Monday, June 29, 2009

Scotiabank Half

This is going to be short, but not because of anger or frustration, but just that time is seeping away from me...

The half was what I was hoping for, for about 16k. Looking back at the Garmin, I was on pace up until that point. Even through 17k, I was still on 1:15 pace, but in the last 4k, man it got ugly. Heart rate dropped, no strength in the legs, eyes starting to cross. Not even the vision of Lauren and Simon could get me to move my legs any faster.

The finishing time was 1:16:56. That time is about 5 minutes faster than the Oak Bay half, but about 3 minutes slower than what I was hoping for. As I have said, I am not frustrated or angry, just accepting of it as where I am right now. I know that in my workouts I am running faster than I have before, but it has not yet translated to longer distances. Maybe I should focus on 800m races for the rest of the summer? Last year, before the injury, I had a HUGE base, coming off of an ultra in Iceland and a fall marathon and then the build for Boston. But since Boston, I have injured my foot twice, six months apart, which effectively took me out of running for 6 month of the last year as I healed. It is time for me to rebuild my base and continue to have fun running. Without any goal races until October, I will be able to do that without any concerns about being fast at a particular time.

And for those that are following my running more closely, you will recognize that there is no goal race in August. I have made the difficult decision to miss the ENDURrun again this year, although this time it is by choice and not due to injury. With the move back to Victoria being made on August 1st, and then needing to get a teaching gig over there, leaving Sonja and the house and the new kitten for 10-12 days is not something that I want to do. I LOVE the ENDURrun and will be saddened to miss seeing all my friends there this summer, but with our budget and the necessity and desire to be in Victoria, it just isn't in the cards this year. However, every winter, it is the thought of Bob training that gets me out the door for the long, cold, wet runs in preparation for the ENDURrun. I will be following closely every day and I will be in contact with the runners, but this year my place is in my new home.

I would remiss if I didn't mention that many of my VFAC teammates had AMAZING races and I am proud of then all for it. It is honestly an honour to be part of a club with such great runners who are great people.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

News,news, and other news...


Things are going well, even thought last night's tempo with Simon was tough. But I can figure out the reason for that; staff luncheon. Yesterday was the final staff lunch for the school year at school and there was a great spread! Samosas, sushi sandwiches, pasta, AND deserts! I couldn't help but go up to the buffet three times! Thus, when I met Simon at 4:30 at Burnaby Lake to run a 6k tempo at 3:30/km pace, I felt a little tired, a little fat, and a little uncoordinated. We warmed up for 2k and then launched into the workout. While not feeling great, we were able to hold 3:30 for the whole 6k, uncomfortably to be sure, but held nonetheless. While it wasn't a great feeling run, it was encouraging that it was no slower than a week previous and my heart rate was a beat lower on average. This is encouraging because heading into Scotiabank Half-Marathon on the weekend, I know that even if I am not feeling great, I will still be able to run well. I have an abbreviated workout tomorrow night and then a couple of runs before the race on Sunday.


Almost done. Tomorrow should be the wrap up of my packing and prepping for next year. I have everything filed away and after working with a colleague tomorrow on planning for her class next year, I am pretty much done. I can't believe that two years at NWSS have come and gone, and I am very different teacher leaving than I was arriving, and for that I am thankful. The staff and students at school are great and I am going to miss them, but I am excited to go back to Victoria with new skills and views on teaching and share that with people on the island.


