Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The last big hill climbed before FatDog!

This past weekend we headed back out to Manning Park to see the final 13 miles of the FatDog race course. We started Saturday morning with the goal of heading from our campsite at lightning lakes up Skyline to Camp Mowich and back. We were accompanied by Chris' mom and dad, who will be taking on the 30 mile and 70 mile course with us in August!

The rough uphill start leaves me in the dust while the Cochrane rabbits fly up it. My calves are burning, my heart is racing - and I can't help but feel like after all the training we've done I should be able to get up this hill without much trouble.
Camp Mowich - don't count on there being snow for the race!
After a 6 mile uphill warm-up I was finally able to run at a decent pace. Little did I know this tough start followed by a rather miraculous recovery would earn me the title of running like a "wounded possum". Thanks Brad & Sue!
I'm not sure whether this title was well deserved, or they were just dehydrated and delusional as the sun was beating down on us for 6+ hours!

After racing over a few slightly terrifying false peaks (because the first uphill was clearly not enough), we pranced through glorious alpine meadows and straight down the valley into Camp Mowich.

On the way back I came to see why last year's finishers crossed the line cursing those false peaks! If the climb from Skyline to Camp Mowich isn't enough - those false peaks are sure to knock your socks off.
On the bright side, the uphill I cursed at the start is actually quite a nice non-technical downhill.
Once we made it safely back to the campsite we decided to head back out around lightning lakes and part-way up frosty mountain to round out the mileage for the day. Chris ended up with 30 miles and 2400m climbing, while I stopped at a nice mountain marathon.

On Sunday we headed up Frosty Mountain for an easy (ha!) 26k loop. We started out tired and slightly sunburnt from Saturday's adventure. Of course, when I say slightly sunburnt I mean I had to borrow a hat and compression socks from Brad to make sure the sun never saw my skin again. Thank you!!!
I'm not sure how I survived this run, or why I agreed to go. This was not the first time we'd gone up Frosty, but I somehow managed to forget just how far 1300 m of climbing really is.

This line adapted from the children's TV show, Magic School Bus, really sums up how the run felt...
"Please let this be a normal trail run.... With Chris?! NO WAY"

Somehow, knowing that I had to be able to go 70 miles in only 3 short weeks was pretty good motivation as well!

I must say I'm looking forward to having a bit more time on our hands as we down the mileage and begin to taper! Perhaps our house will be clean for more than a few hours... :)

Until next time - happy trails!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Fat Dog 120 Race Course GPX and Profile

The following links are to gpx files of the Fat Dog 120 race course. I found them super helpful last year using my Sunnto Ambit2 when I wanted to double check that I was on the right course, especially up by Trapper Lake.
I believe they are fairly accurate, though the total distance may be less than 120miles. They were recorded by Ed Sargisson a few years ago, so my greatest thanks to him! The course is split into 6 legs, but I also have it where it's split into 9 legs (for the relay) so let me know if you want me to upload those too.

For those using Movescount, you can search/see the Fat Dog course segments in the Routes section.

Below I've also included a profile with approximate locations of the aid stations, and where pacers are allowed to join. The pacer spots are also places that crew could have access in the latter part of the race - keep in mind Heather aid is 5km from the parking lot.

Leg 1 from the start at Lakeview Creek Campground to Ashnola River Road

Leg 2 from Ashnola River Road to Bonnevier

Leg 3 up Bonnevier to Heather Trail

 Leg 4 from Heather Trail to Cascade aid station

Leg 5 from Cascade aid station to Skyline 2 trailhead

Leg 6 from Skyline 2 to Lightening Lakes Day Use Area

GPX file of full Fat Dog course

FatDog120 profile with aid stations (approximate locations).
*Bonnevier Aid is just before the first uphill section as indicated by the arrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More Advice for the Fat Dog 120 Trail Race

I received an email from a fellow on the east coast asking about FatDog, here's his questions (in blue) and my response - hopefully you'll find some helpful advice in it.

1. How would you describe the surface? I live on the east coast and our trails are very rocky and rooty, which tends to be very hard on the feet and ankles. I've run Leadville and I consider that surface to be pretty mild throughout (except heading downhill into Twin Lakes)

The surface is mostly single-track trails with minimal rocks/roots. There are a couple sections that do have a rockier surface, specifically at the top of Red Mountain in Cathedral Park, a steeper section coming into Nicomen Lake, a section along Skagit Valley, and the final descent into Lightening Lakes. The softest sections are coincidentally also along the Skagit Valley. If the weather keeps up the way has been, the trails will be quite dry and dusty, and likely a little on the hard side, but certainly nothing compared to the rocky/rooty trails you are used to.

