Comfortably Numb Training Plan

10 weeks.

The countdown to Comfortably Numb is on! Comfortably Numb is a 23k trail run, that is really just one giant hill – climb 800m over the first 12 km, then descend to the finish line. Talk about a quad-thrasher!

Here’s the plan:

  • Tuesdays – run hills, working up to an hour of hill repeats by the end of April, then adding some intensity.
  • Thursdays – shorter, faster runs of 6-10km, throwing in some fartlek intervals for variety.
  • Weekends – long runs of 2+ hours (15+km), adding in more hills as time goes on. 3 and 5 weeks out for the race I’m planning some particularly hard runs with some extended climbs and descents.

Yup. Just 3 runs a week. Of course, one it (finally) stops raining, I might be inspired to throw in a few shorter recovery runs. But who am I kidding? I’m pretty sure that I would rather spend that time hiking or climbing instead.

The only other training I’m doing is a super-minimalist conditioning routine. It’s just 4 exercises:

  • Pushups,
  • Split squats,
  • One leg hip lifts, and
  • One leg calf raises.

I started two weeks ago with 1 set of 10 reps, and I’ve been adding 1 rep per workout. Once I get to 15 reps, it will be time to start over with 2 sets of 10 reps, and add one rep to each set until I get to 2×15. Then it’s time to move on to 3 sets. I figure I will be doing something like 3×20 or 3×30 by race day 🙂



Phantom Run Race Recap

You know those days when just getting to the start line is an achievement? Today was one of those. I checked off most of the “what not to do’s” before a race: Stay up late – check. Sleep on a therm-a-rest on my friend’s floor – check. Skimp on breakfast – check.

But the day dawned dry and not too cold, and after a cup or two of coffee I was ready to go.

I can’t decide if the best part of the Phantom Run is the free socks (socks beat t-shirts, hands-down) or the finish line soup. Soup might officially be my new favourite way to refuel after a race. Or maybe just on a cold day. But either way it was hot, delicious and rehydrating all at the same time… Yum!

The race itself was, um, not my best. For the most part, the trails are totally runnable (with maybe a bit more practice running up hills) – lots of gravel and wide dirt paths, not too many roots or rocks or stairs (but a few – this is North Van after all, and besides, I like it when things start to get a little more interesting). I might have to come back and run this again with a little more training, sleep and fuel in my belly!


Haunted Headwaters: Race Recap

It felt way too early when the alarm clock went off at 6am on a Saturday morning. Getting up in the dark is not exactly my favourite way to start the day… But I’d made plans to meet my friend at the startling for MEC North Vancouver’s final (trail) race of the season: The Haunted Headwaters.

It was a dry, if chilly, morning as I drank my coffee and wrapped my brain around why I was getting up so early on a Saturday morning. The drive in was uneventful, save encountering a small pocket of intense rain. Thankfully it only lasted a couple of minutes, and the day became progressively nicer (it was even sunny by the end of the race!)

The race itself was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. The wide gravel trails of the Lynn Headwaters connector trail and the Rice Lake loop provided a nice warmup and allowed the crowd to tin a bit before we plunged into the forest and started the first climb up some unnamed trail (it probably has a name, I just have no idea what that name is) before descending the Baden Powell Trail all the way to Lynn Creek, then climbing all the way back up to the Varley Trail for a nice cruise back to the finish.

We started off faster than typical, but that turned out to be ok. I was still able to push up (most of) the hills (although the stairs defeated me us… haven’t practiced running up stairs for a long time!), pick up some speed on the easier downhills (although again, the stairs slowed me down a bit), and have enough gas left in the tank for a solid finish.

Done. Satisfied. Counting down the days until the Great Climate Race next week! It’s going to be my first ever road race, so wish me luck!

A speedy workout

Maybe it’s the crazy work hours I’ve put in this week, maybe it’s because it was pitch black out by 8:30 when I started my run, or maybe it’s just because I was plain old lazy this evening, but I really wasn’t up for running a loop around Smoke Bluffs. Alone. In the dark.

So instead I ran hill strides.

8 x 30-ish sec uphills, with a walk back to recover. It felt good to power up that hill. Hill strides are supposed to be a magic bullet for building speed and power. Only time will tell. But if they are… best 20 minute workout ever!


I did it!

I finally ran all the way to the top of Smoke Bluffs 🙂

It’s been on my list of things to do for a year or more, and I finally managed to do it. Smoke Bluffs isn’t an insanely long climb – bit it’s pretty darn steep. It gains 200 m of elevation over a distance of about 1.5 km (about 660 feet in a mile).

And I ran the whole thing!

(I’m kinda proud of myself. I bet you never would have guessed)

Return to running

Saturday marked my first “real” run since July 22nd (by real, I mean more than 10 minutes). But taking six (six!!!) weeks off running isn’t the worst of it… in the 3.5 months prior (aka, since finishing the Juan de Fuca way back when), I only made it out for a grand total of 16 runs, and the vast majority of those were only 3 or 4 km.

