Ultra Setbacks

Ultra training was going okay, I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but it was on the right track. And then, pain. The, you need to stop running immediately kind of pain.

This wasn’t good.

It started after an indoor run at the Velodrome, I did at least 12k there (gps doesn’t really work inside) and the next day woke to some sore hamstrings. But they weren’t anything I hadn’t experience before and knew it was the usual kind of you’ve done some good work kind of soreness. I thought it was strange to feel that sore after just 12k but figured it was probably due to the flat run.

The soreness lingered the rest of the week so that Wednesday I went to yoga to try to give them a good stretch.

Leading MEC group run

I was feeling pretty good before heading out for my run on Thursday, and then, about a kilometre in, I feel pain in my left hamstring. I stop for a moment, rub the spot, try to shake it out. Being so early into the run I still feel optimistic enough that I can run it off but turn in a direction that will keep me closest to home just in case.

It doesn’t go to well. The pain does not go away. By 2k I feel it getting worse so I decide to call it quits but determined to get something out of this run I take a slightly longer route home to push it out to 3k.

I probably shouldn’t have done that.

My hamstring hurts the entire next day. I roll out what I can and opt to take an extra day off.

By Sunday evening things seem okay and I decide to test out another run. I am feeling pretty good on this run, no sign of discomfort. And then suddenly at around 5k, the pain is shooting back. Deciding not to risk it this time I call home for a rescue and lightly jog up and down the street just to keep warm.

That was it, I decide to take the rest of the week off running with a couple of complete rest days mixed with some swimming. Not pushing the run that night helped as my hamstring did not feel nearly as sore the next day as it did the first time.

Today I tried a run out again and it was a success! I met up with a friend for an awesome 12k trail run. We were both testing out injuries so it was well matched. And we both made it back to our cars pain free!

Back on the trails!

Feeling better about this, going to take it easy still as my hamstring still doesn’t feel completely right but no sign of pain. I’ll be visiting my RMT next week finally so she can get into them more. It is hard for me to get enough pressure on my hamstring to roll it out properly. I have had pretty good luck with using a tennis ball while sitting in a chair though.

So hopefully soon I can get back on my training plan, this Ultra is coming up quick!!


Winter Training Plans

So I signed up for an obstacle race.

Had never really considered one before, mostly because of the mud bit. I mean I’ll go play in the mud I don’t mind that. But, I don’t want any in my eyes. So therefore I don’t consider it. Also I’m going to pass on monkey bars.

So, why now?

Because it’s a winter one!! No mud all snow HOW FUN!!!

Some of the obstacles are actually just sliding down a hill on a tube/carpet. YEAH I’LL DO THAT!

I’ll just conveniently forget that I’ll likely have to do some kind of monkey bar-style obstacle.

The course:

12 obstacles over 5km should be a lot of fun! I signed up for the timed event because why not.

This all actually ties in nicely as I’ve decided to commit to rock climbing this winter. Climbing is something I’ve done sporadically over the past 5 years or so as I’m forever loosing climbing partners. But now, after once again loosing another climbing partner (they keep moving away!), I’ve decided to put on my big girl pants and just go solo. Which means a lot of bouldering in my future, something I’ve never actually done before tonight. I always stuck to top roping.

So bouldering is a lot harder than top rope. I’ve never once felt the need to use chalk while top roping. Within minutes of bouldering tonight I was thinking how helpful chalk would be, my grip was the first thing to weaken tonight, I was expecting it to be my forearms since aside from 2 weeks ago I haven’t been climbing in a year. But it was my hands this time. Doesn’t help that with so little climbing and gym time in the last couple years the calluses I’d built are all but gone. So now I have new ones being born all across my hands.

The chalk bag I just ordered (link). HE’S SO CUTE

I have a few passes left on my clip card then I think I’ll buy a 3 month membership to get me through the winter. The gym I go to also has yoga so I’ll have a studio again. I left my old studio last spring since I wasn’t going much and wasn’t a fan of the new owners. I’ve never been to the yoga at the climbing gym but I do know a couple of the instructors so that’s good.

