Saturday, May 30, 2009

VFAC Thursday

It has been a busy week, and after the race that was the Oak Bay Half, I wasn't super stoked to get back into training. But, one foot in front of the other, and out the door I went and got in some decent runs.

Workout on Thursday was what is the called the double-single and it is much better than the double-double. The references are to the 1 mile 5/8 loop in Stanley Park. Double means we do it twice and single, well, once. So essentially, the workout is a 5k followed by a 2.5k a mere 15 minutes later. I wasn't sure what to expect as my legs were feeling a little heavy from the previous weekend's half, but with Simon and Jay, and the new brits Pete and Phil, there was a solid group to work with.

Jay, as usual, left 15 seconds behind us for the first interval, the 5k. We use a staggered start for at least the first interval of every workout so that everyone finished somewhat close. It is also great motivation as you are constantly catching people as well as being chased. I left with Pete and Simon and we settled in pretty quickly, feeling better than I thought I would. We worked well and came through the first lap right on pace, which was good. The long, but not steep, hill that resides at the beginning of the loop, seemed much larger the second time around. The three of us spread out a bit and Jay joined the group shortly thereafter. I felt good, but was beginning to struggle as Simon and Pete showed good form. Focussing on form and staying relaxed, I held things together and finished the double in 16:45. I was pleased with the time and recognized that the effort was a little high. The second lap was much lower than the first, something that Jay commented on in his recent blog post, but Coach John indicated that everyone should expect to slow down. He is eerie in his ability to predict performance in Stanley Park and I have long since given up on trying to figure how he does it, having moved into a place of acceptance.

The recovery was a full 15 minutes and then we were unleashed once again for a single loop. The mental difference of running a single vs. a double is amazing. And, for some reason, my body responded really well to this second loop. Often, after our first interval, we will start as a mass group. This was the case for the single loop. Jay went off the front pretty quickly and, feeling good, I settled into a quick pace up the initial hill. I visualized myself as the person beside me, Simon, as his quick turnover allows him to be a dominant hill runner. Cresting the top of the hill I felt pretty strong and decided to visualize myself as the runner in front of me, Jay, he of the running on the toes and strong arm movement. After struggling through second lap of the first interval, I was surprised at how I felt. My feet were gripping the ground and I was pushing it backwards, rather than moving over it. I felt strong in body and mind. But, as with any "flow" or "zone" experience, once you recognize it, it leaves you. That is the irony, as Simon pointed out on the cool down, to be in the zone you can't really know you are in the zone. The last 600m of the 2.5k loop was a bit of a struggle, but I held things together quite well, to come in only 3 seconds slower than I ran the same loop a few weeks ago, but at that time it was the first interval of the night.

Overall, a strong workout. I am pleased with my speed right now - in fact, I am not sure if I have ever run consistently fast workouts times like this in my past. However, the half last weekend is a reminder that while my speed is ok, I need to focus on hour-long tempo efforts if I am to run to my potential at Scotiabank in June.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Oak Bay Half

Having found myself in Victoria this weekend, I decided to jump into the Oak Bay Half Marathon. With the Scotiabank Half Marathon only a month or so away, I knew I needed some longer race efforts to help prepare me for it. I have been running well of late, with last week's VFAC workout being another strong workout over shorter distances (2 x 1 mile 7/8 = 9:21, 9:30), but my longest tempo since December has been 30 minutes. It was with this in mind that I decided to try out the Oak Bay Half.

I ran well for about 14k, trying to be conservative and slowly working my way up through the field, but the lack of endurance fitness became very apparent when in 3 short kilometers I went from 3:35/km pace to 4:20/km pace. The rest of the race was about getting home. A very humbling and all together unspectacular 1:21 for the half, my slowest time since my first half-marathon over 5 years ago. This has definitely shown me that the speed I am carrying is not an easy cross-over to the longer stuff, but I will be looking at building the duration of my tempo runs over the next few weeks. I am not sure how Scotiabank will go, but at least this kick in the pants will keep me honest in my training.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tempo Tuesday

Simon before his speedy running days...(the one on the left - oh Google Images, you will never let any of us be politicians)

With the threat of a thunderstorm looming, Simon and I left my place for our tempo run. It is a rare occasion that I get the chance to run my tempo with someone. The weather forecasters had said that the rain was coming, but the sun and wind were more prevalent than any rain that was to come. In fact, as I sit here writing this many hours later, the rain has yet to arrive.

