Ultrarunner fighting Atrial Fibrilation (AF)

This blog has pretty much always been about running ultras, mostly Hardrock. It still is but now it is also about running with AF. I was forced to miss Hardrock in 2011 due to my AF but my long term goal was to get back to a level where I could enter the lottery for 2012. And hopefully help any other runners with AF who stumble upon this site. I never made it into Hardrock in 2012, or 2013, or 2014. I didn't have a qual for 2015. I ran Fatdog in Canada instead. That was tough. Now back to Hardrock.

The heart problems all started back on May 25: http://howmanysleeps.blogspot.com/2011/05/out-of-hardrock.html

Friday, December 30, 2016

Gear reviews

Technically not a formal gear review, this will be an ongoing place to reflect on what worked and what didn't. As much a response to my fading memory as a constructive contribution to gear seekers.

After 10hours on the slopes of Mt Buller yesterday in atrocious conditions on a technically challenging, steep slope for an out and back of just 27km (yep less than 3km/hr gives you some idea of conditions), I can easily reflect on what worked.

Pack: Aarn Marathon Magic 11 which is out of production. It is actually about 20l and I have modified it adding the front pockets from the larger models. Brilliant. There wasn't much actual running but it rides great and having front pocket access means I rarely have to take it off.
Cons: Not waterproof.

Waterproofs: wore my new Z-Packs cuben fibre poncho nearly the whole day. A great test given the muggy conditions down low and cooler up high. With a mix of drizzle, hail and heavy rain it deflected everything. The breezy nature kept me from overheating but kept me warm when the hood was pulled up. The trail style kings would hate this one, looking like an oversized caftan in bland grey, it stood up to the test. The long, loose back draped over my pack (meaning no pack cover was needed). Very light when scrunched up and stashed and doubles as a tarp if needed. Carried ultralight (<90gm and="" anorak="" berghaus="" case.="" in="" just="" montane="" p="" waterproof="" windpants="">Cons: baggy tail snagged a couple of times and pulled the stitching away on one side zip. Will add an elastic waist band (2XU bib belt will be ideal) to counter this. Arms are exposed and got soaked. Will get some water-resistant arm warmers to add.

Nav: used my iphone with the Avenza maps (from GSER) and the course from the RD for the Hut2Hut overlayed. Worked perfectly and with the iphone 6s on airplane mode used bugger all batteries. Kept in pocket in Kathmandu small waterproof pouch. (Not suitable for picture taking.) Also had new Garmin Oregon 650 handheld gps. Worked great except need more practice on knobology and check plotted course is not in yellow! Ran it on rechargeable batteries and was showing only half used after 10hours. Carried a Sunto battery bank and cable. Rooftop 'waterproof' map. Didn't use much and ended up like paper-maché. Contact covered course notes. Were handy and survived the deluge. Carried Silva compass of course.

Food/fluid: Started fasted with just a guzzle of water before. Went 2 hours before starting sips on water-carb mix. Got to turn-around in 5 hours on just half a bottle (300mls). Had a Shotz bar and finished the bottle here. (Refilled untreated water from Howqua after leaving Steripen in van deliberately.) Only drank another couple hundred mls on the return 5hours and ate a cherry ripe. So total about 800mls + 2 scoops of powder, a Shotz and cherry ripe for 10 hours. Felt OK and didn't bonk or really get hungry.

Poles: Black Diamond Ultra-Z. Perfect. Have the wrist straps removed. Given the climb could have used them but prefer the ease of release and grab.

Clothes: Macpac you-beaut thermal. Excellent. I have got a but cold in this when wet before but layered up this time with merino worked great. Helly-Hanson merino blend zip neck top. Excellent. Groundeffects merino short sleeved bike jersey with foam padding in back pockets. Always a winner. Only removed the Helly at the river when it cleared and warmed up for an hour. Otherwise wore everything all day. (Carried Macpac merino skivvy and merino tights, merino balaclava, merino under gloves and Macpac ultralight puffy jacket.) Wore bike gloves that got soaked and would have been cold overnight but had OR warm gloves to slip underneath. Usually wear Macpac merinos underneath. Would like waterproof fingerless gloves. Would not be able to swipe phone for nav if wearing fingered gloves. Kathmandu Dri-motion boxers-awesome. Aldi bike shorts. Awesome. DHB bike shorts without liner. Got a bit loose when wet, need a belt to tighten if needed.

Shoes: Altra Olympus 2.0. These are the bomb. Amazing traction, even on wet rock, within limits of course. Great cushioning. Plenty of toe room. Hard to beat.
Socks: Injinji over calf. No dramas. Never is with these.
Gaiter: Kathmandu waterproof jobs. Worked good. No under shoe straps (removed) and rode up some.



This was the finish photo on the summit for the second time. That's the cairn beside me. Limit of visibility is not much beyond arms length.




Thursday, July 14, 2016

It's time for the big dance in the San Juans.

Wifi has been worse than patchy at our motel room but meanwhile the Hardrock juggernaut has rolled into town. Runners became more conspicuous. I won't say we now outnumber the all-terrain vehicle fraternity but at least you can feel a little more comfortable in running kit. You know it's real when the actual Hardrock appears outside the gym and you meet Kilian Jornet outside your motel room. Literally.

Monday 11th: while conscious of needing to wind it back still, after getting all cranky after having a rest day on Saturday we decided to go for a short run. We headed back out past Kendall Mtn ski hill along the final few kilometres of the course. I love that singletrack. The sun had just climbed over Kendall and was piercing the tall spruce and lighting up the wildflowers in the grassy clearings. Pinch yourself.

