Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weekend Warrior

Well, maybe not a warrior, but it was a great weekend of running.

This is the first weekend in a while that I didn't have a race or any other type of commitment. I took advantage of this by going over to the North Shore and exploring some trail there.

Saturday was a light 35 minutes around Lynn Creek Valley and this morning was an hour or so exploring the route of the Hallow's Eve trail race, which occurs in a couple of weeks. I found a suspension bridge and Twin Falls - pretty incredible sights. Not the single track like Thetis, but a good place to go (and only 15 minute drive away)!

The legs feel quite good, but no intensity for another week, then I will build back to 2 hour trail jaunts. Motivation is good and body is feeling good.

And mad props to Sam McGlone and Jasper Blake, for different reasons. Sam for being a stud and coming second in her first Ironman (oh, it was the World Championships) and to Jasper for going for it, even if it didn't work out this time.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Post-post marathon musings...

  • I am recovering well. That may be due to the (very) slow last quarter of a marathon.
  • I am making sure I am not overdoing it. 3 x 25 minutes so far this week.
  • Jerry Ziak, who ran a 2:17 marathon, also had issues while running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
  • There are some ENDURrun athletes going to Boston, which means more fun for me!
  • There is NOWHERE around here that is flat. Even recovery runs are hilly.
  • Work doesn't stop for running.
  • The painting/fixing of our place is almost done, which means a clean house for us!
  • K'naan cancelled his show in Van. That sucks.
  • Craig Cardiff and pretty much all of the Arts and Crafts label are coming to Van in the next month. That is cool.
  • The new Radiohead is quite good. And they are touring in '08.
  • Read Jazz's blog. He is racing Kona this weekend.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Post-Race Breakdown

2005 49th place Time: 2:59:58 Half-split 1:24:11
2007 44th place Time: 2:59:27 Half-split 1:21:28

Two years apart. 3o seconds apart. It seems as though I am destined to run 2:59 on this course, FOREVER. Well, ok, maybe a bit of hyperbole, but I couldn't believe the similarity of this race to the one two years ago.

The start of the race was picture perfect. No rain. Cool weather. Slight cloud cover with some sun breaking through. Ideal race conditions. "If you are going to do it, today is the day do it."

The first kilometre was great. A little slow - 3:55 - which is what I wanted. I would have to run 3:48min/km to reach the gold goal of 2:39:xx, but I didn't want to start out to quickly. I settled into a steady, easy rhythm and was pleased to see that most of my kilometer splits were a few seconds too slow. The easiest way to ruin a marathon is to be a few too seconds too fast in the early going. I also proved that that is not the only way to ruin a marathon.

Through 5km I felt good and by 10k I was about a minute off pace. I didn't let that bother me too much as it was my intention to be a little slow in the first part of the race, thinking that I would be able to make up the time later in the race.

The day continued to unfold well. I started to pass a number of people quite convincingly. I had moved through about 7 or 8 people in the time between 8k and 16k. At 10 miles (16k) I was back on pace and feeling relatively good about things. I had, at that time, put myself in a position to achieve 2:40. But things were beginning to feel a little laboured. Just a little. But that is not the time you want to feel anything but exceptional.

I went through the halfway point in 1:21:27. I was ok with that. A little slow, but that is better than too fast. Or so I thought.

From there things went downhill slowly. I felt good for about another 5k, but then started to feel things get a little heavier. The road home is long and winding one, with a few hills thrown in for fun. While I was slowly starting to feel the race leave me behind, I had the highlight of the race. At the top of a small hill near the end of the Victoria Golf Course, there was a line of students (and one awesome colleague) performing the wave for me. Their energy carried me down the hill and past two more sets of students who were volunteering. If only they could have been at every corner for the rest of the run.

This time, two years later, the cramping started 50m before the spot it did in 2005. The left hamstring. Seized. Completely. I came to a complete stop about 250m after seeing Trevor, Jen, and Sonja (they were superstars, being everywhere on the course, watching the gradual decline). This was Oak Bay. I stopped. Stretched. Ate some salt. And started onwards.

This time, two years later, the lead woman - Suzzanne Evans - passed me 50m before she did in 2005. And she looked strong. I tried to get on the train, but was unable to hold the pace for more than 100m. This was nearing Fairfield.

And so it continued. People passing me. Cramping. And watch watching. I have 40 minutes for 5k. That is 8 min/k. I can run 5k in 40 minutes. Even with cramping. Can't I?