So, that will nicely take care of my cross training for the winter and get me will prepped for my 50k I’ll be training for. Still haven’t settled on what 50k yet, I’ll get that finalized in January probably. It’s not big deal at the moment. I know I’ll do one and don’t need to hyper target my training plan for a specific date since I’m already trained for the distance. I’ve taken the past couple weeks since my 6h pretty easy but am starting to slowly ramp back up now.

Ultra Training while on Business Trips

Did I mentioned I signed up for a 6 hour race? Yeah. So October has been dedicated to training for that. I had a pretty solid base built up from over the summer since I did a majority of my running on trails. My week-day milage was good so I’ve been focused on maintaining that and building my long-runs.

However, I knew I would have a bit of a challenge with maintaining that weekly milage through October as I would be away on 2 trips for work, and not just any trips, conferences. Anyone who has ever been to a conference will tell you these are not ideal conditions to be training in. From the early morning to late nights and the food being served to the steady stream of free alcohol, your body is not getting treated well. I was at these conferences for work, not as an attendee. An attendee trying to maintain their training and good diet has a lot more flexibility, they have the ability to skip the evening activities and have plenty of more options to get in their training. As a sponsor working the event, you have obligations to attend all the networking opportunities. This means you’re up early to join breakfast, lunch is always a rushed affair as expo-times are during lunch so you’re shoving food down in a hurry to get back to your booth so one of your co-workers can hurry off and get their food. The same thing occurs again at dinner for evening expo receptions. Which also run late, but your day is not done there as after parties take place. You’re not necessarily obligated to go to these but well they’re generally a lot of fun and a good opportunity to relax a bit with some new friends and well, free booze!

These translate to late nights which lead right back in to your early morning to head over to breakfast. In a nutshell, working a conference means you are on the clock 24 hours a day.

How did I get my training in? Well, 2 conferences and 2 very different experiences.

The first was in Tampa Florida, I was able to get a 6k run in our first evening there since we did not go to any after parties. And then that was it from there. The next day there was zero free time on our schedule for me to split off and get a run in, and the incredibly late night meant I was exhausted for the rest of the conference. I did have an opportunity on Thursday but with long hours, little sleep, and hot florida temperatures, I had zero motivation to head out on a run at 4pm.

After party in an aquarium though!

To add insult to injury, after returning home from Tampa around midnight Friday night I had to be up very early to work a MEC even Saturday morning. So Saturday’s run was missed as well as I was far too exhausted to get out. Sunday I did get out but my body was still feeling worn down so I only managed 20 of my planned 32k, better than nothing!

I had a week at home to get back on track and then I was off again to Seattle for another conference. Arriving in Seattle Tuesday afternoon I opted for a nap instead of a run, I’d been up since 4:30 am to catch my flight and had an evening of networking to get through. With the early morning and the Eastern time to Western time I was spent and went to bed early. BUT that meant I was up early Wednesday and was able to head out for a 5.5k run through the city before breakfast.

This conference had a lot more flexibility for me as our hotel was beside the conference centre and we had a break in the afternoon between expo hours and being in much cooler and nicer Seattle meant I was more than happy to head out for a run at 4pm so I was able to get in 2 runs that day.

Thursday I was up early again but not as early, and I knew I’d have time in the late afternoon so I didn’t bother dragging myself out for another morning run. But as I said I had time again at 4pm to get in a run.

Fridays are typically my rest days but I did consider going out for a morning run if I was up. I did wake up in time but morning Jessica isn’t a very agreeable person and so I stayed in bed a little longer and didn’t get a run in.

Conferences = so much super healthy food. Grilled donut with ice cream and sugar

It’s definitely a challenge to get in proper training while at a conference, you need to be incredibly flexible and know that you’re not going to be able to hit you usual milage without sacrificing something major. For me at the first conference, I opted to just enjoy my time at the event and not stress about squeezing something in. If my hotel had been closer, the weather cooler, or if I’d felt like running on a treadmill, I probably could have squeeze in another run but I felt getting in a 5k wasn’t going to do much for me at that point and to just try to rest when I could. You’re on your feet all day for these things already. For the second conference things just worked out a lot better for me and I was able to get some more runs in. Essentially the opposite of what held me back in Tampa worked out here with a close hotel, nice temperatures and a time change that worked well for training, less well for conference things.

Canada > Tampa, fall running with the MEC crew!

