Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I ran every day for 365 days. Here's what I learned.

I ran today.

Running streaks have to start somewhere and it was a year ago tomorrow, U.S. Thanksgiving Day, I went on a run.

This morning, I ran for the 365th straight day.

This is a post that in theory I've been thinking about writing for hundreds of days. If I had my way, I would write the entire piece while on the run, as opposed to on the couch long after I've put away my running shoes. In front of my laptop, I can't ever match the emotions, sensations, thoughts that I'm having each day while I am out on a run.

I ran today.

Today, I felt speed, as I accelerated while weary of the lights threatening to turn red. Even typing the word "speed" doesn't begin the describe it. How does one feel speed? My head says go fast and my legs respond, firing off those commands to move arm, muscle, bone, leg, feet -- while my lungs suck in extra air that will be parcelled out to areas that need it most. In the span of a few seconds, speed is not just movement that is done rapidly, but speed is expressed as motion executed by a series of strides, only to be spurred on by a series of decisions -- one decision overrode them all. The decision to run. And today I decided to run.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Race Report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2014

Three words. That's all I needed. That's all, really, I could muster in my mind that late in the game.

I had 36 kilometres before I wanted to start using the three words, my motivational running mantra. But through the race, I had also been anticipating that moment when the healing left calf would rebel, when the waves -- bursts -- would strike deeper into the muscle. My legs were spinning, maintaining the pace I had taken to heart, but I could feel it building.

When the 36th kilometre struck, the cramps hit, threatening to tighten completely. I pointed my left foot forward so the balls of my feet would absorb more of the impact, shielding my calf. I had been running for two hours, 40 minutes, and the three words I had planned to use on repeat were hastily replaced. I'd need that mantra later. I wasn't going to waste it now.

"Push, push, push," I muttered between breaths. "Push, push, push," I said, wishing, willing the cramps away.

The leg throbbed. I thought about stopping.

I said for the third time as the spasms hit, "push, push, push."

A FEW DAYS AGO, I sat down with my coach to talk about our plans for the marathon. I was four weeks out from a calf pull, and four days until my next marathon. I had healed enough so I could start attempting faster paces. We had agreed on a 3:07 marathon plan, which was the goal time I set back in June. In my mind, my fitness had me with the potential to go faster, but we ended up agreeing on the plan. I promised to go out on pace. "You'll see, once I get on pace, I'll stick to it," I assured her.

My build this season went almost flawlessly until I pulled the calf. I was getting stronger, working on my stride and running technique. I was paying attention to the details -- strength work and healthy diet. I was listening to the body. Races were solid this summer, including a new 5K and 30K PB and I had run long enough runs to be confident in the distance -- even with the injury and the reduced mileage in the past few weeks.

Calf aside, I was fit, and ready to race.

By the time I woke up on race morning, a weather system with gusting winds had swept through the city, leaving us with a gorgeous cold race morning. There was a wind but it was a mere 15km/h and the temperature was calling for 3C at the start, rising to 6-8C by noon. Perfect weather conditions. I had opted for light armwarmers, double singlet, gloves, shorts and a headband. It ended up being the perfect gear as I was never too warm or cold.

I arrived at the start line pumped, confident, focused. But something was different this time around that I had at no other Scotiabank. I was surrounded by so many friends -- teammates who I've run hundreds of miles with; friends I've known for years on the running scene; social media runners from this city and far off places. Everywhere I looked at the start corral, I could trade a hug, a handshake and wish good luck. I was going to run this race solo, but I wasn't alone.

Yes, I got it autographed by Reid and Lanni. Good luck charm?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

First-time marathon tips 48 hours before the race (VIDEO)

Ever wondered what are the routines other marathoners get into before the big race? What do you eat, how much sleep do you get? Awesome video put together with members of my running team (myself included) and my coaches and Reid Coolsaet among the guests.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fear Is The Greatest Motivator - So Be Fearless

I was ready to give up on my goal. A pulled calf a few weeks ago, just as I was about to go into my taper, reminded me how much humility I need to bring to my training. It gave me perspective on what running is to me -- that while I want to run fast, I want to run long, and for a long time.

In the past few weeks, I've been making plans for another marathon past Scotiabank, going back and forth on whether I'll truly race this goal marathon I've been building up to all summer.

