I need to learn how to drink better.
It started out well. I felt looser, more open, and happier to be with people. However, the real me is apparently very puppy-like. I want to meet new people and tell them all about myself. It was nice, and most people were accepting. But I might have been Too-Much-Information guy.
I had a few drinks at the bar too, but, good lord!, the prices were obscene. There was a friend that I offered to buy a drink for, and she asked if she could have a double. I shouldn’t have let her get away with that. The drinks were way outside my budget.
By the end of the night though, the crash happened. The buzz wore off because I wasn’t maintaining it. And then the alcohol-is-a-depressant syndrome kicked in. That wasn’t pleasant for me.
Maybe there is a happy medium in alcohol consumption that I should strive for?
I am thankful that this hotel has a breakfast buffet until 11:00 in the morning. I needed to sleep in, although I could have slept better. In any case, it was a nice buffet, and I ate with some friends of mine from Colorado and Belgium.
Then I went back to bed.
In the afternoon, I did a foot patrol of Montreal. It’s a good weekend to explore Montreal; They’ve shut down St. Catherine’s street so it is pedestrian traffic only. But even if that wasn’t the case, this seems like a vibrant community. They have fountains in the sidewalks. Lots of churches. Interesting public art. A temporary basketball court is being constructed across from my hotel. Things just seemed to be happening. I now have a pocket full of Jolly Ranchers. I don’t even know if I like Jolly Ranchers, but now I have ten of them.
Then the question turns to, how do they pay for all of this? I think the answer is that they don’t. I don’t think this province is fiscally solvent. And on the drive in, I did see crumbling architecture. It seems better on this side of the city at least.
It has been warm and muggy most of the day. I enjoyed going into stores just for a bit of A/C. When it finally started raining, it was a pleasant warm one. I’m not used to that. Rain in Alberta is always cold. However, they are predicting a lot of rain this weekend. But the forecast does seem to change wildly throughout the day. Hope for the best.
I now need to get myself some dinner. I have gone to a grocery store and gotten some supplies, but they aren’t for eating. I can now make a screwdriver for myself. It was pointed out last night that I tend to overthink things. This should be able to do something about that. And the cans of Coke will help me stay awake.
Except, either I was given the wrong room, or they haven’t gotten back to it yet. In either case, I am apparently going to bed now.
The group went out to a burlesque show. The performer who used the hula hoops was very talented. And there was the best belly dancer I’ve ever seen. The others were varying states of “meh”. The sound was terrible, so the announcer may as well have been reciting his doctoral thesis.
I spent most of the time socializing. I met up with a few people from Edmonton. But there were lots of people from around the world that I hadn’t seen for awhile. There was one from Belgium that I hadn’t seen in years.
A friend is having a party in their room now, so I think I will go join them. I am a bit socialized out. This introvert needs to recharge. Which explains why I am updating my blog.
In this hotel, there appears to be a reality television show being made. There are scores of people milling around in red shirts saying “The Voice” except, you know, in French. It’s made an interesting atmosphere. I believe it is the auditions being done now, so they are looking for the very good and the very bad. I am in the latter category, so I try and avoid eye-contact with the red shirters. I don’t want to be made fun of on a television show I don’t watch.
And if you hang around the lobby, you can hear random people burst into song.
Usually I try and post in the Edmonton airport, before I leave on vacation. But I cut everything a little close and didn’t have the time. It was actually nice not to have to sit around waiting. It came at the expense of more stress from worrying.
But now I am in Montreal. Hopefully for a wild weekend with friends and possibly new friends.
And what am I doing? I’m updating my blog so that people can know that I am out having fun, instead of actually going out and having fun. The opposite of living in the moment.
Something is wrong here.
It was a lovely day today. I went tubing!
Some friends and I went out to the small town of Entwistle where you could rent an inner tube and they would shuttle you to and from the river. These were quality tubes, with a nice shelf at the bottom so that you weren’t going to fall through. And it was a beautiful day for it. It was nice and sunny. We got onto the river at around 11:30 and floated for about three and a half hours.
The river was low, so there were frequent times where we got stuck on rocks. In other places I could actually flop off my tube and swim a bit.
