August 30, 2010

A Work in Progress proves popular

During a weekend where about 2800 Ironman triathletes gathered in the B.C. town of Penticton to compete in the 28th edition of Ironman Canada, I was a little surprised that out of my three books the one on writing, A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing, proved most popular.

I had brought fewer copies of this book, which I published in May this year, than the other two as I expected my those titles, Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend and Powered From Within: Exercises in Writing, to appeal more to Ironman athletes and their friends and families.

While the latter two did well too, I have sold more copies of  A Work in Progress this past weekend. More importantly, I received amazing feedback on it from the writer I described in my previous post the day after she bought one copy of each of my three titles. I saw her waiting for her partner at the bike check-in on Saturday, where I was waiting for Tim as well, and went over to say hello.

She enthusiastically told me she was already halfway through A Work in Progress and had gone back to the bookstore to buy another copy for a fellow writer, in fact the person who will be her co-author on a book she is in the process of writing. She said she found great inspiration in A Work in Progress, on many levels, but especially for approaching her manuscript.

Her feedback means so much to me as it confirms that I accomplished what I set out to do with A Work in Progress, which is to encourage and inspire fellow writers and (budding) authors. I strongly believe in the books I have written and to receive positive feedback from readers, whether in person or through emails, is something I very much appreciate.

Hooked on Books owner Judy has said to me from the start that books on writing are very popular in the Penticton area and this has definitely proven to be the case for my title, A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing.

August 27, 2010

Superb signing at Hooked on Books

This morning I did my first book signing at the Hooked on Books store in Penticton, two days before Ironman Canada is held here. The store's owner, Judy, was very accommodating and extremely organized.

When I dropped by yesterday to introduce myself in person after we had exchanged emails and spoken on the phone, she had asked me to leave four copies of each of my three books (and a copy of A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing sold immediately yesterday afternoon). When I came in this morning, she had organized my books in two separate prominent displays at a prime location in the store, one being the Local Author section and the second being a separate table for the two visiting authors of the day. (She was hosting another author later today.)

At the front of the store, near the entrance, in a well-positioned corner by the window she had a chair and table ready for me. She offered me a tablecloth too, but I had brought my own. I'd arrived 20 minutes early to set up that table, with the maroon tablecloth and a display with stacks of my three books, as well as two standing photoframes with 5x7 images of my book covers, a printout of my bio plus photo on A4-size photopaper and also a printout of my three books, with short description, price and front cover image on a second piece of A4-size photopaper.

I'd brought a stack of my business cards that have both the cover images and the titles of my books on them, plus my email and website address. I'd brought enough pens, in red, blue and black, and displayed two issues of IMPACT Magazine in which two of my articles as well as my review of two pairs of running shoes were featured.

I wore a Powered From Within t-shirt and nice jeans, and brought my Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend sweatshirt just in case I got cold. Of course I didn't - it's still summer in Pentiction - so I draped it as an extra display on the chair behind my author's table. Having read advice to not use a chair during a signing but to approach and talk to people instead, I planned to do that.

Determined to simply focus on saying 'Hi' to people coming into the store, or walking by it, and asking them if they wanted to learn more about my books, I did exactly that and met some great people this morning. And some of them bought my books, too, for which I am truly grateful.

I celebrate every sale and am absolutely thrilled and honoured that some of the people today bought more than one, even all three, of my titles. It really means a lot to me, so thank you very much.

My signing today lasted two hours and I enjoyed every minute. It was a major milestone for me as an author. It took me until May this year, and the publication of my third book, to work up the courage to first approach someone personally with my books - the head of my local library and the owner of a local bookstore.

While I believe that my books are well worth reading and/or buying, I was worried that my choice to self-publish (I have yet to approach an agent or publisher) meant a library or bookstore would not consider buying or stocking them respectively. That day taught me I was wrong on both counts, with the librarian immediately acquiring a copy of each and the store owner equally happy to put signed copies of each on consignment in the local author section.

Since then I have approached other librarians in person and via email, and my books have been accepted into libraries in four countries, an amazing leap in just four months. And that is exactly what today's book signing was all about too. It was about learning that I can approach complete strangers with my titles and tell them about my writing. And meet some great people in the process.

