Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fat Dog Race Course Profile - Updated for 2017

I just wanted to post an updated version of the Fat Dog race profile that I had made a few years ago (posted here with the GPX course files). The new version has crew access points added and some changes to various aid stations. Notably, Heather Aid Station is now 2km from the Bonnevier/Heather Junction on Bonnevier Trail. This is 2km closer than the original location at the junction, and several km closer than the location in recent years at Buckhorn Camp.

FatDog120 profile with aid stations (major/minor) and crew/pacer access points. T40/T48 times based on Ultrasplits pace chart. C times represent hard cutoff times from the Fat Dog Race Guide

FatDog120 profile with aid stations (major/minor) and crew/pacer access points, without all the pace or cutoff times.
 **Updated Aug 7, 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The curse of pointy heels: Modifying shoes for Haglund's deformity

First off, Haglund's deformity is an extra bony growth on the heel, typically a little lateral to the Achilles tendon. It is not to be confused with a heel spur which is under the foot. A technical definition of Haglund's deformity would be an abnormal prominence of the posterosuperior border of the calcaneous.

If you have this heel bump you may not have known the name, but you would have certainly felt it! It would have rubbed on your shoes and gotten inflamed, or maybe you repeatedly wear through the back of your shoes on the inside. Luckily, there is surgery available to correct this if it's really bothersome. The inflammation, a bursitis of the back of the heel, is called Haglund's syndrome. It's thought that the inflammation actually leads to the bony growth, not the other way around. Nonetheless, the rubbing and pain is worst in shoes with rigid heels.
Haglund's deformity *not my foot*

Since I figured out I was a little abnormal in 2013 (I can't believe it took that long either...) I've been modifying my shoes so that I don't wear out my heels or the backs of my shoes. I have two methods for this. The first method is to simply cut a hole in the back of my shoe where the growth on my heel is. This works, but it isn't pretty and wouldn't work well for trails. I've only done this modification once, on a pair of road shoes where the inside fabric was already wearing through (see below). Be careful with cutting through the hard plastic - I found cutting pliers can be useful, along with an x-acto knife/scalpel.

Method 1 - cut a hole and leave it open.
Sew around the edge if you want.
The second method has proven quite reliable and comfortable, though it involves a little more work. I cut in through the back of the shoe, snip out some of the hard plastic making sure to keep the inner fabric intact, then sew up the incision site. Step by step instructions follow below where I cut into a new pair of Altra Lone Peak 3.0's.

Keep in mind this may decrease the stability of the shoe. Also it will void your ability to return the shoes, which is a bit of a problem since this modification is best done when you first get the shoes and the inside fabric hasn't been worn at all.

Step 1 - draw on your cut.
Step 1 is to figure out where you're going to cut. For me this is a little lateral to midline, and about the middle third of the height of the shoe (2cm). At the top and bottom of this we need to cut left and right about 1 cm, making an "I". Ideally, the top incision should be just at the top of the hard plastic inside - you can feel this by bending the top of the heel of the shoe.

Step 2 is to cut! Cut in so that you get to the plastic, but don't go through it into the inner fabric.

Step 2 complete, ready for Step 3. White is plastic with
glued on layer of fabric.
Step 3 is to remove the plastic. Take care to separate the inner fabric from the plastic if it's glued on, that way you don't damage it. Use your knife or your snipping pliers to remove a "U" shaped piece of plastic approximately where your heel deformity is. Make sure the piece you're taking out is as large or larger than your bump.

Step 4 is to double check that enough plastic has been removed and in the right spot. So, put on your shoe and lace it up. Feel the back of the shoe for your heel bump relative to the area without plastic. If they don't line up or there is still some plastic rubbing your heel, take that out too.

All done. Not pretty, but it works!
Step 5 is to close it up and sew the flaps together. To ensure the flaps don't rip open I use upholstery thread (Tex 75) as it's super strong, though I'm sure normal thread would work too. As I'm sewing, I only go through the outer layers to keep the inner layer intact; this seems to do the trick. A pair of pliers can be handy if the shoe material takes a lot of effort to punch through with your needle/thread combo, just make sure to use non-cutting pliers! Also, to save time, only sew the vertical cut as the horizontal ones don't seem to matter much.