At one of these places, there was a straight tree branch sticking very far into the river. It blocked the way, so we needed to maneuver around it. On the very tip of it, there was the most vibrantly green grasshopper I had ever seen. It would have made a great picture if I had been stupid enough to bring a camera. The grasshopper jumper on to one of our tubes as we went past. Then, a few minutes later, while swimming, I came across it struggling in the water. I picked it up and put it on my tube while I kept swimming. It seemed happy enough. But then after awhile I watched it jump off into the water again. I rescued it and waded to shore with it. I’m probably doing evolution a disservice.
My biggest problem was that I was too manic. I needed to calm down and just enjoy the slow river. The water wasn’t even cold. But I seem to be competitive when there is no need to be, or even anyone to compete against. Thankfully, I had one friend who would tell me to calm down; even if I didn’t always listen, I appreciate anyone who gives me sound advice.
I haven’t been to the Fringe much. It used to be my favourite festival of the entire year. But I missed a few years due to being out of town, then unemployed, and then I just got out of the habit.
I have lists of plays I would like to go see. But I just can’t motivate myself to get out. I could use the excuse that I’m busy. What I seem to be busy with is that I’m trying to get my ankle feeling better before my race in September. And I have a barbecue party on Saturday. But I think I know the real reason.
I don’t have the energy to deal with the lines.
The plays I want to see are all by well known local playwrights. Any Edmontonian who enjoys plays will know about them. So they will be crowded. If I could just roll out of my place and go see a play, I probably would.
And I would like to go see a good Stewart Lemoine or David Belke.
Lately I’ve been sleeping poorly. I think it has started affecting work; I feel lethargic and unmotivated. Or maybe work was affecting me; I keep waking up really early and am unable to get back to sleep.
Last night something changed. I had gotten very little sleep over the weekend, staying up too late and being unable to sleep in. I have always had the chronic problem that once I wake up after eight in the morning, I am unable to get back to sleep. So, I expected that I wouldn’t be getting enough sleep. But I slept great!
I started exercising again!
I haven’t had a good run in months. What with the broken toe and twisted ankle, I’ve only been able to get three runs in in the last six weeks, and two of those were ultras. I’ve been doing physical therapy exercises and been icing my entire foot. (My foot is in a bucket of ice water as I type this.) I was hoping the ankle was getting better.
On Saturday I attempted to go for a run, and wasn’t even able to go for a solid minute. I was hobbling more than running and it didn’t seem to be getting better. So I stopped.
But I am concerned I’m going to get fat or muscles will evaporate, so I should try and expend some energy. So I figured I would cross-train on Sunday. But with the whacked sleep schedule, I could only fit in an hour of stationary cycling at nine o’clock in the evening. And I was asleep all night, and felt refreshed in the morning.
It isn’t running, but it looks like I will have to start doing a lot more cycling in my gym. I just finished another hour. I would do it outside on my bicycle, but I don’t know of any good cycling routes that don’t involve scary traffic or lots of stop-n-go traveling.
I’m out of practice with my Blog. All the entries I’ve done for the past couple of months have been about insane races I’ve done. Even if I try and spread it out, it probably doesn’t interest most people. And it is just the reporting of facts. I need to get back to my thoughts.
I’ve been feeling old lately. I suppose it is inevitable with my 40th birthday coming up in November, but really, I’ve forgotten that is happening. I’m more noticing the physical effects.
Oddly, the big physical effects are the ones I least associate with oldness. Broken toe, twisted ankle, poor knee. Those are all results of ultramarathons, so I can ignore them.
There was a video I saw yesterday about How Old Are Your Ears?. My ears are right on target for hearing loss.
But, more of a bigger threat, I think I’ve noticed that I don’t seem to enjoy learning as much. I enjoy figuring things out, but a lot of what I’m doing at work is trying to learn how to program a new operating system. It is not an operating system I personally use, but I have to learn it and make software for it. I haven’t been enjoying it.
So, hopefully once I learn this new operating system, I’ll be happy. But until then, I don’t feel especially challenged. Or that might be the problem; I’m not challenged. I’m just learning, not solving.
