Friday, November 30, 2007

VFAC Thursday

A smaller group out last night. It was a beautiful night for running, but the workout itself was ok. It was the same workout I did on my first night with the group, so it was good to know the route. I felt fine, but a little heavy from the 13k tempo on Tuesday and Gunner last Saturday.

This Saturday brings with it the Vancouver version of Gunner Shaw. Apparently there is water in this one as well, but as it is a two loop course, we get it twice. Good times.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gunner Shaw - Part One

Thanks to Tony Austin and Mark Creery for all of this year's fantastic pictures. I don't have a credit for the older one.

Gunner Shaw is a man I never met. According to people and websites, he was a great runner and a great person. The reason I have never met him is that he died at the age of 39 in a car accident. This was in 1984 and I just raced in the 24th Annual Gunner Shaw Memorial Cross Country race in Victoria. This is the first of two Gunner Shaw Cross Country races I will be racing this year - the second being at Jericho Beach in Vancouver next weekend.

The Victoria version (Part One) is my favourite race of the year. It is a no frills, bare bones, hang it all out kind of race. There is a "puddle" that we run through and the end of the race is in a lake. This is the race that turned me on to trail racing. For time immemorial, if it is humanly possible for me to be at this race, I will.

The "Puddle" this year

The "Puddle" in years past. That is Frontrunners owner Rob Reid leading the Gunner Shaw.

Yesterday saw perfect running conditions. That meant it was terrible Gunner Shaw conditions. Bob Reid, the race director, cringes if it is not raining, 0 degrees, with the "puddle" navel-deep and covered with ice (for example - last year saw "perfect" Gunner Shaw conditions). The "sissies" edition this year may be a reason that there were over 500 registered participants, making this the largest cross country race in Canadian history.

Jim Finlayson and Lucy Smith, two iconic Victoria runners, were the winners of the race in their inaugural runs of the Gunner Shaw. While warming up with Jim, I asked him if he ever trains at Thetis. His response, dead panned, was...

"I have run here twice, each time for the Thetis Lake Relays. I got lost once." (The Thetis Lake Relays course is a loop around the lake and it takes effort to get lost. I thought that this played into my favour...)

The start of the race saw some yahoos running out front, shirtless and smiling. They would later be crossing the finish line cold and wet and (hopefully) still smiling. After a few hills, approaching the first bridge, the field had sorted itself out and I was a little further forward than I was used to being. This meant that I could still see Jim, Stefan, and Eric, which was definitely a bit surreal. I felt strong, but I wondered how long things would last.

We summited the first true hill of the course and I moved in front of Eric prior to a technical downhill. Coming around the corner to the "puddle" I saw Stefan and Jim about halfway through.

Stefan and Jim breaking the ice for me.

After the puddle, I had pulled up next to Jim but once we could our feel our legs again, Jim decided that he wanted to start running fast, and that was pretty much the last Stefan and I saw of him.

For the rest of the race I talked myself into staying with Stefan. Again, I was unsure of myself, running on the shoulder of Jaker for so long. However, the longer I was there, the more comfortable I felt. I took the lead a couple of times, but realized that I was better off to stay tucked in behind, knowing that Stefan is a much better climber than I am. But I definitely felt Eric catching us a couple of times, so I would try to get Jaker to push the pace a little to make sure we didn't get caught.

Stefan's crazy legs kept him in front of me.

As we approached the last 800m, there was a good sized hill which Jaker gapped me on and, try as might, I couldn't catch him running through the lake. I ended up 3rd overall, and had a great time in doing so.

Running with VFAC and John Hill, with guys like Paul, Simon, Jay, and Ynuk has been very beneficial for me as I am learning how to run quickly. The base training from the past couple of years is paying off now as I am layering on some more speed. This is going to be fun winter.

However, the best part of the day was seeing the huge grin on my good friend Jay Bentley as he finished his first Gunner Shaw. He was excited and stoked after the race, even though he was a little tentative about doing the race in the days leading up. He took the start line and had all the requisite war stories about the race afterward. I love seeing how this race affects people!

