Powered By Chocolate Milk Give Away!!!

UPDATE: Comments are closed! Winners will be notified soon!!

Hello friends!

As you know, I’m a proud Powered by Chocolate Milk ambassador, and I have an exciting announcement! I have 5 prize packs to give away, just like the photo below. They contain lots of awesome items for your workout including a $50 Running Room gift card, an aluminum water bottle, dri-fit shirt, and of course chocolate milk!

To enter, leave a comment below with details on your favourite post-workout recovery tip. Then, tweet to me:

“I just entered to win a @pbchocolatemilk prize pack on @becomingajock’s blog! #pbcm”

At the end of the week on Friday April 11, I’ll be announcing the names of five lucky winners. Don’t forget to follow me so I can get your contact information! Winners must live in Western Canada.


Race Report – Cap Crusher

Dave and The Lions

Not a bad spot for a race

Last year when the Coast Mountain Trail Series was announced, I was excited about another trail racing series in the area – and with Gary and Geoff at the helm these certainly wouldn’t be (sorry) walks in the park. Unfortunately I already had a pretty full dance card for 2013, so I wasn’t able to do any of the new ones.

One of my goals this year is to run some races I haven’t run before and the CMTS is a perfect fit.

After a rainy and dreary Saturday, Sunday dawned bright and clear. I grabbed a nearby Car2Go and zipped across the bridge to the North Shore, steadily climbing and watching the snow line get closer and closer. But, as evidenced in the picture above, we were still well below the snow.

Saw Linda and some of the volunteers heading out, got my bib, finally met (the other) Linda in person, said hello to Dianna, had a chat with Dave and said hi to Ed (read his race report too) before heading back to the car to get geared up. Pretty soon it was time for Gary’s pre-race briefing – mostly standard stuff, but he did mention that Alex Varner (the US 50k trail champion) was here and would be battling with local-hero Mike Murphy for top spot (spoiler alert: Mike won, Alex came in 3rd)

Cap Crusher Elevation

Cap Crusher Elevation

And we’re off! Across Cleveland Dam and right away into some climbing before a long drop down to the turn-around at the course’s lowest point. It seemed like every intersection had us turning and we’d do some sections of trail in both directions. But there was flagging everywhere and course marshals galore. I’m the kind of trail racer who thinks there can never be too much confidence flagging, but Gary comes pretty close. The only spot where I had any confusion was looping through the start/finish area – I didn’t see any indication of where to go but luckily there was a marshal just before the dam who pointed me in the right direction. Shortly after this I spotted Jay crouched down on a bridge, and he grabbed a couple of shots of me.

Heading to the bridge - credit to Jay Klassen

Heading to the bridge – credit to Jay Klassen

Crossing the bridge - credit to Jay Klassen

Crossing the bridge – credit to Jay Klassen



















Then it was the slow slog up the last steep section – which has been so fun to run down in the beginning – before coming out near the dam again. I’d glanced back a couple of time on this uphill and I knew that there weren’t any 13k racers too close behind me, but I pushed it and passed a couple in front of me on the dam – although they turned out to be 8k racers. Crossed the finish line feeling pretty good.

Official Results: 1:23:35 – 18th out of 48 OA, 15th out of 31 men.

Further Adventures In Cardiology

Read about my initial adventures here.

I had a follow-up appointment with my cardiologist. During my visit last June, she’d said that she wanted me to lower my LDL cholesterol (side note: at the time mine was 2.64, anything under 3.4 is considered good, but with me being a 45+ male with a family history of heart disease, the recommendation is to have it below 2.0) and she told me no more than 2 egg yolks a week (to be fair, at the time I was eating a dozen eggs a week.) So a month ago I went for more blood work and my LDL was 2.08! She was totally amazed at the drop and asked me what I did – um, I followed your orders doc.

The visit also involved another echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart,) but this time a “contrast echo” which means they injected “agitated saline” – yes, it was a saline solution with air bubbles in it! Air bubbles, in my blood stream! I mentioned that this was what they did in movies when they wanted to kill someone, but the technician said they use way less air than that. Good to know.