On the right side of the blog are pictures of a kitten than Sonja and I are going to bring home in August. He is a Siberian Forest Cat and he is pretty much the cutest thing ever. For those that know me, you know that I have never been a cat person, save for Fluffy (my grandma's cat) and Elmo (Jay and Danielle's cat). I had a wonderful dog and love the idea of running with a dog through trails, so a house cat is pretty much the opposite of that. However, this little kitten has changed my mind. The biggest thing is that the Siberian Forest Cat breed is pretty much hypoallergenic, which is important for me as I have allergies to cats. When the breeder brought him out for us to meet and test for allergic reactions, he was shaking and mewing. Within two minutes of being on my lap and on my chest, he was calm and quiet, eventually feeling comfortable enough to fall asleep on Sonja's lap. After an hour of playing and hanging out with him, neither of us had an allergic reaction and he didn't want us to leave, as evidenced by the claw marks in my neck when the breeder tried to take him away from chest when it was time to go. He is too little to come with us now - he still needs his mom to feed and teach him - but we will go back to Seattle to get him in mid-august. We are very excited to get him, and as the breed is described as "dog-like" in nature, I think I will teach him to play fetch! We are still unsure of a name for him, so please vote on the right as to the name you think he most resembles. For those Harry Potter and Battlestar Galactica fans out there, you will recognize the first two names.


OK, I am watching too much lately, now that marking and prepping no longer consume my evenings. I am generally splitting my time between HGTV (Mike Holmes may be my new hero) and Battlestar Galactica, which Sonja and I are close to finishing the series. I have always enjoyed sci-fi stuff (I watched two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation every night in grade 11 and 12, which might explain my lack of girlfriends and parties during that time). I didn't have much backstory on the original BSG, but this new one is quite good and smart. We only have a few more episodes until the end of the series, so don't spoil it for us if you know who the final cylon is!


I have submitted the ten thousand documents the mortgage company needed from me. It was a bit of an ordeal, but it is done and know we wait for the lawyer to call. We have also booked our Uhaul, so if anyone wants to come over on August 1st, we would love to have your hands!

So, I think that is about it for now. Good lucks to my friends racing this weekend in Des Moines and to those recovering from injury. I am off to finish watching Holmes on Homes!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tempo Tuesday - Burnaby Lake

Since the race on Friday I have run up and down Mt. Seymour (Sunday long run) and cruised a 10k recovery run (Monday). Tonight I was meeting Simon at Burnaby Lake for a 10k tempo. I ran in the new Brooks Glycerin last night for the first time and loved them. I am not sure if it was the shoe that made me feel good or if I am just starting to feel more like a runner, but the easy run last night was fun. I was buoyed by the way I felt last evening, but was unsure of how 10k at 3:30/km on the trail would feel, especially since holding 3:24/km in a race was difficult a mere four days ago.

Sonja and I got out of the car around 4:30, meeting Simon, Katrina and Lucy in the parking lot of Burnaby Lake. After some catch up, Sonja set out for her workout, Lucy and Katrina made way to the playground, and Simon and I began our 2k warm up. I like Burnaby Lake, although it is no Elk/Beaver Lake in Victoria. The loop is very twisty with very soft ground and a few very long straight-aways. This makes it a challenging loop as there is never really any point at which you feel rhythm, which is Jay's secret to success.

Simon and I fell right into 3:30 pace from the start and it felt good for me. This was a little surprising because after the past few days of running, I would have expected a little let down. What I found was that I felt strong and comfortable, although the run was not easy. I was able to hold pace throughout the run, although I had to do a lot of self-talk in the last 2k to keep it together. The run was a solid confidence builder heading into Scotiabank in a couple of weeks and one I could not have done it on my own.

I am looking forward to workout on Thursday and meeting up with the rest of the blue train after their great showing last Friday. 3rd through 8th and a bunch right after that. What a group.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Longest Day and other stuff

EDIT June 13 - 5:34pm: Thanks to a comment, please substitute "the guy in the white shirt" with "Facundo", which is his actual name, not "white shirt." Thanks to Jeremy Hopwood for letting me know! Check the comments for the link to Facundo's blog. It sure was a fun race with him!

For teachers, the month of June is tangible and tactile. There is a distinct feel of it that you can reach out and touch. I am not sure if this is the same for other people, but the school year is so rhythmic and ordained that June has its own shape and personality. There is excitement mixed with stress and in some cases, melancholy. June is also very busy, many last minute assignments being handed in and report grades being compiled alongside exams. It has been busy and that has left me AWOL for the past week, although I have been out and about running around the city.

