April 13, 2008

Bears and Bikers, Out Of Hibernation

What an incredible weekend we have just had here on the coast, 17-20 degrees and nothing but sunshine, the perfect weather to log some big days of training!

It's funny cause I tend to write these, what I would consider, incredible blog postings in my head while riding, and by 'incredible' I mean no spelling mistakes, subtle humor, and good punctuation. Then somehow between the moment where I am peaking on my cycling endorphins, and the end of the ride, I completely forget how to spell my own name. For a brief time during almost every ride though, I feel somewhat poetic. The same was true when I cycle toured Central America in 2003. I had a website back then called 'Poor Boy Travels' that I used to update with travel stories (unfortunately there was no such thing as a blog back then and I eventually took the website down as it was costing me 500 a year just to maintain), I would always end up with these incredibly fluent thoughts for my next travel story, then when I actually sat down to try and type it all out, five or six hours later, nothing. If they ever come up with some sort of thought to blog technology then the world will be mine, MINE I TELL YOU!! I have no idea where all that just came from, and at least 30% of it was true.

It's been eight days since my last blog posting, eight days since Diez Vista. I have hereby decided that from this day forth I will refer to my life as pre and post Diez. Today is officially eight days since Diez. Something I remembered while out running this week was the exact moment that I learned of the Diez Vista 50k trail race. It was Feb of 2004, I had just returned from Central America, moved to Whistler and decided to pursue endurance sports. I had also just learned of trail running and was browsing some shops on Broadway in Vancouver. I had no idea about 'trail running shoes' and had yet to officially run on trails as my initiation through the Club Fat Ass Mountain Highway Madness was still a few weeks away. In this one shop the person helping me pointed me towards the Montrail Diez Vista shoe (which later ended up being my first ever trail running shoe). I was unsure as to what to buy at the time and figured I'd wait and see what the other runners were sporting at this CFA run.

The gentleman helping me then asked if I intended to run the Diez Vista race?

"Oh, ah, yeah maybe, haven't heard of it before. I'm new to all of this."

"Oh, well the D.V. is a 50k race held annually in..."

I Immediately cut him off,

"Did you say 50k?"

"Yeah it's a 50k held in..."

"Ummm, no. No, no I don't think I'll be attending that race anytime soon!"

I pretty much backed out of the store thinking this guy was some sort of freak...which I guess explains the looks I tend to get from time to time now.

The last week has been a good one indeed. I was amazed at how well I recovered after Diez, in fact it was by far the best that I have ever, ever, felt after running an ultra. Normally I am stricken with what was aptly named by Mark Fearman as 'The Robbins Shuffle' for days after a big race, but this time I felt great. And this is not to say that I did myself any favors after this one either. Pre race started at 5am, post race finished at 4am the next day! I was flying high after such a solid run and decided to join some friends in Vancouver for some fun and festivities. Vodka Red Bulls anyone? Uh yeah, I'll take 15 please.

As if things could get any better I awoke on Sunday, after 4hr of sleep, without a hang over! I'm pretty sure I was still tripping on caffeine and decided to head back to Squamish instead of trying to fight for sleep any longer. Once home I grabbed a quick nap, enjoyed a walk with the dog and headed to a friends for a playoff pool. After another caffeine fueled evening, just to stay awake, I ended up at work on Monday having slept just 9hr since the damn race. Needless to say I slept like a baby that night!