The contrast echo showed that I have a hole in my heart between the right and left atria – Atrial Septal Defect. This is very common with about 1/3 of the population having the hole (we all do as fetuses, but most holes are closed at the time of first breath). The next step is to find out how big the hole is – if it’s too big then it may be a contributing factor to my enlarged atria. So sometime this summer I’ll go for another test, this time they’ll put a scope down my throat (Transesophageal Echocardiography) – but dope me up with a Valium-like drug first! – to get a precise measurement of the hole.

If it is too big, 0.4 cm is the threshold but the volume of blood passing through is an important variable too, then that will require another procedure to close the hole.



600k on Montrail Mountain Masochists

In May of 2013, there was a Groupon for North Shore Athletics, $20 would get you $40 off any footwear. My current trail shoes – a pair of Nike Trail Ridge I’d picked up in Texas the previous fall – were showing their age and as I needed to go to NSA soon for Iron Knee package pickup, this seemed like a good opportunity to get a new pair.

I was a little disappointed that they only had one pair in my size – 14 – but I liked the fit and was keen to give the “Out Dry” technology a shot. Plus these had a substantial rock plate that I looked forward to testing out.

So new!

So new!

After Iron Knee’s post-race “ice-bath”, I said good by to the Nike shoes

I wore the Montrails shoes for just over 600km over the next 8 months or so. And was very impressed with both the waterproofing and the rock plate in the sole. It took considerable water before my feet would get wet – notably the Buntzen Lake race in September – but most runs, even splashing through ankle-deep puddles, my feet stayed dry.

And the rock plate was amazing on the technical, all rocks-and-roots trails I frequent. But I do think it was losing some of its protection towards the end.

The final hurrah for these shoes was the Orcas Island 50k. On the way to that race a stop at Fairhaven Runners netted me a pair of Saucony Peregrine 3.0 – a couple of notable differences here, the Sauconys are about an ounce lighter, and have a mere 4mm drop, as opposed to the 10mm in the Montrails.

Good bye and farewell to a great pair of shoes!

Post-Orcas - tired and worn out.

Post-Orcas – tired and worn out.

Race Report – Orcas Island 50k

The Journey There

I met Emma at Starbucks and soon enough Melissa and Kristine pulled up and we were heading south for the border. None of us have Nexus, so we couldn’t zip right through, but we didn’t have to long of a wait.

Border Crossing

Border Crossing

Once we were in USA we had to make a pit stop, so that seemed a good time for a little more carb-loading.


Mmmmm, cold carbs

Mmmmm, cold carbs

After that we went to the same restaurant I ate at before the Bellingham Trail Marathon and Chuckanut, Bayou on Bay. I had the jambalaya as I always do, but this time decided to preface it with an oyster shooter – “Greg, that has a asterisk beside it on the menu – that means it’s poison!” fretted Emma.

Once we were sated with lunch, we drove down to Fairhaven Runners and Kristine and I bought new shoes. Then it was off to Anacortes to catch the ferry to Orcas. Well, it was off to Anacoretes to WAIT for the ferry to Orcas, as there was no sailing at 2 but rather it was at 3.

I should hope so!

I should hope so!

Emma bearing the brunt of Kristine's anxiety

Emma bearing the brunt of Kristine’s anxiety

Too much energy Kristine?

Too much energy Kristine?

Then we boarded and set sail.

That's a really weird layout, amirite?

That’s a really weird layout, amirite?

A little tiny island we saw

A little tiny island we saw

We were on the milk-run, so the ferry stopped at two other islands before Orcas, but soon enough we were disembarking.

Hello Orcas!

Hello Orcas!

And we drove to the house we’d rented. Alan and Pargol showed up about an hour later and then we all went down to package pickup and the pre-race meal. Then it was back to the house for some more fretting and worrying and lots of pre-race jitters (this was Melissa and Kristine’s first ultra).

I had a great night’s sleep, but evidently I was in the minority. Turns out that Pargol had opted to join Melissa and Kristine at the early start, so Emma took them to the start before sunrise. Then it was my and Alan’s turn to get to Camp Moran.

