Sunday, March 30, 2008

Race report: Around the Bay 30K

Sigh. I guess long races make for long race report. Sorry for the length but I like to document these for my own diary like purposes.

As I was saying yesterday, this race really crept up on my schedule, which is funny, because at some point, it was a major race in my schedule. But marathons have this tendency to make you forget about things like this. I signed up for Around the Bay last year, when a few friends of mine decided to sign up. It was their longest race distance, and I thought it'd be fun to go to Hamilton to do this historic road race.

The race goes around the lakeshores of Hamilton, Ont., and Burlington, Ont. (where R is from) and aside from being one of the rare 30Ks on the race schedule, it happens to bill itself as the oldest road race in North America. This is is the 114th running. It's such a strategic race itself. The first 19K is flat as a pancake with a few inclines. Also, because the race is done around the bay, there is a possibility of big wind. And also, because the race takes place in the last Sunday of March (because shipping season starts in April, and they need to gain access to a bridge we run across), there is a possibility of winter like weather.

Oh yeah, and there are massive hills from the 19K to the 26K mark, or just more than 4 miles of hills. The last hill is a doozy and is legendary.

So when I signed up last year, I knew i'd be in for such an interesting race. What pace do you pick for a 30K? It can be faster than marathon pace, but how close can it be to your half marathon pace? And what happens when there are major hills? What pace, then, do you choose?

I arrived in Hamilton yesterday afternoon, checked into the hotel, hit the expo, grabbed the race pack, subscribed to a new Canadian running magazine (exciting news, a post about that later). Then I met some friends and we went to their placed, cooked pasta, watched the movie St. Ralph (which is actually set in the Hamilton area and mentions Around the Bay) and observed Earth Hour. I was back in the hotel for 10 p.m. and I was in bed soon after.

I got up at 5:30 for my 'first breakfast' of a bagel and peanut butter. I went back to sleep and was up again at 7:15 when I hydrated again. From my window, I could see runners already arriving at around 8 a.m. (more than 1.5 hours before the start) so I was happy to spend another 40 minutes in my room.

The weather was looking great. Sunny, a light to medium wind and just above zero C. A lot of runners were seeking shelter but I decided to stay outside, just walking, warming up and to also stake out a good position near the front.

Surprisingly, just before the start, I saw that there were pacers. There was a 2:20 who happened to be lined up right in front of me, so I thought maybe I would use him since that was the pace I was going for (4:40Ks and 7:30 miles). He ended up moving back a few places so I couldn't see him when we started.

0 - 10K
We were off and I really tried to hold back, to take it slow and go by feel. My biggest worry about this race was going out too fast, hitting my LT pace right away and just losing it. So the strategy was to stick to 4:40s and see how things went. We were running right into the sun which was great cause it was keeping us warm.

The race was going well but there were a few complications. Quite a few people were going out very fast. From what I could tell, it was because a) they were part of the 3x10K relay b) they were part of a 2x15K relay or c) they were inexperienced at long distances and were just giving it. d) I guess the fourth reason was they were trying to bank in time in the first half before they hit the hills, cause that's what the 2:20 pacer said.

My first three kilometres were amazingly on perfect pace.
1. 4:39
2. 4:38
3. 4:39

During the second kilometre, my pacer, being trailed by his pack of runners, came tearing through my group at, I kid you not, a 4:20 pace. I kept up for a little bit but then realized it was crazy to step up my pace in an effort to bank time. I would not go LT for the first 5 miles and kill myself by the end. I watched them disappear way into the distance in the next few kilometres. I kept on thinking "I'll catch ya guys if you really intend to pace 2:20". And then I hit my next split of 4:40 and I was happy.

Other than a 4:33, my first 10K was a clinic in keeping pace. By the time we reached the 9K mark, I had shed the small bottle of Gatorade I was holding, and that left my arms free and I felt at that point that I could really start running. We also hit the first exchange area for the 3x10K relay and I was just happy to be catching up to 10K runners who were clearly running out of gas. I felt strong and prepared myself for the next 20K

4. 4:33
5. 4:41
6. 4:39
7. 4:39
8. 4:36
9. 4:39
10. 4:35

The first 10K was done in a gun time of 47:04 (so about 46:44) which was pretty much perfectly on pace.

The next few kilometres, I was shaking off some runners and started to target groups ahead. I had slightly increased the pace to (11K in 4:37, 12K in 4:35) then settled back into rhythm. At this point, I was just trying to keep fresh for the hills. I took my first gel at the 14K mark (13K in 4:38 and 14K in 4:38). As I was entering the half way point, I came to a moment of truth and it was this: I felt up to that point that I was never really racing. I mean, really forcing my breathing higher, thinking about jockeying for position, pushing my body up towards some limit. I also pictured in my minds eye that 2:20 pace group. Where the heck were they? I was running on pace or even faster and they were nowhere in sight. That kinda got me mad. And so I started out pour it on.

