December 30, 2010

2011 Goals - How About the Test of Metal?

Julie Miller and Ryan Letchford after finishing the 2005 Test of Metal

Gary Baker (left) rides at Elfin Lakes near Squamish

Twelve hundred metres of climbing - are you ready?

Mountain bikers show their mettle

Test of Metal, a hardcore 67-km race in Squamish, draws hundreds of diehard riders

By Margreet Dietz, Vancouver Sun December 30, 2010

If you're looking for a fitness goal for 2011, you may want to grab the bull by the horns on New Year's Day by signing up for the Test of Metal, an epic 67-kilo-metre mountain bike race held in Squamish.

The 16th edition of the race, set for June 18, is popular with elite mountain bikers such as two-time Olympian Geoff Kabush, as well as novice riders keen to test their resolve on trails that include Nine-Mile Hill and the Powerhouse Plunge.

For Julie Miller and Ryan Letchford, The Test, which has riders climb more than 1,200 metres and features 35 kilometres of single-track, offered more than a personal challenge -- it also brought them together as a couple.

When Miller and Letchford met around 2002, sparks flew between them. But before long, Miller realized Letchford was after a girlfriend who could keep up with his active lifestyle.

"He put me through your typical girlfriend tests before he could decide I was worthy of more than three dates," says Miller, 36.

Read more

December 29, 2010

Art by Michiko: Sunset From My Window

Sunset from my window by Michiko Splinter 18x24" oil on canvas

Michiko Splinter started painting when she was a young teenager in Japan, where she was born and raised. She formed an art group at the age of 18 and has exhibited her paintings in annual shows with this group in art galleries in Osaka for the past 25 years.

Michiko moved to Squamish in 2005. Inspired by her new environment she began painting landscapes, a subject she'd not done before.

I met Michiko at the beginning of 2009, shortly after I'd moved to Squamish, at a local visual arts group and we've become good friends. 

Sunset from my window is Michiko's latest work, another of her paintings I love. She currently also has two of her paintings exhibited at the Adventure Centre in Squamish:

Estuary of Squamish river (oil 20x24")
Waiting for Summer (oil 18x24")
 Check more of her gorgeous paintings at Art by Michiko

December 27, 2010

Timeless Running Wisdom by Richard Benyo

I just came across this new book Timeless Running Wisdom by Richard Benyo, which looks great. Here's an excerpt: 

"Millions of runners ply the world’s highways and byways. They weren’t always runners, except in the relatively rare instance in which they ran track and field or cross-country during their school days and continued to do so after graduation.

"Go to any local 5K race and hang around after the race is over and talk to a group of the runners. Ask them how they got into running. If there are eight people there, seven of them will reveal that they weren’t athletes in high school. In each case they will be happy to confirm two things:

1. I never imagined that I was a runner until I became one.

2. I’m more comfortable with myself now that I’m a runner than I’ve ever been in my life.

"The nice thing about running is that the runner is always there, patiently waiting to be released. There isn’t a predetermined starting date or a firm expiration date."

More information, check Human Kinetics

December 20, 2010

The sincerity of running a marathon

Taking on a challenge like running a marathon demands sincerity and commitment. There is no hiding or playing games, especially not in the final kilometres of the 42.195-kilometre challenge. 

As Benjamin Cheever writes in Strides: Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete:

"I like the people at a marathon. Maybe this is because as a species, we’re so good at concealing ourselves. And the signals we give one another are like the feints a ball carrier might use to outwit a tackler. We hate or love our jobs, depending entirely on who’s listening. We didn’t mean to buy this car. ‘After circling the globe, I never thought I’d wind up in this town.’ ‘I didn’t mean to marry him.’ When you run a marathon, you mean it."

December 17, 2010

Do you reward yourself for consistent training?

In my book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, 53 female runners talk about their motivation and inspiration. One of them is Laura How who started running at the age of 27 because she wanted to lose weight.

As a novice runner, she decided to reward herself by putting $1 for every kilometre she ran into a money box. She hadn't anticipated that this would soon become expensive.

The distance she covered increased steadily as Laura trained for and completed the Gold Coast marathon within seven months of taking up the sport. “As I became a better runner I found the $1-per-kilometre scheme hard to afford. When I eventually broke open the money box I had hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” she says.

Laura used the funds to help pay for her Gold Coast marathon trip – she booked five-star accommodation and a massage. These days she rewards herself for special accomplishments in training and racing with chocolate and ice cream, much more affordable for a marathon runner.

Be inspired by Laura and the other 52 female runners in Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, which also includes separate chapters with advice from two top coaches.

December 16, 2010

My sister set to run first half marathon

Sis and I on top of Chief '08
My sister Angelique is set to run her first half marathon on Saturday in the Netherlands and I am very excited for her. I wish I were there to cheer her on. My parents will be and I know they will do a great job, as the experienced running and triathlon supporters they've become in the past decade.

My sister and I have always been close, including in age. She's three years younger than I am. Unfortunately we haven't lived in the same country since 1995, which is when I moved from the Netherlands, where I was born and raised, to Belgium. Granted, it's not far but it crosses a national border nonetheless.

Angelique helped me in my first cross-border move, helping me load all my stuff from the apartment in Gouda, where I and my two chickens had lived for the previous two years, into a rental van which we then drove to a house in Brussels where I'd rented a room.

I'd quit my nice marketing job to pursue a master's degree in international and comparative law fulltime at the University of Brussels so I went back to a student's budget. (My student house didn't allow for chickens and my parents had found a nice home for them at a friend's farm.)

When I moved from Belgium to Canada, she and our parents visited me there. It was always tough to say goodbye, even though we did see each other `regularly'.

Shortly after I moved to Australia, I met Angelique in Taiwan where she was on business. She'd also been able to take a few days off so we travelled from Taipeh to the south, where we got laughed at since we were so much taller than everyone else. My sister is about 5cm taller than I am, which is 176cm (or 5' 8").

By 2002 I was set to race my first Ironman in Australia, where I'd been living for almost two years, and Angelique travelled from the Netherlands to cheer me on (as did Tim's brother John from his home in New York).

In 2004 Tim and I had taken a year off work to travel and spent three months living at her home in the Netherlands. We raced Ironman Frankfurt in Germany that year, and Angelique came to see her second Ironman, while my parents watched their first.

A year later Angelique and I did our first running race together - a 4km in Lelystad in the Netherlands during my three-week visit. It was very special, particularly since she had yet to start running.

A year later she returned to Australia for another visit, though this time no races were involved. 

My sister has always been an active person, doing jazz ballet for years as a teen. She's an experienced diver and got her motorbike license shortly before she moved abroad for her work. During the four years she lived in Istanbul, Angelique started running initially in preparation for Nike's Human Race.

It was great to go for runs together when I visited her there, such as the gorgeous long run we did along the Bosphorus.

Me and sis at Garibaldi Lake, BC
In the meantime, I moved from Australia to Canada. Angelique has come to see me here three times now, and each time we've hiked and run together. While I wish I were there in person on Saturday,  I will be in spirit. Have an awesome race sis - you've done the training and are more than ready!

If you happen to be at the annual Kerstloop in Dronten, please cheer extra loud for #419!

December 15, 2010

Sunday long run sessions

Squamish has a great triathlon club. Recently I was asked if I wanted to help out with some of the running sessions. I'll be preparing for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, held May 1, and thought others in Squamish might be preparing for the same event, or simply might want some company on those long runs. 

So here's what I proposed on

"Each Sunday leading up to the Vancouver Marathon in May 2011, Margreet Dietz will be doing a long run and club members are invited to come along! Margreet is an experienced marathoner and has written three books on running and triathlon. 

