I registered for Leadville 100 trail run on November 1st, 2011. I guess that’s almost exactly 1 year before the race, on August 18th, 2012.
I’ve done about 9 really major training runs since then, because I’m on a “1 week on, 1 week off” sort of schedule. I ramped up pretty quickly from where I was in November (recovering from the Victoria Marathon!) to where I am now, so I’ve had a few solid training runs.
This one stood out though, as it was my second longest run ever: a flat 67 km (42 mi).
I decided to bring the dog for a bit of it, since she was going to have to be crated all day. So we drove out to Alma, near the beaches, and stopped into the running room to grab some gels. Now normally I do all my prep work ahead of time, but I’m getting a bit more laid back about these long runs, so I forgot. I bought a huge collection of gels, paid for them, then the girl said “that’s not enough is it?”
I kinda did the math and realized that I only had about 1 gel per hour, plus whatever Perpetuem I had made (about 3-4 scoops) in a gel flask. Since I figured on 8 hours of running, it was a bit low on calories. I normally like to train how I race, which is 200 calories per hour or more, roughly 2 gels per hour. (I am going to train with more than that, soon, aiming for 250.)
Anyway, I didn’t wanna get my credit card out again so I just figured I’d deal with it.
The dog and I went off along the beaches at a nice relaxed pace. Tons of runners out and the weather was just glorious. We did about 3.5 km to a little beach spot I enjoy, where I let her rip around in the sand and chase sticks, then we headed back to the truck.
I dropped her off, grabbed my pack, and re-ran my way out along the beaches, taking some minor duck pond detours. Jericho Park is great. Ah, Vancouver!
From the end of the beaches I headed up the hill towards UBC. Took my time, since for the next 4 weeks (and the last 2) all my running is “easy” running, so I’m avoiding hills and hard effort. So I really just shuffle up the hills, or walk them.
At the top, I found there was some kind of UBC Rec. race going on. Seemed like no one was in it, but a few runners shuffled by looking like hell. Were they the last place ones?? I couldn’t tell. Further along, the entire highway was filled with people on bikes looking like Triathletes or something. Does that mean those runners were near first place? They looked awfully slow for being in the lead! Then again, these bikers looked like they were out for a Sunday stroll. I’ve never seen so many people biking so slowly. Was this some sort of reverse race where the fastest rider loses?
I ran right along with them, and realized just how long this stretch of UBC pavement was. I stopped to take a leak at around the 20 km mark, and I could see the Iona Jetty out in the water. It looked so close! It was about 22 km away though!
I ran on, and got to the Marine Drive / residential section. This sucked. Running along roads sucked. Traffic noise, air pollution, dirty sidewalks… I kept wanting to turn into the neighborhoods, but hate deviating from my planned routes. I am a slave to my earlier decisions.
Finally made it out to near my work, where I had to use the bathroom quite severely. McDonald’s around the corner, and I am indeed loving it. They are good for something, that chain of chemical food. (Plus Egg McMuffins!)
Back on the road now, and feeling good. I’m not sure how to get across the river though. Google tells me to take the Oak Street bridge, so I do. There is a sidewalk. I take it. It is endless. This is the worst part of the run. A shitty, interminable bridge. Lots of loud traffic. Have I mentioned I hate traffic? I hate cities. I’m getting tired now, and nearly onto 30 km. My feet are pretty sore. Richmond is a shithole and I can’t believe people live here. Let alone pay Vancouver prices to live here!
I finally get off the bridge. I’m still lost, but wing it. The 31 km mark and I feel the first twinge of “pain” in my achilles. I’ve been having achilles / heel problems for a while. It actually doesn’t hurt per se, but it’s like a shooting nerve sensation in the little “divot” at the back of my heel. It’s annoying. Anyway, it starts now, and won’t stop for another 37 km. It’s not constant, very intermittent. Not a real problem, but a concern, and annoying.
I am still kinda not sure where I’m going but eventually make my way West to the airport, then I’m on familiar territory. This is a great place to go biking, so lots of road riders. I am the only runner though!
One doesn’t realize how far 12 km is until you really have to run it in a straight line. The Iona section felt endless. Very flat, not unpleasant (weather was nice… it’s kinda quiet and scenic, as long as you look right, and not left at the airport) … but so, so long. Bikers all passed me with little words of congratulations and thumbs up. They’d have given me food if they’d known how long I actually would be out here…
Finally made it to the Jetty. Now, the Jetty is dead-straight, and I thought, 1 km long? More like 3 or more! It was like running to Victoria! Very windy and cold. Basically like running 3 km into the ocean. It was low tide, so entirely surrounded by flat mud. Saw some bald eagles, one of which had the food, the others were just being annoying. Tried to get a photo but they aren’t very tame.