One woman is doing her first Ironman on Sunday, and I am so excited for her. Another had just run a marathon last week with her husband, both qualifying for Boston, and they were now volunteering at Ironman Canada so that he could sign up for IMC 2011, which would be his first Ironman.

I also met the organizer of 24-hour MTB races, who was doing his second Ironman this weekend.

And I met a woman who was a writer, editor, marathon runner, musician too AND shared the same name to boot, with an Ironman-racing partner who was racing his fourth Ironman this weekend, after having raced in Lake Placid, Frankfurt and Coeur d'Alene.

And I met a woman who has been a volunteer at 23 (!!!) of the 27 Ironman Canada events.

The first person I spoke to today was a gentleman who told me, after reading the covers of my three books intently and - seeing my photo on the cover of Powered From Within before my recent hair cut: 'You look better with long hair'. He told me that he had written a book in the 90s and self-published it. He told me it was very expensive, and said he'd paid $3000 for 50 copies of his book, after having paid another $1500 and $700 for editing services.

His book was a family history, he said. Coming from Russia, he grew up with seven sisters and seven brothers on a Saskatchewan farm. He said his parents had no longer been around to help with the memories, but having so many siblings did. I wrote down the website address on one my business cards and handed it to him, saying just in case he'd like to publish his book again. He said he just might.

The fabulous Hooked on Books bookstore owner, Judy, told me after the signing session to let her know when I was next in town so that I could do a reading of my books and/or a talk. And she's right, I am ready for that next step of authorship.

At the end of my signing, I packed up my things and left five copies of A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing at Hooked on Books, as well as four of Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend and another four of Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon at Judy's request.

Tim, who'd been wearing a black Powered From Within t-shirt all morning as he wandered around the expo and chatted with various people there about anything and everything Ironman-related, came to meet me at Hooked on Books. We dropped off my supplies in the car, and then went to a running store nearby because Tim wanted to get another pair of goggles that were on special.

Outside this store I met Lisa Lynam, author of Triathlon for Women which she was offering there. We had a great chat and exchanged some experiences and business cards. Her book was published by Meyer & Meyer Sport, which has published many valuable sports titles.

Tomorrow, Saturday Aug. 28, I will be at the Penticton Downtown Community Market along Main St and would love to see you there!

Getting ready for first book signing

It's 8am and I am sitting at the deck of a cottage in Summerland with 270-degree views of Lake Okanagan. The temperature is beautiful too, with a slight chill in the air that has me wearing a sweater as I drink my coffee outside. Tim, who is racing Ironman Canada in two days in Pentiction, a 10-minute drive from here, has already left for a short morning swim with Teresa, a good friend who we know from our early triathlon and Ironman training days in Sydney, Australia, and her husband, Scott.

Both are amazing athletes, Teresa is an age-group Ironman world champion while Scott's best time in Ironman starts with a nine. This inspiring couple has a relatively new coaching business that hosts training camps in their home of Boulder, Colorado. Check out their site here 

Tim and I hadn't seen them since Ironman Canada last year, when we shared a house in Naramata, the gorgeous town that I can see from my deck this morning on the other side of Lake Okanagan. It's amazing how much you can do in 12 months - I had yet to finish a book a year ago while Scott and Teresa had yet to start their business.

When Teresa congratulated me on my books yesterday, I mentioned my book signing. She and Scott immediately promised to drop by with a few other athletes. One of the women I interviewed for my first book, Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend also mentioned she would drop by. After living in Australia she moved back to Canada, and has a partner who is racing Ironman Canada too, so I am looking forward to seeing her.

As I was trying to plan my approach to promoting my books during my five-day visit in Penticton, I had asked for advice through the Professional Writers Association of Canada's book forum. (I've been a professional member of PWAC for a year now). One of the people who responded with great advice was Jennifer, also a writer/author and the organizer of a workshop on writing. She suggested I contact Hooked on Books, and said she'd drop by.

Please check out her own site here and the Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop she organizes here

Last but not least, Hooked on Books owner Judy has done a fabulous job of spreading the word with event listings and signage. I dropped by the store yesterday in advance to say hello, and drop off copies of my books, for which she was grateful since she already had two people in the store asking about them.

OK, time to get ready - I am very much looking forward to meeting a few people and talking about my books, running, triathlon, writing, etc.