"Meet in Valleycliffe at 9am each Sunday - just bring water and some gels/bars. More details, including her schedule, are posted on the running page. Please note that, for now, this is not an "official" Titans event - we're just spreading the word about something great!"

December 13, 2010

"Running makes me happy"

The third chapter of my book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend profiles Angela Adamson, a working mother of three who decided four years ago that it was time to join a running group. Here's an excerpt:

  “I knew that I could run. I had done treadmill work at the local gym on and off for around four years. I am a very determined and highly motivated person who seems to push herself in everything that she does. I just wanted to make that next step and get on the road,” Angela says.

Angela took that step and then some—a year later the 33-year-old started training for the Gold Coast 
marathon and has never looked back. “Running has become rather addictive. My goals are constantly changing from running 10km, to running a half marathon and now a marathon. What’s next?”

Like many running mothers, Angela enjoys the time she spends training because it recharges her batteries. “I have three small children, work four days a week, and can honestly say running is my release.” 

She knows her family benefits too. “Running is a major part of my life. It helps me keep fit and healthy. It is me-time. I am away from all those stresses in life. I don’t have to think about work, family, homeI just focus on me.

“Sometimes I think it is a bit selfish but then I realise that as long as the balance is right I am happy—which in turn makes for happy children and happy hubby. I think I am a lot calmer, more patient and less resentful when dealing with the children. I really enjoy the time with themI feel I can give them 100 percent of me. Running gives me energy to chase my little ones. It helps me mentally to stay focused and enjoy life.’’

Angela says running has given her more confidence, therefore greater self-esteem. Her main motivation to run is because she enjoys it. “Running makes me happy.’’

December 12, 2010

What I am Reading: Run With the Champions

Marc Bloom's Run With the Champions: Training Programs and Secrets of America's 50 Greatest Runners is a great book that I've been reading in the past few days.

A couple of quotes that I particularly liked so far were:

"Running has given me so many gifts: courage, responsibility, discipline, motivation - attributes that readily transfer to other of my life. The joy of being physically fit -  physically clean, if you will... Even on days when a run starts out with a little struggle, you come home so refreshed." Lynn Jennings in Bloom's Run With the Champions

"To me, running means freedom, but you need the discipline to gain the freedom." Doris Heritage, who ran a 2:02 800m in 1968, in Bloom's Run With the Champions

December 10, 2010

Ultra Signup

Every ultrarunner who hasn't heard of Ultra Signup should check out this great website - a superb tool for raceplanning and daydreaming with, currently, 43 races and hopefully counting!

I came across it today checking when the online registration for the Diez Vista 50km starts.

December 05, 2010

Painting of a poem "Believe"

This is another painting I did of one my of my poems. Titled "Believe" this poem about confidence was selected for an anthology of verse, Island Mists, scheduled for publication by the Poetry Institute of Canada in January 2011.

Using the paper from my final printed proof copy, I applied the poem onto the acrylic paint while it was still wet. Acrylic on 16x20" stretched canvas. Ready to hang. $50 (plus postage if you need shipping). Pick-up in Squamish. Includes a signed paperback copy of my book Sunshine on a wooden floor.

Interested? Contact me via the email at the top right hand of the page. Check out more about my paintings here

Please click the photos for a better image.
Detail of Believe 16X20"

Believe 16X20"

Detail of Believe 16X20"

Detail of Believe 16X20"

Detail of Believe 16X20"

Detail of Believe 16X20"

Painting of a poem "Flight"

I turned a few poems from my book Sunshine on a wooden floor into paintings. Using the paper from my final printed proof copy, I applied the paper onto the acrylic paint while it was still wet.

This is the painting I did with the poem "Flight". Acrylic on 20x30" stretched canvas. Ready to hang. $50 (plus postage if you need shipping). Pick-up in Squamish. Includes a signed paperback copy of my book Sunshine on a wooden floor.

Interested? Contact me via the email at the top right hand of the page. Check out more about my paintings here

Please click the photos for a better image.

Detail of the 20x30" painting

Detail of the 20x30" painting

Detail of the 20x30" painting
"Flight" 20X30" acrylic on stretched canvas

December 03, 2010

Back to speed training

Today I did my first speed session in, well quite a while - four months. Having run two ultras in that time, a 50-mile at the start of August and a 100km at the start of November, I used going long as a good reason (you may read: excuse) to take a break from going fast.

Doing speedwork requires mental commitment and concentration, more than running far does in my opinion. In the past five years I've been extremely commited to improving my speed and most of the time I enjoyed the workouts that take courage and willpower to begin, and complete.

Kathrine Switzer writes in her book Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports, “People always admire runners for their ability to withstand pain; that is not the issue. What people should admire us for is the ability to have the courage to face it. These workouts, especially the high-volume, fast intervals, were going to hurt. I did’t want to do them, but I also didn’t want to be a coward.”

In the months leading up to the 50-mile I did in August I had noticed a mental fatigue toward doing the sessions that require you to run hard, something that in hindsight probably had been building up for much longer than that. However, without fast sessions I can forget about ever achieving my goal to run a marathon in less than 3 hours so I'd been determined to stick with them.

As I enjoyed the 50-mile trail race in August so much, allowing myself to be a beginner without too many expectations for my finish time, it seemed easier to sign up for another ultra, the Haney to Harrison 100km, than to resume training for a marathon. I simply ran for distance, without much structure and definitely without speed work.

Running the 100km was still a challenge of course, but the focus was on extending the distance beyond what I had tried to do before, instead of on lowering the time it took me to cover a distance  completed already. Sometimes the pressure to PB can weigh you down, instead of lifting you up.

As I did my first of four strides to warm up for an easy speed session today, I felt a rush from the sensation of running fast and I instantly knew that the ultra-break had been something I had needed.

I did four sets of 4 minutes fast, with a 45-second break in between each. As soon as I begun the second one, I laughed to myself - easing back into speedwork? Easy and speed rarely go hand in hand. But I loved pushing myself again and I am ready for more!

Triathlon training programs

My book Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon is featured on the website of Peter and Julia Plourde. Please check out it here.

December 01, 2010

Run Like a Girl film

Run Like a Girl by Charlotte Lettis Richardson is not a new film but it's simply the first time I came across this documentary.

The film's website has an overview of the history of women's running (which is the reason I came across it). A link for the Run Like A Girl website is here. A copy, on DVD or VHS, can be ordered for $20.

A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km

Find it on Facebook
I am working hard on finishing my next book, A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km. As the title suggests, it's about the motivation to cover one hundred kilometres on foot.

I wrote most of the first draft for this book during my preparations for the 100km Haney to Harrison. Because we always ask ourself the question, Why?, during the most challenging moments in a race I thought I'd better think about some answers!

Stay tuned...

November 30, 2010

The quest for the sub-3 marathon

It never ceases to amaze me how often we choose to read a book that ends up answering a different need than we thought we had for picking it. Perhaps it is simply because each book that we enjoy enough to keep reading is rich in ideas.

Four weeks ago I borrowed 11 books from the Vancouver Public Library's downtown location. One of them is Kathrine Switzer's Marathon Woman. It's one of those books that I thought I should have read a long time ago but simply haven't.

Switzer is of course most famous for being the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with an official entry in 1967, though organizers weren't too pleased when they realized K.V. Switzer, racing with number 261, was female.

Image at
The images of Jock Semple trying to grab her race number before being pushed out of the way and onto the ground by Switzer's then boyfriend Tom, a 235-pound hammer thrower who had decided at the last minute that he was fit enough to run a marathon without training, are among the most famous marathon images.

I begun reading the book because I wanted to know more about the history of women in marathon running. And I found plenty about that in Switzer's book.