We took a few obligatory pics (will add when I get home) but they never seem to do justice to the scale, the colour, the brightness, the sheer grandeur of the place. We turned around at the white hut. This signifies just 4kms to the finish and I love going past it during the race, knowing I am on the home straight. Well as straight as Hardrock gets. About 8km. Stats 92% O2 & 64bpm on rising. Feeling good. Ready to run.

Tuesday 12th: just for something completely different and to turn the legs over (and burn up some nervous energy) we trotted down to the local athletics track. The term applies pretty loosely. Basically it is a 400m bitumen track with a few weeds growing through strategically on the bends. I jog-walked in true Hardrock style. Spud ran a few wind-sprints down the straights to see how his heart rate compared to his altitude gym sessions back home. I felt breathless watching him and I think he lapped me 4 times. I guess that's the difference between a 35 & 45 hour runner. Easy 4 or 5km. Stats 95% & 66bpm. Importantly heart behaving.

We drove over to Durango for some groceries. And look for any last minute gear additions.

Wednesday 13th: official activities kick off with registration. Tim Olsen wanders past our window. Kilian checks out of our motel to move in with the Salomon team. I say hi to Joe Grant and give his dog a pat to get my dog homesickness fix. I head out for another very easy trot on my own to the beaver dam again. I run into 2 of the legends of the past out clearing the trail with a small chainsaw: Jim Ballard and Rolland Perry. That's what really makes this race so great is the way people come back year after year even when they can no longer run it, just to help out and be a part of it. I chatted for a while until the mossies became a pest and continued onto to the dam. That fresh pine forest scent just filled the air. I drank it in, picturing myself coming through here on Saturday night.

The school gym has been transformed into Hardrock central. I got my wrist band, hiking permit, picked up my goodies bag, purchased some new Altras and spent ages catching up with old trail friends. The hall was a buzz and the energy was infectious. We went to the Tailwind talk and got a bunch of sachets off Gavin and Rebecca who will also crew for Phil during the race. We sat in on the "meet the board" session and were surprised how few attended. But it was a great opportunity to hear about the behind the scenes decision making processes. We caught up with Dale, the RD and had a great chat.

The day ended with a premiere screening of Kissing the Rock, mini doco about last years race. It was a great film capturing the real motivation and sentiment behind a few runners including Anna Frost and Billy Simpson. The prelude was a preview of a mini doco about a winter ski traverse of the Hardrock course. By the end of the 2 films if you weren't freaking out about what you were in for, you hadn't been watching! Stats 97% & 64bpm.

Tomorrow, Thursday is briefing and informal dinner. And drop bags of course. I am as ready as I can be. 4 months of solid training. Incorporating regular pilates under physio supervision to help rehab my back. Weekly massages with Bengt. Solid weekly totals over 100km. As many 50km plus runs as possible. With plenty of double weekends. 2 weeks acclimatisation including a week of solid 4hr mountain hike/runs. There is a common saying that you arrive at the start of a 100miler in you best shape and arrive at the finish line a day or 2 in the worst shape of your life. I have been in better shape but not after the hiccups I have had. So I am happy as I can be with my prep. My pacer pulled out today with a family emergency. But that happens and I kind of prefer to do it the old school way without crew or pacer. Time will tell if that bites me on the arse but that is the nature of this run. There are so many unknowns and it will challenge me beyond comprehension but that is part of the attraction. Here's hoping I can rise to the occasion one more time.

Ed note: I can't edit this due to crappy wifi so please excuse typos until I get home and can edit and add some pics. And hopefully a race report.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Taper time

Saturday 9th: rest day. We drove over to Durango and had the buffet lunch at the Tibetan restaurant. If ever in Durango be sure to try it. We checked out the gear stores and did our grocery shopping. Lazy day.

Sunday 10th: we went for an easy jog along the first 3km of the course to the Mineral Creek crossing. About 7.5km with minimal elevation gain/loss. And some stretching. And lots of eating. Including lots of rhubarb pie.   Morning obs: O2=93 & HR=67

We are already getting impatient and just want to get out there. Only 5 sleeps.

Ouray Bear Creek Trail - 7 days to go

Friday 8th: Wow, if you want to choose part of the course that epitomises Hardrock, visit this nationally recognised trail. After crossing Highway 550 (Silverton - Ouray Hwy) on top of the tunnel over the road, the trail climbs steeply. The path is strewn with loose flat, slatey stones of varying sizes, from 50cent piece to dinner plate. You climb 13 steep switchbacks with the slate tinkling like broken crockery under your feet, being careful not to send any rocks down on those below.

Every time I run down this trail (or hike up it), and I can't run down it without a smile, I hear Annie Lennox in my ears ('Walking on broken glass'). We started and stayed with the trail marking team today. With James Varner leading, the pace was much faster than I remembered for marking days. The traditional leader, and course director, Charlie Thorn, brought up the rear.

Once through the switchbacks the trail follows the Bear Creek (hence the name) on the side wall of the steep rocky canyon. The path is literally cut into the wall of the canyon. It is hundreds of feet sheer drop from the trail to the creek. At points the trail is less than a metre wide. Windy and rocky. Twisting and turning, hugging the very face of the cliff. And during the race I will climb this in the dark. At least then you can't see the drop-off. But in the hot morning sun we marched up the twisty trail respectfully. Pausing to take in the view and take the odd photo. Which never really do justice to just how hairy this trail is. One trip and you are gone. The ultimate DNF. On the run back down I joked to Phil: if I go over the edge tell them I died happy, and made someone on the wait list happy.