August 20, 2010

Signing in Penticton's Hooked on Books

This is the gorgeous interior of Hooked on Books, a brandnew bookstore in Penticton's Main Street (#225).

On Friday Aug. 27 I'll be doing a signing there from 10am until noon. Please drop by for a chat and to check out my books on running, triathlon and writing.

The next day, Saturday Aug. 28, you can find me at the Penticton Downtown Community Market from 8:30am until 1pm. And of course on Sunday I will be cheering on Tim, as he races his 10th Ironman, and the other Subaru Ironman Canada competitors.

Hope to see you in Penticton!

August 19, 2010

Find me at Penticton market on Aug. 28

On Saturday August 28 you can find me with my books in Penticton at the popular downtown community market. Please drop by for a chat, whether it's about running, triathlon or writing, and to check out my books Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon, and A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing!

The pre-Ironman Canada excitement has been building for months in our home with hubby Tim's getting ready for it. It'll be his second Ironman Canada and his 10th Ironman, and he hopes to qualify for his second Kona. As a five-time Ironman finisher myself but now focused on running, I love watching Ironmans and can't wait for race day in Penticton!

Like last year, I am planning to race the Ironman Canada 5km on Thursday evening, Aug. 26, an event that also has a one-kilometre race for kids of any age. It was so inspiring to watch the kids get ready for their race, either by themselves or with mum or dad, and their excitement at the finish. I highly recommend doing either event, 1km or 5km, to everyone (those not racing IMC of course) - it's so much fun.

While I finished first female in 2009 in that 5km last year, I was far more excited about being handed water after the first lap by the great Paula Newby-Fraser who told me, Great job. Wow, I am still in awe of that moment and have kept my race number.  

Hope to see you in Penticton. If you  run into someone wearing these shirts, it's me or Tim.

The downtown community market, Penticton's biggest, starts at 8:30am until 1pm on Saturdays at the 200 and 300 blocks of Main Street, with the adjoining 100 block hosting the Penticton Farmers’ Market.

Singapore libraries order my books

The National Library Board Singapore has ordered my three books, Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon and A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing for its libraries.

I am absolutely thrilled and honoured that my books can soon be found in public libraries in four countries, and counting.

August 17, 2010

STORMY race report - part 1

It's been nine days since STORMY so it is time for a race report. The main reason I have been postponing writing one is that I feel I could write so much about the fantastic 50-miler, my first, where do I start and how much time can I take? I've been writing several days and ended up somewhere totally different than the STORMY trails on race day, as it all begun far before 6am on the Sunday morning of the race.

And that's the case for every competitor. We all have our stories, and there's nothing like a good long run to share them. It's harder to convey them on screen or on paper but here we go.

From all accounts the key to having a good experience in your first 50-miler is by starting slow. I'd been told so in the weeks before the race by very experienced local ultrarunners I ran with.

Ultrarunning legends Ann Trason says in Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison (referring specifically to the Western States 100 mile race she has won numerous times):

"Every year I start out very, very conservatively. I don't really plan it that way, it just happens.If you look at the splits, I'll have the 30th or even the 50th fastest split for the first 16 miles. Then after that I kind of get rolling."

Tim Noakes' advice in Lore of Running also was etched in my mind: "Correct pacing is essential for any race. But the consequences of poor pacing in an ultramarathon are always devastating. ... Bad pacing in a standard marathon may leave the athlete with, at worst, 12 to14km of discomfort. By making the same mistake in the short ultramarathon, you could end up having to struggle 30km or more until the end.

"The solution, then is to start all races conservatively, aiming to run the first half easily according to the body and using what is left in the second half."

With that in mind, I had decided that I would put myself at the back at the start and to stay there for the first few miles, and then take it from there. I had expected a few leaders and most of the relay runners to start fast but I was surprised to see pretty much everyone did - fast in the sense of faster than I expected a 50-miler early pace to be.

I enjoyed seeing the first few kilometres of the course as those were among the few I had not run before. The runner I'd met by chance in late May on a Sunday run and told me she was training for STORMY had not only inspired me to sign for STORMY, she had also shown me around nearly the entire route of STORMY in several runs since then. (Unfortunately she wasn't able to make the race this year.)

