Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Athlete's Corner: The North Face® Lavaredo Ultra Trail

Race report on The North Face® Lavaredo Ultra Trail
Athlete Interview with Adam Harris

When: 27th June 2014, 11 p.m. start
Where: Cortina d’Ampezzo (BL), Dolomites - Italy
Distance/Elevation: 119 km / 5.850 m+
Time limit: 31 hours
No. participants: 800 max
Full results: here 
Adam Harris finished in 17:44:30, 68th overall male

Chloé: How long have you been trail running and what do you consider as your best Ultra so far?
Adam: I have been trail running for four years now, but have been more seriously focused on running for the past two years. Last year I hired a coach, Joe Grant out of Colorado, and with his help have been realizing large gains in terms of performance and experience. My best ultra was last year in August, at FatDog (50 mile).  I paced well, felt great the whole race, and ended up winning, proving to myself that I was making progress as a runner.

The Tre Cime du Lavaredo, after which the race is named.
Chloé: Why did you pick Lavaredo and have you done anything like this before?
Adam: I read about Lavaredo in an IrunFar article and it instantly captured my imagination.  The idea of racing through mountains in the Italian Dolomites was something I just had to do. I also love traveling, and was able to time this race with a couple weeks of traveling through Italy, France and eventually Serbia.
Chloé: Did you feel ready, how did you prepare for this?
Adam: Heading into the race, I felt like I was in the best shape of my life.  Joe and I had built a plan starting from February for peaking three to four weeks from the event.  I ran only one ultra, the Gorge Waterfalls (50 km) at the end of March, and mainly focused on quality long runs and big weeks. At that time, I was averaging about 120-140 km a week with about 4000-5000 m of climbing. I tapered from about two weeks out with reduced volume, but still the same amount of runs per week. 
As far as strategy goes, I planned to run conservatively through the night and early morning until the Fifth aid station at 76 km and then push for the last 43 km to the finish with whatever I had left. The race organization also provided racers with a great map and I spent a decent amount of time working out predicted splits and food required in order to hit my optimistic goal of 16 hrs and realistic goal of 18 hrs. I also spent time strategizing gear as there was required kit, as well as food due to the fact that European aid stations are stocked very differently than North American aids. Kit wise I used my Salomon S-Lab 5L pack, Pearl Izumi N1’s, shorts/t-shirt, Buff, as well as a tights, a long sleeve t-shirt, and a North Face waterproof jacket. I decided to bring along Black Diamond Z-Ultra poles as I knew with over 5800 m of climbing that I would appreciate the poles in the later stages.

The valley between 76  km and 96 km, it felt a lot longer than it looks!

Runners coming into the aid at 105 km
Chloé: So, how did it go?
Adam:  I arrived in Cortina d’Ampezzo four days before the race, and spent some time exploring the city and surrounding mountains, as well as eating plenty and sleeping as much as possible. The days before the race I worked on finding food that would work with my diet (vegetarian and dairy free), and was able to sleep well and eat well leading into the race. 
Since the race started at 11pm, I spent the race day relaxing, trying to nap for a few hours at 2-4pm, and then eating dinner at 6pm so I could fully digest before the race start. The race started from the centre of town, and the energy was high.  There were 800 runners lined up down the street, as well as hundreds of fans lined along the streets. The start was pretty reserved for me. As we moved through town, I began to run slightly through the pack before climbing up the first big hill of about 600 m. 
We flicked on our lamps (Black Diamond Polar Icon), and I focused on not exerting myself as we moved to the first aid at 18 km. Moving through the night I felt really good, my friend Colin had flown over from Canada and was able to drive and meet me at all of the aids, and we had a good system for refueling and topping-up on CliffShots, Macro Bars, bananas and potato chips.  As I moved through to the third aid station at 48 km, I was faced with a soul-sucking 1200 m climb over 15 km.  This occurred as dawn broke and it was quite cold, around 0 C as we crested 2500+ m at the Refugio Auronzo. The climb took a lot out of my legs, we had already put over 3100 m of climbing in the bag at this point, but after a bit of food, a water refill and some new music I was off.
The sun rose and it was truly one of the most beautiful scenes of my life.  The mountains glowed in every direction, you could see for miles, and with a new day breaking there was hope of good to come. Descending out of this pass was a 18 km Leg to the next aid, and here I began to feel the wooden “ultra legs” which was concerning, as I was only about halfway into the race. I also had a new fruit bar which immediately turned my stomach and began what would become an issue all day. 

Typical scenery in the last 20km. Not bad eh?