Once through the tight part of the canyon it opened up to a tree-lined valley plastered with wildflowers. Picture postcard material. After passing through the Grizzly mine site and then the Yellowjacket mine remains we crossed the valley and climbed through the tress to the broad basin that forms Engineers basin.

We had a cliff bar break at the site of the Engineer aid station before leaving the group who were continuing up to the pass and Oh Point, and turning around and running back down the trail.

The return was a treat. We cruised, soaking in this spectacular  course. 17km in 4hrs. (O2=94% and HR=67bpm so acclimation coming good.) Only hiccup was when I kicked a tree root and somersaulted onto my back in the long grass beside the trail. This was before entering the canyon so no damage done and really sharpened my focus for the run through the canyon.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Virginius - 8 days to go

Thursday 7th: the trail marking crew were marking the Virginius Pass section of the course. This is a spectacular pass separating two of the main towns on the course: Telluride and Ouray. It also represents one of the most challenging points of the course. The pass itself consists of a break in a massive geological formation that looks like spiny back of a Brontosaurus, with craggy peaks of a rocky ridge line giving way to a small flat platform. This exposed platform is only a matter of metres wide but serves as the Kroger's Canteen aid station. This checkpoint is famous for many reasons, not the least the regular offer of a shot of Tequila to runners as they pass through. 

But the real notoriety stems from the location. Perched precariously with a sheer drop-off on both sides, all supplies are packed in and the volunteers spend the night sheltering under a flapping tarp in temperatures that can dip below zero with wind chill. 

Which means any snow on the northern slope freezes to solid ice. In the clockwise direction this year we will have to slide down any residual snow (ice) after scrambling up the steep loose scree on the southern approach. After the initial steep drop, runners then transit the currently snow covered basin before descending the second, shorter slope. Which leads to another bench before the final very steep and treacherous slope.  

After driving through Ouray, Phil and I continued for about 6 km to near where the Governors aid station will be. Here we parked and started the long, tough climb up the jeep road. Being ahead of the trail marking team, we managed to take a wrong turn that didn't add much distance but did treat us to an encounter with 4 magnificent deer. 

We had to cross a couple of snow banks but eventually reached the end of the road above an abandoned mine. This was the start of the lowest pitch. All 3 pitches took a lot of work to climb. Each step required kicking your shoe into the crusty snow to gain traction. Several times I would slip and threaten to slide all the way to the bottom. A potentially dangerous slip. 

But we made it to the top, with elevated heart rates, as much by the fear of falling as the exertion!  The marking team started arriving soon after us. After something to eat, we turned around and butt-slid the top pitch somewhat out of control down to the basin. The middle pitch was uneventful apart from dislodging a big rock that crashed onto my shin taking plenty of skin with it. 

The final, lower pitch was dodgy and I ended up sliding out of control into a melted wash away of a small creek. With one foot in the ice water I came to an uncoordinated stop. No damage this time though. 

Back on the road we jogged very easily back to the car. Only 12km total but 3:45hrs and reached over 13,000ft with 800m climbing. (My O2 was 90% and heart rate 72 on rising.) It was a good section to revisit. These conditions take me out of my comfort zone and better to be reminded if that before race day.

Another pinch-yourself day or two

Yesterday (Tues 5th) we slept in after the late night return to Siverton. The course marking was going over Handies which at 14,000ft + is the highest point on the course. I have been up there on all my previous visits but given the length of the day and the altitude gained it was too much for Phil to undertake and possibly a bit early in my acclimatisation still. So we opted to do our own thing instead.

We headed up Kendall Mt. At a touch over 13,000ft it is still a solid challenge. And you start climbing from the get-go. And it never let's up. All jeep road peppered with lose rock, it is pretty typical of much of the course. The crisp cool air and clear blue skies made for cliche picture-perfect views back across the valley.

Feeling good, we pushed all the way to the top where we were treated to a magical view straight down on Silverton. We kept going to the true summit and soaked in the spectacular 360* vista.

We opted to try the rougher descent off the opposing face of the summit. After a little rock-hopping we found ourselves sliding down a really steep, rocky slope. And when I say steep, I mean steep. I skated, slid and stumbled largely out of control until I actually flipped into the rocks off the side. With grazed shins and bloody knuckles I was a bit more speculative for the rest of the slide to the bottom.

After 3hrs climbing we easily descended in 1.5hrs, keeping it relaxed to avoid trashing the quads. 4:33 for 21.6km and over 1100m elevation gain.

Weds 6th: again we skipped the course marking. Mainly because it involved a long, long rough 4wd
drive and then a long day across the high part of the course from Sherman to Maggie's and another long drive out, with car shuttling.

Instead we headed out to Arrastra Gulch to cover the final part of the course (mostly already marked).
The Beaver lake trail never fails to impress. And again the creek crossing was icy cold.

Conscious of only being just over a week out from race day, we opted not to go all the way to the top of the pass. After grinding out a solid 10km to reach the singletrack junction just above the mine site at around 3,600m, we turned around and literally ambled back down.

Walking back into town a jeep pulled up beside us and Carol Erdman, one of the HR Board members, offered us a giant chocolate-chip cookie to share. Great timing, we were both starving hungry. Carol was heading over to Kendall for her daily hike/run. We had passed Carol on our way back down yesterday and she was looking amazingly fit for a septuagenarian.

