Friday, March 9, 2012

My first ultra-marathon!

On my 35th birthday on February 28, I fulfilled my goal of running 35 miles, which I completed in 5 hours 41 minutes and 35 seconds. This makes it my first ultra-marathon, although it was not an official one and I ran it solo, except for the precious help of my wife Marion, who provided me with fresh supply of water and banana twice, and checked a third time whether I was coming out of the forest still on my feet!

Before the run, to choose my pace, I had done the following reasoning: since I had run my first marathon in Honolulu at an average speed of ~10.5 km/h, and my second marathon in Paris at a significantly faster average speed of ~11.5 km/h, and I had felt good at that speed until the end, I thought that I should be able to sustain 10.5 km/h over 35 miles. So I started at that pace, and after 45 minutes I was running effortlessly and feeling good so I even increased my pace a bit. But after two hours of running, I suddenly started to feel tired, and I realized I could not sustain such a pace for over 3 other hours. My speed significantly dropped during the next two hours, which were quite grueling. When I met Marion for the second time, I had run 45 km in 4 hours and ~20 minutes, and I was feeling exhausted. I stopped for a few minutes to drink and eat half a banana, and then I started running again to finish what I thought would be the hardest part of the run. I had to run in the unevenly snow-covered coastal footpath through the forest. I asked Marion to meet me at the end of the footpath to check that I had made it out of the forest, since I was really not sure I could. At first my legs felt very heavy, but as I started concentrating on where to put my feet so that they would not sink too deep in the snow, my energy suddenly came back, my legs felt light and dynamic again, and I was soon running as easily and fast as during the first two hours. I was having a "second souffle"! When I saw Marion at the exit of the forest, I told her I was fine again and she could wait for me at our friend Dany's house, where I had planned to finish my run in his spa! In fact, I felt good until I hit a hill a couple of miles before the end, which killed me again. But the finish stretch was a gently downward sloping road, so I arrived at my destination in relatively good shape.

My average speed was ~9.9 km/h, less than I had expected before the run, but not that bad either, especially given the fact that my path was always snow-covered, even if mostly with only a thin layer, which still reduce adherence, and with some passages in deeper snow, like the forest footpath. The lesson I learned is that when running such long distances, I should really adopt a very easy pace, especially during the first two hours!

The spa after the run was fantastic, not only when I was relaxing in it, but for the first few days after my run as well: I barely had some muscle soreness, which did not prevent me from walking normally and going down the stairs without having to do it backwards, as was the case after my previous two marathons! The only pain I had was the tendons of my right knee, which I had twisted a bit the day before the race while playing in the snow with my children, and the left side of my left foot, inside the foot. But all pain got away within one week. I am eager to start running again! Perhaps this week-end I'll do a very easy 30-minute jog to get back to it smoothly, and next week I'll start a new training program to run a trail marathon near Montpellier ( on May 20 during my up-coming holidays in France. The new limit to push is not the distance this time, but the elevation gain: +1913 m.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

running with snowshoes

Yesterday was my long run day. But the weather was not inviting to run outside: the day before we had a snowstorm, with 30 cm or more of powder snow everywhere, so the only place where I could hope to find a path clear of snow was the coastal bike lane, perhaps. The problem was that it was -10 degrees Celsius outside, with 20 knots winds, making the temperature really feeling more like -20 C. I did not want to reiterate my coldest run experience, even with my new equipment... The last option, or so I thought, was to run on my treadmill, but the prospect of running 130 minutes on the treadmill did not satisfy me neither. So I thought: "this is the opportunity to go cross-country skiing!". I looked on internet what the conditions were for cross-country skiing at the Coopérative de ski de fond Mouski, and I saw that there was a competition for cross-country skiing and for snowshoe running, with a picture of somebody running with snowshoes on the advertisement page. I had not imagined that one could run with snowshoes, I thought they would be too cumbersome for that. But I knew what I was going to do: run with the snowshoes my friend Dany had lent me in Parc Beauséjour, where I would be sheltered from the wind by the forest!
So I put my snowshoes on, and started running toward Parc Beauséjour. Boy, running with snowshoes is very physically taxing! Especially when you run on powder snow, and your feet still drop a few centimeters or more in the snow, and a bit of snow gets on your snowshoes, and you have to lift your foot plus the snowshoe plus the bit of snow to make the next step. I could not run fast nor for long. I had to walk a lot to catch up my breath. But the scenery was beautiful, with the forest and the river sleeping under a white blanket. I was running next to a newly-made cross-country ski track, and I crossed some cross-country skiers. Tomorrow, I'll buy some cross-country skis!

This week my right knee ligaments started to hurt on Tuesday after about 1 hour of running on my treadmill, i.e. on a perfectly flat surface. This was not a good sign at all, so I skipped Thursday's session. Yesterday I was glad that my knee did not hurt at all. So, not many miles this week, but this is fine, as this was the "take-it-easy" week, before my training program gets into the heart of the preparation for my 35-mile run.

Distance this week: 24.72 km (15.36 miles).
Distance last week: 45.77 km (28.44 miles).
Distance the week before: 40.14 km (24.94 miles).

