Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gone in 60 seconds

The good news is that my car is still here.*

Tonight's workout is the second in what I have learned is a John Hill speed build.  We did 10 x 400m last week on shorter rest and this week was 5 x 400m on longer (read: full) rest.  Next week is all out 200s, and then we build back up with 300s, 400s, and 600s over the next three weeks.  Anecdotal evidence from Paul and Simon says that this speed build will pay huge dividends, giving the runner another gear after we are done.  I have heard ridiculous things, like we will be running 10 seconds faster per kilometer, but I don't know about that.  I can see it making a difference though as my stride becomes smoother and longer. 

The rain throughout the day had melted most of the snow on the track, save for a little slush around the 150m mark.  The rain was falling lightly this evening and the temperature was about 3 degrees.  While the description of the evening is not pretty, it was actually quite a good night for running.  Jay and Paul and Chris were out tonight (no Simon - he's a slacker!) and we got off to a good start, running a 62 for the first 400m.     

I hadn't felt great this week - both head and body have been in a bit of funk the past few days, but I started feeling good after the first 400.  We settled into the second 400 with Paul leading us out, kicking up slush in my face, but cutting the wind for me as well.  We rounded the track and I felt good, hanging in for a solid 61.

The next three went better.  I took a pull on the third 400 and lead out the fourth and fifth, going 61, 60, 59 respectively.  I haven't gone sub 60 on the track in about 5 years, so this was great to see, especially at this time of the year.  I cooled down with Jay, doing some drills and chatting about our days as young tracksters, but I wanted to hurry home to eat dinner and watch the premiere of LOST.   Like the workout, it did not disappoint.

5 x 400 on full recovery (5:00-6:00)

*Gone In 60 Seconds is the name of a Nicholas Cage movie which features a gang of guys who steal cars in 60 seconds.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Grouse Snowshoe

It was my turn tonight to guide the casual hikers.  I didn't end up getting much of a workout in, but it was a lot of fun.  While the conditions down below were gross, it was lots of powder (although not much visibility) up top.  The hike was good as I was able to shed the stress of the day and come home to an amazing meal of crab cakes and tuna with fresh mango salsa.  Not sure what is going to happen with the track workout tomorrow as there is still a ton of snow on the ground.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Snow Day!

Well, for most of Vancouver it was, but not for the New Westminster School District.  Our school district stayed opened, which is good as there are provincial exams going on, but it also meant that I had to get my butt to school through a foot or so of snow.  

But that was all after my run this morning.  With the fresh fallen snow laid out before me, I put on the YakTrax, my mini-gaiters, and bundled up in my new SmartWool base layer and Brooks gear and braved the snow!

Those are my footprints heading out this morning.

Today was supposed to be a 25k base run.  I was planning on going skiing in the afternoon with Sonja, and we have another Dine Out Vancouver dinner tonight (we are going to The Fish House), so I needed to get my run in in the morning.  I planned my route and started.  It was actually quite fun for the first 15 minutes, but after being crushed with slush from a passing 18 wheeler on Ironworkers' Memorial Bridge, the fun became "challenge" very quickly.  I had planned a route that I have run before (from my place across Lion's Gate Bridge and back), but that changed as the ground made it difficult to hit the required distance.  

I turned home at 55 minutes and made it back for a run of 1:50.  I am glad I got it in because if ever there was a day to skip a long run, it would have been today.  The run itself didn't feel great, but there were obvious reasons for that.

I also got an email from Gray about being sponsored by Brooks again this year.  We are going to meet in a couple of weeks.  I am excited about the new shoes for this year - they look very sexy!  I am proud to be wearing Brooks and invite you to visit to learn more about their biodegradable midsole! (Ok, that was geeky runner talk.)

Brooks Glycerin 6 (Daily Training Shoe)

Brooks Cascadia 3 (Trail Shoe)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Race Hangover

After the race yesterday I saw Coach John and he gave me my schedule for the next two weeks.  When he gave it to me I was pretty pleased to see an easy 10k on the schedule tonight, but as the high for today got up to 1 degree celsius, I wasn't as happy when I was heading out the door. (Again, a reminder of two things - I have become a wimpy BC'er, and my friends in Ontario are amazing for getting out the door on their frigid evenings!)

The run started out well enough, but it takes a race to remind you how easy easy runs are supposed to be.  About 10 minutes I slowed right down and tried to enjoy the run, but each step was a little more difficult than the last.  I felt lethargic and heavy and uncoordinated.  I cannot attribute all of this to the race yesterday, but it is a wake up call to the toll that the body takes when racing hard.  I haven't eaten that well today and I was not great on the hydration.  As well, I didn't eat soon enough after the race yesterday.  It is all about the details, and I didn't pay enough attention to them yesterday, resulting in a bit of a race hangover today.

However, I did find a cool post on Boston when I got home and it got me excited to continue to train for it!

What to expect from Boston - by Raymond Britt

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Steveston 8k

They actually call it the Steveston Ice-breaker 8k Run, which was apt for this morning.  Spinning the wheels of the car at 7:00am as I tried to drive out of the alleyway behind our house, I wondered out loud to myself about whether the race was going to go ahead, and if so, my intelligence about competing in the race.  You see, while the forecasted 20cm of snow hadn't materialized overnight, the thin layer of ice that coated the car this morning was evidence enough that the course was going to treacherous at best.  Fortunately, the major roads were salted and driving was fine, but after arriving in Richmond, we found that our fears were valid.