Easy day: 20km in 4:13 for around 900m elevation.  This is a great training run to include as it familiarises you with the last section of the course. For me that has always been in the dark. For Phil it was light and will hopefully be so again.




Tuesday, July 05, 2016

July 4, American style

Americans take their July 4 celebrations pretty seriously. Think parade. Think novelty floats. Think red, white and blue. Think flags. Think old cars, fancy pick-up trucks, massive all-terrain vehicles and fire trucks festooned with firemen spraying huge plumes of water over the crowd.  Think lots and lots of all of the above. Then line the streets with hundreds of people sitting in deck chairs, standing or perched on the back of pick-up trucks. All waving postcard sized American flags.

Part of the Hardrock tradition involves marching in the parade. Marching is probably a bit of an overstatement. A bunch of runners and volunteers walk behind the Hardrock banner, waving Hardrock and American flags. And throw candy to the sugar hyped kids lining the streets. Or dog treats to the many dogs. Remember Silverton is a classic old west town with gravel streets and rustic 18th century buildings. It helps to set the scene. So it is all good fun if a little more parochial than I'm used to.

The marching involves periodically busting a move behind the banner. At someone's shouted command we all start running in a circle led by the banner. Or we will break into a trot to catch up to the float in front of us. The 'burrito' is the most interesting one where one of the banner holders gets rolled up vertically inside the banner. The spectating kids love it. By the end I was worn out. In fact Jim Sweat who has 11 starts and never finished, commented that many a Hardrocker had put too much into the parade and suffered on race day. I had to ask if he was speaking from experience. He didn't say no.

Another option is the 10km fun run earlier in the day. I have done that once and nearly burst a lung so now avoid it. Instead I headed out early up Kendall Mountain. It is all hard packed, rocky, jeep road. But it climbs from the town fringe and never lets up. Perfect Hardrock training.

My O2 sats were 87% with a heart rate of 72 when I woke up. O2 a bit lower than I would like. The aim of my training sessions is to keep my heart rate low, preferably below 130bpm. This is hard to do at 3,000m of elevation and climbing fast. So my pace is slow. Only jogging when the gradient flattened out. I got up to 3,800m in 2hrs for about 8km.

By that time the sun had climbed over the nearby peaks and bathed the valley below me in bright, warm light. It was cool when I started, a salient reminder of what to expect overnight during the race. Another mental note to throw calf guards or tights in my Ouray drop bag. By the time I turned around I had warmed up.

The temptation on the descent is to cut loose but with just 10 days to go I showed restraint and
slipped into cruise mode. A couple of runners came towards me looking fresh and crisp and running way too easily considering they were at least 5km and running uphill! We stopped for a chat. Darla and Chris were both entered. Darla for her 4th and Chris for his first.

Lower down another runner was running faster up than I was going down! I soon recognised Anna Frost and that explained the pace. Again I stopped for a chat. I was curious that Anna was spending time down at Durango to improve her recovery from hard sessions up high. I have always thought the idea was to spend as much time as high up as possible. I do like Durango though, so it is an attractive proposition. And I'm certainly not questioning her method. She won last year.

Got back in plenty of time for the parade. 15+km in about 3hrs. 2hrs up and 1hr down, despite the stops on the down. Felt good, no headaches.

Durango tonight for dinner at my favourite Tibetan restaurant then pick-up a Spud at the airport.
Course marking resumes tomorrow after July 4 holiday and I would like to join in.

July 4, American style

Americans take their July 4 celebrations pretty seriously. Think parade. Think novelty floats. Think red, white and blue. Think flags. Think old cars, fancy pick-up trucks, massive all-terrain vehicles and fire trucks festooned with firemen spraying huge plumes of water over the crowd.  Think lots and lots of all of the above. Then line the streets with hundreds of people sitting in deck chairs, standing or perched on the back of pick-up trucks. All waving postcard sized American flags.

Part of the Hardrock tradition involves marching in the parade. Marching is probably a bit of an overstatement. A bunch of runners and volunteers walk behind the Hardrock banner, waving Hardrock and American flags. And throw candy to the sugar hyped kids lining the streets. Or dog treats to the many dogs. Remember Silverton is a classic old west town with gravel streets and rustic 18th century buildings. It helps to set the scene. So it is all good fun if a little more parochial than I'm used to.

The marching involves periodically busting a move behind the banner. At someone's shouted command we all start running in a circle led by the banner. Or we will break into a trot to catch up to the float in front of us. The 'burrito' is the most interesting one where one of the banner holders gets rolled up vertically inside the banner. The spectating kids love it. By the end I was worn out. In fact Jim Sweat who has 11 starts and never finished, commented that many a Hardrocker had put too much into the parade and suffered on race day. I had to ask if he was speaking from experience. He didn't say no.

Another option is the 10km fun run earlier in the day. I have done that once and nearly burst a lung so now avoid it. Instead I headed out early up Kendall Mountain. It is all hard packed, rocky, jeep road. But it climbs from the town fringe and never lets up. Perfect Hardrock training.


My O2 sats were 87% with a heart rate of 72 when I woke up. O2 a bit lower than I would like. The aim of my training sessions is to keep my heart rate low, preferably below 130bpm. This is hard to do at 3,000m of elevation and climbing fast. So my pace is slow. Only jogging when the gradient flattened out. I got up to 3,800m in 2hrs for about 8km.

By that time the sun had climbed over the nearby peaks and bathed the valley below me in bright, warm light. It was cool when I started, a salient reminder of what to expect overnight during the race. Another mental note to throw calf guards or tights in my Ouray drop bag. By the time I turned around I had warmed up.