15K: 4:34
16K: 4:32
17K: 4:37
18K: 4:38
19K: 4:33

I hit the 20K split in a gun time of 1:33:08, just about 40 seconds faster than 2:20 pace.

The hills. They arrived just as I remembered them. Long and rolling. A long incline, followed by a long decline. This was going to be fun. At this point, I wanted to give it. So my strategies for hills was to use the declines to gain speed and rest (funnily enough) and to blast up the inclines with a smooth quick turnover but easier in effort. The hills are hard, but they also give you flat land to recover after an incline so that you actually have a chance to run at a fast pace. In English, that meant, on the downhill, I went really fast, on the uphills, I took it at a fastish pace and on the flats, I looked to regain speed.

Here are the splits on the hilly areas

21K: 4:28
22K: 4:29
23K: 4:27
24K: 4:36 I caught up to the 2:20 pace group. Funnily enough, he had only one person left with him. I passed him and stepped it up again.
25K: 4:21
26K: 4:09. This is the big downhill before the death hill. I really used the downhill to speed my way in.
27K: 4:28. I'm absolutely amazed with this time because it was the big hill.

The final stretch came and I saw that the hills had actually given me a time advantage. The last hill had really taken a lot of wind out of me, but I looked to quickly reestablish a fast pace. So I really started to pour it on again.

28K: 4:25.

With three kilometes to go, I saw that I probably could not go fast enough to reach 2:15, which would qualify me for a silver medal (they give out awards by time and 2 hours to 2:15 for men gets you a silver, after which, you get bronze.). I figured I needed a sub 12 minute 3K to pull it off and there was no way I could also make up for the gun time (my chip time was 20 seconds behind). But you know what, I told myself to go for it anyways. So I said this mantra over the last bit: "Pain is temporary, glory is forever". I know it's a cheesy line but it worked. I sped up and just blasted through every group. In the last 10K I passed tonnes of runners, but in the last two kilometres, I passed a whole whack of strong runners. I did 29K in 4:06, picturing a track intervals. Not to be outdone, I saw Copps Coliseum and I actually maintained pace, doing the final kilometre in 4:07. To put this in perspective. 4:06 or 4:07 is the type of speed I'd run for a 10K race, not for the final bit of a 30K race.

I entered the Coliseum's steep downward ramp, nearly lost my balance, turned the corner, and saw the final track leading to the finish line. I saw the clock and was happy to hear my name as the number read 2:16:52.

Here are my 10K splits that show the negative split.
1st: 46:24
2nd: 45:44
3nd: 43:41

All in all, I'm pretty happy with this first 30K. I'm surprised I took the hills that well and now I know that next time I can aim at a sub-2:15 with proper pacing.

Chip time: 2:16:32
Place overall: 303/4488 (93.2 percentile)
Place gender: 273/2394 (88.5 percentile)
Place division: 49/242 (79.7 percentile)
Pace: 4:34 kilometres

Well, that was a blast

Race report to come.  I'm sitting in the stands at Copps after Around the Bay waiting for friends after showering, eating McDs and talking to R

I had the most interesting race; a marathon pace run followed by hill training, then a crazy last blast in the final 3 miles.

I aimed for 2:20 but my competitive spirit pushed me to a 2:16:29.  Could have gone faster.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mini trip

I'm at the train station in Scarborough ready to take my two-hour commute to Hamilton for tomorrow's race. It has really crept up on me and I guess it really hasn't dawned on me until now. This Around the Bay is a pretty big race!

I can't ask for better weather. It will be much like today when we start tomorrow - just above zero, sunny and hopefully light winds. I think I may have a little sun on my face after this weekend! 

Friday, March 28, 2008

Around the Bay, the strategy

Carbo loading is well under way. I haven't run since Wednesday night and I'll have another day of rest, except maybe for a two-mile run in Hamilton.

I spoke to a co-worker who ran the course last year. As he says, the 30K course is flat and fast for the first 20 or so kilometres, then you enter hills until about the 27K mark. And yes, they are real hills, big ones. I ran some of them once around the new year so at least I have a preview of the inclines (and declines).

Here's my strategy. Go for a 2:20 finish, which is a 4:40K pace or 7:30 miles. That means I'll hit the half marathon mark in about 1:38:30. For the next 6K, when we enter the hils, I will have to stay patient. Run smooth, run the downhills smartly without expending too much extra energy, tackle the hills with an efficient stride, and leave myself enough energy to hit the last major hill, which is a doozy. The final three kilometres or so is a slight downhill on which I should be able to go back to marathon pace. Or even faster if I'm feeling great.

