5 Peaks SFU Enduro race report

This one’s a week late – so kill me.  In truth, it’s likely to be my last race report or journal post tracking my training for a while.  More on that shortly.  I must admit some disappointment with last Saturday’s race – not because of my 1:03:00 time, but because I’d expected May to be a much better training month and it ended up being abysmal – and that’s what led to a sub-par run, at least in part.  Since I haven’t done this series of races before I have no previous performance from which to gauge this one.  Going back to the 5 Peaks Golden Ears in April, I saw really no improvement last Saturday.  The overall elevation gain is roughly the same for both runs, while SFU was shorter than Golden Ears.  I guess a slightly slower pace is to be expected, given those circumstances, but I expected a good volume of training in May and early June would have led to some improvements. That proved to be the problem.

The day was pretty much perfect for a run – overcast and coolish, but no wind, rain or any other elements that could have caused problems, and a nice dry course.  I saw quite a few folks from the Broadway Running Room, including Greg, Alan, Jason, Evie, Carolyn (and Andrea volunteering).  I also caught a glimpse of an ex-BCIT co-worker, Mike and had a quick chat with Lara, too.  The early part of the run was good, with a fairly solid attack on the downhill, looping around the outside of the course.  In fact, at this point I felt like I would probably hit a better pace than I had at Golden Ears with a pace well below 8 minute miles a good way into the run.  It was pretty clear that my performance would end up being similar to Golden Ears, though, when I hit the uphills and power hiked too many of them.  In fact, with no hills to speak of on my legs this year, you can take the word power right out of that previous sentence.  What I did barely qualified as brisk walking.

While none of the hills at SFU feel like Incline does on the Golden Ears course, you definitely feel the elevation gain big-time as you come back down after the first loop.  My quads seemed to fatigue pretty quickly and I felt significantly more tightness halfway through the race than I did at any time on the longer Golden Ears course.  I wasn’t sure how the loop would change the second time, but instead of the gnarly single track through the trees, you head up a largely straight and steep incline aptly named “Cardiac Hill.”  While I wouldn’t say it was particularly taxing on my heart, my poorly trained hill legs just couldn’t get a good rate going at all.

This straight, steep climb takes you right up to the road and into the finish very quickly.  So far, 2/5 of the 5 Peaks series done and I have yet to do the trail running I was hoping I’d be motivated to integrate into my routine.

Rationalizing poor training

There were plenty of reasons excuses for such low mileage last month but none of them valid enough to really prevent me from training.  I did a paltry 55 miles of running for the month of May, and that’s really what I expected to do in about half the month.  At the beginning of May I had a four day conference and I found I was just too tired at night to get my run on.  During the last week of May, in Ontario, I didn’t run nearly as much as I was hoping either.  No big reason, but I just didn’t do it.  That’s just the road, though.  Even more disappointing is the fact that I just can’t get motivated to hit the trails and my hill workouts just don’t seem to materialize.

I was starting to do some regular short hill repeats integrated into my weekly tempo runs in April.  Not only did May kill that momentum, but my knee really does keep me from putting everything I can into a reasonably hard regimen of training.  It’s been up and down, tight and loose and all things in between.  As I write this, it’s been more than a week since 5 Peaks SFU and in that time I’ve had a complete cessation from training for the most part.  The day after the race I did a 1.5 hour trainer ride, followed by a pretty solid seven hours of garden landscaping.  By the time I was finished with the whole weekend, my knee was beyond tight and causing me quite a bit of pain.

I was limping pretty good last Monday.  As the week progressed, the knee loosened to the point whereby Friday I did a full upper and lower body resistance session, a very easy 30 minute stationary bike ride and capped it off with an easy 5k run on the road.  It didn’t get too sore after that, but did tighten up every so slightly.  As such, I gave it the full weekend off.

A break from the training and racing journal

While I am certainly not stopping running, cycling or the races in which I am currently registered, I don’t feel like tracking them this public way for a while, through journal posts.  My hope was that, providing I stayed reasonably healthy this year, I’d have an ongoing monologue for reflection and analysis.  It’s pretty clear right now, that I can’t count on my knee cartilage enough that I can train as consistently as I want.  My strategy is beginning to lean toward much more cycling and much less running and seeing how things pan out with a really consistent approach to joint strength and flexibility.  I’ve got a half marathon next Sunday which I fully intend on running, but for which I will likely have one more mid-week run and that’s it.  It’ll be slow.

A half marathon was something that I used to simply put in the middle of training for longer distances to gauge progress and practice racing.  Now, given the knee, I can’t even treat it as a target event; rather running races of 5k to half marathon distances will be something I use to try to ensure my fitness isn’t slipping too far.  I’m hoping to not let that approach slide.

Until I get the meniscus damage; a) mitigated to the point that it’s not an issue; b) figured out for exactly what it is and change my realities; or c) possibly fixed through surgical intervention, I’m going to have to take a different approach to what I’m doing.  Most of my cardio will come via the bike, with a run or two a week to test where things are.  A really thorough approach to strengthening the joint and some physio consultation is also likely on the agenda.  Finally, if I begin to have flareups like the one this past week, I’ll be revisiting UBC and seeing what the pros and cons of surgery really are.

For now, I’m a middle-aged guy who’s just going to try to stay fit.