I switched to Coke at the next aid at 66 km which helped a lot and continued moving pretty well. At around 80 km, I started having a tough time getting any food down, and I started to bonk pretty well before forcing down some calories. At this point I knew it was going to be a tough day, but I was committed to finishing no matter what.  The final 40 km were tough as I had no power on the uphill’s. I actually began to think I was “allergic” to uphills. As soon as I started climbing I immediately felt sick, but felt decent on the flats and downs. It was unfortunate that I felt so terrible through this part of the race, because it was incredibly beautiful and a privilege to run through. The final descent was brutal, very muddy and slick. Then we hobbled our way into town where the streets were lined with loads of Italians and finishers alike. 
After a long day, I finished 17 hrs and 45 min after I started, in 68th place. The event was won in 12h41 by Anton Krupika from the US, with Mike Foote finishing second 15 min behind and a runner from Lithuania 4 minutes behind him.  The ladies race was won in 14h30 by Rory Bosio of the States, with Fernanda Maciel (14h45) and Katia Foria (16h00) finishing 2nd and 3rd.
Overall I thought that the race was really well run with one exception. There was a sister race of 45 km starting at 8 am the next day, and the 800 runners from this race ran on the same course as the 120 km runners. From 80 km onward, we had to run through the shorter distance runners making it difficult at times to navigate the course, especially with all of that distance and elevation in our legs.
Chloé: What tips do you have for others who are considering a similar European race?
Adam: I would advise arriving several days before the race to help reduce jetlag, and to keep in mind that your body will adapt to the food, water, etc.  Also good to know what food you are going to eat during the race because the aids in Europe are usually stocked with cheese, salami, Nutella, bread and pastries. Another thing to be aware of is the pace that the racers start at.  No matter the distance, it seems the Europeans start at a 10 km-race sprint pace. Of course, there is carnage after 20-30 km but it’s something to be aware of. There were no bathrooms or porta-potties at the Lavaredo race start. This is usually a part of everyone’s pre-race routine, so it needs to be something you plan for.
Chloé: Ok, thanks for the great info. Now, what does the rest of your season look like?
Adam: The rest of my season is relatively relaxed. My immediate focus is on Squamish50 (50 mile), coming up in August. Later, I plan a trip around Mt Rainer on the Wonderland Trail in late September, and then will be running a 50 km in Oregon in October. I will also be sprinkling-in some shorter distance half marathons and road races in to keep my speed up.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5Peaks TrailSTOKE Ultra race trip report

2014 5Peaks TrailSTOKE. The start. Photo by ©Rob Shaer 2014

When: Saturday July 19, 2014, 6am start
Where: Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC, Canada
Distance/Elevation: 48km with 3000m of vertical climb and descent (shortened from 60k due to weather)
Time limit: 10 hours
No. participants: 130 solo and 28 relay teams finishers
Full results: here*

*Our team iRunAmok placed third in the mixed division and fifth overall relay team in 6h26

Notables: TrailSTOKE was the inaugural Skyrunning event for western Canada and the 2014 Canadian Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. Also, an official selection race to compete on the Canada team at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge at Pikes Peak (Colorado) on August 16, 2014.

Top Left: our team back in April, Lynn Peak
Top Right: in order Leg #1, #2, #3 at racer check-in, Revelstoke
Bottom Left: happy at the finish. Bottom Right: view from Revelation Lodge

Last Fall, I got a text from James asking if I’d sign-up to a race that went straight up a mountain for 15k, along a sketchy alpine ridge for 30k, then straight down for 15k. To this I responded “for sure!!”

When the 5Peaks TrailSTOKE 60k ultra finally became official, I badly wanted to fit it in my schedule. However knowing I’d made the Knee Knacker roster, there was no way I would race two challenging mountain ultras on back-to-back weekends. Side bar: some people did race both and a huge hi5 to them.

Luckily, my buddy Graham from iRunAmok organized a relay team, including my training partner Aran. He’s a downhill specialist and therefore was assigned to Leg #3. It made sense for me to run Leg #1, climbing is usually my strength. Graham is a solid all-round mountain athlete and so he would run the gnarly 30k ridge in Leg #2.

Nothing like a 6 hour drive for some solid team-building.

Road trip!

Revelstoke is a cute little town and the resort impressive. Our team stayed at the Sutton Resort Hotel where racer check-in and package pick-up was held. Affordable, yet the experience felt like extra luxurious pampering for a race venue. What a great decision (thanks Cory!) ie: outdoor hot tub, room decks with mountain views, full kitchen, etc., and as bonus the race start would be staged right outside our lobby.