We had shared some great long runs together, having run the trails before the race was great so I knew what to expect. As a relatively new resident of Squamish, and mostly a road runner, I had explored only a very limited part of the local trails until signing up for STORMY. Only three months later I have run at least 40 miles of trails I hadn't seen before.

After we ran the first few flat kilometres from the Brennan Park start north, it was time to hit the trails. I'd exchanged a few words but not many. I soon settled into a routine with another female runner I'd met for the first time for a final three-hour training run two weeks earlier and a guy I didn't know.

We started chatting as we took the Walk the Uphills advice early on for nearly every incline. A couple of relay runners ran close to us, as did two more 50 milers. We soon hit the first aid station and ran straight past it. I was surprised to see this a few spectators there too, cheering. It was just before 7am.

I was glad that I decided to carry only a 750ml water bottle, in my hand. In the two back pockets of my race shirt I carried four vanilla Powerbars and three double latte Power gels. My plan was to first work my way through the bars, in the first three hours, and then get going on the gels.

Tim would meet me at aid station 4 (about 30km) with six more gels and  four Lava salt tablets. Chatting with my fellow runners and enjoying the trails, we soon were at Alice Lake which was quiet and beautiful at 8am.


August 15, 2010

Recovery after STORMY 50-mile

It's a little past noon on Sunday. A week ago I was about 50 kilometres into the STORMY 50-mile (80km) race, powerwalking up Nine Mile Hill at this stage. Today I have just done my first run since finishing that race, my first 50-mile, in 10hr 15min.

Overall I have felt good this week, certainly better than expected. My legs were stiff and sore on Monday, the day after the race. It was partly muscle soreness with tight quads and calves, topped up with the painful scrapes on my knees from the tumble I had taken about three hours into STORMY.

On Monday I took a hot bath with epsom salts, and later that day walked our dog for about 5km. On Tuesday I went with two friends to Vancouver and essentially spent most of the day on my feet, strolling. My legs were tired that night and I had another hot bath with epsom salts.

The following day, Wednesday and the third day after the race, much of the stiffness and soreness of my legs was gone. I did another 5km walk or so with the dog. On Thursday I walked the dog twice, including on the trail Summer's Eve that is part of the final 5km of STORMY.

With more doggy walks on both Friday and Saturday, and my knee scrapes looking and feeling so much better, I thought I might try a short run today. Running at a very easy pace at a mostly flat surface for about 35 minutes felt good. I'm still going to be careful this week, avoiding any speed work, but will probably run an easy 30 minutes every other day.

Still feeling excited about the great experience that STORMY was, my attention is now turning to Ironman Canada which (my partner) Tim is competing in on August 29. His training has been going well, and he is very much looking forward to racing his 10th Ironman.

Tim is currently reading parts of Lore of Running by Tim Noakes, the book that provided valuable last-minute tips for my STORMY, as he is now focused on the final touches of his mental preparation. A year ago Tim raced Ironman Canada and was superfit. Unfortunately he fell off his bike and bounced off a passing SUV as he misjudged a corner early on in the bike leg.

It was a small lapse in judgment that cost him the high hopes he had for the race last year. Extremely fortunate to escape with 'only' bruises and scrapes he climbed back on his bike and finished the race, he was too sore to race at his full potential given his training. After the race he never once complained about his accident, even though I know how disappointed he was.

He simply shrugged his shoulders, said that life's too short to get upset about things like that and is back this year for another go. Like last year, he has trained hard and consistently and cannot wait to head to the start line.

August 12, 2010


Bernd Heinrich writes in Chasing the Antelope about a key question most distance runners ask themselves at least once in each race:

“This almost invariably occurs sometime around halfway through the race, and you ask yourself, Why am I doing this? Why am I here? Why? There is no answer. At that point, one needs faith—a combination of ignorance, deliberate blindness, hope, and optimism. It defies logic, yet makes us able to strive and to survive.”

I've been slow to write a race report about STORMY because I feel the experience went by so, so fast and I am only slowly digesting it. I believe a lot more happened than my first time running 50 miles. And one of the most surprising things was what didn't happen - at no point did I ask myself the above question, Why?

My mental focus during STORMY was so strong, or perhaps so relaxed, that I thought only about the here and now. Why never entered my mind, even in the final three hours which were challenging. I occupied my mind with anything and everything else - anything but the questions Why I was doing it and When I was going to be finished.

