Monday, February 28, 2011

Help a newbie

Being a newbie to 100 mile races (and really, any race over 50km), I figured I would throw out a general call to help to the digital world and to any readers out there.

I'm lucky in that I have access to some fantastic athletes, with a great deal of knowledge and experience in my circle of friends and I am an avid reader of blogs, books, magazines etc...and try to pick up tips and nuggets of info from those resources, but I'd love to hear some of your experiences with mountain 100 mile races and from any ultra endurance events. Although I'm sure most details are best learned from experience and are quite personal, I'm an information junkie and I know that a lot of you have some serious combined racing hours and I would love to learn from your experience/mistakes/recommendations.

I am trying to figure out what to wear, what to eat/drink and even some ideas about how to prepare and any other little tips that might make the already uncomfortable experience of moving for several hours in the mountains a bit more manageable. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of spending long hours out there in a beautiful setting, I wouldn't have signed up for UTMF otherwise, but I can do that more comfortably on a fastpacking/hiking/camping trip. Ultimately, Mt Fuji is a race, with the idea being of completing the course as quickly as I can. I want my physical and mental energy focused on moving me forward and I know how important it is to know that you can trust your preparation and equipment to see you through the event in the process. The comfort that this provides helps me manage the inevitable lows and struggles that come from pushing myself.

So if you have any tips, please let me hear them. You can either post a message, or fire me an email at:


Friday, February 25, 2011

No day like snow day

Unlike most of the world in our hemisphere, we rarely get snow in Victoria, so when we do, the city's infrastructure comes to a grinding halt, but the scenery becomes quite pretty.
I made it out for a nice run at Thetis Lake Park this am, the sun was shinning and the trails were soft. I know that in a few days it will be a sloppy mess, so I caught a few moments on camera. My run went around the lakes, up Stewart mountain and through McKenzie creek and the footing was way better than it is on the roads and the the snow is surprisingly thick in places. Get out there and check it out while the snow lasts!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mt. Fuji

Distance: 160km
Cumulative Altitude Gain: approx. 8,000m
Date: May 20th, 2011

So after years of deliberating, I've finally signed up for a "real" ultra race in May. I have always wanted to race in Japan and Mt Fuji is such an iconic mountain, that when I first heard about the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji, I knew I wanted to make my way over there for the inaugural event.
I have a bit of time off from school before I start my bar exam course, so I'll be able to get in a good 6 week block of specific training heading into the race, but I also know that there are lots of unanswered questions and my learning curve is likely going to be steep.
I realize that debuting at the distance in a foreign country presents a cultural barrier as well, something that I have already dealt with just trying to register for the event, but I think that just adds to the sense of adventure around the challenge.
I have heard amazing things from everyone that I know who have raced in Japan, so I am really looking forward to discovering a new culture and a new race environment.
There are few endurance based physical challenges that scare me, but I will admit to being just as nervous as I am excited about this one.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Words & pics on a page

I wrote a trail review on running in the Southern Chilcotin mountains for the latest edition of Canadian Running magazine. You can find the article here, or better yet, on the shelves of a bookstore near you.

Monday, February 14, 2011


My last post had a sub-topic about contemplation, I wonder what the dude who just set a ski jumping world record is contemplating as he soars a sick 246.5m (808.72 feet)?

Of books and running...