In any case, I did what I could and don’t have any guilt over the lower milage these weeks made. I’ve had a couple solid long runs and will be doing my last tomorrow before the 6 hour event in 2 weeks. I’m feeling good ready to see what I can pull off in 6 hours!

Race Week: Oakville Half Marathon

Let’s recap this a little bit, I haven’t had the most successful race weeks in the past. There was the last one, Around the Bay where I knew I was screwed and had no business running the 30k. And there was the infamous race week prior to that for my first Marathon. Emotional wreck would put that lightly.

Comparable to that, this race week is going pretty well. I am of course loaded with doubts and feeling like this was a bad idea, is it even a taper without? But I’m also feeling okay, I’m not emotional about this and I know I can do it. My doubts are more on how well.

So now I present to you some of my doubts and the reasons I need to keep reminding myself they’re crap.

Some Irrational Doubts

1. I didn’t do enough speed work. Kind of true, but then again I never do, and actually I did do a lot of speed work, I just didn’t do any tempos, like actually none, not even attempts at tempos. This is what’s getting me, I didn’t attempt race pace at all. I want to, but it never panned out. The weather, my laziness, other speed work coming up, many factors. Bottom line it didn’t happen. But as I said, they never do.

2. My pace has gone to shit. So this is something I decided to investigate last night. I was under the impression the last time I did a half marathon my regular ol pace was faster than it is now. So I went back into my Garmin records and had a look. ‘Oh right, I was even shittier then.’ So with some fresh eyes and appropriate look, we dig down. Truth is I’m running pretty consistently in the low 6’s right now. This is not my fastest. When was my fastest? Fall. FALL JESSICA WHEN THE WEATHER IS NICE. I’m running low 6’s in the worst heat I’ve ever been faced with. So, time to stop fretting. In my speed work I’m hitting new records every time, my speed is there, waiting for the nice weather to come out and play, just like every fall.

Ran a little over 250km last month (couple untracked), pretty good!

3. I am not as well trained as I was before. This relates to the previous 2 as well. All my doubts relate somehow back to my speed. This is only natural, I have proved I can run a half marathon distance on minimal training. That’s not what I’m after with this race. I’m after a PB. So I’m focusing on how hard it is to maintain that pace I need to get that. But let’s look back to last May, my last half marathon. I was averaging about 45k a week. I was doing speed work but no proper successful tempos. My average pace was 30s slower than it is now and training was in the Spring before heat and after cold when everything should have been prime. And let’s get back to the 45k a week average. Do you know the last time I had a week under 45k this cycle? July. I have been consistently averaging 60km weeks for the past month and a half. I didn’t even average that during marathon training. The marathon, the marathon I ran last year I felt confident that if I had been running the half I would have gotten or come very close to a sub 2:00. I am running the most I have ever run ever, I’ve tackled some of my greatest training accomplishments to date during this cycle. And I’ve done it well, I’ve never had a cycle as well as this one. I don’t feel burnt out, I don’t feel tired. So, let’s all laugh really hard at doubt number 3 for being complete bologna.

Some legitimate concerns:

1. My knee is acting up. This is a very real concern and one I need to work hard on this week. Generally this happens before every race, my knee knows what’s coming and decides to make an appearance. I’ve gotten pretty good at rehabbing it by now so I’m just hoping it behaves until then.

Icing the knee

2. My calf/Achilles is also acting up. This is also a very real concern, and slightly more concerning than the knee because road makes this hurt more. If I’m on the trails I’m good but it starts making itself known on the road. Again, I’ll be working on it this week and think I can probably get through the race, I’m more concerned about after the race what it will feel like then. It’s after my last road long run it started bothering me more.

3. I haven’t been training on the road enough. I had plans to do more of my long runs on the road but it was so dang hot I couldn’t bring myself to pound some pavement for 2+ hours. As a result, I only did 2 long runs on the road. The concern here is more that I’ve been gentle to my muscles and they’re going to be in a lot of pain after doing 21.1k on road and at pace.

Hiding away in the trails

The good:

1. So far (*cross all fingers*) the weather is looking near perfect for Sunday. I think the thing that will play the biggest role in whether or not this is a PB is the weather. I don’t do well in the heat at all so if forecasts change and we’re slammed with hot sunny humidity this is real bad news for me. BUT if it stays as predicted now (or gets even cooler!) we’re in good hopes.