Hopefully recognizing the problem will put me on the path to solving it.
The final leg was all that I had left. 23km and I would be done. I had five and a half hours to do it, and I think that was what it took me to do last time. Still, I took 20 minutes in transition. I’m sure Rod passed me in that time, but I needed to regain myself. I had some delicious soup my mother made. But we also noticed a light on in my backpack. My backup light had somehow gotten itself turned on. We tried to turn it off, but it wouldn’t. I think some water may have gotten at it and the short circuit wouldn’t allow it to go dark. Oh, well, I probably won’t need it.
I hate the first 7km of Leg 5. It starts with a very steep climb. It didn’t help that 20 meters in my mother called out that I had forgotten my belt of Gatorade. I didn’t have the energy to go back down, so this leg would be electrolyte free. After the steep climb, there is a brief moment of okay trail. This is followed by a narrow six kilometre trail, with many tripping roots and stones, covered by foliage that makes it impossible to see where you will trip.
But oddly, it was easier this time. For the first time, I had put my headlamp at maximum power. I was able to see better, and that made all the difference.
Until my batteries ran out.
And when I took out my auxiliary light, it started dimming too. Fortunately, it is required to bring extra batteries. So in the middle of the dark trail, with a dimming light, I changed them. Unsuccessfully the first time, which induced a small heart attack. I had put one of the batteries in backwards. When I fixed it, I was good again. I could keep it on maximum light.
For this part, I usually don’t run, but now that I could see, I was able to. I even passed people! That had never happened before. But I still hadn’t caught up to Rod.
After the river crossing with only 15km to go, I climbed up the monster hill on the other side. I found some flat parts and I ran them. I was feeling fairly good, and I passed a lot of people. At this point, it was fairly safe to walk because you had enough time to finish. But I had a goal to finish with Mike’s time. But when I suddenly hit the sign that said there was only 5km to go, another problem showed up. I was way faster than I expected, and faster than my support team expected. If this kept up, I would cross the finish line long before they got there. I started using my walkie-talkie to report progress, but there was never any answer.
I passed a sign that said “The beef is near”. I long ago stopped trusting that kind of sign. There is never any good food at the end of the run. Only once was there actually a hamburger, but now I’m convinced I hallucinated them.
Then I was out of the woods and on to the road. An uphill road, so I walked a lot of it, reporting my progress to the empty radio waves. Then I started to pass a house. The end was really close. And then my mother started to answer the radio. She had to run to the course.
I was close, no one was ahead for quite some distance. No one was behind for quite some distance. There was a slight uphill. I walked. And then I caught up with my mother, and we walked together. The last 100 meters I ran, but I made sure to do it slowly and to regain my energy. I wanted to cross looking good. And not with the hidden pain that you can usually see in my eyes.
I didn’t find the exact time until later. The time shows was about 22:15, but they lopped off eight minutes due to the time to cross the river. Mike showed up in civilian clothes soon after and I heard his story. I later found out that I had left the last transition before Rod had even showed up.
I beat all of my friends.
And this should be my last time doing it. I’ve done the Death Race five times. That is enough. I have nothing more to prove with it. There are other ultras to run; better ultras.
I started leg four with my fast female friend. With the stair training I’m doing, I felt pretty good going up Mount Hamel. In previous years, I would have had to take breaks. But this year, I kept going without stopping, and even had the energy to run in the few areas where it was flat. I left my friend behind soon after the uphill started and I don’t think I ever saw her again until I was on top of the mountain looking way down.
I passed the next checkpoint on the way up. It had a cutoff time of 10:15, and I passed it at 9:15. The end of Leg 3 cutoff doesn’t make sense if I’m going past the next checkpoint with an hour to spare.
Over the mountain and down the other side. Of course, this would be where I twisted my ankle the first time. I don’t think it was too bad, or I was past the point of caring. I yelled, swore in Danish, and I kept going.
I caught of with Rod at the Ambler loop aid station. Nutrition was still negligible there, but I was sick of my protein balls at this point, so I had a couple of cookies. I headed off to do the 5km loop, convinced that Rod was right behind me. If he caught me, he would tell me to go faster, and I didn’t want to give him the opportunity.
