Sunday, April 29, 2007

Race Morning

Routine is almost complete. The amazing thing about having a big race near your house is the jog over to the start line. No worrying about driving, parking, or finding a bathroom. Everything has come to you!

Race Number - check.
Racing Flats - check.
Timing Chip - check.
Overcast day, with sun threatening to break through - check.
Cool, yet not cold, air - check.
Music - check.
Race uniform - check.
Clif Bar, Peanut Toffee Crunch - check.
Bathroom break (x2) - check.
Half a glass of smoothie - check.
Pre-race blog post - check.

I guess I am ready to go. See you on the course.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

TC10k Tomorrow

So tonight I will order Red Curry from My Thai Cafe, settle in a watch some running related TV and dream about 8:00am Sunday morning. I have been pleased with my last two races, so here is hoping a lingering chest cold and a bout with pink eye won't leave me wanting. I know I am fit, so if tomorrow doesn't happen to be a 33:30, then that is ok. I will run for that time or blow up in the attempt.

See you in the morning!

Photo by Tony Austin from Sooke River 10k
(I had to include it to get it as my new profile picture - couldn't figure out how to shrink it any other way.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Low Level

As I return from a foray in Vancouver, I am stuck with a low level something. Not sure if it is a cough, cold, sinus or lung infection, but something that is causing me to hack and generate phlegm and carry a sore throat with me. Oh well, it could be worse.

My conference was amazing, as usual, but it left little time for running. Sunday was a 25 minute wobble around Coquitlam as my butt and hips were very tender from all the downhill in the Gutbuster. Tender to the touch, I tried to work the kinks our with a gentle run. It worked to a degree, but as the "illness" had found me on Saturday night, I wasn't feeling all that hot.

Monday turned into a day off with the "sickness" sticking around and me being swamped. Instead of running I watcher the Canucks win and did some marking.

Last night, returning home, I was able to get out to the waterfront and run. By now my muscles had recovered well and my run felt quite good. I felt smooth and a little quick, although that may be because I had lost awareness of speed over the past few days. I continued to take my 7systems supplements to help with recovery and anti-oxidants, and had thrown in some Astragulus Combo and Cold Fx, so I am stabilizing the "cold". Sunday is the big day, so I have a little time for things to come around. And then the big training begins...

Saturday, April 21, 2007


This past week has been hectic to say the least. I am sitting in a ferry line-up right now, taking this spare moment to jot down some ramblings about running, for once I hit the mainland, there will be little time to do much.

Let’s start after the race on Sunday. Pleased with my performance two weeks out from the TC10k, I had a couple of days to squeeze any last fitness from my training. Monday was a technical run with my track team. I hooked up with Nik Southwell on Tuesday for 6x2 min with 1 min rest. Our warm up came to an abrupt end when I asked how fast the 2 minutes were supposed to be.


“Uh, 5k pace?”

“More like 1k to 800m pace.”

“Oh, so you mean we are not running this workout together.”

Nik is Fit with a capital F and, while he was kind to sometimes hang out with me for one minute of the two minutes, he glided away from me effortlessly. I have been pleased with my running of late, and I can see the empirical proof of my fitness, but it is important for me to run with people who are one or two levels above me so that I keep perspective and motivation. I left the workout tired and feeling heavy, but knowing that it was in the bank.

Wednesday was with the clinic at the track, trying to dial in their marathon pace. A light run for me as I was coaching throughout. Thursday became a day off due to circumstance (read: too much work to complete at school; report cards are next week!) I squeezed in a 30 minute run along the waterfront on last night (Friday), which was incredibly beautiful. A setting sun illuminating the Olympic mountain range across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was clear and there were small white caps on the ocean. I savoured the run and spent some time with Terry at Mile 0.

Which brings us to today. After a talk at Frontrunners I hustled up to Duncan for the Mt. Tzouhalem Gutbuster. The Gutbuster Trail Race series is a first class event and, I think, possibly underappreciated by the Island community. We are spoiled by the number of incredible events we have here, but the thought and attention to detail that goes into these races, both by Bryan Tasaka and the MOMEC team, as well as the host running clubs, is wonderful. The Mt. Zoo race is basically a run straight to the summit and then a winding descent back to the start.

There are three hills in this race. The first one is anywhere from 20-45 minutes long. I crested the first summit at about 20 minutes, and reached the end of the climb at about 25 minutes. There is little to no relief on this climb. In most races there is a moment or two of respite, but not here. It is all up all the time. And some of the pitches are quite severe, almost warranting being on all fours to scramble up.