But to my surprise I also found new motivation for my sub-3 marathon quest, which has stalled in the past two years as my 3:07:10 marathon PB was set in the 2008 Victoria Marathon. (Since then I've run two 3:10s and a 3:11).

Switzer's first marathon in 1967 took her about 4:20. By 1974 she improved from a 3:16 marathon, to a 3:10 and then a 3:01. In 1975 Switzer set a 2:51 PB in Boston. Talk about inspiring!

Like most marathon runners in those days, Switzer did big mileage, clocking up to 110 miles a week. She had no days off. In Run With the Champions by Marc Bloom, Switzer's training is detailed as follows:

"Every morning, Monday through Saturday, Switzer ran 6 miles at 7:45 pace per mile. Every evening she did another 4 miles, plus occasional speedwork, finishing with a 3-mile cooldown. Her speedwork consisted of either 880s in 2:45-2:50, 440s in 82 seconds, 220s in 37.5 seconds, or repeat 2 milers in 12:20. On Sundays, Switzer ran 20 miles with negative splits, starting at 8-minute pace and working down to 7:15."

Today I became a member of BC Athletics and signed up for the 2011 Vancouver Marathon on May 1. This will be my third Vancouver Marathon, and 14th marathon, after a 3:12 in '08 and a 3:10 in '09. For the 2011 edition, which is the event's 40th year, I am planning on a PB, so sub 3:07. Time to decide on a training program.

Reviewing the 2010 season

As we are about to begin the final month of the year, I am already looking ahead to the 2011 running season. I do not have any more races planned in 2010, which has been an interesting year for my running.

A year ago I had planned and registered for two key races: a half marathon in mid-February and a marathon at the start of April. My coach Pat Carroll since June 2005 had given me another great training program and I was training diligently.

Then I was offered a one-month contract for the month of February to work as a reporter for the Olympic News Service at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games covering three sports: cross country skiing, Nordic combined and ski jumping.

Of course I didn't say no to this opportunity, but it meant that my training was seriously curtailed for four solid weeks as I worked every day except three. On top of my working hours, commuting to the Whistler Olympic Park venue took at least three hours a day, on a good day.

I wasn't able to race that half marathon in February.The work was superb but intense. On my three days off that month I chose to do my long runs. But my speed work suffered and so did my motivation as I knew I hadn't been doing the training in my most crucial month for the marathon. 

I knew I was fit enough to do well in the Rotterdam Marathon, the first one I have run in the Netherlands where I was born and raised, but wasn't sure that I was PB-ready. In the end I finished in 3:11, a solid four minutes slower than the PB I ran in October 2008 in the Victoria Marathon.

As always I took a two-week break as I considered my plans for the second half of the year. In the past five years, my key races have been marathons of which I have been racing two a year. I planned my other races, 10kms and half marathons, to fit the buildup for the marathon.

In 2009, I'd experimented with running a second marathon very close to the first, finishing the Vancouver Marathon in 3:10 at the start of May and the North Olympic Discovery Marathon five weeks later, also in 3:10. I set a course record in the 7th annual running of this event and was very excited about winning my first marathon.

This year I'd wanted to go back to the North Olympic Discovery Marathon because I was keen to improve my time there but the early June weekend is a popular one for running and triathlon races. Tim was keen to race the 2010 Oliver Half Ironman, held on the same weekend as the NODM, in the Okanagan. And of course I went with him to cheer him on there.

(My 2009 NODM course record still stands and perhaps I'll have a chance to do this race again in 2011).

Instead, I had also found a 10km race in Summerland held that same June weekend on the day before Tim's half Ironman. It was a hilly event that started at 6pm and I crossed the line as first female in a time of nearly 42 minutes.

Next up was the Scotiabank Half Marathon at the end of June where I was pleased to finish in 88:30, not far off the 88:13 PB I ran in the 2008 Sunshine Coast Half Marathon, and won my age group.

In July I ran a 10km on flat trails as part of a women's team in the Squamish Triathlon, where our team earned second place in the women's teams division.

At the start of August I ran a 10km on the road which I finished in 41:00, fast enough for second place in the F40-44 division, though I was a little annoyed with missing out on a 40-minute time by one second. Alas.

Instead of doing my usual second marathon in the year I had opted to do something different. I had not asked for a new training program from my coach of five years. It's not that there was anything wrong with it, there was plenty of variety but I just wanted something different.

So I had registered for the 50-mile STORMY, an ultra event across the hilly trails around Squamish on the second weekend of August. My day went well and I finished in 10:15, and first in the F40-49 division. While the last three hours had been difficult, I had thoroughly enjoyed the ultra and decided to do another one, the 100km Haney to Harrison at the beginning of November.
In September and October I ran as I pleased. I did not feel like doing speedwork so I didn't. My longest run was 2:45, which I did once. My other long runs were done in split runs, typically doing 80-90 minutes in the morning on trails with my dog, and another 30-60 minutes in the afternoon, again with my dog on the trails most of the time.

On November 6 I was one of 21 solo runners who started the 100km Haney to Harrison road run. It was a tough but fantastic experience that I finished in 10:29, second female and first in the F40-49 division.

My recovery from the 100km has gone well. While I've been running again, I still have not done any speedwork which means that I have not done any for four months. I am about to change that, though.

Overall 2010 has been a good running year, with a nice change of pace. I ran my 13th marathon, which was my 9th consecutive sub-3:15 marathon finish. Perhaps the highlight was finishing the 100km earlier this month, though I loved STORMY too and was very pleased to run my second 88-minute half.

Importantly, I've met some great local, and non-local, runners who have inspired me in different ways and I cannot wait to use that refreshed motivation for the 2011 season! 

November 29, 2010

Finishing my first National Novel Writing Month

Today I finished my first National Novel Writing Month, in which you begin a novel from scratch and have one month to complete a first draft of 50,000 words.

I finished today, one day before the November 30 deadline, with 50,124 words. Titled From My Mother, my novel is about a female ultrarunner pondering the many questions she has about her beloved but mysterious grandmother as she starts her longest race yet during which she finds answers in unexpected places.

It's been a great experience, well outside my comfort zone since most of what I have written so far is non-fiction, and some poetry. I don't know if these 50,124 words will ever go beyond the first draft but even if they don't, it's been well worth it.

Another challenge I took on this month as running a 100km road race and that is the topic of a book I've been working on. As of tomorow I will focus on completing this non-fiction book, my fourth, titled Hundred Reasons to Run 100km.

I began writing these reasons before the race because I expected that the question, Why Am I Doing This? might pop into my mind at least once during the 100km Haney to Harrison. I wanted to make sure I had a few good answers that would help me stay motivated in this ultra challenge.

In the lead-up to the race I filled more than 80 pages, one reason on each, to run 100km. And perhaps as a result of that I did not wonder once during the race why I was challenging my mind and body to cover such a large distance on foot.

I have begun revising and rewriting this first draft. My partner Tim, a longtime professional journalist and editor who has been the most important sounding board in my four published books so far, has  also read that first draft and provided feedback.

Having just finished NaNoWriMo earlier today, after a week of monster writing days to make up for falling behind in the third week, it's too soon for me to fully appreciate all the benefits and lessons from writing my first draft for a novel (I've written very little to no fiction besides my start on the Ironwoman novel).

What attracted me to the NaNoWriMo concept is that nothing makes you write more than an (self-)imposed daily word count. It's the same concept I recommend, through 33 exercises, in my third book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing, for which I wrote the first draft in eight straight days. (I spent another four months rewriting and revising it almost a year later before publishing it in May this year).