Stay tuned for Gunner Shaw Part Two as I race in the Vancouver version next weekend.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

VFAC Thursday

With the moon shining bright once again, and the brisk air causing a slight shiver prior to the start of the workout, I set out for 2 x 3 miles around Stanley Park. Some of the big boys were out tonight - Paul Krochak has his marathon in Sacramento in 10 days so he was looking for one last solid workout and Simon Driver was out to pace him; Ynuk returned from his Australian holiday to join the fray. With Gunner Shaw coming up this weekend, I wanted to be controlled, but the night did not allow for that. The weather was perfect and the darkness concealed the hills. I ran well for the first 3 miles (16:15) and, in consultation with John, I went out with the boys on the second one to see how long I could stay with them (Paul went about a minute faster than me for the first three miles).

As the second loop began I became acutely aware of the moment. The moon lighting the road as it did the other night, four of us running hard together with the lights of Vancouver reflecting off the ocean as we circumnavigated Stanley Park. And me, I felt smooth. And we ran fast. And I smiled. Broadly. It was an amazing 1.5 miles that I ran before I decided enough was enough. I could have struggled through the second half of the loop, but my better sense prevailed and I shut it down in anticipation of letting it back out on Saturday. Hopefully. Regardless, it was a great evening workout and I left feeling fulfilled.

Paul looks sharp for Sacramento. Simon is fit and Ynuk, coming off jetlag and vacation is running well. This bodes well for the winter.

On a more disappointing note, Bob Reid (Gunner Shaw Race Director) had this to say about his race this year....

The 2007 Gunner Shaw course is a race for sissies. There is not only a lack of puddles and mud, but I had to re-route the finish using Trillium Trail rather than the rock stairs. The result is that you are only running a little over 9K this year. Next year Gunner will be a certified BCA sanctioned event. I have measured the 2008 course with a wheel and added 800 metres to the old course so it is precisely 10K now.

I will make my ferry reservation for next November now. But I am concerned that the old Gunner courses were 9.2k? That means my times were not nearly what I thought. We had always pegged it at about 9.6k, but 9.2k is quite short. I guess the wading through a 200m, 2.5 ft deep puddle made up for the shortness of the course.

See you at Gunner!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"I'm throwing rocks tonight!"

name the movie.

No run tonight (I am taking more off days to allow for more recovery as I increase the intensity of other runs). As it was Jay's birthday, Sonja, Jay and I went out to a great Italian dinner at Vita Bella.

After a divine meal, we meandered over to BOWLING!!

The black lights were on and Salt'n'Peppa were in full effect. We strode confidently to our lane and proceeded to run 'tings. Jay bowled an impressive 168 and Sonja followed up with solid 99. I started with an 8 in the first frame and followed that up with 8 straight strikes. I was better than Jesus (not our Lord and Saviour, but Hey-zeus, from The Big Lebowski - see "name the movie"). I finished with a 239. I followed that game with a 121, dropping the average quite drastically.

This goes to show that you never know when your big performance will come. I am now worried about Gunner this weekend. Not so much because The Flying Finn is in it, but because I have used up all my good performance power on bowling.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Night Shadows

An 11k tempo run was on the schedule for this evening.

I hurried home from school in order to maximize the light as I was heading back to Lynn Valley, the site of my long run on Sunday. Mike and Gray had shown me a road which was marked every kilometer for 10k. It also happened to be beautifully paved and was not open to vehicles. This road also ran through a conservation area forest, surrounded by trees on either side, with bridges spanning fast flowing creeks and small rivers. Imagine your perfect road, rolling hills, no cars or lights, kilometers marked, still cool air and the moon shining bright enough that the breaks in the trees look bright.

Tonight was a pretty surreal run. I may even look forward to tempo runs...

Monday, November 19, 2007

No run, but some fun...