The week was a good one for training as I managed 20hr and two days off. Here's the quick cap:

Mon: Off, thank god!
Tue: 1h30 trail run
Wed: 2hr Gym and power spin session, 4hr 'adventure biking' (about 2h30 of actual riding), 1hr trail run
Thu: Off, tired for some reason?
Fri: 1hr road bike, 1hr road run, yes on actual roads...it was weird!
Sat: 4hr run, 2h45 road bike, 1h30 mtn bike
Sun: 3hr mtn bike ride

The adventure biking was interesting to say the least. I had just finished up my gym session which consists of a one hour workout followed immediately by power intervals on the spin bike when I got a call from a few primarily downhill riding friends. We decided to head out for what was supposed to be two hours, maybe three. Four and a half hours later and I was scrambling to get home in time to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs! We did quite a bit of bush whacking while trying to locate different routes. My buddy Ian kept apologizing while Nick lead the way. I laughed, it was all to reminiscent of an adventure race for me to mind and I actually quite liked it! As we hit one of the final turns on a trail out at 'Cat Lake' I turned to the guys and said, you know apparently 'Alice Lake' is a short bush whack over that way somewhere.

"Oh yeah, let's do it!"

And with that we were constructing a downed tree bridge across a river and dragging our bikes through dense forest brush. I believe Roxy was the only one who truly enjoyed this section as she moved effortlessly and was leading the way for the first time all day! Eventually we did manage to pop out onto the trail around 'Stump Lake' and continued on our improvised route from there back to the cars. I thanked the guys for an eventful day, headed home in a hurry, turned on the game, sat there for five minutes, and decided to head out for a trail run. I was feeling great, and as I've learned over the years, you never know how you might feel, or what the weather may hold for you the following day, so I decided to go for it. After a quick hour on my feet I sat back and finally enjoyed the game. In the end I was glad I squeezed in that run because on Thursday I wasn't feeling it at all and took a somewhat guilt free day off of training.

Friday consisted of a 1hr ride before work and 1hr run afterwards. I had somehow managed to forget Roxy's leash...and my damn running shoes! I improved a leash with the auxiliary cord in my car and since I work at a running store, I decided to 'demo' a pair of shoes, hence the road run on the night. It's funny because I never, ever, run road as I'm in love with the trails, however, on this night in particular I was really thoroughly enjoying the road run. It was a beautiful evening and the sun was just starting to set over Vancouver. From my high point in North Van I was able to take in the entire sky line from numerous vantage points. I can't say enough about how much I love it here. Training never gets old when we are so spoiled with this incredible scenery and access to terrain.

Sat was to be my big day of the week, a four hour run followed by a four hour ride. I knew to be successful I needed an early start and hoped my motivation wouldn't wain throughout the day. Thankfully I was blessed with the nicest day of the entire year to date! The temps managed the high teens here in Squamish and even up to twenty in some lower mainland areas! Generally on a long run such as this I would take it fairly conservatively, but I was feeling really good so decided to go for it. I ran from downtown Squamish through Valley Cliff and out towards The Chief. Then up to Third Peak, which I had not done in awhile. It was soooo incredible up there. Roxy and I had it to ourselves and I sat there taking it all in for ten minutes, snapping pics and just generally loving life. On the run back down I was quickly reminded of the fact that it was indeed a sunny Saturday as what was obviously a tour group were strung out along the lower km of the climb. There were at least thirty people to negotiate, but I still manged a decent pace and some funny looks along the way.

After this 2000 foot climb and descent I headed out the forest service road towards 'The Powerhouse Plunge' and then decided to run it from bottom to top. I was surprised to have not come across a single rider, but I guess it was still somewhat early in the day. Once I crested this climb, of at least 1000 additional feet I knew I'd have a nice twenty minute downhill run ahead. As I crossed the 'Darwins' bridge at the exit to these trails I was greeted with the first 'hot spot' of the day, and I'm not talking about blisters. I lay in the sun by the river soaking it all in. The smells, the sounds, the warmth, it felt amazing to know that summer isn't that far off after all! Roxy chugged water from the river and we departed after a few minutes. From here is was out onto another gravel road that would lead me into a twenty minute downhill run, and this would be followed up by running the completely flat golf course trails back to my house.