Now get out there and run!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gluten-Free Banana-Nut Date Loaf

This loaf recipe is the result of an experiment to see if we could make a super running snack using mostly nuts, chocolate and fruit, no flour needed. So yes it's gluten free, but that wasn't really the intention. As expected it's a little denser than a traditional loaf, but oh so tasty! Full recipe is at the bottom.

We started by blending dates, cashews, chocolate

Mashed our banana

Added all the wet ingredients to the blended ones.

Mixed in the baking power

Baked, cooled and cut!

PDF printable instructions for this Gluten-Free Banana-Nut Date Loaf can be found here

  • 1 cup, or 16 pitted dates
  • 1 cup unsalted cashews
  • 4 oz unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  • 2 extra large eggs
  •  2 large bananas
  • ¼ cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp baking powder

  • Use a food processor or blender to process dates, cashews and chocolate into a fine, sand-like consistency
  • Transfer to a bowl (optional; you could do everything in the blender) and add in eggs, beaten banana and peanut butter
  •  Mix in baking powder
  •  Transfer to a greased baking tin
  •  Bake at 350 deg C for approximately 30 mins
  • Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before removing from pan. Cool further before slicing.
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
Per 1/8 of the loaf.
Calories 315
                               % Daily Value *
Total Fat 20 g 30 %
   Saturated Fat 6 g 28 %
   Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
   Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
   Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 53 mg 18 %
Sodium 145 mg 6 %
Potassium 126 mg 4 %
Total Carbohydrate 33 g 11 %
   Dietary Fiber 5 g 18 %
   Sugars 18 g
Protein 9 g 18 %
Vitamin A 3 %
Vitamin C 4 %
Calcium 10 %
Iron 23 %

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Runners Tale - When Life Gets in the Way and Doesn't Even Give You Lemons

The last few years have been a rollercoaster of classic 'life got in the way' moments, which I'm sure you've gathered from the fact that our posts ceased to exist after February 2015. This year I've got 100 mile dreams, and I want to be able to share the experience with you! But before I go big, I need to step back and walk you through a thing or two:
1) My introduction to trail running and my glorious 'rise' to a solid middle of the pack runner.
2) The reason(s) why we disappeared in 2015, complete with legitimate excuses for not running a 100 miler sooner.
3) Highlights of some of our recent adventures.
Bonus Track: The injury that has plagued me for years, that I liked to pretend didn't exist.

In 2011, I ran my first ever trail race. It was only 12k. What did I learn? You can fit a surprising number of evil hills in such a short distance! I remember flying down each hill feeling super human, and walking up every hill sadly out of breath wondering "Why on earth am I doing this". I would proceed to cross the finish line, forget the pain, and eagerly sign up for the next race vowing to train more.

For the next few years the pattern was very similar.
1) Sign up for race, planning to train ridiculous amounts
[Optional: 2a) Start out strong, train really hard for two weeks, get injured. Stop running.]
2) Realize the race is in a couple weeks and you really haven't trained. Start taper.
3) Run race, feel pain, vow never to do it again
4) Cross the finish line, feeling elated! That was AWESOME! Forget pain.
5) Eagerly sign up for longer race, vowing to train more...
6) Repeat steps 1-5
That, ladies and gentleman, is how to be a solid middle of the pack runner.