The Race

We arrived about 45 minutes before the start, and I spent that time in the clubhouse waiting for the washroom and checking my gear. Around quarter past 8 there was a pre-race briefing and then we all shuffled outside for the start. It was warmer than I’d expected and I was worried I’d over dressed. Did I need my heavy sleeves and gloves? Was the neck warmer really necessary? Oh well, to late to ditch it now. At least I had my camelback so I could stuff things in there if it got really warm.

And we were off:

Start to Aid 1 – 6.4 miles (10.3km) 1:30 I had the numbers for this whole run planned out. I didn’t trust the battery in my GPS watch to last, so I had it on stopwatch mode. 90 minutes to get to the first aid station (8 hours for the whole race). The course starts out with some nice single-track, and I even caught a glance of Melissa where the course loops back on itself. But right after that we were climbing a road – a goddamn paved road. Switchbacks going up and up and up. But then more beautiful single track descents, down and down and down. Unfortunately it was at this point that I saw the injured runner. She was in good hands with paramedics and a half dozen other people around her giving aid, but it’s always jarring to see someone hurt that bad, especially so soon in the race. But then the Aid Station! Time Elapsed: 1:17

Aid 1: Didn’t spend much time here, grabbed a couple of snacks and a drink, exchanged a few words with Emma and headed out. Time Elapsed: 44s – Total Time: 1:18

Aid 1 to Aid 2 – 8.2 miles (13.2km) 2:00 There was a fair bit of flat coming out of Aid 1, and it was a great spot to do some running. I’d set a “Eat” reminder for 45 minutes on my watch, and I was sticking to it, aid stations were just bonus food. Oh yeah, and that worry I had about over dressing? Ha! We were climbing mountains here people! There was snow! Ok, not much, and virtually none on the trail itself, but I was struck with how the temperature would drop as we climbed. Then I could smell smoke and I knew the Aid Station was close. Time Elapsed 1:40 – Total Time: 2:58

Aid 2: Again, didn’t spend to long here, grabbed some food and dumped some garbage and headed out. Time Elapsed 58s – Total Time: 2:59

Aid 2 to Aid 3 – 6 miles (9.7km) 1:30 This entire leg all I could think about was that the next leg has the two big climbs. Powerline and then the final climb to Mt. Constitution. I think I must have been in my head too much here, because even though this leg was mostly downhill, I had a pretty poor time. Time Elapsed: 1:29 – Total Time: 4:29

Aid 3: Drop bag! It felt great to pull on a dry shirt and gloves. I also dumped the neck warmer and changed hats. Emma was here too with … um … a few more questions that I was prepared to answer. Time Elapsed: 0:04:59 – Total Time: 4:34

Aid 3 to Aid 4 – 5.2 miles (8.4km) 2:00 Oh man. Powerline. I have never climbed anything that steep before. I was constantly worried that I would start sliding downhill. And it just seemed to go on and on. Whenever I’d look up I could see people way, way far above me. Slog slog slog slog. But then there was an arrow pointing off to the left and look, a descent! I’ve never been so glad to get off a hill. This next section was amazing. Ideal trails through a moss-covered forest with widely spaced trees. Hands-down my favourite part of the course. Until I got to the sign that said “Summit 1.2″ – I thought, 1.2 miles? That’s not even 5 laps of the track, I can do that in about 9 minutes. Of course this was not quite as flat as the track. A series of 7 switchbacks that started out fairly reasonably but got worse and worse as we continued. Until, finally, the top. Time Elapsed: 1:48 – Total Time: 6:23

Aid 4: The last Aid Station – spectacular views and hot soup. What more could you want? Time Elapsed: 0:01:31 – Total Time: 6:25

Aid 4 to Finish – 4.3 miles (6.9km) 1:00 I came out of Aid 4 feeling pretty optimistic. I had over 90 minutes before the cut off, and if I could do this leg in within its time-frame, I’d beat my predicted time of 7:31 as well. Just after leaving the station I heard a voice call out, and who should be crouched in the bushes but photographer extraordinaire Glenn Tachiyama, who snapped this one of me. Most of the descent for this section was very nice. There were some switchbacks that made parts of it less steep than they would have been otherwise, but once off the mountain and the road was in sight, the last mile or so seemed never-ending. This is the one leg where I’m really not happy with how I did, and it’s the only leg where I failed to finish in less than its allotted time. Time Elapsed: 1:09 – Total Time: 7:34

Official Results: 7:34:36 – 26/31 in my AG, 94/124 Men. 134/200 OA.