The clouds have covered more of the sky at this point and the rain had started, but it wouldn't fall in earnest until I was within 1km of the finish. I saw Stefan Jakobsen, a great athlete (runner, cyclist, triathlete), and one of the nicest people in the world (literally), about 8oom from the finish. Stefan was supposed to have been racing, but a calf injury had kept him as a a spectator on this day. The reason I knew it was him was that I was able to carry on a full conversation with him as my left hamstring refused to stop cramping. I was stranded in the middle of the road, with people encouraging me to run when those who have experienced a full muscle spasm know that there is nothing you can do until it releases. Stefan was understanding and just encouraged me to move forward. I had about 12 minutes to move 800m in order to qualify for Boston. Doesn't seem like to would be hard to do, but I was afraid that if my leg(s) didn't release, or if both legs went at the same time, I might be forced to run another marathon in order to get a qualifying time.

Stefan's suggestion worked though. I moved forward, very slowly at first, and then into a Terry Fox-like shuffle, and then into a running shuffle. The main goal was not to cramp before the finish line.

And with that, the rain starting to fall with purpose, and the temperature dropping, I approached the finish line. No sprint finish. No triumphant yawp. A glance up toward Bob Reid who was in booth above the finish and a hug from Rob Reid on the ground. A long day, but in the end I got what I came for. I can now register for Boston.

A HUGE thanks to my many friends out on the course who shouted encouragement at every point of the run. As mentioned before, Jen, Trevor, and Sonja were spectacular, and it warmed my heart to see former students out on the course (especially the bald ones - good for all of you!) And I was able to meet PK for the first time as well. That was pretty cool! (Hi Jennie!)

This morning was spent researching marathon training programs. I need to deal with this cramping and the last 12k. Suggestions are welcome. But for now, a week or two of downtime before beginning back into some good base mileage and a strength program.

Lots more to follow.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Pre-Race Ramble


That is the time that I woke up this morning. Jen and Trevor have kindly allowed Sonja and I to stay here this weekend, but my body is still in Burnaby. I wake up at 6:06am each morning for school, so 6:26 was a bit of a sleep in. My stomach, used to nourishment shortly thereafter, woke up as well. It is amazing the pattern that the body gets used to, the rhythm it finds when the same pattern is repeated day in and day out.

I have heard a few different numbers, but they are not that far off - 10 years/10 000 hours or the one I have read recently is 15 years. That is how long it takes to truly master a skill. To become an Olympic athlete requires a decade of training. Consistent training. 10 000 hours worth of training. Same rules apply to concert pianist. But not only that but you need to have a master mentor/coach in order to fully realize the potential of the training. Consistent training.

It might be this consistency of waking up 6:06am that allows my body to almost
"switch on" in the morning. I am trained myself to get up early. Is that my Olympic calibre skill? Waking up? Oh, what of my life if it is?

"Brad Cunningham passed away today at the age of 101. Known for many things throughout his life, he will be most remembered as being able to wake from sleep at a given time each day without and alarm clock."

Not much of an obit...

But I digress (mostly because I have time to); I have woken up back in Victoria. Driving in from the Nanaimo ferry last night, Victoria seemed much smaller. Living in Vancouver will make many places seem smaller, but for the first time I felt the "quaintness" that everyone speaks off. Everything you need is here, but it is not far away. And the buildings are smaller. The streets are calmer. And the marathon? Well, the marathon, I am sure, will be the same length.

I woke up at 6:26am this morning and could not fall back asleep. 3:44min/km danced in my head. I have been playing with numbers this week, trying to find a pace to start at. I did some mile repeats at the SFU track and found that I had a hard time going slow enough to hit my marathon pace, but that is quite normal in running a one mile repeat. 3:44 is a bit fast. Should be more like 3:48 to start. The worst thing I could do tomorrow is run a 3:35 for my first kilometer. 3:55 would, in a counterintuitive kind of way, be WAY better than a 3:35.

I tell people I coach that they should have three goals heading into an important race. I, and I am sure many others, call them the Gold, Silver and Bronze goals. Bronze is the one you KNOW you can do, even when things go wrong. Silver is your realistic one, and Gold is your dream goal. It is important to have more than one option during the race, because when something goes wrong, you can refocus your energy to achieving on of the other goals. You always shoot for the Gold goal, you put yourself into a position to have a shot at the Gold goal, but in case that doesn't work out, the other two goals are there for you. The other thing we know about goal setting is that you have to tell people your goals so that you are accountable for them. So here goes...

