After my personal success at the Canyons 100k I was asked the obvious question by many of my friends and family – what’s next?  For the first time in my recent running history I didn’t have an exact answer.  I wasn’t signed up for any races, wasn’t heading to Chamonix for the summer, and was a bit excited to do some running without pressing toward a specific goal.  Our summer plans were still forming and I was content to let some things shake out while I recovered from the run and continued some baseline training.

As a teacher I enjoy my full two months off in the summer and try to pack it full of as much mountain adventures as I can.  Our family has been heading to the Alps every odd year recently, and so this year we would be staying “local”.  About midway through May our plans started to coalesce – it looked like we would be heading to British Columbia, as far as the road would go up the Sunshine Coast, and heading into sea kayaks for a 10 day excursion into the Desolation Sound Marine Sanctuary.  Never-mind the fact we had never done any kayak touring before nor had we done anything extended in the ocean.  We were confident in our back-country abilities, our kids were stoked on the idea of “paddling” a tandem touring kayak with one of us, and we had absolutely loved British Columbia when we spent some time on Vancouver Island four years ago.  We signed up for some kayak classes in the Bay and quickly picked up on some essentials – dress for immersion because you never know when you’re going in, know the basic tools for wet-exit and self rescue, and always mitigate your risk by making decisions before things go too sideways.  We immediately fell in love with the feeling of paddling across the ocean and were instantly stoked to take off on our trip!
Glassy water as far as the eyes can see
Now I could fill in some of the missing blocks in my training plan.  I was still eyeing the Castle Peak 100k on August 18th.  I’ve wanted to do this race since I first heard of it, and it seems to be getting more and more popular each year.  Additionally it’s a UTMB qualifier, and a finish under the cut-off would give me another 5 UTMB points which would qualify me for the lottery for the 2019 race.  A long-shot that would require a lot of things falling my way, but it was definitely in the back of my mind.
I have dreams of making Castle Peak 100k happen
The nerve-wracking part is that I would have about 3 weeks off my training schedule right in the middle of July.  I would head north with the boys in a car solo and meet my wife in Seattle where we would drive together up the BC coast.  While I would be active and outside, I definitely wouldn’t be running on any sort of a training plan during that time.  Could I make this work?
I entered June feeling stronger than ever; I had recovered from Canyons very quickly and my body felt quite good.  I had focused on reforming my gait after my injury in March, and I credit a lot of my newfound running ease with incorporating a more “active core” in my gait.  I had also been hitting the full-body core workouts (which would prove essential for kayaking!) – pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, leg raises, and push-ups five days a week on my way home from work.
 I aimed for a 40 mile week the week of May 21st, kicking it off with a 28 mile traverse of the East Bay hills.  I kept this pattern going for the five weeks until June 25th – getting at least 40 miles in with one longer run per week.  The long run topped out at a 31 miler on June 12th when I finally connected the Bay Area Ridge Trail all the way from Richmond down to Castro Valley, something I had been contemplating for a while.  This was also my longest ever training run, and a bit of a mental accomplishment to know that I could push 50k solo on my own with no problems.
50k along the Bay Area Ridge Trail

My training strategy had formed as I went along, and I had no idea how it would work – could I pre-load a bunch of base miles and vert in June, stay active but not run a bunch in July, and still perform well at one of the toughest 100ks around in August?  I personally had no idea but I thought it would be a great experiment.  I remembered a podcast I had listened to where they were talking about uber-star Francois D’Haene, and how he was so formidable not only because he was so good at running, but because he was just so damn strong in the mountains.  Could the same strategy work (on a smaller scale) for me?

On July 3 I switched gears and we headed off on our kayak expedition.  In short, it was every bit as amazing as we anticipated and our minds were blown wide open with the un-real scenery and and marine back-country isolation.  Our kids never really contributed to any sort of paddling (shocker!) so the end result was my wife and I paddling 21 foot tandem touring kayaks, fully loaded down, across usually calm but sometimes less-than-ideal conditions.  What we were most surprised with was that the paddling was actually the easy part.  At the end of each day paddling, however, the boats had to be unloaded in the water because they were much to heavy to carry on to land, and then hauled above the high-tide line on rocky shores with razor-sharp oyster shells poised to slice open your foot at any minute.  The pure physicality of it reminded us of our rock-climbing days – our bodies were working, in some capacity, from sunrise to sunset, and by the end of the day we were wiped out in the best way possible.
Our home for a week on South Curme Island
The ten days flew by and we could have stayed out there forever (in fact we are planning a much longer expedition that will hopefully come to fruition in the next few years!!!)  We had about 6 days left in the beautiful Powell River area of the Sunshine Coast, and we took on the next local challenge that we heard about at every turn – the Powell Forest Canoe Route.  This was a massive canoe trip that involved multiple, long portages and linked up a series of lakes just east of Powell River.  Sure, we had never canoed before, but after the rousing success that was our first ever kayak trip, what could go wrong?
Yeah this is as much work as it looks like
It turns out canoeing is like kayaking, but the paddles only have one blade, and instead of hauling your stuff in and out twice a day you do it multiple times throughout while dragging your kids along the trails.  Imagine the hardest backpack you have gone on – now imagine bringing along an 18 foot boat that you have to carry on your head.  Truth be told we were woefully over-packed and under-prepared (we didn’t even have proper backpacks on the trip so we piled dry-bags in LL Bean duffel bags), but we certainly got a feeling for a multi-day canoe excursion, which was one of our goals.
Fast-forward to the end of July.  I have since signed up for the Castle Peak 100k, and I officially took three full weeks off from running this month.  I have started to ramp up again and my body is feeling a bit achy still from a month on the road, but the legs seem to be feeling good.  My plan is to slowly build and ramp up into Castle Peak, instead of the traditional taper approach.  Due to an injury in March I was forced to do this for Canyons and it worked out wonderfully.  I have no idea what will happen here.  I am more than willing to humbly enter Castle Peak and go slow, taking my time and harnessing more of my mountain toughness than my aerobic fitness, as that will clearly be my strength.  I have some time to run until then but I will also be in the Sierra High Country on a backpack, which I am telling myself is actually perfect training for Castle Peak.  Only time will tell if I have the base miles in my legs to pull off another mountain adventure on August 18th!!


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