The calm before the pain! MOMAR 2016
By August of 2014, I middle of the packed myself all the way through the Fatdog 70 miler. After completing it, in true middle of the packer fashion, I signed up for the Sinister 7 100 miler in July 2015. In March of 2015 my job took me up north to Yellowknife and beyond, where I worked 12 hour days on a 2 and 2 rotation. It took a bit of getting used to, and my days were typically eat, sleep, work, repeat [insert wicked techno beat here]. My two weeks off went by so fast I rarely got any good training in. By June I knew there was no way a hundred miler was an option. With high hopes of more time to train, I deferred my entry to 2016.
The Bucket of Blood post MOMAR

2016 didn't exactly go as planned either (for me, or a number of celebrities). We decided to try our hand at adventure racing, and got all geared up to mountain bike. Which by the way is TERRIFYING. I mean, I love adventure. However, learning to mountain bike at 26 years old on the North Shore mountains isn't exactly the easiest task in the world. Then I went up north for work again, which means training (as per usual) was nearly non-existant. By the time we got to the race, I had been on the mountains maybe three times (One of which we had a chance encounter with a cute little bear). Three times DOES NOT prepare you for trails named "Bucket of Blood". It does, however, prepare you to become a bucket of blood. Luckily we went with a team of four with various strengths and weaknesses. This meant I could successfully run the downhills with my bike without getting behind... which for the record I DO NOT recommend. I had bruises on my legs for DAYS. Not to mention the bushwacking (orienteering) through thorns to finish the race that added some nice fresh blood to the disaster in the making.

Not all things were bad, I married the amazing man that got me into this crazy trail running madness (On the same weekend as Sinister, so deferred that again to 2017). We went on a glorious honeymoon to Iceland, and would 100% move there if the weather in July stayed all year round...

The real fun, however, came near the end of 2016. I signed up for the BMO half-marathon so that I could run with my brother (Okay, fine I signed up for the full marathon and dropped to the half because I failed to train, yet again). We then took on the Cultus Lake 30k, which I've signed up for for the past two years but conveniently been away for work so never actually had to run it. This race is great. I forgot about all of the crazy hills, and as always was ill-prepared. Halfway through I got a bug in my eye that the lovely aid-station people managed to get out! Thank you! Then my calves cramped like never before and I could barely jump over puddles, or logs, or anything. I contemplated rolling down the hill to the finish. I crossed the finish line second in my category, but there was only a handful of people in my category to start! The Phantom 24k in November went as well as can be expected on very little training. I nearly didn't run the race, and wasn't sure I could even going up to the start line. I figured worse case scenario I drop at half, which is conveniently the start/finish.

This next part of my story is hard for me to write about, which is why I haven't. Here's the part where if you don't want to get to know me too well, you should pick up a novel, or turn on the tv, or go for a run (I love running)! But for someone, somewhere this may be relevant.

So, taking a step back in time to the winter of 2014... I went into emergency at VGH because 'things' were bleeding and I was in a whole lot of pain (excruciating, can't sleep, or move, WHAT HAVE I DONEE?! kind of pain). I know "things" doesn't really help much, and I bet you're sitting there wondering how many places I could have been bleeding from that would take me to emergency. I'll leave you in suspense until we get to the diagnosis in 2016. After all, if I had to wait nearly 2 years, you can wait a few minutes. For now, lets just say this pain led to a team of gynaecologists staring at me, sending Chris out of the room, and repeatedly asking if I was sexually abused.
Dr: Have you been sexually abused?
Me: No, I just run really far and play a lot of sports.
Dr: Are you sure you haven't been abused, this is very typical of sexual abuse victims.
Me: No, I just run really far. Like farther than marathons far. Often.
I basically spent my entire day explaining this to multiple Doctors. At the end of the day I was told to rest and bathe in Epsom salts and to take it easy. I left frustrated that there was no solution or diagnosis, especially considering I had been feeling pain/discomfort off and on before this. The follow up appointment was made slightly more bearable as the Doctor was genuinely excited to meet someone so stupidly active.
Luckily I survived through the rest of 2014 and 2015 running like a wild person without too many hiccups! The only race I had to cut short was my first ever attempt at the Vancouver 100 where I felt great at the 50k mark, but certain 'things' weren't so pleased with the distance.