My schedule this month was as usual, though waking a little earlier, as early as 5am, and writing fiction. I always head straight for the kettle to prepare my favourite coffee: four large spoons of President's Choice Hazelnut Cream made in the Bodum coffee press.   

In the mean time I am starting up my netbook, which I use as my main computer, that is hooked up to an 18-inch ViewSonic screen and then quickly check my emails and online book sales.

With the coffee ready, a mug and some milk, I sit at my desk, as always chaotically covered with all kinds of stuff, and begin writing. My routine will be the same tomorrow but I'll get back to working on non-fiction. 

Some initial thoughs about NaNoWriMo:

1. It's possible to write 50,000 words in a month;
2. Word count is a powerful motivator (as I already knew from writing my non-fiction books but the superb NaNoWriMo screen with the statistics to follow your progress is just fantastic and I updated it every few paragraphs);
3. Having one or more NaNoWriMo writing buddies is superbly motivating, too;
4. The emailed pep-talks we received from the various NaNoWriMo people I've filed away for future reference and inspiration;
5. I highly recommend anyone who has ever considered writing a book of fiction to join NaNoWriMo next November. It's worth the effort.

November 27, 2010

When are you ready to run 100 miles?

As I am planning my 2011 race season, I know that I want to focus on speed in the first four months. My first race will be the First Half Marathon, held on Feb. 13, in Vancouver, which is only 10 weeks away.

In the past three months I have done no speedwork, the first time in 5 1/2 years that I have taken such a long break from that. Instead I ran as I pleased, doing lots of trail runs with my dog Luka.

Mentally I find it easier to cope with running for a long time at an easy pace than trying to push myself to run as fast as possible in speed workouts. So training for and running a 100km race was a perfect fit, after doing a 50-mile trail race in early August.

But now I am keen to resume the quest for speed, in particular my quest for the sub-3 marathon. The key question is what training program to follow? I haven't answered that one yet.

My plan is to work very hard on my speed for the First Half Marathon and subsequently for the Vancouver Marathon on May 1 or the North Olympic Discovery Marathon on June 5 (possibly both).

I'd also like to do the 50km Diez Vista trail race in April.

For the second half of 2011 I am looking at some more ultras and am tempted by races including the 125km Canadian Death Race and the 148km Sinister 7 (for which registration opens December 1). Both races are held in July.

The STORMY in Squamish on the first weekend of August is already firmly on my schedule but here's the key question: Do I sign up for the 50-mile, like I did this year, OR do I register for the 100-mile option?

The possibility of running 100 miles has been on my mind since I finished the 100km three weeks ago. Obviously it is a lot further than 100km plus the added challenge is that I'd have to negotiate a part of the course at night.

I believe I am ready to prepare for a 100 miler as I am extremely curious to find out what it is like which I think is always a positive sign. In our running, like in life, if we truly want to do something and set about preparing properly we usually have a good chance at achieving what we set out to do.

This year I enjoyed doing a wider range of distances, from 10km to 100km and running both on the road and on trails. Tacking on a few more kilometres would open up more possibilities for the 2012 as I have been intrigued by the famous 100 milers in the U.S. such as the Western States.  

As for now, I first need to decide on a training program soon that will help me return to working on my speed. Perhaps I will enjoy that so much that the 100 mile can wait another year.

November 24, 2010

Books in Silk Purse art gallery

As of yesterday I am a member of the West Vancouver Community Arts Council.

My books A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing and Sunshine on a wooden floor (poems) are available for purchase in its Silk Purse art gallery, a beautiful exhibition space with spectacular views of Stanley Park.

The Silk Purse is at 1570 Argyle Ave in West Vancouver. It's open Tuesday through Sunday from noon until 5pm. 

November 20, 2010

Halfway at NaNoWriMo

With my sister from the Netherlands here for a 10-day visit, I have naturally focused on spending time with her as we don't get to see each other often enough. I have persisted with my efforts to write a draft for my first novel as part of National Novel Writing Month, after debating whether I should focus on working on the revising, rewriting and polishing of the drafts for two other (non-fiction) books.

But encouraged by Tim, who is also doing his first NaNoWriMo, and a friend and fellow writer also participating in her first NaNoWriMo I have decided to stick with the novel, as crazy and far-fetched as my plot seems.

As a longtime journalist and author of three non-fiction books I can feel myself slowly embracing the fun of fiction - if I want to suddenly have my protagonist female ultrarunner trip over a person, perhaps alive or maybe dead, who's lying in the middle of the road she is running on, I can make it happen.

And it's been a lot of fun to run twists and turns in the plot by my sister while she is here.

For now, this is the synopsis of my novel From my Mother:
"A female ultrarunner ponders the many questions she has about her beloved but mysterious grandmother as she starts her longest race yet where she finds answers in unexpected places."

And this is how the story begins:
"She retied her shoelaces. She always did as she waited for the start. She wanted to make sure. Tightened them, just a little, not too much. Retie the double knot. She never forgot about the double knot. Never had understood those who had to stop mid-race to waste time on laces that had rebelled and come undone. There was no time to come undone."

November 17, 2010

The 2011 race season

As my recovery from the Haney to Harrison 100km is progressing well, I have been thinking more about the 2011 season.

I love race planning. The other day a friend wondered out loud how people decide on which races to do. A very good question.

For me, 2011 is about having a variety of distances, terrains and of course goals. Having run two ultras this year, I really enjoyed the variety it brought to my 5km, 10km, half - and marathon mix of the past five years. I absolutely love running and since I realized I love ultras I now have even more races to choose from.

I'd like to get faster on the 10km, half - and marathon distance, particularly in the latter I am keen to get closer to that elusive 3-hour mark.

With ultras I can be a beginner again, especially if they are on trails since I am a reasonably novice trail runner who is not yet very adept at negotiating down-hill trails. The distances are new, which allows me to do them with an open mind toward the time and focus on finishing.

Race planning is about finding goals that interest and excite you, whether it is getting faster or running further - or just trying something new.

With so many races on offer in and around Squamish that I haven't run that often, or not at all yet, I am happy to stay relatively close to home. Having said that, planning trips around races are always a great way to focus travel plans.

For 2011, I'd like to start with the First Half Marathon in February, hopefully followed by the Diez Vistas 50km trail run in March and then moving along to the Vancouver Marathon at the start of May.

The STORMY 50 mile trail was such a great experience that I'd like to do that one again, which is early August. (A very tiny part of me is wondering if I should try adding a second lap this year - but for now 100 miles seems a distance I am not quite ready for).
Another race that looks great is the Tucson Marathon because of its superswift-looking race profile.

November 16, 2010

Recovery after running a 100km ultra

Aside from painful blisters on my pinky toes and usual post-race stiffness, I have been feeling very good since finishing the 100km Haney to Harrison ultra on November 6.

Immediately after finishing the race, I had followed the advice to help speed up recovery by lying down on my back with my legs in the air, leaning against a wall. After a hot shower that night I slathered my calves in Voltaren, before wrapping them in Gladwrap to keep the cream in place.

A couple of hot baths with plenty of Epsom salts in the days following the race did much to release the stiffness, as did daily walks with my dog. The day immediately after the race, however, I decided against a walk because my blisters were too painful.

As of the following day, I was fine for a flat easy walk of 45 minutes or so. And by Wednesday I was walking again, like I usually do, on the trails. By Thursday I was thinking that I felt ready for a run but decided to play it safe and stick to walking for the rest of the week.

My sister is visiting me for 11 days. She arrived on Saturday. Since she is preparing for her first half marathon she had a long run to do on Sunday of about 65 minutes. It had been eight days since my race and my legs felt good enough for an easy jog on soft trails with her and my dog.

