Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Nova Scotia Road trip report

Saint John, NB

I am much better off than I was at the end of last year but still way too inconsistent.  Fortunately, I have had no collapses in the past month.  I define a collapse as when my body gives out after less than 3 miles at a pace over 9 minutes.  I had many such days at the end of last year.  Let's hope I'm done with that forever.  Still, I can definitely feel it when my pills are even slightly off.  Also, my training has been geared toward the 5K.  It consisted of lots of short intervals and short tempos with a long run that topped out at 15 miles and an average weekly mileage just north of 30.  A strong long run 2 weeks ago (14 @7:13) got my hopes up and I figured that if everything broke in my favor, I could do 1:31-1:32 on a flat course.  This one would be a challenging route with the most difficult sections in Mile 10 and Mile 12.  Figure 1:33-1:34 was the more realistic goal.  At the end of the day, knowing that I am not in top shape and with the uncertainty of the chemical sensitivity issues, I could be as slow as 1:50 if my body shifts suddenly at an inopportune time.  The principle goal was to enjoy the trip but I did take this race more seriously than the Blue Ridge half 3 weeks earlier.  I had been wanting to visit the Atlantic provinces of Canada for a long time and this was the excuse to go.  I had been to Ontario twice before and Quebec when I was very young.

5/15- DELTA- Don't Even Leave The Airport.  I had to get up super early for my flight.  I was scheduled to land in Bangor, Maine via La Guardia at 3:38 PM.  I thought about driving to Canada that evening but decided against it because I was sure that I would be tired from the 2 fights and the jet lag that comes with traveling east.  That proved to be a good call because the flight was cancelled and I could not get on another connecting fight until 5:30 PM and would not be landing in Bangor until almost midnight.  Thankfully, I got the rental car and made it safely to my hotel in Bangor (2 hrs. from the border).

5/16- This would be my toughest driving day of the trip.  It was a scenic ride through rural Maine, which was gently rolling with lots of pine trees and small lakes and creeks.  Western New Brunswick had a similar feel but took on a more distinctive flavor further east.  The border crossing went without a hitch and my first stop came at lunchtime in the coastal town of Saint John, New Brunswick.  I parked in a garage on their version of Market Street which led to small indoor shopping mall down by the harbor.

I enjoyed a tasty burger, took a short walk around the harbor and got some Canadian money at a nearby bank.  As expected, my southern accent caused a minor buzz on a few occasions. I found the speech in New Brunswick to be similar to Ontario and nothing like neighboring Maine.  Nova Scotia's was more distinctive but there was no difficulty understanding each other as long as it was some form of English that was spoken. In Halifax, I met a girl who swam for the Univ. of Alabama and even saw a man wearing a Clemson shirt after the race.  Pretty cool.

Shortly after leaving Saint John, I got on a back road to the Bay of Fundy National Park.  It added at least an hour to my drive but it was worth it.  The road went up to about 1,000 ft. altitude but you could see views of the water along with the dark red sand in the distance.  I stopped at the bottom for a short walk along the rocky coast.  From there, it was across the Confederation Bridge into Prince Edward Island.  The island was greener with red soil and a good mix of flats and rolling hills.  My destination was Charlottetown, which had a rather quaint downtown area but I was able to get a pretty good seafood dinner.  My hotel/inn was within a 5 minute walk of Victoria Park, which was down by the coast with a boardwalk and a good place for a junk run the next morning.  It was unspoiled beauty with no shops of any kind.  New Brunswick to Charlottetown added a total of 4 hours to my drive and cost $45 to cross the Confederation bridge but I knew that I would have regretted skipping it.  I won't say never but it's highly unlikely that I'll be back that way again.
Bay of Fundy

5/17- Relatively easy trip into Halifax, Nova Scotia that was almost all highway.  The only hitch came when I tried to go to the expo before checking in to my hotel.  Roads were closed due to the 5K being run that afternoon and I had no idea where to go.  Eventually, I made it back to my hotel, which was close enough to walk downtown to the start line.  I took another junk run through Commons Park and felt decent but maybe just a tad "off" then walked down past the Citadel, a scenic overlook commemorating military battles before a Prime Rib dinner where I enjoyed talking to a guy who also enjoys travel.  Halifax drops down to near sea level at its lowest point but also has some steep climbs from the harbor up to residential areas.  Fortunately, the half course was about an easy as could be without sacrificing the scenery.  The expo was nothing special.  I hoped to find a tech shirt with the Canadian flag or "Run Nova Scotia" but no such luck.

