Dodécathlon 20.12

Après 20 ans, maintenant 12 mois, pour 12 défis un peu fous...

vendredi 24 août 2012

Not the same anymore !

This post will be in english.  I suppose some runners I had the chance to meet during the ENDURrun will be curious to read it and, well, most of them (sorry for Pierre Elliot-Trudeau !) are not very familiar with my first language.  My english is far from perfect, but at least it is better than Google's or Bing's translation tool.

(There is too much photos to choose from.  So instead of choosing for you, here are some from the 15 000 + taken during the ENDURrun): My Album
I am back from Endurrun International in Ontario.  It was one of the greatest experience of my life.  Initialy, it was my 7th challenge of the Dodecathlon but at the end I found it to be more than that. 

First of all, a short word about the whole trip beside running. 

Going to Waterloo (Ontario) from St-Léonard-d'Aston is a 9 hours drive and even more because of traffic around Toronto and Montreal areas (not to say constructions or bad weather).  I did the first half on friday 10th sleeping in Kingston and the second half on saturday 11th.  It was smart to split the trip in two parts, but not enough to prevent my right calf from being tight on stage 1 (half-marathon, sunday 12th).  Saturday, I slept in a cheap Super 8 in Kingston where I had no reservation upon arrival.  At the front desk, the guy told me my room was 149 $.  Online comments for this hotel not being all greats, I said to the guy "no way I will pay this price tonight".  He answered "well, ok, would 79$ be fine for you ?"  "yes it will"... but that doesn't mean this place is good.  I do not recommend.  My review is much much better for where I stayed during the next 9 days.

I stayed in a B&B in Waterloo, the Sugarbush Guesthouse, owned by Sandi Marques and her husband David Evans.  It would have been possible for me to stay in an hotel somewhere around or, as did many of Endurrun's runners, into the residences of either Laurier or Waterloo university, but I choose for a little more comfort.  My choice could not have been better for the B&B was not only a very quiet place giving me all I needed to recover during the afternoon (a bath for ice bath, a hot tub, a backyard to stretch or put my legs up the wall, a drugstore for blisters 1 minute away by painful foot, and a Tim Horton's less than 300 meters away to wake my body up with caffeine every race morning), but was also a place where I felt welcomed by both owners.  They even came, twice, with their daugthers, to act as a support crew during two stages (Chicopee and the marathon).  I would not be suprised to see David, a one time marathoner, try some stages as a guest runner in the next few years...  The place was nice, not expensive, closed to restaurants as from the starting line of most stages.  I do recommend.

In Waterloo, all breakfasts, but the one (eggs benedict, of course) prepared by Sandi on my day off, were made of bars, gels, water and other runner's artificial food.  I did not really need to go somewhere to eat at noon because the food offered to Endurrun's participants after each stage is incredible.  That is true, really true.  I have never seen something like this before for a race.  Many tables full of all kind of food including quinoa curry, vegan burgers, smoothies with soy milk, marshmallow-coconut salad, magic peanut-butter balls, olive or cranberry or red pepper hummus, etc.  An all you can eat buffet of good stuff (or even bad stuff if you feel more for it !).  Every night, I went eating somewhere in town depending on how I felt.  But yes: Mozy's... the small place where, on the front window, you can read "the number one shawarma in Canada".  It may sounds pretentious.  I can't say it is not true.  I do recommend (with spicy sauce !)

Otherwise, my days where more or less the same.  Wake-up around 6h30, eat some bars, drive to the starting line for 7h00.  Then try to warm-up, race at 8h00.  Cool-down (akwardly) for 1 to 4 km after the race and then eat (see above) at more or less 11h00.  Wait for the after the race talk by Llyod (the organiser) while chating with participants.  Mid afternoon, drive or walk next day's course before coming back to B&B for a shower and either a nap, a little stretch and/or yoga session, roll stick 20 minutes on sore muscles, a 15 minutes ice bath or hot tube pleasure and a 20 minutes of nothing but putting my legs up the wall.  Then it was time to go eating (never too much, but soon too much pastas !)  Take a sip of water every 20 minutes when timer told me to do so.  Come back to prepare my clothes and stuff for the next day's race, call home around 20h00 to speak or see on Skype my little family and then in bed around 21h30 (and not sleeping well, so reading Jeni's Inbox, the book written by the owner of the B&B, or dumbly watching old Seinfeld's on TV.)  I would be curious to compare my days during the Endurrun with the ones other participants had.  My work ethic is most of the time somewhat way above average, but I would like to see if it was the case this time.  I am not so sure...  What was your recovery program after each stage ?  Not to name them, I know some runners can answer "beer" (ok, rehydrate + proteins.  That is fine !)