As I was approaching the g.c. trails I knew that I would have to concentrate on my stride, as flat running is definitely my weakness. With Miwok now just a few weeks away, and a good portion of that race on flatter, runnable terrain, I was fully aware of the fact that my flat land turn over is more than likely going to determine if I have a good race, or a great race in San Fran. I spent the last thirty minutes of my four hour run trying to sustain as quick a turnover as possible. I started strong, but faded a little, then went into a somewhat detailed day dreaming scenario. I've always been able to train effectively as an individual because I am completely capable of convincing myself that my current day dream is relevant enough to believe at that moment in time. I put myself in San Fran, I put myself 10k from the finish line of the 100km Miwok run, and I put Scott Jurek within striking distance. Crazy maybe, but hey, whatever it takes right! This was all the fuel I needed and I quickly upped my pace again and truly felt as though I was running faster on the flat stuff then I had in a long, long time. I eventually caught and dropped Jurek....hey it's my daydream people...and held my solid pace right up until the last turn towards my house, at which point I walked it in. Roxy and I collapsed in unison upon the front deck, and neither of us moved for ten minutes. I think Jurek finished about three minutes behind me!!

After a ten minute rest and a thirty minute fueling session I was on my road bike and out the door again. I hit up Squamish Valley, Paradise Valley and then climbed up past Alice Lake. There were finally riders out enjoying the day, and after a 2h45 road ride I immediately grabbed my mountain bike to finish up my training session. I had ridden a good pace on my road bike throughout, as there was a steady head wind, and as I began on the mtn bike I was amazed that I still felt really good. I started back up the gravel road I had run down earlier, and back towards 'The Plunge'. As I was climbing I came across even more riders and honestly, for pretty much the first time this year, I was sharing the trails and roads with other people. Welcome back everyone, hope you enjoyed your hibernation! I have not come across a bear just yet, but a few friends have already.

I continued to push myself on the climb, even managing to catch and pass some other bikers. I bombed down The Plunge and headed into the Crumpit Woods trail area. At this point in time I came across the coolest thing I had seen in a long, long time (this one's for you Hannah). There were two people pushing their bikes up above me on the switchback trail and I could see that I was about to catch them. As I rounded the turn I couldn't believe what I was seeing. There was a girl, with a full air cast on here foot, out pushing her bike up the hills so that she could get in at least some form of a ride on the day!! I loved it. It made my day to see that and I simply turned to her as I biked past and said,


She replied with "It's too damn nice to be inside today!"

If she wasn't out with her apparent boyfriend I surely would have stopped to get her name...at least I know she would not have been able to out run me at that point!

I bombed down the rest of the 'Farther Side' network of trails and back to my place in 1h30m to punctuate a very solid 8h15m day of training. The highlight of my entire day though was seeing that girl out there pushing her limits and not letting anyone stand in her way. I'm sure that countless Dr. had told her that she needed to rest, I'm sure all her family members were telling her that she wasn't allowed to do such a thing, and when I rode past her boyfriend shot me that look that said, 'I tried to talk her out of this, so now I'm just here to make sure she doesn't do anything really stupid!'

It actually made me think back to my four years of racing, coming into all of this completely fresh in 2004. People seemed to doubt what I thought I could, and would accomplish in these sports. I had zero experience with anything endurance and as early as 2000 I was thirty pounds heavier than I currently am. However I got into racing with but one goal, to go as far as my mind would allow and to be as fast as my body would allow. After my first few MOMAR races with then teammate Mark Fearman, as 'The Bleeding Nipples' I remember talking with my good buddy Chad Fox here in Squamish. I told Chad that I was going to win these races eventually.

"How far back are you from the leaders right now?"

"Well...forty minutes in our first race, an hour and forty in our second."

"Oh, umm, going the wrong way there aren't ya?"

"I'm telling ya Foxy, I can catch these guys, I know I can!"

I did know it. Deep down inside I never doubted it for a second. It took a few years to get to that point, but in 07 Todd and I accomplished something that no one had ever done before, as we managed a full series sweep over the three MOMAR races.