The temptation on the descent is to cut loose but with just 10 days to go I showed restraint and
slipped into cruise mode. A couple of runners came towards me looking fresh and crisp and running way too easily considering they were at least 5km and running uphill! We stopped for a chat. Dar and Chris were both entered. Dar for her 4th and Chris for his first.

Lower down another runner was running faster up than I was going down! I soon recognised Anna Frost and that explained the pace. Again I stopped for a chat. I was curious that Anna was spending time down at Durango to improve her recovery from hard sessions up high. I have always thought the idea was to spend as much time as high up as possible. I do like Durango though, so it is an attractive proposition. And I'm certainly not questioning her method. She won last year.

Got back in plenty of time for the parade. 15+km in about 3hrs. 2hrs up and 1hr down, despite the stops on the down. Felt good, no headaches.

Durango tonight for dinner at my favourite Tibetan restaurant then pick-up a Spud at the airport.
Course marking resumes tomorrow after July 4 holiday and I would like to join in.

July 4, American style

Americans take their July 4 celebrations pretty seriously. Think parade. Think novelty floats. Think red, white and blue. Think flags. Think old cars, fancy pick-up trucks, massive all-terrain vehicles and fire trucks festooned with firemen spraying huge plumes of water over the crowd.  Think lots and lots of all of the above. Then line the streets with hundreds of people sitting in deck chairs, standing or perched on the back of pick-up trucks. All waving postcard sized American flags.

Part of the Hardrock tradition involves marching in the parade. Marching is probably a bit of an overstatement. A bunch of runners and volunteers walk behind the Hardrock banner, waving Hardrock and American flags. And throw candy to the sugar hyped kids lining the streets. Or dog treats to the many dogs. Remember Silverton is a classic old west town with gravel streets and rustic 18th century buildings. It helps to set the scene. So it is all good fun if a little more parochial than I'm used to.

The marching involves periodically busting a move behind the banner. At someone's shouted command we all start running in a circle led by the banner. Or we will break into a trot to catch up to the float in front of us. The 'burrito' is the most interesting one where one of the banner holders gets rolled up vertically inside the banner. The spectating kids love it. By the end I was worn out. In fact Jim Sweat who has 11 starts and never finished, commented that many a Hardrocker had put too much into the parade and suffered on race day. I had to ask if he was speaking from experience. He didn't say no.

Another option is the 10km fun run earlier in the day. I have done that once and nearly burst a lung so now avoid it. Instead I headed out early up Kendall Mountain. It is all hard packed, rocky, jeep road. But it climbs from the town fringe and never lets up. Perfect Hardrock training.


My O2 sats were 87% with a heart rate of 72 when I woke up. O2 a bit lower than I would like. The aim of my training sessions is to keep my heart rate low, preferably below 130bpm. This is hard to do at 3,000m of elevation and climbing fast. So my pace is slow. Only jogging when the gradient flattened out. I got up to 3,800m in 2hrs for about 8km.

By that time the sun had climbed over the nearby peaks and bathed the valley below me in bright, warm light. It was cool when I started, a salient reminder of what to expect overnight during the race. Another mental note to throw calf guards or tights in my Ouray drop bag. By the time I turned around I had warmed up.

The temptation on the descent is to cut loose but with just 10 days to go I showed restraint and
slipped into cruise mode. A couple of runners came towards me looking fresh and crisp and running way too easily considering they were at least 5km and running uphill! We stopped for a chat. Dar and Chris were both entered. Dar for her 4th and Chris for his first.

Lower down another runner was running faster up than I was going down! I soon recognised Anna Frost and that explained the pace. Again I stopped for a chat. I was curious that Anna was spending time down at Durango to improve her recovery from hard sessions up high. I have always thought the idea was to spend as much time as high up as possible. I do like Durango though, so it is an attractive proposition. And I'm certainly not questioning her method. She won last year.

Got back in plenty of time for the parade. 15+km in about 3hrs. 2hrs up and 1hr down, despite the stops on the down. Felt good, no headaches.



Durango tonight for dinner at my favourite Tibetan restaurant then pick-up a Spud at the airport.





Back to Durango myself  Course marking resumes tomorrow after July 4 holiday and I would like to join in.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Acclimation begins

The first full day in Silverton I usually take it pretty easy with an easy run/hike of 8km or so. But I usually have 3 weeks of acclimatisation (or acclimation as the locals prefer to call it). With just under 2 weeks I need to maximise my opportunities. After a rough night of little sleep due to a combination of altitude, time zone shift, and being cold, I headed out early on what will be the last part of my journey, along Beaver Lake trail. (I will add pics when I get better wifi-I forgot how bad dial-up was.)

After navigating the massive motor homes 'camped' at Kendall Mt ski hill I hit the trail proper.  Seriously you have to question the point. These buses are more luxurious than my house. In fact some probably have more floor space. No exaggeration. Some of the cars they tow are massive 4wds, dual cabs!

The old 'original' (I think there may have been an earlier iteration) that split in 2 around 2009 due to water freezing in the drill holes and expanding, has been cemented back together and put on display under a little pergola. It is a fitting shrine for such an historic symbol of the race.

Next door is another shrine to the Silverton 6 day/1000 mile race. I'm not kidding. There is a short loop trail that goes up and around the small ski hill, the Kendall Trail. This is the site of the annual 6 day race. Wow. Unbelievable. The shrine is really cool, with an historic miners trolley on a short section of train track. Welded on the side is a metal plate emblazoned with the race logo.