It wasn't a worst case scenario, but since the race follows a path by the waterfront of Steveston, the ice on the blacktop asphalt was hard to see and quite slippery (as ice tends to be).  Simon Driver and I warmed up together, discussing the best way to navigate through the icy sections - we decided that grass was the way to go.  It wasn't an impossible to run on kind of ice, but rather the kind at has your foot slip just for a moment each time you push off, sending your balance and stride out for a split second.  It causes you to change, but allows you to continue.  

The race started 10 minutes late to allow for the volunteers to throw salt on the worst parts of the course, but the icy conditions didn't stop the leaders from opening up with 3:02 first km.  Needless to say, I was not with them.  I had settled in and felt comfortable running a bit back from Paul Krochak, who was in turn a little behind Simon.  We navigated the first few corners well and then proceeded to the straighter section of the course.  By this time I had settled in behind the same guy who had caught me at the Vancouver Gunner Shaw (incidentally, the Swedish guy who won the Vancouver Gunner Shaw was here as well and came in second after falling on the ice).  This was a good place for me as the pace felt fast, but comfortable.  I sat on his shoulder, in his draft, for a few kilometers, before taking my turn in the wind.  This was the respectable thing to do, but may have cost me in the end.

I wasn't able to see any kilometer markings, so I had no idea what my splits were until the turn around.  We hit 4k at about 13:15 (ish).  That put me on 26:30 pace, but that was not to be.

I love trail races because there are so many turns and things to be aware of.  This was the opposite of that.  The race was basically a straight line out and a straight line back.  Of course there are corners, but you can see people the whole time which was a little tough on me as I began to slow down.  Watching the others extend their lead on me, the guy from Gunner Shaw included, I started to find reasons (read: excuses) for why it was happening.  Snowshoe yesterday, bad conditions, general fatigue.  It took a moment, but I was able to finally get back into a better headspace and concentrate on "How do I run faster even though I am not feeling great?"  That question helped me to refocus on what I could do and I held on from there.  

The end of the race came for me at 26:59.  I was pleased with this, and was fighting hard to hold off two guys I had been listening to behind me for the last 400m.  It is a personal best and one run in not great conditions.  I faded in the last 3k, but I can deal with that.  Overall, I good first race of the season.  I am farther ahead now than I have been in the past (consider my time for my first race last year, an 8k, was 28:48), and I have two weeks until the First Half Half Marathon.  It should be an interesting race and really give me an idea of what to expect at Boston.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


While my 8k race is tomorrow (and the snow is falling hard right now), I have already won.

That's right.  I won.  A ratchet set.

Wait for it....

From a Thai restaurant.

Since I moved to the west coast about seven years ago, I have been in love with Thai food.  While living in Victoria I ate at an amazing Thai place - My Thai Cafe - no fewer than two times per week (sometimes up to four times, but usually twice).  Since moving to Burnaby I have been experimenting with different places here in the hope of finding one as good as My Thai Cafe.  After having a few ok experiences, I have found one that will suffice.  It is not as good as My Thai, but it has quite good phad thai and their red curry is decent.

The restaurant here, Tom Yum Thai, has recently undergone a bit of a face lift.  The orange and yellow had been replaced by two shades of green.  The thai karaoke is used as their stereo, so it is with background Backstreet Boys that I usually enter the long, narrow restaurant.  This time though, the music was off, and the bar on the right held two new boxes - Tom Yum Thai had started to run contests.  The box on the right was the one that I was able to enter - if you spend more than $20 you have a chance to win a prize.  Not knowing what the prize was, but having spent $22, I was not going to miss out on my chance.  I folded my ballot in the special way and put into the contest box, not thinking anymore about it as the sweet smell of phad thai wafting up from the white plastic bag in which they were stacked.  

Fast forward to this afternoon.  The phone rings unexpectedly.  I answer.

"Hello.  Is this Brad?"
"Uh.  Yes.."
"Hello Brad.  I am Tom from Tom Yum Thai restaurant.  You have won our contest!"
"Wow, that is great."
"Yes, congratulations.  You won the ratchet set from 22 entries!"
"Wow, that is great."

Meanwhile, Sonja was hoping for a drill.  But that is coming from the Indian restaurant down the street.

Oh yeah.  I snowshoed at Grouse today.  It was great, especially since there was daylight!  AND AND AND I got my new snowshoes for being with Team Atlas for the snowsh
oe race season!  I will take pics soon (because I know that you are dying to see the snowshoes!)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pain and a Movie

Usually leaving the office of my chiropractor, Dr. Pelly, I feel better, lighter, more, shall we say, aligned.  However, today was not to be one of those days.