After a warm-up around the neighbourhood, showing it off to Simon, we headed down to the Trans-Canada Trail and set out for our 30 minute tempo. After the workout last week, a 20 minute tempo, I wasn't sure what to expect coming into today. Last week I struggled to maintain the pace throughout the tempo, but having someone with me this time would make things much easier.

We set out to try to hold 3:35-3:40/min pace for the workout. The amazing thing about having a training partner is that you are never allowed off the hook. Not having run many tempo workouts recently, I am still struggling to find the feel of certain pace efforts. As such, we were a little quick off the start, but the effort felt good. As well, it was all downhill, but we won't worry about that now.

The rest of the workout went well with Simon and I not racing, but rather pushing each other to maintain the workout. In 30 minutes of tempo, we covered almost 8.5k, averaging 3:32 min/km. I am definitely pleased with this run, much more so than last week as it was a quicker tempo, but also felt easier. This is no doubt the result of running with a teammate, but it is something that I happy to build on going into Thursday's workout.

A good night with no rain...yet.

Monday, May 18, 2009


You can tell that I am getting back into running by the sheer number of updates that are coming out of this blog. It is a result of inertia.

Inertia is an interesting concept. An object will maintain its state or motion, either not moving or moving, unless acted upon by an external force. To overcome the inertia of an object at rest more than the usual amount of energy is required to begin its motion. However, once in motion, that same force, inertia, keeps that object moving. And now, I feel like I have finally overcome the inertia of rest and moved into the inertia of motion. (note: any physicists or grade 11 science students out there who will find fault with the terminology, please feel free to correct me as I am going off of memory.)

Inertia forced me out the door this afternoon. After helping to move friends into their house, Sonja and I turned our focus to our place and did a good clean up and cleaning. So, with clean clothes I went out and felt pretty good. I had been perusing blogs of friends and heros earlier today, so motivation to run is rising with the temperature. An easy 45 minute jaunt after the longer run with Mr. Driver yesterday and with this inertia, small steps are being taken toward running well again.

Buntzen Lake

Saturday was spent helping to move friends to their beautiful new home. As reward for a job well done, we were treated to an amazing dinner on the new BBQ, seated on an enormous raised deck, where we were able to watch the sun fade away and share in good food, good wine, and good company.

It was after the steak and tuna were cleared and the wine glasses were near empty that I asked the two engineers working for BC Hydro about their work. Like asking a teacher about a classroom, what I got was a long (and very interesting) answer. Turns out that BC is very clean in the way it produces electricity as it is 97% from hydro-electric dams. I didn't realize that was the case, a little because of ignorance and a little because of growing up beside the Pickering nuclear plant I always assumed that there was diversity in the generation of power. I also learned that the proposed IPP (small, run of the river generating stations on rivers leased to private corporations) was really an inane idea. I really suggest BC residents look more into this one.

I also learned that Buntzen Lake was mostly created by BC Hyrdo and is a major source of power for the province. That was interesting as it was the plan to run at Buntzen with Simon the next morning, so I was going to have a little more understanding of the area as we circumnavigated the lake.

The morning unfolding in all its glory and the parking lot was just beginning to fill up as I got there around 9:45am. I didn't know what Simon had in mind as we had run here last year in our preparation for the Knee Knacker, which neither of us would finish. This was also my first true trail run after the December injuring of my foot, so I wanted to be careful, but afraid of the trails.

Early on I remembered why I loved and hated Buntzen - beautiful trails and scenery, lots of uphill. Simon was very gracious with me as I was reduced to hiking very early on in the climb to the ridge we would follow for most of the run. Simon is an incredible runner, both downhill and uphill, and so it was kind of him not to lose me on the way up. However, this is also what I want right now - long runs with a lot of climbing. For me, speed is something that I can get back quite quickly, but strength and endurance is something that takes some time to build, so that is definitely the focus for me right now. And Buntzen is a great place to get that.