Was I finding a way to opt out? What was I afraid of? Today I think I found the answer, and it surprised me.

I have some unfinished business. My coach thinks I'm fit and ready to go. The game face is back and it is good.

And I'm not alone.


How do you measure success? It's a question I often ask when I'm interviewing potential candidates in my day job, knowing there is no right answer. For me, the answer to that question helps me judge character more so than to let someone talk about how great they inevitably are.

Success in the corporate environment takes different forms. Meeting targets, heading a project, doing something that you'd tell at the dinner table or ultimately put in your resume. What one sees as success often tells a lot about them. The answers speak show one's self confidence, self awareness and how they strive for greatness in the wake of the always-present risk of failure.

I've thought a lot about failure and fear ever since one of my first work mentors taught me a phrase that shook me so much so that I printed out it, and stuck it to the side of my desk. It became one of my first guiding principles that reminded me that to be extraordinary, you had to find motivation. And I found one source of it.

"Fear is a great motivator," he told me.

Fear, and fear of failure, is a powerful thing. It can act as a deterrent to taking risks. Or it can motivate you to take the elements of fear -- self doubt, dread, apprehension, limitations -- and propel you into effort, effort that will help you find courage, calm, confidence and -- if you're lucky -- success.

From The Oatmeal's new running book -- BUY IT

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Season interrupted?

Note to self: If you ever want to race the red light, don't.

I keep track of all my runs in too many places - Garmin, which automatically outputs to Strava. I keep a DailyMile log and for my coach, everything is in the cloud. At the same time, I'm rarely writing here about my training but about races and pieces about running in general.

But then after I got injured this week, I realized what the best archive for me has been over the past nine years -- this place. I searched this blog for "calf" the other day as I was trying to wrap my head around how I would salvage my season. On Monday, which I usually use for recovery running, I ended up being overzealous, ending a 10K run with a few "too fast" kilometres -- call it end-of-workday energy. And as I raced to beat a changing light - ill advised for safety reasons - my calf told me, as I was running 3:45 pace, that it was indeed a bad idea.

Top of Primrose Hill in London where I ran during a work trip this week.

I felt a sensation, not unlike a pop, on my upper left calf. And stopped the run right away. Long story short, I pulled it, have a minor strain that wouldn't be so major unless I was three weeks away from the goal race. I'm now faced with three weeks to maintain fitness, heal my calf and think about whether in 21 days I'll be ready go tackle 42.2K with a substantial race plan in mind. I know I can complete the distance, fitnesswise, just not sure the legs will follow a faster plan. I'm running pain free but accelerating and holding fast paces is not happening at least for now.

So, I'm planning, scheming, thinking of races that are farther down the calendar. There are good candidates. Meanwhile, I'm going to focus on getting better, not rushing back to speed and arrive at Scotia with a plan -- either go for it, or treat it as a pacer run, with my eye forward.

This summer, however, has been a great training season, my second with a running team. Some stats:

Monthly mileage

June: 338K
July: 415K
August: 480K
September: 357K

I've done a few big races, including two 5Ks (a 19:18 PB and 19:49) in June before my fitness was ramping up; a 30K race with a new PB and a 10K race.

The interval, tempos and fartlek speeds are getting so fast. Intervals started at 3:55s and made their way down to 3:35s to 3:40s. Tempos started at 4:15 but went closer to 4:10s or faster. Marathon pace is feeling closer to 4:20 kilometres.

That's before the calf, though I've been fighting other niggles -- the IT band issue is there but not to serious so I've been great about getting my hip and IT band stretched. The glutes have been tight but rolling has helped.

Oh yeah, and also this:

Yes, I'm running Boston in 2015.

So while I enter the uncertain phase of this season, I have to also remember the progress I've made. A year ago today, I was on the comeback trail. A year ago, I was aiming at a 3:20 marathon in Chicago when I believed I was 3:15 fitness -- my knee issues put a big question mark in the final months and I have to remember that. A year later, I've already bagged a 3:08 marathon and I'm thinking of even faster.

So the path's been great -- happy to be where I am today and more importantly, in light of the calf pull, I'm reminded most that I'm happy to be running at all.