Needless to say, it hasn’t been a great summer for running. I wouldn’t mind so much if I’d spent the summer hiking and scrambling, but with the rather cool, damp weather we had this year, I didn’t get much of that in either. boo.

Watersprite Lake

This was July…

So I’m feeling rather out of shape (cardio-wise, at least) and in need of a new goal to get my lazy butt out the door. I’ve decided to focus on a 10km, and, in doing so, begin to incorporate a bit of speed work into my training. Here’s the thing: I’ve always walked a fine line between training enough and training too much – so I know I have to be careful about how much speed work I incorporate. The competitive side of me wants to jump in and do interval workouts and tempo runs and hill workouts all in the same week. The wiser, more rational side knows that if I do so I’m just going to end up injured.

So I did some research.

At my physio’s suggestion, I looked up some articles by David Roche. And I came across this: One Workout, Big Breakthroughs. Roche states:

If you are injury prone, speed limited or just want to try something new, adding hill strides to your training (either as your only workout or as one component in a more advanced plan) could provide a near-magical boost to your performance.


Who doesn’t like a near-magical boost to performance? I certainly want one! So I’ll be incorporating 4-6 x 20-30 sec hill strides at the end of each of my easy runs – and maybe even at the end of my longer runs. Other than that, I’m just going to keep my pace easy, and focus on getting out consistently. Oh, and maybe stretch my calves a bit more.

Wedgemount Lake

You know those days where your plans just keep changing? Well, that was Friday for me. The original plan was to take one of my girl friends backpacking for her first time – camping at Chekamus lake, then ditching the gear and hiking over Helm Pass to Panorama Ridge and/or Garibaldi Lake on Saturday.

Somewhere around lunchtime on Friday I decided to check on the trail conditions, and low and behold, Helm Pass is supposedly still covered in snow, with the route “Not Marked.” Perhaps not the best plan…

So I call her up, and suggest that perhaps we can camp at Wedgemount Lake instead? Sure!

As I’m driving up to Whistler to meet her, I notice that the clouds are looking a bit ominous. So much for the beautiful sunny summer forecast. I begin to wonder if camping is a good idea. Getting rained on doesn’t really make for a great intro to backpacking. And in my mind, getting rained on doesn’t make for a great backpacking trip period. (Yeah, I’m a fair weather backpacker – when the weather is sh*tty I’d really rather come home to a hot shower and a comfy bed than spend the night in a tiny little tent)

Anyways, after a bit of re-organizing gear, we get ourselves to the trailhead. The clouds are looking even more ominous. I’m really beginning to wonder if backpacking is a good idea, but my friend is good to go. That’s when I remember that we need to purchase a backcountry permit for Garibaldi park.


We pull out our phones (three cheers for cell service at the trailhead!) and try to figure out how to buy our permits. After a few minutes of getting nowhere, I decide to check out the big signboard. BC Parks recently changed their system so that you have to reserve campsites at popular backcountry destinations. I discovered that when they changed the system to allow for that, they also changed the system so that you have to purchase backcountry permits by 1:00 pm. At that moment a few drops of rain begin to fall. Then it starts to pour.

Did I mention that I didn’t bring my gore-tex jacket? With zero rain in the forecast, I figured that I would save a bit of space and go with my wind shell and emergency poncho. Apparently that was a bad call.

So, Wedgemount Lake is out. Chekamus Lake is out (also part of Garibaldi Park. Callaghan area? Camping is free, we have the jeep so getting in isn’t an issue… but I have nothing to make a bear hang, since we’d planned on camping in areas with bear caches for our food.

So what to do?

Abort the camping trip, go for a run into Chekamus Lake, get dinner at the pub, and hike into Wedge in the morning 🙂

It was a good call, even if we did get teased a bit for being wusses (apparently the rain never made it to Whistler Village). I don’t think we were wusses. Coming home safely and enjoying the journey are always my top two objectives. And while we had (just) enough gear to survive the night and come home safely, I don’t think that it would have been a very enjoyable night. Actually, no matter how much gear I carry I still don’t like camping in wet, cold, windy conditions – and the more gear I carry, the less I enjoy the trip (yeah, I’m a weight weenie). So by being wusses turning back, stayed warm and dry, had a great time, and actually made it to two destinations instead of just one!

Juan de Fuca

Mystic Beach

Mystic Beach

It was a cool, clear morning as six hardy souls gathered at China Beach for a day long epic. We couldn’t have asked for a better day to run the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. Going into the weekend, I didn’t really know what to expect – the trip reports and trail descriptions only seemed to share one characteristic: mud. So I prepared myself for the worst: 47 km of slogging through mud. I was delighted to find that most of it had dried up (but it is the wet coast, and a few of us – me included – ended up in mud up to our knees once or twice).

What I wasn’t prepared for is just how much up and down there is over the trail. Yes, was warned, but the only trail description I found with a cumulative elevation gain said it was only 1000m… considering that I regularly cover that much elevation gain in half the distance, I figured that it wouldn’t bee too bad. Well, the people I spoke to were right, and that particular trail description was wrong. The actual cumulative elevation gain is just shy of 2000 m.