The Aftermath

As I was the last of our group to finish, we were soon piling into the car and heading to the house for warm showers. After that and a beer, we went back to the camp to check out the pizza dinner and for Alan and Kristine to pick up their forgotten drop bags. Pizzas weren’t ready and we were all famished, so we quickly adjourned to the Lower Tavern. After dinner we had some more hydration at the house. The next morning was all packing and loading the cars, then down to the ferry terminal to wait.

Pier Yoga

Pier Yoga

Emma, with her orca friends

Emma, with her orca friends

Waiting for my ship to come in

Waiting for my ship to come in (photo credit, Kristine Chew)

When we were back on the mainland, we stopped for brunch at the Calico Cupboard before making our way back to Canada.

Go read Kristine’s recap – now!

Month in Review – January 2014

January’s been a rebuilding month, with no races. I’d thought about doing the 10 (which I ran – and PB’d at – last year) or 15k Chilly Chase, but with the Orcas 50k just a week later, I thought it better to err on the side of caution and leave that one alone. After a low-mileage December it was good to get in some longer runs and hit the track again. Early in the month I plugged my numbers into the McMillan Running Calculator to see what I should be targeting in my training. After my speed work on the 28th (a ladder of 400/800/1200/1600), I compared notes:

Distance McMillan Goal Actual
400m 1:36 1:32
800m 3:20 3:16
1200m 5:07 5:04
1600m 7:07 6:48

The Stats:

Distance: 275km (170 mi)
Time: 26 hours
Calories: 27k

Looking back and forward: 2013 – 2014

I cannot deny that 2013 has been a big year for me. I had two 10k PBs (Chilly Chase and the Sun Run), two marathon PBs (Victoria and CIM) and ran not only my first ultra (Chuckanut) but also my second (Squamish 50). Had a 30-day running streak for the month of September, hitting just over 400k (my biggest month ever). Add in another 9 races all the while maintaining an average of 10k a day – hitting 3650 k on Sunday December 29th.

As for 2014, I plan on running some new races, starting with the Orcas Island 50k. I plan on taking on the Coast Mountain Trail Series’ Cap Crusher. I’m going to run the BMO Marathon’s Half route – yes, I’ve run the BMO half before, but this is a new route, so technically it’s a new race too – and then travel to Calgary for their 50th annual marathon. Shortly after that is Seek The Peak – my first time racing up the Grind. As I said on Twitter, I’ve entered the lottery for the Knee Knacker – a gruelling 30 mile (not 50k as some folks insist on calling it) race on the North Shore. My final new race will be, tentatively, the Portland marathon.

So, that brings us to goals for this year. Obviously my first goal is just getting into the Knee Knacker, of course that’s just blind luck. Whenever you sign up for a race on Ultra Signup, they post a predicted time, so besting 7:31 at Orcas and 8:07 for the Knee Knacker are definite goals, if for no other reason than spite. I set my half-marathon PB – 1:39 –  at the BMO in 2011 so this year I’m planning on running with the 1:35 pacer. With two marathons on the schedule, I’d like to go sub-3:35 in Calgary and push that to sub-3:30 in Portland. But those are all racing goals. And how to achieve them? Training goals, natch. After getting to 3650k last year I’ve had a few people ask it I had a similar target for this year. While 4000k is tempting (that’s not even 11k a day!) I’ve decided to pursue quality over quantity. Specifically, more speed work. I feel that the Yasso800s I did between the Victoria and California marathons really paid off, and I want to sustain that kind of improvement. One of the advantages of working at SFU is access to a world-class track and I intend to make full make of it. So, who’s up for some speed work on Tuesdays at lunch time?