Monday, December 26, 2011

The coldest run

On my long run on Saturday, the temperature was -15 degrees Celsius. The weather forecast had predicted that the wind would die down around noon, so I decided I would try running outside in the afternoon. On the way to Pointe-au-Père, I wasn't feeling any wind, and the cold was quite bearable. But as soon as I turned back toward Rimouski, I had a 10-knot wind in my face, and I became much less comfortable. The first thing that started to hurt was... the tip of my genitals!! It was directly exposed to the chilling wind, and my running pant was not wind-proof. So I put my left hand in front of it to block the wind. The people I crossed must have thought I was a very weird runner... I was holding my ipod in my right hand, but my right fingers soon started to hurt as well, while my left fingers were feeling fine. I therefore switched hands, holding my ipod in my left hand and protecting my sensitive parts from the wind with my right hand, and I started to move my fingers in my gloves. After some time, my left fingers were feeling fine again, but my right fingers were starting to hurt. I kept switching hands like that until almost the end of the run. At some point, I started to feel my eyelids, which were exposed to the wind all the time, becoming numb. I thought: "this is not good at all, I have to find a warm place to stop and warm up as soon as possible". Thankfully I was getting close to the supermarket IGA, where I stopped 5-10 minutes until I was warm enough to go back outside and get back home. Later on I checked what the meteorological conditions had been during my run, and because of the wind the equivalent wind-less temperature had been -24 degrees C! No wonder I had so much discomfort! Never again running in such conditions...

The next day on Christmas I did not feel like running, so I skipped my 4th session of the week.
Distance this week: 47.74 km (29.66 miles).

PS: today I had a great time teaching Margot and Anaël how to ski. But at one point while I was running next to Margot to slow her down, my right foot slipped in the snow and my knee twisted and I collapsed. It was painful and frustrating. This broken crux ligament is becoming quite incapacitating. I am starting to think that perhaps I should get knee surgery, after all...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Transitioning to 4 sessions per week

My training program seems to start paying off: while for the past weeks I was feeling tired and my legs were aching a bit at the end of my long runs, this week I felt great even after completing almost a half-marathon. So I decided it was time to add a session to my weekly schedule: I started with an easy recovery jog today, after my long run of yesterday. My legs were not aching the slightest bit, nor were they feeling "heavy". Instead, I was feeling very good and was running effortlessly. The purpose of this forth session on the day after the long run is to start training my body to run with tired legs. Because no matter how much I train, I will necessarily feel tired at some point during my 35-mile run on my birthday, and the difficulty will consist in being able to keep up my pace until the end! So at the height of my training program, I'll have some back-to-back long runs to perform on week-ends. During the next few weeks, I will therefore slowly lengthen the "recovery" session on Sundays.

Distance this week: 47.04 km (29.23 miles).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Should I have had surgery for my right knee crux ligament?

Two years ago, I broke my right knee crux ligament while playing squash (perhaps it had been already weakened years before during a nasty fall trying to do a 360-degree jump in snowboard). My stepfather Patrick, who is a sports physician, advised me to have knee surgery. But because of my great fear of surgeries, I decided I would do it only if I couldn't run nor snowboard, windsurf and surf any more. A month after the injury, I was able to snowboard again. Then I started running again progressively, and during my holidays in Hawaii a year after the injury, I completed the Honolulu marathon and was able to surf, all without any knee pain. So I forgot about having knee surgery.

But yesterday, I ran my long run outside in 5-20 cm of powder snow. It made for a more difficult run than usually, as other people's footprints and the occasional rocks hidden by the snow made the ride a bit bumpy. At the end of the run, my right knee ligaments were aching a bit, while my left knee ligaments were not. So, I am wondering whether I am not going to slowly damage my right knee if I keep running regularly for the rest of my life. Perhaps I should have had that knee surgery after all...

Anyway, today my knee is not hurting any more, so it was not too bad I guess. Nor is my right Achilles tendon hurting, which means it has fully healed! Next week I'll do 4 sessions and see what happens...

Distance this week: 36.64 km.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bravo Davy!

Congratulations to Davy, who has completed today the SaintéLyon ultra marathon (68 km, total elevation gain of 1300 m) in 8:15:31, with only 2-week training before the race, since he decided to participate in this race when I asked him whether he would join me in my running challenges. Well, this makes my 35-mile challenge sound like children play, but I can at least try to beat him in average speed, which would be no feat at all given the shorter distance and mostly flat route I would follow if I am able to run outside at this time of the year (otherwise I will have to run on my treadmill). But this gives me a motivation not to run it too slowly!

Otherwise, I have run 33.32 km this week in 3 sessions, and my tendons have not been sore. Yesterday I ran my long run outside in the snow (2-cm deep) on the coastal forest path, under a very nice weather. It was wonderful.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Received my treadmill today!

At the beginning of November, I went to the University's sports center, to check out how many treadmills they had and whether I could run barefoot or at least in socks on them. Turned out that for insurance reasons people are required to wear shoes to run on public treadmills. That immediately disqualified them for me, and motivated me to buy my own treadmill. We have one spare room at home for it, and my wife Marion, who is a runner as well, will be able to run with the kids at home. We bought the LiveStrong 13.0T. They delivered it today, and after a couple hours setting it up, I ran 30 minutes barefoot on it to test it. It is perfect! I had read that one could not run barefoot on a treadmill because the heat from the friction of the belt would burn one's feet. Well, after 30 minutes at 6.6 miles per hour, the belt was just warm and very comfortable to the feet, especially after having spent the whole summer running barefoot outside!

Looks like my tendonitis has healed: I could feel no more pain on Thursday, I ran 15 minutes slowly outside barefoot on Friday (the cold was barely bearable for my feet), and did not feel any pain, then I ran 30 minutes today on the treadmill. I think I can get back in my training program, but I'll do only 3 sessions per week for the next couple of weeks at least.

Distance this week: 7.40 km.
Distance last week: 38.36 km.