STRAVA Summary

Friday, June 17, 2016

Western States Training or lack of....

Western States is 8 days away and nothing I can do now is going to make my race better. That’s how I am looking at it after, probably, the worst spring training I have ever gone through. Injuries have taken their toll at the worst possible time. It’s taken me 5 years to finally get selected at this race and it is the year the injuries have curbed my training more than ever. I figured after 5 years I was ready to tackle this race and started training shortly after being selected in the lottery. I have been dealing with Piriformis Syndrome in my right butt cheek for many years, but this year it seems to have gotten worse than ever. Add that to the knee problem I was dealing with from late last year. The left knee osteoarthritis had actually improved to the point where I wasn’t even thinking about it, but every now and then it would pop up to remind me, or worse the right knee would act up. But the knee problems were becoming less of an issue. After TJ100k in March the right calf was the main concern. It is fine now and was replaced by an Achilles pain on the left side. It is mostly healed now, but the PS just won’t go away and is also affecting my lower back on the right side too. This only seems to be a problem with sitting for long periods, like at work!!!

I signed up for the WS100 training runs with the idea of just experiencing the course and getting in some extra heat training. As the runs got closer it was clear that they would be much more than that. I would look at them as a test to see if my body and injuries could manage the most running I would do in a week for almost a year.
The weekend would entail 3 days of running over the WS course, covering a total of 72 miles, 32 miles the first day, followed by 18 and 22 mile days.
We flew to Florida the week before for some vacation time with friends and I managed to get in 4 decent runs in the Florida heat and humidity, although the PS was a pain.
I flew to California on the Thursday before the training runs, but didn’t get to my hotel room in Cupertino until 4:30 am due to flight delays in Dallas. I picked up Gary and Kate at SFO the next morning before going to Zombie Runner to achieve a long term desire to visit the store.

I subsequently spent too much money and we headed off for Auburn.

The traffic out of San Fransisco was the worst I have ever encountered. Similar to a long weekend in Ontario (Memorial Day) everyone was heading out of town and we were in the middle of it. What would normally take about 2.5 hours took 5.5 hours. We rolled in to Auburn at about 7 pm, just in time to catch the end of the Hoka One One film show at the Auburn Running Company. Got to see a few elites there including last year’s race winner Magda Boulet. Chatted with Gordie for a bit and he gave me some encouraging words.
We went back to Elke’s house and quickly settled in for the night as we had to get up early to get ready for the bus ride to Robinson Flat. The busses left for the Start from Foresthill, where we would finish later in the day. Overall they figured there was about 200 people running on the first day. It was about a 45 minute bus ride to Robinson Flat and I chatted with a guy in front of me from Oregon who had only run 1 100 miler before and it was WS a few years ago. A lot of the runners there were not in the race, but just there to experience what a lot of people never get to. We hopped off the bus and headed out on the trails, snowy trails. There was no official start, it was go when you want and we followed the crowd up the hill.
The first part of the trail from Robinson was snow covered, for the most part, and deep in spots, but we were able to run on top. The trail quickly goes up and climbs to Mount Baldy, before heading down for long stretches. The views at the top were stunning.

Once we started heading downhill, it was on easy single track on the side of the mountain, but very exposed. This is an area where things will start to get warm on race day. For the most part, the first number of miles were good as we ran the half marathon to the first canyon. The decent into the first canyon was quite steep, but manageable. I took it easy and saw no one. It was about 1.6 miles to the bottom and as I crossed the first bridge I came across Gary waiting for me.

There were a few people in the river, but I thought it was too far down to go there now. Maybe on race day if it’s too hot. Anyway I was interested in getting the next climb out of the way, Devils Thumb. We started up the 36 switch backs with a purposeful hike and passed many people on the way up. We were about ¾’s of the way up when we heard someone behind us! WTF. Yes two runners (RUNNERS) passing us up Devils Thumb. Turns out it was too of the elites, Jesse Haynes and Jeff Browning. Never saw them again. We continued passing folks and stopped a few times for photos ops.

Eventually 2 miles into it we got to the top of Devils Thumb and there was the thumb! We waited there for about 15 minutes for Kate and then continued on to the aid station a mile or so down the road. Shortly afterwards we headed down the trail to the next downhill. This one was longer over 2 miles down, but not as steep. By the time I got to the bottom I was toast. At the bottom was another river and lots of runners soaking, so I joined them.

The next climb was up to Michigan Bluff. Some consider this tougher than Devils Thumb and while not as steep, it is definitely longer and I would say it may be tougher. At Michigan Bluff I took the time to relax and chat with Craig Thornley for a bit. I had a bite to eat at the aid station and downed more than 2 cokes as I waited for Gary and Kate.
From Michigan Bluff on is familiar territory, at least in memory from 3 years ago, as it was here that I started pacing Gary in 2013. My memory can’t be that good though as I don’t remember a lot of it, particularly the length of the climbs. At the top before going into the last canyon we came across lots of bear tracks.

The last canyon (Volcano Canyon) was not nearly as tough as the others, but still lots of downhill running and a steep climb up the other side, before hitting the pavement on Bath Rd to climb up to Foresthill. Once I hit the flat trail into Foresthill I ran for a bit, but my hip/glute was rather sore and backed off to a walk before running in the last little bit.
A decided that this day was a big success, as for the most part, I came through fairly unscathed. Gary came in shortly after me and Kate a little bit after that.

Day 2 saw us start at Foresthill and would run 18 miles to just past the Rucky Chucky River crossing, although we wouldn’t cross the river.
We started down the road to Cal St. and the gradual downhill. I was feeling good after yesterday’s long run and followed Gary down the single track. For the most part, until the first aid station after about 7 miles, I was running well, although Gary had left me behind a while ago. But once I got to that aid station I started to suffer a bit. Not sure what, but I was tired I guess. At that first aid station met up with Ann Trason and Tim Tweitmeyer and his dog. Two WS legends.

