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“M” in S.M.A.R.T. = MEASURE OF SUCCESS
When starting any new training program it’s important to evaluate your realistic level of fitness, time commitment and desire to succeed. My biggest challenge so far has been time management. My partner Deborah Nielsen & I own separate design businesses & last year launched CA5 Athletics (originally CA12345 Custom AthleticWear) We schedule our daily workouts just as we would any other appointment but for the most part there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done! By 8:00 PM I’m usually nodding off.
We have both worked independently for close to 30 years; designing and building an active “lifestyle” in conjunction with successful businesses that allow us to work freely, doing what we love. This to me is success.
Demands & time pressures from clients can be extremely stressful but daily exercise and intense training for races provides the perfect balance so we don’t poke each others eyes out. I honestly couldn’t stand to be around myself if I didn’t work out. I would just be too mean and cranky!
I’ll never forget what my doctor told me when I was 19 years old, at Parsons in NYC. I had bleeding ulcers in my first semester. He said “if you don’t start exercising, you won’t live to see 30 because your body cannot handle the stress of the curriculum”.
For my height of 5′ 9″, I was at a very unhealthy weight of 123 Lbs that I maintained by “starving”, myself so I could model to pay for my education. Exercise was not part of the equation but I took my doctor’s advice and started doing aerobics. My new “athletic body”, was unpopular with the designers so they gave me the choice to “stop exercising” or hit the road. I chose life.
We have a very active Border Collie/Wheaton Terrier we rescued from the SPCA 4 years ago who requires 2-3 hours of activity per day.
Every morning we alternate taking her for a good 90 minute romp so she sleeps until afternoon.The “off dog duty”, person gets a morning workout in; then we both get “paying” work done.
By 2:30 PM, Tailor is staring one of us down. It’s time for round 2 of dog walking. Some might ask why we don’t hire a dog walker but the reason we got her was so we would have a great companion to run with. And she is!
Now let’s talk about this Ultra Trail Running nonsense that I said I would NEVER do. It reminds me of what I said before getting talked into my first marathon…and the 4 that followed!
To be honest, marathon training is BRUTAL! It doesn’t matter if you are a novice, recreational or pro. The long slogs on the pavement can be grueling, painful and at times, quite BORING!!! Not to mention, after pounding the pavement for 2-3+ hours there is rarely enough gas left in the tank to do much else but lie on the couch like a zombie.
So why would I ever consider running 42.2K; then tack on an extra 7.8K? It’s a known fact that most marathoners hit the “wall”, at 36K so in my mind attempting to run 50K is potentially suicidal. I know people who run 100K and have read about UltraRunners going for several days non-stop. There is something very intriguing about pushing one’s body to the limits and I’m no different. Our bodies are designed to move & the more I move, the better my mind works. We only get one life after all, so why not take some risks and try something new? My life means the world to me so I’m going for it!
I can always walk or crawl to the finish as long as I finish in 7 hours, 59 minutes & 59 seconds.
After making the decision ( last December), to run my first Ultra, I thought I’d better get my feet dirty and toughen up the old soles. Ultra runners after all, are a “gnarly, rough and tumble”, sort & I’m kind of a wimp who doesn’t like to fall or get bruised. I enjoy the training but I’m not necessarily a thrill seeker. I need to get through this adventure intact. I do however thrive on setting goals and achieving them.
Over the winter I would head out on my 3 weekly runs seeking puddles, sand, mud, rocks and anything else that might get me used to this new “way”, of running. Each run became rather stimulating and challenging.
I felt like a kid again!
The more it rained, the happier I was; charging through fields at Jericho Park – mud splashing up into my face, whilst trying not to wipe out on the slippery patches. It was truly exhilarating!
A fellow “Forerunner“ saw me once and later asked “Why do you run through the mud ?” Because”, I said “it’s fun”.
Now I want to share with you some of the adventurous sessions my coach Jason Loutitt has me doing.
One of the first things he says to me is, “don’t pay attention to your pace”.
Asking a road runner or triathlete with a Garmin on their wrist, to ignore it, is like asking a monkey with a ripe banana necklace around it’s neck not to eat it! Seriously? The temptation to monitor pace has me feeling like a test monkey with someone looking over my shoulder every stride. That said, once I started training this new way it quickly became apparent that “pace”, had no bearing or relevance with some of the tasks at hand. Running 5K on the road may take me close 24 minutes but on the trails it could be an hour!
Below is Week 6 of my training leading up to my first trail race: 5Peaks Alice Lake – Sport Course – June 6
MONDAY – Rest (but still walk the dog for 90 min)
TUESDAY: TEMPO 90min EASY Run with 40min GRASS TEMPO in middle of run
Instead of running on a smooth, flat, paved surface – go find a long grassy boulevard or endless field. Watch out for dog poop and uneven terrain as you plow through the grass at your 10K race pace. Oh, and focus on high knee drives. Do this for 40 minutes after warming up for 25min – then ease your way home for another 25 min.
