"Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations. If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won't exist because you'll have already shut it out." -Mae Jemison, astronaut

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One new AR pic

Our team, The Tortoise and The Bear on the "finish line sofa."

I have a slightly dazed look because:

1. I'm slightly dazed

2. I have food in my mouth. The poor girl was having trouble getting a shot with me shovelling the fuel in!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More Support for my Ultra Adventures

Jon Tan at Langer Chiropractic, my chiro since moving to Perth 2 years ago, has agreed to help keep me training and racing well, with his sponsorship. I really lucked into finding Jon in the first place.... Knowing no one really to ask when I moved to Perth, I just noticed the sign while parked at a hardware store across the street.

It turned out that Jon has a real interest in sports chiropractic. He is the WA state coordinator for Sports Chiropractic Australia and the team chiropractor for the Subiaco Football Club (WAFL). He was also in the top 12 for Men's Health Man of the Year, so obviously takes health and fitness seriously for himself, as well.

And speaking of those ultra adventures....

This past weekend was the Caffeinated Espresso 24hr unsupported adventure race. This was my third AR (1999 and 2006 in Canada). I was fortunate to be asked to join three very fit and nav-savvy guys for this. So the camera stayed in the car (figuring I'd never get in front of all of them to get a good shot, anyway). I'll have to wait until some pics become available online that I can get my hands on.

Maps were handed out after a 9 AM briefing and we had a noon start. From 9 AM until noon, you have to plan all your navigation for the event and get all your gear into 3 crates, labelled A, B, and C. The race organisers take those crates to the transition areas (TA's). If you mess up getting shoes or fuel into a crate, tough luck. So while Mark and Wil planned the route, Simon and I planned what gear needed to be in what crate and started sorting things. Simon and Wil have tons of AR experience and Mark has a strong rogaining/nav background. They taught me a lot over the weekend.

The race was something like this (I don't have the "passport"/road book):

33k single track mtb (bitumen hill climb out of town first and one ~1k hike-a-bike)
~19k rogaine on foot
15k mtb (single track with a nasty long uphill grind and wide gravel up-and-down fire roads)
~25k? paddle on the Wellington Lake Dam as a rogaine, with bonus checkpoints (CPs)
9k mtb (single track and wide gravel)
orienteering event for ~1 hr (cancelled due to night fog and cold - race organisers were afraid there'd be hypothermia with racers falling as they tried to cross rivers in the fog).
15k mtb (wide gravel onto bitumen to town)

This turned out to be a "mountain biker's race" and single track MTBing was my weakest skill. I have only ridden trails once in the past two years here. Of course, this month, after I signed up for the event, I went out three more times, two being in the dark. That was so useful! Western Australia is just full of pea gravel, which is so unnerving for me.

The paddle was my favourite leg. Full moon, gorgeous night. We were six hours on the lake, getting every mandatory control plus all the bonus ones (giving time bonuses). One was on a dead tree in the middle of the lake! The last 45 minutes or so we were out there, the mist came in. Within about 20 minutes, all sight of anything beyond about 20 mtrs was gone. We had to keep the boats very close together and navigate by bearing, very carefully, as we couldn't see any headlands to aim for. We were lucky to have been one of the faster teams, off the water at 4.30 AM. Others were just heading out when we left the water and had no idea what lay in front of them. One team apparently got separated within 20 mtrs of shore and it took an hour before they got together again (one boat heading back to shore while the other headed for the CP).

We squeezed onto the podium in 3rd place, after a big push to the finish, in just under 20 hrs (unadjusted for time bonuses).

The Hammer Perpetuem served me well again - I used multi-hour bottles so I could drink straight water from my hydration pack. I tried one of their bars, as well, for variety (it stays soft even in the cold, which is nice to know if you've ever tried to eat a hard energy bar). And I had a few cashews and almonds. I pulled up well, body-wise, but am still headed to the massage therapist now for a little post-race care! :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ahhh, Taper Week Ahead....

Was feeling pretty tired yesterday afternoon and couldn't quite figure it out. Nutrition good, electrolytes good, sleep good. And it's my "rest" month, so my running mileage is well below 100k/wk.

This morning I had a look at last week's stats and I just wonder:

running (some flat, mostly hills, sand, and trails) 60k
mountain biking (all at night on trails) 85k

Still, that doesn't look too bad. But then I thought in terms of time. A typical running week might have me actually running for 9 hours. This week:

running ~6 hrs
mtb'ing ~9 hrs

So my training went from 9 hours to 15 hours this past week. And involved a lot more pushing a bike up a hill, where I used to just have to push myself up a hill.

