My wife, kids, and I drove to the Shuswap in British Columbia almost two weeks ago. It was my old best friend from high-school’s 40th birthday and his wife planned a surprise out at their cabin. Our route from Edmonton took us through Canmore, Alberta and on the way by I noticed a billboard advertising the, “Grizzly Ultra Canmore Marathon.” The event, which takes place on October 9th, is a 50km run. When we passed the billboard it seemed like a great idea but I have since realized that I may have signed my own death-warrant when I clicked, “submit,” on the registration. This isn’t a 80km route over flat Alberta terrain, like the Really Long Run to End MS, but rather a 50km course wrapping around and up and down a mountain.
I have never trained for massive elevation changes. The routes I run around Edmonton are fairly flat with a few long hills. The course for the Grizzly starts at the Canmore Nordic Centre and five years ago I ran a 7km event there which was steep and nothing like I’d ever run before. The 7km course had sections where you couldn’t run if you wanted to and I am now picturing over 5 times that for the event in October. Again, shit.
I have just over two months to prepare. In my favor are:
- I have already run an ultra distance of 77kms this year and it was 9.5 hours of running.
- I have kept running and training since.
- I’m crazy enough to believe I can do it.
My challenges are:
- Weight (i.e. fat guys aren’t mountain goats); I’ll have to cut as much weight as I can to manage the elevation changes and steep sections of the course which imagine to be numerous.
- Unfamiliarity with official ultra events. The only ultra I’ve ever run is the Really Long Run to End MS and this will be my first time running with this many people.
- Strategy; I’ll need to develop a great strategy to ensure I can finish in the allotted 9 hours.
To meet these challenges head on I have already started developing a plan. The first piece is diet. For the next month I am going to restrict my caloric intake. On rest days, no more than 1870 calories. On days where I train (which is most days) my caloric intake increases to account for the extra calories burned. To do this as accurate as possible I have purchased an app for my phone called, “MyNetDiaryPro.” With it I can scan the barcodes of the food I eat or, in the case of vegetables from our small garden, simply type in what I am eating along with the quantity. The app also allows me to input any exercise I perform and then adjusts my target daily calorie intake accordingly.
In addition to watching calories I am also watching the food content. As much as possible I am going to try and use lean protein (chicken, salmon) and green vegetables and fruit for the bulk of my calories. We have a small garden in our yard which is growing swiss chard, kale, and romaine lettuce and I am currently eating fresh greens with every meal (including breakfast).
Training is an entirely different story. I have to ramp up the intensity for the next 8 weeks and include as much elevation training as possible. As luck would have it I have met and become friends with a great guy named Mark who is an actual ultra-distance runner. He is going to show me the ,”w,” and the ,”two-truck,” trails in the Edmonton River Valley which he feels should help to prepare me for the Grizzly. I also have another buddy, Paul, who has started to run the, “Fort Edmonton Footbridge Half-pipe,” with me. The half-pipe is a name pretty much only known to me for a loop I run between the top of the Wolf Willow stairs and to the top of the steep path to the southwest leading out of the valley. I actually wrote about it last year and you can find that post here. Basically, I have come to realize that my training runs for the next two months will have to begin with the thought, “holy F@%k I have to do what?” The reason is that I know I will have more than one moment during the Grizzly where all hope will seem to dissipate and I’d better acclimate myself to those feelings now so that I am accustomed to dealing with them.
Running up stairs and hills won’t be all the training will consist of. I’m also going to hit my garage for some high-intensity circuit training as well. For example yesterday I ran the half-pipe (see above) for almost 1.5 hours and then came home and did three laps of a circuit in my garage. This included:
- Clean & Jerks
- Wall balls
- Kettle bells
- Box jumps
Needless to say I slept very deeply last night. I plan to do circuit training three days per week. A rough outline for a week will look like this:
- Monday – Half-pipe & circuit
- Tuesday – rest
- Wednesday – 10km road run
- Thursday- Half-pipe & circuit
- Friday- Circuit only
- Saturday- Long run in river-valley (20-30km)
- Sunday- 5-10km, “fun run,” (low intensity).
I’m putting all this work and effort in the hopes of finishing the Grizzly. I have no delusions that as a 40 year-old fat guy with MS that I’ll be able to finish near the top. That isn’t the point; the point is finishing and the organizers of the event have allowed entrants 9 hours to finish the 50km. So my goal is to finish in 9 hours or better. Sorry, I should rephrase that, my goal is to finish injury-free in 9 hours or better. How can I enjoy the wine that night with an injury? Slow down and enjoy the wine that is what I say.
I didn’t add this above as it didn’t seem to fit. The Grizzly is on October 9th, 2016. I turn 40 on October 7th, 2016- two days earlier. It took me two days to sign up for the run because on the entry form I had to select, “40-49,” instead of, “30-39,” for my age group. The registration form literally sat open on my computer for two days while I attempted to let that sink in. I could literally hear the grey-hairs going , “pink-pink-pink,” out of my skull.
*crawls up in ball and rocks back-and-forth muttering, “age is just a number, age is just a number.”