It will come as no surprise to those who know me that running and reading are two of the most important aspects of my life, interestingly, they are also the most contemplative.
I'm not the first person to tie these two activities together, the accomplished author, Haruki Murakami’s penned an entire book on the subject: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, in which he describes his thoughts during his runs.
It's funny that two seemingly opposing acts, one, the height of physical activity, the other epitomizing the sedentary, can both have such a significant and similar impact on my thought process, but I guess one could argue that their ying and yang nature is what makes them so complimentary.
I call them contemplative activities, as opposed to meditative, because meditation to me involves letting go of everything other than your thoughts, whereas running and reading require full immersion and focus on the activity, which is how I understand contemplation.
Both running and reading focus my thoughts, drawing them into the surroundings, be it the characters, stories and plot that the author develops, or the area that I'm running in and the type of running that I'm doing. Hard runs are more focused on form and the effort, whereas easy runs allow me more liberties with my thoughts.
Interestingly, contemplation stems from the latin root: templum , or a place of worship and this is often the analogy that my friends and I use to describe our outings. The fact that our long runs usually take place on Sundays, furthers this religious analogy and books/texts, like the Bible and the Qur'an, and the ideas that that they contain are integral to many religions.
Much like books, few of my runs are truly memorable, but those that are really stick with me. I can describe them in great detail and I enjoy sharing them with others. Just because a book or a run isn't memorable doesn't make them unimportant, they all strike some cord with me. My fitness, knowledge and enjoyment of running comes from all the runs, good and bad that I have done, much like my knowledge and love of books comes from everything I read.
I also find it interesting how often I am asked, "what do you think about when you run?" by non-runners, much like how people who haven't read a book that I have ask for my impressions on the book and what the book is about. (***okay that's a stretch as an analogy).
One area where I hope there is no cross-over, is with the online world. While I love the physical aspect of books, the reality is I read more and more online and although I don't have an e-reader yet, I imagine that I will inevitably cave and get one, or be given one, at some point. I don't think that a virtual run will ever be a substitute for the physical act of heading out the door and putting foot to trail and enjoying the feelings, sights, smells and sounds that I experience on my runs and which have such a profound influence on my thoughts during my runs.

What does this have to do with my running? Not much, other than it's one of the many thoughts, some mundane, others more profound, mostly fleeting, that passed through my head when I was running this afternoon and I figured I would share it. So what do you think about when you run?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Skis + guns = fun

One year ago, I was up at Whistler Olympic Park watching some amazing Nordic races. Callaghan, where the races took place, is a beautiful venue just outside of Whistler and has quickly become one of North America's top x-country ski areas with over 90 kilometres of recreational and competitive cross-country ski trails, a biathlon range, a ski jumping venue, snowshoe trails and backcountry access. It's this sort of venue and the accompanying facilities, which are the enduring legacy of hosting an Olympic games. We're lucky o have it and I can't wait to spend more time up there next year when I move to the mainland.

I've been craving time in the mountains and a rip on the skinny skis for a while, so this past weekend I made my way across the Georgian Straight and bombed up Hwy 99 to Whistler. Although I was a bit unsteady, lacking finesse and sadly realizing that running fitness doesn't fully transfer over to gliding on snow, I was giddy to be back on winter trails. I love running, but the glide and burn of x-country skiing on freshly groomed corduroy tracks, surrounded by trees and peaks, is an almost hypnotic feeling to me and is something that I really miss. After suffering my way through a few hours on the trails, I ran into Munny Munro at the day lodge. Munny is a Whistler based, highly social, extrovert and endurance sports junkie, with a passion for mixing skis and guns. He offered to take me out for a burn on the skis, which equated to him kicking my ass for about 75 minutes. He then gave me a quick lesson in safety and biathlon shooting technique on the range. Apparently I don't have a latent talent for shooting little red disks at 50m range, dashing my last glimmer of hope for Sochi 2014 (I guess there's always curling). I needed the cheater block to steady my trembling hand and only managed to hit one target in about 11 shots from the standing position, but I had a blast, so thanks Munny!

If you are interested in giving biathlon a try, which I would highly recommend, then check out the Whistler biathlon experience, it's cheap and memorable, an ideal combo really. For the more competitive, check out the Salomon Biathlon grassroots race series . For only $20 you get to rip around the trails and fire some guns, while having fun racing your buddies in a spectacular, world class, setting. A great way to spend an afternoon!

Munny showing off the proper hip thrust and claw grasp of the gun

Me going rogue and dreaming of joining the mountain division of the Canadian military

I missed the target, but took a chunk out of the Olympic rings, sorry! I was distracted by the amazing backdrop

Squamish & Lil’wat territory

Same place, one year ago, you can feel the energy of the crowd and the intensity of the racing in these pictures

The legacy of a Games at work, what an opportunity for this young guy. He was clearly influenced by the Olympics and you can only imagine who he is racing in his mind. I watched him ski laps and practice on the range the whole time I was getting my lesson,very inspiring!