After not having seen Dr. Pelly for about 10 days, I was looking forward to being adjusted (he doesn't like it when I say cracked), especially because of the race this weekend.  I feel as though I race better after having a chiropractic visit.  This visit started well and he did his thing.  Then, much to my later chagrin, I mentioned my snowboarding accidents (the ribs and the wonky knee).  He took out his tuning fork and tested my ribs for any hairline fractures, of which there was nothing - that was good.  Next he took a look at my knee and found that I had a somewhat uncommon misalignment which may have contributed to my pain the other day.  After trying to adjust it, he did some ART on the back of my knee, specifically on the medial head of my gastrocnemius (for those in the know).  He had Sonja hold my leg in traction and then proceeded to make me whine like my students before they write an exam (trust me, they whine A LOT).  I limped out of the office knowing that tomorrow I will feel better than I do right now.

With that said, today was a day off.  I have to remember that we only improve when we give our bodies a chance to adapt, so while running everyday is fun, I need to absorb the workouts of this week.  I used this chance to take Sonja to see the movie The Golden Compass, a book we have both read and enjoyed.  I would NOT recommend the movie if you have not read the book.  The book is detailed and complex and beautifully interwoven, while the movie is glossy and, as you would imagine, skips and rearranges many parts for those who have not read the book.  It was visually beautiful at parts, and well cast, but I am not sure that the second book will get made as a result of the mediocre performance at  the box office.  That and the fact that Kidman (who is a major character) is pregnant.  As well, the books span a time frame of months while the movies will be made over years, thus making the continuity of young Lyra, who ages only four months in the books,  difficult to portray.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Round and round we go

My knee feels good, but my calves are now sore from running in circles this evening.  It was the first Thursday night VFAC workout at Point Grey Secondary School track, and the group was easily 35 strong.  

I ran track until grade 11.  I also ran in the same track club (and for the same hurdles coach) that produced Perdita Felicien (makes you wonder why he couldn't make me a world champion...).  I miss some aspects of track, and it was these aspects that emerged this evening.

For most people, track is a necessary evil in order to get fast.  The monotonous circling of a 400m track in pursuit of speed can drive one insane.  However, when there is a group of like minded people of similar ability, the track is transformed from a treadmill into, uh, er, something more fun than a treadmill.  

With all the boys back into the workouts, tonight was not a treadmill.  The workout was 10 x 400m with 200m recovery (about 1:40-2:00) and I was to descend from 71 seconds to 67 seconds by the end.  Simon, Paul, Jay, Jorge, Dave, Ben, and the "puppy" Capel (not as much because he is a young "pup", but rather because he chases the lead person like crazy) pulled me through the ten 400s with a number of different people leading the repeats.  We all descended throughout the workout, moving from 70ish to 65ish by the end.  The whole crew was finishing within 4 seconds of each other every time and no one was racing.  Racing can be very detrimental to a workout and to the psyche of a training group as people start to lose focus on their individual workout and needs, and instead focus on what the people around them are doing.  Rivalries are bred through racing in workouts and, in my opinion, no one is better for it come race day.  But tonight was supportive and fun.  Having eight of us circling the track together as one big herd made what could have been a monotonous 4km into a very fun and inspiring 10 loops of the blue track. 

Tomorrow is some strength and then snowshoe on Saturday before my first race of the season on Sunday - an 8k in Delta.  It should be interesting as they are calling for snow this weekend, so I may have to wait for another day to really see where I am at right now.

Workout - 10 x 400 with 1:40-2:00 minutes rest

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Snowshoe Night

With over 200 people at the Grouse Mountain Drop-In Snowshoe Clinic we had our hands full.  It was a picturesque evening and I ended up at the back of the Intermediate (Walk/Run) group.  As such, my workout consisted of short, fast intervals of hill sprinting to check on people and then waiting and playing cheerleader as we climbed the steep hills of Grouse.  

My ribs are still a little sore, so I am hoping that they improve over the next few days.  I also have noticed my knee being a wonky as well since the end of last night's tempo.  It didn't bother me on the snowshoe tonight, but I am going to monitor it and may skip the track workout tomorrow if it doesn't improve.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Running and Fine Food

Tonight was a build on the regular Tuesday night tempo.  I still haven't hit the distance that Coach John has set out, but each week has been a build on the last one, so I am going in the right direction.  Tonight I ended up doing 40 minutes at 3:40/km pace and it actually felt much better than the previous weeks.  I settled in pretty quickly and the run didn't seem as arduous as in the past weeks, but it still wasn't easy.  I guess that is the point of the run, isn't it?

In other news, I have become good at pouring antifreeze into the radiator of my car.  Things are working well on that front (knock wood).  And it is a good thing that things were going well with the car because it was to be our transportation to Lumiere this evening.

Dine Out Vancouver is in full swing and I now know that Sonja and I were unaware of our luck in getting a reservation at Lumiere.  This is one of the top rated restaurants in the city and has been highly ranked/rated by international dining publications.

So after we dressed up in our "goin' out" clothes, I took out the antifreeze and opened the hood of my filthy dirty Toyota Corolla (I am having trouble finding a car wash in this town).  After topping up the radiator, we made our way to Kitsilano, hoping that we wouldn't have to use the Valet parking.  