Last Sunday saw my long run out to, up, and around SFU reach 1:45. It was a good go and I am starting to feel comfortable again with long runs. Monday was another 45 minutes followed by a (very) short tempo on Tuesday, which was starting to feel tough as I don't think my quads had recovered from running down Burnaby Mountain on Sunday. Wednesday was off before VFAC on Thursday, which is where this story will pick up.

Getting downtown just in time to meet up with the group as they left for warm-up, I was suprised by the lack of people. I am not sure why I was surprised, I mean, most everyone was racing the 5k at the Longest Day Run the next evening; most normal people don't do a workout the day prior to a race. However, in defense of my seeming madness, I was racing the 10k at Longest Day and this was all in preparation for the Scotiabank Half-Marathon at the end of the month. So, it was with Phil, Paul, and a pick up of Patrick from another club that we ran the 5 x 800m hills at Stanley Park.

I believe I have mentioned this before, but the one great thing about repeating workouts every 8 weeks or so is it gives you empirical evidence of fitness gains that have been achieved. To demonstrate my lack of crazy, I only did 3 of the 5 repeats, but they were all the fastest times I have run in this workout, yet none of them felt stressed. I didn't reach into the tank to finish one out, which is good because I would need that tank the following night. Splits of 2:42, 2:38, 2:39 were great and I felt that I could have held that average if I needed to for the full five repeats, but I choosing smart over nuts, I jogged out to the car, picked up thai red curry from Tom Yum Thai and went home.

My first exposure to the Longest Day Run was last year when Sonja and our new BVCFs, Leanne and Damien, were going to run the 5k as the culmination to their training with a run clinic. I got to play "race mom" and cheer them on and carry their gear and generally enjoy the atmosphere without having to be sweaty. They all did amazing and I was very proud of them. The course also intrigued me as it was on both road and path, with some hills and a long downhill finish. It was a bit of excitement that I signed up for the undercard of the evening, as the 5k was the premiere race of the event - a Timex Series race with some good cash for the top 5. The 10k is just two loops of the 5k and is less well-attended. To say that I wasn't thinking about the possibility of winning the race would be to lie to you and me, but I was also well aware that for me to win two things are needed: me running well and faster people not showing up.

The 10k went off at 7:00pm, 45 minutes prior to the start of the 5k. This was also appealing to me as it would mean that my teammates would be able to see me racing during their warm-up and I would be able to watch them as they raced. The whole crew - Jay, Graeme, Phil, the other Phil, Peter, Paul, stealth training Ynuk, Mike and Capel - were racing the 5k, so it was going to be a fun evening. Sonja played the role of race mom this evening as we set up a beach towel in the shade of a tree along the finishing stretch, which became everyone's home base. Good people, warm evening, last day of teaching behind me, and I was feeling good.

Warm-up completed and I was on the start line. The hills from the previous evening reminded me that they were in my legs during my strides of the start line. A long downhill comprised pretty much the whole first kilometer so I knew it would be important to not blow out my quads on it in the first three minutes of the race. With the looped course, I wanted to take advantage of the hills, both up and down, on the second loop. And so a minute into the race I found myself about five places back from two guys off the front. Looking at my watch, I saw that I was running 3:12/km pace, which was fast enough. My goal was to come in around 34:00 minutes for this race - anything under that would be amazing, but too much over (34:45+) and questions would start to creep into my psyche. The two guys of the front must have been running around 3:00/km, which they were not going to keep up because there are only a few guys around that can, and they were not those guys. I chose to bide my time and run steady, bringing them back along the hills. The hills in the race, which are not too harsh at all, but consistent, felt good. I conjured images of Simon Driver and his little stride that allows him to float up hills and tried to match the his stride as he ran around inside my head. This seemed to work well as I started to draw the leaders back closer, moving into third place. After the cresting the hills, the two guys in front, were running about 20m ahead. The guy in the white shirt kept checking his should even the the younger kid (who turned out to be 17) was right there. My conjuring was of Jay and his light stride as the course opened up to a long straight away. I moved to the far side of the course and focussed my sight beyond the two of them and tried to be fluid like Jay. In my peripheral vision the two guys became larger and larger until I was alongside them heading into the first aid station at about 3.5k. This was going to be fun; I was working hard but knew I had enough in reserve to race.