This is for Yoda.



Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Morning Beauty

My drive to the north shore trails.

After the rain from yesterday left the coast, the sun and fall air emerged. It was dry in the air, but the trails were still gushing with water. The plan was to run out the Baden Powell trail again this week, toward Deep Cove. This plan didn't even make it out of the car, because as I stepped out to start my run, Mike Medland and Gray Taylor emerged from the trail. As shoe reps that I had worked with during my Frontrunners time, it was great to see them out on the trail. A kind offer for me to join them and we were off. I am not entirely sure where we went, but it was beautiful and fun.

After about an hour together, they dropped me off near the gates of Lynn Creek, leaving me with directions for another hour loop. I continued on my way, discovering some amazing new places. The "Long Loop" was pretty amazing. The first part was quite gnarly - lots of water, roots and rocks.

It eventually opened up and was more runnable (I just made a new word) and I cruised back to the Lynn Creek gates. Rather than taking the boring road back to the car, I chose to follow the trails, which I forgot included another 300 stairs. The good part was that I ran into Chris Downie, another VFAC member, and we made plans to run part of the Knee Knacker in two weeks time. Twenty minutes later, I was done my run. A beautiful morning with some random run-ins and two and a half hours of beautiful scenery.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday Morning Fog

And by fog, I mean rain that doesn't really fall. I think this is something that I will have to get used to here in Vancouver. However, being in the trails of Stanley Park in November Rain (ahh...G'n'R) is somewhat satisfying.

The workout today involved the famous 1 5/8 mile loop in Stanley Park. Apparently, if you speak to people who are in the know, they know ALL about it. There are records for it and a stake at halfway to let you know that you are, well, halfway. We did a full loop, 2/3 of a loop (2k) and 1/3 of the loop (1500m). John Hill, the VFAC coach, had us out there running hard, avoiding mud, dogs, walkers, and each other. It was a fun morning, especially when fast Jay showed up for the last two intervals. I ran well and felt good, although the first interval there was a little tightness in the hip flexors; however, after cresting the first hill it dissipated and the rest of the workout went well.

8:12 1 5/8 miles
6:08 2k (net downhill)
3:44 1500m (net downhill)

In more exciting news, I registered for Gunner Shaw today (the Victoria version). I am pretty excited to be back on the Island and running in Thetis Lake. I am hoping that the puddle won't have ice on it this year, as that was not much fun last fall.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thursday Workout

Tonight was back at Stanley Park with the VFAC crew. 4 x 800m with two hills in each repeats and one stride uphill during the recovery. The light rain was tenable and the wind was enough to keep you cursing. I started controlled as I was unfamiliar with the workout and the terrain. Both Simon Driver and Paul Korchak were coming off big runs this Monday and so I was able to hang around them for most of the workout. This was fun, especially knowing that I won't be that close to them very often.

I held 3:00 flat for my first three and then descended to 2:54 for the last one. Legs felt strong and it was great to have those two out in front as it gave me a chance to play with my stride and see the effects. I definitely have to shorten my stride for the uphills as I was able to stay with them easier when I did this. It feels weird, but it worked. A good workout overall, and I am feeling good about running right now.

On another note....

Paging Jim Finlayson. I have a question for you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A couple of days gone...

Just a quick update...

Monday was a wonderful recovery run in the blustery, but dry, weather that was Vancouver on Monday. The remnants of a big storm tried their best to knock me down, but to no avail as I was stronger than wind! (God may smite me for that one.)

Tonight was a tempo run that ended up being decent, but not what I had expected. I have learned that planning a route on google maps and then running it in real life is not as easy as you would think it is, especially in the dark. I got 36 minutes of good tempo under me, even though I was NOWHERE near where I was supposed to be. I don't even know how it happened!?!

Monday - 45:00 EZ
Tuesday - 36:00 tempo

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Yours To Discover

For those who remember this slogan from Ontario, it applies well to my life here right now. At least my running life.