Revy, a cute little town. Photo by Aran Seaman.

We opted to skip the speaker presentation in favour of joining other racers for a leisurely supper. A short gondola ride to the Revelation Lodge took us to where the mandatory pre-race briefing was held – also where the next day’s expo, finish line, and post-race awards banquet would be.

Mandatory pre-race briefing at Revelation Lodge. Photo by Aran Seaman.

I’d say the focus of the briefing was on safety. Much was said about the dangers: bears, weather, the terrain, mosquitos, and about mandatory equipment and mandatory check-points. Not much was said about distances, estimated times for each check-point or logistics for relay team exchanges. There wasn’t much info on the website either, and so many were left wondering how to pace for the next day. We did some broad math for our relay transitions, and crossed-fingers on best timing for our respective shuttles.

The weekend prior. Last quarter of Knee Knacker in the "hurt locker".
It takes the average person one-to-two weeks to recover from a cold. It takes me three-to-four. Because I had raced a tough ultra and trained through my cold, I was far from feeling healthy, more like strung-out and antsy. Being onsite, I was pumped for the TrailSTOKE course though equally glum that I might perform poorly for my awesome team.

Top Left: Shannon, Joel and Graham heading to the briefing. Centre: Josh and I at the start line
Top Right: Cory happy about his first trail ultra "in the bag"
Bottom: coming off the gondola, toward Revelation Lodge for briefing

Race morning! The line-up was stacked with accomplished speedsters. This start would be hard and fast. I braced myself for a storm of hurt.

Climbing started from the set-GO. Some surprises with downward dips and rollers, but mostly good steady climbing with steep burns. Apart from brief power-hike sections, the first Leg was all runnable ascending and completely fantastic. On a regular day, this would have been my heaven … and then THAT happened again. Like a déjà-vue of last weekend.  My lungs and mid-section compressed tightly, with breathing a struggle that surged-on a mini panic attack.

First-time selfie during a race ... call it "recalibrating".

I had to step out of the single track and let the train go by. Furious and discouraged, I texted Graham to expect my time to be slower for our transition exchange.

The rain, sleet, and fog descended on us, along with the temperatures. Runners were pulling on their arm warmers or jackets and slowing down. I’d started climbing smoothly again after some focused recalibration. Then all of a sudden there was the exchange check-point in front of me. “What?? I’m here already?” Had I known …

View from the warming hut, exchange check-point. Photo by Aran Seaman

Extra adventure for Jamie, Graham and Adam. "Van on fire, van on fire"

I reached out to hug Graham, bolting toward me holding a jacket to cover me with. He was out of breath and already in a sweat. He exclaimed “I just got here! Our shuttle blew-up on fire … we’re all safe though”. Off he went to run his Leg in the pouring rain.

I went into the warming-hut to text Aran. We wondered if Leg #2 would also take less time than we had estimated. Aran decided to meet me at the check-point immediately. After our ‘well done/good luck’ hug, I quickly hopped into the shuttle, to the gondola, then down to base for a hot shower. I would miss Aran’s start of the descent Leg, though would see the leaders come in, and our team finish.

Graham is flying on Leg #2. Photo by Rob Shaer.

Graham’s ridge run Leg was quick. I barely had time to gondola up to the finish before he showed up (with the sunshine!). Aran - nicknamed by Ramsey as ‘The Downhill Angel’, soon after came barrelling through, clocking our mix-team time nearly two hours faster than we’d predicted for ourselves. He'd done half the run with a rock in his shoe, otherwise, he said "I'd have gone way faster".

In the briefing they announced that the course was modified from 60k to 55k, but it was closer to 48k in the end.

Finish line area. Photo by Aran Seaman.

We enjoyed pints in the finish area, while visiting with friends who’d already finished, and continued cheering those still rolling in. Many soloists said the course was good and they would do the event again, with a few tweaks and improvements to the organization and to the course. Perhaps holding the event later in the year would help with snow melt, and give access to more terrain making it 60K, with less double-back sections and using less logging roads.

Post-race, chilling-out at our hotel. Photo by Aran Seaman.

Graham and Cory, on our way to the awards banquet. Photo by Aran Seaman.

The event promises to be amazing and definitely on my bucket list as a solo run in the future.