Fortunately we found some street parking and were spared the embarrassment of having the Valet have to wash his hands after touching our car door.  We made our way into the restaurant, unsure of what to expect from such a well heeled establishment, but to our surprise everyone was very kind and sincere.  Our coats were taken from us and we were shown to our table, alone in a large room full of set places.  We weren't sure if we were being hidden from the other diners, but we came to realize that there was the "bar" area in the front (where most people were), and we happened to be in the more formal dining area.  Our servers were perfect, as one would expect at a place where your meal may end up being $200 per person: formal yet personable, with exquisite attention to details.  When Sonja went to the washroom, they refolded her napkin and straightened her chair so that upon her return everything was back in place.

The service was great, but the food was divine.  I had arctic char and Sonja had a risotto.  Both were unbelievable and our Pinot Noir and Shiraz were equal to the meal.  But our desserts were the proverbial icing on the cake.  Mine was an apple millefeuille and Sonja had an addictive chocolate fondant.  It was a great experience and we were very happy to have the chance to sample their menu at a reasonable price.  However, not only was the food unreal, the service made us feel welcome even though we were on a Dine Out menu.

After basking in the aura of good food, good wine, and wonderful ambience, we snuck back across the street to our dirty Toyota and quickly drove off into the night, back to our more reasonably priced meal existence.

One more note: If you ever go to Lumiere, to best appreciate the experience you should eat dinner before you go.   After my run tonight, I had two eggo waffles and a bowl of alphaghetti.  But man, was that not the best decision I have made in a while.  I went to Lumiere comfortably full, allowing me to appreciate the delicate nature of the smaller portions, rather than fantasizing about a pizza on the way home.  Highly recommend the pre-dinner dinner on these occasions.  

Monday, January 21, 2008

I don't know about plumbing....

And I don't know about cars.  In the words of the immortal Mitch Hedberg...

I don't know how to fix a car.  If the car breaks down, and the gas tank does not say "E", I'm screwed.  But if the gas tank says "E", I get all cocky - I've got this one, don't worry."  So I get out the toolbox, AKA wallet.

On the drive home from Sun Peaks we must have taken a rock to the radiator because I froze my butt off driving to work this morning with no heat coming through the fan and the temperature gauge on the panel reaching the boiling point.  I took the car to the dealership on the way home and they showed me where the antifreeze was pooling in the radiator.  They quoted me $650 and quietly suggested I might find a cheaper price at an after-market garage.  I did.  But until Friday, it is fill it up with antifreeze (I know...50/50) each time I start it up.

The run tonight was correspondingly frustrating.  I wasn't bad per se, but with the frustration of the teaching day and the car day and the Mon Day, it just wasn't awesome.  But it was an 1:07 of base with 310 meters of elevation gain as I ran 2/3 of the way up Burnaby Mountain.  If nothing else it is in the bank.  Tomorrow is tempo time and then Sonja and I are going to Lumiere for Dine Out Vancouver.  Apparently, it is one of the best restaurants in Vancouver (meals can reach $200....per person), but for us, it is $35 each for the fixed price menu.  I love a good deal on a meal*!

*(sorry, but I had to do it.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Home now...

A beautiful day at Sun Peaks Resort.  A decent drive home (as decent as four hours and the Coquihalla can be).  A good 30 minute run under a moonlit sky.

At the top of the Crystal Chair.

Overall, an excellent weekend.

And the ribs are sore, but ok.  The worst part about the whole debacle is that there is barely even a mark!  If I am going to almost impale myself, I want there to be some evidence!


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Well, I didn't not almost puncture a lung

It was after lunch and I was snowboarding on my own since Sonja had gone to take her lesson for the afternoon.  I love the glades and so that is where I spent my afternoon, weaving in and out of trees.

Most of the runs were great, but it only takes once.  I was nearing the end of the glade section and was carrying a little too much speed.  When this occurs I try to stop before the next crest of snow to regroup and plan my route.  This time, however, there was a fallen tree hidden under the snow.  I pulled up, and just as I was coming to a complete stop, my edge caught the hidden tree, sending me down the lip backwards.  Usually this is fine, especially in powder snow, but there was a broken branch sticking right up, placed there by the almighty himself to remind me not to get too cocky.  I landed on the upright branch, about two fingers thick, on my left ribs, right where my arm would have been had it not been outstretched in an attempt to regain balance.  

After coming to (I have to make it sound bad because it still hurts) I was gasping a little, and with what little breath I had I was cursing.  I knew I had not punctured my skin, so I worked it out that I if my skin wasn't punctured, then it was likely that my left lung was fine.  But man, is there going to be a bruise!

The rest of my day was great.  The snow here is quite good and it was fun to be on the board again.  It was also fun to Sonja be in slight awe of how much mountain there is here - not like Boler in London.

Day 2 tomorrow!

Friday, January 18, 2008

A little whine and cheese

Not in the "27 Dresses" kind of cheese.  And no real whining, except for the soreness in my chest from the strength workout today.  

Sonja and I just participated in a wine tasting festival at Sun Peaks Resort, featuring BC Wines from all over the province.  Yes, that means that I am away for the weekend with some snowboarding on the calendar.  But before that, we wandered around Sun Peaks village this evening trying some 30 different wines, with probably 13 Icewines (WOW, are some of them good - most notably an organic one from Summerhill which we found out retails $104, no wonder we liked it!).  It was a great evening and I am looking forward to hitting the hills tomorrow.