2. Wondering about your shoe choice. I'm a Saucony Xodus fan (its like a road shoe but with a lugged outsole), but I use a few others too. Was even considering using a well-cushioned road shoe. Thoughts? What did you use?

This year I'll be wearing Altra LonePeaks for the first 40miles, then after the river crossing I'll be switching to Altra Olympus. I think your choice of shoe should be fine, you really won't need too aggressive of an outsole given the trails. In fact, a road shoe might not be such a bad idea for between Cascade and Skyline 2 aid as this is the most runnable of sections (nearly flat for 20+ miles). Last year I had some issues with shoes rubbing (wore some Salomon ones), but I think I've got that figured out now.

3. Temperature. Is it hot during the day? What about nighttime? I don't have a crew/pacer and am considering just carrying a lightweight fake-down jacket to keep me warm at night.

Typically, day time temperatures are upper 20's or low-mid 30's. This, combined with the exposure of the course, can mean fairly warm conditions. That being said, a storm could very well roll in and we would get rained on all day, so who knows! Nighttime will get chilly though - not terribly cold so long as you're running, but if you stop you'll freeze. For nighttime I added a light jacket, a moderately warm toque (winter cap) and compression socks in addition to the shorts and tshirt I wore through the day. I ended up having to wrap a space blanket around me for the last portion along Skyline ridge as it was breezy through the night. I don't recall whether I used gloves or not.

4. As for a pack, I've looked at the video and Ive seen a range of what people carry. One woman was using handhelds (which is way too minimalist for me), others seem to have small camelbaks that don't have much storage space for anything more than water and a few snacks and others have bigger packs. My thought was that it should be big since I need to carry lots of water, extra clothing, lights and food. How big was your pack?

I used a Nathan Synergy Pack (only a single bladder though) as it had enough space to carry my gear (jacket, head lamp, hat etc) for when I wasn't using them. Definitely use something with space for a couple liters of water - the course will be bone dry by the race if it keeps up like it has, so that means the only water will be at aid stations. Last year I carried my bladder with approx 2L (can hold 3L) and a small 500 mL flask as a back-up so that if I sucked the pack dry I knew I had at least a few sips to keep me going. I didn't have to use the flask for myself, but I did give it to another runner that ran out before Trapper aid station. Just make sure you refill at the aid stations, especially at Trapper and Sumallo.

5. What would you say was the biggest challenge of this race? Why? Could you have better prepared for it and how?

Three of the large climbs come in the first 50 miles of the race, then you're expected to be able to 'run' the next 50 and follow that up with another large climb with several false peaks. Once you add in the distance/time between aid stations the race becomes challenging. I have increased my overall volume this year and included more hills and am hoping that, combined with fixing the shoe problem, will give me an edge over last year.

6. Did you use poles? I was planning to just go without

I didn't use poles, and don't plan to this year. If I were going to though, I would put them in my drop bag at Skyline 2 for the last 20 miles. There are a couple parts that traverse steep scree-like slopes and the added stability at the end of the race couple be helpful for some. As well, the final downhill into Lightening Lakes could probably benefit from poles, but it really depends on how you think you'll be feeling at that point and whether you'll be bounding down the hill or needing poles to lessen the load on the legs.

7. Obviously the elevation gain/descent is the big part of this race. Are the hills super steep or just very long and plentiful?

Very long and plentiful... The first climb is somewhat steeper than the others, and so are a few of the false peaks near the end of the race. The descent just before and after Nicomen is steep as well, then sort of levels into a constant descent. Overall though, the climbs are just quite long.

8. Feel free to share anything you think may be helpful. I've complete 10 100's and multiple other ultra-races. I'm not new to this, but Fat Dog seems to have this mystique. Aside from the elevation gain/loss and the 120 mile distance, what makes it top-10 most difficult ultra?

I think the real test comes at mile 100 when you begin the final ascent to Mowich and you're into that next level of challenge, having already completed what would be a tough 100. If you plan each section carefully in terms of food, water and clothing, and minimize carrying of needless items (headlamp during the day, sunglasses at night etc) I think you'll see a lot of success.