I ran down the next set of switch backs, but was soon reduced to walking more. The heat was getting to me and what was worse was the fact that the river was so close, but yet so far. I was still passing lots of people on the hills though. What seemed like a long time passed before we finally made it to the river, where there was an aid station and… the river to soak in. almost everyone was taking advantage of that. I drank a lot of pop, probably too much, but I was craving it. We soaked in the river until Kate got there and it gave us an opportunity to chat with some of the fast guys who just hanging around socializing. I chatted with Sage Canaday about his choice of shoes (Hoka Claytons).
The last 2 miles of this run were up a steep dirt road up to the finish. It was hot with not much shade, but I still passed lots of people on the climb.
At the end I got a well needed Chiropractic adjustment from Gordie. He told me a few stories while he adjusted me. As he usually does.
Day 3 would see us bussed from Placer High in Auburn (WS100 finish) to as close to Green Gate as possible it was then a 22 mile run to the finish. Not on the track but almost.
We started down a dirt road to near the Green Gate aid station and then followed single track trails and bypassed Auburn Lake Trails AS site on to Browns bar. Most of this was flat to rolling single track trails. A few decent hills for good measure, but nothing compared to the past couple of days. I remembered most of this from pacing Gary in 2013 and 14. Some of it I don’t remember though. I ran well here, but in the back of my mind was the thought that the first aid wasn’t until 10 miles in. After about 8 miles I was reduced to walking some and felt the impact of the heat again. Along these trails I came across Mike, a Canadian who lives in Truckee (near by) who I met in 2014. He organizes the Canadian party prior to race and this year he’s having it on the Wednesday, which is before we get there. So it was good to run into him and chat briefly.
I got to the aid finally and saw that Chloe was working it and chatted with her for a bit. Refueled and off I went. I ran for while and took advantage of the hills for walks, but I knew there was a couple of bigger hills coming on either side of Hwy 49. I thought I remembered the first one, but wow it was a lot longer than I remember. I struggled to the top and wasn’t feeling the best by the time I got to Hwy 49. After is another hill and I didn’t remember it being as long as it was. Struggled again. From here on in I mostly walked it. Between the heat and glute aches I was resigned to just walking. I felt bad about walking here as it is such a runnable section, at least until the climb up to Robie Point.
Eventually I got to No Hands Bridge, it was hot and made worse watching all the people in the river below enjoy the nice cool water. The aid station was on the opposite side of the bridge and Ann Trason was there and she recognized me from the posted picture on FB with her. We chatted briefly and then I headed up the long climb to Robie. There were lots of people on the trail enjoying the nice day. About half was there is a bridge over a stream and another runner had “taken refuge” there to cool off in the stream. I did likewise and soaked myself shoes and all. I then continued up and the trail got steeper. It wasn’t as long as I remember it, but after turning onto the pavement the hill just continued into town. I caught up to 2 ladies who I chatted with for a few, took a few pictures at the 99 mile sign

and then with 1/2 mile to go there was a group of people with a pop up tent which looked like they were giving away drinks and I said jokingly cold beer. As it turned out they were giving away beer, so I took one for the last stretch. I tried running with it, but it just foamed over.

So I just walked in the last bit. Kate came in next after having what she said was a good day. Today it was Gary’s turn to struggle.

Over all, the weekend was a success. I proved that I could get through these sections of the course, albeit over 3 days. So I was happy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Another Hurdle on the Way to Western States

To say I am frustrated is an understatement. Depressed too, may be a good description. Injuries are putting a damper on my running life right now and I’m not happy. I have less than 10 weeks until toeing the line at Western States and I can’t put in any distance. I have run long since TJ100k which was a wash out and the start of my injury problems. Although it might have been just the camel the broke the straws back!!

I’ve been having piriformis issues for years, but all of a sudden this year they are way worse than they’ve been since I started running. Nothing worse than your butt screaming at you when you’re running and nothing can be done to relive the pain. But I have learned that I can run through the piriformis pain, although I wonder if one day it will just go snap and I’m completely screwed. But as much as this is a pain, the other issues are the ones that worry me; calf strain on the right side and a tight Achilles on the left. The Achilles issue is new, from last week and is only a dull ache, but I’m sure it has potential. The calf is where this whole mess started. Running TJ100k, 50k in and bang it went. No running for a week and a half and then out on a trail run, bang it went again, although not as bad, it still didn’t feel the best. So another week or so off and I tried it again at OTF on the tread mill and low and behold, not problem. Awesome! The following night I tried a run outside. That is when the Achilles started up. Late in the run the piriformis got worse again, but still no calf problem. Seemed to be around the corner on that. Another treadmill run the next night at OTF and the calf was good.
Last Saturday I ventured back into the trails to try it once more and other than the Achilles and PF, the calf was good… until the couple of k when it started to tighten up again. It’s been that way ever since, just tight not sore.
I’ve been going steadily to a range of specialists to get work done. Trish (PT) has been working diligently on the calf with Ultrasound and some massage, and giving me some exercises to work on. Dr. Burghardt had given me some exercises too, looked at my PF and suggested “needling” for it. I’ll have to follow up with Dr. Frank on that. Dr. Frank has been doing the usually painful ART. Went for a massage last night, and Trish has me booked in to see an Osteopath next week. Weekly visits to most of them.
This morning I go to Dr. Burghardt and she doesn’t have much positive to say and recommends pool running to keep the cardio up rather than putting more pressure on the calf and Achilles. I came out of the appointment feeling completely defeated. I’m losing control of my options and ability to do WS.
Joan has already made plans for us to go pool running, starting tomorrow night. I might end up going twice a day, so 2 hours a day. Fingers crossed there will be some improvement. 10 days until O24, 5 ½ weeks to WS training run and 9 ½ weeks until the big show.

Thomas Jefferson 100k or not!