Today's workout - Strength training and core

Thursday, January 17, 2008

VFAC Thursday

I was pleased to see Simon Driver at tonight's workout, right up until he told me what the workout was.  

"Yeah, we really only have four winter workouts that we do here (Stanley Park).  Tonight is 2 x 5k."

Right.  2 x 5k.

"Well, actually about 4.8 or 4.9.  3 miles.  But there are two big hills in it so it seems like 5k."

Great.  This is why I don't ask what workouts are before I arrive.  

The warmup began with Simon and I chatting about our recent running and his desire to start a trail running clinic.  The night was crisp, quite cool, and most importantly dry.  

For the past day I have felt a surge in my legs.  I am not sure what I owe it to, but since last night I have felt as though my legs wanted to emulate a running stride.  I may be crazy in this respect, but there are times when my legs just want to run.  I cannot account for this feeling; it comes and goes on its own accord.  I have no idea if it has anything to do with the snowshoe last night.  I had a great run Sunday after my Saturday snowshoe, so that is something that I will monitor now.  I am also getting back into faster running, so maybe the body is finally catching up.  Or it may be that I have been going to the gym consistently for the past two weeks and Trevor's strength program is starting to affect my running.  Whatever the cause is, my legs felt like running tonight.

So even though it was 2 x 5k, I was happy to be out and to have Simon there to chase.  The last time I ran this workout was before Gunner Shaw and it went very well.  I ran a 16:17 for the 3ish mile loop (4.82k-ish).  Tonight I was to start the workout with Simon, but knowing that he is faster than me, I had to make sure to run within myself or else blow up.  

We started out quick, but I felt good.  Coach John was at the 800m mark and we found out then that quick was too quick.  I went through in 2:30ish, at which point I back right off and settled into a more reasonable pace.  The loop essentially follows the Stanley Park seawall, but on the road.  There are two long hills in it, but as it is a loop, there is an equal amount of downhill.  

I ran the first loop with Simon stretching off into the distance.  It was good to have him to focus on and that helped me to run a 16:01 on the first loop.  This was 16 seconds faster than my loop before Gunner and I felt good throughout.  I was both pleased and confused.  Where had this come from?  My PB for 5k is 16:09.  It is a favourite pastime of runners to speculate about how times transfer from one distance to another, from one course to another.  Simon suggested that due to the hills in this loop, the time you get here is close to your real 5k time.  If that is the case, then since I ran my second loop in the same time, 16:01, that meant that I ran two PBs tonight (not official PBs, but moral ones).  I felt good for that second loop as well, although it was a little tougher (as you would expect).  But tonight, things went well.  I am excited for the Steveston 8k coming up in a couple of weeks.  And I am confused as to how running 3:40s on the treadmill can seem so much harder than holding 3:19s for 16 minutes (TWICE!).

Workout - 2 x 3 miles with 10 minutes recovery (16:01, 16:01)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Last week was a white out.  The snow was coming at us sideways as the wind whipped us, causing our heads to face downward in order to protect both skin and eyes.  This evening was cold, but with a lack of wind and cloud, the expanse of Vancouver opened up before us.  Harder packed snow made the running easier, but the hills were the same.  Leading the advanced group tonight, we made it out to Thunderbird Ridge and had the whole of Greater Vancouver shining in front of us, 1000m below.  

The snowshoe was pretty amazing tonight, reminding me how lucky I am to have the option of going to a mountain 20 minutes from my place.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


No run today.  The high school movie gala I went to with Sonja was actually quite entertaining; some very witty and original shorts.

In lieu of the run I worked out with Sonja, with both of us using a Millar Performance program.  It was a good day for strength, but no run.  Tomorrow is back on the mountain for a snowshoe run, so more strength for me.  Man, I hope my legs don't explode from getting so strong!  (note: I may be exaggerating a little).

Ok, gotta go watch jPod.  Oh, Douglas, you are so talented....

Monday, January 14, 2008

I used to work in Chicago....

Well not really, but if there are any rugby players out there, they may recognize the beginning of a song...

But it is VERY windy here today.  And there was even blue sky.  Amazing.  

I got the program from Coach this evening and it called for a tempo run tomorrow.  However, I am going with Sonja to a movie gala for high school student movie projects tomorrow evening, so I wouldn't be able to fit the tempo in.  That meant that it was me and treadmill tonight.  

I ran up to the gym and finished my warm up on the treadmill.  The workout called for 12k at 3:40/km pace, which works out to 44:00 minutes.  Last week's 10k at 3:45/km didn't go so hot, so I was unsure of what to expect tonight.  I ran long yesterday and did strength in the afternoon, so I was carrying some fatigue but I reminded myself about the ENDURrun and how I would have to run hard on tired legs.  I also tried to remain positive about my other workouts last week that went better than I had hoped.  It was in this mindset that I pressed the increase speed button until it read 10.2 miles/hr.  

