Thursday, May 29, 2008

And the weekdays get a little longer

I've run 28 miles in three days. Such is the type of program I'm in for, and the mileage is about to get longer. Here's what I've done so far this week

Tuesday: 11 miles past Humber Bridge on the waterfront. I was a little overzealous, doing the thing in 1:23:44 with average pace of 7:37 (my old marathon pace) and heart rate average of 158.

Wednesday: 8 miles in the early morning eastward, toward Leslie St. That was done in 1:05:11 in a slightly slower pace of 8:10 miles with average heart rate of 146.

Thursday: Absolutely beautiful outside. Sun was warm and it was a little windy. Not so much that I was worried about. Ran into the wind for the first half then it pushed me back. Total run done in 1:12:11 with pace of 8:01 and rate of 157.

So I'm going through a testing out process of my various paces. I know that my normal aerobic runs should be a little faster than I'm used to. Also, my mid-to-long runs need to be paced a little faster, maybe under the 8 minute mile. Maybe even closer to the 7:37 marathon pace. I have to do recovery at a slow pace cause don't want to overtrain.

It's so weird adjusting to these new paces because I've been training at a 3:20 marathon pace since the summer of 2006. Running just got a little bit more interesting! (Any advice on various training paces would be much welcome).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ideas (and flowers) planted

Still taking a tiny breather from daily blogging but getting my schedule firmed up for the coming season.

I planted my annuals (flowers and two basil plants) a few days ago. Also a few seeds of running ideas are now - in the real sense - flowering.

I've started my marathon training early. Almost a month earlier than planned. I'm signed up to do the half at Scotiabank waterfront marathon in Toronto on Sept 28 but I'm now starting training for the full. I still have the right to pull out of that race and concentrate on Marine Corps Marathon in late October. (I will still do MCM but more as a 'fun run'. Ya, we'll see.)

I plan to make my first attempt at 3:10 and I think that since Scotia is essentially on my home turf, a route I run almost every day, iit would give me few advantages. A few worries beyond my control. First is a totallt flat marathon - I do like a course that doesn't tire just one group of muscles. Second is the quality of pace setters. Fran's 3:10 went out way fast (let's put it this way, I ran a 1:31 half and they were ahead of me for a good 4 miles. Third is weather (wind and heat).

So I started Pfitzinger 70 a few days ago. Yesterday did 11 miles at around 7:40ish pace. Today, 8 miles but skipped the strides. Let's see how I take the extra mileage. 

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Breather on the blog while ramping up the run

I have a few blog posts rattling in my head but it's been pretty busy the last little while. R. is also in town so we've been doing family stuff.

Here's the mileage breakdown over the past week

Monday: 10 miles (16.4K) in DC, average pace of 4:51
Wednesday: 7.7 miles (12.5K) in Toronto, 5:03 pace
Thursday AM: 3 miles (5K) average pace of 5:29
Thursday PM: 5 miles (8K) pace of 5:05
Saturday: 5 miles (8K) in Burlington, did hills of the Around the Bay course pace of 4:45
Sunday: 9.3 miles (15K) in Toronto, ramped up pace throughout for average 4:42

Weekly mileage: 40.5 miles or 65K
Total mileage year to date: 840.5 miles or 1352K

Three weeks out from marathon day, i'm back up to 40 miles. I'm going to try for 45 next week then 50 for a few weeks in June. Then it's time to launch into training...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Many miles run (800), many to go

Another weekly catchup post on mileage.

I ran the following this past week.

Tuesday: 4 miles (at, ugh, 5:40 a.m.!)
Wednesday: 5 miles (5:40 a.m.)
Thursday: 8 miles with 4x1000 (5:36 a.m.)
Friday: 3.5 miles (7:13 a.m.)
Saturday: 4.5 miles (10:10 a.m.)
Sunday: 7.5 miles (10K race plus 2.2K warmup)

Weekly mileage: 32.5 miles (52K)
Year to date: 800 miles (1287.5K)

In the next week, I want to ramp up to 40 miles, then keep on building miles to slowly make my way back up to 50 miles by mid-June. This should have me primed to hit the Pfitzinger 70 mile program on June 22. A big gulp....

