Tour Report

On Sunday I did the Tour de l’Alberta. This year it was slightly longer at 187km (although only advertised at 185km.) I was a bit nervous with the broken toe, but it never really became a problem; it was locked into a non-flexible shoe so it didn’t have any straining to do.
The locking-in shoe did cause me to fall over twice, which may have been a bigger injury problem.
The first time was while waiting at the start line. I decided to turn around and take a picture of some friends. If you’ve been standing still for awhile, it is apparently easy to forget that one of your feet is stapled to your bike. I got the picture and then gracefully tipped over.
The second time was just after lunch. I apparently forgot how to get on a bike. I think I fell onto my back wheel.
The falls each had their own effect on my bicycle.
For the first leg, my bike was making a gear sound as I cycled. It went away if I kept my gear shift engaged. At the aid station there was a mechanic, so I got him to take a quick look at the bike and he did some adjustments to the gears. Soon after, while shifting to the lowest gear, my chain fell off. Easy enough to fix by myself, but I suspect my “mechanic” went too far in a certain direction. Since that was the last significant hill, it didn’t become a problem again.
After my post-lunch fall, I noticed that I couldn’t get into my highest gear anymore. That’s unfortunate, but it also removed the pressure to always be in the highest gear. I could ride a bit easier. And the back-half is rather nice. Well, once you leave Legal. You go through some nice country roads. A lot of the rest of the ride is on big highways with large trucks going by. They have good shoulders, but it isn’t as relaxing.
That’s the nice thing about running ultras; you get to see scenery. You climb mountains and see spectacular views. With a bike, you are confined to roads and civilized areas. I suppose it is different if you are a mountain biker, but they seem to have a crazy mentality that doesn’t suit me.
Mind you, these cyclists also are weird. They want to travel in packs. At one point I discovered I was leading a parade of people. It prompted me to go faster than I should have. I wised up after the aid station. Good thing, because before Legal there was an ambulance taking some cyclists away; two cyclists had collided, and caused a pile up with the three cyclists behind them.
At the end of the whole ride, I raced the last ten kilometres. I wanted to beat eight hours and 45 minutes. Because, why not? I think I beat 8:40, but it is hard to tell because it took me a few seconds to turn off my timer.
Once again, they gave us a stupid water bottle as a finisher prize. The only thing stopping me from screaming obscenities at the volunteer was that I know I’m supposed to be polite to the volunteers. I was hoping for something more permanent that would let me remember the effort. Another water bottle on the pile will quickly be forgotten.

Running Update

When I was running leg five of the Sinister 7, I felt something poking into the front of my toe. I assumed it was a pebble, or possibly a toenail had fallen off and was now jabbing me. When It migrated to the bottom of my foot, I was sure it was a toenail. I took off my shoe, and socks and tried to find it and get it out. I don’t recall finding anything. But it was the middle of the night.
Today, after I had finally cleaned my shoes, I discovered a huge nail in my shoe. Iron, and spiky, and jabbing into the bottom of my foot. I’m surprised I didn’t see it before and was able to continue along.
It ruined the goretex socks I had been wearing.
Of course it happened on my left side. Everything bad happens on my left side.
I talked to my physician at River Valley Health. In theory, she is my chiropractor, but she does active release stretching for my joints. In actuality, I use her as my running coach. I go to her for advice about running, eating, and shoes, while she puts weird pains throughout my body. I suppose this is like a bartender; in theory he is there to serve drinks, but he also dispenses advice.
In any case, she thinks I should be able to do the Death Race. The small toe isn’t that critical. And runners heal quickly. I will need to eat healthier for awhile. And I need to get more vitamin D.
I’m not going to question advice that mimics what I want to hear.
Finally, I posted a comic on my Facebook from about running. Several friends now say they understand me. This comic has been a better communicator that I’ve been.

Stages of Stupidity

My broken toe has revealed a lot to me. Mostly through the stages of grief.
In the first stage, Denial, I was convinced that I could still do the Death Race, which is in three weeks from now.
Within the hour, I was in the second stage, Anger, and lashing out at people who had the audacity to think that, maybe, running 125km with a broken toe wasn’t a good idea.
Third stage, Bargaining followed as I planned to listen to doctors and they might give me approval. As long as they aren’t quacks. A quack being a doctor who doesn’t give approval.
Then Depression, the fourth stage, hit. And it revealed a lot to me. In my quest for a relationship, I have essentially Given Up. This has ruined my self-esteem. To compensate, I do things that to make me a not-pathetic person. If I can’t have a qualitatively good life, I can do it quantifiably. An ultramarathon is quantifiable; it is an awesome feat of determination. But when this injury hit, well, I can’t do the Death Race. I don’t have a fallback option. It brings the qualitative side into focus.
So, the solution was to find other insane things to do so I can ignore the ugly side. The doctor I saw said biking was okay. And I already planned to do the 185km Le Tour de l’Alberta. Why don’t I see if I can bicycle to Calgary in one day? That would be a similarly stupid thing to do.
I have a final doctor to see on Tuesday. I will give her the final say on what level of stupidity I can do.