There were many people along the way who did doubt what I could accomplish, and I'd even put Bryan Tasaka, MOMAR owner, as one of them. Bryan might not remember this as much as I do, but in my second season of racing and at the final MOMAR of the year in Cumberland I was coming off of the kayak stage having returned to the mainland.
I turned to Bryan and asked,

"Who's leading?"

His response with a laugh, "NOT YOU!!"

In Bryan's defense we had developed a rapport by that point in time and he was not being a jerk, but it was obvious that I thought I should have been doing better, and Bryan didn't see it that way at all. I ended up finishing 24th overall at almost 1h30 minutes behind the overall leaders. It was the last race of the season and I had lots of time to ponder what it was I really wanted to accomplish with my racing. It was blatantly obvious that my biking and paddling skills were piss poor and my running was all that was even allowing me to stay 'competitive' at all. I was faced with some choices, race adventure races recreationally, quite adventure racing and focus on running, or start actually training and focus that training on the biking and the kayaking side of things. My running would suffer, but my running base undoubtedly allow me to pick it up again if I were able to improve upon my riding and paddling. I took a few months away from things and then went about actually training for the first time in my life. I put in the hours on my bike and in the boat and sure enough in 2006 I finally had a few decent results. In Cumberland, just one year later, Mark and I won the team of two and finished third overall, less than a minute out of second and just ten from winning the entire thing. Mark and I had put in our time, and we were rewarded for it, plain and simple.

I feel like I have known a few things over the years that maybe I should have questioned more so than actually believing in them whole heartedly. Did I really know I would get to this point in my racing, or was it simply the fact that I believed in it so much that I MADE it happen?

Whatever the case, I believe that I KNOW a few more things that I will tackle in the coming years...and yes I would consider these things HUGE goals to attain! Again however, I do not doubt that as long as I continue to put in the time and effort, as long as I continue to make the necessary sacrifices, and as long as I stay focused on my goals, then I can not go wrong. IF in the end I fall short of some of these goals, then I have still managed to significantly enhance my life experiences along the way. Whether I finish 8th or 80th at Miwok, I'm still fortunate enough to be able to compete in one of the most scenic 100k runs in North America, and that in and of itself is what this game is really all about for me. To find the balance in life. To mix travel and racing, to mix work and play, to pursue what I am truly passionate about!

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and common sense."




The Chaser said...

Love the shout out Gary! I completely understand that girl's desires. Every moment that passes where you are forced to not do something you love or want to do is another moment wasted in life. We only live once...hence my desire to get back out there asap. Yesterday I decided to do a little hike up some actually steep mountain trail, just to test out the knee and before I knew it, I was jogging on all the straights and ups with my bionic knee brace of course. It felt really quite good except for a total lack of fitness. It felt soooo good to get the burning in the lungs thing. I had to pick my way down slowly, but was totally worth it. I have to keep the run thing on the downlo though cause I do not want to deal with the fam/hubby giving me shit about doing something that felt so good.

I feel like I have been stuck in the "beginner" mode for so long in ARs and biking and I am so ready to progress past that. I am ready to set my sites at higher than just finishing. This recent knee thing really set me back. Hopefully by the end of this year, my women's team and I can actually put together a good race.

garobbins said...

Nice work on the run Hannah, very impressive! As long as there's no 'bad pain' then it's all good right!

One step back, two steps forward. I'm betting that this will make you stronger than ever as you have had something taken from you and now appreciate it that much more. Good luck with the rest of the recovery and eventual racing again!!


Todd Nowack said...

Awesome post Gary. I love how you leave it all out there; honest, unhindered by an inner critic, and straight from your true self to the keys.

garobbins said...

Thanks dude! These are the posts that always leave me wondering how they are received, so it's great to get some nice feedback. You ready to rock next weekend!!


Anonymous said...

Bah ha ha, I think Billy works with the air-cast girl. Was she french?

Gary Robbins said...

I believe she was, hilarious!!