I settled into the pace and listened to a couple of podcasts.  Time definitely moves slower on a treadmill and I began to lose focus, with some negative self-talk creeping into my mind.  Nothing terrible, but just wondering about if I could do the whole workout, wondering about why I was tired, wondering if everyone else felt this slow on a treadmill.  Usually, 3:40's are comfortably quick for me, but I felt as though I was having to run fast to keep up.  Podcasts finished and started and my heart rate kept creeping up, from 165 to 175.  It was at 36 minutes that I finally pulled the plug and ran my cool down home in the cold windy night.

Not a bad workout, but I am not pleased that I wasn't able to complete it.  I can look at the reasons (long run yesterday, tired legs, not the greatest nutrition today), and the I ran faster and longer than last week, but still, you know how it is.  I could have physically done it, but it would have been hard and I wasn't mentally ready to go there.  Oh well, at least the training is in the bank now.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

No Rain

Shannon Hoon, why did you leave so soon?

Today was great Vancouver day.  Seriously.  It was cool, but not cold, damp but not wet.  I made my way to the end of the Knee Knacker and Iron Knee races, a park in the heart of Deep Cove.  From there, I started uphill.  After yesterday's reminder about the state of my hill climbing, I set out to go up as much as I could for 90 minutes.  

The first hill was 40 minutes.  It felt pretty good and since I wanted to explore more trails, I started down some of the world famous North Shore mountain bike trails, learning quickly why they are world famous.  Running downhill, I came up behind some mountain bikers who were sprawled out on the trail before me.  It was at that point that I turned around and went uphill again.

I found another hill and kept climbing (Old Buck Trail for those in the know), I crossed some snow patches and just keep going up, having not felt this good for a long time.  I am not sure what was special about today, but I imagine it is the combination of Trevor's strength program, snowshoe running, and getting back into VFAC workouts.  At 90 minutes, I decided that I had better get going home, so I bombed back downhill for the next 25 minutes.  As adamo had said to me last week, Victoria may have the weather, but Vancouver has long, luscious hills (I know!  He said luscious!)

I followed this up with a Millar Performance workout at the gym.  Damn, that was fun.  A good day all around, capped off with some blue sky this afternoon.  

Duration - 2 hours with 930m of ascent.

PS.  I may have just lied about adamo saying luscious.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

On top of a mountain...

...there is 4 meters of snow.  At least that is what Grouse has received since December.  Crazy.  This is a major reason that the snowshoe park was closed today - avalanche warning in full effect.  This is a major reason I cursed Eric under my breath.  As a result of the 4 meters of snow and subsequent avalanche warning, Eric had me, him, and Simon Driver run up the ski hills.  Our snowshoe workout became an exercise in running up ski hills, with Simon and Eric being the teachers, and me being the cursing student at the back of the class.  I watched those two float away from me as we entered the 8th minute of running in snowshoes up a ski hill in whipping, bitter wind, with wet snow hitting sideways.

The rest of the workout was better than that first climb as we did some 30s hill sprints and then did some fartlek in the one snowshoe area that was, Blue Grouse Snowshoe Loop.  It was fun, although the conditions were far from good, and I am looking forward to our next workout together.  Today also provided a glimpse of what I should expect in snowshoe races, and it is going to be very very interesting to see how the tactics of snowshoe racing play out.

Duration  - 50 minutes with long hill climbing, hill intervals, fartlek.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Oh Canucks

Took in the Canucks game at GM Place tonight.  It was fun to be at an arena again as I haven't been to an NHL game in at least nine years.  Unfortunately, the Canucks did not play that well and ended up losing 4-3.  However, I got to be in the same building as one of my heroes - Wayne Gretzky.  Phoenix was in town for the game and to see the Great One behind the bench made the lackluster performance of the Canucks more palatable. 

As I was at the game tonight there was no run for me today.  I am meeting Simon and Eric for a snowshoe workout tomorrow morning, so that should be fun (and by fun I mean very very hard).

As well, since I am an English teacher I should be encouraging everyone to read.  To that end I am going to start an ongoing list of books I am currently reading and you may get periodic updates in a post.  Please feel free to comment on the books (without spoiling them) and share your honest opinions of them in the comments section.  As well, please recommend books for me to read as well.  I have a shelf of books that I have to start working on, but knowing about a good book is never bad.

I have just finished the last of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.  Most people will know this series from the recently released, and much talked about movie, The Golden Compass.  I was a little unsure of the media commentary on atheism and not being one for censorship I was a little concerned when the Toronto Catholic School Board started to pull the books from their libraries, but after finishing the series, I have a better understanding as to why.  It is a surprisingly religious series, but you don't really see it until the third installment.  The writing got better throughout the series and the layered worlds are much more intricate than that of Hogwarts.  Definitely a darker series for the kids (or older kids) out there, so be aware that there are many challenging moments for younger (and older) readers.  I enjoyed the trilogy, but it took me a little while to get into the story, so if you decide to read it, be patient.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Oh Vancouver

Vancouver - where there is 54 hours of sunshine in the month of January.  Vancouver - where 4 degrees feels like -2.  Vancouver - where rain falls like, well, rain. 

It hasn't been sunny here this week.  In fact, I think that it has only been not raining for 5 hours this week.  I knew this when I entered into this relationship with Vancouver, but just because you know about it doesn't make it easier.  

