Monday, November 5, 2012

The one where I don't know where I am

There must be something wrong, as I find myself in Halifax, at home (an interesting concept for me to think about at the moment, more later) and not contemplating another trip any time soon. My bag is unpacked, no need to leave anything in there in advance of next week's trip (all the better to find it). I've even cleared the race-day detritus out of the bottom; the spare safety pins, that gel you don't really like but goes to the races anyway like some kind of talisman, the fliers, pens, advils and energy bars that came in race kit bags and the just-in-case arm-warmers, socks and throw-away gloves that never seem to get unpacked.

More than race-day crap came out of my bag. After the last trip, which was to IRL and GBR via USA, I have coat-pockets full of boarding passes, train & tube tickets and change from four different countries (USD, CAD, EUR and GBP).

I feel that I need a week off to get over my week off. We were away for eight nights which were, in terms of sleep, feast or famine. Either sleeping in until 10:30 or getting up at 05:00 or worse to catch a flight, catch a race or catch a wedding.   I thought I could sleep in until nearly nine this morning and still make it to work, for once, by the skin of my teeth, but instead the jet-lag woke me up at 06:30. Bastard. Of course, when I woke up I had no idea where I was and why I was getting up while it was still dark; did I have a plane to catch? Or maybe a marathon.

I think my brain is still over the Atlantic, maybe somewhere near Iceland. A least when it lands on this side of the Atlantic, my poor, abused inner ears can get some respite from the last few weeks; from the rough ferry crossing to PEI to the flights to Europe, they need a rest too.

I'll tell you what else is still over the Atlantic; my sense of culture. Over here, I'm still described as "the British guy". In fact for 15 years, I've been described as nothing else. I self-identify as British. Yet if the's one thing I felt in the UK this time it was culture-shock. The last time I was in the UK it wasn't this way, but then I spent most of my time ensconced in the bosom of the ITU on the blue carpet, so I could have been anywhere in the world. This time, no acclimatisation time in TZ, just dropped straight into the pure, unadultarated Britishness of it all. Sure, I could make myself understood, I never had to repeat myself, but I just felt slightly alien. I looked the wrong way when crossing the road. I asked who called 9-1-1 not 9-9-9. The hotel, as I charitibly call it, in London was a prime example. No internet, luke-warm water in the shower with no pressure to speak of (our energy-savinig shower-head here has more oomph), low-quality toiletries, instant (instant!) coffee in the room and the creaky floor-boards, drafts and warped wooden fittings were less quaint than a sign of a poorly managed property. Yet it cost the same as the Holiday Inn. It wasn't just the hotel we were in; from what I heard, the Premier Inn just around the corner wasn't much better and it didn't have the benefit of Georgian architecture to mitigate for it's myriad other deficiencies.

I'm try and get around to posting some pictures of the trip when I finally work out where I am, what I am and which coins in my pocket I can use to pay for a cup of coffee in whichever country I decided I'm in in question 1.

In the meantime, a sock. Chris King socks; ten quid from the sale bin at Condor Cycles. Yes, they're actually DeFeet socks and not direct from the Portland, OR Gods of anodized headset bling and buttery-smooth bearings, but still, Chris King! Chris King!!  CHRIS KING!!! What cyclist wouldn't?


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Marathon O'Bunny

As usual, blog writing as catharsis, exorcising the internal demons.

Moncton was an awesome experience; got my group in on-time (3:40:16) amd there was at least one PB in there somewhere. This was the original end of my late-season goal, which was to run the three Maritime province marathons in three weeks. That's not that huge achievement when you consider Scott Clarke from PEI running his third sub-3 in 14 days and HRC's AB expat Ian Blokland with his second Sub-3 in seven.

It's a long story but my brother is getting married next week in London. That's London, England, not London, ON. Not that I need to exorcise any internal demons on that score. Sian is a lovely women, they have been together for at least ten years and known each other (not in the biblical sense of course) for far longer. They co-own a graphic design business and have two children together. So really, getting married is just crossing an 'i' and dotting a 't'.

Thanks to the vagaries of international airline prices it ended up being significantly cheaper to fly over two weekends, rather than just shoot over for a long weekend. In hindsight, with the Frankenstorm bearing down on the East coast this week, there is a good chance we wouldn't have been able to leave on Wednesday anyway. So, instead of bumming around London for a week, we ended up stopping over with Mary and Eoin in Dublin. The Dublin marathon just happens to be tomorrow. At first blush the trip to Emil's wedding was going to be that rarity, a holiday sans racing or officiating. The proximity of the Dublin marathon made us reconsider and each of us independently decided the opportunity was too good to pass up and entered.

We just went to pick up our race-kits at the RDS Centre. Unlike the local races we've done recently, this had a proper expo; tons of booths with shoes and assorted kit as well as a huge Tri zone, as befits a race of this size, some 14000. There's only a marathon tomorrow, no half, no 10, no 5. That made the expo atmosphere a little different, maybe a little more relaxed. Fewer people totally freaking out about racing, more people just getting on with it.

I got myself a nice running jacket from Craft, only €45, no POP sales tax (wow, did I just say something flattering about the VAT?), down from €115. I'll bore y'all with it later, but it's got some nice features.

Starting to get the butterflies already. It can't be about doing the distance. I mean, I just did one didn't I? Part of it is dealing with four hours of fresh jet-lag. I'm doing the tried-true flying east trick of landing at dawn (which resets your circadian rhythm) on two hours sleep and gutting it out until after dinner. It's ugly, but it works. None-the-less, I think I'm more worried about sleeping in tomorrow than the event itself!

Catastrophing a whole bunch again too. That bilateral cancer of the patella is back!

I'm not sure how tomorrow will turn out. On the plus side, this event wasn't even on my radar a month ago, so I'm not exactly putting my season's goals in this basket. Mike Kennedy?

I've felt myself getting slower over the last 14 days. At Valley I felt great running at 5 min/km. Seven days later at PEI, I was 10-and-1-ing a 3:30, so that was 4:45 min/k and a powerwalk. Toward the end of the Confederation Trail, 36 km, the 4:45s started to bite. Seven days later in Moncton I bunnied 3:40. My group wanted to run continuous, so that was 5:09 min/km and that started to feel hard toeards the end.

So, what's going to happen? I think the best to hope for is set off at 4:20 min/km, hang around the 3:15 pace-bunny (instead of being it) and see how long it will stick. Then, when it stops, pull the Schleck-chute, slow down to pace-bunny pace and enjoy a walk around a city I don't know with 13 999 of my closest, newest, running buddies.