All I thought about was How right here and right now, one foot in front of another and keep moving, at different paces, up hill, down hill, on the flats. This time I didn't ask myself Why. Perhaps I didn't need to know, want to know. Perhaps the race itself was giving me the answer.

Perhaps it's because I know that as soon as that question Why pops up in my head, as it has in nearly all my races (whether running or triathlon), the finish suddenly seems that much further, almost out of reach, and the effort feels that much harder. I didn't want, nor could I afford, to make this debut 50-miler any harder than it was and as a consequence it never felt as tough as I had anticipated it might.

August 11, 2010

What I am reading: Racing the Antelope

In chapter two of Racing the Antilope: What Animals Can Teach us About Running & Life by Bernd Heinrich, he says:

"With the help of our infinite imagination and the technologies it has produced, we now travel faster, more economically, and well beyond the range of our muscle power. But for millions of years, our ultimate form of locomotion was running. We are, deep down, still runners, whether or not we declare it by our actions. And our minds, as much as our lungs and muscles, are a vital force that empowers our running."

"I've run at varying distances and intensities almost all of my life, probably because the primal unadorned simplicity of running appeals to me. Various games incorporate running, but only running itself touches the pure and basic essence of the tension between speed and endurance, stripped bare of our everyday world of technology, beliefs and hype."

Library of Sydney

The City of Sydney Library Network is adding my three books - Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon, and A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing - to its collections. Here's the catalogue.

August 09, 2010

Thank you!

Thanks so much to the people who came up to me yesterday to say hello and let me know you enjoy reading my blog, I really appreciate that and hope that we'll meet at another run or race again soon!


What an absolutely amazing experience STORMY was. This event is superbly organized, from start to finish. Race director Wendy Montgomery, who organized the 10th anniversay of this race and has been in charge of the event for six years now after winning it three times, and her team are beyond fantastic.

You couldn't ask for more at the aid stations, the volunteers go out of their way to be helpful and supportive. The trails are stunning, with great views along the way, and the course is very well-marked. And you meet some great and inspiring people, who are either running, volunteering, cheering or any combination thereof.

I highly highly recommend any runner try this race, whether it is as part of a relay team where you can run a short distance and sample part of the course, or as a solo 50-miler or - I cannot even begin to imagine - doing two laps as a solo 100-miler. (Make sure you're comfortable running on trails and prepare properly for your distance / leg of course.)

I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of pacing or finish time and am extremely happy with my 10hr 15min, split fairly evenly I think, especially taking into account that my downhill trail running skills are, shall we say, somewhat limited.

For most of the race I felt great and was able to stay in the moment nearly the entire way. The final three hours were very challenging but in a way not as tough as I had anticipated. There was always something to look forward to, whether it was reaching the next aid station, a quick exchange with another competitor, or the next downhill, flat part or uphill, or simply taking the next step and realizing I was still moving.

Today I am stiff and the scrapes on knees and hands from a silly fall don't look pretty. But I feel good and very grateful for this experience.

As Tim Noakes recommends in Lore of Running, I lay down with legs in the air shortly after finishing for a good five minutes. Last night I wrapped my calves in Gladwrap with a healthy layer of Voltaren on them, a very helpful trick I learnt from a chiropractor three years ago.

Later I'll write more about race day but for now I'll leave it at having enjoyed the event more than enough to come back another year.

August 08, 2010

Race morning

My alarm went off 20 minutes ago. It's just before 5am as I sitting here having my usual morning coffee. It's still dark outside. I have checked Twitter for the latest on the amazing 100 milers who have been running through the night, unless they were so fast to have already finished.

The weather forecast for today looks great, if a little warm but hey, most of the trails are shaded. I feel calm. I slept like a baby, without waking. I am ready to explore today. With little trail running experience and very little ultrarunning experience I am not sure what `speed' to start. All I know is that it should be slow. So that's what I'll do.

Tim will take me to the race start, an hour from now. Fifty-mile runners had the option to start an hour early, and four people are heading out as I type, I read on Twitter. The nicest thing about doing this race is that I have some very nice people because of it, and I am looking forward to meeting a few more today.

If you'd like to check out race updates today, follow #stormyultra.

August 07, 2010

Packed and ready to race!