For more on the race, read other racer blogs below. Email your blog post if you have a story on this race at

Joshua Barringer
Canadian Trail Runner
Nick Elson

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Knee Knacker Race Report

6am start line. Strutting, unaware. Photo by Nora

It’s easier to write about success than it is to write about defeat. There are lessons in reflection but why dwell. It’s all in the stats. Knee Knacker was one of the hottest. There was good carnage and extra suffering on the course … cramps, sobs, vomit, blood, a lot swearing and misery.

Tom later tried to console me by saying “if it makes you feel any better, only nine runners finished in sub six hours”.

Sub six was my goal time.

Who knows if doing this or that differently would have changed the outcome of my day. What did make me feel better was, well, the event is special in my heart. Many of my friends were there, and the volunteers were so excited for everyone. That joy was somewhat contagious – I was quite grumpy by the end. Blame it on the random instrumentals, dwarfs and bright popsicles … it was hard to stay grumpy, especially with Gemma beaming “this is just magical”.

The Bluffs with Ann-marie Gill. Dry mouth. Photo by Herman Kwong.

Oh taper, my nemesis

I was a volunteer crew for eight days with BC Bike Race the week prior to Knee Knacker. This seemed like a good idea at the time. I would be away from running-adventure temptations, perfect taper. I thought a bit of travel on the Sunshine Coast, camp, mingle with racers, and a lot of lounging? Not so much. I was a labour horse and returned home completely wiped-out with a sore throat to boot. My symptoms subsided some, but by the Friday before race day I had a full-blown head cold.

KK was the last ultra scheduled in my season, so I wanted to still run it. I could have adjusted my time goals and therefore enjoy the experience, but nooo I was going to kill it or it was going to kill me.

When Jackie passed me in Leg Four she scolded “you’re forbidden to taper ever again, you always get sick when you taper.”

Top of Black MTN. Photo by Nora.

Don’t move, don’t talk, don’t think, don’t worry everything’s just fine

I was sluggish from the gun. No rhythm, breathing was difficult, my limbs felt like foam and my brain just didn’t show up. All I had going for me was rage and confidence. Convinced I would surmount whatever the day would throw at me, I just needed to drink and eat my way out of this stupor.  Except I didn’t.

"Where are we? Is this Black now … hey, was that Ed McCarthy?”

Then I was with Marieve and Julien. We were trying to enjoy Cypress, chirping a bit but mostly quiet. Julien took a sharp tumble down the chute but he shooed us away, saying he was fine. I trotted forward on numb feet.

British Properties, pitty patter, then that little climb nearing Capilano Canyon, then CRAMP. Both legs seize and I summersault down the descent. I shoo my companions away, then awkwardly roll into Cleveland Dam. Half-way and all considering only four minutes off target. I smile for the first time as Munny nudges and heckles with his GoPro “how’s it going buddy?!”.  Quick refill by Dave and Munny and I start walking up Nancy Green Way holding a salty potato. Walking?

Hollyburn Chute with Julien Henley. Photo by Pat Malaviarachchi.

I think I saw hell, then I swallowed the sun

The rest is just an agonizing, tearful, bizarre blur. Between laying on the ground or against trees screeching with full-body cramps, there were burst of autopilot running.

I recall Marieve’s fiery hair showing the way in slow motion like red streamers through narrow green towers. I clung to her voice, soothing she said “let’s do this together” as she pulled away. I don’t know what happened to Julien, he mumbled something. Was he ahead or behind, I lost track but wished he would be there again. Tom had advised me the day before to find a runner to pace with. I was mad, lonely.

Matt’s face popped from above, mouthing gibberish in an amused tone. As I looked up the climb where his glowing beard was perched, I replied… “I’m actually kind of cold”.
And the hallucinations crept on “where … hey was that Snow White?”
For real. Photo by Cindy Hartford.

Tick tock. I’m late

The one time I ask friends to be there for a finish and I’m over half an hour late!
“Wake-up! Get it together girl. Go GO move it!”
It wasn’t the finish I envisioned, not with the passing out and snot, and aloof responses to simple questions (forgive me Sammy, Ellie, Enzo and Dr. Richie). I had requested hot shirtless men with beer at the finish. Too bad I was “out of it” to better enjoy the moment, however thank you Aran and Graham for playing along. You guys are good sports and I owe you still.