Today, Tuesday, we did another easy run together, of which half was on a flat trail and half on the road, of about 35 minutes. My legs feel very good. Still I will stick to my daily walks and keep my running light and easy. I think it's very important to take plenty of time for the recovery.

November 11, 2010

Ultra story in The Pique

The Pique's sports reporter Andrew Mitchell wrote a story about the Haney to Harrison 100km race, featuring the two Sea to Sky residents who ran it, i.e. Pemberton's Tyler Petrusic and me, a Squamish resident. You can read the online version here.

Tim and I met Tyler, his parents and his wife Heather, who crewed for Tyler, after the race. It was great to meet them. We shared a few good laughs and I hope we'll meet again soon!

Tomorrow I am meeting another H2H ultrarunner for a coffee in downtown Vancouver and I am very much looking forward to catching up with her. This is the woman who has finished four Ironman races, one Ultraman and four Haney to Harrison 100km's, AND is set to race Ironman Cozumel next weekend.

Triathlon and running has always been a great way to meet people and my closest friends now I met through either sport. Ultrarunning is an even better way to come across some extraordinary people as the pace at the start of a race is very conducive to a good chat, at least before halfway.

In fact this afternoon I am catching up with another local ultrarunner. We ran into each other, out for a run with our respective dogs, on a Squamish trail in May. When she told me she was training for STORMY, and we had a great chat as we ran together for the next hour, I took it as a sign for me to try that 50-miler.

While she unfortunately was unable to race that one, she has done a 50km race (of which the course was first straight up a mountain and then straight down) and her first marathon only a month later in a superb sub-4 hour finish. We somehow haven't been able to meet up since our races, for a combined 200km, and I cannot wait to hear more details about her events.

November 08, 2010

From ultrarunning to ultrawriting

With the 100km race on Saturday and other work to catch up on yesterday, plus some rest, I'd missed 2 1/2 days of working on my NaNoWriMo novel. So it was time to bite the bullet today and do some serious writing, making sure that the inner editor was nowhere in sight. (Please watch this great short video by Lindsey Grant about silencing it.)

Since my novel is about a female ultrarunner doing her longest race yet, I naturally had some additional inspiration after this weekend and managed to write 3,234 words today - ultrawriting you may call it. That brought me back on track to finishing my 50,000 words on time by writing 1,744 words a day for the rest of the month.

However, there are still plenty of days remaining so I am certainly not there yet. I have a feeling that the third week is going to be the most challenging as that is what tends to happen with all big challenges we take on in life - including the 100km I ran on Saturday.

A natural fatigue often sets in once we complete about two thirds of a certain task and we tend to lose sight of how close we are to finishing. But like Saturday, when I struggled after 65km of running with the knowledge I had another 35km to go, we must simply keep moving forward.

By focusing on what's possible right now - whether it's taking one step or writing one word, then  another one and another - we are moving forward and we must keep moving. Before long we'll be surprised how that one step or that one word has led us to accomplishing that monumental goal that seemed so far away not that long ago.

Trust me, that's how I reached the finish line this Saturday and I will certainly remind myself of that every single day when I am working on my first novel manuscript in NaNoWriMo during the remainder of this month. We succeed when we simply refuse to give up.

November 07, 2010

Images of the Haney to Harrison 100km

Not only was Tim my super crew, he also took some great shots along the way, see a separate image blog here

Another ultrarunner Susan and I shared a great chat for the first couple of hours.

Running 100km

Here is a race report on the Haney to Harrison 100km. I intended it to be short but it's a long way to run so there's a lot to tell.

Twenty ultra runners set off from Haney at 4am (another started at 3am and ended up taking a wrong turn to outrun us all by completing 114km). Everyone was wearing reflective gear and headlamps. As planned, I started at the back, determined to begin at an easy pace and soon started chatting with two runners next to me, before another runner joined us.

It was dark underneath the clouded skies, but we still had plenty of light in the residential area of Haney. From the start the course was very well marked and marshalled. Each solo runner had to have at least one person to crew for them, so there were several cars that pulled up at different intervals with spouses, friends and family holding out gels, drinks, bananas and whatever else can carry a pedestrian through a centennial run.

I carried a 500ml bottle of water and two energy bars. Tim stopped several times without me needing anything until I reached the first of seven exchanges, where our times were recorded. This event is done as a relay too, with the first of 200 teams starting two hours behind the solo runners.

By the time I came to Exchange 1 I was running and chatting with a woman named Susan. I was timed at 55:14 for the first 9.57km, which worked out to a pace of 5:47 per kilometre.That was a bit slower than I had planned but the pace felt right and I knew that erring on the side of caution at the start of a race is rarely a bad thing. My time shows up as 16th out of the 21 runners.

I kept running with Susan, and we covered the next 13.51km mostly together. As planned, I took regular short walk breaks, which I had started doing after 25 minutes of running. Susan stopped when her crew handed her nutrition and drinks. So between her stops and my walk breaks, we stayed close to each other and talked about how we each got into running and triathlon and ultras.

It was great to run with her and we both enjoyed the company early on in our first 100km, especially since it was still so dark. My time for the second leg, for a total of a little over 23km, was 1:21:29, or a pace of 6:09 per km. My time for this hilly stage shows up as 11th.

By this point we had left the residential area. Street lights became scarce, until we reached a long stretch that had none. It was pitch black on the narrow road through a mature forest with trees the height of a five-story building on either side. Combined with a fog, our headlamps and the occasional car, it was spectacular.

Like other crews, Tim waited for me several times, ready to hand me anything I needed. I'd finished my first 500ml water bottle shortly after the first hour, and got a new energy bar from him, as I ate one in the first hour. And a second bar before the second hour was up, along with a second bottle of water and a couple of Lava Salts tablets.

An easy start, with good hydration, nutrition, and electrolytes would provide a good base. Susan and I talked as we ran, joining a couple another runner briefly too. During the third stage I was keen to pick up my pace a little. Each runner was by now settling into their rhythm and interaction with the crew.

I took my walk breaks and only needed a new water bottle and another energy bar from Tim. I preferred to carry my bottle so I could sip regularly and whenever I wanted to, rather than wait for Tim to stop. I also was conscious of the fact that it would be a very long day for him and, as I had told him, I expected to need him more often in the second half of the race which would no doubt be a lot more challenging than the first half.

Soon I was running by myself. It was still very dark, and the fog gave an eerily gorgeous feel to the light of my headlamp. I knew there were runners and crew everywhere, and Tim made sure to stay a little closer during this stage. It had been a hilly section, so I had plenty of opportunities to take my walk breaks. It felt like a long time before I made it to Exchange 3 at 38km.

Shortly before reaching it, my headlamp was no longer necessary as the twilight provided enough visibility. It was nice to remove that weight from my head. By then I'd begun taking gels, after eating one bar for breakfast and another 3 1/2 bars on the run.

I reached Exchange 3 after about 3 hours and 45 minutes of running. By now the timing tables (rather than mats) were set up so I needed to swipe the chip around my wrist across to record my time. This 15.12km had taken me 1:27:59, for an average pace of 5:50 per km. My time for this stage was 9th.

I knew I'd passed a few people in the previous stage when it was still dark. Because it is a point to point course I had no idea where I was in the field, though I knew for sure there were several runners ahead.

After a very brief chat with Tim at Exchange 3, I was again on my way and excited to soon complete my first marathon of the day. Before I did I noticed another female runner up ahead. I passed her shortly before I was due for another walk break, so she passed me again.

When I resumed running we had a brief chat before I moved ahead somewhere between 40km and 42km. We were about to hit one of the steepest downhill sections on the course, which also marked the start of a long section of flats.