Through the aid station I took some water as it was a warm evening and got back in with the leaders. A little downhill after turning right at the top of the course allowed the guy in white to make a little move and I stayed back a little, holding some in reserve, knowing that there was a lot of time in the race and a very long downhill grade leading into the finish area. We turned and start the trek back toward the start, and I moved away from the young kid with my sight on the leader. The top of the course is a little square and it was coming out of the square that I pulled up on the should of the leader. There was a very sligth headwind so I tucked in on his shoulder. This did not please him. Looking over his shoulder, we started to play cat and mouse.

An example of the cycling tactics employed during the race (and one of the most exciting stages of the Tour de France ever)

I followed him as he went side to side on the course, trying to get me off his shoulder. This is more of a cycling tactic as the draft is more significant on a bike, but I was willing to play along. I pushed the pace for about 20 meters and the slowed up to allow him to catch me. I knew that this was an important part of the race for first because there were only really three of us up front, and I didn't know about either of these guys. The young kid had a very fluid stride and looked smooth; I was concerned he would not know that he was tired and run through us both. This guy was not wanting me to sit on his shoulder and with the long downhill coming, I knew that I would be able to put in a pretty strong surge when the opportunity provided itself. We continued to jockey and try to figure each other out, but as we hit the downhill leading to the end of the first loop, and later the finish, he moved to the left again and this time slowed up, forcing me to either slow down or take the lead. As it was the downhill and I knew that the long downhill from the start of the race was coming, I decided it was time to see what I had in the tank. It was at 4.6k I made move. With him slowing down and moving left, I moved right and pushed into another gear. Using my strength in downhill running I silently challenged him to come with me for the next 3 minutes. Seeing Sonja cheering alongside a whole host of other people, knowing that I was going to see my teammates on the second loop, I prepared myself to run hard. I was told early on in my running career that looking back was a sign a weakness. If you look back, you are concerned about the people behind you, not in front. This is not good as now when I see someone look back, I know that I am going to catch them. As I took the lead, I was not going to look back. I pushed through the 5k mark (splitting 16:54), and then the long downhill. I was slowing down as compared to my first lap, but effort was getting higher. I ran as though the other guy was only 10m back. In my head I was trying to break him, especially once we hit the uphill section again. With Simon in my head, I knew that this would be the make or break part of this move. If he was able to maintain contact through the hills, he would be confident in the final 3k. If not, then he would have to start looking back and worrying about the young kid. The other thing about looking back is that there is nothing good that can come of it; if they are close, it is discouraging and if they are not then the urge to relax comes to the fore. It is for those reasons I ran as though he was 10m back the whole time. I sweat I heard footsteps the whole time but as I began to run through people still on their first lap, I began to listen to the clapping and cheering. Leading a race is not something that one gets to experience that often, so I was happy to take an existential moment to absorb it. Someone told me I had 15 seconds on second place, so I started doing math. With 3k left, he would have to run 5 seconds/km faster than my current pace to catch me. With each passing kilometer that number became higher and with 1k left and the long downhill I felt comfortable with my position, I saw Sonja cheering. It was a pretty cool moment.

I crossed the line in 34:06, essentially tying my personal best time for 10k, and taking 1st place. What followed was fun. I got to watch my teammates race the 5k and take every position between 3rd and 8th. It looked like a VFAC workout with Jay, Peter, Graeme, Ynuk, Paul (all under 16 minutes), and Phil (16:13) coming in in that order. Ian Druce (16:14) was 9th, Mike (16:26) was 12th, the other Phil was 14th - all of them under 17 minutes. Kapil finished in 17th with a PB.

