Race Report

Melissa’s 2019. Colder, but less snow so I’ll take it.


Time: 94:35

Place: 33/733

Race nemesis: the Grey phantom.

Here’s the TL;DR if that’s your thing – I ran a good, solid race but I also feel like I ran a no-risk-no-reward race.

Now here’s the chronological summary, with some foreshadowing right off the bat – I got up in the morning and blew my nose and it bled a little bit. Oh fucking great I thought, just don’t bleed during the race.

But back to the beginning… the race isn’t til 10:30 so I had time for a huge breakfast, hampered slightly by the fact that all the food we brought froze overnight in the hotel fridge. Still, I had some fiber and some protein 3 hours from the race and some carbs 2 hours out. And I think that contributed a lot to my sustained energy through the whole race.

Liv bought me a toque, I caught the shuttle and listened to Frank Turner.

I checked my jacket at bag check and kept warm by moving and watched the thousands of people running the 5 & 10k take off for over 20 minutes. Then it was finally time for the real runners.

I took my caffeine pill. My hypothesis being that if I take it at race-start then it will get into my blood stream mid-race or later and keep me consistent – which again, seems to have worked.

Me and two other guys were the only people with the balls to toe the line. But of course some people burst out and fade, others burst out and don’t fade.

The leader pack thinned out and I was leaving people behind but I couldn’t catch up to someone in full leggings and a grey jacket with their hood up. So I called them The Grey phantom and assumed they had no gender. Eventually they were stopping at water stations and Porto-potties so I was passing them periodically though and it turned out to be a dude, probably in his early 40s. Seems my race nemesis is always someone with an intermittent style, I guess because anyone else consistent like me will have found their place in the chain by mid race and we all move relative to each other.

I saw some caribou again this year, just a whole family of ’em chilling on the golf course. Not as cool as last year when one went across the race course in slowly falling snow silent as a ninja but better than not seeing them.

So around 12k I got the first great endorphin rush but I told myself not to get cocky – I remember how bad the last 4 k were last year. If I could gift anyone my neurology for a moment it would be the testosterone, endorphin, and whatever else cocktail the brain gives off around 12k. The body feels powerful and running hard feels great, your brain fills with war movies and Rocky and hip hop lyrics and it’s fucking rad. You start trash talking other runners in your head and picking people off to leave in your dust. It’s wonderful.

Like I said though, this year and told myself not to get too into it – remember how bad the end of the race crushed me. So I kept it cool, chatted with a few other racers too. We were all taking off our hats and gloves and stuff to cool down then putting them back on when they dried and bit and we were cold again. But it’s not a hassle.

After k15 is when my nose started bleeding. That’s a fucking hassle. And with my blood pressure up it really bled. My gloves got soaked but I did okay keeping it off everything else. Of course it was still caked into my beard though. I didn’t let it worry me though, nothing to be done about it and I didn’t want to lose any time. The body is in fight or flight mode anyway so it’s going to patch up any leaks as best it can pretty quick.

I felt like I was doing good and I was primarily waiting for Cork Screw Hill.

Cork Screw Hill is what killed me last year… because last year after mid-race I was running on fumes, holding on and just telling to not slow down.Which works by the way. You can just pick a pace and not let yourself dip below it for hours. You gotta keep your internal drill sargent firing and just let your body go through the motions. But what happened last year was I forced myself not to lose any pace up the hill. It was a knock-down drag-out fight but I got up Cork Screw Hill at the same pace. Which of course means I’d doubled the power-output needed and when I finally crested the monster I was fucking dead. And the last loop around the park was a death tunnel of me begging for mercy.

Fearlessly fast, fearlessly slow. That’s my motto when need be. So I slowed down up the hill and it was such an emotional test. I did not like doing it. Instead of an internal drill sargent it was internal yoga instructor. Just breathe, just relax, just be here now, trust that this is part of the plan, yes you look like a giant pussy but that’s okay… But I crested the hill feeling fine and at the top caught up The Grey Phantom again – who was dying. And we laughed about the Hill and I told him how it killed me last year as I passed him.

I started the final loop around on the gravel path, still feeling good and still saving some energy expecting to be dead at the final push.

Then I looked up and I was at the final turn and I was like oh shit and started booking it to the finish. I could suddenly hear the finish line announcer and he was saying someone had just finished at 94 minutes on the dot and a volunteer was telling me I had 400 meters left and I just had no idea how I zoned out that hard. The thing is about the end of Melissa’s is there’s a lot going on around you. When you get onto the gravel path there’s straight up pedestrians walking around, there’s cars trying to park, there’s golf carts and tractors and you’re just following the feet of the runner in front of you to not get lost.

I had a lot of energy left in the tank so I got to the line nice and strong and fast but already feeling like I should have pushed harder sooner.

But the real obstacle isn’t the race, it’s immediately after. Last year, you may recall, I just about blacked out from suddenly stopping exercising and being cold and damp in the freezing wind.

So Liv and I had a plan for her to meet me at the finish line with fresh, dry, warm clothes. I crossed the line and started feeling the glassy-eyed darkness and I was like stay moving, Spartan.