Splits Times
1 Kilometer 00:04:40
5 Kilometer 00:23:20
10 Kilometer 00:46:40
15 Kilometer 01:10:00
20 Kilometer 01:33:20
21 Kilometer 01:38:00
25 Kilometer 01:56:40
30 Kilometer 02:20:00

I think I have a pretty good buffer -- marathon pace for 30K will be difficult, but my fitness should allow me to accomplish it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Running lore verified? (Or yes, there is really a runners' high)

Came across this article in the New York Times, headlined, "Yes, Running Can Make You High "In it, it outlines a study done in the journal Cerebral Cortex and says "the folk belief is true"

Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.

Leading endorphin researchers not associated with the study said they accepted its findings.

“Impressive,” said Dr. Solomon Snyder, a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins and a discoverer of endorphins in the 1970’s.

The study looked at 10 distance runners and measured endorphins before and after a long run of about two hours. According to the Times:

The data showed that, indeed, endorphins were produced during running and were attaching themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions, in particular the limbic and prefrontal areas.

The limbic and prefrontal areas, Dr. Boecker said, are activated when people are involved in romantic love affairs or, he said, “when you hear music that gives you a chill of euphoria, like Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.” The greater the euphoria the runners reported, the more endorphins in their brain.

And this finding I've never really heard before, but apparently they are going to study whether pain tolerance increases. (Maybe this explains why the hurt felt at the beginning of a run starts to fade -- for me this happens after about 5 miles)

In a follow-up study, Dr. Boecker is investigating if running affects pain perception. “There are studies that showed enhanced pain tolerance in runners,” he said. “You have to give higher pain stimuli before they say, ‘O.K., this hurts.’ ”
So the next time you tell a non-runner you ran an 18 miler, and they respond by asking whether you're crazy, you can just say, yeah, and I'm also high on endorphins...

A daily double and the mini-taper begins

I've had plenty of times when I've run some miles in the evening, then 12 hours later, in the early morning, I'll do a big run. Actually, I did that this week with a 6 miler on Monday night and a 12 mile with LTs at 5 a.m. the next morning, less than half a day apart. I very rarely follow a run in the morning with good distance in the evening after a day of work. Today was a different story.

I ran my recovery 5 miles this morning at around 5:30. It rained and snowed last night, actually, it first snowed then rained. In any case, the rain froze leaving some icy patches. I got to one area in my waterfront trail and promptly fell on my butt but not before my arms went out. Luckily, I was actually not running but rather walking through the ice so I was kinda prepared.

Total run was done in a very recovery speed of 9 minute miles or 5 miles in 45:20.

After work, I saw how nice and sunny it was. It was maybe plus 5C. So I looked at the schedule, saw that I only had a 12 miler scheduled for tomorrow, saw that I had a dinner with friends tomorrow after visiting my mom, and saw an opportunity to get my run in now, and thus beginning the mini-taper a day early.

Yep, so I did my 12 miler medium-long run this evening while the sun was out. I made sure to keep it relatively easy, so I took out my heart-rate monitor and ran under 150 beats per minute. I'm fairly pleased with a results. I averaged 8:13 miles with a heart rate of 148 bpm. Looking back, this type of heart rate with that pace shows I'm in pretty good fitness (for me). Total run of 12 miles in 1:38:44.

So pretty crazy huh? I did 17 miles on a weekday and 35 miles over three days and now I get a luxurious three days of rest before the 30K race. Actually, I will do maybe two miles on Saturday to warm up and get some striders in, but hey, two miles are nothing. I'm loving the idea that I can finally sleep in (if 5:45 a.m. to 6 a.m. wakeups qualify as sleeping in).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Not the optimal LT run

I'm exhausted. My alarm roused me from barely 5 hours sleep at 4:30 a.m. for my run this morning. I decided to do it in the morning figuring the weather would be better in the morning than after work, when it was expected to snow and rain.

So just after 5, I staggered out of my condo, with iPod loaded with podcasts. I had two options, a 12 miler at normal pace or a 12 miler with 7 miles at lactate threshold pace. I decided soon after the 2K mark that I'd try the LT run this morning.

The weather was cold but it was clear and I had nice stretches of road to run in. Looking back at my splits, I know that the combination of little sleep, the fact I did a run not only 10 hours ago and the fact that I was tuning in and out of a podcast that it wouldn't be the best LT run. I found myself zoning out throughout the run, thinking I'd hit the pace, but the next split would show me that I still hadn't upped the pace. I also realized at several points that my breathing was too easy, that I wasn't straining.