I ran a 10 miler this morning in DC, happy because I started it at around 8 minute miles and worked down to an average pace of 7:48. I'm really trying to test myself by running a little faster on non-recovery days if my marathon pace is going to have to be in the 7:15 range.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ted McClelland's marathon

Edward 'Ted' McClelland kindly wrote a comment at the bottom of this post this evening giving an update on his first marathon since 1996, the Rockford Marathon:

Well, my friend, I'll save you another Internet search. I ran 3:52. Not as fast as I'd hoped, or promised, but it was a hilly, windy course (the winning time was 2:45) and frankly, I ran a little conservatively, to avoid a repeat of the meltdown in my first marathon. I went to the line thinking I could do 3:40. With some experience at the distance, I think I'll feel more confident about pushing myself next time.

On the plus side, my 41-year-old self beat my 29-year-old self by 24 minutes -- on a tougher course -- and I never stopped to walk, so I feel I competed honorably. This really was the first marathon I've "run," since I had to walk in 1996. Also, as opposed to last time, I'm eager to run another, and set another PR. I'm already looking at the Detroit Free Press International Marathon in October. (Detroit is a flat city, like Chicago.) Considering I couldn't run more than 3 miles at a time from 1998 to 2001, I was amazed to be out there. I guess time heals all knees.

One thing I'm not going to do is write an article about it! One of the worst articles I've ever written, and it got the most attention. I was asked to appear on NPR's Talk of the Nation to discuss marathoning, and I said, "Uh, I'd rather not revisit that topic." I've written a lot of articles for Salon since then, and fortunately, no one has mentioned it.

If I hadn't written that article, though, I wouldn't have challenged myself to run the Rockford Marathon. The months of training, and this morning's race, were a wonderful journey.


"Let us run with perseverance the race set out for us." -- Hebrews 12:1.
Thanks for writing, Ted. I'm glad to see you've got bitten by the marathoning bug again.

I think as you know runners, while being defensive of our sport, are also supportive of all who embrace it. So welcome back. And as for journalistic regret, I can identify...

Race report: Capitol Hill Classic 10K

Capitol Hill 10K, originally uploaded by yumkerun.

It was only 14 days ago when I ran the Flying Pig Marathon but a week ago, I saw that this 10K race was on and was excited to sign up. The race is in DC and it loops around RFK stadium, features some running in some beautiful neighbourhoods, a plunge down Independence past the Capitol Hill, then up the hill again in the last mile or so.

I was up early at my customary 3 hours before race time to eat half a bagel, then back to bed. The race began at 8:30 so I left R's place shortly before 8 a.m. and did a warmup run of 2K to the race site. It was slightly cool, a little windy but otherwise a perfect day for a race.

It was a pretty good crowd gathered there. In all, about 2,300 runners were slated to run the race. I arrived, did two striders then settled in for the wait. I couldn't stop yawning -- I guess I was still tired and not that apprehensive. In my mind I wasn't in 10K race shape without hurting myself so my goal was to do about 4:10Ks to bring me in around the 42:30 mark, with my mind set at going sub 42 minutes.

A lot of speedy people -- saw a lot of logos from local races (10 milers, 5Ks) and a few marathons (National in DC, Las Vegas). They ended up delaying the start (ha! again!) for about 10 minutes and we were away.

I started off conservatively. I didn't want to go out too fast like I did for my last 8K so I wanted to run at a 'comfortably hard' level. A lot of runners started off really fast but I kept my pace in check. After about 500 metres, I saw my Garmin was flashing a pretty fast pace so I slowed it a tad and settled into it. My first five kilometres (which could have been off by a 100 metres) were

4:23 (a big huh?)

So I hit the 5K mark just below 21 minutes (20:58ish) and I knew that this was not going to be one of these PR days given the big hill at the end.

During the first half, I was just pacing and doing a little moving forward, picking people off who had gone out too fast. I passed a guy around the half way mark who I overheard at the start saying to someone he wanted to run a sub-40 but had 'just started training.' I passed the other guy a few kilometres later.