Overall, all these details look like I had a boring week, not an exiting or particular one. So why do I think Endurrun somehow changed me as a runner and as a human being ? 

...Maybe because of the races and how, once entered into this crazy thing, we get to bond with each other...

I agree with Mark (Meyers) the guy with whom I fought for second or third place during the whole week.  At the award/final results "ceremony" he said something like "I did'nt think it [the Endurrun - 7 stages on 8 days for 160 km over all kind of surfaces or inclines] was do-able, but because it becomes a team effort we did what I consider the biggest physical challenge of my life".  That is true for me too.  Well, I knew before we started that I was able to go the distance.  I wasn't sure about how I would face the intensity day after day, but I am used to running more than 100 miles a week so it was not a big concern for me.  Still I was afraid of the amount of speed needed to be competitive in the Endurrun.  How was I to react to the constant stress of racing on tought courses for distances long enough to hurt anybody's soul and body ?  The answer is simple: painfully ! But alone, without anyone around facing the same challenges, I am 100% sure I would not have run this way for the entire week.  I am not the only one, far from it, to confess the huge impact of other runners on my performance and my success. 

Now back from it -but still suffering badly from PES (post-endurrun syndrome as Bob said and so many shared)- I try to understand what exactly means this idea of "group effort" or "social help" or "success being builded upon support from each other".  I don't think my answer will please many, but at least it is, for me, the best I found.  There is something inside me that doesn't want to be a looser.  I suppose I am not the only one here !  When pushed to my physical limits, this something keeps me going.  If, around me, all participants had dropped out...I would have continued (to be the one who don't stop !) but they not only kept running, they kept racing, and I would say racing hard.  So I had to do the same: race hard until it is over even when my body was well beyond the state of complete fatigue and all the cells of my legs were sore sore sore...  My legs were dead after stage 1 (already on the side to go downstairs not to talk about this f*** blister under my left foot).  They were cramping during stage 3.  I was sore all over every mucles of my quads and harmstring before stage 4.  I was flat on stage 6 and barely not able to run the morning of stage 7 because of pain.  But I ran the marathon in 2 hours 58 minutes 24 seconds.  Unbelievable !  Everybody around me was running great and no one, I guess, was feeling so much better.  So was I to be the first giving up ?  Everynight I looked at the result and saw how incredible they were.  I was there to race, so no way I would loose without honor whatever was the level of toughnest imposed by our group.  So I ran.  And because everybody ran hard, I ran hard too.  I guess this is something particular of the Endurrun.  If not, how do you explain that only 6 participants DNF (did not finish) over the 10 years of the race, one of the toughest you can find all over the world ?   

It is also true that we get to know each other.  If we quit (and more if we do it lately during the week) we have to face not the desapprobation or critics of others, but the simple fact that our old or new friends did something we had to give up.  Not a good feeling to think about.  It is not the same to give up among a group of unknown runners.  It is harder to fail among or in front of our "family".  Each member expect you to be tought and when they show you that they all are, so you want to stay part of it and know what to do.  That is how I explain the "group effect" of the Endurrun.  I would like to say it is the friendly encouragements of others, but I don't think it would be enought to explain why we pushed so much and reached the finish line so fast (happy and proud). 

Whatever are the reasons or the group effect, I conclude two things: 1) boundaries of my own capacities or limits were not where I tought they were, but farther than all I knew before.  It includes, first place, my ability to push throught pain and discomfort.  As much as I learned to enter in the "zone" when I discovered track, now I know I can do amazing things whatever is the state of my body before the race start; 2) In the battle between body and  mind to limit or allow performance, I more and more bet for the latter.  Not to say that you can run a 2:02 marathon if you believe you can, but only to say that desire can outpass flesh and bones when your will is strong. 

Now you may ask what happened during the week.  If you read Dodecathlon's Facebook page, you already know.  If not, or just to remind you, here are the post I put after each stage:

Sunday 12 th
"So, first stage is over; half-marathon done. Was expecting a little bit better, but 1:21.30 is still fine on this rolling course and windy conditions. Currently in second place, but 1:48 behind the yellow jersey. 1:30 ahead of third place and at least one more minute from 4th and 5th places. Feeling so-so, but not bad either. Tomorrow morning is a 15k time trial, so we'll try do get closer to the leader, but I am not confident to be able to do so (he is a 33'' 10k guy...). Otherwise, race crew is great, participants are funny, place is not nice but overall organisation is better than expected."