Oh well. My LT pace should have been around the 4:20 minute Ks or around 7 minute miles. Here are my mile splits

1. 6:51 (4:15Ks) - On a bit on the fast end
2. 7:33 (4:42Ks) - I really was zoned out for this one, I was running only slightly faster than marathon pace
3. 7:12 (4:28Ks) - a little better but not up to the effort I know I can give. I hit some icy patches
4. 7:18 (4:32Ks) - losing focus, trying to listen to podcast and also counting down the minutes
5. 7:09 (4:26Ks) - yay, a little faster, finding better rhythm
6. 7:11 (4:32Ks) - finally, two miles that are actually close. I keep the pace on knowing it's almost over
7. 7:08 (4:26Ks) - a decent final mile.

So not a consistent LT run. First one too fast. Second way too slow, the third and fourth trying to make up the effort and the final three close to the correct pace.

I may have to make up an LT run sometime in the next few weeks. For now, focus is getting my mileage in the next two days (17 miles) then rest for two days, then the big race!

Note I also ran 10K last night after work.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Flying Pig Marathon: 6 weeks to go

Six weeks to go. Uh oh, that means in three weeks, my program will reach its peak then I start tapering. It's coming fast. The week that went by was great. I had plenty of good weather, helped by the fact that I've been in DC since Wednesday night. R. broke her ankle Tuesday at a gym class and I've been here helping her out, doing all the good boyfriend stuff. Unfortunately, she was supposed to do the half marathon at the Flying Pig so she's pretty upset she'll miss it. On the bright side, I think we'll both sign up for the Army 10 Miler again.

Here's the week past:

Monday: 5.2 miles
Tuesday: 12.07 miles
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 6.7 miles (with 6x100 strides)
Friday: 10.6 miles (with 5x1000 Vo2Max)
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 15.25 miles (14 miles of it at marathon pace)

Total weekly mileage: 50 miles (80.5K)
Year to date: 481 miles (774K)

The next week is going to be interesting, mostly because it ends with a 30K race, the Around the Bay in Hamilton and Burlington. I'm going to do a mini-taper for this race and treat it as a 20 mile pace run or even faster.

Here's the schedule. It gives me two hard workouts (a LT run and a 12 miler) with a recovery in between. It also gives me full two days of rest
Monday: 6 miles with 6x100
Tuesday: 12 miles with 7 at LT
Wednesday: Recovery 5
Thursday: 12 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Rest (2K jog with strides)
Sunday: 30K race (19 miles)

Pacer done

Today called for a 15 mile medium-long run with 12 miles of that in marathon pace. I liked running the East Potomac Park so I chose to do 3.5 loops (each loop is about 3 miles) to do the 12 miles. I took yesterday off which was a good idea so I had a little more of a spring in my step.

I did a mile warmup and launched right into it. I kinda forgot that marathon pace was 7:37 but I knew it was around that time. I started off a little (7:28) then ended up a little slower than planned (two 7:46s) but over the run, I got used to the effort and was able to step it up over last six or seven miles.

Here are the splits

I ended up doing 24.5K or just over 15 miles with an average pace of, scarily enough, right on marathon pace of 4:44Ks or 7:37 miles. I did the half marathon mark (13.1 miles) at 1:40 and the miles after my pacer were actually done at pace. So really, it was a 15 mile pace run in a way.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Loops of the park

This week called for a V02 Max of 5 x 1000. I haven't been able to find a good track in Toronto because of all the snow covering the ground. Also don't know of any tracks I could use in DC but I did Hains Point run in the East Potomac Park, which is a about 2.8 miles per loop or almost 4.5K.

The way I've done intervals or VO2 Max workouts is to hit the track, so the set and a jog recovery of a set time like 30 seconds or two minutes. I didnt' feel like resetting my Garmin all the time, so I decided to do 5X1000 by running 1000 metres (1K), do a recovery kilometre, then launch into the second. Without the track as feedback, I had to use the Garmin's pacer to give me an idea of how fast I was doing. It's often not a very accurate indicator so I relied mostly on feel and effort rather than going by time.

I tried to picture the 5K race over the last weekend, since it's exactly the pace I should have been running. The last 5K was done at 3:54 minute kilometres, so my target would be 4 minute kilometres veering faster or slower depending on wind, etc. It was not easy as doing this by feel was to run at a fast but not sprint speed. I did my striders yesterday in the same park so at least I had a benchmark. During each 1000 metre speed session, I tried to focus on staying upright, moving my arms back and forth without crossing the body, and focus on proper breathing. During a few segments when I felt I was gutting it out, my breath was out of control but it was pretty good for the most part.

Here are my kilometre splits of the 10+ mile run (17K) run. All the intervals were done within the East Potomac Park loop.