Once below, I asked Tim for my iPod at about 46km. It was such a treat to listen to the selection of music I'd compiled earlier this week. I still felt OK, but by now I'd been running nearly 4 1/2 hours on the road with plenty of climbs and descents. It was almost 8:30am. While the sun was up, it was hidden behind clouds and light rain.

I enjoyed the music, the flats and the solitude. We passed another solo runner who was on the other side of the road with his crew vehicle. It looked like he was changing his shoes. I was almost done with a walk break and was running again before he did.

At this stage I simply didn't have the mental energy to be running with someone else and I suspect each runner felt the same. I listened to and sang along with my favourite songs, focusing on staying `in the moment', being positive and pushing away the thought I was yet to reach halfway.

This stage follows a flat busy road. We had to run on the left side, against traffic. This road barely had a shoulder so I had to pay attention to the cars and occasional trucks coming my way while also avoiding needlessly stepping into the water puddles that had formed in the rain. My shoes and socks were damp enough already.

Shortly before reaching the next exchange station is where I first remember focusing on getting to a certain point that I could see up ahead. I didn't realize it then but I was about halfway.

The stage between Exchange 3 (at the 38km mark) and Exchange 4 was 14.4km, which I covered in 1:22:21, a pace of 5:43 per kilometre. My time was the 5th-fastest for this stage. I had another toilet break, my fourth since I began running 5 hours and 7 minutes earlier. Before you think, Too much info!, it is crucial in a long race because it is a sign your body is still well hydrated.

Shortly after I left this Exchange I was running at a nice pace, focusing on the music rather than the minor aches and pains in various places, when I suddenly felt a small balloon inflate on my left baby toe, followed by pain as my left foot hit the ground with every step - argh, a blister!

Since Tim had passed me and I couldn't even see him along the highway that stretched at least a kilometre ahead of me, there was nothing I could do except keep running. A few painful steps later I felt the blister burst. It was a painful relief, and as I kept moving the pain subsided.

I wondered if I should do something about that blister now that it had burst, and decided to ask Tim at our next stop, though I wasn't quite sure what and didn't feel like taking off my damp compression socks and shoes. Still I worried that the start of blisters forming could make the remainder of my run extra challenging.

Tim was waiting for me shortly after the course left the highway for a quiet rural flat road. I asked him what he thought of the blister. He said that since I'd felt it burst already, I might was well keep going. So I did.

This next stage was where I slowly but surely found it harder to ignore my increasing stiffness and discomfort. I got a mental lift when Tim told me that I'd covered 62km. I was very excited to realize that I had less than a marathon to go.

The first relay runners caught up to me here, and it was nice to see them moving so fast and easy. Most provided encouragement too.

Tim told me I was doing superb and looked fantastic. He kept me fed and hydrated. Because of this quiet rural road that went on for a while I decided to hand him my water bottle, to give my arms a break from carrying for the past 62km.

Unfortunately we were about to entere a section where he wasn't allowed to stop. Even though I was only 10 or 15 minutes without water, I was very upset about my stupidity of giving up my water bottle. It really wasn't that big a deal, but I had visions of becoming dehydrated in those 10 minutes, a sign of tiredness.

There were very few spectators, other than the enthusiastic and wonderful volunteers at the Exchange stations. It was so nice to unexpectedly see a couple cheering me on. They told me I was doing fantastic and if I needed any water (which they ironically asked just before I saw a sign 'No stopping and realized Tim would be further ahead than I thought, and me without water). I really appreciated their support.

The fatigue of the sheer distance covered became more noticeable as was the fact that I was running on a hard and slanted surface. My lower back was stiff and sore. My feet hurt and I don't even mean the blisters. It was very important now to focus on small goals. Run to the next sign. Run to the car. Focus on what's possible. The next step is possible.

Where's that next Echange station? As much as I tried to not think about how much was left ahead, I became obsessed with distance. Where was I? How much further to go until the finish? Until the next aid station?

I was still moving well. Mentally it was getting harder. I reached Exchange 5 after 6:27 of running. My time for this 13.2km stage was 1:20:04, or an average pace of 6:07 per kilometre, for the fourth-fastest time on this leg.

After I left this station, I could no longer embrace or ignore my suffering. I thought a little cry would help, then decided I was too tired to make that effort. I began walking more, and running less. When I saw a gas station that I knew to be about 72km I quickly did the math: 28km would take me four hours if I walked 7km/hr.

I never thought I would not finish, but I decided then and there that I was going to walk the rest and forget about running. I told Tim about my decision who wisely responded that that was OK.

Soon after that, another of the relay runners passed me. He told me I was doing a great job. I decided to try to speed up to a shuffle. Soon I walked again. Then a car with the window rolled down slowed beside me. It was Ron Adams, the ultra race director.

He asked how I was doing. I said I'd been a lot better 10km ago. He told me that I was at about 75km, so had only 25km to go. I thanked him and said I would get to the finish, somehow. His encouragement really helped and I tried running again, then had another walk break, but now felt that I could and should still do stretches of running.

So I again set myself small goals, until that tree, or the next spot where I could see Tim waiting for me. By now I had given up on the gels and switched to the potatoes I had cooked on Friday. Unfortunately I had made a mistake in putting them in a plastic container in the fridge before they'd cooled down.

Opening the container for the first time at the 72km mark to see them soggy potatoes had been so unappealing that I looked away while taking a bite. The taste was fine, they just looked disgusting. I kept forcing myself to eat them over the next 15km as I resented the taste of my gels even more than the look of the soggy potatoes.

You must keep eating and hydrating in an endurance race. Before I ran the STORMY 50 miler, I'd read in Lore of Running by Tim Noakes that keeping up nutrition remains very important, crucial, toward the end of an ultra.

Reaching Exchange 6 was great again. By now the cheering had gotten even louder for the solo runners as we were at about 81km. My pace had slowed down drastically during this stage, to a 7:24 kilometre pace, for a stage time of 1:36:24 for the 13 km, which was the 11th time among the field for that stretch.

What I didn't know was that I had been second female since I passed that female runner at the 40km mark (and fifth overall since I passed the guy a few kilometres later). It didn't matter since that was about to change. She'd come close enough some time before Exchange 6 that I could see her.

I wasn't surprised that a solo runner was about to catch me, given the slowdown in my pace. In fact I had expected it.

After Exchange 6 the course crosses a bridge, offering spectacular views. By now the sun had come out. It was gorgeous and I soaked up the scenery as I ran a flat stretch of about a kilometre before the start of the final hill. I'd promised myself I could walk up the hill if I ran that flat stretch. Tim had, smartly, parked the car right at the foot of the hill.

When I made it to the car, running, I celebrated by finishing the last of my soggy potatoes and then began walking up the hill.

More relay runners passed and most of them offered encouragement, which was fantastic. Somewhere on this hill the female solo runner passed me. I told her she was doing great, as she moved ahead. I focused on myself, on getting to the finish line as best I could.

Despite the low, low moments I'd experienced in the past 15km, I never once questioned why I was out there. Neither did I wonder whether I would make it to the finish line. I knew I would. The only question on my mind was how much time it would take.

By now it was time for the final downhill. I realized I still had more than 10km to go so I needed some calories. I asked Tim to give me a few of the licorice (Twizzler) packages and started eating them. I was still carrying and drinking water too.

The downhill was painful but no more so than the flats. Of all the body parts, my right shin was screaming the loudest. I ran until it got too painful, then walked until I felt better and resumed running, a process I kept repeating.

Like at many other points along the course, the views from here were amazing. Mountains, clouds lit up by the sun that had come out in the early afternoon and runners stretched out along the road. It wasn't too long before I got to the final Exchange 7, for a time of 1:41:26 for the 13.5km stretch, a pace of 7:32.

