A Long Overdue Update

It’s been a while since my last update. I’ll admit the motivation to post has dwindled as I haven’t been operating at 100% running capacity. Anyways, I’m feeling better now so here’s what I’ve been up to the last few months.

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Steph on the summit of Triconi Peak

After the Squamish 50 mile I attempted to ramp my training back up with the intention of racing the Cuyamaca 100km in early October. With Cuyamaca looming on the horizon I ran a few hard efforts that were likely too soon after Squamish. 50 miles is a long way. 50 miles in Squamish directed by Gary Robbins is a damn long way and demands a lot of the body. Long story short, I didn’t respect the recovery process and compounded some muscle imbalances and minor injuries sustained over the summer of training & racing. In early September I made a tough decision and pulled the plug on Cuyamaca.

It’s always tough to back away from something you really want, but I wasn’t in a place to run competitively. From a non-medical standpoint I had a wonky hip, irritated glute, and an angry right foot. Hardly the shape I needed to be in to run 100km.

Road To Recovery

I took a week completely off running and cross training in early September. But as I’ve come to learn over the years, rest isn’t always the answer. My injuries were in the same state at the end of the week as they were in the beginning. With that I decided to get back into things, slowly.

For the rest of September I mostly hiked. Steph and I celebrated my 30th birthday by heading up Triconi Peak in Squamish. It’s a beautiful scramble with rewarding views.

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Badass girlfriend scrambling the final few feet up Triconi

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Triconi on the left

October was a write-off from running so I dusted off my rusty old mountain bike and managed to pedal 325km for the month, mostly commuting to and from work, and netted out around 25 hours of training. Towards the end of October my right foot was feeling better. After a few test runs I felt confident things were turning around and slowly built back to regular running throughout November and December… with one small twist.

Enter MAF

I’ve been a longtime listener of the Endurance Planet podcast, hosted by Tawnee Prazak, and am a huge fan of the Ask the Coach (ATC) episodes featuring Lucho. I’ve listened to these two preaching the MAF method for the last couple of years and kept telling myself I would give it a try.

The MAF method was developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone. It’s a simple program to follow but requires a serious commitment to the methodologies. In a nutshell MAF is all about building your aerobic base. To begin, take 180 and subtract your age. Next add or subtract from that number using the guidelines found here. What you’re left with is your maximum aerobic training heart rate. It’s the heart rate you (and I) train at. That’s it. No higher. You can go up to 10 bpm lower but no higher than your MAF heart rate. The idea is to build your aerobic base by becoming more efficient at your MAF heart rate. Over time you’ll begin to run faster at the same heart rate. Run faster and use less energy. Sounds good to me. If you haven’t heard about MAF I highly recommend reading the links above and picking up Phil Maffetone’s Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing.

In November I finally gave MAF a shot. I put my heart rate monitor on, set my watch to buzz at me if I went 1 beat over 150 bpm and started running. I’ve run a few MAF tests in the past and was pleased to see my pace wasn’t too far off where I was during peak training in mid-summer. I used 150 as my max top end but ran well below that for the first few weeks to let my musculoskeletal system and injuries adapt to the impact of running again. At first it was frustrating running up hills as I had to slow considerably and walk at times when my heart rate spiked above 150. But over the weeks my ability to chug along up hills under 150 bmp improved. I’m now quite comfortable running most hills while still at MAF.

Like Magic

By staying in my aerobic zone and not over-stressing my body, my injuries slowly but surely started improving. In January I started getting back into the gym (typical) and the results have shown. My wonky hip and irritated glute are much happier thanks to the fine work of Chris Napier and Stephanie McCann over at Restore Physiotherapy, and the talented massage skills of Adam Harris. My angry right foot is still a bit of a mystery as the medically diagnosed plantar fibroma is still apparent but the pain and size of the mass have largely subsided. I’ll take it.

I’m now targeting 2 – 3 days of weights and 2  – 3 core sessions each week on top of 5 – 6 days of running. In March I managed to put together 350km of running & 8900m of climbing in 45 hours of training (including time in the gym). I’m pleased to say that’s up considerably from February’s 160km, 1,850m in 37 hours, but it’s still far from where I’d like things to be, especially the vertical gain. I’m still running at MAF and expect to do so over the next while as I slowly build up my mileage.

The longest run I’ve done this year to date is around 29km in 4:40 with 2535m of gain. It was tough but I can feel the MAF training paying off as I took in less than 100 calories/hour and the run felt strong and generally easy. It was a great foundation run. More of a sanity check that I can still do this long running stuff. Time to build!

Looking Ahead

For some reason back in December I decided to register for the CCC 101km in Chamonix, France. I somehow managed to get in as an elite athlete and will be toeing the line with some of the best runners in the world alongside 2000 other competitors. The race is part of the UTMB festival and takes place at the end of August. The CCC starts in Italy, runs through Switzerland, and finally ends in France while circumnavigating Mt. Blanc. The course has a relentless 6100m of elevation gain and equal loss. Billy Yang produced a pretty great film about the 2015 event. I have a lot of training to do.

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Profile of the CCC 101km… yikes.

Other than the CCC the only race I have lined up at the moment is the Knee Knacker which I’m excited to return to. This year’s race should be spectacular as 10 former winners are toeing the line. The snowpack is already melting off the North Shore mountains and it’s looking looking to be a fast year. I’ll bet this year the course record falls.

So anyways, that’s where things are at with me. On the side I’ve been coaching (guiding/advising/assisting) a colleague from work, Noel, as he prepares for his first 50km, Diez Vista. Noel has been absolutely crushing his workouts and has been on the podium in all 3 of races he’s entered this year (Run Ridge Run 13km, Dirty Duo 27km, Cap Crusher 13km)! Very excited to see how he does at Diez Vista next weekend.

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