I ripped my shirts off and put my sweater on, and something in me was like this is a lot of work just take a lie down brah… but no, this was the true test. I started coughing really bad.

And once I was changed I started feeling better. Next was cleaning the blood off my face. I should have taken my medal selfie first but it slipped my mind until we were actually back at the hotel. I got my medal, my shirt, my beer, and then it was freezing so we had to take off. The weather was supposed to be worst around noon and it was.

Which is a bummer, I hate leaving the festival atmosphere after an event but there really wasn’t one this year. It was cold, and dark, and getting colder and darker. And snowing.

Thing is though, leaving so quickly added to the impression that the race was just a thing to get done. We executed the pre-race plan, I executed the race plan, and we executed the post-race plan. The whole thing kind of went by on paper. We had quite seriously done a completely frivolous thing.

Naturally, I chased the feeling of celebration into complete hedonism. After we got cleaned up and changed we hit the English pub, I got my usual prime rib at Park Distillery, and then we went to the official after-party then toddled off to bed.

Dealt with a garbage breakfast and a slog of a drive home and that’s Melissa’s 2019. Will there be a Melissa’s 2020 for me? I had said no before this race but when Liv and I were talking we agreed that we need some reason for Banff weekend every year, why not Melissa’s?20190928_131135.jpg

Cardio Before Or After Weights – Or The Forgotten Third Way…

I wrote about cardio before weights last week and how I think is best however you decide to organize it but I neglected to mention something.

Cardio during weights. Imagine a gif of a mind blowing. I’m not going to look for one.

I was inspired by a Spartan Racer on YouTube (I’m watching a lot of Spartan stuff getting ready for my first one August 10) who said to get ready he started mixing shorter runs throughout his weight training. Genius!

So far I’ve tried it once and it’s awesome. I laid out 10 movements for a full body workout. Did it with light weight, medium weight, did a 5 mile run, then did it with heavy weights.

I figured that a full body work out before a run would help with a lot of form issues and I was right but there’s a risk of breaking down by the end if you went too hard. Also it prevents the first few miles from feeling like such hard work as you get up to speed.

Everyone who runs frequently knows the heart and lungs don’t mind working once they’re working – but they hate getting to work.

Now two things were noticeable about the work out after I got back from the run. One, I sweat more than I’ve ever sweat outside of a sauna. Two, it was not an uphill battle, it didn’t feel more taxing that if I hadn’t run.

Normally when I get home from a run I want to shower and eat – two things that really take me out of work out mode. So having too much of a work out left would probably feel defeating. But really I felt great.

Probably two factors; That my muscles were warmed up by the previous session and then kept warm but not taxed by the run so I was primed to lift heavy, and that this was a massive work out and I felt like a badass and all I had to do was bang out these last 10 movements I’d be champion of the day.

Sometime when I’m at the gym I want to try something like running a mile between each station of a work out. Like, run a mile, bench press, run a mile, squat rack, run a mile, pull ups, run a mile, candy machine, etc.

It’s all about that whole body adaption to stress, what can you really do strength-wise when your cardio is already taxed and vice versa. Because in any real life situation you don’t get to warm up or rest between efforts, life just happens – usually all at once and usually quite messy.

You wanna be ready you gotta leave no doubt.


Cardio Before Or After Weights? 5 Possible Answers

Right off the bat I think the best answer is Cardio then weights. Why? I hear cardio, especially running, is entirely catabolic and takes a long time to recover from. However you can prime your hormones for recovery with the anabolic response to strength training. So weights after cardio is the best way to recover from cardio.

And I’m not going to mention the opposite because as far as I know there’s no benefit to it.

So that’s possibility one. You can eat before, after, or during, or all of the above.

But maybe you don’t have the glorious amount of free time I do and can’t get in an hour of running followed immediately by an hour of lifting. Maybe you have a job or a life or even both or maybe, just maybe, that exercise load is high for your current level and it sucks too much for you right now.

Then, possiblity two, I’d start with a run – or whatever cardio but I’m always going to say run – in the morning to wake up. Then eat right away and rest. Rest hard. For at least 3 hours then hit the weights. If you don’t eat and rest you’re just sabotaging the strength training.

Possibility three then would of course be the opposite. Maybe you really like hitting the weights in the morning. So do it. I’d either eat and wait at least an hour upon waking up then lift heavy for few reps.

Then eat a lot and rest hard, like a hot bath and some yoga, before heading out for a run much later. Otherwise you’re asking for form breakdown and you’re really increasing your injury risk.

Now let’s you work a physical job. With a desk job you’re over-resting all day and that has it’s own set of problems that gets talked about a lot but there’s less out there for people who’s work is work.

Possibility four would be a run before work to wake up and loosen up. Then eat and make work your active recover for the day.

When it’s time to lift weight afterwards you can build your lifting plan around what you did at work. If you spent all day picking things up off the ground obviously don’t do high volume deadlifts. Do pull ups or overhead work. The key is to balance out whatever you did on the job with whatever you do at the gym.

