now felt I wasn't digesting anything in my stomach. Some relief came on the climb out of the canyon below Michigan Bluff where finally I hiked with a guy for a while. I had spent hours running alone, so even a short conversation and the noise of someone elses footsteps nearby was so welcome. I pulled ahead but not fast enough, as I was hiking a section I really knew I should be running I saw Nikki behind me. I ran, I walked, I ran, I walked and then Nikki caught me. I'd never met Nikki before but now we were powerhiking and chatting (well Nikki was chatting and I was feeling nauseous) and again, the company was great event though she pulled ahead of me and left me in 6th as I bowled into the mayhem of Michigan Bluff in 6th.
Michigan Bluff - first crew and supporter accessible point in this snow year. 90km done! Jackie pulled me into the shade, I downed some coke, my weigh-in confirmed I was 2.5lbs up. I was a snivelling mess (they had heard through the grapevine already that I was not doing good). Jackie was just getting me fixed up when Ana had to suddenly jump back - ah well, least with some serious vomiting I was probably back to normal weight and sporting a new stomach :) Jackie told me to back off on the salt, she gave me a new pack, told me to drink water and one gel before I got the Forest Hill and Ryne at 62m/ 99km. She kicked me back out onto the trail. It's the best thing she could have done.
When seeing Jackie and Ana I urgently told them to get a message to Ryne not to push me. I knew Ryne would be eager to pace me and keep me going to do well. I wanted him to know that a wreck was arriving and he needed to go easy. Some where between Michigan Bluff and Forest Hill I began to feel better. The stomach subsided, I trundled along steadily and took a gel, and knew that within an hour I'd have Ryne pacing me and I'd 'only' have 60km to go.
Forest Hill was busy, Ken put ice on my back (bliss!!!), I drank a refreshing coconut water, changed my shirt, shoes and socks and told Ryne, 'Ok, I'm in 6th. I want to try maintain this, and if not then try for top 10. I might want to come back next year'. It might have seemed ambitious but this was basically me telling Ryne, 'I ain't going to win this thing', something I had certainly thought about and discussed with Ryne pre-race. Sean who had seen me at my worst, had to laugh - was this the same person who had looked like she was ready to drop a few hours before, now saying she at least wanted to be top 10. Yep, I was feeling better and getting back fighting!
Ryne and I rolled out of Forest Hill and within less than 3 mins I overtook both Nikki and Anita. Yay - back in 4th! And now it was time to just click the miles away, still 60km to go so no need to go crazy, just chat away the miles with Ryne. I think he got a dose of verbal diarhea from me for the first hour or two - it was so awesome to be with a buddy finally and not running solo :)
Ryne would tell me about the terrain coming up and I'd run ahead dictating the pace. I was running some easy hills or taking only the briefest of walk breaks, it finally felt like I was making in roads on the miles ahead and on my speed. I was concerned not to get caught by women but Ryne also was repprting back my pace and was confident that I must be gaining on at least some of the 3 women ahead.
I'd had some blisters all day but nothing serious, they were there but runnable. It was only coming down the descent to Rucky Chucky river crossing that I hit a rock with my little toe - yowza!!!!! This prompted me to take off my shoe and sock, Topher came along and in a slightly more subtle way told me that I just needed to run on it and it would be fine. At this point I had not much choice anyway, so back on went the sock and shoe and I jumped into the raft for the short river crossing with only the smallest of delays as a got some more fuel on board.
On the otherside of Rucky Chucky we hiked the 3km or so upto Green Gate. My powerhike was still good and although it was cooling a little I tried to keep to the shaded side of the trail whenever I could. I can't recall if I was in 3rd or 4th at this point but Kristin and ken told me that I was looking much stronger than that ladies ahead. yeah. well they would say that I thought!! However, I did have to concede that I was feeling ok. My stomach was still sensitive but I was obviously managng to get enough calories on in one form or another and knew when to back off and let it settle for a bit. But the energy was coming in ebbs and flows and as we began to approach Auburn lakes I'd more than once said to Ryne that it could still end up being a death march to the end. With 40km to go the kms seemed to become longer and I tried to knock the thoughts out of my head that I still had almost a marathon to go.
As I came into an aid station I mentioned that my stomach was really not great and a vollie immediately directed me to the ginger ale. 2 cups of that, a salted potato and off we went. I'm, then not entirely sure what happened but suddenly I was out of a slump and again back rolling along the trail. I think Ryne wondered what was going on too, I think he was concerned that maybe I was pushing too soon, but I knew I had to make the most of feeling good and I was powering along.
Coming into Browns Bar with just 17kms to go Ryne and I got out our headlamps and agreed to part ways. I was certainly not running even splits in the this race and there was no way Ryne could have predicted that I was going to surge this this.