I hadn’t had any races planned until April, but I received a message from Ken Niemimaa asking if I would be interested going with him to Charlottesville, Virginia for the Thomas Jefferson 100k on March 12th. It didn’t take much convincing for me to say yes and off we went on Thursday evening to arrive some time on Friday afternoon.
The TJ100k is in its 3rd year and is Race Directed by the somewhat famous Ultrarunner Andy Jones-Wilkins. Andy is quite the personality and as it turns out a great race director. I had seen him talk as an MC for the legends presentation at Western States and he does like to talk.
The race is a multi-loop course of 7 x 9 mile loops with 1000 ft. of elevation per loop. As it turns out the course is deceivingly difficult.
My lead up to the race is was uneventful, but I wasn’t getting a lot of mileage per run, but I was getting in about 100 k per week, which is on the high side, but a good target for me. 35k being the longest run. The key for me is usually the back to back long runs, 30+ k on one day followed by 20+k the next. It was nice to taper for the two weeks prior to the race and although I usually abstain from running at all in the week before hand, I felt the need for a run or two the week before and ran twice, both at pace.
I had been working on a new exercise for my hips which seemed to give me some issues while running, so I was interested to see if things were improving or getting worse.
Back to the TJ100k, we attended the pre-race meeting the night before in which Andy filled us in with all the details and what to expect, including warmer than normal weather conditions. Ken had taken a picture of Andy during the talk and posted to Facebook which I commented on: We can’t hear you Andy! ;-) (tongue in cheek)
The race starts at 5 a.m. and we were up at 3:30 to get ready. It was a 20 minute drive from our hotel to Walnut Creek Park where the race is held. We were there early and meandered around while we waited to start. I wore my hydration vest, but only used one bottle as there was an aid station about every 7k or so. This worked well. We started on time into the trails we went.
I tried to keep an easy pace, as this was the goal of the race for me, to pace myself accordingly for a long race. I may have been going a little quicker than necessary, but it felt rather easy. I was looking at two other goals: one to finish each loop in about 2 hours or less and two finish in daylight. Each loop essentially consisted of two separate loops between the aid stations. The second half containing two good climbs up switch backs. Daylight appeared about ¾’s of the way through the second half, a couple of k from the start/finish area. The advantage of starting in the dark is that the second loop seems like another completely different loop. At the end of the first loop I was in dire need of the bathroom and was looking forward to stopping. On my way in Andy was reading off everyone’s name and making comments of one kind or another. After I had passed the finish are, Andy said “Oh, and by the way Keith. I saw your smart assed comment of FB”, I laughed as I went into the bathroom. When I came out he asked me if I felt a few pounds lighter. I left the aid station smiling. I finished the first loop in about 1:43.
The second loop started well enough and the temperature although warm was not as warm as I was expecting. I rolled down my arm sleeves and took them off after my 2nd loop. You get a better idea of the terrain in the daylight and it was hilly and technical. On the second loop was when I started kicking rocks and roots. I was doing it so often I was getting rather frustrated. The second loop was finished in 3:30, so very consistent, but I was starting to tire. Legs felt good though. The first mistake I made was forgetting to have my shake and eshot after lap two. I went into the aid station and browsed the table and left. It was on the third loop that things went a bit sour. I was kicking every rock and root there was and I was about 5k from the finish area when I realized why… my shoes. I was wearing the Altra Lone Peaks and with the big toe box and flat last I was catching everything. A combination of that and being tired made it worse. After lap 3 I stopped, finally got my nutrition, changed shoes, socks, lubed up and changed my shirt (next mistake). The shirt I put on was way too small, at first I thought it would feel better after wearing it for a little while, but no it was squeezing my arm pits! The shoes made a difference instantly. I felt much better and started to run well again. I was looking at walking the hills, but still trying to come in each lap under 2 hours. Lap 3 was done just under 2 hours, not bad for a lap that struggled on. Still on pace.
The fourth loop started well enough, felt better, but not 100%. Gradually I started kicking the odd rock or root here and there. My confidence was also not high. About 4k from the finish area I kicked another… something and my right calf immediately went rock solid. I stopped and tried to stretch it out with no luck. It felt like a huge knot in the middle of my calf. I tried to move but was hobbling badly so I stopped again at a log and tried to massage it out. Again no luck. So I just hobbled on, the closer I got to the finish area the more I thought my race was done. It wasn’t improving at all. I came in to the finish area and sought attention but there wasn’t much to give. I told the race folks that I’d try some arnica and massage for a few and see how it goes. It didn’t get any better, so I pulled the plug. Others said it was the best based on what I have coming up. I still couldn’t feel anything but disappointment though.
I spent the rest of the race cheering Ken on and watching the other racers compete. The race for first was amazing, two guys who had never run the distance came across the finish line together in a course record time of just over 10 hours. 3rd was about 15 minutes back. The next race was for 4th and Ken was leading after the 6th loop. He held on and finished in 11:11. The women’s winner finished 3 minutes ahead of second place in about 11:30, also a new course record.

An awesome event, that is well run. A very enthusiastic race director and crew. A beautiful place to run on a deceptively difficult course.

The calf is healing well and although there is still some soreness it I’m able to walk with no limp and barely a feeling of tightness. I will take most of the week off from running before getting back into the training next week.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Winter Training or not....

Well it’s been a few months since getting in to the Western States 100 race via the lottery and now that it has sunk in (I think), I’ve been getting a bit more serious about the event. Maybe a bit too serious?? One thing I’ve thought about is that I want to do this right. Proper training and anything else I can do to have me at the starting line in the best condition, both physically and mentally.

We’ve been lucky so far this winter. A far cry from the past couple, it’s been milder and less snow by far. I’ve slowly got the mileage up and have been going to the gym twice weekly. The knee has been feeling good (touch wood), and I’ve only been dealing with a bit of the usual piriformis syndrome and resultant tight hamstring on the right side. I think going to the gym (Orange Theory Fitness) has had a big help in the strength in my knee and will eventually help with the piriformis too. OTF is HIIT training and it is pushing me like I haven’t been pushed in a long time. I am really “enjoying” it and would recommend it to anyone. Two nights a week of this on top of my running regime takes up most of my week. Usually I would take Mondays as a rest day, but this being February the challenge was put out there and I will be trying to run every day of the month. With that in mind, OTF days are treadmill days anyway, I only have to run the extra day. But it is tough. And I’m trying not to focus on mileage (right!). Right now it is about base mileage, strengthening and trying to stay healthy.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading race reports and watching videos of other’s adventures at WS. I would definitely recommend reading race reports to take in the advice of those who’ve raced this race before. I’ve been able to acknowledge a number positive tips on how to, not only finish, but do well at WS. Some of these are, but not limited to:

Take it easy for the first 62 miles.
The canyons will eat you alive. Use every water source you can for cooling.
Save your quads. You want to be able to run after Foresthill.
Train to strengthen your quads. Practice running downhills, LOTS!
Practice power hiking the up hills.
Get on top of your nutrition and be flexible. Have options.
Have everything you need ready, long before you head to California.
Change shoes and/or socks when you can in the event of blisters forming.
Enjoy the experience.
There may be a few others.