1K: 4:44
2K: 4:50
3K: 4:42
4K: 3:56 (6:21 mile pace)
5K: 4:50
6K: 3:52 (6:14 mile pace)
7K: 5:05
8K: 4:03 (6:32 mile pace)
9K: 4:59
10K: 3:54 (6:16 mile pace)
11K: 4:54
12K: 4:00 (6:26 mile pace)
13K: 5:26
14K: 5:12
15K: 4:56
16K: 4:36
17K: 4:39

Total run: 17K/10.57 miles in 1:18:49 with average pace of 7:27/4:38

One entirely surprising thing about the run was the average pace (7:27m/4:38k) and the types of splits I was doing before, between and after the 5X1000. Marathon pace of 4:45 is definitely feeling close to normal running pace. My next run is a 15 miler with 12 miles at marathon. I'm going to target 4:40Ks to 4:45Ks or 7:30 miles to 7:37 miles.

Note to self that I did 10.7K/6.6 miles yesterday with 6x100

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I survived winter

it's the last few hours of this winter and I'm spending a bit of time at the airport headed to DC. Tomorrow, it'll be the first day of spring (I think) and it couldn't come soon enough.

I know there's a lot more chances of winter-like weather. But the worst is over. I have a few thoughts about the past three months.

I'm glad I picked a May marathon - it got me right back into running on Jan 1, helping to get into shape after eating season (Xmas) and building back my fitness. Jan was tough since I was ramping up after taking Nov and Dec easier. The trip to Miami and a few weekends in DC was a respite from the cold.

Funny to say, but the mid and long runs in the dead of winter were solitary and enjoyable, despite the pain.

And now, as spring racing begins, I feel like I've buillt base for the year. My 19:31 5K has sunk in and I know it's the payoff from the pain. My May marathon is not the goal one - just not enough quality work has been fit in, but I still think I can make it my best marathon (in terms of pacing). 

Tomorrow morning, I plan to usher in spring with a 6 miler with strides, cause there's nothing like spring into the next season, leaving another behind.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

No rest

So the last four days have gone like this

Saturday: 18 miles or 30K
Sunday: 3.1 miles or 5K race where I set PB
Monday: 5 miles recovery at slowish pace
Tuesday: 12.3 miles mid-long run at

Maybe it'd be smart to take a rest day soon...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Flying Pig Marathon: 7 weeks to go

Wow, seven weeks left! I guess the 12 week program goes by really fast. One month until the taper.

Okay, so this week, the mileage was right up to expectations. It was, surprisingly, the highest mileage week I've done since the week ending Sept. 16 last year.

Here's the tale of the tape, so to speak

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 12.7 miles
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 11.3 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 18.66 miles (30k)
Sunday: 5K race / 3.1 miles (PR at 19:31!)

Total weekly mileage: 51 miles (82K)
Year to date: 431 miles (693.5K)

This week's schedule is a partial step back. There are a few key workouts, including my first scheduled V02 Max and my first marathon pacer of 12 miles.

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 5 miles recovery
Wednesday: 10 miles with 5x1000
Thursday: 12 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 6 miles recovery with 6x100
Sunday: 15 miles with 12 at pace

Total miles: 48

I may revise it to:
Monday: 5 miles
Tuesday: 12 miles
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 6 mile recovery (morning)
Friday: 10 with 5x1000 (In DC)
Saturday: 15 with 12 at pace (In DC)
Sunday: Rest

This schedule gives me two hard runs on Friday/Saturday but I think I'll have plenty of time to recover after. I may also just switch my pacer for Friday since I have the day off. Decisions, decisions.

Race report: Achilles 5K

What a race day. Sunny, a little chilly with wind in Toronto, started off a little worried but that was erased by the end.

I ran my 30K long run yesterday morning, so my legs were pretty tired after that effort. I wanted to just stay in but it was gorgeous out so I walked to St. Lawrence Market to pick up pasta, a whole chicken and other good grub. I got back and I really felt it in my lower leg muscles.

So I spent the afternoon and evening watching TV, cooking, preparing my traditional pre-race pasta meal. I was out pretty early at around 10 p.m. and other than a call from R., I wanted to stretch, rest and get ready for today's race.

Up just after 6 a.m. and hydrated, ate half a bagel with peanut butter and a few mouthfuls of pasta. Back to bed and by the time it was 8:30, I was raring to go.

The race site is only a 5 minute walk from my condo so I took my time. I got to the race site with plenty of time to spare and I did a few 200 metre jogs and some striders. Then a volunteer asked me to guide a blind man to the registration area: "1310! Excuse me, 1310, can you help guide this man to the table." I didn't realize he was talking to me, but then I took the man by the arm and I guided him through a maze of runners. We chatted about the race. I told him the course was mostly clear since I'd walked it a few days ago. I asked if he were running or walking and he said he was running. The Achilles race is a fundraising for disabled athletes so it was a nice honour to be able to talk to this man. I brought him to the area and another volunteer intercepted us. He thanked me, shook my hand and I went back to the starting line.