Monday 13th
"Still in second place after stage 2 (a 15 km time trial on road). Went pretty well today. Managed to increase my lead over third place by a little bit more than a minute; gave (only) 9 secondes to the overall leader. It's even a new official PB for the distance ! (56:38). So everything is fine, but a serious blister under my left foot. Tomorrow is a beautiful 30km cross country. Feel that the leader (and third one) kept something in the tank while I went nearly all-out two days in a row. May pay for it soon. We'll see...
Otherwise, still a great organisation, really."

Tuesday 14th
"Boy, things got heavier today... There are some serious runners into this thing and if I am one of them again today, I was also one who struggled badly. I went for the gold jersey (it was my lance chance, I think), but instead I finished 4th. I think I am still in second place overall, but maybe not. If I am, it is by a few seconds. Today, I was in the lead until 13k, but then fade on this tought 30 km cross-country course. Got cramps in the last 4 kms, but had mostly been mentaly hurt when today's second and third runner passed like mad train beside me. Well, it acts like a reality check. We will know better tomorrow night after stage 4, the first mountain stage (for Kalenjins, it is a lot like Chester...). Thanks following. Results can be found online at the "endurrun international" website and there is also pictures (a lot of) on"

Wednesday 15th
"It comes and goes sometimes... Way better today than yesterday after stage 3. Stage 4 was a 16 km quite hilly to say the few... Finished 4th and lost my second place overall by 2 seconds. I know that sounds bad, but it is not because I am not an uphill runner and I crossed the finish line with plenty more left in the tank. I am pretty sure the guy in front of me pushed harder during all the race and I managed quite easily to gave only 10 seconds on this tough course. To make a long story short, let's just say I feel more confident for the last stages than I was yesterday after my struggling, bonking stage 3. Rest day tomorrow before stage 5 (by some aspects the toughest of the week)."

Friday 17th
"Did great today. Felt easy on 4 out of 5 loops (5.12 km each). Of course, hills were real hills, but I went throught them quite easily. Still had some cramping on the right quad at the end, but nothing to worried about. Finished third for stage 5, gave 1 minute to the leader of the Endurrun, but mostly created a gap of 7:45 with the third one. So, now back in second place with a signifiant lead (sad Mark had a bad race today to keep the battle going). Tomorrow is a 10k time trial. May have a shot a the blue jersey (best combine time for stages 2 and 6). We'll see..."

Saturday 18th
"Today was stage 6 out of 7, a 10 km time trial on road. Was not my best race of the week. Still finished in 3rd place, but lost 46 seconds over the overall 3rd place, so I am now in 2nd with a 7:00 lead. Had no legs to be in contention for the sprint jersey (see yesterday's post) and, anyway, today's winner did 14 seconds better than my 10k PB ! Can't believe I will run a marathon tomorrow morning. Felt like crap today. Did a cool-down of 3km after the race...took me 23 minutes! I will do my best, that's all I can guarantee."

Sunday 19th
"2:58 ! I don't believe it myself, but I did run 2:58 for the marathon at the end of this crazy week. As a taper during the previous week, I had, only, a half-marathon, a 15 km on road, a 30 km on trail, a hilly 16 km, an alpine 26 km and, the day before stage 7, a 10 km time trial. First time negative split for the distance (1:31-1:27). Finished 2nd overall (6th best runner ever). Rookie of the year."

So now the race (s) is over and I feel bad it is.  Like Jack said "Damn PES ! I need a fix, give me a stage."  It has been without any doubts one if not the greatest physical challenge of my life.  In life, there is not a lot of things you can look at and say "Well, for me, there was before X and after X".  I will see with time, but I would not be surprised to see the Endrurrun be one of these few things -at least because it was a revelation about how amazing can be the human body (mine !)...  It is also a good experience to reflect about why we run or what we expect from our running.  For example: do we want it as an individual activity or as a solo sport shared by many others ?  What, or who, gives meaning to our running ?  I  hope not to forget too soon the teaching of the Endurrun. 

As the 7th challenge of my Dodecathlon, it is an obvious success.  First I did it.  Then I even finished it in second place overall and as the 6th best runner ever for the event.  I got the rookie of the year award (giving me, I think, more money that I ever got from a "single" race).  I ran ways I had not really run before (like running multi-stages, or a 30 km cross-country, or time trials, or a 26 km "trail run on alpine course", or a marathon with the opposite of a taper).  More than anything, I will remember it as a unique event for its whole package: races, organisation, participants, post-race refreshements, fun during a week long. It was also 190 km in 9 days, but that is more or less the same as I am used to in training.  The difference, that helps me to grow somehow, was the intensity.