Since gaining entry to the race, I’ve made sure I’ve sent off my volunteer form (the race requires participants to show proof of either 8 hours of trail maintenance or volunteering at an Ultra event). I’ve booked a room/suite at the Village at Squaw Valley. Enough for myself, Joan, Gary, Kate (?) and maybe Cindy and Jean Guy. So a good crew.
I’ve also signed up for the training runs in May. 70 miles of the course over the Memorial day weekend. Gary and Kate are going, just have to book flights and look after accommodation. I haven’t booked flights for the big event yet either. Waiting for the dollar to improve or prices to change, whichever comes first. I will also be relying on my tax refund as well.

As for running, I will have to sort out footwear. What am I going to wear? My new Altra Lone Peaks are feeling good and will probably be a go to shoe, but they are not a long distance shoe, as far as I am concerned. They may last a lot longer than I think, I will see. But the Olympus might be a good longer distance shoe. My Inov8 290’s will be another good pair to rely on, as long as I get a new pair. Lots of time to figure that out.

In the meantime, this month will be continuing the challenge and then hopefully more spring like weather in March. Then it will be time to work on the long runs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Western States Lottery

As you may know, I have been trying to get into the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run for the past 4 years and I had qualified to enter the lottery process again this year. So at the beginning of November I got my application in and waited patiently for December 5th to come around to watch the lottery on line.
The lottery was revamped a few years ago to make it more heavily weighted for those that had been trying to get in longer, so I was holding some hope that this might be my year.
This is the way it works as per the WS100 web page:
Each runner who enters the lottery and fails to gain entry into the Run (and otherwise doesn’t gain an entry via other means such as an aid station, sponsor, or Golden Ticket spot) will have additional tickets in the hat when entering the lottery the following year, thus improving the probability of being selected. Every lottery applicant will receive 2^(n-1) tickets in the hat for each consecutive failure to gain entry where n is the number of years applied. As an example: If a runner applies and fails to gain entry two consecutive times, they will have four tickets in the hat when entered in the lottery the third consecutive year (2^2), eight in fourth consecutive year (2^3), 16 in fifth (2^4), 32 in sixth (2^5), etc. Conversely, if a runner enters the lottery one year, is not chosen and does not enter the following year, they will not have extra tickets in the hat when applying the year after that.
So each year the amount of tickets you get doubles. This year for 5 years of applying I had 16 and that worked out to a 45% chance of getting in. Here are what the computer simulations were predicting.

For the draw we were headed to Quebec to visit our friends Gary and Kate just south of Mt. Tremblant. I had crewed and paced Gary twice at WS100 and he was keen to return the favour. He was also in the lottery too, but with only 1 ticket his chances were slim.

After getting to their place fairly late we decided a nice easy morning would be good and we could go for a run after the draw. The draw takes place in Auburn, California where the race ends and was scheduled to start at 11:30 am our time.
While we waited Joan got started on her work out, 10 times up and down Gary’s stairs (Cottage to the cars, about 60 feet in height) with about 60 lbs of weight too!

We settled and got ready and soon found out that the live broadcast had no sound!!! After doing some checking we found that it was a problem on their end as lots of folks were “complaining”. We had two iPads set up, one with the muted video coverage and the other with the results as they were published. As the draw progressed, I was beginning to think my odds were still too great. 45% is not even a 1 in 2 chance! But then there it was selection # 177, Keith Lascelles. My name was drawn. The celebrations could begin and I could start planning. What a relief.

Lodging, flights, car rental, training… a lot to digest and get my head around. We quickly decided that the training run in May would be a good thing to attend. Joan wouldn’t go to that one, but I believe Kate and Gary are going. Now I could also finalize my race schedule for the year.

So Gary and I went for a run while the ladies went into to town for some shopping. Our run was in the hills of the Laurentions, where there are not a lot of flat spots. You are either going up or down it seems, and a lot of climbing. We went a lot farther than I was expecting and I was quite tired when we got back. It was also getting dark.

That evening I looked and found the right place in Squaw to stay and booked it. In a couple of days I had the car rentals booked for both this race and the Bear in September as well as hotels in Utah for the Bear. Booked myself in for the training run too.

Also got word that Trish was interested in coming along. Which would be great to have my own physio at the race.

So now the training begins. Since Javelina I renewed my emphasis on training properly instead of the hap hazard training I was doing this past summer. No more slacking off, lame excuses to not run, take it easy, avoid the tough hills etc. I’ve started this process and have been seeing results already. This includes starting at Orange Theory fitness. I’ve gone to 2 sessions so far and it will be a big part of my training. I plan on twice a week for the foreseeable future and go from there.

Right now the schedule for next year is:

April 9th – Marden half Marathon near Guelph, Ontario

April 30th – O24 24 hour endurance run. Kirtland, Ohio

May 28th Weekend – Western States training run, California

June 25th – Western States 100. Squaw Valley, California

September 24th – The Bear 100. Logan, Utah

The plan is to add a few local races in amongst the schedule too. Will figure that out after, but I’m looking at Dirty Girls and Creemore and maybe a return visit to Javelina to get that one completed. Joan wants to do the 100k too.

Javelina Hundred etc.

So I DNF’d Javelina Jundred a 13 days ago and I’m still trying to get my head around it. Similar to the Bear last year I’m thinking that I should have been able to continue on, but something in my head caused me to say “that’s all folks”.
I had some tough times indeed at Javelina, but my last lap was a breeze. Well, maybe not that good, but once the sun went down I was feeling much better.

Anyway, so what happened?

My run up to Javelina had not been the best. I knew I was undertrained, but thought that my knowledge would get me through this as much as anything. Ever since my knee issues popped up earlier this year mileage was down. I got through Bighorn without any knee problems, until the last downhill. Long runs were tough to get in and I struggled with most of them, probably mentally as much as anything. In between Bighorn and Javelina I had an MRI done on my knee and discovered that it wasn’t a meniscus problem, but osteoarthritis of the knee cap. Something that is treatable and with work on strengthening some of the weaker muscles around my leg I could get back to “normal”! I also had two cortisone shots in this time period , the last one two weeks before race time.