This is really Toronto's first big road race of the year, maybe 1300 runners and you could feel the excitement. I lined up near the front as usual and I saw many walkers or slower runners had done the same. I saw my friend Fitzy, who's running his second race in recent times. I thought he had a 23 minute 5K in him. In the crowd was another friend from university who'd lost a lot of weight and got into shape.

Strategy: Okay, I am not a short distance runner but damn it, I always wanted to go sub 20 minutes. I haven't run many 5Ks in my life so my first big attempt was about two summers ago when I managed a 21:44. I imploded in the last two kilometres in a very hot day. Last December, I ran a unchipped 5K in 20:03 in a course that I am convinced was 4.8K or 4.9K which is a good 30 seconds. So today, although I knew I wanted to break 20, I knew running 18 miles the day before wasn't the greatest preparation. But I am in the best winter shape in recent years, as a result of my marathon training. And while I haven't done lots of VO2s, I have done two successful LT runs and my long runs have been very strong.

So the strategy was to run it by feel and see how the first kilometre felt.

Kilometre 1: At the start, there was tonnes of congestion so that I didn't get into full speed until about the 250 to 300 metre mark (route on Gmaps). The first kilometre has a slight uphill followed by a plunge down another hill. After 500 metres, I felt that I wasn't even going at a hard pace. I decided to stay conservative. At the end of the kilometre mark, my Garmin went off and it said 4:01. I was a little surprised, but I knew then that I had more in me than I thought. This was the warmup. The race, really, had just begun.

Kilometre 2: We encountered two curves with plenty of ice so I hit the sidewalk to gain traction. This kilometre is mostly straight through downtown so the roads were straight. I targeted runners around me and we stepped it up. People were fading but I was feeling great. The Garmin said I did 3:45 but I think was off by at least 10 seconds.

Kilometre 3: As we neared the halfway mark, I saw the elites already turning and it gave me a little bit of incentive to run faster. At the turnaround, I took it wide, then quickly accelerated, shaking a few runners of me. That was fun. I also glanced at the watch and saw that I was sub 10 minutes, which was a great sign. I just told myself to hang in there for another kilometre and then I'd just gut it out for the final K. Garmin says 3:33 but we all know that's not true. It was closer to just sub 4.

Kilometre 4: I saw Fitzy on this stretch and waved at him. Also gave me a boost to see him doing so well. All of a sudden I realized how small a 5K was compared to my long runs. That all I needed was 8 minutes of discomfort. That helped big time.

Kilometre 5: This included going up the big hill we went down but luckily there was a group of runners ahead of me. I used them as bait and I reeled them all in. The hill was over quickly then it was only about 800 metres to the finish with a slight downhill. I remember thinking at this stretch that I had a sub 20 in the bag, it was just a matter of whether I wanted to gut it out. I did and passed a few runners. Some other runners were gutting it out too, so they passed me. But I didn't care. I saw Fitzy's better half and waved at her and barrelled toward the end. I did the last kilometre in the fastest time in about 3:46 with the last 200 metres at 3:37 pace. The clock read 19:37 and I pumped my fist. I wasn't breathing too hard and I was so very happy. Final time is 19:31.

So there you go. I can now say that I am a sub-20 minute 5K runner. I've come a long way as a runner and this is hard proof. Woo hoo!

Chip time: 19:31
Place overall: 64/1293 (95 percentile)
Place gender: 56/558 (89.9 percentile)
Place division: 19/194 (90.2 percentile)
Pace: 3:54 kilometres or 6:16 miles

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Race ready, I think...

This is what a 30K long run looks like in the city of Toronto. Man 30K covers a lot of ground.

I run the 30K Around the Bay in two weeks so I decided today to turn my 18 miler (29K) long run into a full 30K run. Sunny and a nice 4C today so it was perfect for a long run. Loaded up a few podcasts, filled up my Gatorade bottles and off I went.

Started off slow then started to tackle inclines. My first 10K was mostly uphill (the next 5K was mostly downhill). 15K to 20K was mostly run on a major city street (Bloor) because everyone decided to be outside today. My last 10K were done in a strong pace for a long run.

I've missed striders and one LT run in the past few weeks, but I've also run my long runs at much faster than usual pace. Finished the run, 30K or 18.66 miles in 2:29:44. I can't remember running that distance in that speed so I'm pretty happy. It also means that come race day on March 30, I can safely target a 2:30 and even go for the 2:22.

As for tomorrow's race, my legs are feeling tired but I'm staying off my feet for the night. Hopefully these tired legs will have enough in them for 5 kilometres.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

And the racing season has arrived

IMG00129, originally uploaded by yumkerun.

