Monthly Archives: April 2016

5 Peaks Alice Lake enduro trail race review


Runners chilling out at Alice Lake. Photo by Rob Schaer

“When you hit the pavement-sprint! There’s only 200 metres to the finish” These words jumped into my consciousness, coming back to me from the pre-race briefing 90 minutes earlier. I saw the pavement…  and sprinted. Not very fast! There wasn’t much left in my legs after an all out 1 hour and 25 minute effort. I was coming to the finish line of the 5 Peaks Alice Lake 13 Km trail race last Saturday-16th April.

What a great race and great course. Loved it!

The setting was the beautiful lush Alice Lake Provincial Park near Squamish, BC.

5 Peaks puts on many very popular trail races throughout Canada. Each event has two options: a sports course of 5-8Km and an enduro course of 10-15Km. As well, there’s always a kids race or two. I’ve done a few 5 Peaks races in my time and have always loved their courses. 5 Peaks have tonnes of sponsors which means lots of draw prizes and give-aways. They award medals to the first 3 in each age category too-more later!

Last Saturday at Alice Lake the events were a 13Km, an 8.5Km, a 3Km kids race and a 1Km kids race.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 9.36.34 PM

My Strava map of the 13km


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Elevation profile

Race director, Solana said she revamped the course this year. The course was awesome with lots of “flowy runnable lush switchbacks” and lots of -my favourite- fast downhill. The technical parts of the course are single track mountain bike trails. These trails have cool features like a human sized dog-house (you run through it) and a crazy wave bridge. The last downhill of the race is on one of the “premier descents in all Squamish”. Running technical downhills is my passion and the last downhill was the best part of the route for me. Here, I was in a group with 2 other racers and we flew by many others. What a great feeling! But ouch…after that last downhill you turn right onto a 1.5km slight incline all the way to the finish. A weary plod took over!

But I did manage to pick up my knees for that last 200m of pavement.

The post-race festivities were fun with food, random prizes, games, banter, first, second and third receiving medals on the podium and age-groupers receiving medals too.


The race bling. A cool camping mug for the post-race brew

I was rewarded with a second place finish in the age 50 to 59 age group. That meant I got to stand on the podium and receive a beautiful porcelain medal. Wow! Cool!


Age group medal!

I’ve mentioned before that I love using shorter races (shorter than ultra distance!) as tempo training runs. So it was a good training day in my 100 mile journey. I’m still on course.


I’m on the right


Two inspiring women marathon runners.

While driving to work yesterday listening to the latest Marathon Talk podcast my ears pricked up at one of the news articles. Podcast host Martin spoke of a new marathon which had been run in Iran. His news story was about two women who ran the marathon despite authorities not allowing women to enter the race.


I immediately wanted to find out more. Here’s a Runners World article published on 13th April about the story that caught my attention. The two women who finished were Masoumeh (Mahsa) Torabi and a woman called Elham.


Mahsa Torabi

It seems women were able to sign up for the race but their entries were rejected! The authorities, not the organisers, prohibited women from entering. Mahsa and Elham decided they were going to run the race anyway! They started the race a couple of hours before the men. Both finished and both were given medals.

By way of the Runners World article I discovered Ultrarunner Girl and her extremely interesting blog post on the subject which gives a lot of detail. She tried really hard to have the European organisers of the race cancel the event on account of gender discrimination. They wouldn’t cancel 😦

I also found out that Ultrarunner girl founded the Free to Run charity. Awesome charity!

Free to Run is a nonprofit organization that uses running, physical fitness and outdoor adventure as a means of empowering and educating females from conflict-affected communities to overcome the harmful effects of gender, religious and ethnic discrimination. By creating and supporting an environment for women and girls to participate in sport and physical education, Free to Run aims to use the power of sport to change lives and communities in areas of greatest need.

It turns out that Mahsa Torabi is an ambassador for Free to Run. Read what she wrote about running the Iran marathon. So inspiring! She is running the Iran Silk Road Ultramarathon next month. Good Luck Mahsa!

It was really interesting doing this little bit of research. Reading the comments attached to Ultrarunner Girl’s post gave me even more insight.

I’ve no concept what it must be like to live in these two women’s shoes but from an outsider looking in what they did seems extremely courageous.

Next time I toe the line in a race I will think of them, I’ll be inspired by them and I’ll run my best. Because I can! Because we can!

Lets hope women are running the Iran Marathon as equals free from discrimination in 2017.

Science geek alert

I’m a bit of a science geek. I love reading about running science. I haven’t done much running this past week because of a bad cold so I thought I’d try writing about an ultra-running science article that caught my eye. I’ve heard the lead author, Dr Martin Hoffman, talk at a Wilderness Medicine Conference and that’s partly why it caught my eye, plus like I said I’m a science geek and found the title interesting!

Is Sodium Supplementation Necessary to Avoid Dehydration During Prolonged Exercise in the Heat?

The use of salt tablets by ultra-runners is very common. But are they necessary in  ultra- marathons? Is it dogma?

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research adds to the accumulating evidence saying supplemental salt tablets aren’t needed.

Here’s the pdf-Endurance-article

The setting for this study was the Western States Endurance Run (161 Km ultra-marathon)in 2014.

Many ultra-runners reading this will know the race and will probably have heard of the lead author Martin Hoffman who has published a lot of studies on ultra-endurance science.