Once I regained my ability to speak, Simon and I talked for the rest of the time, avoiding hikers and dogs, looking out over the incredible vistas, and just enjoying the morning. After the 1:45 of running, soaking in the lake with Simon, as Katrina and little Lucy hung out on the beach, was fantastic.

And the day ended where it had began 24 hours earlier, back on an amazing deck in a now cleaner house, eating a wonderful BBQ with new and old friends alike and having fun Banging each other. (note: not what you are thinking!)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A new slideshow from an old race

Playing around with a website Sonja showed me called Animoto. Made this video as an experiment to see what it could do. Not bad...

Friday, May 15, 2009

About that last post...

Yesterday I felt like a runner. Today, I felt like a runner who felt like a runner yesterday.

An easy 45 minutes jaunt along the daily Trans Canada Trail route, out around Kensington park and back in time to go for sushi and Star Trek. Everything was good, except the run. I think I need to pick up new shoes as these ones are running out of time.

Another couple of long runs this long weekend and then just 4 weeks of teaching left. Teachers always talk about how quickly the second semester passes, but it is actually unbelievable that every year I think "Wow, that went really quickly." Every year. You would think I would learn.

Happy long weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

VFAC Thursday

Having missed lunch today was a cause for a mini-celebration - namely, I don't have to make my sandwich for tomorrow as it is already made!

I also filled a water bottle to take to drink in the car on the way to workout (after having eaten my Clif Bar) and I promptly left that on the kitchen table.

The lesson here kids is to not eat much and not drink much if you want to have a strong workout.

After the soul-sopping rain that we experienced here on Wednesday, I wasn't sure if I would want to go to workout tonight. However, if you don't like the weather in Vancouver, wait a day. Today was beautiful, sunny, and a brisk 15 degrees by the time workout commenced. Paul made it back into the fold tonight after a some time away to heal an injury. He had a heck of a return workout, stepping in just barely a step behind where he usually is (that step behind was behind me for the time being, but that won't be for long). Our new British recruit, Peter, is a welcome addition to the group as I believe both Kevin and John are behind this influx of Brits coming to VFAC.

The workout tonight was an interesting one - 1 mile 5/8, then about 1.95k (we'll call it 2k), and then 1.3k. We run the same loop, but start in different places each time. The last time I ran this workout was in September in similar circumstance to tonight (coming back from a foot injury, still trying to round into form). I ran that workout in 8:31 for the first interval and then 6:24 for the second. The last interval that night was run in a different location due to waning light, so for comparison purposes it won't count (it was also 500m longer, so really no ability to compare).

I felt good in warm up tonight, chatting with Jay about blogging and "then vs. than" and my inability to spell brief (which I always get a red underline on my screen for). Strides and drills felt good and when we began our first interval, I felt like I was holding back. I was concerned coming into the workout as I had only had a green tea latte (with soy milk, no syrup - yes, I have become what I hate), and an apple fritter to eat and drink all day. Oh yeah, and an apple. Then after forgetting my water to wash down my Clif Bar, I was definitely concerned about how my body would hold up throughout the workout.

About 400m into the first interval, I followed Peter outside of Kevin and Paul and stuck on his shoulder. I have been trying to match cadence with my teammates of late, trying to get my turnover to become a bit quicker and more efficient, reducing the amplitude of the high heel kick that Paul commented on during the first section of downhill tonight, so sticking on Peter's shoulder I focussed solely on his turnover. He was very smooth and seemingly effortless as we finished the interval in 8:01. I knew it was fast because Jay didn't catch us (although he ran a flu influenced 7:56) and I was pleased that the effort was hard, but controlled.

The next interval followed the same pattern. Stick on Peter's shoulder and don't let Jay catch us. Again, the interval felt controlled and fast, with me and Peter finishing in 5:59. Kevin and Paul were running very well and finishing just a couple of seconds back, if that. The crew was starting to come back together again!