We left for Phoenix on Thursday October 29th and met up with Dave and Sandra at our hotel. Relaxed the next morning we headed to the race site at McDowell Mountain Park to unload some of our gear in our rented tents. The first thing I noticed was that although it wasn’t hot, the sun was very intense. The cool weather felt good though and there were some clouds around too. It would be nice if this was the weather for race day. We can’t rely on or blame the weather though. We headed for lunch did some shopping for supplies etc. and then searched for the race kit pick up and expo. We got our kits quickly and looked around the few venders and picked up a few things and checked out the Altra shoe booth. They were selling demo’s for $60!!! Barely used shoes for less than half price in some cases. Joan picked up a pair quickly, but I couldn’t find an 11. I usually wear a 10 1/2, but they were a little snug. Eventually the sales guy offered me a missed match pair, a 10 ½ and an 11. I tried them on and initially wasn’t convinced, but when he offered them to me for $40 I thought, what the hey!! We left the expo went to Fountain Hills for dinner and then back to the tent city to try and get some sleep. I had set the alarm for 4:30, but was awake ahead of that, took my time to get ready and wandered around a bit before the start. Lots of the runners were in costume for this race as it was Halloween, some good, so not so good.

At 6 am we were off and into the dark desert wilderness. The idea was to run easy for the first loop, but you couldn’t help but try to get around other runners as it was rather congested for the first few miles. Dave was pushing the pace a bit quicker than I liked, but I kept up with him. I figured I would let him go later. The stretch to the first aid station was fairly flat and by the time we got there the sun was starting to rise. The scenery in the desert is absolutely beautiful in its own way. The next aid station (Jackass) would be over 6 miles away and was basically uphill all the way, although only a slight grade. We were warned to make sure you had enough water to run this stretch in the heat of the day. From Jackass it was more or less downhill to the start finish area to complete 15.3 miles for the loop. Near the end of the first loop I let Dave go, but caught up to him as we came into the aid station. After a quick fill up and a bite to eat and were headed back out in the opposite direction. Did I eat enough in the aid station? I’m not sure I did, but if I had a complaint about this race it would be about the food at the aid stations. Typical Ultra crap food. It might have got better later, but that is when I have a hard time eating anything.

The second loop reversed our trek and was a neat idea on a multi-loop course. The sun was higher now and I let Dave run on, he was running strong and I was not confident I could keep that up. The app on Suunto that predicts your 100 mile finish time based on your pace and distance so far was predicting a sub 17 hour finish time! Yikes!
I started walking more to conserve and settle my mind. The legs felt fine, but there were concerns about fatigue. I finished the second leg and the predicted time had dropped to 18+ hours. Still probably too quick, but I was sure that would drop dramatically. After two loops I was still feeling fairly good, but the sun was feeling very strong. It was warmer than the previous day, but still not hot. There was also a nice breeze blowing, nice when it was in your face, but unnoticeable when behind you.
I headed out on my third loop and quickly my mind became rather negative. I hooked up with Nathan from Texas, a US Marshall and we chatted and walked for a long way before he started running again. I couldn’t motivate myself at this point to move faster than a walk. I wasn’t feeling good and I couldn’t recognize what the problem was. I sat down at Jackass for 15 minutes to regroup. Took in some drinks and tried to eat. I headed out and proceeded to death march back to the start/finish. I was finished the 3 loop in about 10 hours, still well ahead of schedule, but unsure whether or not I could go back out. I told Joan that I Had never felt this bad in a race ever. I was nauseous, but didn’t feel like throwing up. I lay down for a bit, tried some broth and then after about 40 minutes, Joan got me some fresh running gear and new shoes to try. I got changed still not sure I would continue. I eventually got up and headed to the trail, expecting to turn around quickly, but I kept going and started running. I ran to the first aid station and felt great. The sun was going down and what a difference it made. As the daylight faded, I seemed to get stronger. My thoughts came around to finishing the race once again. I came and went into Jackass very briefly. From this point on I was looking for Dave coming the other way. I was passing many runners on this loop which was adding to my confidence, but in the few miles towards the next aid station I started to tire again. I started catching my left big toe on rocks on the trails and it was getting sore as I just didn’t seem able to prevent it. Usually a sign of fatigue catching up on me is when I start dragging my feet. AS I approached the last aid station (2 miles out) on the loop my mind had turned to just finishing the 4th loop and getting my 100 k buckle. I came into the aid station and Karl Meltzer was there going the opposite direction on his last half loop. He was complaining how it had been a bad race for him and he was feeling terrible. That made me feel much better about dropping at 100k, knowing that an elite athlete like Karl was struggling too. With 2 miles to go I still hadn’t seen Dave pass me and was getting concerned. Or maybe he had passed me and I didn’t notice. Anyway about another ½ mile towards the end I came across Dave. He had, had a rough time and spent about 4 minutes in the tent before heading out on lap 5. He looked good now and I wished him luck. I was still running (barn door open syndrome) and feeling not too bad, but I had made my decision. I caught up to and walked with Catra Corbett for a bit. She tried to talk me out of dropping, but to no avail. I finished and confirmed that I would still get the 100k buckle and officially dropped. I was officially not a finisher.

I then walked over to our tent to see Joan and Sandra, but couldn’t find them. Sandra’s tent was closed and she was obviously in there, but there was no one in our tent and one of the cots was in front of the tent with sleeping bags piled high on top. Where was Joan? I sat down on the cot and felt the sleeping bags, oops, Joan was underneath. We discussed my dropping and how Dave was doing and then went to bed. It was only just past 10 pm.

Later I started to think about things and we agreed that maybe I should have turned around gone back out. I had 15 hours to finish the last 2 ½ loops. Should have been easy. Joan could have paced me. I could have caught up to Dave (who dropped at the end of lap 5) and we could have helped each other get through it. Many of the runners I had passed on the 4th loop I saw finish later that day or saw them going out on their last half loop.

Overall it was bittersweet to get the buckle and not finish the goal of 100 miles. Mental weakness again reared its ugly head. Yes the sun was a factor, but I should have taken that into account and continued on when the sun went down.

The next day we (Dave and I) had said we would not come back and do this race again, but by the end of the day we had changed our mind and Joan was discussing doing the 100k as well. How soon we forget.

Next up? The Western States 100 lottery on Dec 6th.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Post Bighorn and knee issues

They say you should rest 1 day for every mile you ran in a race to have a proper recovery. I’ve never thought that way myself and had no intention of it after Bighorn. After all, 100 days without running would be a bit too much. I was running about 10 days later after the initial swelling of my feet finally went down. The blisters and trench foot on the bottom of both feet took a little longer to go away, but I was able to run, gingerly, and got back at it. Then I was sucked into the July Challenge of running every day of the month. May be not a good idea!