The authors’ previous work showed that adequate hydration was maintained without taking in sodium supplements and by drinking to thirst. For this study they sought to add to that data. They also sought to examine the relationship between the quantity of sodium consumed in supplements and change in body weight.

The authors measured the body weights of participants before, during and after the race. Hydration status was determined using weight change from that immediately before the start of the race. If a runner had a 1% or greater weight gain then they were overhydrated. If they had a 4% or more weight loss then they were dehydrated. Anything in-between was normal hydration (“euhydration”)

The authors say previous work has shown the anticipated “normal” weight loss in an event like Western States is 4% (This 4% loss is loss from breakdown of muscle and liver glycogen and fat stores). Of note, this 4% weight loss maintains normal hydration.

After the race, the authors collected self-reported data from participants on how much supplemental sodium they took in during the race. This was then correlated with body weight change.

A summary of the data:

  • There was a greater intake of sodium supplements in those who were overhydrated than those who were dehydrated.
  • Those using sodium supplements never lost more than an average of 2.5% body weight.
  • Those not using sodium supplements had a more appropriate weight loss ie closer to the 4% anticipated.
  • 93% of runners used sodium supplements!


The authors concluded:

  • “The use of sodium supplements tends to be associated with inadequate weight loss and it is not a determinant of hydration status.”
  • “Sodium supplementation is not necessary to maintain proper hydration during prolonged continuous exercise in a hot environment.”
  • “This work provides further support that appropriate hydration status can be maintained during prolonged endurance exercise under hot conditions without the use of sodium supplements and by drinking to thirst.”

I’ve never used salt supplements in my ultras. However, having read quite a lot on the subject I’m aware that there is some evidence that salt ingestion may improve performance. This improved performance may be through a centrally acting brain effect. Salt, fat and sugar are 3 addictive foodstuffs and that may be the link to the acute change in performance with salt.

You probably know Dr Tim Noakes is a well-known name when it comes to the subject of sodium and fluid intake in endurance sport. Check out the review of his book “Waterlogged” on irunfar. Dr Noakes certainly agrees that for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of ultra-marathons sodium supplementation is unnecessary outside of daily intake.

If I get to the end of my 100 miler in July – I sure hope I do! – I will be sitting down to a big plate of food with lots of addictive salt, fat and sugar!

Cottontail 12 hour race report – running loops in Seattle

From 7am till 7pm last Saturday, Easter Saturday, I took part in the wonderful Cottontail 12 hour race at Carkeek Park in Seattle. There were 3 races – the 12 hour event, a 6 hour morning event and 6 hour afternoon event. The races are hosted by by Endless Trails, a non-profit run by Matt and Kerri. It’s a low-key, small race with a great atmosphere.




Matt and Kerri

For the race, there is a 1.93 mile loop with 436 ft of elevation gain and a 0.54 mile loop. Basically, you run as many loops as you can – in any combination of small and large loops -in the time available. Mostly the loops consist of lovely single track – bliss! There are lots of hills and stairs and not much flat.

I noticed that another runner gave the title for this event on his Strava page “12 hours of hill repeats” which was a great description I thought!


One of the many hills


As always I enjoyed meeting new runners. That is one of the things I love about running races in new places. Here’s Mary Ann who I met in the morning. She also has a blog


Mary Ann



Mary Ann’s cottontail


So, I started at 7am and kept going till just before 7pm when the clock stopped and time to run any more loops had run out! I ran strong and loved the event.There was an aid station stocked with lots of great food and drinks. Drop bags were kept there too. Almost every very loop I stopped and grabbed a bite to eat and a drink. I listened to the sounds of the forest and the sounds of people chatting. There were plenty of folks out and about in the lovely park enjoying the Easter weekend. The sounds of the sweet little birds chirping and cheeping kept me company for much of the day. Not so tuneful were the crows with their ear-splitting cries. They caused a hullabaloo now and again through the day. I listened to some motivating songs for a short portion but mostly I just practiced mindfulness, listening to the sounds and watching what was around me. The day flew by.

There is something neat about seeing how many loops you can do. I’d done a 6 hour event before but never a 12 hour. My only strategy was to keep going and I succeeded. I managed to run a lot of it but here’s a pic of me walking and enjoying the gorgeous views over Puget Sound.



Photo by Glenn Tachiyama


Here’s another showing a few of the many steps on the course!


Photo by Glenn Tachiyama


I thought one of my loops got missed somewhere along the way in the final results. Counting the bumps on my Strava elevation profile was confirmation. My final total was 25 big loops and 2 small loops so 49.33 miles with a whopping 11,100 feet elevation gain for my day!

Here’s a link to my Strava


What I learned

For 100 mile training, I think there are many advantages to using a 12 hour race on a small loop to get in your mileage.

  • The psychological benefit of having an aid station every 2 miles is immense
  • You get to know the course intimately, meaning there are no surprises and you can chill out give your mind a break from wondering what is up next
  • There is less planning involved. You only need one drop bag
  • You can very quickly build up elevation gain with only a small amount of gain on each loop. I did 11,000ft. It sure didn’t feel that much

I also learned that “2 Toms Blister Shield” which I mentioned in a previous post works a treat. I had no hot spots on my feet. This was the first time I used this product and so far highly recommend it. Likewise my Altra Lone Peaks 2.5’s were awesome today.



The end of the day