But this race shines in its descent. It is about 35 minutes of downhill running, with two nasty climbs thrown in to make sure you aren’t lulled into a sense of confidence. The climbs serve notice that your legs are on the verge of cramping and revolting – about ready to pack their bags and leave, yelling at you as they slam the door. I am told that there are spectacular views, but my head was down the whole time, so I didn’t see them. The winding single track has some of the best flow I have run and it gets very technical in sections. I loved it. But the long run out on fire roads is killer. About 15 minutes of steep descent where you have to run hard or else risk being overtaken by someone who was more conservative on the uphill.

I arrived later than I usually would, a result of the talk at Frontrunners. An abbreviated warm and I was on the start line, listening to final instructions being read out by race director Bryan Tasaka.

“There is no aid station on the course, so carry your own water.”

What!?! There was one last year. Rookie mistake. I didn’t read the race information this year, assuming that everything was the same. Last year there was an aid station at the very top, and I was counting on that this year for some water. I knew that the race was about an hour long and I usually will take water for anything over 30 minutes. I, along with about five other of the faster guys, ran over the to water jug adjacent to the start line and took a couple more Dixie cups.

The gun went and everything was good. I didn’t feel as though the shorter warm-up was affecting me. I made a conscious decision to work harder than previous years on the uphill. I wanted to see what effect it had on my legs during the downhill. I was consistent on the ascent and was surprised to see Shane just ahead of me as we passed the first summit. I had not ever been this close to Shane after a hill climb, so one of two things was about to happen: a great race or an epic explosion. We were situated in third and fourth, with fifth place within earshot. I passed Shane during the ridge run across the top and was in third place at the start of the descent.

I knew I had to work hard on the downhill as Shane is a strong downhill runner. Downhill is my strength in the trails, and I was also hoping that I might be able to make some time on the leaders, Sean Chester (who ran 32:57 at Sun Run) and Sean Stevens (a 17 year old wunderkid). I pushed hard on the downhills, loving the technical single track and cursing Tasaka (although he wasn’t the course designer, but I had to curse someone) for every uphill thrown in. I caught a glimpse of Shane and another runner at one point on a switchback and that knocked out of a momentary complacency. I began racing ghosts.

Leaping, turning, slowing down and speeding up, I navigated the tight twists and turns of the forest, with a face-wide smile. But after all the fun was the long run out on the fire road. I had not seen the guys in front of me, and had not looked back to see where the others were, although I pegged them at about 30 seconds based on cheers from volunteers.

I pushed on the fire road, knowing that there was one final nasty climb about 200m from the finish. I felt confident as I began to recognize the end of the course, but knew that 30 seconds was not a lot on that final hill. I found some unexpected inspiration in seeing Rozee (one of the run leaders for Club Mud) finishing her short course. I called to her to see how her rehabilitating ankle held up, to which she responded with a thumbs up and positive word. It is great to see friends out on course, and knowing that I HAD to look good in front of someone I know, I pushed up the hill. Surprisingly, I found it easier than I was expecting. Cresting the hill I strided the final 150m to the finish and third place overall. But better than the placing (because if all the really fast people had shown up, I would have been 10th), was the fact that I ran the course about 3 minutes faster than last year. To his credit, Shane was also about a minute faster than last year as well. It is inspiring to see many people running well. A good day that I will feel tomorrow.

Club Mud also had a great day. Some podium finishes, some draw prize winners, and some inspiring races. They are coming along very well and I am confident that they will find the Iron Knee easier than the race they have constructed in their mind.

And so I sit on the ferry now, about to sail to Vancouver for a teaching conference. I hope to get out on a run or two while I am there as it is always to run in a new place.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Quiet Night

A technical run tonight with the track team was my recovery from the 10k. It was fun working with the team members, taking them through drills and strength.

That was followed by a poetry reading by Carla Funk, Victoria's Poet Laureate. I know, I know - but I am an English teacher and it is fun for me. I read a poem of my own construction as some my students read theirs as well. I have to lead by example.

A nice, but busy night.

If I was a betting man, I would take Jack over the US Government.

Duration - 60 minutes of technical run stuff

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sooke River 10k

We couldn't have had a better day in Victoria than this morning. 11 degrees Celsius, no wind, gorgeous sun.

Heading into this race I was hoping to run well, thinking that at 34:30 would be a very good day. Also, there was the added incentive of this being the final race of the Vancouver Island Race Series. I was in second place in my age-group at the beginning of the race today. A friend, Shane, was leading the division by three points. I not only had to beat Shane, but I had to beat him by more than 35 seconds. So it was this in mind that we lined up together at the start of today's 10k.

With most of the fast kids in Vancouver for the Sun Run, there were only a couple of fastees in Sooke today. Nick Walker and Paul O'Callaghan, both very strong runners, were the only ones there that would usually contend for titles, so it was going to be an interesting race.