Still, if all goes to plan, a finishers t-shirt and a Marathon Maniacs 4-star Iridium level await on Merrion Square.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rock Star Marathon

The PEI marathon was last weekend. It was my 21st "long run with a dossard", technically my 20th marathon and the second of four back-to-back marathon weekends. It was a pretty rockstar weekend.

Ian Blokland picked Nick Tentomas and myself up and we headed to PEI via New Glasgow to pick up Kevin Tulloch. The ferry crossing was a bit choppy, a bit too choppy for me and I felt pretty green all the way across to the island.  One wonders if Nick felt the same, if not for different reasons. Kevin had 75 marathons under his belt, Ian 45 and my total is above while Nick had two.  We were telling marathon stories all the way across and, that runners ten commandments meme thing doing the rounds on Facebook notwithstanding, I was feeling a touch inadequate!

I don't think it helped that when I tweeted a picture of the three of them, that damn autocorrect autocorrected Nick's name to No K Tentomas.

Sign in was pretty rock-star, we just walked right up to the volunteers. Strangely, there were five lining up for the marathon whilst there was no-one else for any other distance. The race-kit was pretty damn good: t-shirt, dossard and a double-sidedsheet of letter-paper with all the details for the weekend.  No plastic bag, no bazillion fliers for local races you'll never do.  Nice and green; I didn't get anything I didn't need, want or use.  Of course, everyone likes schwag - no key-ring, pen, Advil or bottle-openner, but I can live without that. I also got my pace-bunny stuff from Running Room, which was a bit more traditional (apart from the sign and the ears); a bag, bunch of fliers and coupons and two single-serving packs of Cherios!

Getting to the race hotel was even better.  

"Hi, I have a reservation"

"Certainly Sir, the name?"

"Dacanay, that's D-A-C..."

"I know"


The desk-clerk, Isabelle, was Filipino!  First time EVER I haven't had to spell my name. For Isabelle it just like Smith.  Win!

The hotel was pretty good.  I know that Ian and Nick got a better rate at the Quality Inn downtown and it was only a 5 minute walk from the finish, but the Holiday Inn had breakfast on at 05:00 for runners.  Isabelle apologized that they'd only have coffee, cereal and fruit but they didn't think the runners would need the bacon and eggs.  Clearly, she didn't know who she was talking to.  

Speaking of which, to the three people who independently posted the following on my Facebook page.  

Thanks, I got it.

Race morning felt pretty rock-star.  I slept well.  Breakfast was nice and peaceful.  Funnily, there was on-one at breakfast at 5 and the 6 o'clock shuttle to the Confederation Centre wasn't full either.  I'm not a morning person and it was nice to ease gently into the day.  Yes, I wasn't racing but 26.2 is still quite the distance and whilst I'm fully committed to being a "professional" pace-bunny on the course, it's nice to have peace and quiet to get one's head into the right space before you start.  We walked off the shuttle bus onto a nice coach for the 15 minute drive to the start at Brackely Beach. Once more, when the coach left it wasn't full.  

When we got there it was brrr cold, 3C with a -1C wind-chill apparently.  The bus driver let us stay on the coach.  It even had a bathroom.  Talk about feeling like a pro, a 2/3rds full bus, room to get ready in the warm and also attend to that last minute call of nature.  To add to the pro-feel, our bus was scheduled as a baggage bus, to take runners' bags back to the finish, so we were able to walk off the bus, put our bag in the trunk and head to the start,  No queues, no hordes of people.  Very relaxing, under the circumstances.

After a short warm-up and trash-talking from the timers, I lined up a few rows back of the front.  A couple of people latched on to me in the start corral. A pace-bunny is combination best friend, personal trainer, race advisor, comedian and drill sergeant,  I went through the usual talk in the start corral in best-friend/trainer mode, "I'm here to run for you", "it's not my race it's yours", "yes, we'll ten-and-one at a 4:45 km & a power-walk" and "we'll periodically reassess our strategy".  It's funny, but from experience I know that the people you start with are not the people you'll finish with so I also had to show a bit of steel "If you get dropped I'll come back for you, but only once" and "I will run 3:30 so if there's one thing certain in the next 26 miles, I will cross that like at 11:30 a.m! "

A small group coalesced around me after the start. Funny, but I think I'm getting a rep as a pace-bunny as a couple of people told me they'd run with me before for that pace!  I remember Rachel for sure, we'd been together at Bluenose.  Then there was Matt.  Even though I was the bunny, he was our saviour as he'd remind me about walk-breaks. I often forget walk-breaks, not because I'm being a git, but I honestly forget!

The first half, to the start of the Confederation Trail was quite uneventful, we ended up a minute or so ahead but we were running conservatively and trying not to "bank time". The group stayed at three people or so, with some guys drifting in and our of our orbit as their continuous run pace and our walk/run pace precessed in and out of phase.  The real fun started when we hit the Trail. 

I remember the trail as a bit of a power-suck from when I ran in '04 and it hadn't changed. We went from an easy 4:43 pace (told you we were a bit fast) to busting ourselves to stay on pace.  I gave the group a choice: slow down to 5 min/k continuous pace or keep on 10-1 but work harder to keep on pace. The consensus was the stay to the 10-1.  The race as a whole started to break up and spread out here, both as the pace and the running surface started to bite.  Soon we were passing fading runners. I stayed cheery and told each one we were 3:30 and 10-1, we were taking a walk-break in x minutes and they were welcome to hop on the train and join us.  Nearly everyone we passed hopped on board. At one point I must have had ten following my ears. It thinned out as some people were dropped and others used us as a psychological boost to get through a tough kilometer and took off again at their goal pace.  

Our group exploded for real when we got off the trail at 34km. I really felt for Matt, who told us at 18km he felt like he usually does at 36km, so goodness knows how he felt at nearly 36. The guy hung tough though.  I was in a bit of a quandary as the group splintered, as we'd all worked so well together and to come apart so close to the finish felt wrong.  I looked at my watch and realised that I was slower than goal pace and dropping everyone, but had to press on and on target. 

Two people came with me, Anita Howard and Kristen Gough.  I asked them how to run this, slow down and continuous run it in or speed up and 10-1. They both looked at me, as we were going uphill into the wind and said they'd rather continuous run it in a 5 minute kilometres s speeding up wasn't an option.

Those last 8 km were hard; tough rolling hills from 34 to 40 kms, not top mention a freshening head-wind, but Anita and Kristen hung on. Now, I was in my pace-bunny drill sergeant persona, encouraging and cajoling them up the hill and then rallying them to do it all over again. We picked up another guy who had been dangling off the front of the group on the trail.  The three of us pressed on to the finish.  Anita and Kristen slowly dropped off the back but Enrique, the other guy, hung in and even lifted it at the finish. 