It was a great night for the VFAC crew. Lot of fantastic efforts, and results, and this bodes well for us a group heading to Scotiabank two weeks from now. Lots to look forward to!

Friday, June 05, 2009

VFAC Thursday - 1, 2, 2, 1

Last night was a warm one. With Vancouver hitting record temperatures of 30+ degrees throughout the week, I was actually looking forward to being out and running sans shirt. There is something freeing about running a hard workout with teammates, baking in the evening heat, sweating out the work day.

We jogged over to Beaver Lake and found out from John that tonight was going to be the infamous, 1k, 2k, 2k, 1k. Beaver Lake is an almost perfect 1k loop of a lake in Stanley Park. It is hard pack gravel, with a few turns and a few slight grades. It is a favourite workout venue for many of the faster runners in Vancouver as you are able to accurately judge distance and the surface is forgiving on the joints.

I was not sure of what to expect going into the workout. The first two days after the Iron Knee I was walking with a noticeable limp due to the twisted foot I suffered on the final (long) descent into the finish. But with lots of icing and traumeel, my run Wednesday felt very normal. I was pleased about the healing, so I think that the two days of forced rest allowed for a mini-taper for the workout.

The last time I did this workout, it was the first one back from my December injury. The April workout had me running a very well paced workout of 3:13, 6:43, 6:43, 3:13. I was pleased with that workout coming back as it demonstrated that I still had some residual speed in the legs. This, however, has never really been an issue. The short and fast has always been a strength; it is the long and fast that has been the concern.

Last night's workout was a great barometer of my fitness since April. In the last 8 weeks I have seen some significant growth in my running. When Coach John told Peter and me that we were to go 2:55 and 6:10 for the workout, we thought he was a little bit crazy, but his crazy always seems to be pretty much bang on. Peter and I ran the first 1k in 2:57. I am not sure the last time I went under 3:00 for 1k workout, but to do it on the first interval was good, but I was worried about how I would hold up. Turns out I shouldn't have. The first 2k went great as I negative split the loops and ran a 6:08, followed up by a tougher 6:14. On the last 1k my goal was to stay as close to Jay as possible. This strategy was a good one for as he went through the loop in 2:48, I was dragged along for a 2:55 - right on Coach John's predictions. I was definitely pleased to be able to run my fastest loop on the last interval, but also that it wasn't killing me. I never lost form or control. My mantra, which I took from a Kenyan or Ethiopian coach, was fulfilled - run fast, not hard.

A great workout with great running teammates on a great night. Nothing like a little injury to give you a taper into a workout. Tonight's run was a little heavy, but I churned out the 10k and got the miles in. I am now playing with the idea of running a 10k next Friday evening, but I am not sure about it as it is about a $40 entry and that is a little steep for me as a new homeowner. And nothing says new homeownership like a trip to Ikea, which is where I just got home from. Do you know that they have toilet brushes for a dollar? A dollar! Crazy.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Run Swim Run

I have never participated in an Aquathlon, but today was my mini-version. After 2.5 days of icing and traumeel, my foot was feeling better so I tried out a short run. Sonja was at Brighton pool when I got home from teaching, so I ran down to meet her there. The pool is about 10 minutes away and it is amazing - the view of the North Shore is incredible. We swam (read: waded and splashed) for about 20 minutes and then made our way home. The run home didn't feel as smooth, but there was no pain in the foot which is great news as it means I will go to workout tomorrow night and that the two days of rest will not turn into ten.

Oh, and Vancouver is experiencing Ontario-like weather, which makes Sonja happy, but reminds me of days on the track in Hamilton with Jon Moncreiff, dropping 5 pounds during workout. This is not what I signed up for, but I am sure it will soon be 21 degrees with a cool breeze.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Iron Knee 25k

This was the race that started it all. I had been running trails before this race, but once I had run this course, it was love.