In the spring of 2016 I was still feeling pain on and off, and by this point the pain had been affecting my running and biking and life more and more. I decided to see what a different doctor at a walk-in clinic thought. She recognized it right away and recommended me to a urologist (yay?) who only had a six month wait (double yay?). When I finally saw the urologist he said I had a urethral carunkle... WTF is a urethral carunkle? (Do NOT google this. You do not want to know.) It's basically a common ailment in older people where your urethral lining is hanging outside where it really shouldn't be. Just so happens that in 2014 it was so inflamed/bruised/bloody that nobody knew what they were looking at (triple yay!). Turns out every time I ran or biked really far in the previous 3 years it would get inflamed and hurt or bleed. So now it's 2016 and we finally know what it is. Phew. Now to fix it. Step one was a rather awkward and uncomfortable cream that did nothing. Step 2 was surgery... AHHH!

Three weeks ago, on December 14, I had surgery to get it removed! I don't wish this on anyone. For the first week after the surgery I couldn't do much other than sit on the couch (in pain). By the second week I could walk, but I am still far from running. My hope is to be able to start training again at the end of January. The best part of the surgery was when they injected the general anesthetic. You can feel burning/tingling/crawling up your arm, and then you breathe it out like fire and fall into a deep sleep. I'm not sure what my super power is yet, but when I figure it out I'll be sure to let you know!

So 2017 brings with it the hope of finally running pain free! A chance to train (or not train) and run some fantastic races that I've put off for a couple of years!

It's time for running to get in the way of life, forget the lemons.

Happy Trails!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud - My recent lack of motivation and surprising success at the Orca's Island 50k

Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud!

Before we dive into the glorious mudbowl that was the 2015 edition of the Orcas Island 50km, let's step back a few months so that we can apologize for our lack of riveting blogging material.

Cascade Falls along the race course
I'll attribute my lack of writing to a few roadblocks I hit in the final months of 2014:
September - My failure to complete REDFAM left me rather disappointed (Probably not the best way to recover from a big race, but I'll keep dreaming!). 
October - I had to work the weekend of the Cultus Lake Giv'r take 30, which left me further unmotivated. 
November - I chose to go for the short 12k Phantom race to work on my speed a little (I've previously done the 19k and 24k). My ankle was giving me a bit of trouble so I wore my ankle brace, unfortunately this resulted in my right leg going numb for the latter half of the race (Is it worth stopping to take off your ankle brace in such a short race, or do you just suck it up?). I still set a PB for the course - so it's not all bad!

Hardly events to brag about - and nothing I was motivated to write about at the time.

In December we had begun training for the Orca's Island 50, and we'd rang in the new year with a solid 15 mile long run distance.
If I thought the end of 2014 was frustrating, the start of 2015 brought in a whole new bag of surprises.
I started off the year feeling a little tired/dizzy. I had myself convinced I was iron deficient right up until the doctor told me I had a low platelet count. This led to a few more blood tests, and a whole lot of worrying. Needless to say, with the start of January came very little running.
After a few more visits to the doctor I was assured that everything was fine and I could run along as usual (it was probably just a nasty virus).  This left me a whole two weeks to train for the race! Who needs to taper? We'll just train through it and hope we survive!

View from Mt. Constitution - the highest point in the race
Had to go back the next day for this view!
With at least one 18 miler under my belt in the last few weeks, we headed over to the island the night before the race. Had we been a little more prepared, we may have managed to get on a ferry that got us to the island before 11 PM. Lucky for us when we got to the island all the campsites were full too! Thankfully we had set up a nice little bunker in the back of the new outback to snooze in on the ferry and we were able to park right next to the race start to get in a good six hour sleep (Who can actually sleep the night before a race, anyways?). Not me! The pouring rain all night was not a sleep aid. 
We woke up to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof, and with little time invested in training for the race there was VERY little motivation to get out of bed that morning.
Somehow I managed to pull myself together, pull on a rain jacket, and start the race. 
I did not regret this decision.... yet.
The first hour of the race I was a small child stomping through mud puddles without a care in the world. And then the first uphill came. The uphills were relentless, and the downhills were so mud-logged none of us knew whether we were running or skiing.
A few hours into the race I had a pretty good idea this was going to be a full day affair. And then the uphill came. The real uphill. By this I mean straight uphill practically crawling through the mud, and just when you think its over you turn the corner, look up into the sky, and see people. WAY. UP. THERE.