But it sure has been a lot of fun! Even the massive stack "baseball player" style into a big puddle last night. Too bad I didn't get a picture of that. My white Compressports are now dyed Australian red-dirt. I might have to talk to them about bringing in a new colour for adventure racing!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Welcome to my New Sponsors!

The week just gets better.

Yesterday I signed a contract with Hammer Nutrition. These guys know their stuff. On the advice of a few very strong athlete friends of mine, I tried Hammer for the first time at my 24 hr event. In fact, I fueled solely with the product - how's that for a trial?!? And I found it brilliant. I am really pleased to have such quality backing me in my training and events.

And today I went in to meet the manager of Mainpeak (Osborne Park), who are also sponsoring me now. Mainpeak and I first started talking after my 24 hr race, as well. I had gone in there to kit Rolf out for crewing me for the 24 hr race (concerned to not have him freeze to death during the night).

I feel a special link to Mainpeak. They are a WA-specific outdoor adventure shop. When I moved to WA, my trail friends in Canada (Trailtrash) took me on a final mountain run and filled a running sock full of money. They gave me a little booklet signed by everyone. At the beginning of the booklet, one friend wrote "The Trailtrash gang wanted to give you some pocket money "Ozzie Outback Bankroll" so you could get properly "outfitted" for your adventures down under. Check out "Mainpeak" a MEC type store at 858 Hay St. Perth for maps, guide-books and gear."

And so I took my bankroll down there on arrival and did as they said - bought maps and books of my new world down under. (MEC is an awesome community-driven/co-op Canadian outdoor store, by the way).

Tonight I had a fantastic 15k hill run at Bold Park, steady, with some good pushes up the hills. I think there's some more night riding and paddling in the works for the next few days. My rogaine partner and I have decided to scrap the plan to compete this weekend, as it's not wise with the AR coming up.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yay, I'm not an Ironman!


See my friend there in the distance headed for the ocean in her wetsuit? She's a multi-Ironman. Me, I'm not. So after our sand run, I got to do more sand running while she went swimming. Brrrrr!

It was such a nice day we had to top it off with 10k of paddling on the Swan River. My shoulders and neck needed the workout in preparation for the AR at the end of the month.


Then I heard that the latest issue of Runner's World is out. There were just a few slight inaccuracies. For example, my canoe paddles (which are sitting in my brother's basement in Canada) are actually bent shaft, not straight, as shown in the picture :) The maple leaf's pretty good, though, eh?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another Month of Excitement

Landed back in Perth very late Sunday night (or early Monday morning, depending how precise I am). It seems that winter has hardly set in. The mornings are cool, but we've hardly had much rain.

It has certainly been nice to have the luxury of my regular feeding plan back - it was hard, hard work while travelling in Europe to avoid all their "fat sauces" - cheese and cream everything - with loads of bread on offer. And being vegetarian just complicated things further. We used an Esky (that's Cooler in Canadian) to keep some fresh things with us, but ice is almost completely unheard of over there. Only once did we every actually find ice for sale at a service station.

I haven't had to worry about any post-Europe blues setting in this week.... First I got hooked into a 24 hour adventure race (Espresso) for the end of the month - and then I found myself unable to resist the urge to at least have a fun "go" at the 24 hour rogaine the weekend prior! The month is shaping up to be heaps of fun! Since it's my "R&R" month from running, it actually seems to be working well. It's making it easier to take my mind off all the runs I might feel drawn to do, allowing me to do some lower impact cross training like kayaking and cycling. I've still had a few good runs this week, including hills, and will do a long hill run on Sunday, as well. I've also had a chance to go night paddling, which was just gorgeous.

Tomorrow I'm up for some mountain biking. It's been many months since I've done that! I don't think cycling to Busselton in March counted, either, even if it was on my MTB!

I had some very nice news from the Association of Cdn Ultrarunners - they're having a little presentation ceremony in Ontario at the beginning of October to acknowledge the 2010 100k and 24 hr athletes, giving out the "athlete of the year" award, and giving out little plaques to the new age-group record holders (this last one applies to me now for my 200.89k performance in June). I am just like a little kid, so excited to see my plaque, it seems silly! But, sadly for me, I'll just have to wait, as I don't have a teleporter machine to get me to Ontario.

I am also pleased to be part of the new Compressport "test team" - a group of us are going to get to trial some new product before it hits the street. Looking forward to hearing more as this gets underway.

And...other good news of the week is another sponsor! I'm really, really pleased to have this sponsor supporting me now, but until I have the Big Meeting next week, I shan't say anymore!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Swiss Alpine Marathon 31 July 2010 - 25th Anniversary


After two days of altitude acclimatisation in Malbun, Liechtenstein watching the marmots on the ski hills, it was off to Davos, Switzerland.