2. There will be Nuun on course. I only found this out last night and boy am I ECSTATIC. I’ve never been in a race with Nuun on course, it’s always Gatorade. I don’t drink Gatorade, it’s too sweet and I try to limit my sugar intake which is why Nuun is perfect for me. No sugar and it’s a mild not at all sweet taste. Perfect. I mostly only drink Nuun after my run is done unless I’m going on a very hot long run. Reason? I don’t want to become dependant on it because I know I won’t have electrolytes during the race since it’s only ever Gatorade. But not this time! I only wish I’d known sooner so I could have had it with me on some runs I debated brining some but didn’t.

3. I’m in my best shape yet. I mentioned this while dissolving my doubts but it needs to be said again. I fought my way back from a set-back in the spring and I arrive better than ever. I have trained more than I’ve every train before and feel better than I ever have. I’m about as ready for this half as I could be.

August Recap

What a great month!

Ran a little over 250km in total for the month, which is pretty close to what I ran last August while training for a Marathon. I’m actually doing higher milage right now than I did last year, just different long run schedules skewed the totals between this year and last.

So lots of running, lots of running 6-days a week. I’ve adapted really well to it I’m actually really impressed with how well it’s been going. I had a recovery week in there too, which I did not run 6-days for. And it went super well in that I actually felt really recovered (and quickly) after it which I don’t often feel. By Thursday I was ready to run all the miles again but forced myself to cool it remembering I needed to be taking it easy and not do silly things like add another 3k on to the 9 I’d just run to make it 12 (which I super wanted to do).

Steep crazy climbs often found on The Bruce! From Saturday’s MEC run

In August I also went to a free local track series. It was 4 weeks of track works which got progressively tougher which worked really well in to my training. The first week we did 200 and 400m repeats and a bonus 800m. Then it was 400 and 800m with bonus 1200. Then we did 1200m repeats with 2 bonus 1600m. And the final week was a 5k. All of these were on some pretty tired legs and I still put in some solid efforts so I’m pretty happy with that.

The 5k wasn’t actually that great but I did what I could. The route we did had a slight uphill out which my calves haaate and so they were screaming the whole time so I had to stop and stretch them out for a minute. But then the back was downhill and they cleared up.

Still squeezing in some SUP when I can!

I also maybe missed a long run. Last Sunday, I ended up sleeping in way late and then struggled the remainder of the day to get myself to do anything but continue to lay in bed, eventually managed to get myself out in time to squeeze in 12k but definitely not the 22k I had planned and in the main reason I didn’t surpass last year’s August milage. All and all not a too bad! There was another Sunday the long run didn’t happen but that was because it was so hot my run buddy and I decided to push it to Monday night because we’re crazy like that.

Fun times with the Burly Trail Runners on our most recent run to Dundas Peak

So now I’m in my final peak week of training for the Oakville half and I’m honestly so relieved, I just want this half over with at this point as I’m not excited about it all anymore. I want it over with so I can do my long runs on trail again, pretty sure I’ll be doing that 6h run I mentioned in my previous post (Batawa Fat Ass) and as long as I’m home from a work conference in time I think I’ll do the 25k at Vulture Bait in October!

August Mileage:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday  Total
Week 12 8 6 7 8 10 20 59
Aug 1 +SUP track +swim Aug 7
Week 13 8.5 8 9 8 7.5 6 47
 Aug 8 track +swim Aug 14
Week 14 20 8.5 swim 9 11 6 54.5
 Aug 15 track  +SUP Aug 21
Week 15 10 6 11.5 10.5 SUP 11 12 61
 Aug 22 Aug 28
Week 16 6.5 13 10 10 11.5 24 75
 Aug 29  1ks  +stairs Sep 4

A Change of Plans? 

I think everything shifted for me this summer. I’ve thought of myself as a road runner who also runs trails but I’ve witnessed this perspective change recently and maybe I’m more a trail runner who also runs roads. I loove my trail run family and they were definitely a huge part of this shift. I’d rather be spending time on the trails with them then anything else.

Some of the crew at a MEC trail run

I have all these time goals for road races and I’ve found myself not really caring about them anymore. Why bother training to run fast when I can be out exploring with some friend? Plus I’m not fast, and I hate speed work. I want to get faster and improve, but I’d rather get there by running more instead of worrying about pace.