Intensity ? So now a short word about what makes a race tought or not.  It is always how big the gap is between our own limits and what we have to do.  The smaller the gap, the tougher is the race.  That's why track is great: there you are limited by nothing else than your own body and mind.  No hills, no grass, no sharp turns to hide behind.  I think it is also why many runners don't like track: they just don't accept to see and only to see their own inherent (in) capacity being exposed.  Somehow different, an event like the Endurrun is tought because of its forced difficulty.  You are not pushed, like in track, to show your best and fight against your own limits, but to overcome natural or physical barriers wanting to break you: surfaces, inclines, recovery time, etc.  The challenges soon becomes one about not fading against the odds.  For me, it was not a depletion of energy reserve after the hills or the number of kilometers, but a slow increase of pain in differents body parts.  This pain closed, day after day, the gap making, slowy but surely, the Endurrun tougher.  But, well, also more fun.  Let's talk about pain...

I started stage 1 with a sore right calf because of all the driving.  It slowed me down, but I can't say it was a painfull experience.  On stage 2, I realised that wearing (two days in a row) the same new pair of racing flats was not the best idea I had.  I developped a serious case of blister under the third metatarse of my left foot (I was limping badly after stage 2).  Had also some ITB problem at that point.  Stage 3, I got cramps in both inner quads and calves for the last 5 km.  So, add my blister problem to these sore legs and you understand that I was feeling like crap on the starting line of stage 4 (the first mountain stage !).  A soft mix of all these body issues was a concern in Chicopee (stage 5), but more than ever a limit on stage 6.  Because I still had to push (and because everybody was doing so), I did.  But my blister, my ITB, my sore inner and outer quads where so bads I was only able to run, as a warm-up, a kilometer in 9 minutes before the marathon.  I was feeling like, I guess, I was supposed to feel at that point: like a guy who ran 118 km of intensity, quickly closing the gap between his limits and the needs of the races.  What I learned is that if any of these problems alone would have been, for most human being and especialy runners, a good reason (or fear) to either stop or slow down, it was also possible to ignore them (with will) and succeed.  That is one of the thing I learned, not only by looking at myself, but other Endurrun's participants too.  For example, I think of Sean or Dave.  

Sean ran twice as long as I did to complete all the stages.  He is a little bit overweight so it does'nt help when it is time to run.  Like many of us, his body was aching all week, but he kept at it.  That's amazing !  Dave, on another hand, is a 48 years old slim and tall runner who ran fast on most stages.  But on the morning of stage 7 he suffered from an old upper back problem not allowing him to breathe freely.  Because of it, he had to stop twice before the 4 km mark, even lying on the ground for some seconds.  But instead of giving up because of pain, he stood up, resumed running and ran to the finish line for a new personnal record on the marathon.  That's a story to remember.  Me, I did a 2:58.  It tells us something about pain (or all kind of supposed limit), about how much we overestimated it when running (or not running) and how standing up in front of it is the sole reason why we are so proud of ourselves afterward.  For a moment, I would like to be inside many participants during a race to feel how they feel, to see how much pain they sustain or refuse.  My guess would be that some faster runners are able to sustain more pain, but that they do get less proudness or joy in doing so while many slower runners feel more pain when there is less of it but still get more reward from going trought it.  But I'm not sure.  Would be interesting to study...  What do you think about it ?

I am a coach.  So I can't help but wonder what Steve Formaneck could do with serious training.  Well, maybe only with training !  This guy - 2007 & 2008 ultimate finisher, 2nd place with U-11hours time- ran the marathon on sunday as a part of a relay team.  It is a tought marathon course and the guy, slightly fat, wearing cotton socks, shirt and shorts ran a 2:51 marathon.  On nothing more than some hiking the weeks before the race and without a good form.  That is also amazing.  Have to write about it to DST...

Endurrun is over and I am sad it is.  I wil get my fix next tuesday on what will be stage 8: a 5 km race in Nicolet.  I took 3 days off after the marathon and I am now slowy back on training (I think I strained my left quad after or during stage 7 and my blister was maybe hiding something on one of the bone of my left foot.  Normal running stuff !)

My next challenge is scheduled for the third saturday of september.  Uphill, uphill, uphill.  Goal = 5000m +                                   
I would now like to thanks all the runners who gave something for The Terry Fox fundation.  If you still want to do it, you can do it online (click on this link and all pledges will be add to my fundraising and be given to the fundation next october):

You can see photos, not all but mostly of me, during the ENDURrun International by cliking on the link (picassa):

You can find all ENDURrun International results (cumulative and stages) on

You can also see photos of the event and all participants at  More than 15 000 photos were taken !  Crazy !



1 commentaire:

  1. As a volunteer, your experience is very different from mine. I enjoyed reading all the details of your week. We both put in long and trying days, though very different. It is always a priviledge to spend the week with such dedicated runners. I am already conidering recipes for next year.