I started running every day in July shortly after getting back at it. My left knee was still bothering somewhat, but it seemed to bother me less if I ran, than if I walked. So the I ran. Some run s weren’t as comfortable as others, but it gave me an opportunity to run to and from work too. After a week of this I stopped as my knee seemed to be getting worse.
I’d had my MRI the previous Saturday and was awaiting the results. I’d also signed up for Limberlost 56k in a moment of weakness. On Thursday, the 9th of July I ran trails with Rickymac and found that my knee was not feeling good. That cemented my decision not to run Limberlost. This race has been going on for 6 years and I have yet to run it. Usually due to schedule conflicts, but this year it was my knee.

On Monday I got my results for the MRI. The original thought was that it would be a meniscus tear, but as it turned out that wasn’t the case. My meniscus, ligaments, and cartilage are all in great shape. The problem is my knee cap not tracking right, causing some osteoarthritis. With this I get swelling on the knee, which has been excessive. With allthis swelling I’ve also had a Baker’s Cyst form in behind my knee, adding to the uncomfortable feeling. The Cyst has ruptured at some point and some fluid has drained down into my calf.

Positives? No surgery required. Negatives, still have a problem. Seeing Trish for physio on Tuesday had me feeling good as she says we just need to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, specifically on the outside. So I have a few exercises to do. If this doesn’t make a difference over the next month the Sports Med doctor said she would give me a cortisone shot in my knee to help with the swelling.

So now I have until October 31st to get better and trained for Javelina.

First up though is our wedding this weekend!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Stroll through the Bighorn Mountains

I signed up for the Bighorn 100 for two reasons, one as a backup to Western States in case I didn’t get selected in the lottery again and two, as a similar race to the Bear I could get some redemption for my DNF there last year. Obviously I didn’t get selected in the Western lottery so…

There were a lot of uncertainties with the Bighorn, would I be able to handle the most difficult race of the 100’s I’ve done? How would my gimpy left knee fair? Could we pull the logistics together for crewing and pacing etc.? Amongst others.

Joan and I picked up Oliver and we left for Toronto very early on Wednesday the 17th (it felt like I got up half an hour before I went to bed!) to fly to Billings, MT via Denver. The flight to Denver was uneventful, but we were supposed to have a short turn around for the flight to Billings. Once we got to Denver we found that the flight was delayed by 2.5 hours so there was lots of time to relax and get some lunch. While we were there we started noticing other Bighorn runners, yeah ultrarunners stand out! Chatted with Kevin from Boston, whose accent was so strong, he was almost hard to understand. The next flight to Billings was again uneventful and arrived in the small airport, picked up our luggage and rental car and headed out. Stopped to pick up a few supplies and then off to Sheridan Wyoming, about 2.5 hours away.

Sheridan turned out to be a very nice little town, lots going on. Lots of restaurants, a little shopping. We turned in for the night to get some well needed rest. It had been a long day of travelling. We were up early the next day as we were still on eastern time, went for breakfast in the hotel and ran into Elise from Ontario. Sharon would also be there later. Lots of Canadians doing this race and I knew a lot of them.

Before the expo opened we went to the Sport Stop store to look for a few things that we may need and chatted with the Race Director who works there, she immediately recognized us as Canadians! And we didn’t even say eh! Eventually the race expo opened and I picked up my race kit and weighed in. The swag was great, cooler bag, socks, buff, arm sleeves and a nice water bottle. There would be more for finishing the race too. Also dropped off a drop bag for the Footbridge aid station, the first time I have used a drop bag. I have always relied on my crew for everything, but in this race there are few opportunities to see my crew.

One of my main concerns for this race was my weight. I have found that in hot races I lose a lot of weight and this race has warnings about losing a certain percentage of weight during the race and there would be medical checks on the course. You could be pulled if you lose too much.

That afternoon we found the Crossfit gym for Joan and she went for a workout while Oliver and I wondered around town. It was then that we bumped into Jocelyn and some of her girls. Once done we went to dinner at the Wyoming Rib and Chop House (for the second time). A great place to eat with good food and service. Then it was time to head back and start the wind down and sleep.

With an 11 am start time the challenge was when and what to eat. There was also the 9 am prerace briefing. We went for breakfast and numerous runners were in the hotel breakfast area, including Elise and Sharon, so we chatted for a while before getting our things together and the drive to Dayton. The prerace briefing was in the park where the race finishes and was your typical briefing. Once done, it was off to the start in Tongue River Canyon.

The Tongue River Canyon is warm on a good day and today it was rather hot and everyone was looking for some shade. This is where an 11 am start is not necessarily a good thing. Nervous energy was evident throughout the crowd of runners and supporters.

At 11 am, we were finally running down the canyon for the first mile of road and then into the trails by the Tongue River. I ran with Elise for a bit, but let her go as I don’t like getting sucked into someone else’s pace, at least at this point of the race.

The first aid station was just 2.5 miles in and it was the prelude to the first big climb and up we went. 5 miles straight up, in a conga line on the single track trail in the alpine meadows.

It was neat to be able to fill up my water bottle about half way up in a spring. It was amazing to turn around every so often and take in the views. The higher we went up, the more we could see. Eventually we could even see Sheridan in the distance. I got talking to a guy in front of me, Randy, who was from Victoria, BC. Low and behold he was originally from Ontario and had worked at Ontario Hydro, he also knew a fellow work mate I worked with at Barrie Hydro. Small world.

We crested the mountain top and went down the other side, a very steep descent. I could only think about how tough this climb would be coming back. We were in and out of the next aid station and on to some dirt forest roads all the way to Dry Fork aid station.

This was my first time to see Joan and Oliver. I came in and asked if they had dry socks, mine were soaked with sweat. They did, but it would mean going to the car half a mile away. I declined and decided to soldier on, first mistake made. Actually the main mistake, because I had already started feeling the effects of trench foot on my left foot. I thought just relubing may be enough. It would be another seventeen miles to my drop bag and dry socks and 35 miles until I would see my crew again. The next 17 miles were mostly downhill to rolling, which you would think would feel good. By about 17 miles I was feeling like crap and this dragged on until the 26 mile aid station. I was definitely starting to doubt myself, but after this aid station I felt rejuvenated and took advantage of some serious downhills.

I came into Footbridge feeling very good, knowing I had a change of socks etc., I took my time changed socks, put some moleskin on the trench foot, relubed my feet and changed my shirt. Just before I left I noticed Oliver F. sitting beside me, we chatted briefly and then I left.

