July 09, 2010

Power of the mind

This Sunday I am the runner for a female relay team in the Squamish triathlon, sponsored by AARM Dental. The race is an Olympic distance, so I get to race 10km The course is two loops of 5km on single-track, flattish trails. I am looking forward to the race but it also meant I had to adjust my program.

With the 80-kilometre STORMY trail race a mere four weeks away I cannot afford to skip long training sessions which I usually do on Sundays. I decided to move my long run to today, Friday, so my legs can recover somewhat tomorrow and hopefully be fresh on Sunday.

The weather has been gorgeous this week, with record-breaking temperatures of mid-30s (Celsius). With the triathlon starting at 9:30am, I won't start my run until 11am at the earliest so it's going to be hot. I am meeting my teammates cyclist Toby and swimmer Nancy (also sponsor) tomorrow at noon to pick up our race packages and talk strategy.

Back to today's long run. Earlier this week I decided I should run up Nine-Mile Hill because it is part of the STORMY course and the biggest hill that I will hit after 45km of running. Tim, Luka and I had done this hill a few weeks ago and it has some very steep parts. I thought it would be good to do to build strength physically and mentally.

Last night Tim and I had gone to Vancouver with a good friend for the opening reception of a good friend's art show, see here. It was great event and we got home before 10pm. Still I felt very tired when I woke up this morning and even after a mug of coffee a long run up a hill didn't seem that appealing. And it was already warm.

Tim had risen early because he wanted to get a two-hour bike ride in. I was working on the first draft for fifth book, which is 37,000 words as of this afternoon, and said to him that running up Nine-Mile Hill perhaps wasn't such a good idea.

"Sure it is," he said.

I didn't feel like running on the road either and thought I might as well try to stick with my original plan. I dressed in white, with a nice short-sleeve top we got for running a 5km in Seattle last year, white shorts and a white hat, and added plenty of sunscreen.

Not feeling like carrying a camelback and without any pockets, I stuffed two Powerbar caffeine gels in my top, got my iPod and a 750ml bottle with orange Gatorade. (Breakfast was two slices of white bread with peanut butter and 2 1/2 mugs of coffee.)

My footwear were the Adidas shoes I am testing for a magazine, with grey socks I got in a race last year.

At 9am I was ready to go. The first 10 minutes were flat, as I jogged down our street towards the dirt road that is Nine-Mile Hill and then settled in for the climb. Enjoying the simplicity of my task - run up the hill at an easy pace until my watch told me it was time to turn around - I felt much better than expected.

The hill to the right of the road sheltered me from the sun, though that won't be the case on STORMY race day. Alone with my thoughts - I saw three cars and two walkers in two hours - I thought about my writing and running. I listened to Linkin Park for one album then chose to listen to the birds and for any sounds that would indicate any larger animals in the bushes.

The Vancouver Sun had a headline on a cougar in Vancouver attacking livestock yesterday and the memories of last year's cougar incidents in Squamish are still fresh in my mind. Nine-Mile Hill is a very quiet road, and the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains - most of which are still covered in snow - were not enough to take my mind of a potential cougar encounter.

The first car I had seen shortly after I started running uphill and was headed in the opposite direction. I had now been running along this road for more than 50 minutes without seeing anyone else. When I heard the noise of a car catching up to me a few minutes later I was both relieved to have another human being nearby and concerned that it could be a nutcase. I moved over to give the car enough space to pass, waved at the guy and then resumed running with my shirt covering my mouth from the dust.

While the hill was as steep as I remembered, it was also not as relentless. The hill starts at the 45km point of this course profile and I turned around at about 56km, so a 350-metre elevation gain over 11km which had taken me an hour to get up and 50 minutes to get back down.

My plan had been to do a two-hour run in the morning, and one hour in the afternoon. Remember how I was dragging my feet this morning but after two hours of running, two caf gels and 750ml of Gatorade I felt pretty good and decided to tack on a lap around Valleycliffe and Hospital Hill to arrive back home after a solid 2hr 30min run.

I have found this time and again. Often on days when you feel very tired, or you think you do, your body will surprise you if you ease into your training and you end up having a great run that refreshes your mind too.

It's 6pm now, as I type this, and I am heading out for an easy 30-minute run with Luka to bring my total running time for today to three hours. Tomorrow I plan to do an easy reconnaissance run of the 5km loop for the Squamish Triathlon, so I know if I need to pay attention to my footing and if it will be possible to pass other runners, since most will be less fresh than I will be since they'll have swam and biked.

Tim's now also debating a last-minute entry, and I think he will do it.

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