By all accounts my racing season in 2016 did not go well. I failed to meet all of my major goals. I did not qualify for the Boston Marathon, I blew up completely at the Brookvale 50k, and I DNF'd my first 100 miler. Well if all I cared about was results, this would be the time to through in the towel and give up.
If you are trying to push you limits to the absolute max to reach your goals, even when they may be within reach, the chance of failure is quite high. Sometimes you just have to have the courage to try.
A quick 2016 Training recap
2016 did not start ideally for me. I was sidelined for 4 months after completing the Vermont 50 miler last year. Recovering came right down to the wire. The first week I was able to run consistently was 16 weeks out from my BQ attempt at the Bluenose Marathon. I remember showing up to my first North End Runners group run in January and being nervous about being able to run the entire 6k without re-injuring my knee. The North End Runners group runs have become something that I look forward to attending every week!
I do find a simple pleasure in running fast on the roads, but my heart truly lies on the trails. While training for the bluenose Amanda and I did manage to squeak in one trip to Apple River, Nova Scotia, and although I wasn't running the trails it was a great first camping trip of the year.
Amanda enjoying our favourite campsite in Apple River. No one around for miles and a beach all to ourselves.
Its not trails, but not a bad spot to get that last long Run in before race day!
Amanda and Zephyr enjoying a walk on the ocean floor (the bay of fundy has the highest tides in the world!)
50k and 160k Training
I started ultra training by getting out for my first group run with the Nova Scotia Trail Runners. What a great group of guys! I really enjoyed sharing many miles on the trails with these them, whether it was running in Wentworth, Cape Chignecto, or the regular group Thursday runs (when I could make it out for them they were always worth the drive!).
This shot is from an early spring camping trip I took with my Dad to Cape Chignecto for father's day. I got up and ran for 3 hrs before he got out of bed! I spent a lot of time at this park this year. 30+k training runs with the Nova Scotia Trail runners and completed my first full loop of the park with Shawn McCardle (the race director of the Brookvale 50k).
Amanda and I took a trip to Baxter State Park in Maine to climb Mt. Katahdin. Let's just say that Amanda is part mountain goat and handled the "knife's edge" trail much better than me!
I first became acquainted with Gerry's place while volunteering at the Wascally Wabbitt trail race at Wentworth. Its a pretty steep long decent to get there, and then you have to climb right back out again. I spent a lot of time back here on these trails this year training for the Bromont 160k.
Amanda and I took a few trips to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia this year, and became well acquainted with Meat Cove Mt. and Franey Mt. One of the funniest conversations I had was with the owner of the Meat Cove Campground. When I got back from running up the Mt. He told me that it was a gruelling 2hr hike up and 1.5hrs to get back down.... you should of seen his face when I told him I got up in 15 min and back down in 8min, then then ran it another 4 times haha!
Amanda logged some serious miles on these trips too! I remember one day after we had just run 10k together (with some decent vert) and then I continued on without her to do some repeats of Meat Cove Mt. and on the 3rd repeat I find her up on the top of the Mt. hanging out in the blueberry patch. That made my day.
After running the 47k loop at Cape Chignecto, I rounded out my first 160k training week by running the Economy Wilderness look with Amanda the next morning. We may have stopped for an awesome swim in the river along the way!
Last but not least we travelled to the Gaspe, in Quebec on the way to my 160k race. This place was pretty amazing.
2016 was truly a great year of adventuring and with over 3500km run and over 66,000m climbed, I feel that adventure was earned. I am truly grateful that I was able to share so much of that time with my awesome wife Amanda and that I met so many great new friends at North End Runners, and Nova Scotia Trail Running.
2016 Running season Quick Recap
This race was a disaster right from the beginning. Sometimes you can do everything right leading up to a race and the day is just not meant to be. Don't get me wrong, a race pace of 4:15/km was at the absolute max of what I was capable of on a perfect day. Right from the start the pace felt way to hard. I pushed through the half coming in 2 minutes behind pace splitting a 1:32 and wanting to hurl. The back half of the race was a complete sufferfest. I was reduced to a crawl, but I was determined not to drop. I finished with a 3:22, way off the mark of the sub 3hr race that I wanted, but hey I still got a 48 min marathon PR.
So what did I take away from this race? You really have to enjoy the journey and appreciate how far you have come, even when you don't obtain your goal.
What will I do different next time? No way I am carrying a hand held water bottle thats for sure, That thing was an anchor. It felt fine in training, but when it came to the race it did not go well. Also I think separating my carbs from my hydration will help to solve my stomach issues I had. Also as it became more evident in the Brookvale race, I need a lot of salt to run!
This race (or last man standing competition) really surprised me. I had signed up for this just for fun. You had 1 hr to complete a 4.5k loop with over 200m of vertical. Your prize when you completed your loop on time? You get to go again! The race is over with the last man standing or 27 loops, what ever comes first.
I was surprised how much fun this race format was. I finished 10 laps (44k with 2000m of vert.) but I wanted to do more and next year I will come prepared to go the distance! Also Amanda completed her longest run ever that day! The race has such a positive atmosphere, we are both looking forward to this event in 2017!
A race that started so strong... ended in another disaster. This race was super hot (as always), and this was my first attempt at actually racing a 50k (instead of finishing being the main goal). I finished the first 25k really strong, coming through halfway in 3rd place. 5k after that half things really came off the rails. Severe muscle cramps set in my legs reduced me to crawl. The big positive was that I realized what was going on and fixed it. It took me me 10k, and a lot of salt but my legs stopped cramping. I was able to rally and finish the race in 5th.
What did I take away from this race? I have what it takes to run a fast 50k, but running a fast ultra has a lot more too it than just running. I spent a lot of time dialling in my nutrition and hydration in training, but the race is a tell all of what works. What works can change on any given day depending on the conditions you have to be willing to adapt.
I won't get into the details too much here, because I wrote about this race extensively in my last post (Bromont 160). Let's just sum this up by saying 100 miles is a long way to run. You might be fit enough to go the distance, but a lot can go wrong other than just fitness when you are trying to conquer a distance that far.
This race was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. I ran 100k, the farthest distance I have ever run and I learned a lot about myself and how my body works when trying to run far. Something unfortunately you just can't figure out for sure until you try. It was really hard for me to DNF at this race, I had never trained so hard for anything in my whole life. As it seems it was just not meant to be that day.
What did I take away from this race? When you devote so much of yourself to a goal you really need to enjoy the journey, otherwise whats the point. I truly did enjoy train for this race, and I am looking forward to having another opportunity to finish my first 100 miler sometime in the future. Right now that does not look like its going to be 2017, but 2018 for sure!
Was this year a success or a failure? Well thats all in how you look at it. Being someone who is used to achieving most of my goals with one attempt I must say it was a very humbling year. I think this was a great experience for me as it really showed me that I truly love running and training experience.
Now the cycle begins again, as I start training for another BQ attempt at an early spring marathon. I am feeling so much stronger than I did at the beginning of last year, and I am hopeful that I will achieve the Boston Qualifier this year.