5/18- I normally take my Thym-Adren + molybdenum in the morning and the Cal/Mag in the evening.  On race morning, I got the bright idea to take them both at the same time.  STUPID!  I should know not to try anything new on race day especially with chemical sensitivity.  Still, I felt reasonably good warming up with only a trace of stiffness in my legs so I decided to go for the good time.  It was a new experience to race with markers in kilometers.  I did some math in my head beforehand.  A 4:15 split would get me to 20K in 85 minutes and the finish at 21.1K just under 90.  I would aim for more like 4:20 to be realistic.

I was out well feeling smooth and controlled after slight congestion at the start.  I forgot to charge my GPS so I would be going naked in terms of pace.  Because the kilometer marker came 600 meters before a Mile 1 sign, it would be easier to adjust and unlike a 5K, a fast 1st K represented less than 5% of the race distance so a few seconds fast won't hurt much.  I came to the marker in 4:12.  Okay, settle down now.  Feeling good.  The next kilometer was mostly an incline so the pace naturally dropped off as I came through a respectable 4:23 2nd kilometer.  The course was tough but fair.  There were a couple of steep declines but the climbs were mostly long and gradual.  Flat sections were few and far between. Near the end of the 3rd kilometer, I was beginning to get a trace of abnormal fatigue and tightness.  I knew right then that it was not going to be good.  I tried to get a jump start with a hydration stop but it didn't help much.  Still, despite hurting, the pace was still quite respectable as I passed 5K in a solid 21:43, still on pace for a 1:32ish.  We got a nice downhill as we went back down to the harbor towards downtown but it was followed by a long incline.  I wanted to walk here but I was able able to hold it together a bit longer and passed 8K in exactly 35 minutes.  Figure about 35:10 for 5 miles so my pace was still projecting a finish around 1:32.  Then my hip started cramping and pace suddenly fell off on the flat section.  I had hit the wall.  Do I punt? YES!

I walked for a bout 3 minutes hoping to recharge then settle into a jog that was sustainable for another 8 miles.  I cut off the watch and would just try to enjoy the rest of the race as much as possible. I had to walk again going up the next hill and the finish line could not come soon enough.  I have to say that the fans were great here.  Numerous spectators were lining the streets shouting encouragement all the way.  I've run 25 or so of these races and these fans were among the best.  Going through the halfway point through downtown, I had settled into a pace probably just over 8:00/mile.  Around 8-9 miles (just before 15K), we turned into Point Pleasant Park, a beautiful trail section along the Atlantic coast.  It was here that the course turned uphill and we were treated to some more views of the sea from above.  I managed a bit of a resurgence here as I held my position in the field and even passed a couple of runners on the hills.  After leaving the park, we were back to the residential section that led us back to finish area overlooking the harbor.  It was another long climb in Mile 12, which I ran all the way, followed by a significant downhill and a tough incline to the finish.  Again, my watch was off and I expected to see a time between 1:41-1:45 at the finish and that's what I got.  My official time was 1:43:26 and I finished extremely stiff but safely on my feet at the finish.

Final thought:
It's just an ugly fact of life that as my body adjusts toward balance and my optimal dosage trends down, there will be days like this with chemical sensitivity.  It's unfortunate that it can happen on race day but I'm grateful that it wasn't a total blow up in which I was doing 10:00+ pace from Mile 4 to the finish. I can live with it too because it was my own fault for trying something new on race morning. I'm sure the travel wore me out as well but again, I knew that I would have regretted skipping PEI. I began feeling better by the evening but after another dose of Cal/Mag, I tightened up again.  A healthy person will not be affected by a single extra dose of minerals but I am.  

I also need to re-evaluate my training.  Even though my tempos and intervals are short, it may just be too much quality.  Super high mileage will also wear out my adrenals for sure no matter how slow the pace.  What did I do when I was running my best in 2011 and 2012?  A steady diet of moderate paced runs with an average weekly mileage just over 40.  That's not what coaches will tell you to do but it may just be the right formula for me.

Trip home:
Relatively smooth ride back through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick back to the USA border in Houlton, Maine.  The next day was an easy 2 hour drive back to Bangor for my fight home back through LaGuardia.  It was pretty cool to fly over NYC.  My connection into Birmingham was delayed an hour so I didn't get back until almost midnight.  Back to real life now.

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