The last interval was decidedly downhill, which is always a good thing by me. We all started together (usually Jay starts behind us because he is faster), and as there was a slight uphill for the first 500m, I tried to be controlled, knowing that the downhill would be fun. As we rounded the last uphill corner and began the long downhill, I really enjoyed running. Not that I hate running otherwise, but tonight I felt like I was a runner. I pulled alongside Jay in the last 20m of the interval and, although I knew that the flu he suffered from last week was still lingering, it was nice to feel like I was back. Coach John made note of the workout being one of my better ones and I feel confident with my speed right now. I was about 30s faster than September's workout and at around the same heart rate. (Tonight's workout is here if interested

So, I am stating to feel good again. Strong workouts come along often enough to keep you wanting to find them again and again, and yet they still maintain their elusivity (yes, I made up a word.) I think that the back-to-back long runs on the weekends are starting to pay dividends and I am hoping that the tempo runs will get better as I know that is the weakness I need to improve for the Scotiabank half-marathon in June.

But tonight was a good night for running.

(And for getting caught up on the Lost season finale - who is John Locke? I have theories...)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nice to meet you

Fatigue, meet Brad.

Brad, meet fatigue.

I think you have both met before, but it might have been a while ago. You may not remember each other, but I am sure you have crossed paths. Maybe last March? Before that trip out east to Boston? Yeah, that one. Right....good, I am glad that you both have the chance reconnect.

My first tempo in about 5 months occurred today, after a rest day after two back-to-back long runs of 1:45. It was an interesting 20 minutes as I tried to hold 3:30 pace on a loop around Kensington Park (for anyone that might know Burnaby). It was a good run in the sense that I finally got back into a sustained effort, but a difficult one as I never felt like I hit a rhythm. However, that might be a good thing as Jay is talking about not allowing himself to feel comfortable on his tempos and he is running ridiculously fast. So maybe my lack of rhythm is a good thing?

An easy run tomorrow and then dinner with Sonja's friend downtown, and then Thursday night VFAC workout the next day. I wonder what Coach John has up his sleeve....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Now what am I supposed to do?

I didn't expect them to win the cup, but I didn't expect seven pucks to find their way behind Luongo either. Now my bi-nightly watching of Canucks hockey has come to a screeching, unceremonious halt. I will no longer wake up neighbours with loud yells when O'Brien scores nor when Kane gets a hat-trick (note: the yell sounds very different for those two events).

Every other night I now have three hours back in my life. I am unsure of what to do with this new found time. Watch the Blue Jays? I don't know if they are for real yet, so I will hold off on reigniting what was once a deep passion, complete with two banners on the wall of my room as a (younger) boy. Read a good book, one might suggest? I could, but I will hold off on that until the summer (although I have just started my first Christopher Moore book as a it was a gift from good friends - review to follow).

I guess I could run more? I figure that is likely the best scenario now as workouts are starting to become good again and I need to get my running volume back up. I put together back to back 1:45 long runs this weekend, up to the top of SFU on both Saturday and Sunday. As I just mentioned, my VFAC workouts are starting to go well again, as I went 3:11, 3:02, 3:00, 3:02, 3:00 for 5 x 1k on descending rest at Beaver Lake in Stanley Park. I am nowhere near our fearless leader, Jay, but I looking back at my 4 x 1k workout mere days before I broke my foot last July, the times are very similar - near identical, in fact, except that my heart rate was 10 bpm lower last summer. It is this last piece of information that is the important one; my base fitness is not what was before the broken foot. It is this base that I need to begin to rebuild. Long runs and tempos are what are going to get me to where I would like to be come the end of June. But I have been pleased with my progression over the last few weeks, especially as I begin to feel the ground starting to move underneath me as I run. It has been awhile coming, but I always remind myself that the return to fitness is the hardest part of running. Get through the first five or six weeks and everything starts to feel like it did prior to the layoff.

So now that hockey is done for the season, I guess it is time to get serious about running. Good thing the Canucks didn't make the Stanley Cup final or else I would not have been ready for any races before October. I guess that means I owe the Canucks a thank you. A sad thank you.