So off, I went, bowling down the trail, flashlight in hand to aid my vision on new terrain and solo in the dark. I was loving it. I was feeling strong, I was running awesome new trails, and I was going to make it to the Western States finish line (something that earlier in my race had seemed unfathomable)! Next up, I saw HWY 49 aid station - I nice descent to pick up some pace, I yelled at Kristin and Ken that I didn't need anything and they yelled back that I was 3 and 9mins back of 2nd and 1st. OK - let's get moving! Very soon I passed Tracy and her pacer, I didn't think she would follow me but I still pushed hard ahead. I saw another guy periodically ahead and then passed him but felt safe on the dark trail knowing that other runners were still around. As I moved along the trail in a steady rhythm I saw another runner ahead, I gained on them and their pacer, and I passed....Kami! Oh my gosh, I had about 4 miles to go and I was leading Western States and I was running scared. Kami had looked like she was still moving so I knew she might follow and now literally every step would count.
Down to the lights and noise of No Hands bridge and I raced through. Jackie ran after me - 'you need anything?'. 'No!' and I I was gone, I knew I couldn't let up at all if I wanted this win. It was then along the trail by the side of the river I saw two little eyes reflecting in my torchlight, I swung my torch up and saw the blig dark hulk of a bear mid trail. What!!!! You have got to be joking me! I turned to look back and saw a headlamp coming, I just prayed it was a guy and not Kami, thankfully it was. My shouting alone had not budged the bear but with the two of us yelling it climbed a tree and looked down on us as we scurried by. I flashed my torch back to check that it was not following and noted the distance on my garmin to report it's location to the vollies at Robbie Point up ahead. Now I began to climb up to Auburn, hooting and hollering up the trail until I popped out onto the tarmac at Robbie Point. Still I was pushing as hard as I could. Had Kami followed me? Was she gaining on me? Run, run, run!
Then all of a sudden Jackie was running alongside me and soon Ryne, Kristin, Ken (www.runningstupid.net), Ana, Topher and Geoff. They were so excited for me as I approached the track at Placer High. All I could say was 'I'm not there yet!' But soon I was, and all I can say was that run around the track in Auburn was pretty sweet :) It was a rough road to get there but worth every second, and I certainly couldn't have done it without a little help from my friends xx
Photos: Faccino Photos & Bob McGillvray @ Drymax Socks
June 11, 2011
June 4, 2011
I love the darkness, it hides the four lane highway of the opening kms, it brings a calm and a collness, it sets a muted tone which helps me to not go out too fast. I had agreed with Norman (Wilson of UK Ultra) to shoot for a 6h30m finishing pace, but to be prepared to reassess in the first 10km if it feels too fast. It will put me at two back to pack marathons at aroung 3h07 pace, plus a bonus 2.6km, oh and about 2000m of ascent and 1400m of descent thrown in.
I'm excited to be part of the Nedbank team, one of the main sponsors. I'm sporting their kit and in less than an hour it is light and my sunglasses are down and Kami and I are getting cheers for beong towards the front of the women's frield and for sporting our green Nedbank kit. For the first 20km I double fist packs of Clif shot bloks, take water from the aid stations and pop salt tabs early (no repear of AR50 here!). The water stations are busy so it's a juggle to try run the inside bends (the shorter route) and grab water too. I soon learn that if you pass the water station you grab at least 2 baggies, one for yourself and one to pass to another runner. It's just one early sign of the Spirit of Comrades.
kami and I exchange short conversations, the pace feels good and we hit the first nedbank station at 66km to go (Comrades km markers count down to the finish). i grab my first bottle of Clif dribk and a Clif gel. We are already climbing the first of the 'Big Five' hills - Fields. Many people come to South Africa to see the Big Five (lion, elephants etc). Comraders come to run the Big Five. I repeat their names in my head like a mantra, 'Cowies, Fields, Botha, Inchanga'. I don't bother with the final one (Poly Shortts); I know that once I hit that I will be in survival mode.
So far the hills are fine, typically a couple of hundred metres of elevation gain over 2 to 3km. They remind me of my training on Mount Norquay Road in Banff. Steady, runnable, and dare I say it - enjoyable.
I have my handwritten wrist band so I remember where the Nedbank support crew will be. This breaks the race down and the first time I spot Norman it is thumbs up, I feel good and I know I am around 6h30m pace (I have a few course graded splits noted too thanks to Norrie Williamson). The crowds are amazing; hooting and hollering, cheering and cooking up a storm on their braais. There are quieter sections to enjoy but we are passing through lots of villages and small towns and as we are now on narrower roads the supporters are close and the atmosphere is electric. The Spirit of Comrades.
With still more than half way to go my hamstrings, glutes and hips are beginning to hurt. It's nothing new and I know that although unpleasant, I can run through it. I am a step or two ahead of Kami for a section but from the cheers from the sides I know she is not far back. We are in 5th and 6th. I know the 'Russian twins' (Elena and Olesya Nurgelieva) and Lizzy are ahead for sure, and learn that so is Farwa Mentoor, lead South African female.
I have now fallen in with a male runner. Eloi is talking with the crowds and thanking them for telling him that he is 5th female. he is a joker and helps me to soak up the fun. As Kami passes me, Eloi jibes me not to let her go, but for now I have to. the legs are beginning to hurt and I can only hope that I might catch her later, but I am a little disappointed to have slipped into 6th.