The trail was magical. The early morning sun streamed down between the tall spruce, creating little clouds of steam where it hit the wet ground. The little beaver dam was a mirror of the blue sky and patchy low clouds. It was truly therapeutic hiking and running through the forest in the early morning light with the trees still dripping from the nights rain. The scent was what I imagine those air fresheners are trying to replicate. Except this was the real thing. Drink it in.

I made it easily to Arrastra Creek. It was flowing strong and clear. I thought about turning back but felt good so waded into the shin deep torrent. Oh my dog,  I had forgotten how cold these mountain streams were.

Joining the jeep road on the other side I spotted my first Hardrock course marker. Makes it very real. I followed the jeep road up, up until a junction I wasn't sure about (no markings here for reverse direction). I went right but should have gone left. I wasn't overly concerned, I just wanted time on my feet in the mountains and I got to explore the valley to the east of the one the course follows.

A procession of all terrain vehicles (mostly rentals out of Silverton) buzzed past me intermittently. These quad bikes on steroids spoiled the ambience somewhat but it would be hard to detract from such a spectacular hike.

I turned around when I hit 3,600 metres in view of the pass ominously perched at the head of the valley. I am not sure if there is even a navigable pass up there but I could see where it should be.

I kept the descent leisurely and took some more photos. All up around 17km+ in about 4.5hrs. Felt good. Count down continues.


Sunday, July 03, 2016

Day 1 Silverton

Finally back in Siverton, Colorado. I can feel the difference in altitude coming from sea-level to 9,000+feet or over 3,000m. Very hard to sleep and it got very cold overnight. Reminder for drop bags: warm clothes for the night. I am checking my pulse and O2 saturation levels in the morning. As much a curiosity as to help gauge how my body (read heart) is coping and adapting.

Yesterday in Durango at around 6,000ft it was 97% and 67bpm. Very happy with that. My resting pulse has never come down much from around 80bpm after the surgery. My cardiologist suggested that was my new norm given all the scar tissue in there now. So to be in the 60s is a really good sign. The sats are OK.

First morning in Silverton I am at 90% and 65bpm. Which is a good starting point. But a bit headachy still. Which is always hard to tell how much is lack of sleep after a 30hr transit and then poor sleep on arrival.

The town of Silverton looks the same, spectacularly framed my steep mountains. A few shops have closed and a couple of brave new ones have opened. The outdoor store still has the same father/son team behind the counter. My motel has worse than dial up speed wifi if you can get on. The owner is a great character (like so many that end up in such a place) and still does his bookings in an old pen and paper style calendar notebook. He reckons there is no chance of double booking or losing a booking. Fits with the style of the place.

The town is full of tourists and many many off-roaders who love the rough back country roads. Mind they drive them on the main roads as well. In fact it is not uncommon to see kids riding in the back of pick-up trucks. It is July 4 weekend and the town sells to over 20,000 from around less than 1,000. The parade and fireworks are renowned far and wide. Warn the local wild life!

I will skip the fireworks and indulge in a meal at the Tibetan restaurant in Durango before collecting Spud from the airport late tomorrow night. With only one road into town the traffic is pretty ordinary when the fireworks finishes. So I will get ahead of that game.

OK, sun is up. Time to test those O2 sats with a bit of trail and some elevation. One of my fav sections of the course is the last few kms into town along the Beaver Lake trail. I will bring back some pics!


Monday, June 27, 2016

A little older, a lot slower, a little wiser.

Given that my 3 finishes at Hardrock have all been really tough and each time I have come close to capitulating, I am definitely not taking anything for granted this time around. Add to that my dodgy back (still limits my downhill freedom), my nagging patello-femoral joint (I notice I had it taped back in 2010 as well), the fact that I am now well into my 50s compared to 40s for the last 3, and not the least my heart issues, and well, I am not overly confident of how this will go.

So, to realign the odds somewhat back in my favour, I have changed a few things this time.

Pacer: I don't normally use a pacer. I have had an impromptu pacer join me from Cunningham to the finish both times in this direction (2008 and 2010). The first was a great help. The second slowed me down until I dropped him on the climb. I have heard horror stories. But have also seen how much they can help a runner (no muling of course). So I bit the bullet and I have engaged the assistance of Russ Valdez, a total stranger who put his name on the Hardrock website dating service for pacers/runners to meet. Essential criteria: experience on the course (he has paced 6 times at HR). I have no idea how well we will get along and as Russ said, it is a bit like picking up a hitch-hiker, you never know what you are going to get. But I have a good feeling about him so I am sure it will work out great.

Training: I have done 2 things differently this time. While my weekly mileage is comparable to previous HRs, I have included far more long runs this time. I have aimed for a 40-50km weekly run. Preferably on hilly trail. These have generally been around 6-8hrs long. Plus a couple longer.

The other difference to my training is it has nearly all been done fully fasted. Yep, nothing to eat before or during the run. I now regularly get up and go out fasted and cover up to 9 hours without any calorie intake (since around 11pm the previous night). The reason for this is I always suffer from nausea for long, long periods at HR. Meaning I can't take on any calories. Meaning I bonk, and struggle with lack of energy. Now I have forced my body to seek out fat for fuel and it is working. The added bonus is I have shed around 6 kilos of body fat (aided by cutting intake of simple sugars and some refined carbs and increasing my fat intake). Less weight to carry up those big climbs. Hopefully, this means when the altitude turns my stomach sour I can maintain momentum until it comes good or I reach the next checkpoint. Hopefully both.