I had 1:45 on the schedule today, but after being awoken by loud voices intruding into my bedroom via the slightly open window, my motivation was still sleeping. The looming clouds across the inlet also reminded me that Vancouver is going to be wet for the next few months, and that there is no escaping the falling water. I preoccupied myself with some email and some web surfing in an effort to escape the run, but knowing that it was only going to get worse as the day wore on, I donned my running garb and grabbed my iPod, knowing that four episodes of Pardon The Interruption would help me get through the run.

I decided to explore the Baden Powell trail because it is famous and runs the entire length of the North Shore. I have not really had a chance to run on it yet as weekend races have made it difficult to get out for longer trail runs. But this idea allowed me to have a focus on the run and, with a focus, I drove to the bottom of Lynn Canyon and found my way to the trail. I went east, toward Deep Cove, and was astounded. It was very rocky and rooty, and quite wet, but incredibly beautiful. This is the trail that the Knee Knacker follows, so thoughts of the race danced in my head as I stepped lightly over wet roots and rocks, and bridges spanning gorges of fast flowing rapids. I am excited to continue to explore this new (to me) trail over the coming months and, hopefully, have a good race on it come June.

Duration - 1:45 EZ (680m ascent)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Meanwhile, back at the track...

Brad was completing his first track workout in a very long time. In another life, the track was an integral part of his weekly routine - being driven out to Centennial Stadium in Oshawa to train with the Durham XL's. Jason Brumley and Jason Bacchiochi (sp?) kicking his butt all over the place. Hurdles and 400s were his race, but now, years have passed, and even though the sun was shining in rainy Vancouver, this was not going to be like it was.

The blue track of Point Grey Secondary School was inviting and everyone that showed up for the 9:15am start left and completed their warm up. The coach, John Hill, gave pace times to the group and started them off. Brad was to run 69 second 400's for this 10 x 400m workout.

It started a little slow, with a 73 second first quarter. During the 200m recovery (about 1:45) he reminisced about how easy 67s had used to feel. This reminiscing was cut short by the start of the second interval. The running didn't feel laboured or overly difficult, but the turnover and stride length were hiding. They would hide until about the 6th interval when they would emerge, after which 67s felt easy again.

The workout ended with a long talk with Coach about the plans for the the next year and the next two weeks of running. A beautiful morning on the track and in the fresh and pleasantly dry Vancouver air.

10 x 400 on 200m recovery (avg recovery 1:50)

Friday, November 09, 2007

They can't kick me out now!

If it wasn't official before, it is now. I received my 2008 Boston Marathon acceptance card in the mail today. Pretty exciting. I also received my order from Speed Stacks, although those are for my classroom. And yesterday I received a french magazine from Christophe, the guy I ran with in Iceland. He was shooting pictures during the race and I ended up in the magazine. Some pretty amazing shots.

One from when I was doing well....

One from when I wasn't doing as well...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Park in the dark

I rode my bike down Hastings St to Stanley Park for the VFAC Thursday night workout. A forty minute ride through some of the more interesting parts of Vancouver and I was there. Stanley Park is beautiful, and this warm, rainless evening was not going to change that impression. In the light of the towering condos and boats in the marina, the VFAC crew ran along the seawall, completing a workout I have never done.

The workout was 1 x 4miles, 2 x 1 mile, all with full recovery. It is interesting running the semi-darkness along the seawall, dodging other runners and the occasional dog. I had taken a couple of days off as a commitment to my chiropractor that I would take it easy this week, so I was a little tapered for the workout. I ended up running 22:26 for the four miles, and my two one mile repeats were 5:15 and 5:10. I felt good throughout the workout, although my calves are a little tight right now - I am not used to that kind of speed recently.

The plan right now is to run the two Gunner Shaw races (one in Victoria and one in Vancouver) and possibly the Khahtsahlano 15k this coming Monday. Eric runs this race as well, so I know it will be a good one - it may be a good tempo run (and hilly at that!)