It's 4:15pm and I am finally packed for STORMY, which starts tomorrow morning at 6am. This morning I went to the start to watch 22 athletes begin their 100-mile run, absolutely awesome and probably the most low-key race start I have seen and for sure in a race where such talented and experienced endurance athletes are competing. 

With plenty of aid stations along the route, 11 stops for a 50-mile lap plus the start/finish area, I am racing light. Wearing a race top with two back pockets, in which I will carry 3 gels and 3 bars, I will hold a 750-ml  bottle in my hand (with plain water).

Over top of that I am wearing a short-sleeve Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend T-shirt and comfortable, well-worn shorts as well as knee-high compression socks. I'll wear a hat and sunglasses. On my feet will be a pair of relatively new but solidly tested trail running shoes.

At aid station 4 Tim will meet me and bring me six more gels, with four salt tablets (just in case). I will also bring a bag on race morning which the organizers will drop off at the Powerhouse aid station which we pass twice, first after about 30 miles and about 45 miles.

This drop bag will hold a camelbak, with about 2 litres of water, another six gels, a bag with Twizzlers, six more salt tablets and my iPod; two defizzed Red Bulls; another five gels; three energy bars; more Twizzlers; two peanut butter sandwiches on white bread; pretzels; a bottle of water; a bottle of Accelerade (1 scoop with water); a spare pair of trail runners; and a spare set of clothing (top, Tee, shorts, socks) and a towel.

I definitely plan to eat and drink everything I bring from the start, then what Tim brings me at aid station 4, as well as the contents of my camelbak plus one Red Bull after my first stop at the Powerhouse aid station. On my second stop I will more than likely bring that second Red Bull and some more food but leave my camelbak in drop bag.

As for my mood, it couldn't be better. I am excited and cannot wait to start tomorrow. A woman, who I first met two weeks ago for a three-hour run and who is also starting her first 50-mile tomorrow, said this morning when we were waiting for the 100-milers to start: "I feel like a kid before Christmas."

Now all I have to do is pick up my race package and hopefully catch a glimpse of the leader of the 100-mile, by last and not surprising account Squamish resident Jason Loutitt, one of Canada's fastest distance runners, heading out for his second lap.

Day before 50-mile ultra

It's a little past 7am and I have been up for at least half an hour. Tomorrow I am starting the 50-mile STORMY trail run at 6am, which means it will be a short(er) night with my alarm likely set for 4am. With the race starting a 5-minute drive from our house, and a field of 75 runners at the start line and no need to warm up for an 80km race, there is simply no need to get up any earlier.

Twenty-two runners are registered to begin the 100-mile STORMY - they are running two 50-mile laps and they start today at 10am. I am planning to go the start and cheer the four women and 18 men as they begin the adventure which they need to complete within 32 hours. I deeply admire anyone's courage to start an 160km non-stop journey on foot.

The sky is overcast and it is 15 degrees Celsius. The forecast calls for light rain. July was an extremely dry month in Squamish, which means the trails are dry and dusty.

Today I need to finalize the preparations for my race, packing all my nutrition and hydration, and other extra gear. Besides going to the start of the 100-miler, I will need to pick up my race package between 4pm and 9pm today. And with Tim already out on a 6-hour bike ride I will also take Luka for a 45-minute, or so, walk. I will have a final look at the maps of the course.

Other than that, I plan to put my feet up and enjoy the pre-race excitement. I am really looking forward to the event, as it is something new. In a marathon I am focused on my watch, taking splits nearly every km in the first 30 to 35km of the race to monitor my pace. With 12 marathons under my belt, I know my pace very well. As it is my first 50 miles, and a trail run which I have little race experience with, I am not sure what to expect in terms of pacing tomorrow.

The 56 of us that are registered to run the 50-mile race have 12 hours to do so. My key focus is to finish within that time. Icing on the cake would be to finish closer to 10 hours. My general fitness is there. But you never know what your body does. Sticking to conventional ultra wisdom, I will walk the uphills because it conserves energy and your speed isn't that different.

I think that the biggest challenge will be to begin the race slow enough, as my rested body and competitive mind may be tempted to go too fast - particularly since I don't know my 80km pace. My plan is to start near or at the back to make sure I begin slow enough.