So the opposite, Possibility five, would be hitting the weights before work and running after.

In that case I would structure the work out with higher reps and lighter weights. Even if you ate breakfast you won’t have digested it yet and you’ll need to work out the sleep stiffness so don’t get under a heavy barbell first thing in the morning.

And at work if you’re sore or feel an injury coming on don’t push it, don’t man up. You think maybe you should ask for help lifting something because it’s awkwardly shaped and your back feels strained? You goddamn do it. Asking for help might feel foolish for a few seconds but you’ll forget, hurting yourself at work will make you feel like an idiot for however many weeks it takes to recover.

Then in the evening have some liquid carbs so you’re not burning from an already empty barrel and take a relaxing wind-down jog. The solo time will take your head out of work-mode and you’ll shake off any stiffness that work might accumulate.

So there you go, one of those options will surely work for you but try out even the ones you think might not, it’s best to leave no doubt.

On Caffeine Pills

A little history:

I drink a lot of coffee. I have two tattoos celebrating my love of coffee.

But I didn’t drink coffee on race days – for a nice comfortable stomach.

Then I saw a bottle of caffeine pills in the supplement isle and thought of course! And now here we are…

So I skipped coffee and had a 200mg pill before a training session one day – and coincidently we’d splurged and had huge bowls of homemade mac and cheese the night before – I felt gross during the run but I chalked it up to that and called the test a wash.

The next day I took one and merely went to work. No ill effects.

Race day I took one the morning and warmed up just fine, feeling amped. Then went off the start line and felt like I might throw up. Like I might need to throw up. I thought maybe it was a combination of nerves and the fact that I was going off the line a lot faster than normal because it was only 10k and I wanted to rip it up.

Got 41:47 btw, ripping it up confirmed but I felt shakey for 7 of those k.

Today I popped another one to prepare for a race Sunday. Race day routine every morning for at least 3 days out, you know it.

And I did a work out and part way through that work out that same sick feeling came back.

So here’s my totally made up unscientific hypothesis on me and caffeine pills: they don’t do anything until my heart rate gets up and then they kick in all at once.

I figure 200mg ain’t that much. It’s like one strong cup and I drink four cups a day.

But I don’t drink four cups at once. I realize I actually drink coffee pretty slowly. I drink half a cup, it gets cold, I top it up, I drink half a cup, I top it up, repeat.

– that could be the chorus of a song about my life –

And so over some hours I’ve had four cups. But not a crazy rush.

Lesson learned

Taper Week Advice: Get Your Relaxing Done Early

There’s a temptation when tapering for a race to relax a lot. There’s also a temptation to train right through and even panic-train and mess up your race. It’s a tough life, tapering.

But I’m going to talk about strategic relaxing because that’s a mistake I recently made. Hoping to be really fresh for a run I did a float tank and an infrared sauna the day before a race.

Bottom line: It screws up your movement patterns. You’re used to having some tension in the system, and if you strip it all away and get all loosey goosey (or worse relax one leg completely while the other is still holding some tension because it’s nearer to injury) then running feels weird.

That’s the last thing you want on race day. Really there’s a million worse thing on race but whatever…

Point is you want to get super relaxed 5 and 4 days out then start working out again 3, 2, 1. Keep the work outs light, fun, form-focused, but start getting some tension back into your muscles, it’s your normal.


Time To Start Prepping For The Spartan Race

I’m signed up for a Spartan 5k August 10th. I’m nervous.

Mostly because it’s going to destroy my clothes and I don’t have any other running gear nor money for such a thing. I’ll wear my old, ill-fitting shoes and my old swim trunks I guess.

I need to bring a plastic bag to put my muddy kit in after the race.

Of course I’m also nervous because when you see video of the Spartan Race the obstacles look nutso – spear-throwing and carrying buckets of cement and whatnot.

Hmm, not much else to say… for the amount of anxiety I feel there’s usually a lot more to write about.

The nice thing is though I don’t care about my time or anything like that, it’s just for fun. I don’t even find it weird that I want to crawl through mud under barbed wire for fun.

Running Update: What a total shock I hurt myself during the taper

3 days out from the marathon and my back is… well it hurts.

As happens to so many people I was resting, resting, resting, being smart and safe before the race and then I felt like I hadn’t exercised in forever and I was getting fat and lazy so what do I do…?

Go beast mode of course. Dive into my favourite hard work out that I used to do everyday so of course I just gotta power through it.

Don’t do that, kids. When you’re resting for any reason and get back to working out do not pick up where you left off and certainly don’t try to pick up from your highlights.

I used to do 75 kettlebell swings with 45lbs every day. The first time I did it wrecked me, put me on all fours scared I’d vomit. Eventually I was up to 80 and staying on my feet.

When we’re feeling weak we think back to when we felt strong and try to recreate it.

This morning 75 kettlebell swings wrecked me like day one but also I’ve been unable to bend at the waist or even lean forward and pick something up all day.

So float and/or sauna and rest it til race day, baby.

Speaking of raceday: we’re meeting at the finish line at 10 and then Barcelona at 11 – table for six under my name.