Beaver Dam road was next, 7km on a gentle slope down. I ran it, passing a lot of people walking. They were also several dumb people on it; when I announced I was passing, they would look behind themselves with their headlamps right in my eyes. I was instantly blinded. I’m surprised I didn’t run into anyone. I think I twisted my ankle again on the 3km to the end of the leg.
Leg three is supposedly easy. But if you are a soloist, it is one of the tougher legs. Because you are running through the valley of the Smoky River, it focuses all the afternoon heat. And you are tired.
But this year it was much cooler. It didn’t rain for the rest of the race, so my lack of jacket wasn’t a problem.
I did need to go to the bathroom the entire time, but I didn’t want to risk missing the cutoff.
There is one part that I call the whirlpool. It isn’t actually a whirlpool, but the river does a bend there that is slowly cutting away the ground. This year, they stopped having us dance along the edge, and instead we had to climb up a steep slope to get away from it. It was pretty brutal to do at this stage.
I caught up with a friend, Rod, who was good at keeping me going. He kept telling me to keep running when I wanted to stop. He is a master of ultramarathons, so it is hard to argue. I made the cutoff with fifteen minutes to spare.
My fast female friend caught up with us part way, but then she fell behind later. She did make the cutoff with five minutes to spare.
I then spent twenty minutes trying to regain my humanity. My friend Mike, arrived at the transition at 7:00:30. Which was past the point of cutoff, if you forgot that the race started late. They were very petty and didn’t allow him to continue. If they had, I have no doubt in my mind he would have finished the whole thing. I didn’t see it, but a lot of people sided with Mike.
I got to the top of Mount Flood in a good time and took my picture next to the cairn. I am pretty fast at marching up mountains these days. I’ve got a training regimen for it. Going down mountains, not so much. And then there was the muddy slugfest between Mount Flood and Mount Grande. Thankfully, my Goretex socks protected my feet from the worst. Near the base of the next mountain, I ran out of liquids. I guess I should have filled up when I had the chance. The ominous thunder and lightning was promising that I wouldn’t have to worry about the lack of water for long, but I was also only fifteen minutes away from the aid station. Hopefully they wouldn’t have run out of water yet. But there is always a chance they will, because it is hard to get more in a remote area.
Well, they did have water and I filled up, just as the rain started. And this was a rain that decided to make it personal. I had a brief moment of thinking about not putting on a jacket, because the rain was nice and cool. And putting on a jacket is not something that you want to do when you are tired, even if you are in a sheltered aid station. Thankfully I did put it on. I wish I had also put on the toque. The hail that started coming down was not pleasant. It was mostly pea sized, but every so often there was marble sized ones. And when you are only wearing a cap, your ears hurt when they are hit.
By the time I summited Mount Grande I was miserable. Rain, hail, lightning, and me carrying two metal poles. I was really hoping that someone with more sense than me would cancel the entire race; I certainly couldn’t give up, so that was the only way to get out of this. And there was no way I was stopping to take out my camera to get a picture of the next cairn. Heck, the course photographer was hiding in a truck. And I don’t think the background view was that impressive anymore. Usually, from this point, it should only take an hour to get to the end. There was no way that would happen this time.
I started the descent down the powerline cut. It was steep, muddy, and slick. I fell down a couple of times. Thankfully I wasn’t seriously hurt, although my knee still feels bruised a week later. The actual powerline itself flashed every so often; I think it was getting hit by lightning. Happy thoughts! Someone gave the good hint to try and step where the water was flowing, because that was where the mud would be washed away. It helped a bit. But the whole idea of coming down the mountain felt monumentally stupid and dangerous.
But, by the time I got to the bottom, it started to clear up. When I was in town, getting close to the end of the leg it stopped raining entirely, and blues sky was showing. But I was a mess when I got to the transition. The Goretex socks I so loved had gotten filled with water and now produced a very fine foot soup. I had a bit more than three hours to get to the next transition before I would be cutoff. And the last time I did leg three, it took me three hours. Since it looked like it would be clear for awhile, I gave my mother my jacket so that it could hopefully get dried off. I ate and drank and took some Tylenol and then off I went.