My food system was working pretty well. I did gels kinda “whenever”, about every 45 minutes. Sometime’s I’d do Perpetuem instead. I had some “Cliff blocks” (?) chews, irritating in a short race but doable on a long Sunday stroll. My water (probably 2 L?) was totally sufficient, as it wasn’t really hot out. Basically I had zero issues. No gut problems, not nauseous…
I wondered: if I don’t have any problems with food, fuel, nausea… what’s the point of doing these long runs? Is there any value in running 80 km training runs, if you aren’t getting “stressed” to the point of testing your 100 miler strategies? If it’s psychological and technical training, primarily, then I was clearly not deriving benefits.
Which isn’t to say every run wouldn’t be… clearly a 50 miler trail run in the dark and pouring rain at 5 am might be a bit harder, but was there value in these “easy” flat km? Or should I simply do doubles or triples instead, try to reduce the stress and recover faster?
We’ll see. I guess if I get to the point where 80 km on trails for 10 hours isn’t hard, I should be happy, right?
Well anyway, finally I reached the end of the Jetty. A man and his kid were there. The kid was such a total dweeb / chicken that he didn’t wanna go up on the lookout (like, a huge viewing platform built for the public) because it was “too windy”. God, call me old school, but if I have a kid like that I’m going to disown him or send him to military school in Brazil or something. I felt bad for this poor dad trying to hang out with this odd kid.
Whatever, I had more pressing matters on my mind, like how goddamn delicious these Cliff vanilla gels are. I’m going to email the company and tell them. They are deliciousÂ even after 42 km, which is saying a lot. Nearly all gels are mouth crampingly sweet at that point. Not these puppies. And that clever gel container design that keeps the little tab from falling? This company deserves my money.
Ok, the bathrooms at Iona were closed so I pissed on the building. Oops, then I noticed the porta potties. My bad.
Now I’m headed home. I’m at the marathon mark, and just 25 km to go. I’m actually feeling pretty good, and start picking up the pace a smidge. I’m running about 5:10 min/km or so. Not usually faster than that. My route home is a direct Northern line over the west side, along Blenheim. After I get over the Oak St. bridge (wasn’t so awful on the way home, I was ready for it) I had to do another long stretch along Marine. What a shithole. Finally turn onto Blenheim. The only problem is that it’s all sidewalks. I hate running on sidewalks. Too many ups and downs, and crossings, etc. Whatever. I’m counting down the kilometers, now. Not many to go. I pick up the pace some more. Poor dog’s been hanging out in the truck all day waiting for me. I hope it’s not too hot in there. I tell myself it’s still early March in Canada… how hot can it be?? Won’t be long before it’s too hot though… I need an air conditioner for the truck… hmmm..
Anyway, finally I made it. I stopped into the running room to say hi to my friend who sold me the gels, sat for a bit, then headed home.
So what did I learn today?
- I felt basically as bad at 30 km as I did at 67 km. Does this magical “wall” at 30 km just always exist? Will I ever feel like 42 km is easy? Regardless, things didn’t seem to get any worse, really. That was good to learn.
- My pack is too damned hot. Those wide shoulder straps on the Salomon S-labs pack are like heaters. However designed those didn’t run in summer. (In fact it’s a shitty pack with so many poor features that I’ve started to dislike Salomon gear. My shoes (XR Crossmax CS?) suck too.) I need to start practicing with bottles again, I think.
- No nausea and no discomfort mean I need to up my calories. For leadville I’ll be moving much slower, so I should be able to pack in at least 250 cals / hour. I need to identify that upper limit for myself.
- I cannot be complacent with these nagging injuries. Must sort out calf / achilles issues, or my training is going to be cut short by a bad injury, I know it.
- Don’t run on busy roads. Ever.
- My feet and knees are my only real pain points. I would like to try wrapping my knees in a compression sock or something. (I am already running in a compression calf sleeve… seems to help my calves a lot??) I should try a full compression sock. It’s really hot though, in tights and socks. I’m not sure I could run Leadville (or in the summer here) in a full pant. I’m excited to bust out the short-shorts again!
- 80 km is nothing to me. Leadville, here I come!
I loved reading this. All throughout your story, I was visualizing an easy run, and then I got to the part where you said your pace was 5:10/km. Fuck. That was my balls-out pace in a 5k on Saturday. Five k. Not sixty seven k.