Counter to this, I am arriving a week later for acclimatisation but I couldn't avoid that. Here's hoping all the positive changes carry more weight. Did I mention I this one could be tough.


Taper time

You don't really taper for Hardrock. You train as hard as you can and then arrive in Silverton hopefully at least 2 weeks before the race to acclimatise to the altitude. The 3 previous times I have run I have arrived 3 weeks before. And then still suffered terribly with altitude problems during the race. This year I will arrive exactly 2 weeks before the race. Cutting it a bit fine and I am wishing I had scraped another week but work is chaotic and as it is I am leaving at an inopportune time. It also means I have no time off to pack and sort my gear. Fortunately, I have been doing that incrementally and pretty much finished packing today.

So instead of tapering in the last couple of weeks, you spend most of every day out on the course, mostly helping with the course marking. This gives you the benefit of familiarising with parts of the course, meeting other runners, and getting quality trail time climbing and descending at high altitude. This ends on about the Monday or Tuesday before race day (Friday). So the taper is just a few days.

Last long run yesterday, sweeping the Surfcoast Marathon. Not much elevation gain but 7 3/4 hours of trail was perfect. Backed that up with a solid 26km this morning for another 100+km week.

Feb
Week 24   65km  (Frenchman's Cap Tas 45km)
Week 23   75km
Week 22   71km
Week 21   88km
Mar
Week 20   93km
Week 19   88km
Week 18   84km   (Razorback 64km 12:15hr)
Week 17   76km
Week 16   96km   (Geelong Half Mara in 1:29)
Apr
Week 15   80km     (3hr)
Week 14   102km   (4:29hr)
Week 13   104km   (Maroondah Dam 50km -sweeping 9:27hr)
Week 12   102km   (5:32hr)
May
Week 11   102km   (5:43hr)
Week 10   96km     (Mt Macedon measure 54km 10:20hr)
Week 9     102km   (7:05hr)
Week 8     102km   (Mt Macedon 50km -sweeping 9:42hr)
June
Week 7     116km   (Prom100 17:32hr)
Week 6     111km   (5:32hr)
Week 5     109km   (7:09hr)
Week 4     111km   (Surfcoast marathon - 7:46hr sweeping)
July
Week 3
Week 2                    (course marking Hardrock)
Week 1                    (course marking and taper Hardrock)
Race

Monday, June 13, 2016

Countdown....howmanysleeps

Since the shock of scoring another Hardrock entry last December, my running focus has been solely around getting fit enough to have a chance of completing my third Hardrock. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since my last finish in 2010. Besides now being in my 50s, I have had a major health event with my year of AF (2011), I lost a year of running to plantar fasciitis (2013) and last November I suffered a low back injury that took months to overcome and still limits some of my movements, not the least my descending on technical trail.

With less than 5 weeks to go it is time to review where I am at, if for no other reason than to help reassure myself that I am on track. I have listed my weekly totals. Not the full picture as there is no measure of quality, effort or terrain but a good indication of volume. Pretty much all of the runs are at relatively low heartrate (except the 1/2 mara) and most of the long runs are done fasted (except Razor and Prom and latter parts of Maroondah). The non-event weeks I have listed the length in time of my long run for the week once they became significant. I look like achieving a solid block of around 3 months of averaging 100km per week. Not big miles but consistency is key and lots of long slow runs in there.

I have been supplementing the running with a physio guided pilates class most weeks and regular massage with Bengt. I wish I had started both of these sooner, they make a huge difference. I have no doubt that the pilates has improved my back massively. And the regular massage helps iron out niggles and helps with recovery heaps. Here's hoping it's all enough.

Feb
Week 24   65km  (Frenchman's Cap Tas 45km)
Week 23   75km
Week 22   71km
Week 21   88km
Mar
Week 20   93km
Week 19   88km
Week 18   84km   (Razorback 64km 12:15hr)
Week 17   76km
Week 16   96km   (Geelong Half Mara in 1:29)
Apr
Week 15   80km     (3hr)
Week 14   102km   (4:29hr)
Week 13   104km   (Maroondah Dam 50km -sweeping 9:27hr)
Week 12   102km   (5:32hr)
May
Week 11   102km   (5:43hr)
Week 10   96km     (Mt Macedon measure 54km 10:20hr)
Week 9     102km   (7:05hr)
Week 8     102km   (Mt Macedon 50km -sweeping 9:42hr)
June
Week 7     116km   (Prom100 17:32hr)
Week 6     111km   (5:32hr)
Week 5
Week 4                    (Surfcoast marathon -sweeping)
July
Week 3
Week 2                    (course marking Hardrock)
Week 1                    (course marking and taper Hardrock)
Race


Sunday, June 05, 2016

A date at the Prom

Given I have a trip planned to Hardrock again in just under 6 weeks I thought it was time to resurrect the blog to document the lead-up and the run itself.

Yesterday saw the annual pilgrimage to the Prom. After only managing 70 odd km last year going in off my ankle injury (avulsion with torn ligaments) and then walking a very sick runner out via the short route, I was back for another crack at the full 100.

Trying to work out how many Proms I have run is tricky as the old results are not on the website. First race was 2000 which is the only one I have missed. There have been 2 cancellations (fire and flood) and at least one shortened to 80km due to track closures. I ran 44, 60, 80 then started the 100s. So I think this year makes 9 x 100km from 14 starts. Happy to be corrected.