Overall, my mind is optimistic - I cannot wait to explore this new aspect of running - and my body feels good. I am ready.

August 06, 2010

What I am reading before STORMY

This week I started reading the Lore of Running by Tim Noakes. Until now, I think its sheer volume at 900-plus pages put me off and I now realize what a mistake that was. Better late than never.

It's especially great to read chapter 11 titled Ultramarathon, even now with only two days to go until I start my first 50-mile race. I'll highlight a few great tips below.

While the training schedules for ultramarathons in Chapter 11 confirm what I already knew, that I am a bit underdone in terms of training with my longest run only having been four hours, I take heart from a line in Chapter 10 titled Marathon (p.634 in the fourth edition):

"Tom Osler (1978), one of the first modern proponents of walking in racing and training, concluded that anyone capable of running 42km can easily run 80km if they alternate regular walking and running in the ratio described previously."

The ratio referred to is one of three described in the book's previous paragraph:
- 20 to 25 minutes of running, followed by 5 to 10 minutes of walking 
- walk 1 minute for every 5 that you run
- if a hilly ultra, walk only on the uphills and run the rest. 

Key points of advice from Chapter 11 Ultramarathon:

"During the final 24 hours before an ultramarathon, it is especially important to be on your feet as little as possibly. You should rather indulge yourself by doing absolutely nothing physical besides that which is necessary to read or watch TV or videos."

"A prerace breakfast is, in my view, essential before any ultramarathon."

"...the goal, at least for the first half of the ultramarathon, should be to enjoy yourself by talking to other runners and enjoying the scenery and the occasion. ... you need to enjoy the race as much as possible and try to make the moment last as long as possible. Your first ultramarathon may be the most exciting race you will ever run and will probably be the one you remember most fondly."

"But reality will unfortunately intrude sometime after halfway, as the pain and discomfort envelope you. At this stage of the race, you need to develop the skill of focusing on the moment - on each running stride - and to be unperturbed by the considerations of how far you still have to run."

"Correct pacing is essential for any race. But the consequences of poor pacing in a ultramarathon are always devastating. The general rule - that each minute that you run too fast in the first half of a10-to 42km race will cost you twice that time in the second half - probably does not apply to the ultramarathon. Here the cost of each minute run too fast in the first half of the race may be more like 3 or more minutes in the second half."

"Bad pacing in a standard marathon may leave the athlete with, at worst, 12 to 14km of discomfort. By making the same mistake in the short ultramarathon, you could end up having to struggle 30km or more until the end. The solution, then is to start all races conservatively, aiming to run the first half easily according to the body and using what is left in the second half."

"... it is usually best to run through that section of the race that is the most difficult - the last quarter - as quickly as possible, but to delay the time of reaching that point for as long as possible. This is best done by starting very conservatively and saving your effort for when it is needed."

"... hourly fluid requirements are somewhat less during ultramarathons than during marathons. However, the requirement for ingested carbohydrate, especially near the end of short ultramarathons, is probably greater than during marathons, provided you are still running at a reasonable intensity and have not started walking or jogging more slowly."

And one of my favourite quotes is from Noakes' introduction where he says:

"Even in the most crowded races, the point is reached when fatigue drives us back into ourselves, into those secluded parts of our souls that we discover only under times of such duress and from which we emerge with a clearer perspective of the people we truly are."

August 05, 2010

STORMY taper

It's Thursday morning, so three days to go until the 6am start of my first 50-mile race, STORMY in Squamish, BC. Today I am starting my nutrition/hydration plan that I've been using for a few years before any race that's longer than a half marathon (or in my triathlon days, anything longer than an Olympic distance so half Ironman and Ironman-distance races).

I use a sports drink to A. encourage me to drink enough in those final three days and to B. make sure I get plenty of easily digested carbs and my electrolytes. In the past I have used High 5 products. Since those are not available in Canada I've been using the orange-flavoured Accelerade advanced sports drink, which also has protein, in the last two years.

In terms of nutrition, my main goal is to eat as plain as possible to avoid an upset stomach on race day. From today I stay away from all vegetables, all fruit except bananas, and most dairy products. Basically I will eat white bread, with things like peanut butter, honey, or ham. For dinner, I will have a pasta with tomato-based sauce and tuna, or potatoes with chicken or fish.