The spectators here were fantastic, cheering as if it were the finish line. One group was particularly awesome, it seemed like they were everywhere in the final few km.

By now I'd been out there for 9 hours and 45 minutes. There was 8km left. I resumed my walk-run strategy for another kilometre and had resigned myself to the fact that that was to be my speed until I crossed the finish ... when something really ticked me off.

Amid the adrenaline, I looked for, and found, another gear. I covered the final 7.9km in 44:05, an average pace of 5:37. My time for that final stage was the third-fastest, only 42 seconds slower than the stage time of the overall winner of the event.

I understand where the mental strength came from, though I am still puzzled about the physical response that came along with it given how my body had behaved the previous 25km. Regardless, I managed to squeeze in just under 10 1/2 hours for a total time of 10:29:17, first in the women's 40-49 age group, second overall female (though far behind the amazing Suzanne Evans who ran 8:49) and fifth overall out of 20 finishers.

Sure it was tough but it was fantastic and I am so grateful I got to do it. A huge, huge thanks to Tim who was there for me the entire way, from 2am in the morning, until we got home 18 hours later.

As of next year, a race of 80km held in Whistler will replace the Haney to Harrison relay and ultra. I can appreciate it because this 100km course, with solo runners and the 200 teams of eight, must be a huge amount of work to organize. And this event was absolutely superbly organized.

If this hadn't been the 14th and final edition of the Haney to Harrison 100km, I'd come back in 2011 for sure. Now I'll be looking for another 100km road race to improve my time for the distance.

November 05, 2010

Pre-race anxiety - how to make the most of it

It's dark when I wake up today. Immediately my thoughts turn to tomorrow's 100-kilometre race, my first attempt to run this distance. For the past two weeks I have been looking forward to it, impatient for the calendar to turn to November 6.

Excitement and joyful anticipation have been at the forefront of my mind.

Now, less than 24 hours before the start at 4am tomorrow morning, I feel a surge of panic and fear, a familiar feeling that I have had, in different measures, before most (if not all) of the 13 marathons, five Ironmans, three ultras and more than 100 other triathlons and running races I've done since running my first race, the 20km of Brussels in May 1997.

It's natural to feel nervous and anxious before a race, especially the day before. The event is almost there but not quite yet. One more day, one more sleep. So you are left to worry whether you have prepared everything: yourself, your clothes, race food, race number, how to get to the race, where to start, will there be enough portapottys, and so on.

I am sure there will be plenty of nerves building among the tens of thousands of runners getting ready to race the ING New York Marathon this weekend. Like I did this morning, many others may wonder too: can I do it? Can I finish this race? Can I do it in the time I want?

As I feel the familiar surge of apprehension race through my body now, I instantly decide to replace it with positive thoughts. My mind must return to the excitement and joyful anticipation I have been feeling. There is no need, no use and no time for anxiety.

Nerves, sure, that's OK, even good energy. But brick-in-my-stomach-fear? No, I don't have energy to waste on that today nor tomorrow morning. And neither should you.

Remind yourself of all the training you have done, and you know that you are ready to put in your best effort. Focus on what's possible. Think positive.

Make sure your gear is ready, clothing, socks, shoes, race number, gels, bars, a throwaway sweater to keep you warm as you wait for the start. And if the weather calls for rain, bring a garbage bag to keep you dry until the start.

Go over your race plans. Remember to begin easy, even as the adrenaline of the start may cause many to begin too fast. Slow down. Ease into your pace. You will be grateful for it by the time 30km comes around.

Think positive. Breathe. Enjoy the spectators. Live the experience. It's fantastic.

You will have a drink of water at each aid station. You will take your gels, or bars, as planned during the race.

You're ready for the challenge, and committed to enjoying it. It takes courage. Each race is a challenge - "A test of one's abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking."

Celebrate the fact that you are racing, that you made it to that startline. Especially if this is your first marathon, celebrate and enjoy the new experience! Think positive and enabling thoughts. Your mind controls your body.

During the race, remind yourself every 15 minutes or so to relax as you run. Relax everything, from  your face, to your shoulders, arms, legs. Be patient. Patience in the first 30km will pay off in the final 12.195km.

If you need a walk break, take it but limit it to only a minute or two. Then resume a jog. Breathe and focus on what's possible. The next step is possible. And another. Keep moving forward. Remember your determination. You can do it.

Even when you feel really bad, you can think positive about that too. In fact there are two positives: one, you're unlikely to feel worse than you are right now, and, two, you will soon feel better. Have a drink, a gel, a deep breath. This is what it's all about. This is why you are here, because it is a challenge.

Encourage others, even when you will feel bad, because it will help them and you feel better. Chat with someone, even if it's only a few words. Smile. Spectators will tell you that you look awesome, especially when you smile past 30km.

Enjoy the journey, relish the challenge, and keep moving. Whatever you do, keep moving until you reach the finishline. Have an awesome race! I know you will.

I sure am looking forward to mine, the Haney to Harrison 100km.

November 04, 2010

Checklist for Haney to Harrison 100km

With the Haney to Harrison 100km race start about 36 hours from now, I am finalizing my gear for this race in which solo runners are required to have a crew of at least one person to keep them hydrated and fed along the way.

Tim has agreed to crew for me, and doggy Luka will be along to keep him company. We drove the course two weeks ago to help us on race day which starts at 4am, so it will be dark for the first 3 1/2 hours. Aside from the 17 solo runners, of which I am one, there are also plenty of relay teams which start as early as 6am.

The relay teams will swap runners at Exchanges 1 through 7. This is also where solo runners need to swipe a timing chip, worn on the left wrist, across a timing mat. Here's my list as it stands right now:

Race number
Race rules
Runner information sheet
Reflective tape (on clothing plus spare)
Headlight plus spares, plus flashlight in car
Spare batteries
Chip (pickup at race start)
Maps of the route
Cellphone (with crew in car)
iPod (probably use as of 42km)
PowerBar double latte gels 18
PowerBar sports energy bars 6
Lava Salts carry 10 (rest in car)
Water bottles
Red Bull 4 (expect to use 2 max)
Twizzler licorice 14 x 60 gram packets
Snickers 3
Peanut butter sandwiches on white 4
Cold boiled salted mini-potatoes
Ziplock bags
Deep heat
Toilet paper
Space emergency blankets
Large towel (to change on road if needed)
Food/hot and cold drinks for crew (spouse & dog)
Running shoes 2 pair
Shorts 2 pair
Tights 1 pair
T-shirt short-sleeve 2
T-shirt long-sleeve 2
Dry-fit sweatshirt with hoody 2
Hat 2
Gloves 3 pair
Socks 5
Light weight rain jacket 1
Watch 1
Sunglasses 1
Coffee plus plunger mug (pre-race)
Blister kit?????

November 03, 2010

Vancouver's First Half Marathon tomorrow

If you'd like to race the popular First Half Marathon in February, you'd better get ready for tomorrow morning.

Online registration for this race opens at 7am and will probably sell out in a few hours, like it did for the 2009 event. (It wasn't held in 2010 because of the Olympics.)

Here's the link for the website.

I'll sign up and try to improve my 2009 time of 89:39.

Haney to Harrison - race day clothing

Naturally I have been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast this week. It's important to dress properly and, in the case of running 100km, to be prepared with spare clothing and footwear, should it be wetter or colder than expected. I generally prefer to race in shorts and a sleeveless top.

It has been a beautiful fall this year. Squamish has had rain, as always, but also plenty of sunny autumn days. Day temperatures have been mostly between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. Mornings have dipped below 10 degrees, though only a couple showed signs that the mercury fell below zero at night.