So it was into her cold rain that I stepped tonight, joining VFAC again for the first time since November.  We did what I now know as the Aquarium workout - basically 4 x 800m with two decent hills in it.  I did this workout about two months ago and was surprised this evening when I was only a couple of seconds off the times from then.  And this evening was drenching rain and I was running on my own, unlike the first time where I was trying desperately to stay with Paul and Simon.  It was a good workout this evening and it restored some of my confidence, knowing that I haven't lost that much over the past month.

I also had a chat with Chris, another VFAC friend, about how I am going to approach Boston.  While this is subject to change, after talking it through with him, I have decided to have a good go at Boston.  The turning point was verbalizing the alternative - just running Boston for fun and then coming back and racing Vancouver.  That would mean that I would run 42.2k for Boston, three weeks later I would race Vancouver, 7 weeks later I would race a 30 mile/5.5 hour trail race, followed by a seven day, 100 mile race 4 weeks after that.  Saying it out loud to Chris, and having his input, made me realize that that is A LOT of long racing.  I have only ever run 1 marathon in a year, let alone four in five months.  So, I will look to Boston to set a PB, but not worry about a blistering fast time.  I like this plan and should have some fun with it!

On top of a windswept mountain

I hadn't been up to Grouse Mountain in a few weeks, what with Christmas break and all, so it was a huge surprise to see that about a meter of snow had fallen in that time.  The terrain and conditions to which I was used to had disappeared.  Replaced were the big trees with just tree tops and rock outcroppings with snow drifts.  Add to this 150 snowshoers (the largest group that Grouse had had before last night was 75) and some near whiteout conditions at the beginning and it had the makings of an epic night.

Sonja joined us this time and I think that her experience encompassed the evening perfectly.  Excited to be up on the mountain and surrounded by snow, but no visibility.  Then wondering why she had come as we stood around shivering in the cold for about 25 minutes trying to register and get snowshoes for this unheard of number of people.  And then experiencing a wave of quiet hatred for the mountain as it just keep going up and up and up (and then it got steeper).  However, as it always is, and was for me this evening as well, the saving grace was the downhill run in deep, soft, luscious powder.  Laughing uproariously we cruised down the steep mountain, unafraid of falling as the snow would softly comfort us.

It turned out to be a little crazy last night, but everyone got back to the snowshoe hut with a smile on their face, and that is the key.  A little colder for wear, but with a good strength workout behind us, we sipped hot chocolate (ok, I had two) and laughed the other guides, before heading home in the driving rain that awaited us at the base of the mountain.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tempo runs are hard

I forgot.

For the last month I have been having fun with running. I have gone for long easy runs in the trails and had fun with learning how to snowshoe. I have worn at heart rate monitor, but not worried too much about it.

Tonight, Coach had me down for a flat 10k tempo at 3:45/km pace, of which I had time to do 30 minutes. Having enjoyed my runs on the treadmill for the past few nights, I thought that I would head down to the gym and run there. I got on the treadmill and warmed, thinking that I would cruise through the tempo.

In the past month of playing with my running, I forgot that running a sustained pace is hard. I am not sure if I lost some speed (likely) or fitness (maybe some, but not much), but holding 3:45 on the treadmill got my heart rate up quite a bit. I am going to have to learn more about treadmill running. I am beginning to think that it is similar to being on a wind-trainer with my bike, where I am not able to coast or relax at all, and as a result, the workout is a little bit harder, although not as specific. It was a good wake up call, as Thursday's workout will be.

Workout: 30 min @ 3:45/km + 3k warm up

Monday, January 07, 2008

Gym rat?

Another night of an easy tready run followed by Day 2 of Trevor's strength program. It is a brilliant program, but I am worried I am becoming soft - not wanting to run in the cold and the rain. I am really enjoying the strength training component, but as brilliant as the program is, I have to admit, I look a little foolish walking around with a wooden stick above my head. I have wondered on more than one occasion if Trevor is just screwing with me....

30 min run - 4:09/km
Day 2 Strength

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Home again

And the rain hasn't stopped falling. I mean, when I moved to Burnaby I knew there would be rain, but this is incredible.

My luggage was lost on the flight home. Still isn't here. At least I am not in London, England this time.

Joined a gym today in the hope of getting more strength training into the regime. Access to a treadmill isn't a bad thing either. Did both tonight and felt good. Ready to hook up with VFAC again and start the build to Boston.

That is all. School starts again tomorrow. Good grief.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I was guilted into my run today

From the article "Cold Runner" in the Globe and Mail.

“Those first couple minutes where you're thinking you aren't going to be warm enough are the worst,” says Ms. Krysko, who has won both the Yellowknife and Hay River, NWT, half-marathons. “But if you actually go through with it, it does make you psychologically tougher.”

Yellowknife's average January temperature hovers between lows around -30 C and highs around -20. Hypothermia can set in instantly. Exposed skin can freeze in a matter of minutes. And yet Yellowknife has become a city of runners.

After I finished reading the article, I realized that -7 isn't really that cold. Relatively. And today was a balmy -2, so I made it out the door for an hour. An easy run, but good.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Minus (Two Thousand And) Seven

It is still quite cold here. -7 to be exact. I have forgotten what it is like to train in Ontario in the winter. And by train I mean sit inside and drink hot chocolate.