I came in at 3:30:09 and a pace of 5:01; not bad at all. What's even better was at least two PBs; Anita and Enrique.  I call that a job well done.  I took off my bib (to the thanks for the timers) and headed back up the course to run the rest of my guys in. I met them all on the road and was able to congratulate each and every one.  I ran in to the finish with a few of them too.  All of them finished in 3:42 or less.  The race-director met me as I crossed the line for the last time and said she'd never seen a pace-bunny do that before. I was a bit surprised.  After all, we'd all started this adventure together, shared the road together, it seemed wrong to finish and just bugger off without seeing them finish too.

Talking about finishes; egg-on-a-stick in the recovery tent?

Also talking about finishes, big kudos to Nick "No-K" Tentomas, with a massive 2:57, first time sub-3.  Ian was his personal pace-bunny and also got some personal marathon redemption, finishing his first marathon after injury and is so stoked he's going to do it again in Moncton this Sunday.  Kevin, the last musketeer, did a respectable 3:05.  

I felt OK through he race, but my legs didn't have the pep and lift they'd had at Valley.  Some of it was surely the cold, but some of it must have been some accumulated fatigue.  So, going into Moncton this weekend, I've really taken my foot off the gas and taken three days off.  Something I haven't done in a long time. It feels really weird: I'm sure I've gained 5 kilos and can no longer run for the bus. Still. we'll find out in Moncton.  Still not sure about Dublin, should I floor it or walk it? Answers on a postcard.....


Friday, October 12, 2012

Here I Go Again

I have a soft-spot for Is This Love, which always reminds me of walking along the Leeds Ring Road in the pouring rain, but that's another story.  Besides, Is This Love hardly describes my current state of mind, which is decidedly Here I Go Again.  Packing again for another marathon. It feels like I just come back from one.  Which, of course, I did.  A bit different this time, as I'll be running as a pace-bunny. As I'e said before, 26.2, regardless of pace, is not a distance to be undertaken with alacrity and one still has to prepare properly.  So I've still been tapering this week (more riding, less running), eating well, drinking well (water, you tarts) and catastrophising just like it's a "real" marathon.  So once more, I've spent the day grimacing as I cycle through some bastard mix of compartment syndrome, a rapidly evolving shin-splint (I predict a full-blown stress-fracture by tomorrow morning) and cancer of the patella.  Of course, all of this will resolve rapidly at 08:00:05 on Sunday morning.

I'm starting to think I need a separate box for pace-bunnying, just like I do for officiating.  I had to go hunting hither and yon tonight for my two pace-bunny shirts and an appropriate hat!

Yup, I need another box.

Again, just like officiating, there is a uniform of the day: Running Room has both blue and red bunny shirts and white and black hats with ears.  As I don't know which shirt we'll be wearing I've taken both. The only hat I have with 3:30 on it is a white one, so that one went in the bag too.  Maybe I'll get another one tomorrow.

At the moment I'm quite looking forward to Monday morning, as I can have some of your actual sleep.  Tonight is going to be a long, or should I say short night.  I have to pick la belle up from a midnight flight at YHZ and I'm being picked up in turn tomorrow morning at 08:00.  Perhaps I should stay at YHZ and they can pick me up on the way!  Sunday morning is, perforce, race morning which always means breakfast at 5 before catching the bus to the start. So that means a lie-in on Monday

Should be an interesting car ride up as it sounds like a joke: an Englishman, a Scotsman, a Greek and a dude from Alberta are in a car driving to the PEI ferry. I don't know what the punchline is, but I'm pretty sure at least two are genetically predisposed not to get the drinks in.  

On the serious side, there's some serious age-group marathoning in there. Kevin (the Scot) has run a ton of marathons, not quite Nevitt but getting there, and many are sub-3.  Quiet as a runner and a person, he nether-the-less gets the job done.  Unfortunately for our car-mates, we can speak together in an almost mutually unintelligible form of English.  Fit ya sayin'?  The Alberta guy is Ian Blokland, an academic on sabbatical. a recent addition to Halifax Running Club, member of our victorious Rum Runners team and holder of many sub-threes too.  Nick is the Greek guy (if anyone has seen Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels you'll know what I'm thinking), kicked my arse at Johnny Miles  and if he doesn't go sub-three this weekend I'll be surprised.  I think Ian is going to be his personal pace-bunny on Sunday.  I know a few other people from Nova Scotia who are going, but unlike our eclectic car-some, I think these guys are Nova Scotia.  Ian McGrath I believe is aiming sub-three as well as Nick whilst Anita Howard is aiming for 3:30 and I think will be following my bouncy, pink, Running Room issue ears across the island on Sunday.

Good luck all and remember, if you pass a car with an Englishman, a Scotsman, a Greek and a dude from Alberta, it's a joke!


Monday, October 8, 2012

In For The Long Run

Yesterday was the 20th Valley Harvest Marathon (hereafter VHM). It was to be my 4th time at the event, one half, two fulls, a 50K Ultramarathon and the slowest winning times on both the Kentville and Wolfville courses. It was an event with a few significant milestones.  It was Dave Nevitt's 100th "career" marathon (a story covered with greater eloquence elsewhere), Mark "The Original Cookie Monster" Campbell's 40th marathon (caveat, inc. Ironman and other associated madness) and my 20th "long run with a dossard".  

As an interesting side-note, Marathon Maniacs recently had this dicussion: how to best tally up your career statistics.  I think we can all be happy not including our Sprint Triathlons in our career 5K count but somehow, intuitively, I'm sure many of us feel a marathon or longer takes a certain degree of commitment and investment above and beyond that required of a 5K. Not to denigrate our 5K-running cousins. The overall feeling was that you should keep three totals; marathons, ultras and total. So I guess I'm 19 + 1 and marathon #20 will be this weekend as the 3:30 pace-bunny at PEI.

VHM was an early start, I mean Ironman early.  The plan was up at 04:00, in the car by 04:45, Wolfville by 06:00, race-start at 07:00,  Anything after race-start was up to the running Gods. To be honest, I think I was more stressed by not getting up on time than the race.

Mike Kennedy entered the ultra on a whim and I agreed to pick him up at 04:50. Even more stress now to make sure I woke up on time.  I set two, independent alarms and la belle graciously agreed to set hers. As it was, I woke up at 01:00, 02:00 and 03:00 and then 03:50. At the latter, I figured I'd be worse off if I tried to squeeze an extra ten minutes of snooze so I just got up and pre-empted all the alarms.