Other tidbits:
Compression/tall socks will help keep the foliage from brushing your legs in the last 40 miles and help keep you sane.
If you have a mosquito head net, it's a good idea to stick that in a drop bag for the section from Sumallo to Camp Mowich. Bug spray is good too!!!

Good luck to everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

2 months of Running (and other busy-ness)

If you're reading this you probably noticed that we haven't posted in almost 2 months, and there is a reason for that... We've just been too busy running!

Over the past 2 months, we've done some really cool and amazing (and really long) runs! Here's a recap:
Jenna running along Blue Gentian lake, off the BP trail

May was mostly comprised of several recon runs along the Baden Powell trail in preparation for the Vancouver 100 in June.

May 25: Jenna and I both ran the Iron Knee 24km trail race from Cleveland Dam Park to Deep Cove. The 'highlight' of this race is that it goes up and over Powerline trail, a ssolid ascent of over 1100 ft, this of course is after the first half of the race where you climb from the start over 1000ft to the top of the BP trail near Dempsey Rd. Overall a great day though, as I placed 9th overall with a 1h55m finish and Jenna came in at 2h36m, in the top quarter for the women.

June 7: This was the day of the Vancouver 100, or what was supposed to be 100 anyway. It was a hot one! At 5am when we started we were only wearing shorts and t-shirts and we were already cooking. By midday, it was even hotter! Athough I should have known better, I went out fairly hard, keeping up with Daniel Goddard (a darn fast runner!), not a good idea. I ended up becoming extremely dehydrated by the second half and had to drop at kilometer 74 - things weren't looking too good. Good news was that my feet looked beautiful, not a blister or hot spot, thanks to my Injinji toe socks and my Altra LonePeaks!
Jenna was feeling an old injury by the halfway point and decided to call it a day. Still a good 50km all in all.
Big thanks to Hasan and Mike for meeting us at the halfway mark! You guys rock!!

June 14 weekend: We went backpacking in Manning Park with my family for the weekend and didn't get in much running, but the weighted hiking probably wasn't so bad for training.

June 21 weekend: This was really good training weekend in Manning Park as we got to run some of the FatDog course, parts Jenna hadn't seen yet that she would be facing in August. On the Saturday we went from Sumallo Grove to Shawatum Day Use and back, for 21 miles. The next day we did Cayuse Flats to Cascade Rec Area and back, then a little bit up towards Nicomen Lake for a 12mile total with some good hills.

June 28 weekend: This weekend we were camping in Clearwater/Wells Gray Provincial Park with Jenna's family. We managed to get in a couple runs over the weekend including a 17 mile day during which we got absolutely poured on!

July 5 weekend: This was the weekend of 24 in the Forest, our little event here in the UBC forest. We ended up seeing about a dozen runners come out over the two days, less than had signed up, but more than I expected - the weather may have deterred some people as it was overcast and threatening to rain the whole time. On the Saturday, I got in 10 laps of the course (51.8 miles) and Jenna did 9 (46.6 miles), then on Sunday I did another 7 (36.2 miles) while Jenna joined my sister for a lap. A most successful training weekend by far!
Camp Mowich, mile 107 of FatDog

July 12: We decided to do a day trip to the Skagit Valley to run from Skyline 2 trailhead to Camp Mowich and back, with the intention of going further at the top. We made it Camp Mowich in 3 hours, but decided to turn around at that point as battling with mosquitoes and spiderwebs on the way up was more difficult than imagined. Also, it's a lot farther up the mountain than expected. For anyone planning a training day, make sure to go for a swim in Ross Lake, it's glorious!

View of Ross Lake from near Camp Mowich
July 13: I ran to Grouse Mountain to meet Jenna and her cousin to do the BCMC. Following that, Jenna and I did the GG proper with her mom and aunt. As an added level of difficulty we, at times, hopped up the grind - that's how you get fit!

This past weekend's adventures included a 33.5mile trail run with 3000m of climbing on Saturday, followed by a 16mile, 1400m ascent/descent, day on Sunday. Definitely one of the best training weekend's thus far! On a side note, if you ever get hungry when you're running in/near Deep Cove, check out Deep Cove Pizza for a snack. Call ahead 15mins and you won't have to wait.