Having had the unpleasant experience of an upset tummy during races, I am very cautious with what I eat prior to a long race. I know not everyone is nor needs to be but this is what works for me.

In terms of running, yesterday I did a very easy jog for about 35 minutes. I will take today off, and just walk our dog for 45 minutes or so. Tomorrow (Friday) I plan to do a light jog of 20 to 30 minutes.

I'm making sure I have plenty of sleep this week, at least eight hours a night.

Today I will finally write down my race plan, mostly in terms of what food and drinks to carry between which aid stations, and what to put in my drop bag for the Powerhouse aid station. My basic nutrition plan for the race consists of peanut butter sandwiches (white bread), Powerbar gels and energy bars, again nutrition that has worked for me in the past.

If needed I will supplement those with what's offered at the aid stations, such as boiled potatoes and other savoury snacks that I know from experience will sit well in my stomach. In terms of hydration, I plan to use mostly water, and will have a light mix of Accelerade in my drop bag at the Powerhouse aid station as well as a defizzed Red Bull or two for the second half of the race. I've found the latter to aid in my mental focus when I am tired, and thus helping me physically.

Last but not least, my pre-race breakfast will be my usual morning coffee with a dash of milk, two Powerbar (vanilla flavour) energy bars and about 750ml of water. Again, tried and tested.

Also, I plan to put a bottle with frozen water and a towel in my drop bag. By the time, I will get to the Powerhouse aid station that water should have thawed but still be cool enough to dip my towel in it and put it around my neck for a few seconds before heading for Nine Mile Hill, the section I am most looking forward to.

August 04, 2010

Reasons to move

Julia Cameron in The Right to Write promotes walks or any form of exercise because:

"We store memories in our bodies. We store passion and heartache. We store joy, moments of transcendent peace. If we are to access these, if we are into them and through them, we must enter our bodies to do so. ... Entering our bodies, we enter our hearts."

August 03, 2010

That first 100-miler

On Monday morning, six days before STORMY I am feeling the adrenalin, the fantastic excitement that comes with the prospect of trying something you have not done before. In my case, it's my first 50-mile race.

   The previous day I had run the Squamish 10km, and had a solid race with a time of 41:00 after a 2-hour training session the day before. After the race I interviewed the second runner for my next book: she is tackling the 100-mile distance for the first time this weekend.

    Her 20-year running career, which includes two wins of a 100km race and setting a women’s course record for that event in her first attempt at it, began with five-minute walks during a stressful time in her life. Gradually doubling the time she walked and speeding up, it wasn’t long before she could comfortably run 5km and a family member recommended she enter a 10km race.

    From there she just kept upping the distance, half marathons, to marathons, then her first ultra 10 years ago, and another, and another. She is a mum, has a busy full-time job and is now five days away from starting her first 100-mile race at the age of 46.

    She is superbly modest about her accomplishments, saying at the end of the interview that she hoped she didn’t sound boastful. Which she didn’t. Not even one tiny bit.

    As I Monday, yesterday, worked on writing her profile and listened to her comments again on my tape recorder, I was soaking up her enthusiasm and knowledge and was feeling just so excited for her race, and my own. She knows she is ready. As a long-time marathon and ultrarunner, she understands the challenge very well.

    While her focus is on ultras these days, she still runs one marathon a year because she absolutely loves the distance—and it keeps her honest, she says. “The difference with ultrarunning is truly not worrying about every second or every minute. It is a lot more about going with the flow, and walking the hills and knowing that that is OK, and stopping at the aid stations just long enough to properly fuel.

    “The ultra is a different beast in that you know you can feel absolutely terrible. You can feel like you are going to die, maybe you vomit, maybe you have diarrhea, maybe you get dizziness but there are things you can do to work through that and still finish. You have to learn that you can feel bad and keep going. It’s not the end and you will have those bad patches.”

    Her top recommendations are to hydrate and fuel properly, to start at a slow pace, have good shoes and—perhaps most of all—to keep your mind positive. “The less tension you hold in your body the more fluid your body can be.”

   And last but not least, she recommends savouring that introduction to a new challenge. "It’s having the open mind to the possibility. I love the first time I run a race because you truly have no expectations, no time to beat. Often you can worry about it but it is a beautiful thing running a race for the first time."