This year saw the date pushed into June (shorter day, likely worse weather), limit expanded up to close to 200, and the course reversed so we did the 20km loop first before the 80km. (Designed to stop people being able to pull out at the 80km mark-not a fan.)

I have experienced some pretty bad weather at the Prom. In 2003 only 2 of us started. I stopped at 80km borderline hypothermic after being soaked through all day in gale force winds with next to zero visibility after dark in the fog. The other runner, Amanda Allen, went back out in the early hours of the morning and hit snow on top of Mt Bishop. That was the worst year. This years race now ranks second for bad weather.

I have been doing 50km training runs most weekends for a few weeks but this was the first big one for the year. I started at the back of the field, planning to keep it very easy. I followed a procession of headlights onto the Lilly Pilly loop and they went the wrong way, heading clockwise. For many years runners randomly went either direction so I didn't worry, thinking the whole field had gone the wrong way.

Apparently not. The leaders started passing us half way up Bishop. Then we had fast runners coming down with slower runners going up. All under headlight. Not ideal. No views unfortunately and then on the way down my patella locked up painfully. I hadn't had that happen since it happened on the same descent back in 2007. That year it went on to be a major injury leading into Western States. Bugger. A short time later, I did it again climbing over rocks out on Pillar Point. This could be a problem.

Back at Tidal River I stretched my quad/psoas and repeated this a couple of time through the day. Apart from a little restriction all good. Better to discover this recurrence with time to address it.

The day was wet and windy. Very. I was soaked through from start to finish. I wore a long merino top with a full length jersey over that, plus polar fleece arm warmers, plus a windshirt over the top. I had my waterproof jacket on for the first couple of hours, off for the middle part of the day (out of the wind) and then on from afternoon to the finish. I had merino gloves with bike gloves over the top. I had waterproof mitts that I also wore in the night. I had a buff under my cap with the hood of both jackets up over my head all day. The first few hours I had a merino balaclava on as well. Bottom half were dryfit mini-shorts plus 3/4 running tights and long outer shorts over the whole lot. Feet, injinjis and I had my new Altra Olympus 2.0 and they were superb in the sloppy mud, wet rocks, sand, river crossings and hard packed access roads. And I was cold pretty much all day. Really cold.

I ran alone most of the day apart from a few stretches with Anthony Metcalf from Wagga and catching up with Paul Todd who I had helped out last year. Both these were early on. The rest of the day was a solo sojourn apart from passing, being passed or the out and backs.

The track across to Sealers was a skating rink with deep, slippery mud and soft leaf litter. It was really chopped up. After the dodgy knee thing I took it easy. The river at Sealers was deep. The tide was up when Anthony and I crossed. Mid to high thigh deep. What's a bit more water.

Sealers to Refuge to Waterloo was hard work and not much chance to get into any rhythm. But I was making solid progress.

The climb from Telegraph track junction to Roaring Meg junction seemed to take forever. With low cloud, rain and no views and my hood cinched close around my face, the world was a narrow focus of the track right in front of me.

The Roaring Meg singletrack was a river. It was deep and muddy. Impossible to run despite the gentle descent. Approaching the campground the heavens opened. By the time I got my waterproof jacket on I had cold rain water running down my back. It bucketed down. I started thinking about skipping Southpoint (and accepting a DNF) for safety reasons. There were 2 tents in camp. The bright yellow Macpac tent was sitting in a pool of water. When I came back they had packed up and gone despite it being close to dark. Poor buggers.

I headed down to Southpoint regardless and crossed path with a few runners. Susan Keith had just a tshirt on. We stopped to chat and I encouraged her to get her jacket on! Eventually I was at the bottom of mainland Australia. The rocky outcrop with the plaque 39* 08' 21' marking the southern most point was a lonely, cold, windy sentinel. I was glad I came down here. It is a special place, rugged, wild and isolated.

By the time I got back to the camp ground it was dark. I dug out my head lamp and headed for the lighthouse. It took forever to get there. The track past the heli-pad was confusing in the dark with wide puddles and gravel paths everywhere. The wind was howling and the warm lights from inside the buildings were very appealing.

The next section to Waterloo was tough. Overgrown, muddy, slippery and windy. And wet. With my head down I walked straight into a downed tree. Smack, bang into my forehead. I staggered for a bit to recompose and then ducked under the tree only to headbutt another branch on the other side and nearly knocked myself out. I then slipped and nearly went off the track. OK regroup and take things easy but having to look up now was a nuisance as the rain hit my face.

Waterloo beach seemed to go on forever. I am used to running this beach late afternoon. I love this beach. It was very different in the dark, wet, windy. A guy that was close behind me at the lighthouse was on the beach behind me and we leap frogged on the track back to Telegraph while we each had to change lights.

Finally on Oberon Beach, I caught up to Olivia, George and Mark for the 3rd time for the day. They were doing the 60km loop. I walked the beach with them to show them the crossing. It was shallow but really strong. But the wind and horizontal rain was unbelievable. It was hard to stand up yet alone walk into it. Visibility was terrible. I could see the boulders and just headed to the right, knowing we would find the track eventually. Yells of relief when we got out of the wind. I bid adieu getting too cold walking and started running.

I didn't realise there was no-one else still out on the course and that I was last in the 100. It was a quiet unceremonial finish in 17:32 with Paul awarding me a Freddo frog and a lamington. I wanted to wait for Liv to finish her first ultra but I was getting cold. Thank goodness I had a bed in a hut with a hot shower waiting for me.