It was nice to have some company on the drive up and we managed to chat about anything but the impending event.  It rained on us as we drove up and it seemed as though the race was going to be a bit damp and miserable, but we piled into Acadia under clearing skies.  The whole ultra-marathon thing only sank in when we go to the sports centre to sign in.

 It was a bit empty at 06:00, in fact there were more volunteers than runners!

Still, we managed to find someone to take a photo before we headed off to the start

Yes, I know. Arm-warmers and a singlet. Again.  I'm running out of excuses, non?

Of course, getting there at 06:00 also had it's advantages: rock-start parking, rock-star bathrooms (two stalls for five guys, compare-and-contrast to two stalls and 900 guys an hour later), and unobstructed  rock-star access to the coffee-pot. 

There was a bit of gallows humour at the start, I don't think anyone there had done an Ultra before! Still, we had a nice personalised chat with the race director and the timing guys at the start. They say that ultrarunning is a different beast and with a whole one event under my belt, I think I would agree. I've never seen so much of a relaxed atmosphere on a start-line. Counter-intuititivily, given that it was likely further than any of us had ever run in a single go, it was chatty and relaxed and very un-intimidating.

When we were given the go, it seemed there was a 500ms pause as everyone looked at each other as if to say "What? Now?  Shall we go". Certainly it would have been bad form to scorch off the start-line to score an early 10m lead.  I think we ran the first few hundred metres together before differences in gait and cadence started to pull us apart,  

As for my own race, I ran the first 10K with Ron "Cookie MacKilt" MacDougal. After that I did about 10K on my own before Denis Choquette caught me. Initially I thought I was caught and dropped as
he went through at about 4:45/km whereas I was trying to keep a lid on it and stay at around 5:00/km. Instead Denis came back to me on a hill and we ran together for the next ten miles.  It was great to have some company and, to be honest, to be in the lead with the lead bicycle was a boon as we were able to follow the correct course, as the ultra's extra 8K loop was not well marked.

 The first twenty miles were possibly one of the best runs I've had in my life, ever. And that's quite a statement.  It was dark when we left and as we wound our way through the dikes we were treated to the sun rising over the Bay of Fundy. The skies were blue, the wind was light, the temperature was moderate: it can't have been more than 15C and there were no man-made sounds whatsoever.

Of course, you have to pay for something like that. At around 35K Denis pulled way from me. At first I thought it would be more plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose and I'd catch him on the next hill, but no; at the top I'd still be a few tens of metres away, and so on and so forth until I was truly gapped. So I settled down to run the last ten miles on my own as the distance started to bite.

It was getting warmer and I didn't peel down my arm-warmers until the 20 mile mark, so all you haters out there, it was the right fashion choice. In terms of thermoregulation at least, if not in absolute sartorial terms.

It is said that long, long running is as much a mental as a physical game. I think I lost the plot a little around the 37K mark. I still had the legs, but I didn't have the mind.  Oh well.  I wasn't thinking in absolute terms but, as we were back on the full marathon course, I was keying off the marathon signs instead; 36km, 37km and so-on, instead of 44km, 45km; one way not to think about the distance.  I think mile-marker watching is a sign it's going horribly wrong and I spent six miles waiting for signs to come up.  Natch. It came together again with three kms to go, but not after walking the aid-stations and half of the hill up off the causeway to the main road. My Garmin clearly shows four dips in pace. I don't think it made to much of a difference in the end.  In absolute terms, my kilometer splits in that six or seven kms slowed down to a 5:20 average from even 5s, so call it two minutes lost, in a 240 minute race; that's 1%.

It didn't help that I felt let down my my Mizunos, for the first time ever. Not that I'm making excuses because of my equipment, but my feet felt very numb after 25 miles.  Physiologically and anatomically I know why my feet were numb, but I don't know why-why. Was it the distance i.e. will this always happen to me, or was it the increasing heat of the day i.e. I do get this feeling on long, hot bike-ride, or was it relatively new shoes and insoles i,e, I didn't put the insoles from the old Mizunos in the new ones but then on the other hand I've never had this problem before with this make of shoes. Idea and counter-idea. One could drive oneself insane trying to analyse this, and there may not even be anything there to analyse.

My goal for the day was 5 minute pace for a 4:10 finish. Officially, I'm 5:03 for 4:11. 0.2% off my goal-time: I think that scores as a hit.  Given that there were only 13 people. placings are a bit ridiculous but I was 3rd overall, and third age-group: yup, 40-49 is the age-group of death for endurance stuff. With another 50 entrants, I doubt I would have placed but there's no doubt the top 20 would have been the almost exclusive territory of Masters, Senior Masters and above.  Denis and I were both between by John DeWolfe, who didn't read the website and turned up for the 08:30 start. His gun time was nearly 5 1/2 hours but his chip-time was an astounding 3:55 for 50 kms.  

In fact I was relegated twice; Mark Sein introduced me as the winner when I entered the stadium:  somehow he missed Denis coming in six minutes earlier. I was really confused when I heard Mark as I did my Paris-Roubaix-esque lap of the track, and had to assume Denis had DNF'd; lots of funny things happen in marathons - you can easily go from lead to stretcher-case in two miles. Then to third an hour later when John came in.  Denis and I were a bit confused at first being introduced as second and third respectively when we were pretty clear that I had been the lead then he was the lead and there was no way we could have been Rosie Ruiz-ed, but we worked it out. Technically, plenty of room for an appeal, but why?  It was the VHM Ultra, not worlds.  The best guy won and with a killer time. The dude crushed it good and proper.

In terms of winning and losing, the event was also pretty low key. Everyone was treated as a winner, but, just like the start, there were no egos here and that feeling of camaraderie from the start lasted until the end.  All the finishers in the ultra got a framed print and a bottle of wine, the same prize as the overall and age-group winners in the other events of the day. The only difference was the top three got two prints; this years print and last years print as well.  I got last years print last year, but I got it in a nicer frame this year.

Thanks Susan!  

That wine didn't last long at home!

Today, one day post-Ultra my legs hurt more than after any marathon I've done for a while.  I think 800mg ibuprofen and some Vitamin P will do it!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Two down, four to go.

So here we are again, descending slowly into basket-case-ry, as the three-for-three, which morphed into a four-for-four, approaches rapidly.

In fact, it's six for six; six events in six weeks.  Two weeks ago it was the Joseph Howe 160 km recreational ride. Not a race but a long club-run a la the Crest CC, with coffee and snacks or even lunch every 40 km.  Nice.  Last weekend, a complete change for the Rum Runners Relay, more in a moment.  This weekend, currently sitting twenty hours to the start of the Valley ultra.