I love point-to-point races because you actually feel like you have gone somewhere. The big joke with non-runners is that we spend a lot of energy to go nowhere. The point-to-point is fun to run and gives a sense a satisfaction that looped or out-and-back routes don't.

After last week's disappointing half-marathon, I was looking forward to my first race back in the trails. This race is essentially two huge hills separated by a 3k flat stretch. Also, it is more like 20k than 25k, but no one really complains because it makes you like a hero when people see your time.

The plan this year was to start out conservative and build through. I had tried this last week, but it didn't really work very well. On the trails, you can't fake it - if you get cocky, the hills will remind you that you are insignificant. I relaxed in the first few kilometers, actually walking part of the initial hill, a mere 1km into the race. Walk early, walk often. It was important for me to maintain a lower heart rate on the day, so there was no shame in walking, but it is difficult to watch people run away from you. As usual, I tried to take note of the people passing me, with the mind to pick them off as the race progresses.

It was a few km in that my snowshoeing partner, Tom, pulled up beside me. We ran together for pretty much the first half of the race, getting caught up on our past couple of months and generally having a great time. I appreciated the company and pacing that Tom gave me, as he is veteran of many an ultra-marathon. We also caught up to eventual female winner, Katrina Driver, who is a climbing legend. I know that if I am anywhere near Katrina at the top of a hill, I am in good shape! It was at the aforementioned flat stretch that we parted ways and I started to make the move to bring back some of the people in front of me.

I was feeling great at this point of the race, which was the goal. I was starting to see groups of people in front of me, slowly watching their bodies increase in size as I approached. I moved fluidly and easily, but Powerline Hill, a 15 minute climb, was waiting for me. I had a decision to make at this point. I could keep pace with the people I had just run back to, or I could conserve my quads and legs and hike the hill, relying on my downhill running to make the time up again. I chose the latter a gamble to be sure.

The day was very warm and there is not much shade on this long, steep hill. I am not built for long climbs, so the decision to hike it kept me in a positive mindset, rather than suffering through the lactic acid of trying to run the whole climb. I crested the climb having lost about 6 position on the ascent, but with fresh legs. It was time for some fun.

It is the single-track downhill running that I love about trails and I was about to get 20 minutes of that as I descended from the apex of Powerline. I was able to make up a couple positions pretty quickly, and then two more guys came back. I knew that there was one more person that I could catch, as the leaders were far out of reach, but I had no idea where this person was. I had only caught a fleeting glimpse of him at the base of Powerline, so I was only guessing that he would be suffering after Powerline. In the past two years, I had lost positions on the last small climb in the trails, about 2k from the finish. It was with great pleasure that I saw my target at the same spots where I was weak in years past. I made my move and passed him, emerging from the trails and onto the road only to start feeling my calved seize. This was no time for cramping. I did the best I could to prevent a full on cramp, which would have stopped me completely, and sprinted-shuffled into the line. I was pleased with the result - a 4th place finish, but an enormous eight minutes behind 3rd place, which was Simon Driver. It was also 5 minutes slower than last year and 9 minutes slower than the year before that. I know that I hiked the hills more than I have in the past, but I didn't feel that much slower. Oh well, it was a training race and I had fun.

But here is the kicker - I twisted my foot during the race. My left foot, so that was good. And I didn't really feel any pain during the race nor for the rest of the day. At 3am, I woke up to an ache on the top of my left foot. No swelling, but I couldn't walk. I iced it that night and went back to sleep. I have been on an icing and traumeel plan since and it is feeling pretty good as of this evening. I am hoping that it will be better by Thursday so that I can go to VFAC, but these few days of rest are not a bad thing.

I am feeling good about running right now but I know that Scotiabank will be tough. I don't think that it will be a PB, that may need to wait until October and the Royal Victoria Half-Marathon, but I know that I will be fit and in the race.