Bronze - 3:10

This is the qualifying time for Boston and I am pretty sure that I can run this even if I need to walk due to cramping or some other issue. To understand this goal, it is important to know that the reason I am running this marathon is a number of my friends had lightly committed to going to Boston in 2008, so I need a qualifying time in order to join them on the start line in Boston. (ed. With new babies and new houses and other commitments, I am not sure how many of the aforementioned friends are going to be able to make it, but I think I am going to go regardless)

Silver - 2:45

2:45 is the time that I have had in my head since my first marathon. This is the time I have always felt I could run, but haven't yet (2:59:58 and 2:55:36 were my other two marathons). The taper for my first marathon was an amazing two week school canoe trip off the west coast of Vancouver Island. I ended up walking good chunks off the last 8km of that race. My second marathon was at the end of the ENDURrun, capping off 100 miles of racing in one week. I would like to finally put a check beside this time and move onto a new goal.

Gold - 2:39:xx

If you peruse Liam's blog you will see that this is his goal as well. This is an elusive target and one that I have just put my sights on recently. Since arriving back from Europe and starting my last training block, I have been surprised with how much fitness I have carried from the Iceland race and from Europe in general. The 5k last weekend also showed me that I am ready to have a good go at this. However, the weather report for Victoria tomorrow (15 degrees with rain, heavy at times) is not necessarily conducive to a fast time. I have definitely prepared mentally for being out in the rain with some wind. This is the "if everything goes right" goal.

Jen picked up my race kit for me, so I don't have to wade through the madness that is a marathon expo. I am going to go for a 25 minute run in about an hour and then visit with some friends and basically try not to walk too much.

Looking out the window, it seems that the emerging day that looks promising; however, I know Victoria too well to think that it will be like this in a few hours.

You can check for live results tomorrow. I have a number of friends running in all the races (Mike Lord is cruising the Half as is Jen Maclean as they are both looking forward to other races; Adam Campbell is running the 8k after having done some hard uphill races in the past months; Stefan Jakobsen and Steve Osaduik are the ones to watch in the marathon). I am sure that others friends are running this as well, so it should be fun to be back on my home course.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Am I a bad person?

I have thought about this for a couple of years, but never had to deal with the reailty of it. You see, the CIBC Run for the Cure is a 5k race held the weekend before the Royal Victoria Mararthon. As far as training goes, a good 5k a week out is, in my opinion (although not shared by all people) a good idea. A strong effort for a short period of time, geting the body ready for the longer effort the weekend after. Recovery is pretty short and the kickstart to the lungs helps with the race following.

But here is the dilemma. I have always wondered if it is bad to win a charity race. Luckily for me I had not had to deal with this. Both previous times that I have run this race, there has been a faster person than me. This has meant that I could avoid that spotlight of being "first". Ah Victoria, where one can't even win a charity race.

Fast forward to last Sunday. A cold, rainy day in downtwon Vancouver. 12 000 runners huddling together in front of BC Place awaiting the starters gun. In Victoria I would have spent the morning catching up with friends and fellow runners, chatting away until the start of the race. Not knowing anyone in Vancouver I had performed my warm up on my own and now waited on the start line, quiet, listening to the fitness experts on stage leading the group warm up. I finished my strides, quietly looking around to see who else might be running hard on this day. In preparation for the marathon, I was wearing the same attire I would in a week's time, but this was in stark contrast to the ipod-ed runners on either side of me. I saw a couple of people that were also performing running drills in preparation for the start and wondered to myself if I should start next to them. But then I saw my nemesis and decided that I would start next to this runner.

Gordon Campbell
didn't even wear shorts to the race. I lined up beside, him being all cocky - "Look, I am on the front line in pants! No one can beat me! Mwhahaha!" I waited patiently fro my opportunity to strike. However, with all the cameras around, I would have to wait until later in the race.

The gun went and we were off. In the first 50 meters there were about 5 of us - me, the lead woman, and three guys with cutoffs and ipods. Gordie was no where to be seen (ed. He had decided to pull out after the first corner. I think it was because the rain was causing him to melt).

At 100m it was me and the lead woman.

At 200m it was me and the lead car.

We're not in Victoria anymore.

I ended up winning the Vancouver CIBC Run for the Cure, finally having to face the question - is it bad to win a charity race? I mean, the whole point of the race is to raise money and awareness of a cause, not to go out and smash it. But, on this cold, rainy Sunday, a harbinger of the winter to come, I ran a PB of 15:58. I felt good throughout the run; controlled and strong. I did not repeat the mistake of a year ago, running the first kilometer much too quickly and paying for it in lactic acid in the last 3k. I am pleased with the result of the race and I am looking forward to Sunday.

To that end, training has been going well. My runs have felt good and I think I am ready. I am not sure that one is every really sure if they are ready for the marathon until they hit 30k of the race, but I am as prepared as I have been for the other two - much more prepared in fact. The 55k this summer in Iceland has prepared me mentally for the length of the race and the consistent training has been preparing the body. My nutrition during training has been taken care of by and I am confident in my gear. It is taper time.