For the 6 weeks prior to the Tenderfoot Boogie, the race director has organized a Sunday training run. I guess the purpose of which is to help runners learn the course, meet each other, and just have some fun. At least, that’s what I’m getting out of it.

So Sunday morning was the first run, a short 25 km run from the Squamish Adventure Centre to the Tenderfoot Fish Hatchery, just past Brohm Lake.

I woke up bright and early (6 AM!) after a completely horrible night’s sleep. After eating terribly and too late, added to that the excitement of the race the next day (even if it’s only a race rehearsal, I was super excited!) and that meant an entire night of tossing and turning, and dreaming about being in the army. Of course that meant I woke up feeling sick, and my torn calf feeling mediocre. Oh well.

Walked the dog in the dark, grabbed my stuff, the majority of which was packed the night before, and headed off. I left at 6:50 AM exactly, and arrived at the meeting point (at the fish hatchery) at exactly 8 AM. Everyone else showed up shortly thereafter, giving me time to get dressed, etc. I love it when a plan comes together.

Early morning dog walk

As the rest of the runners arrived, I was pretty nervous. I always am insecure about how fast / fit I’ll be, especially when everyone looks so damned pro. I can’t just see runners at races and not compare myself to them, and feel inadequate, yet retain a slight deep-down hope/belief that I am more fit than the majority, and work harder. Sigh. The point is, some looked less in shape, some looked like goddamn ultra-running machines, but the average fitness level is obviously quite high in a crew of people that believe they can run 80 km uphill. Fancy gear and cool outfits abounded. A girl in compression socks (love ’em!) One guy with a sweet beard (oh so jealous) had a Knee Knacker t-shirt on. A couple of girls pulled up with a truck covered in logos. Eek!

We carpooled back to the starting point, after some pleasantries, and then got our run “briefing”. The first part of the course wasn’t marked at all, and after what felt like 15 minutes of complex instructions, I asked “uh, is there anyone who knows the course?” (since the race director wasn’t going to run with us, and I’m pretty sure only Johnny-5 could have memorized those directions) and a single man reluctantly uttered “… yep.” Which was good, because we would have been lost many times over without him!

And we were off!

As expected, the pace was very very slow. I was happy with that, because of my hurt calf. I didn’t run with the “pack” much though. I guess I didn’t have much to say, and I wanted to concentrate on my foot, and concentrate on learning the course. I knew if I ran while gabbing the whole time I wouldn’t learn a thing. I’m not one for small talk anyway, really, and everyone but me seemed to know someone else. I was content to run in silence!

We ran along the road on a little gravel trail for a while, then got “lost” a few times, (until that guy caught up and told us the way.) We finally hit the dyke trail and ran along that for quite a distance. It was nice and flat, gravel & rocky road. Very easy terrain, and I really enjoyed it.

We ran on. Finally the trail markers appeared, as we made our way through a few neighbourhood trails and streets. One guy, from Mission, maintained a lead on the group the entire time. I wanted to race him, but I let him go, for now. I didn’t want to run away from the group, yet. We ran together sometimes, and I appreciated his company but the competitive side of me was wanting to race!

I chatted a bit with the hardcore logo girls. One is a very accomplished ultra runner (and running book author) and the other was an Australian who had done both the North Face 100, among numerous other races. She had run the Six Foot Track (during the North Face run). I’ve done the former, and the latter is one of my near term goals, so I was excited, so we chatted a bit. They were a pretty tight knit unit so I didn’t say much, just kinda ran along.

Finally after some gorgeous (but flat) forest trails, we emerged onto the highway, then after a brief moment of being lost, headed back into the woods on some really muddy logging road (the worst section of the course.) At that point, we were about 15 km in, and I was tired of having that guy out in front, and I was tired of having a sore calf, and I was tired of running slowly, so though “to hell with it” and decided that if I couldn’t win the race, I’d win every training run (haha.)

With 10 km to go, I knew I could push basically as hard as my heart could handle and still finish strong, so I took off up the hill. I caught the guy and said something as I ran past, maybe “howdy”, and then sprinted off. I ran the entire rest of the route alone, pushing very hard, maybe around 170 to 180 bpm heart rate (of 190 max) … pretty quick. I did a couple gels, but was really struggling with my girlfriend’s water bladder valve (bad design? Broken nozzle?) because it seemed to be sucking air. I had stopped to pee 3 times already and I didn’t need water anyway, so I just gave up on it.

Much of the course was somewhat steep uphill at this point, as it climbs up and over the hill (volcano?) that Brohm Lake sits in. I power-walked most of the hills – a) due to my calf and b) because I figured I should start to train my power walk hill climb in preparation for the ultra. (Ok, c) I was kinda tired.) I’m certainly not going to run all the hills, and having not done much walking, my lower back and glutes were really feeling it. It’s only a little or no slower than running anyway, for the most part. I ran the downhills as fast as was safe (and in some instances it was very sketchy terrain!) and sprinted what few flats there were.

Finally I got to the bottom of the hill and was only about 2 km from the finish line. I nearly missed a turn, and turned back at full speed and rolled my ankle very badly! I often brag that I have indestructible ankles, as I’ve almost never hurt them, no matter how I roll them, but this was huge. A lesser ankle would have been out of commission, I am certain. Wow! I was too scared to slow down to see how bad the damage was, so I kept running hard. The rest of the course was dead flat (or very slightly climbing) road, and I just booted ‘er for home. I managed to finish with a pretty good pace, probably 4:20 or so, and felt fine.

I completed the run at about 24.37 km, in roughly 2:20. Felt good about that. The next guy up was 13 minutes later, and the girls rode in around 20 minutes after me. They wanted to make up an even 3 hours of running, so I joined them for a little 3 km out and back. We saw the rest of the group come in as we were going out, so everyone made it.

I felt good. My calf wasn’t too sore, my rolled ankle wasn’t too bad (definite sprain on my lateral side of my leg? Peroneus Brevis?) but no bruising or anything. Like I said: ankles of steel. The pain in my P.B. distracts from the pain in my Soleus, so that’s good?

Here’s my Garmin plot:

Total ascent was 617 m, which is really not much at all. My last training run (granted, it was hell on earth) was double that in less total distance. The run felt very good, although I pushed very hard in the trail section, something I wouldn’t be able to do in the race, if I wanted to have any hope of finishing.

I believe the key to having a good finishing time will be to push harder on the flat sections (make up at least 5 or 10 mins in the first section of the race) and go easier on the hill sections (eat gels on the uphills, take time and walk more slowly.) It’s hard for me to anticipate just how tired I’ll be at the end of 80 km … I know how I feel at the end of 40, and it ain’t pretty!

Next run is on Sunday, from where we stopped this time, and continuing along the next 30 km. The next leg is almost completely uphill, but more gradual, finishing at 500 m from about 100 m. Looking forward to it. Hope the calf is feeling better.

I’ll try not to lose my phone so I can get some pictures, next time!

Running is life,