Picked up my race kit for the 5K I'm doing on Sunday. Over the course of four weeks, I'll have three races. Each one I have a bunch of goals that I'll lay out here:

Achilles 5K (March 16): This is my first race of the year so I'm looking forward to getting back into race shape. I run an 18 miler the morning before so I'm not going to treat it as a goal race or anything. I do want to, however, use it as a faster than LT run. Goal 1 is to go sub 21. Goal 2 is to hit 21:30. Final goal is to go sub 22 although I'd be pretty disappointed if I can't at least hit 21:30.

Around the Bay 30K (March 30): This is going to be a fun, interesting race. We'll see how the weather cooperates. The ATB is a historic race and I'm excited to run it for the first time. I've also never run a 30K before. In the latter third of the course, there are major hills (which I've run once with R. since her parents live in the area) so it'll be perfect training for the Flying Pig Marathon. I want to treat this as an uber marathon-pace run, which means targetting 4:40 to 4:45Ks. In DC last fall, I passed the 30K mark at about 2:19:30 for the Marine Corps Marathon. The year before that at the Chicago Marathon, I passed the 30K mark in 2:23:31. I'm not sure I want to figure out what my 30K race pace is, so I'm going to target marathon pace and go for 2:22 (plus or minus a few minutes for the hills). But to run a 2:22, I'll have to be in marathon pace shape for long distance so we'll see. A 2:30 I think is very achievable at my current training. If there's a run this training cycle that'll get me marathon ready, this will be it. 19 miles of MP. I will taper properly for this one.

Spring Run-Off 8K (April 5): This is a week later, and it'll be fun because I'll probably see quite a few of my ex-co-workers (the old employer sponsors the race). I've run it twice and it killed me last year so I am hungry to destroy my course PR of 35:46. I tried to beat it last year but I was sorely undertrained and I couldn't do it. This has big hills so it's a little challenging.

So I have a fun month of racing to look forward to... It'll give a little more purpose to the the marathon training.

No tempo today

I skipped today's tempo run (6 at LT out of 11 miles) cause I really didn't have the energy to do a fast paced run. I also got up at 5 a.m. and felt pretty worn out. I ran a city route again, but my Garmin went wacko after I ran under a bridge so I lost my distance after 11K. But I ran it out and went for a 1:35ish run. In the end, I took 1:34 to do a little more than 11 miles (11.3, actually).

I have a rest day tomorrow, then I have an interesting weekend. An 18 miler on Saturday followed by a race on Sunday. I obviously will be worn out from the long run to run an optimal race (more on that in the next post) but it'll be a big running weekend.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Daylight saving my sanity

0311daylight, originally uploaded by yumkerun.

This is a picture I snapped just after 7 p.m. yesterday. The brighter afternoons and evenings are very welcome since I have so many mid-week longish runs.

Scheduled for 12 miles today, so after getting home a little early, I set out. I was forced into the city since my trail routes are covered in snow. Which meant I spent a lot of time on roads trying to avoid crowded sidewalks.

As a result, the pace was quite fast throughout. I finished 12.72 miles (about 20K) in 1:40:19 with an average pace of 7:53 miles or 4:53 kilometres.

Needless to say the rest day helped. I'll do a nice 5 mile recovery run tomorrow morning.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Flying Pig Marathon: 8 weeks to go

I have yet to really follow the plan so far this training period. However, I am getting in all the mileage and all the key runs. Here's a recap.

Monday: 4 miles
Tuesday: 11 miles
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 10.4 miles (5 at LT)
Saturday: 5 miles
Sunday: 17.3 miles

Weekly mileage: 48 miles (77K)
Year to date: 380 miles (611.5K)

The plan this week, probably to be broken

Monday: Rest (maybe Tuesday's 5 miler)
Tuesday: 5 mile
Wednesday: 12 miles
Thursday: 11 miles with 4-6 at LT
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 18 miles (early morning, then rest)
Sunday: 5K race

17 miler in the books

I will not complain. It's cold and windy here, but at least I didn't have to contend with yet another winter storm. I ran 5 miles on a treadmill yesterday, then we spent 10 hours on our feet shopping. So my legs were pretty sore going to bed.

We lost the hour of sleep with Daylight Saving Time but I was ready for my run by about 10:30. Set out on the run that would have me doing stints on the Mall, on to East Potomac Park and Haines Point, then on to Mt. Vernon Trail, Rock Creek Park, the Zoo and back...

I've been ending my long runs recently with a three or four mile speed up, ending at around marathon pace. It helps that I'm bringing Gatorade to fuel up. I'm pretty happy with this run.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A tempo run by feel...

I'm in DC today, escaping Toronto just as another winter storm is set to dump up to 40 centimetres in the next 36 hours or so. Hope the March break crowd can get out of the city.