Tonight was fun. Running in the dark is fun. Running with people is fun. Running fast is fun. Good times all around.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Faux Anniversary

Since Sonja and I don't really have a day that we first started "dating" but rather a period of time, tonight was our Faux Anniversary. We had a nice dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant (vita bella) and then went to see Craig Cardiff in concert. However, due to it being late and us being tired (and old and maybe lame) we came home early.

However, I am going to see Craig on Friday and to make amends for leaving his show tonight early, here is a Cardiff performance. You should also check him out at He is a brilliant singer/songwriter and all around great guy.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A commitment is a commitment

I am writing because I said I would, not because I have a lot to say.

I ran on Sunday and Monday and checked out a new chiro tonight. It is Craig Cardiff tomorrow night and VFAC workout on Thursday.

Other than that
- Simon won in Cancun, but Brent McMahon and Paul Tichelaar, two other Canadians, were 2nd and 4th, respectively. Awesome work, boys!
- Jasper and the crew are somewhere in Nepal doing something amazing.
- I have registered for Boston; accommodation, flight, and entry are done.
- Gunner Shaw is coming up and I am disappointed that Bob Reid showed people the course. I wanted everyone to be running blind! How fun would that be? (Not literally, just that we wouldn't know what is coming up next).

That is all. I am excited to see Mike's prep for his marathon - I call for a great race!

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Ha. Figure that one out.

Haney 2 Harrison was interesting. It was fun, most definitely. I saw some old friends (Hi Jen!) and made some new ones (Hi VFAC!). I ran decently, but not amazing. And we came fourth. But is wasn't a simple as that.

The day started off in the dark with a lot of enthusiasm and expectation. We had a strong team and VFAC was hoping to podium. The event consists of teams of 8 runners running different lengths of stages, but the total distance is 100k. We were in the second wave start, 6:30am, and cheered our first team member, Jorge, on as they ran into the darkness of morning. It was drizzling and cold and very dark. This is where the race went downhill.

We drove ahead in our car and waited at about 4k for the runners. There were slower runners from the first wave trickling through still, Chris and Jeff and I chatted about the strategy for the day and hoped to see in the top three positions. We became concerned when another team member's father ran past us and we still hadn't seen Jorge. We figured we missed him the dark and drove to the end of stage one hoping to find him. While we were waiting for Jorge and having trouble seeing him (and others) due to the drizzle and lack of light, he and about 10 other people missed the first turn of the race and ended up about 5k off track. There was apparently no marshall at the turn and everyone went of course, some more than others. Jorge ran back to the start of the race and eventually made his way to the finish of the stage - good for 73rd overall for that stage.

The hand off to Simon Driver was made and we were in 4th by the end of the next stage, a position we would keep for the rest of the race. The boys ran hard and ran well, but it was very lonely out there as we were 15 minutes behind the top three and about 40 minutes ahead of the next team. It was 6 degrees and the rain was floating more than falling. I felt ok about my stage - 13.08k of rolling highway. I ran 3:34 pace, good for 4th in the stage overall, but lost time to the guys ahead of me; however, those guys usually beat me, although not by that much. The day finished and we wondered about what could have been. I was impressed by the support shown for each other and the desire to perform well even in imperfect situations.

The conversation at the pub after was great. There wasn't a lot of hang wringing about going off course and no one was really bitter, although we were definitely disappointed about not being in the mix. But the talk was about training and future running and goals - very geeky running talk (the value of VO2 versus vVO2, ideal cross-training for injuries, and figure skating - don't ask.)

Overall, a very good introduction to the VFAC club. I got to put faces to names that were always way ahead of me in results and it is going to be fun to have these to chase them in workout. But the group is supportive and fun and that is the key to success. Thanks to Jeff, Chris, Ynuk, Jay, Graeme, and Paul for a fun and educational day.