And while I knew the trail was quite technical and full of roots, I expected it to be at least somewhat runnable. My plan we to hike all the ups, and run the flats and downs. It didn’t quite work that way. A few kilometres into the run it turned into hike up and gingerly pick your way down… I don’t think I saw a flat section of trail until we reached Sombrio Beach.

The best part of the run hike is the eye candy. But the best part of the day was the six amazing people I ran with and our rockstar cheering squad who met us with lunch at Sombrio and drove our sore, tired, sweaty, stinky bodies home at the end of the day.

Bear Beach

Bear Beach

Cool rock formation

The rock formations along the trail are absolutely fascinating. The one downside to doing the trail in a day is that I didn’t have time to explore them all!

I couldn't help but smile when I saw this in the Outhouse at Chin Beach. So  glad it wasn't me!

I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this in the Outhouse at Chin Beach. So glad it wasn’t me!

Juan de Fuca Beach

Some beach I’ve totally forgotten the name of…

Scrambling across logs on one of the many, many beach crossings

Scrambling across logs on one of the many, many beach crossings

Yup, there were a few suspension bridges too. None of the pictures did any justice to just how high those canyons were

Yup, there were a few suspension bridges too. None of the pictures did any justice to just how high those canyons were. But they did have some pretty fantastic ocean views!

Botanical Beach

The last photo I took on the trail (can you tell how tired I was from the angle of the horizon?)

A highly recommended detour up the creek on Sombrio Beach... I didn't discover it until we went back the next day

A highly recommended detour up the creek on Sombrio Beach… I didn’t discover the waterfall until we went back the next day.


April Training Recap

With my Juan de Fuca adventure rapidly approaching, April was supposed to be all about logging lots of lots of hours on the trail. I’ve definitely logged some hours, but between health, work, and injury it wasn’t quite as many as I had hoped.

At the beginning of the month I was still dealing with the weird tightness/congestion in my chest (and the real problems: difficulty breathing – especially while going up hill – and extreme fatigue). I wracked my brain, searched the internet, and asked everyone for ideas. Nothing seemed to fit. I was about to make an appointment to see my doctor when finally someone asked if maybe my iron could be low. I’d dismissed that idea before, because a year ago I had my iron levels tested and they were fine (for the first time ever!). But having it suggested again got me thinking (and apologies if this is TMI): I’d had my IUD taken out back in November, but didn’t get another one put in right away… so I started menstruating again. Lightbulb moment! Women have low iron because of their period – I’ve had four periods since getting my IUD taken out – maybe I do have low iron! Duh! According to (aka Google), the symptoms of low iron are:

  • General fatigue (check, check and CHECK)
  • weakness (check, especially my ability to run up a hill)
  • pale skin (check, but I’m pretty sure that’s just my skin tone)
  • shortness of breath (check – that’s what started my quest)
  • dizziness (only when I tried to run fuelled on sugar alone)
  • strange cravings to eat items that aren’t food, such as dirt, ice, or clay (does my BF count?)
  • a tingling or crawling feeling in the legs (if we’re talking about restless leg syndrome, then CHECK!)
  • tongue swelling or soreness (nope)

I never did make it to the doctor to get my iron (and B12 – B12 deficiency causes a slightly different type of anemia, with symptoms that also include fatigue, shortness of breath and weakness). What I did do (and it seems to be helping) is go out and buy  some supplements. Specifically, desiccated liver pills. Um, what? Wasn’t I looking for iron and B12 supplements? I was and I found them. Liver is a fantastic food source of both B12 and heme iron (which is supposed to be more absorbable) – but unless liver comes in the form of pate, I’m just not going to eat it. Swallow a couple of capsules, no prob. And because the iron and B12 are in their natural form, I don’t have to worry about the GI side effects that can come from other types of iron supplements. Done.

Health-wise, I think I’m on the mend. Injury wise, I’m not so sure. I was planning a 32+ km long run for April, with a lunch break to see what might work on the Juan de Fuca. All winter I’d been running so well, and my knee had been so strong that I never even thought that my IT band might be an issue. But as we stopped for lunch 24 km into the run I was experiencing a few minor twinges but decided to ignore it and head out for another 8 km instead. Mistake. Going up wasn’t too bad, but running downhill was rather painful. I bailed at the 4 km mark and walked the short (1 km) route out instead of finishing with the rest of the crew. I also took the next week off running to recover.

Just when I thought I was ready to run again, work got in the way, and I took the next week off too. Then I was away at a conference, and took that week off too (running in the concrete jungle is so. not. motivating). Which means that I have nowhere near the training consistency that I would like to have. I only made it out for 6 runs in April, totalling a whopping 69 km and 10.5 hours (and that includes a 20 and a 29 km long run). It’s a good thing I like to hike! Hiking added another 30 or so hours on my feet and more than doubled my mileage.