I did the Death Race last weekend. Let’s just get it over with and admit I finished in a time of 22:07:48. Not my best time, but not my worst. I am comfortable with it. My goal time was 23 hours. My friend Mike had told me his goal was 22 hours, and part of me became jealous of that idea.
Last year, I failed to finish the Sinister 7. It taught me something very important; ultramarathons are not easy. I had been taking them for granted. Now, I go in and work to keep moving. I do my best to minimize the time in transitions. I’ve figured out what to eat (protein balls and hammer gel, with occasional soup) and what to drink (water and gatorade).
I’ve also figured out that the Death Race is very poorly organized. Chiefly, that I cannot trust the aid stations. I have no idea what will be in them, hopefully water and Gatorade. But beyond that, they usually just have sugar. Which might be good for a team runner, but not for a soloist! The Sinister 7 gave me a sheet detailing what each aid station would be serving. It was great! But the Death Race seems to pander more to the teams instead of the soloist. They only use us for advertising.
I attended the mandatory pre-race meeting, but I got bored and left halfway through. I had seen it all four times before, and even the announcer looked bored. I think this was his thirteenth time doing it.
There was a program called Passport to the Peaks. Basically, you get a passport and then on the top of mountains there are cairns with stamps. You can stamp your passport to prove you’ve been there. Once you’ve done all six of them, you can upgrade to the next passport. Three of the mountains are covered by the Death Race. I checked on getting one, but the tourist centre was out. They did say that if I took pictures of myself next to the cairns, they could pre-stamp my passport when they did get them in. Sounds simple enough.
On the morning of the race, the weather was nicely overcast. The announcements were made with all the local politicians trying to get in on the act. So we started late. They reset the start timer to compensate, but we officially began running at about 8:04 in the morning.
I started out well. My toe wasn’t bothering me. I did feel a little off though. I don’t think I was completely recovered from the Sinister 7 four weeks before. Or the Tour de l’Alberta two weeks before. Still, I made it to the end by my expected time. And I kept up with my fast female friend.
The end of Leg 1 was a nightmare of people. I had a hard time finding my support person, AKA my mother. I didn’t bother to fill up my water backpack as it looked too busy to even contemplate that, and I hadn’t drunk much. I then went to march up the first mountain on Leg 2.
I am in Grande Cache now. Nervous, of course.
I tested out my toe by wearing my running shoes all day. I could feel something was there, but there wasn’t any pain. Hopefully I’ll be good. It does hurt if I poke at it, so I’ll try not to do that.
There was a pre-race meeting. Mandatory. I practically fell asleep halfway through. It was the same as the last four times. Even the presenter sounded bored. The only difference is that he has colored the water in his jugs this year. I left early.
The hotel room I have is great. It’s bigger than my first apartment. The full kitchen meant I could make my own spaghetti dinner, instead of taking the complimentary pasta dinner they serve to all runners. Pasta is always the traditional meal before a race. And runners are apparently superstitious. You can always tell the newbs at a race; they’re the ones wearing their race shirt before they’ve finished the race.
I’m not sure what my goal is this year. The first year it was just to finish. The next year it was to beat my friends. (I could have beaten them the first year as we were all walking the last leg together, but I wanted to try and be uncompetitive, so I let them cross the finish line first.) This year I want to finish without damaging my toe. But I would also like to have a fast time. Really, if I run fast, then that is less time I have to use my injured toe. That makes sense, right? I have planned out a 23 hour race, but my friend, Mike, wants to try for a 22 hour race. I hate having him beat me, as I’m far too competitive. But I’ve also learned a lot since the last time I did this race. I now have better nutrition plans, and I think I’ve got a better pace strategy. And he hasn’t finished the last two ultras he’s done. But he doesn’t have a broken toe.
I have another friend, who is a girl, who wants to run with me. She is fast, but at Blackfoot we paced each other the entire way. It helped us to push each other to go faster for longer. So this could be a good way to be a faster Death Racer. Assuming my toe holds up.
If I feel a sharp pain, I should stop. That would be the sensical thing to do.
Unfortunately, past performance does not indicate a lot of intelligence here.