The Good, The Bad and The UglyApril 16th, 2010
- Listen to Clint…He may not be the best runner in the world, but he tells it like it is!
Sometimes it’s good to get your @ss kicked just to know how much you need to improve…
“Well this sucks” I said to myself as another runner ran past me somewhere around the 37km mark…There was nothing I could do – mentally and physically – I was drained. The gas tank was completely empty. I suppose there wasn’t much else to say at the time – but one thing was for sure…the Diez Vista 50 had just kicked my butt in gear!
There’s nothing like turning a race into a fun road trip, and that’s exactly what I did this past weekend, making the 9-hour drive from Canmore, AB to Port Moody, BC to run my first ever ultra race, the Diez Vista 50km. As with most of my early season events, I didn’t bother getting all worked up and chose to train through it, using it as stepping stones to the big bad Death Race later this summer. Besides, at the very least it would also be a great opportunity to test some of the new runners, compression clothes and pack I’d be using for the remainder of the season.
All I really knew of this event was what I could find on the net…50km of technical terrain, including 1,800m of climbing. Oh, and a 4h15min course record owned by North Vancouver ultra runner Gary Robbins. “Sounds like a fun race to break into the ultra world” I remember saying to myself…Yeah right.
As with most runners out there, we all go into an event with a certain expectations to perform at our best. The rookie in me caught sight of the course record, stood tall and beat on his chest: “Let’s go for a new record!” Sometimes you surprise yourself and exceed your goals… and sometimes you don’t. Although it’s often a tough pill to swallow, the good thing about this latter option is that we can usually take home a worthy learning experience from defeat and use this lesson to improve upon your next performance. See where I’m going with this?
But before digging deeper into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of my DV50 ‘lesson’, let’s go back 4 weeks to put everything in context…
After a fantastic week of trail running in France for Advanced Week, capped with one of the most technically challenging races I’ve ever entered (22km race up/down the slopes of Mont Ventoux) – I was flying! Looking back, I think I barely had my feet on Canadian soil and was already planning my season leading up to the Death Race. “What can I enter that will get me ready…? What’s this Diez Vista 50 all about? 3 weeks from now…50 kilometres…hmmm…Why not…”
Fast forward 3 weeks later during which time I completed a couple of good weeks of training including a few longer runs to get some ‘panic’ volume in, and there I was on the start line of DV50! Was I well prepared for the event? Not really. Did I jump the gun in entering a 50km race this early in the season? Most likely, yes. Would realizing any of this prior to the race ever change my mind? Probably not…
Needless to say that despite performing to my ‘perceived’ expectations for the better part of the race, I didn’t have the juice necessary to meet my ambitious goals, and paid the price for a poor preparation in the last 15km. Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to ramble along and analyse how I felt during every kilometre (like I did on my personal blog), but trust me when I tell you that the experience and knowledge gained was worth every bit of sweat lost on that trail.
Along with the realization that I should probably stop procrastinating and put a plan down on paper, I did gather some very good beta for my next challenge. Here are some random thoughts of enlightenment that came to me as I marched for 7kms along the powerline stretch:
- Training volume is a must. If you want to be a good distance runner, you need to run. It’s that simple. This winter I ran an average of 3 days/week, the most ever for me as I usually cross-country ski – all this did was get my legs ready to run volume, which including my week in France, netted me 3 good weeks (avg 100km/week) before DV50 – not nearly enough.
- Running 50km VS Racing 50km are different beasts altogether. Regular interval sessions are required if one expects to sustain a race pace over long distances. Try to mimic sections of your race, so a good mix of shorter/longer intervals, sustained threshold workouts, hills, etc…Variety is the key. In my case, I lacked all of the above – oops!
- Gear testing: I tested a lot of new gear in this race that I’ll be using during the Death Race. Most of it was good, but some of it wasn’t quite dialled – like the perma-drip that soaked my lower back/shorts for the first 15km because I forgot my bladder clip. Things to work on…
- Nutrition: Again, I learned a great deal about my requirements here. I’ve always used an electrolyte drink with low carbs, supplemented with gels/bars. The more gels I consumed, the harder it was to choke them down. I realized that I will need to change to a high carb drink in order to ingest more ‘liquid’ calories, and supplement with electrolyte tabs. I also need to switch up my gels because no matter how good they taste in the store, I know I’ll get sick of them after 6hrs of sucking them back.
- Pacing: Despite not making it past the 35km mark, I think I did a good job at holding back on the climbs, and descents which are my strengths, to focus more energy on the flats, which need more work. Looking back, Gary and I ran very fast for the time we were together (He eventually went on to break his record by 5min clocking in at 4h10min!) and I’m glad I didn’t take off on him early in the race, only to blow up at the 20km mark instead – now that would have been painful!
Bruised ego aside, my introduction to the ultra-running world may not have been picture perfect, but it certainly left me wanting more! Come to think of it, I suppose I don’t really have much of a choice seeing as I’ll have to (should) get another ultra in before D-Day. Regardless of the outcome, I’m just looking forward to another chance to get out there, reconnect with a great community of runners, run on some fantastic terrain and of course, test out my body once again!
Thanks for reading-