Rum Runners wasn't quite the way I wanted it. Instead of being with the team for the whole 12 hours, events conspired in a way that I was able to make my leg, leg #7, and only my leg. As I say, not the way I like to do either of the relays, but as the choice was to do this or not do it at all, this was the best alternative.

It was weird, waking up at 8 and knowing the relay had been on for 90 minutes already.  I left town early to arrive at the start of my leg early. I think part of the early departure was that I was just so antsy, although I told myself it was because I didn't want to get caught up in relay traffic, be late for my leg and get a team penalty for bad parking.  As it was, I was the first one there by about twenty miutes.

It felt pretty cold, with the rain and the wind. For the race it was going to be a tailwind, but for the warm-up it felt pretty miserable. I was glad not to be on the tech crew this year and deal with that for 12 hours straight.

As it was, I slowly stripped off, going from multiple layers to the racing order of shorts-and-singlet over the course of an hour; acclimatising after each layer came off before removing the next one.  Still, I went for arm-warmers and a singlet at the start. I wasn't convinced i'd really need the arm-warmers when racing, but they gave the illusion of warmth, at least, at the start and they could come off easily if needed. Besides, we all know the one about being able to take it off if you have it but you can't put it on if you don't.

There's a picture of me at the start. La belle thinks I look mad.  Come to think of it, la belle often thinks I look mad, often at her, when I'm really doing something else.  I thought I had a greater range of facial expressions than Kristen Stewart, but apparently not.  In this case I like to think it was focus.  I remember shaking hands with a few of the runners before the start (Charles? Laura? Help me out here), which I don't think I'd do if was mad, so I'm pretty sure it was focus.

Our teams main rival in the drive for six consecutive relay wins was Oxford At Eight, OAE, and they brought their strongest team yet. The OAE guy is there in the blue on my right. I like to think he's looking a bit apprehensive while I look mad.  Or focused. Or whatever.

I was on the front from the gun, with the OAE guy on my heels.  I led the first kilometer at a good pace to get some room and see if he'd stay. He did.  I pulled over after the first hill to let him come through and do his share of the pace-setting.  Which he didn't.

So I dragged him over the hills.

With about two kilomters to go I was getting a bit annoyed with my passenger. In fact, I still don't know what he looks like because I never actually saw him on the leg. I could tell you what his foot-falls sound like but I don't know his face.  So, I gave a little surge.  Not enough to break away but enough to gap him briefly and see if he'd come back.  Normally it takes three or four surges before the elastic snaps, but here all it took was one little jump and he was gone. 

The Garmin says I did the last kilometer in 3:30, with an average of 3:42 for te whole thing. I think that comes into a 38 minute 10K if the course had been 700m longer. Cookie MacKily too this interesting shot of me just outside Chester, where my Gamin has me clocked at 3:30.

Note the excessive shoulder and hip rotation. Here's one in the eye for those who dispute the humans-evolved-as-distance-runners theory. The theory says that the ability to decouple the rotation of our shoulders (which themselves rotate to counterbalance the motion of the contralateral leg) from our heads allows us to run looking straight ahead without getting dizzy or unbalanced: a crucial trait for bipedal, running scavengers.  Whereas there are many tasks in my life that a trained monkey could literally do, interestingly this most elemental of things - running in a straight line - is not one of them.

Next up, the Valley Ultra, This will be my 20th marathon, or should I say run-over-26-miles-with-a-dossard, and I'm not counting any other type of event.  I don't include all the Sprint triathlons in my all-time 5K race count.  One entry fee, one prize, one entry in the "done" column I say.

I'm all packed.  Treating this more as a long training run; taking my Camelbak for ad libitum drinking, some salt tabs and a whole ton of Vega gels. Oh, and my iPod, I think it's going to be lonely out there.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Let's Talk About This Wetsuit Business.

I submitted this to the Triathlon Nova Scotia (TNS) newsletter a month or so back but I don't think it made the cut.  Still, I think (IMHO) it has an important message.  Feel free to repost etc etc.

This esrtwhile part of the TA has been lucky enough to take a bit of a cross-country triathlon trip recently and work events in three provinces, two languages and interact with both Olympic-bound athletes and officials as well as with the sport's grass-roots. None of these races has been wet-suit legal. What was of interest to us was the response to these wetsuit calls (in three provinces and two languages).

The title is, verbatim, a direct question asked to us by an age-grouper, together with “why don't you guys just follow the rules?”. Let's look at these statements.

Let's Talk About This Wetsuit Business”. We weren't sure here if the competitor was trying to negotiate the no wet-suit ruling or cut us a deal. There is no room to negotiate. We (the officials) don't make this up you know. Instead, the wetsuit calls are regulated by the International Triathlon Union (ITU) Competition Rules,which TNS has adopted. These rules are here for your safety. If the water is too cold, you may get hypothermic, if it is too warm, you may overheat. Just try using your wetsuit in a swimming pool! In between these extremes lies the “wetsuits optional” butter-zone we're mostly familiar with. Outside of these comfort zones, there be monsters for some people. These rules are not kept secret by some triple-headed guardian and available only to the initiated after repeating some shibboleth. Rather they are available to download by all at the ITU or Triathlon Canada websites.

As for cut a deal, sure, we'll cut you a deal. Fifty bucks gets you into the Competition Jury. To protest a wetsuit ruling is going to cost you 30 minutes of form-filling as well as the aforementioned $50, both of which you will likely loose, with the $50 going to enrich the Junior Development Team.

why don't you guys just follow the rules?” This made us laugh. We do follow the rules, those same rules we just talked about. Those rules govern all triathlons from the highest to the lowest. For example. the same rookie transition helmet mistake penalty Paula Findlay made in London was the same rookie transition helmet mistake penalty one of our own got in Guysborough and the penalty was was managed in the same way. Here's the thing though. There are two governing bodies for triathlon. The ITU and the World Triathlon Corporation, or WTC, aka the Ironman people. They, WTC, have their own rules. Mostly they are the same rules but with some differences. These differences are mainly of the “you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to” variety. But some are more significant. Such as the wetsuit rules. Confusingly, many WTC events in North America are sanctioned by TriCan or USAT and so follow the ITU rules. So, on race-morning before you start harassing some poor, be-vested dude with a radio in their ear in the language of your choice, check the logo on their vest. They are following the rules, but they may not be the rules you think they're following.

A quick word about those temperature maxima and minima. There are tables and tables in the rules; a far cry from the days of the Race Director just sticking his finger in the lake and thinking about it. These max and min are different for long course and short course, for able-bodied and and parathletes, for age-groupers and elites. So just because you get to race-site for the Sprint and see long-course or parathletes in 'suits doesn't mean you can wear one.