The gun went and we started and the downhill start was parlayed into a fast first couple of km. The course was about to take a nasty turn. I am glad I drove the course prior to the race, because the hills were acomin'.

Nick took the early lead quite easily while Shane, Paul, and I raced the first couple of km together. Paul put a surge in, testing out his recovering Achilles tendon, and bridged up to Nick. I jumped on Paul as he went by, but once I realized what he was doing, I put on the brakes, opting to run within myself instead. The plan was to run a consistent race and throwing in a huge surge early on was not in the plans.

With Paul gone, it was Shane and I running together. We have had two sprint finishes in the past, so I knew that I had establish an early lead. I used one of the long downhills to establish a little gap and then worked hard to maintain consistency. I thought that if I could hold a 3:30/km pace then it would take a lot for Shane to make up the ground, but with lots of hills on the way home, there was opportunity for Shane. He is one of the stronger hill runners in Victoria, so I knew that I had to run well after the hills to maintain my lead.

At 5k I felt good, but knowing what was ahead, I put my head down and focused. I saw Shane at the turnaround and figured I had 20 seconds at that point. Running hard I pushed on the hills, trying to maintain consistency. I passed Bob Reid, Victoria's running guru, who mentioned that my lead was 80m. I knew that was good, but not enough. I continued to run the tangents and think of form and cadence. I used the flats to try to establish more of a lead. I finished strong. 34:33. A good time. The came the wait.

10 seconds.
15 seconds.
20 seconds.
Shane comes into view of the long straightaway for the finish.
30 seconds.
40 seconds.

Shane ran 35:20, a personal best for him by 15 seconds, which is incredible as the course is about as slow as they come. We thought that the time was enough for me to have won the age-group, but really, the constant challenge that was provided throughout the series was more satisfying than any "win". Shane pushed me to compete better and run faster and for that I am thankful. He has improved so much that when we line up together on the Gutbuster start lines, I fear that I will not see him after the first hill. I am also excited to see how he does at the TC 10k - I am predicting 34:30.

I ended up 3rd overall today and was pleased with my time. After this weekend, I am hoping that the TC 10k will be another breakthrough race for me. I will run well this week and then take a little taper into race day. I am definitely looking forward to it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


I have been battling a low-level cough for a week now, trying to be smart about not letting it catch up to me. In the meantime, school has been quite busy, limiting my running this week - so it is like a built-in governor for my training.

Monday was off as it was a nasty day and I was starting to feel not well. Being a holiday played with my routine, and so the run didn't happen.

Tuesday was actually a good day. I went out to Lochside trail after school and ran some 1km repeats. I was surprised at my times and questioned the accuracy of the km markers on Lochside. To make sure I wasn't getting erroneous feedback, I defaulted to the "km" we used when I was training at the centre. No real difference.

4 x 1km on 3 minutes rest
3:10 (default km)

The last km told me I should not attempt the fifth I had planned, and instead, run back and deal with my stomach issues. I now can empathize a little more with Liam when he has to dart off in a middle of a workout.

Wednesday was running with the clinic at school and then the clinic at Frontrunners. Both were easy runs for me, but it was great to see all the dedicated people out, in the final stages of their prep for 10ks, 1/2 marathons, and full marathons.

Thursday saw me at a track meet until 6:00pm and then at a Poetry Reading (with attitude), so I ended up taking Thursday off as well, which was probably good for the health.

Friday, however, was bad for the soul. I got home from school and rolled out the door with the intention of running the TC10k course as a light recovery run. I started near the house and ran out to the turn around near Ross Bay Cemetery. I wasn't feeling great, but the ocean and Olympic Mountains were spectacular. The light was mesmerizing and enchanting and as I turned and headed toward Clover Point, and then Beacon Hill Park, and then Terry Fox, I felt much much better. I was doing some pick ups (small accelerations, not the kind I was never good at with the ladies), and my legs were coming around. But somewhere between Ogden Point and the Legislature Buildings, everything went wrong. I felt heavy, slow, unmotivated and generally pissy. I ended up running back through Beacon Hill where I pulled the plug and walked home, head down, wondering what I was missing. Maybe the low-level cold? Maybe the post-PB letdown? Maybe a little dehydration and small lunch? Likely a little of all of them. I jogged slowly home, not looking forward to the run today.