I tried for a very long time to catch a signal on my Garmin today. First, in R's balcony, then again out on the street. Then a third time about a kilometre into my run. I really wanted it to work because it was my 10 miler with 5 at LT.

My contingency plan was to run by feel. I would run at around a 4:20 pace and run for about 36 minutes to bring me in around 5 miles. I did two and a half loops of part of the Mall. It was a bit tricky cause I didn't know if I was running too fast. I timed each loop and the first and second were only four seconds off each other (not bad). At the end I did the 36 minutes flat. When I got back to R's place, I plotted the run on Gmaps and found that I did just over 5 miles (5.2 miles) in 36 minutes, which gave me a pace of about 4:17.5, which is actually about three seconds faster than the planned 4:20K pace. It also works out to 6:54 miles.

So after that I ran a bit more, then my freaking Garmin connects but goes wonky. After settling down, it captured a signal, so I reset it and finished my run.


Leg 1: 1.25K
Leg 2: 8.35K (5.2 miles at lactate threshold pace of 4:17)
Leg 3: 0.7K
Leg 4: 6.4K (Garmin finally worked for this bit)

Total: 16.7K or 10.4 miles

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Calm before the storm

As I write this, yet another winter storm is raging in Toronto. This one is calling for a bunch of snow, a sheet of ice and more snow on top. This will make commuting to work interesting.

We knew this was approaching, so I planned to get up early this morning (4:30 a.m. in winter is definitely worse than 4:30 in the summer). I did my 11 miles in about 1:35. This was less than 10 hours after I did a four miler recovery last night.

Simply said, I've done a fair bit of running, having gone out in each of the past six days. In that time, I've done 57 miles or about 91K.

Think it's time for a rest day.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Flying Pig Marathon: 9 weeks to go

Training is going well so far. Because of my schedule and the weather, I've had to switch up my days and also missed my 8x100 strides because I simply don't have a lot of actual solid ground to run in the other day. What is good is that I've kept up my mileage so I'm feeling strong right now.

I just took a look at last year's mileage and I'm, surprisingly, at double the mileage for the same period a year ago! I wasn't in marathon training last year and also R was moving to DC so there was a lot of days I could have been running that I was doing other things. Funny thing is, we have way more snow on the ground this year so it's a more severe winter.


Week 1: 31 miles

Week 2: 15 miles

Week 3: 22 miles

Week 4: 9 miles

Week 5: 17 miles

Week 6: 10.5 miles

Week 7: 17.5 miles

Week 8: 15 miles

Week 9: 26 miles

Total: 163 miles or 262.5K

Week 1: 24 miles

Week 2: 46 miles

Week 3: 34 miles

Week 4: 37 miles

Week 5: 42 miles

Week 6: 25 miles

Week 7: 40 miles

Week 8: 43 miles

Week 9: 45 miles

Total: 332 miles or 534K

Mileage creeps up this week. Here's the schedule, as usual up for tweaks

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 10 with 5 at LT
Wednesday: 4 recovery
Thursday: 11 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 5 recovery
Sunday: 17 miles

A long run and fall marathon plans

Absolutely beautiful day. A chilly but comfortable -2C with a little bit of wind. The sky is only spotted with clouds so it's sunny and nice. A good portion of my 16 miler (26K) route today was covered in snow so I was forced to run on the side of the road and about 5 miles in the snow/ice in the Beaches. But it was great. Actually, fantastic.

I wore three layers (silk base, a fleece/polypro top and a wind vest), a hat, tights and a baseball cap with shades. Also for once I brought my fuel belt and tried a pack of that GU sports drink (they gave out samples in DC last fall). Not bad tasting and glad I had the water to hydrate with. Also took out my iPod Shuffle loaded three episodes of This American Life. Yes, I don't often run with music but it's been my saviour this winter to get my mind focused on other things.

Started off with about a 8:29 mile pace, slowing during the snow runs but sped it up to 8 and sub-8 for the last four miles. Total run, 16.16 miles done in 2:18:27 with average pace of 8:34 miles or 5:19 kilometres.

Also, this morning I signed up for the ING New York Marathon lottery. Might as well start entering since I don't know how many tries it'll be. For my for-sure marathon, I have it narrowed down to a Toronto one or, more likely, the Marine Corps Marathon.

Well, that's for later, for now it's the Flying Pig Marathon that's coming up quick!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Knocking another one out

Nice day. A bit windy. Felt really tired during my run. Maybe it's fuelling or maybe I've done two back to back challenging runs. Well, my third run, just over 10K or 6 miles, in three days brings me to about 28 miles for the week. I'm lucky to have caught up on my mileage. Will rest up today for tomorrow's big 16 miler.