As an athlete you should always be prepared for the eventuality of a non-wetsuit swim. Check the history of the event. Historically, are there wetsuits? As well as the obvious, no wetsuits, there are other considerations. Can you swim in that T-shirt? What about your dossard? Don't be in a panic twenty minutes before the start because you just realized not only can you not wear your wetsuit but you can't swim with your number safety-pinned to your cycling-jersey. Invest in a number belt, bring a piece of string. Both will work! Just like disc-wheels, which the TD can rule on depending on the prevailing environmental conditions, the TD will make the wetsuit call an hour before the event when you're pumping your wheels, not when you're packing the car the day before. So be ready. You wouldn't go to the Hypothermic Half with only shorts and a singlet and be surprised to find it too cold to use either, so don't come to a triathlon with a rear-disc and a wetsuit and be totally unprepared to not be able to use neither.

The British Army has a saying called the Seven P's; Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Painfully Poor Performance. Except Painfully is usually replaced with something earthier. Same thing in triathlon. You train long enough for it, don't let your day be upset by a legitimate ruling that none-the-less puts a spanner in your works. Plan ahead. Your training wheels and a piece of string should do it, and the right mental attitude to make the switch and get your mind back in the game.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

The one where I look at lots of bikes

Just trying to have a quiet thirty minutes before leaving on another trip.  This one is bicycle-related but not triathlon related. Perhaps this is what is contributing to my general feeling of unease.  You see, practically every trip that has taken me out of HRM this year has been to officiate at a triathlon, or occasionally a running race.  

Not this time.  My rule-book, whistle and accreditation still sit on the shelf. My personal officiating kit sits in the storage-room where I chucked it after the Cobequid half and 10K.  Hell, I haven't even packed a pen.  OK, I'll go and pack a pen.

Feels weird.  Kinda naked.

Instead, I'm off to the centre of the universe, aka Torona (I understand there's a 't' in there, but it's never used) to the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada's (BTAC) annual show, Expocycle.  At the behest of the shop indeed too!  To spend two days with the owners and managers looking at bike stuff.  It's hog heaven.  A bit like Ulf giving me bike-check at the World Cup.  Who? Me? Touch all this stuff?  Sure thing boss....

I'm not sure what to expect.  I feel like a newbie undergrad or post-grad going to their first conference. Of course, at scientific conferences you spend most of your time in the talks and maybe half an hour at the expo, talking to reps and trying to score some free Eppendorfs or maybe a fridge-magnet.  This, I think, will be the other way around; spend all our time at the expo and maybe take in a talk.

So basically, just like at your first conference where you feel a bit out of water ands literally follow your supervisor around everywhere but the bathroom, I will dp the same.  Just follow the owners around, everywhere but the bathroom, and try not to break anything.  BEsides,. when Mark asked me if I wanted to go the convo went like this

Mark (pouring coffee) "What are you doing the 8th, 9th and 10th September""

"Nothing yet"

"Want to go to BTAC?"

"Wow, cool, I mean, sure"

"Great, you'll learn a lot.  Just keep your mouth shut"

So there you have it,  I have my instructions from the top: watch, listen, learn.  Wish me luck.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cowadonga II

It was especially nice to watch the Vuelta a Espana this weekend as it took place in the Asturias, where la belle and I had been last year for World Duathlon champs and spent a week afterwards bumming around the Asturias, some of it on our bikes and some of it by car.

Yesterday's stage, stage 17, which saw Contador in red and Valverde move up to second (what this says about modern cycling I do not know) finished on Fuente De,  We drove up there last year and took the cable car to the top.  I'm pretty sure the stage finished at the bottom of the cable car run!  Here's Moo at the top of the plateau;

and having a coffee waiting for the cable car on the way back.  It felt a bit On Her Majesty's Secret Service being up there!

and another one of one of Monster Factory's monsters, Bradley, at the top of the cable car station.

The day before we'd stayed overnight at Potes, which is where Stage 17's  last intermediate sprint was.

I'm pretty sure we inadvertently drove the last 50km of stage 17 last year; here is Velonews' picture of the break

and here is a picture of the Renault Sprinter we drove around the Asturias.

Looks like the same place.  Pretty impressive place to hold a bike race.

I was a bit scared driving the Sprinter down that canyon, Unipublic took a whole race down there!

Stage 16 , the one that ended on the 24% pitches of Cuito Negro started in Gijon , the host town of the 2011 World Dus.  I really liked Gijon as a city;

La belle liked the ice-cream

and Moo developed a taste for cervesa y limon after a long bike-ride!

and more ice-cream!

Stage 15 finished on Covadonga, which we rode last year also, with our friend Raul.  It was interesting to hear the cycling press talk about the climb.  The Alpe d'Huez of the Vuelta!  Maybe not in pitch but in grandeur! Nevertheless, they made it sound pretty scary.  I was glad to see La Huesera labeled not as a 10% pitch but a 15% pitch.  Made me feel less bad about stopping, although la belle hasn't stopped mentioning it all week!

Ahh, Spain.  Makes me want a holiday.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Marathon Deceit

A couple of things to address today, given a couple of eyebrow raising (to me) responses to recent news articles surrounding our sports.

L'affaire Armstrong.

The obvious one.  Wow, what a couple of days in the cycling media, with Lance Armstrong playing the martyr to the evil dragon of the USADA and losing the greater part of his cycling and triathlon palmares to essentially prove a point.  Not that anyone in their right mind really believes this of course.  The prevailing opinion seems to be it was either lose his titles or his credibility.  

While I've yet to see a Phil n' Paul response I have seen fanboys playing a gallant rearguard action, usually deploying the cancer shield in short order.  Let me say this about the cancer shield.  I really don't see how one's philanthropic actions somehow cancel out one's misdeeds.  In this instance or any other.  There are plenty of ex-Catholic priests out there who I am sure were wonderful individuals, bringing spiritual succour to those in need.  Unfortunately, there is the small matter of another type of homonymic succour to be dealt with.  Regardless of the good these men played in their communities, their misdeeds were not in any way mitigated by these assorted good works.  The same applies here. 

While we're on the subject of the cancer shield, I'm pretty sure that HWMNBN never "trained competed while undergoing chemo".  And Livestrong/LAF doesn't, hasn't and won't fund actual cancer research, Sure, be a fan boy, but try and get your facts straight.  If you don't, it makes it too easy.