We hit Inchanga, Eloi chatters endlessly and all I can do is make short replies and thank him for hauling me up the 3rd hill to Drummond. Half the kms done; now onto the 2nd, flatter half. Eloi is a like a pacer offering me advice. I tell him I am cramping, 'Ok just relax whatever is cramping'. I tell him that my hamstrings are hurting, 'We are all hurting, we just need to keep running'. I start to walk on a small hill, 'No, not yet!' I don't dare disobey, I run the hill and soon crest the top. Eloi is the epitome of the Spirit of Comrades.
Up ahead I see Lizzy, I soon gain on her and in the hubbub of a water station pass her without being able to exchange words. I am happy to be back in 5th and Nedbank crew advise me that I am 2mins back on 4th. We pass through the Green Mile (cheering section) with 25km to go. I am still working but I am beginning to get a second wind. I spot my parents with their Scottish and Canadian flags. I am waving at the crowds and just soaking up the noise and the energy.
We are now on rolling country roads. It's now just about clicking off the kms. Run steady. Fuel. Relax. Keep up the pace. Out of the blue I let out a yelp of pain. Blister! I'm annoyed, I'm not going to let something as silly as wearing socks too thick for my shoes and the heat ruin this race. I recall Gary Robbins writing about how blisters only really hurt when you start running on them and after a minute or two the psin fades away. Ok then, one more reason not to be tempted to walk. Thanks a lot GR!
We pass through the 22km to go mark and Eloi mentions, 'don't worry, everyone finds the last 2okm tough'. All I can think is that it is tough already and we still have 2km to go to get to the 20km mark! Keep on moving. Keep on moving. Keep on moving. For now I have gone off gels and bloks so my strategy becomes to grab two baggies at each water station, one of energy drink to take salt tabs with and one of water to pour over myself to keep cool. The temperature is starting to climb. By the time I get to 20km to go, 19km to go, 18km to go I am feeling stronger and stronger. The finish is now in my minds eye and I know I'll make it. At around 17km to go I slip ahead of Eloi, the field is now spread out so I am running solo but passing men reasonably frequently as there are always a few runners in view ahead. And in Comrades it's never realy possible to run solo, kids want to high five you, ladies call out 'go sista!' and other words of encouragement. I'm flying high on the Spirit of Comrades even if I am pushing hard.
At about 9km to go I hit the final hill, Poly Shortts. It is gradual but seems tough so I switch to run, powerhike, run, powerhike and keep up with the runners around me. But when I spot Farwa ahead of me I know the walking has to end. That's 4th place Ellie, just run! So I run. It's slow. It's not pretty. But I ease my way past Farwa and into 4th. Wow - Ellie gaining a position on a uphill, that's unheard of! Now I definitely can't walk! 7kms to go and I'm watching for every km marker. It's count down time. The road continues to roll but I continue to run and soon I feel that I am on the flats and descent into Pietermaritzburg. It's tough but it's awesome. Many people had warned me in the days preceding the race that Comrades is tough for newbies. Elena and Olesya (who one again claim top two spots) have raced Comrades nine time and have 2h26m marathon PBs. How do you go against that? I am (barely) a 2h49m marathoner and a Comrades newbie. But I've run a smart race, I've soaked up the Spirit of Comrades and I'm stoked to be powering into 4th place. For the final 1.5km or so I've got a motorbike literally 2ms in front of me and a TV camera in my face. Ok, time to enjoy - I might never experience this again! On entering the stadium I am handing a rose and hold it high as I enjoy the crowds, but I am also wondering how many corners there are before I hit the finishing straight. I chuckle to myself, the stadium is turfed - aaaaah, bliss - finally I am back on my natural running surface :)
What can I say? 6:32:46/ 4th place and 6mins back of Kami and 8mins back of the twins. I am delighted and now have the answer to my question, 'Why have so many people run this race 10+ times?' It's the Spirit of Comrades.
Big thankyous to:
- All of the Nedbank crew
- Norman and Anne Wilson
- Ma & Pa Greenwood
- Montrail/ MHW, Drymax socks, Clif, Sundog Eyewear.
- Eloi of Boxers Running Club.
May 16, 2011
May 7, 2011
6.15pm - My talk with short Q&A session after
6.45pm - Short run (so wear your running gear!) - pace will be easy (promise!)
7.30pm - an hour of shopping with special sales, and some food & drink!
Look forward to seeing lots of you there :)
May 5, 2011
April 22, 2011
So, if you had hung up your running shoes over the winter or were hibernating at the Sally Borden gym then now is the time to get OUTSIDE and RUN! A great way to keep you motivated is to join the new Lululemon Run Club. There will be an in-store info session at Lululemon (121 Banff Ave) on Wednesday 27th at 8pm, and then the first weekly run starts the following Wednesday (May 4th) at 6pm.
So dust off your running shoes and come and join. All abilities (from total beginner) welcome, and best of all - it's FREE!
For more info check out http://www.lululemon.com/banff/banff/events/event-31573-2011-04-27
April 15, 2011
April 11, 2011
When I say Kami and I ran side by side, this is what I mean...Photo: Jesse @ Montrail
RD Julie ensuring there were no collapsed runners at the finish line! Photo: Bob@ Drymax