The trail from Footbridge to Jaws (the turnaround) is up hill for 18 miles and is almost entirely single track, through rough rocky technical terrain, forest tracks and meadows. I soon fell in behind another runner named Charles who I ended up “running” with for most of the next 18 miles.

Our conversations would take our mind off things for the next few miles and helped each other along, even stopping to sit down on the side of the trail to take in the incredible view of the night sky at one point. As we went on we often turned around to see a string of lights following us up the mountain, and eventually the leaders would be oncoming with lights coming from the other direction too. The closer we got to Jaws the more we came across some of the famous Bighorn mud, apparently not as bad as previous years, it was still shoe sucking in a few spots and there was lots of it. As the night wore on the temperature dropped significantly, although I didn’t really notice it except for my hands, so I had to at least don some gloves.
As the run progresses I had started this annoying habit of kicking rocks with my right big toe, which was becoming increasingly more sore. Also the trench foot had become somewhat of a pain. At this point I already knew a few toe nails would not last the next few weeks. Finally I arrived at the Jaws aid station (48 miles) to see Joan and Oliver waiting. I went into the aid station to look for the medical check and was told there wasn’t one! Ok, that’s suites me fine, but… So I went back out and had my crew look after my every need! Oliver got me coffee and a quesadea and some soup while Joan prepared a shake for me. I changed socks, shoes, shirt and got some new mole skin. As I was getting ready I saw Charles heading out with his pacer and wished him the best. Oliver was ready to go as my pacer. After a few minutes I was out again, not to see Joan until Dry fork again, probably midday. As we left we ran into a couple of familiar faces. Jocelyn was struggling and would drop at Jaws as would Oliver F, who was having foot troubles.

At least at this point most of the next 18 miles would be downhill, but through much mud. Oliver and myself had many laughs as we headed down the mountain, especially when Oliver was attacked by a tree while trying to maneuver around the mud. He still has the scar to prove it! Eventually daylight returned as we were crossing many miles of alpine meadows. Oliver finally got to see the spectacular sites and views that I had seen on the trek up.

By about 60 miles the trench foot was affecting both feet and they were very tender. It felt like one big blister across the balls of both feet, but worse on the left. In the miles approaching Footbridge again, it felt like the mole skin had ripped the skin off the bottom of my left foot and slowed me down to a hobble. My big toe on my right foot was also in pain and I had started kicking rocks with the two middle toes on my left foot too. At this point I was writing myself off and expecting to drop at Footbridge. It was a long hobble! We finally came in to the aid station and I asked how long till the cut off, 2.5 hours was the response. Oh! That’s better than I thought. I went and got someone to look at my feet, soaked them for a bit and as it turns out the pain was from a blister rupturing and not as bad as I had thought. I saw Elise there and she encouraged me to keep at it. Everything seemed to come together. Another change of socks, fresh mole skin and a new shirt and I was back at it. Oliver modified a long sleeve shirt into a short sleeve and we were off. But not long after leaving we ran into a bit of a roadblock. The next 3.5 miles were all up and steep, it was also getting hot again. Not long in Oliver told me that he didn’t think he could go on. The fact that he got this far with me with little training, I was very grateful for. So we decided it would be best for him to just walk it back to Dry Fork and me go solo. If he went back to Footbridge he may not be able to go anywhere for a long time or at the very least to end up in Dayton. That would mean our car would be stranded at Dry Fork! As it was I would worry about him for the next few hours and what would happen next.

The climb out of Footbridge was brutal. It was hot and very steep. I was sweating buckets. I would pass a few runners before the next aid station and once I got there I was able to maintain a positive run/walk with more running than walking. I was already starting to do the math in my head as to how I could finish. I initially gave myself an extra 1.5 half leeway, but then realized that I was wrong and only had about a half hour. Doing math and running an ultra is not a good thing at the best of times. It wasn’t working well here.
The section from the “bacon” aid Station to Dry Fork seems like a long haul, there were lots of 50 milers on the course now and when the sun was out it was hot, as we were in the open for the most part. I was being consistent though, running the downhills and flats as much as possible and power hiking the hills. I was using my trekking poles and they were a god send in this race. I really noticed how much on the last climb into Dry Fork. I was passing lots of runners. As I approached Dry Fork I looked up and saw what looked like Oliver. I had to give my head a shake! It was. WTF are you doing here? How? Apparently he had walked back to Footbridge and found someone who was willing to give him a ride to Dry Fork. At this point I was very relieved to see that he was ok and had made it here.

I was surprised how cool the air temperature was when I stopped. I fuelled up, Joan was ready to pace and off we went. Not long after we started I had to find somewhere to sit so Joan could relube my feet again. They were a mess. We kept moving forward though. The dirt road sections from Dry Fork were difficult to run or walk on due to my tender feet. Once we were on trails again, I was able to run again. I know Joan was happy to get out and run! I had only 17.5 miles to run when I started with Joan and about 6 hours to do it. We passed through one aid station quickly and then headed to the last major climb. We basically climb up the back side of the mountain that we have to go down back towards Dayton. It was the descent I commented on earlier. It was a long tough climb, Joan let another runner user her poles to try them out. He liked them a lot. They do make a big difference. Cresting the top of the mountain top/pass we could again see for miles and only had to go down to the bottom and the road into Dayton. Easier said than done. My knee hadn’t bothered me at all during the race, until we started down this hill side. I was moving very gingerly down, trying to move as fast as I could without doing any damage. Still runners passed me though as I was moving slowly. It was a long way down and seemed to take forever. But we made it to the aid station with about 7 miles to go and I had 4 hours left, easy! Someone at the aid station asked me how I felt? It was then that I realized that other than my feet I felt amazing. Not tired, nothing sore, just trashed feet that hurt! We ran/walked through the canyon to the trailhead and knew we only had 5 miles to go. This was the hard part, on the road, in the open. It was a dirt road, which again hurt the bottoms of my feet and it seemed to go on forever. I kept thinking the next corner is the last one… nope!!!

Finally we got into Dayton crossed the old bridge and turned the corner to the park and ran into the finish. Joan had to yell at a few people standing in front of me not realizing they were blocking my way to the finish line.