Now that I have laid out the goals for 2008, I thought it would be fun to review my 2007.

My Best Race - Around the Bay 30k, Hamilton ON

I ran a surprising 1:49:05, surpassing my goal by 2 minutes, and feeling like a million bucks while doing. I waited for the other shoe to drop, but it never did.

My Worst Race - Royal Victoria Marathon, Victoria BC

Two years later and I ran within 30 seconds of the time of my first marathon. The 2:59:38 did not sit well when 2:40 was the goal. Still haven't figured out the cramping issue, but I am taking steps toward determining the solution.

Most Scenic Race - Laugavegur 55k Ultra Marathon, Iceland

I had wanted to go to Iceland for many years and this summer it all happened. It was an amazing experience and definitely humbled me. The picture at the top of the page was taken by Christophe, my new French friend, while we were running (or, as you can see, I was hiking). It was like running through a painting, except for the part where I was running on the moon.

Most Fun Race - Comfortably Numb 25k, Whistler BC

An amazing race on a great trail. Four of us finishing within one minute of each other. All of us under the old course record. And just the most amazing downhill running with JF Robert. So much fun!

Breakthrough Race - Gunner Shaw Victoria

This was my first race after training with VFAC and the workouts showed. I was running with guys that are usually a pack (or two) in front of me. I know that it being a trail race was to my benefit, but I was still pretty stoked to be running near guys like Stefan Jakobsen, Jim Finlayson, and Eric Findlay. This was a big step for me and I am excited to see how this translates to the road.

Overall, 2007 was a very good year for me. I equalled my PB for 10k (34:05) even though I was sick. I set a PB in the 30k. I set personal course records for a number of trail races. I ran in six different countries. I (knock wood) was not injured and thus consistent training allowed for good performances. I am looking forward to 2008 and seeing how the new training and racing environment will influence my running.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Years

I hope that everyone had a good (and safe) New Years celebration. Mine consisted of good friends, good wine, and some good Nintendo Wii action!

I am now sitting down, as countless people do, and evaluating this upcoming year. I am hoping that this year will see the fruition of the base that I have built over the past two years. Working with a club (VFAC) and a coach (John Hill) will provide the change needed to see improvement. As well, the goal races I have this year are challenging and important to me. I also have to get used to a new race schedule. For years I have relied on the Vancouver Island Race Series to take me through the spring, but this year I am only scheduling one of those races into the calendar (Comox Valley Half Marathon). So it is the Timex Race Series for me this year, but even with that I am only committing to two of those races. Change abounds!

So, as every good motivational speaker will tell you, a goal not written down is just a dream. In this time of accountability, I will now share with you the goals for this season...

1. Run under 2:45 in a marathon.

I have yet to decide if I am going to "race" Boston, or "run" Boston. The Vancouver Marathon is only 3 weeks after Boston, so I have the option of just going and enjoying the experience of Boston - soaking up the atmosphere, the history, and the fans - and then racing Vancouver. Boston is a difficult race to run fast at because of the terrain and the numbers. Vancouver is much better in that regard, so I will wait and see how things go. It may be a race morning decision. The last marathon of the year will be at the ENDURrun, but I am unsure that I will be able to run 2:45 after that week of racing (although the ENDURrun marathon is still my PR - 2:55).

2. Finish the Knee Knacker strong.

The Knee Knacker is a grueling 30 mile race along the Baden Powell Trail on the North Shore of Vancouver. Simon Driver, Eric Langhjelm and I have committed to racing it, so we are in training as of now. It is a lottery to get it, and this being the 25th Anniversary I may not get a spot, but the training is amazing. The
difficulty is not necessarily the technical terrain, but the incredible amount of downhill. I have run the last part of the map a few times, and to give you perspective, going backwards from the end to the top of the first hill is a 40 minute run. Now look at the start of the race.

3. Go 33:xx for 10k.

I am not sure when this one will happen as the main 10k I usually run (Times Colonist 10k) is the week after Boston. I believe that I will be fit enough to do it this year, but I have to find a race.

4. Run the ENDURrun well.

This is not a well worded goal because there is no empirical way to determine if I will have accomplished it. I thought about my goal being "Win the ENDURrun", but then my goal is controlled by others and their performances. My time for the ENDURrun in 2006 was 10:59:33, just under 11:00 hours. I ran well in all the events except one, and I think I will be able to solve that one. So, I think that running a sub 10:45 for the event would be great. That would be the third fastest finishing time at the ENDURrun and one that I think would be possible.

5. Implement a consistent strength training program.

I have a couple of friends who have created amazing strength training programs - Craig Ballantyne at and Trevor Millar at Millar Performance Conditioning. Both programs use the most recent research in strength and conditioning and between them they have trained elite, Olympic, and professional athletes. Trevor has written me an amazing program - now I just have to do it!
(PS. If you were looking to kick start your year, get in touch with them!)

So, those are my goals for this year. I will keep the updates coming as to how the progress toward them is going. If you need have some goals this year, make sure you write them down and tell someone. You can use the comments section if you would like - make it anonymous if you need to, but get it out there for all to see!

Enjoy the run.