What I'm most glad about is the meaning behind the lifetime ban.  Remember, Ulrich, Basso, Millar, all the rest, all got two year band for using performance enhancing drugs (PEDS).  Why not Armstrong? The anti-doping code allows a penalty of four years to life for the trafficking and administration of PEDS. In other words, the days of prosecuting some poor jobbing Euro-schmuck who was given the stuff then left, allowed and encouraged to take the fall on his own ("I did it on my own", "my team was unaware", "I'm sorry for the shame it brought on my team/sponsors/family") are over.  Now it's the big guns, the facilitators, who are being prosecuted.  Maybe it is this that will finally clean up cycling.

In the meantime. lets just asterisk all results from the late 90s to early 00s.

L'affaire Heggie.

Tyler Heggie was the 10 year old who ran the PEI Marathon last year.  When faced with the same situation this year at Bluenose, with a ten year old girl entered, I suggested to the organisers that they not try to appeal to the girls parents reason (where does the apostrophe go there?) as the parents would likely think that instead of running a marathon being an unwise course of action for a ten year old, it would be the best thing since sliced bread.  This general attitude is, unfortunately, correct. When informed that now 11 year old Tyler would not be allowed to run PEI this year the father's response was "poppycock".  Although one suspects it was a bit earthier in the original.

When I posted this link on Facebook with the tag "some kids need to be protected from their parents"  I was surprised at one response.  This response suggested that I look up William (Bill) O. Roberts thoughts on the matter.  So I did.  Being a somewhat educated guy, my first stop was not Google, but PubMed.  PubMed is an on-line library with all, and I mean all, the scientific abstracts you ever need (and some you don't) all searchable to all and for free.  There is one study from Roberts, WO on children running marathons and it relied on his experiences as Race Medical Director for the Twin Cities MArathon. His outcome measure was did the child end up in the Medical tent?  No follow-up. This study appears to the basis for his Running Times article,  Roberts WO (2008)"Children and Marathoning".

This Running Times article is balanced out by Rice, S (2008) "Children and Marathoning: How Young Is Too Young? which itself seems to be based on Rice & Waniewski (2003). Instead of an retrospective cohort study observation from the RMD's chair, Rice & Waniewski is a well rounded evaluation of the literature. Round one to Rice I think.

I would be remiss to avoid quoting the American Academy of Pediatrics, where Overuse Injuries, Overtraining and Burnout In Child and Adolescent Athletes by Brenner et al  (Pediatrics 2007,  119(6); 1242-1245) states that "Ultimately, there is no reason to disallow participation of a young athlete in a properly run marathon as long as the athlete enjoys the activity and is asymptomatic". However, this is given in the context of "the Risks of distance running for children  (Pediatrics 1990,  86; 799-800) which is a doom-laden account of the medical perils of distance running, and they define distance as anything over 30 minutes. Round two to Roberts, but on a technicality.

I also fall back on normative ethics, principally, if we have reason to believe that something is harmful, but  have no evidence to support it because that evidence cannot be obtained, then we should not allow that something.  I have dealt with this branch of ethics before: in my case it was to do with pain in animals.  Pain, as a conscious construct, cannot be reported in animals because they cannot tell us they are in pan.  This absence of self-reporting notwithstanding if we think something might be painful to an animal, even if we do not have the ability to say that animal can even feel what we would call pain, then we take measures to mitigate that pain.

The same here.  There are many theoretical reasons why a child should not run a marathon. To conduct a study showing this would be unethical, at the very least.  Can you imagine the abstract? "In order to test the hypothesis that marathon running is deleterious for children under the age of fourteen, we recruited twenty untrained children.  We trained ten to run a marathon and measured physiological and psychological parameters in response to training stress. A control group of ten age- and gender-matched children were left untrained.". In laymans terms, we ran ten grade fives into the ground and compared them to ten grade fives playing Wii Sports Resorts. The Ethics Commitee is going to allow that, no questions. Apart from the obvious ones!

So, unfortunately, like Lance Armstrong's EPO levels, the answer will likely remain unknown.  In the absence of conclusive, scholarly, peer-reviewed data, moral  philosophy tells us that we must err on the side of caution.  This is best summed up by Rice and Waniewski's conclusion that "Although it is conceivable that given proper biomechanics and anatomy, a quality progressive training program, and appropriate maturity and cognitive level, a long distance runner can have a positive experience from participating in marathons before 18 years of age, this special individual would be the exception and not the rule. Examples of such individuals do exist but serve to demonstrate that decisions rendered regarding participation are not designed with the “exception to the rule” as the critical parameter".

If we do not, where does this end?  Ironman? Leadville (either the MTB race or the Ultrarun)? I suspect none of us would encourage our own children to do such a thing, so why should we encourage the children of others to do the same?


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Full Circle

After a couple of hectic weeks; the Edmonton Triathlon Festical (World Cup/PATCO Paratri/National AG Sprint + Olympic) and Trimemphre (PATCO/CG Test Event/National LD Champs), neither of which are remotely close to home. and doing a commensurate amount of laundry I can finally sit down and write something.  One thing comes to mind being at the Elite races.  It doesn't matter how fit you are as an age-grouper (and I like to think I can hold my own), being in an Elite TZ or briefing makes you feel old, fat, slow and short!  As much as I'd like to write about the races, and I'm sure I will, something else comes to mind tonight.

I had a pleasant ride along the Rails-To-Trails yesterday afternoon in the rain, which felt nice and refreshing after a couple of weeks baking in 30C sunshine in three timezones.  Part of the trail reminded me a little of Hawksworth Woods in Horsforth, where I grew up (Horsforth, not the woods), and more specifically hanging out there on a Friday night after school with Peter and Ben and Helen and Vickie.  Peter and Ben and I hung out there because the Woods were at the end of Ben's street.  They were of course, also at the end of Vickie's street.  Which was convenient,  Vickie was, of course, my first girlfriend, something which may or may not have something to do with hanging out in Hawksworth Woods after school on a Friday night.  

Such an 80s flashback might not have gone farther than a couple of kilometres worth of reminisces but it was reinforced by my iPod throwing up Crazy For You on my run tonight.

80s doomed.

This, of course, has me watching 80s teen movie Pretty In Pink tonight, but only because in some astonishing oversight (and absence from the two-for-$10 rack at HMV) I don't have Breakfast Club. Ah, Molly Ringwald.  She's only a year older than me and as the line in the movie goes "You know what an older women does for me?" "Yeah, changes your diapers", which may be a kink too far.  Victoria Pendleton, on the other hand, is ten years younger than me and whilst I wouldn't kick her out of bed for having a squeaky bottom bracket I suspect she may be a bit high maintenance.  And not high maintenance in the sense of changing the chain every 1000 kilometers.

Plus Pretty In Pink has one of my favorite scenes ever, the Duckie/Otis/Trax Records scene

Surely the only song/lip-synch scene to even come close would be Scarlett Johanssen doing The Pretenders Brass In Pocket in Lost In Translation.