I came in to the finish at 32 hours 19 minutes and 4 seconds. My longest run ever. It all came crashing down at once, I had to lay down. I went to the river next to the finish line and soaked my poor feet and that was painful. Joan got my sandals, a chocolate milk and a beer! We then went and sat down in our chairs and relaxed for a bit, eventually I struggled to stay awake and suggested we think about heading back. I looked around for Charles, or anyone else I knew, but it looked like most were gone. I did see my new friend from Victoria, Randy. He had finished in 27 hours and change, awesome.

We headed back to Sheridan and on the way I started feeling a lot “off”, I was struggling to focus. Oliver pulled over and I blacked out completely. I awoke to Joan and Oliver putting cold water bottles on the back of my neck and just as quick I felt great again, tired, but great.

At the hotel I had a quick painful shower and then collapsed in bed, only to wake up at 3 am!!

In the morning we went to the awards and post-race breakfast in downtown Sheridan, met up with a number of people, Charles, Elise, Sharon, Chantel from Minesing, Oliver F amongst others. Collected my buckle and jacket and off we went to continue our journey in Yellowstone National Park.

In conclusion, the toughest race I have done. Although I think the foot issues added a lot to that. I think I could have taken a lot of time off if my feet were better. A great event, well put on, very remote aid stations, not a lot of opportunities for crews to meet runners, spectacular scenery and amazing volunteers.

Other than the blisters on the bottom of my feet, around my ankle and heels bones and multiple sore toes and black toe nails, I’ve come out of this rather unscathed. Oh yes my knee is very swollen, but that seems to be normal lately and I have an MRI scheduled for July 4th.

I highly recommend this race. With this I have now qualified to enter Hardrock, and Western again.

Ok what’s next?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

O24 "Training Run".

It was a decent training, but it wasn’t what I had planned. I’ve been to the O24 24 Hour endurance race for the past two years and never seem to be able to do what I plan on doing. This year was the same. My goal was 100 miles or more, but stopped at 80 miles after 18 hours and 38 minutes.

The day started well enough I ran with the eventual winner Steven Parke for a couple of loops to start and then backed off the pace a bit. I have learned that there is no point in going out like you are going to win it. Better off to start slow and maintain.

I had been worried somewhat about my left knee as I had some swelling and that had followed a few weeks of instability in the knee. While I had been amassing some fairly substantial mileage I had no problems, but when I started to back off the distance for my taper, the swelling started. As it turned out I had no issues during the race, except for the odd twinge here and there.

The first couple of hours went be quite uneventful, watching Steven cruise through the field and Dave Morl pushing himself with the look of someone who also wanted to win it. After 4 hours I stopped for something to eat, an Isagenix shake. The plan was to try Isagenix again for race nutrition and have one shake every 4 hours. I would also have an E-Shot every 4 hours too, but started them 3 hours in. SCaps would be taken based on the conditions and started with 1 every hour and a half.

Joan was running and looking to get in 100k at least. She had been through a lot lately and would be running on little training. Not long in she was having trouble with her breathing and asked our old RMT Rhonda to look at her. Rhonda was there as crew for Steven. Rhonda checked her out and said that she had a rib dislodged and some of her organs were twisted, probably due to her shoulder issues. It was time to reevaluate. Joan got her 50k in and then stopped, but walked a few extra laps with me later on. She would go on to be the best crew person a runner could have, again. It would have been nice for her to get in over the 100k, but under the circumstances still a good outing.

I ran on well and went through 50 miles just over 10 hours or so. Things were still good at that point, but I was getting tired. A few stops to get my legs rubbed down with Arnicare helped. By 58 miles things were going a bit rough. I was thinking that 100k might be good enough today. I stopped and actually had a lay down, changed my shoes and socks and headed back out. Shortly thereafter I got a spurt of energy and ran off 10 miles feeling rather good and probably moved up the ranks a lot. But by 70 miles things weren’t go quite as well. Approaching 80 miles I started to deliberate about stopping, leaving well enough alone. I still had time to get in the 100 miles easily, but my mind wasn’t in it any more. The argument that made the most sense was that I had got in a good long run in and had done some night running so rather than risk injury, play it safe for Bighorn. And with that my race was over.

I watched on as Steven and Dave ran hard against some other great runners. Steven winning with a new course record of 127 miles. Dave coming in second with 114 miles.

My initial feeling was of disappointment, but that quickly subsided as I was happy to get in the miles and some night running. I still have a lot to do to be ready for Bighorn and unfortunately ever since O24 I have aggravated the knee and haven’t been able to run. I tried on Wednesday and stopped at 2k. Now I have decided it’s time to rest and recover, ice and elevate for a few days. Went for physio today and the prognosis is that it could be a problem with my meniscus, but rest and icing might be all that is needed. So I have decided that there will be no running (let’s see if I follow through with that) until the Horse Capital Marathon on the 16th.

Rest is good, right?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April update

So April has flown by. Probably because I’ve been running so much, not too much, but…

I have had 3 good high mileage weeks to start the month off capping it off with a 52k run this past Saturday, running from Penetanguishene to Barrie. Now that the weather is improved somewhat, the trails are finally clear of ice and snow, so trail running is going to be the order of the day most of the time now.

Last week was the peak so far of my running, getting in 115k, but this week is a down week as the taper starts for O24 on May 2nd. Nice to know that next weekend I can just run and not worry about being out there for hours. It’s also Pick Your Poison this coming Saturday, Joan is running one loop to get back into the swing of things, so I’ll just go and support/watch for the morning. Then get a run in on the afternoon.

My first decent trail run (single track) was this past Sunday. I was little concerned, due a left knee issue that I had picked up over the past couple of weeks, but as it turned out my knee was better on the trails than on the road. I think the high mileage on a cambered road was doing the damage. It was great being on the trails again and plan on going out regularly now. Hopefully the weather cooperates. There is some cool temps coming for the remainder of the week.

The training for O24 has been good and I hope to get at least 100 miles there. For some reason there is always something that comes up that prevents me from doing what I want there. Maybe it will be third time lucky!

As for preparations for Bighorn? Things are coming together. Finally booked some flights and confirmed Oliver coming to crew/pace. The prices for flights never did come down and if they were to come down it would not have been the most desirable of flights and connections. I think I got a decent deal and was able to get the flight times I wanted. Leaving early June 17th via Denver and returning later on the 23rd, also via Denver. Hope to make a good trip of this on top of getting a nice buckle. A drive through Yellowstone also.