But man, was the weatherperson wrong! Instead of the weather reflecting my mood (what do we call that, kids?), it was stunning sunshine. I met the Club Mud crew at the parking lot of McKenzie Bight before launching into Hartland Dump and Mt. Work, in that order. We played through the trails of Hartland, finding tons of single track - if only gym run class could be held here, would students ever have a different view on running. We were all kids this morning. Jumping, twisting, dodging limbs of trees that stretched out in an attempt to grab us (sometimes successfully). The Choose Your Own Route day lead us deep into the dump before we emerged at the base of the climb to the summit of Mt. Work. Some called it a day (smartly) for differing reasons, but those that climbed the Mt. Work for the next 17:25-26:00 minutes were rewarded with a spectacular view of Tod Inlet and a feeling of having completed likely the hardest of the clinic. My spirit returned and while I have a two hour and forty minute run in my legs, I am looking forward to the Sooke 10k tomorrow. It shall be an interesting endeavour as most of the fastees are over on the mainland for the Vancouver Sun Run. This leaves fewer people to chase, although I am sure that there will be no shortage of quick people on the line tomorrow. I hope that I am one of them.

Sessions - 6
Duration - 7:33

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday

I spent this morning running around Church. For some, the worship of their higher power takes place in a specific building/room/space. I guess I am not any different. While I do not consider myself on overly religious person, when running around Thetis Lake this morning, my breath is offered to whoever created that space and the capacity within us to appreciate it.

I ran a little later this morning, driving out to Thetis with Yoda to join some of the NTC boys for a jaunt through Church. Departing just after 10:00am, we set out to Stewart Mountain before winding our way back to McKenzie Creek Trail and Seaborn Trail. It was a pleasure to show off Thetis to people who had not yet seen some of the most beautiful parts in the park. Another day galloping along the trails - a wonderful resurrection, of sorts.

Duration - 1:27

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Long Short Week

These short weeks are so long. Both my students and I feel it. I think it is because we enter the week thinking "YES! This week is going to go SO fast!"

And for the rest of the week you are looking forward to the end of the week, which extends the week until the week seems like it is never going to end.

Last Saturday's run was great for about 75 minutes of the 90 minutes I was out. The last 15 minutes were a little butt dragging. I didn't think much of it until I went to run on Monday and felt bagged. Usually, I am quite good about respecting recovery from races, but I got a little overzealous last weekend, resulting in an extended recovery period.

Monday was a technical run with the Reynolds' Track and Field team. Some drills, some strength, some plyometrics, some light strides.

Tuesday was a day off, looking to make sure that my body fully recovered from the travel and the race.

Wednesday was playing with the clinic. We had 84(!) people out for the beautiful Wednesday night workout.

Thursday was a fun run with Nik and Adam at Mt. Doug. Adam, after misreading a workout and smashing himself the day before, ran with us for smartly calling it a day. After dropping Adam back at the car, Nik and I found the hardest route up to the summit. It was great to run with those boys again - a reminder that while I had a good race a couple of weeks ago, there is a lot more room to improve.

Friday found me at Beacon Hill Park with the rest of Victoria. On a Friday that was more than Good, I ran in close to 20 degree weather, sharing the beauty of the park with families having picnics, going to the petting zoo, kids climbing trees. I decided to do some mile repeats, chatting with Yoda about the workout before leaving the basement. I hoped to hold 5:10/mile with about 5 minute rest, doing that four times. I looped Beacon Hill as warm up and then set out to complete the workout.


Three miles later, I was happy and, not wanting to push my luck while still feeling good, I called it a day.

This morning was wet, but pleasant to run in. A small Club Mud group embraced "Ten Hills" and set out for an hour before the more important task of going to Lady Marmalade for breakfast, where I had bread pudding french toast.

I am a little concerned about something that may be settling in my chest - a scratchy throat the other day and a cough after waking up from a nap this afternoon. I will bombard my body with healthy stuff (except the fish and chips I am going to eat this evening) and hopefully things will be fine.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Easy like Sunday morning

At least the first 75 minutes were. The last 20 were fine, too - just cruising in on a beautiful, if not cooler, Victoria morning. I had just run the back half of the Victoria marathon, a nod to the course, knowing that that I will be back in October, running the same route at a faster clip. But today felt good, one week removed from Around the Bay. The glow is starting to dim as I begin to focus on the next task - the Times Colonist 10k on April 29.

While I am not a supporter of listening to music while running in races, they have a place in some training. During my base runs I listen to podcasts about sport or politics. I try to keep up with what is happening in the world and relieve some of the monotony of the miles of road running. (Note: I NEVER listen to music when running in trails. Just the road.)

It was this morning I listened to a podcast from about Haile Gebrselassie entitled "The Greatest". The excerpt read from his biography covered the days leading into the 1996 Olympic 10k final. Cresting the hill cutting through the Victoria Golf Course I was running a little too fast, a little too close to tears. Please, if you do nothing else, listen to this. And if you don't know Gebrselassie, check him out. And while this video is not working for me from the Olympic website, you can try it out for yourself. But listen to the podcast first. Even if you know the result, the revelations made in the podcast are incredible and add to the mystique.

Duration - 1:35
AHR - 145