I don't know how I kept going. But I do know a good part of my motivation was knowing that if I finish I can say I've done it and I will NEVER have to do it again. Never again until next time, right?!
Zoomed shot of Mt. Baker!
I don't remember what I ate, though I'm confident it wasn't near enough. However, I do very clearly remember the second aid station, where it was announced someone had gone to the hospital as they had fallen and been spiked with a branch. 
I managed to only fall once the whole race - but I did have several Matrix like near-fall events.
I would like to thank the nice runner who lit a fire under my butt at 12:25 when he says "I think the aid station cutoff is 12:30." I ran the next few miles a lot faster than I needed to, at least until I realized that was the cutoff for the previous aid station.
After nearly 8 hours of sliding around in the glorious mud, I crossed the finish line!
I still can't believe I did it!! Not too bad considering our longest training run was about 3 hours!

At the end of it all, I have to say I would go back, despite telling Chris I'd never do another one of these when I crossed the finish line (what's the definition of insanity again?). I would hope for a little less mud next time, but what's the fun in that?!

I left Orcas island motivated as ever - and ready to plan our next running adventure!

Let's go lets go lets go!!!

Friday, September 26, 2014


On September 1st I took on a challenge I thought would be extremely rewarding. Two weeks after my 70 mile Fat Dog adventure I decided to take on REDFAM - Run Every Day For A Month.
I was excited to get back running after two weeks off - and what better way to get back to running than doing it everyday?
It's safe to say that after twenty-five straight days of running - only 5 days away from making the full month - I'm giving up.
Though I'm not sure giving up is the right way to put it.
Running everyday is HARD!
It wasn't long until my legs were sore. Every. Day.
It's hard to be motivated to run the next day when your legs are still sore from the day before. And the day before that. And the day before that.
Long runs became nearly impossible - and I began to settle for shorter and shorter runs.
Lesson learned: you don't need to run every day to be well trained. I certainly don't!
So tomorrow I will be proud and somewhat relieved to take a much needed day off - and rest up for a nice long weekend run! :)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Surprise! Bonnevier trail is beautiful

Along the forestry road section!

In doing the FatDog trail race for the last two years, I have never had the chance to see Bonnevier Trail in the daylight. All I’ve ever seen is a bright patch of trail with a pair of feet plodding away up the hill. This weekend I finally got my chance to see just what I’d been up against.
The turn onto Bonnevier Trail

On Saturday, Jenna’s mom dropped us off at the bottom of Bonnevier Trail just east of Manning Park, and planned to meet us up on Heather Trail at the top with her grandma.
Beautiful single track near the top of the false peak (Kandahar Peak)

After the initial forestry road section, we turned onto Bonnevier Trail proper, and, surprise! It’s beautiful! The trail is a nice single-track, that gently winds upward, with a few downhill and flat sections. Having climbed through super dry areas, lush forests and swathes of deadfall, it seems like you’ve reached the top of the mountain. Of course, this is part of FatDog and that would be too easy! So next comes a significant downhill section that drops about 200m over a couple kilometers. The good part is that it’s totally runnable! Too bad I’ve always been too tired to run it.

Gorgeous views of the surrounding valleys and mountains!
After the drop, the trail continues switch-backing upwards, eventually reaching open alpine meadows with beautiful vistas of the Three Brothers peaks and the surrounding area.

View of Big Buck Mountain and the First Brother in the distance
One thing that didn’t differ from the race was how long the alpine meadow section felt! It’s only a few kilometers, but it feels like it goes on forever!
Running through the meadows
Reaching Heather Trail we caught up with Jenna’s family and hiked out to Blackwall Peak, concluding our adventure for the day.
Hiking out to Blackwall Peak with Jenna's family