I knew this was a big race in Europe, but was still amazed when the numbers started to settle in … 7 events, ranging in length from 11k to 78k (plus the kiddie events). I don’t know how many starters there were, but there were nearly 5,000 finishers for the various events. Big numbers are pretty common in road marathons, but not common in the ultra running scene, especially in trail settings! The expo ran over two days and included a free “mini-medical” where I got things like my max lung function and body fat measured (I’ve been curious about my body fat – it’s 12%, exactly where I’d want it to be).

I had a bit of trouble motivating myself for this race. I had put the 78k out of my mind, with the intention of focusing on the Barenfels race. But after that one fell apart, I had to plan a quick recovery and re-engage my brain for an attack of the Swiss Alpine 78. I was incredibly fortunate that my former massage therapist (actually a brilliant physio) from Perth had moved back to Germany in January and was able to provide a bit of treatment for me. It was uncanny that she even turned out to be in Davos during the time of my race, as she was with the German national triathletes on a training camp.

It had been rainy and cold all week in Davos, but on Saturday morning the skies were clear and the forecast was 19 degrees at the start/finish (1500 mtrs) and about 9 degrees at the top (2632 mtrs). I think the coldest part of the day was actually when the video helicopters would swoop in close and blow gusts off their spinning blades!

The 78k is a big loop, starting in town with about 6k of bitumen before heading onto gorgeous forest tracks. The alpine climb starts about 30k in, after a descent to 1000 mtrs. The total elevation gain/loss is 2260 mtrs.

For the first time that I can remember (including my few little 5k races!), I ran without a hydration pack. There were about 20 aid stations and I noted that the fastest racers from previous years all ran without packs. I did wear a little waist pack that held fuel and electrolytes, labeled with my "don't-speak-German" badges.

As usual, I was all kitted out in the Dirty Girls and the Compressport and chose my Inov-8 x-talons again. Injinjis, as always. All the gear choices were perfect. Oddly, it seemed to me, although Compressport is a Swiss company, no one I saw was wearing the product. There were a few other brands around and I spotted a few racers throughout the morning with “compression” gear around their ankles. Can’t be very effective if the stuff doesn’t even stay on your calf.

My run started well. At the 31k checkpoint I was 15 minutes ahead of plan and in 11th place (for women). By the top of the mountain at 52k I was about 38 minutes ahead of plan but had dropped back to 18th place, obviously finding the big climb in the thinning air pressure more taxing. I had no idea of my placement during the race, however.

Then I encountered an unanticipated glitch. The next 8k’s were gnarly single track along a ridge over to Scalettapass. It was a gorgeous view, but the single track was really technical and narrow, with quite the drop off one side! With hundreds of competitors, that section became a walk at the slowest person’s pace. My frustration mounted as I watched my “banked” time getting eaten away. Then a few men and women passed me – being much more forceful and daring along the cliff edge.

Finally, with about 2k to go in that section, I started to do the same thing. I took one guy with me – a Spaniard, I think he was – who was also rather frustrated. We started a constant stream of “excuse me” and “passing, please.” By the time I made it to Scaletta, though, all my bonus time was gone. Then began a downhill push to the finish of 18 kms. The first 4 k or so were steep and rocky, but wide and totally runnable. It was a riot! I opened it up and felt like I passed about 50 people. No one passed me on that section.

I knew I had lost my dream goal of 8 hrs, but pushed to get back as far from 8h30 as I could. And I finished in 8hr22min, very pleased. In fact, for the first time, I felt a wave of emotion at the finish line, almost as though I was going to cry…amazing what chemical imbalances can do after running!

Final result was 15th/252 women, 6th in my age class. Overall, I was 153rd/1,484 finishers. The top three women were from Switzerland, with the top 10 also including a German, Swedish, and British woman. At least 5 of the top 10 women have done this race more than once and the winner this year is a former Olympic cross-country skier and has two previous wins under her belt. The winning female time was 6hr39 and the winning male (a 4x winner) was Swedish and did 5hr49. Just mind-boggling times for those top racers.

It was a brilliant event and I was honoured to be surrounded by such a group of athletes. The support for this race is remarkable. Running along forest tracks and up mountain passes, there were always spectators (including some day hikers) who clapped and clanged cow bells and shouted “Bravo!” and “Super!” (which sounds like Zuper in German) and “Hop hop hop!” (which means Go!). The children held their hands out to slap as racers went by, also cheering us along. I’ve sure seen that the support for athleticism runs deep in Europe.

Now, it’s time for a little r&r (r&r can include adventure racing, can’t it??) before the plan to hit the Yurrebilla ultra in eastern Oz in two months’ time.

Yee-haw!