Friday, November 02, 2007

And we're back...(fuller update)

Note: After reading Eric Langhjelm's blog, I felt that I needed to add some more about the Hallow's Eve Trail Half Marathon. See the update in italics below.

After a hiatus from posting due in part to having not enough time to write, I am going to try to blog more often. In fact, there is a whole initiative amongst the blogging community call NaBloPoMo in which you are supposed to post every day for one month. I am not saying that I can complete this event (especially since I missed the first day yesterday), but I will try.

(Yeah yeah, I know I have said that before.)

So, since we last spoke, I have come 8th in a trail half-marathon on the North Shore of Vancouver, a mere 15 minutes from my new residence. In most cases, I would be disappointed with 8th, but this was one of the deepest trail race fields I have seen. In fact, I was running right around where I though I should be, but there were many many fast people there which always makes it fun. I had been prerunning parts of the course in the two weeks leading up to the event, and I didn't think it was going to be that difficult. There were some difficult parts, but nothing that I thought was too insane. However, I did not run one very, very important part of the course, the Baden-Powell loop.

Before the race, Eric, the race director, told us that there were 1700 total stairs in the race. I still find that hard to believe, but I believe that Eric would go out and count them. The course started with a uphill road run through a nice cemetery (very appropriate for the theme of the race - of which there were many costumed runners; I wore orange and black). A group of about 12 people jumped out to the front, with Adam Campbell, Simon Driver, and Mark Bates in there. I sat back as the uphill start was going to be about 2k long and I could do some serious damage to my race if I tried to stay with those guys going up.

We got into the forest and I quickly caught back up to what was now the second pack, the leaders having already distanced themselves. The race was a windy trail through open forest and then a steep descent to a boardwalk and the first stairs. It was a race of two peaks, the first one coming about 8k in, after a grueling climb of stairs. I was not expecting that, nor was I expecting the dirt road climb AFTER the stairs. But the downhill made it all worthwhile!

The second climb I was ready for only because I had stumbled across the route two days prior, but in reverse direction. Again, it was a steep climb up, but it was good. I was fortunate to be around Katrina Driver (Simon's wife and one heck of a runner) and another guy who I had caught. At the end of the this climb in Lynn Valley, it was essentially a downhill 4-5k run to the finish - some technical stuff at the start and then road running at the finish.

As usual, Eric puts on a great event. The atmosphere was great and the course was well chosen. Eric had said that all the races he does are his favourite training routes. My race went well, but at this time of the year I am looking for the races to be fun and I am not too concerned about the results.

While the race was good, the most intriguing part of it was the cool down. I ran with Adam Campbell, a good friend form Victoria, and Simon and Katrina Drive, the overall male and femal winners. In fact, I barely held off Katrina for 8th place - the girl can climb AND descend. Anyway, the cool down was intriguing because Simon told me about his run club, Vancouver Falcons (VFAC), and invited me to come out. I listened politely and asked a few questions, but wasn't really too interested. I have been coaching myself to some good results in the past two years and didn't really want to commit to weekly runs. I was more interested in somehow convincing Simon to let me join him in some of his trail running training. We finished our cool down and I came home and persued the site. I have been looking at some different coaching options of late, mostly reading more about Lydiard and Daniels and looking to incorporate their philosophies into what I believe about Maffetone (the real running geeks will understand all that). But after spending some time on the VFAC site I began to change my mind. The tone of the site was very supportive and there were some very good athletes training there. As well, many people were setting personal bests in a number of different distances. I emailed the coach, John Hill, and after an hour on the phone I decided to give it a shot.

That decision has landed me on the VFAC relay team for the Haney 2 Harrison 100km relays race. It is an epic and infamous race held about 45 minutes from here and while I have heard a lot about it, I have never had the chance to be a part of it. Some unfortunate injuries left the VFAC Open Men's team short a runner, so Simon put forward my name and now I am waking up at 4:00am to drive out to the 6:30am start. This will be fun, but I will be a tired boy tomorrow night.

So there is the update and my commitment to post more this months has begun.