The 2009 Haney to Harrison was cold and wet, with only 29 of the 37 ultrarunners finishing. That was the event’s highest drop rate, according to the website.

As of today, the forecast for race day is, “Cloudy with showers.” That’s an improvement from the “Light rain” forecast earlier. Two days ago the chance of rain was 90 percent, now it is only 40 percent. The expected high of the day is 10 degrees, and the low is 7. The weather is supposed to be “Mainly sunny” today, with a forecast high tomorrow of 17 degrees. 

It confirms my decision to start the race wearing shorts, a Mizuno pair that fits perfectly and which has been tried and tested in training and races. My top is a comfortable running bra with two back pockets in which I can stash a couple of bars and up to four gels. Again, tried and tested.

I’ll wear a dry-fit hat, a white one to help in the first 3 1/2 hours of darkness. (I still need to check that I am wearing enough reflective gear to help visibility in those early hours.)

On top I’ll have a short-sleeve white Running Shoes Are a Girl’s Best Friend dry-fit shirt. I’ll keep a lightweight dry-fit long-sleeve top and gloves handy, just in case the morning feels chilly. In fact I will almost certainly wear light-weight gloves, as there is nothing more annoying than hands that unnoticably became too chilled to open wrappers of energy bars and gels.

Today I will get all my race gear, nutrition, hydration and other items ready. It's not as much or complicated as packing for an Ironman but I am taking at least as much care to (hopefully) prevent any panic on race day and make life as easy as possibly for my crew.

November 02, 2010

Day 2 of the National Novel Writing Month

The start felt challenging this morning but I reminded myself to relax and just write. In the end it took me about 90 minutes to write a little over 1800 words today. It's great. Hopefully I can keep this up.

In fact I will need to produce more than the daily average in the coming days to compensate for the fact that I won't be able to write on Saturday when I will spend my day running 100km, from Haney to Harrison.

Having said that, I do plan on using the creative energy that is released in my run on plotting more of this book, with the working title From My Mother.

Here is the opening paragraph:

She retied her shoelaces. She always did as she waited for the start. She wanted to make sure. Tightened them, just a little, not too much. Retie the double knot. She never forgot about the double knot. Never had understood those who had to stop mid-race to waste time on laces that had rebelled and come undone. There was no time to come undone.

Meanwhile I am also working on my 100 reasons to run 100km. This is now at 63 pages, holding 59 reasons in 13,500 words. A few more pages, 41, to go but I have no doubt I will find enoug reasons, if not before, than for sure during the race.

November 01, 2010

Good reading before an ultra

Aside from getting physically for a race, I strongly believe in mental preparation and attitude. The next few days I am resting physically while I read material that confirms my positive frame of mind for running 100km this Saturday. Believe and Achieve.

Like many runners, I feel that running is a core part of my being. And I am glad to read that we, as humans, are well suited to running, and running long distances.

In Running Through the Ages, Edward Sears writes, “Where we really excel, as a species, is running long distances. Of all the animals on Earth, humans can run the farthest. … Virtually all healthy humans possess the ability to run long distances whether they make use of it or not—a legacy from prehuman runners long ago.”

Day 1 of the National Novel Writing Month

This year I decided to join the National Novel Writing Month. And I suggested Tim do so too, which he did. We both started this morning and our joint word count is on track for the daily required average of 1667 per person.

I am actually not quite sure how it works other than the fact that I need to write 50,000 words of fiction this month. But I don't know what to upload where and when. It seems there are statistics that you should keep in your profile. As I tried to do so this morning, it's clear that NaNoWriMo is popular, on the first day, as the site is sluggish, very very sluggish.

So for now I might return to my other big project, write 100 reasons to run 100km (which I am doing this Saturday, for the first time), and try the NaNoWriMo website again a little later.

As a writer, I have drawn and continue to draw a lot of strength from my experience competing in marathons (13), ultras (3) and Ironmans (5) and the numerous other endurances races I have done. The approach to completing an event like a marathon and writing a book has much in common:

Both are feats of endurance that require a combination of mental determination and self-belief. You must commit to finishing what you start. You must also commit to believing that you can. I can guarantee you, from experience, that both in endurance races as well as in producing books there will be more than one moment when you will doubt that you're able to do it.

In those moments you need to remind yourself of the commitment you made and simply believe that you can. You can and you will. There's no tangible evidence. But you can create it by persisting. Make it happen. Write those 50,000 words. Do not stop until you've reached the finishline.

That's how running works. Of course you must prepare yourself physically with adequate training. You can't just wake up one day and decide to run 100km, just like that. Well maybe just maybe you can, if your life depended on it, but it wouldn't be pretty or enjoyable.

Likewise I think you need already have made regular writing a part of your life if you want to succeed in the challenging goal of NaNoWriMo, which I suspect is the case for most who have signed up.

When I did a reading of my third book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing for the Squamish Writers Group two weeks ago, one of the writers there was an American guy in his 20s. Having just finished his PhD in biomedical engineering and being an avid rock climber, he had decided to a 2 1/2 month break and spend it in Squamish, an absolute mecca for rock climbers.

He also commited to writing a novel in those 2 1/2 months. When I met him at the reading he was one week away from going back home and returning to his profession. As for his manuscript? He'd written 70,000 words of his SciFi novel in his time here and was determined to finish it. I have no doubt he will and I hope he'll send me an email, as I asked him to do, when it's in print.

Very inspiring.

October 31, 2010

Challenging ourselves - in writing & running

Tomorrow marks the first day of National Novel Writing Month (you can still join). Referred to as NaNoWriMo, it described as "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."

I am participating for the first time. It's not because I have trouble writing - I am working on two non-fiction manuscripts, making great progress. (If you suffer from writer's block or no longer enjoy your writing, check out my book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing.)

My participation is motivated by the lure of the novel. As a longtime journalist and author of three non-fiction books, I am intrigued but also somewhat mystified by fiction. In 2005 I began on a novel  about a super-female triathlete who beats everyone, including the guys, but stopped after 13,000 words.

Recently I have begun publishing instalments of this novel, working title Ironwoman, on this blog (click here to read them). I decided that NaNoWriMo would be a great motivator and reason to try my hand at another one but this time commit to finishing a full draft.

It will be fun, if challenging to produce an average of 1700 words a day each for 30 days.

As it happens, I also have five days left until I start my first 100-kilometre road race. I am an experienced marathon runner, so I have covered the 42.2km distance many times, but the furthest I have run so far is 50 miles (80km).

One reason I am looking forward to running for most of the day this Saturday is that it will give me a lot of time to think about the novel I am writing for NaNoWriMo. Another is that it will be a great break from the mental challenge of producing so many words of fiction, something I am not familiar with.

I started running in the same year that I began working as a professional journalist. Since then I have found that there is a great balance if I push myself physically as well as mentally. In fact, one of the books I am working on is about the similarities between the approach to writing and running (I'll write a post on that soon).

For me writing and running are part of my lifestyle and of who I am. Hence my NaNoWriMo screen name and for this website, The Running Author. I use my regular runs (and daily walks) as brainstorming sessions for my writing. It just happens. Thoughts flow different when you walk or run.

In a way I am holding a meeting with myself as I run or walk, and I consider it part of my writing time because I always, always come up with a new idea, a fresh take on an issue, an answer to my question. And sometimes an epiphany.

Many writers have talked about the benefit of walks and exercise for their creativity, among them Henry David Thoreau. Whether you're participating in NaNoWriMo too, or whether you simply need a boost of creativity, try a walk or a run.

Even a short 15-30-minute walk makes all the difference. It's amazing to see what you come home with, and you'll be refreshed and energized.