WEDNESDAY – 90Min Easy Run followed by 30Min Easy Bike & 30 min Core –
There is nothing “easy”, about running for 90min, especially after the Tempo run yesterday – but compared to some of the other sessions, at least I don’t feel guilty if I stop to pet a dog or take a walk break uphill. I do a mixed bag of gravel, trails, grass & sandy beach. Then it’s fun times in the ” Woman Cave”. I get on my retired tri-bike and spin easy watts on the CompuTrainer listening to loud dance music. No traffic and no coasting. Sweat pouring off me I hit the garage floor for 30 minutes of plank walkouts, side planks, burpees, push-ups, ab-stabbers & whatever else I can think of that hurts but will no doubt make me stronger and less likely to get injured.
THURSDAY – 75min GRASS EASY with 9 X 30 sec HILL REPEATS – I remember it being very hot and humid when I did this workout. With the 5Peaks race 2 days away and temperatures predicted to be 25c I was wondering if I’d have any gas left in the tank. I had never done this much intensity the week of a race and this being my first trail race I had no idea what to expect but trusted Jason knew what he was doing – so I got ‘er done.
FRIDAY – YOGA & 30 MIN HIGH CADENCE BIKE – Unfortunately I missed this workout because we had to drive to Whistler. It balanced out though because the day before the race, race organizers announced the Short Course had been changed to 9K instead of 6.9K. An extra 2K uphill on trails is not the same as on the road.
The previous 2 weeks I had run 59.53K then last week 49.63K (the biggest volume for me so far). Since I had 2 more races scheduled for June this “trail race”, was supposed to be just for fun, as I would continue to train through it.
Race day came and it was HOT and HUMID as predicted. Even though it was a short distance of 9K ( it would take much longer than on the road), I decided to wear my hydration pack since I needed to get used to the thing for longer runs and Oregon. Unlike supported road races, trail runners usually carry their own fuel and water because anything can happen when you are out there. I was so glad I listened to my gut! Within the first 2K I was drenched with sweat and as the trail got dustier and steeper, the need for hydration was crucial to avoid overheating.
My CA5 bamboo TRAINER jersey was soaked with sweat but kept my core temperature cool with the dampness. Unlike the technical jerseys I used to wear, this thing was like a “super soaker of coolness”.
Not knowing the course or terrain was challenging but so much fun! I was able to pass some runners on the uphill but more importantly watch and learn from the fast ones scrambling downhill as they zoomed by me like mountain goats! That would be Jason but I was more focused on not face planting & getting to the finish line without broken bones. The added sweat pouring into my eyes made it impossible to see my feet at some points, so I practiced Jason’s method of fast breathing and super fast footwork which worked amazingly well! The finish line came fast as I exited the forest. I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Ultra Runners typically run “back-to-back”, runs every weekend and this is what mine looked like this month.
SATURDAYS –Technical – Go find rocks, roots, sand, mud, gravel, streams – preferably with much elevation gain & loss. Run over and through them for 90min – 2 1/2 hours. Watch every step and try not to fall. This is what I call “living in the moment”. The time goes so fast because the terrain is constantly changing and you are so focused on every step – time becomes irrelevant.
SUNDAYS – Long Progression 2 – 2 -1/2 Hours – Start super easy and dividing the time into 3rds – increase your pace so the last third is at Tempo pace. I ran on various sections of the Scotiabank 1/2 Marathon course for these runs and used this strategy for race day.
When I picked up my race pack for the Scotiabank 1/2 – the volunteer asked if I was picking up for someone else. She didn’t believe I was 55! Now that’s motivation to keep moving!
Race conditions were once again HOT & HUMID for the Scotia but I was well prepared and had a plan that I was able to stick to.
When the race director announced at the start line to “not expect a PB”, because of the heat – I felt my entire body relax. But competing in the LMRRS, (Lower Mainland Road Running Series), race time goes by gun time, not chip time. So even though I was in the wave behind the elites, I still had to get my butt up front in order to cross the mat ASAP. Standing that close to the “elite”, pack of men & women at the star of a race is pretty amazing but also quite intimidating. They run at pace I ride my bike!
When the gun went and the gazelles sprinted off…I had to focus on keeping calm while 563 faster runners passed me in the first 1K. It was a bit demoralizing but this was a fantastic training tool for how I would pace myself in the Ultra. I knew if I went out too fast I would likely bonk or have a terrible race. I stuck to my plan and gradually increased pace until the last 2K when I had reserved fuel for a strong sprint finish.
This time I wore my ULTRA jersey – the same one I wore for the Athens Marathon is 2013 ( also hot & humid conditions), soaked to the bone but during both races did not overheat.
When I heard the announcer call my name at the finish and that I had placed in my AG, I almost choked. I had hoped for top 10 in my age category but placed 2nd with a 9 minute PB on the course!
As I move through the various stages of Jason’s training plan, I see my body changing dramatically. My legs are leaner and stronger than they have ever been. My cardiovascular engine seems limitless and most surprisingly I am seldom sore. Energy abounds!
My “Measure of Success”, during all the June races came down to excellent coaching; while staying focused on strategy, planning and execution.
JUNE 1 – JUNE 30
Running Distance = 178.71K
Hours Running & X-Training = 25.50 Hours + 90 min dog walking daily
Race #3 5Peaks Alice Lake Sport Course 6.9K 5/20 AG ( …another 5 )
Race #4 Longest Day 5K Provincial Championships 2/4 AG
Race #5 Scotiabank 1/2 Marathon 2/89 AG (9 min course PB)
ACHIEVABLE GOAL – Let’s take this to some higher elevation!