My mother thinks I should still do the Death Race. What’s a small toe anyway?

Sinister 7

The Sinister 7 was last weekend. In 2012 I failed to finish, so this year it was very important to me to make it. The peer pressure from frenemy runners was enormous. A big factor last year was the heat. So I was thankful when the weather report said it would be cooler. I was not happy that there was a 70% chance of rain.
Oddly, it never rained a drop. Although the heat on leg 3 was still there. I think that leg will always be hot. It climbs a mountain that was struck with a forest fire a decade ago, so there is a lack of shade.
I forgot to set my interval timer at the start, so I didn’t do 10-and-1s. But I think that is something I want to experiment with on ultras. I don’t know if walking every ten minutes is a good idea. At the start of the race, when I have extra energy and it is still cool, I shouldn’t waste time walking. Later on, I will be walking plenty when I hit the many uphills. And later in the day, I need to focus on keeping moving, and should ignore excuses to slow down.
That logic helped.
The only problem was I needed to remind myself to eat. Usually the interval timer is good for that. I had to do it on my own honour system. I had a new nutrition plan that seemed to work well. I did not use Boost for liquid calories and instead had a combination of protein balls and gels. That kept me going much better than usual.
I was fast. I had researched some timings by taking a runner from last year and using his times as my goal. If I followed that, I would finish with a nice buffer of time before the cutoffs. But things went better than that, and I consistently beat my goal. Sometimes by quite a big margin. My mother and sister were doing support, and I usually used a radio to let them know when I was coming in. It made a good catch at the end of leg 3, but on leg 4, my radio didn’t work. (Too humid I think.) So I surprised my sister when I just showed up, out-of-the-blue, at the transition just as they were just pulling in.
After that, I didn’t improve my times; last year, by leg five, I was running late, so I had to push it. With less pressure this year, I couldn’t be much faster. It also didn’t help that at the end of leg 4 I ate a lot, quickly, and had a very sour pink lemonade 5-hour energy. I thought I was still hungry as I progressed, so I kept eating. But that wasn’t empty stomach; that was upset stomach. An hour and a half into the leg I threw up. First time for me on a run. But I felt much better after that and did my best to pick up the pace.
The trails were dryer than I expected. With all the flooding that had happened, it could have been much worse. But GoreTex socks are great for keeping feet dry, and that prevents a lot of blisters. But, it doesn’t help with deep water that can go over them. There was a place on leg 4 that has a deep creek that is planned to soak you; they conveniently place an aid station right after it so you can recover. New this year was the lake before it. Usually, you pass to the side of it. But the fence marking someones property slowly went into it, forcing you to follow. That gave me a nice preliminary soak before the creek. So my feet sloshed around for two kilometres until I got to the aid station and changed socks and dried the GoreTex.
The last two legs are each 13km, and they are deceptively hard, especially if you have been running all day. Leg six is “downhill”. Yes, it is, overall. But there are a dozen gullies that have streams running through them, so you have steep downhills and steep uphills all the way. It is hard to get a good pace going. Leg seven was new for me, having failed to reach it last year, and the first two kilometres of if (no exaggeration) is straight up. Followed by a plummet that is too steep to use for catching up.
I was surprised by the ending. I had been told about it, but I didn’t think it would be as bad as it actually was. You can see the finish line at one point. And then they decide you should go on a complete circuit of the entire town instead of heading there. With a big hill right at the end. Malicious.
But I made sure to give a performance at the finish line. I wasn’t racing anyone; no one was behind me. So I collapsed on my knees and cheered the sky so the race photographer would get a good shot. Then I put my chip in the reader and officially finished.
My finisher prize? A bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot with my name and time on it; a bracelet with “SINNER”–all my runner friends agree that it looks gay; and a small towel because I didn’t throw it in.

And then a day later I lightly stubbed my foot which caused a fracture in the piggy that goes wee-wee-wee all the way home.