My original plan at the beginning of summer was to run 2 half marathons this fall. I’ve already signed up for one so I will be running that one. But after that, I might finally take the plunge into trail racing. Something I’ve yet to partake in. I want to run a 50k, something this crazy group I run with has inspired. But since I’ve never done a trail race, I kind of want to get in at least one shorter distance before the next big thing.

So I’m thinking of a 25k trail race (Run for the Toad or Vulture Bait). I’ve also put out in to the group a November trail race that has a 25k or 6h (Batawa Fat Ass). 6h seems very tempting as it’s still far enough out that I can train for it. If it weren’t for lack of time my crazy self would probably be heavily considering a 50 for October inserted of a 25. And let’s be honest that’s not a probably but that I already have considered and probably wouldn’t take much persuasion from someone to get me thinking about it more.

Right now I’m a bit unsure of things still. I have this half coming up and I’m training with higher mileage than ever for it, I wanted to do it in under 2h, I’d love to do it in under 2h. But I’m not sure I feel like putting in the focus on speed for it. I kind of just want to skip over it and get on to trail training.

Last weekend on the Bruce near Twist Rd, this was a cool section!

I’ve gotten a lot better on trails too, I can climb a little longer and even the technical stuff has gotten easier. I recently wrote a post over on my group’s blog on how and why technical is not my thing. (short answer: I’m clumsy and uncoordinated) but I’ve noticed I’ve gotten way better at a lot of it. I’d probably still struggle at the super technical stuff but the moderate stuff, we went through some last weekend and I pretty much ran all of it without even thinking!

So right now I’m kind of on a wait and see. I think I’m going to ditch my intense goal for Oakville and just see what happens and run whatever I want until that time (but still high mileage because fun!). I’ll decide if I want an October trail race after this and once I know my work plans (the one I want to do most I may not even be back in the country on time for). And pretty positive I’ll be doing that November race just have to decide if it ends up being 25k or 6h. And hey maybe I will still do that second half just to see how much I’ve improved!

Some of the Burly crew from last Thursday. Weeds over our heads!

Feel Good Training 

My training has been going really well lately and I’ve been feeling great. 

I put on more than a few pounds over the winter and spring. I was aware of it happening but my mental state wasn’t great so there was nothing I could really do about it. It was such a relief to finally break through my mental struggles so that I could start working on feeling like myself completely. There was a big inner celebration the evening I decided I was finally ready to try on the jeans I’d been avoiding for months as they’d finally fit good enough to wear. 

View from Mount Nemo at a Burly run a couple of weeks ago

The past couple of weeks my weekly mileage has been as high as ever, I’m taking a high mileage age approach to this training cycle by running 5-6 days a week, past cycles have been 4-5. So while my long runs are not as long as last year’s marathon training the extra runs are bringing me to similar totals. 
This has been a big help in dropping the weight I gained. Now not only are my jeans fitting again, they’re fitting comfortably. I’m feeling really good both physically and mentally and proud of myself. I’m not seeing what I struggle with for the first half of the year as a step back but as something I pushed through. Maybe I missed some runs but I never stopped and I kept on pushing. 

Bruce Trail near Hockley Valley from Sunday’s long run

This week has been a physically tough training week and I couldn’t be happier about it. I ended last week with a hilly 10k trail run on Saturday and an even hillier 20k trail run Sunday. Not sure if my butt has ever been so sore and I loved it. This followed in to the start on this week’s training with a nice and easy 8.5k run on Monday. Tuesday was track work! It was 5 of intervals which I then finished off with 3k cool down recovery. 

Selfie on the Bruce from Sunday’s long run

Wednesday I did an easy 9k, super hot not the most enjoyable run! And then I went for a swim for 1600m of laps. 
Tonight I’ll be meeting up with my Burly Trail Runners for another hilly trail run. I’m finally mostly recovered from the weekend and track, legs are definitely stiff but best they’ve been all week. 

Tomorrow will be a rest day and then Saturday I’ll be leading the MEC trail run for about 10k and Sunday my plan is to hit the road for a 22k long run ☺️. 

Still getting out to paddle when I can, photo from a group SUP adventure on Lake Ontario in Grimsby on the Civic Holiday