As I crossed over the Sun Mountain 50km finish line, 40 minutes past the course cut-off, I realised I was lucky to have pulled it off considering the lack of training and injury I had leading up to the race. The whole experience rattled my love of running and how I looked at its relevance in my life for months after and it’s been incredibly difficult to put into words.
Although I was past the finish line cut-off I was considered a finisher and did not get a DNF, which, on one side of the coin is a fantastic way of recognising that I finished the course, but on the other hand, it didn’t feel I deserved it for not completing in the official time.
Let me wind back the clock a few months…Since my last post in February, I sustained a bazaar injury that meant I had to stop running for roughly three weeks in total. I was having a range of knee and shin pain that meant I found it incredibly hard to run for more extended periods of time. I began seeing my physiotherapist a couple of times a week for some manual treatments and eventually I decided to see a chiropractor for some more targeted skeletal therapies.
In the end, it came down to some weaknesses in my leg and foot that included a collapsing arch in my foot causing my knee to roll inwards on landing along with a weak VMO muscle that was causing some patella tracking issues.
It was incredibly difficult to think ahead to the race with the issues. I spent some time hiking the trails, cycling on my trainer and some weight and band exercises to strengthen the feet, knees and hip area as instructed by my physio.
I didn’t feel that my shoes needed to be changed or require orthotics for additional support. I did find that taking some breaks from standing at my stand-up desk at work helped a bit by taking some weight off my knee. I also noticed that running on the road created more problems, so I focused more time on the trails.
By the third-week things were feeling better but I decided to give it an extra week of strength work before I went for another run. I was flying over to England that week and thought that the time off work would be an excellent opportunity to try to gently get back into things and give me plenty of time to recover.
I began running every other day and increased the distance each time. It was a gamble at the time to either tread carefully and possibly pull out of both the BMO marathon and 50k races or commit to both and increase the training over the last couple of weeks to prepare me. I took the risk and targeted both races, but my fitness and form were not where they should have been to undertake them. Despite finishing them both, I was disappointed in myself for how things had unravelled.
I had no real desire to get a PR at the BMO as I wanted to target the Sun Mountain race and not cause further problems by pushing myself too hard. I ran it quite comfortably, and it was enjoyable to run the course again, but mostly for the atmosphere and experience that you have along the route. It is a fantastic and very well organised event. I felt quite confident at the end of the race that I no longer wanted to run anymore on the road as I no longer had any interest and I really felt my body takes a beating compared to trail running.
Training for the BMO marathon and the Sun Mountain races together was the worst decision I had made. When I signed up for them, I felt that the BMO training would contribute to running the distance at the sun Mountain but in fact, it caused more problems with how I trained. There was no real focus on one race. Although I wanted to target the Sun Mountain 50k, I was mixing in marathon training into my ultra training plan with more significance on distance on flatter ground so that I could focus on my heart rate. I soon discovered that training on the flat Vancouver Seawall and Stanley park trails was not enough to prepare me for the elevation changes on the Sun Mountain course.
I look back at my training logs and see that leading up to my injury I was only averaging around 40km and 500m of elevation gain per week across four runs at the most. There was no real consistency to my training with my focus on strength training and zone three and five repeats on the treadmill. Yes, these all have their place in preparation, but the balance was all wrong. After the injury, I peaked at around 60km in my final week before tapering off, but it was too little too late.
As I looked at my race photos, I felt I let myself down seeing an unrecognisable blob who barely finished the race compared to my trimmed super fit version a year before at the end of the Victoria Half Ironman. Something had gone very wrong, and I now need to look back at my mistakes and work out my direction.
After the two races, I decided to sign off on the blog until I was ready to reflect on the whole experience and the months following. Here I am in December, seven months later ready to put fingers to keyboard. Part of the reason I started this blog was to put my thoughts into words, even if no one read it, and figure out how I can improve as an athlete and as a person.