Let’s go out and feel the night

I know it’s just a race. And in a few days (or weeks), the sting of disappointment will dim and I’ll remember … Not very much actually. The second half is a blackout, and so I’ll remember only that I survived another darn ultra. “A real character builder” as Tom said.
Time to enjoy the night’s breeze on a mountaintop and no more 4:45am alarm clocks for a while.
Finished in 6h31, 2nd age group, 10th overall female. Full results KK 2014: here
PS: Hey – I bet you wished you’d wagered on our predictions. Jeff and I nailed the interviews for top three male and female podium spots!
Next up: 5Peaks Trailstoke race report (don’t worry Jackie, I’m just doing the relay)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Athlete's corner: Sinister7 race report

Daniel Goddard race report on: Sinister7 Ultra – 100 mile solo


Sinister7, 2014. Daniel finished 3rd overall solo male, in 20:50:45

When: July 5-6, 2014, 7am start
Where: Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, Canada
Distance/Elevation: 100 miles,  5,687m
Time limit: 30 hours
No. participants: Max 1,400 racers (including relay)
Event results (here).

Chloe: How long have you been running trails and what do you consider as your best ultra so far?

Daniel: I’ve been running trails since the summer of 2010. Initially, I did a couple of 10k road races then was looking for something different. My first ultra was Diez Vista50k last year, and Sinister7 will be my fourth race in the ultra distance. I also completed the Club Fat Ass North Shore Enduro run (6hrs) and the Vancouver100 (k) earlier this year.

Vancouver100 went well. Zero catastrophes. Plus there was a banana on the trail hung near the finish with my name on it, literally. I have some of the best friends on the planet.

Chloe: Why did you pick Sinister7?

Daniel: Because Random Happenstance (@cooleen_s) re-tweeted that Sinister7 was lengthening the course to include a 100 mile distance. I “thanked” her for that the night before the race, haha.

Chloe: Did you feel ready, how did you prepare for this, what gear/food?

Daniel: It’s easy to feel ready when you’re not sure what you’re in for. Though overall my training went along great, with every race showing some improvement.

I didn’t stray far from my training plan. Marathon Mondays, ran at low intensity, helped a lot.

One thing I did differently than for other races was to test an experimental diet for my program at school (I’m studying holistic nutrition). I diligently followed an 80/10/10 ratio the week leading up to Sinister7. I consumed massive quantities of raw fruits and vegetables exclusively. A low-fat all-vegan diet which also provided eight-to-nine liters of water per day. So, I was better hydrated than ever before!

I brought two pairs of Pearl Izumi M2s – perfect for dry dirt trails. I used an Inov-8 Race Ultra vest, packed full of organic baby food pouches, lots of gels, this new fuel and electrolyte product Tailwind, and vegan gummy bears from Whole Foods (yay!). Also - big thanks to Dave Cressman and family at Distance Runwear for all the support.

Chloe: So, how did it go?

Daniel: It was really enjoyable to arrive in Crowsnest Pass a couple of days early. My mom and I drove to scout the major aid stations. We hiked the course a bit and took pictures. I slept well prior, and kept to a mostly fruit diet before the race.

The event was incredible. A lot bigger than any race I’ve participated in. That means more amazing volunteers, more energetic clapping spectators, and I imagine many sleepless nights of planning for the race directors (RDs). My appreciation goes out to each and every one of them.  

I recognized a couple of names. I know Deb Russell, who ran strong at Sun Mountain (50 mile). I was hoping to run with her but it didn’t work out. I ran most of legs one, two, and three with Caroline McIlroy, who finished first place solo female.

The race has seven legs varying between 6.65 miles and 22.49 miles. The climbs didn’t get too aggressive until Leg three (21.75 miles with 4354’ of vertical) and I played them very conservatively. It got progressively warmer, so I really focused on my breathing and keeping cool. Leg four went well. Leg five starts with some miles of runnable dirt track, but I held back from tearing it up. I allowed myself to slow down a lot, and so was able to harness my energy for a strong Leg six and seven to the finish.

The only mistake was bringing AA batteries instead of AAA for my headlamp. Oops! Fortunately I had a small pocket LED (to use in case I needed to change batteries) which got me through the last 5km of Leg six.

The best was having some of my closest family at the aid stations, well prepared and so supportive. This made all the difference.

Chloe: What tips do you have for others who are considering this race?

Daniel: Even though it wasn’t scorching hot, I’ve heard reports of high 27c and 30c. Staying cool definitely kept me going. Savour the (many) creek crossings, and keep a handheld with ice water for cooling your head. Look up more. Something I realized on leg three (miles 20-42) to remember to experience the incredible views!!

Chloe: What does the rest of your season look like?

Daniel: In less than six weeks I return for another round of the Squamish50 (50 miles). This will cap off the racing season. I’m also throwing together a 24 hour, 30th birthday ultra (midnight to midnight) in October, more details and invitations to come!

See Daniel’s Blog for more on Sinister7
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