But one digresses,

Pretty In Pink was what, 1986?  About two years after hanging out in Hawksworth Woods with Peter and Ben and hoping to see Vickie and Helen.  Co-incidently, Son#1is now 14.  If the Elites made me consider my advancing senescence, then the memories of being 14 and the summer holidays and the realization that my son is now 14 and it's the summer holidays have done me in for sure.  

I realise that after fourteen years of controlling his life, that by stealth now I (and by extension we) do not any longer. If I was doing things my parents were unaware of at 14, I'm sure he is.  Life has come full circle for me.  If the goal of parenting, in a strictly Darwinian sense, is to raise your brood to a point of self-sufficiency, then I think it's mission accomplished. Sure, so Son#2 can microwave a mean curry but he still struggles with the real world.  Son #1 is practically there already.  So he struggles with math but when was the last time your life depending on a derivative?   Maybe it's a tad too early to bring me my ice-floe but I think you should get some cables on it and start the tow, I'll be needing it soon enough.   

In Pretty In Pink Iona wishes that we started old and got younger.  I'm not sure that I would like to relive some of the experiences of the past 28 years between Hawksworth Woods and Halifax.   Still, I wish him well as he embarks on his own journey and I hope that he will look back as fondly on the summer of 2012 as I do on the summer of 1984.

On that note, and sticking with the Pretty In Pink theme, depending on how you're feeling (fondly  remembering prom or mawkishly contemplating your mortality) you may go out with OMD's If You Leave or The Association's Cherish.  It's your choice.....


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cramping my style

So I got an attack of cramp yesterday on the Tuesday evening training run with the guys.  Nothing too untoward since I'd had a pretty heavy day for me.  Being my day off I'd headed out on the bike in the morning and ended up with just over 100 kms.  There was no compelling reason to turn around so I just kept on trucking out. The ride was enlivened by some old dear pulling out in front of me at 60 kph down Fall River Road (always a nice way to kick-start your adrenal glands) and seeing Coca Cola labelled as a healthy choice at the Big Stop in Enfield.  

Well I suppose this is Nova Scotia where chicken and bacon are commonly regarded as vegetables. 

Got back, ate and drank pretty much anything I could get my hands on and then headed to meet the guys.  I ended up doing about 10 miles. easy 4:30 pace given the heat and the 100 kms already in my legs, and got cramp about 500m from the end.

Not just a twinge, one of those show-stoppers. The cry in agony, drop-and-roll kind. I haven't had one of those for a while. 

In fact, not since what was perhaps my most spectacular cramp at World Duathlon last year, a story I never shared with my three faithful readers. So here goes.

IT was an Olympic distance duathlon, 10 km run, 40 km bike and a 5 km run.  I was guessing at 2:10 for my time, say a 45 minute R1, perhaps 85 minute bike, a sub-20 5 km to finish, chuck in a good 5 minutes of TZ.  Yeah, I know, 85' for a 40km TT is pretty poor but I'm nowhere near the cyclist I used to be, and I wasn't that good to start with.  Back in the day we used to time-trial at "evens" or 20 mph.  This, I could do, or even better (but barely), from 10 to 100 miles. My PB for a 25 mile TT was a long 64' I think, and this was over 20 years ago.  So there was no way I was going to go 65' at Worlds.  I figured evens and any better than that would be a bonus.  Under-promise and over-deliver I always say!

So the game-plan was to treat it like a marathon.  After all, how many Bostons have been ruined in the first 20 minutes, streaking through the first 5K and blowing your three hour race within sight of the start-line?  So, I thought I'd bide my time in R1, take it easy, run a 4 minute-per-k max to conserve my legs for the rest of it.  After all, the bike course had two ascents of the Alto d'Infanzon; a 5 km drag which although nothing in real terms is quite a lot to Nova Scotians without daily access to the Cabot Trail to train over.

Plan A got tossed out of the window while we were still in the stadium.  The heartbeat music played, we got all keyed up and blam, Eugene released us and double blam, I was at the back.  I was trying to play it easy and they dropped me like third period French.  I mean, I was at the damn back.  Not a sight I"m used to. So I sucked it up and held Canada's end up and ran 3:47s for a 37 minute 10K instead.  Admittedly a 37:59 but still a 37.  I think my PB is 35 or 36.  So it was pretty damn fast.  I'm pretty sure when I ran that 36 I didn't have to bike and run again either.

The bike was fun. Up. Down. Flat. Repeat.  Something for everyone.  The second time up the Infanzon I got those twinges of cramp but what the hey?  What could possibly go wrong?

Yeah, I should probably pay for those photos.  I like the bike one.

Coming into T2 my legs were not happy.  I considered a flying dismount but I wasn't sure I could go through all the motions without an ill-timed cramp disturbing my equilibrium and putting me in the barriers.  

So I stopped and got off age-grouper style. That's when the cramp started to hit.  I didn't so much run to my rack-spot as hobble slowly.  Remember that advert for, I think cycling shoes from the 80s "ride like the wind, don't walk like a duck"?  I was that guy.  I wasn't pretty.

So I had the slowest T2 ever and headed out on R2. Wobbly T2 legs and cramps, I figured they'd work themselves out.

Except they didn't.

Five hundred metres in both quads and both hamstrings locked. Left and right. Completely.

I went down like a pole-axed bull.

Excruciating pain. Really.

One part of me looked down at my legs and thought "wow, cool, I'm really ripped". Science-geek. What can I say? The other part of me thought "fuck, I'm not going to finish this".

Now here's the thing. You know how over here in Canada it seems like every old-boy used to coach Timbits hockey or something?  I guess in cycling-mad countries like Spain, every old boy used to run a juniors cycling team. So here I am.  If grabbing the throat with both hands is the universal sign of chocking, lying on the ground clutching your leg with both hands is the universal sign of cramping.  Most people were looking at me like I was the bull at the Tercio de muerte. One old boy walked over, grabbed my legs and started to manipulate them; up and down, a rough massage. After a couple of minutes he pulled me upright and sent me on my way.

My goodness, it worked.  The next 4500m went by without even a twinge.  The official time has me at a 23:16 5K. My Garmin was about 4 minutes off my clock-time.  Most of that time was spent prone on the ground while Manuel, the erstwhile soigneur from Atletico Cyclismo de Gijon , got me back running.  So I guess that was an 18 or 19 minute 5K.  Not bad when you consider where I'd started from!

So that is my awesome cramp story.  Much better than the time I cramped up in the 1990 Crest CC 100 Mile Reliability Ride and fell off in a ditch!