Since this run was just a tad quicker than my targetted LT runs I just treated it like it. We hit two water stations, and I took them quite well, not really slowing down much. I shed a lot of runners in the next bit. Some where breathing hard, so I consciously checked mine and it was going well

6K: 4:10
7K: 4:01

Then we hit the hill on the down side, and my 7K time shows me speeding up. I was passing a lot of people on downhills. Maybe it's because I've run a lot of hills during my past three races, but I took them well and maintained my cadence. The next kilometre saw the turnaround, which I took wide (not losing much speed) and made some ground

8K: 4:06

Then came the hill. It loomed large and I was confident I could take it. There were several packs of runners ahead of me in the next 150 metres. I was running alone at this point and I reminded myself to 1) quicken the strides 2) run at the same effort but allow the pace to drop 3) monitor my breathing to make sure my heart rate didn't go go high or my breathing to foot fall pace to drop. I took the kilometre including the hill in 4:18, which was quite good. I passed all the runners ahead of me and I knew that as I crested the hill that should turn up the pace for a bit to settle into a quick rhythm again.

9K 4:18

I looked at my watch and I had about a kilometre to go. My heart rate had spiked and my breathing had increased but I poured it on a little while taking deeper breaths. I targeted even more runners ahead of me and started to gain on them and passed them. We hit the final turn and I knew I wouldn't go sub 42 but still had a strong end to it. I saw the photographer, mugged for him, then turned. Saw the finish line, gunned it a little more, saw R., slowed down for her to take a picture (didn't work) and then gunned it again to the end. Final kilometre in a quick 4:04 and the final 200 metres done in about a 3:37 clip.

Final chip time was 42:24, my third fastest 10K I think but given I'm two weeks out from marathon and treated it as LT/race, i'm pretty happy. It was a fun race with a great vibe. I'd do it again for sure.

Chip time: 42:24
Place gender: 97/1026
Place group: 15/166

Photos from the race can be found here, google searchers.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Track work and race pick up

I'm running a 10K race tomorrow, the Capitol Hill Classic. I'm really looking forward to it but not really expecting to PB or anything. My fitness is still high as a result of the marathon training, but frankly, I'm still recovering. I ran to the race pick-up area and I was surprised they were giving out T-shirts. Surprised because the registration fee was pretty low.

I ran there partly so I could get a feel for the hill, which was quite steep. I've done similarly punishing hills in races (Harry's Spring Runoff, Around the Bay, the Flying Pig and the Zoo Run are just some of the notable ones). It's a tough incline that's about .2 miles or 320-340 metres. I ran up the hill in a moderate pace.

A few days ago, I headed to the track to do some speedwork and get used to the notion of running fast. I did 4x1000 and did the first way too fast. (3:52 when I should be doing 3:56 to 4:00). The next three were okay (4:00, 4:01, 4:00)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Revisiting Edward 'Ted' McClelland

I did a few posts way back in early November on Salon writer Edward McClelland, who wrote the "How Oprah ruined the marathon."

No need to really rehash the back and forth, but the long story short is he ended up -- intentionally or not -- insulting a lot of runners. In the end of his article, he wrote this:

If the marathon is populist enough for everyone to pin on a number, it's also populist enough for everyone to kick ass. If you're running the New York City Marathon this weekend, remember, it's a race. True, no matter how hard you push, you're not going to win a gold medal. But maybe a kid in high school will, someday. If the pack can drag the best runners back, we can push them forward, too.

I'm ready to do my part. My bum knee just carried me through a half-marathon. Next spring, I'm going the full distance -- and I'm going to do it in the spirit of the first running boom, in under three and a half hours. I may even wear a cotton T-shirt and a sweatband.
To which I wrote in my post:

Running is a very public event. You're out there. And you've just pledged to us (after slamming marathoning in general) that you'll knock 45 minutes off your marathon time? Please respect the distance, because your article showed you have a little relearning to do before you join the masses well in the middle of the pack on race day. Look around, and shake your head at the rest of us. Because we won't really notice you're there. We're there to run our own race. And use some Body Glide or Vaseline for goodness sake if you're going to wear a cotton T-shirt

I bring all of this up because some people search his name, and come upon my blog. Well, I did a bit of searching myself. Ted's been training and true to his word, he's signed up for a marathon, the Rockford Marathon. This Sunday in fact. confirmation list:

McClelland, Ted 41 M Chicago Illinois United States Marathon

Give him kudos for being true to his word, but would we expect any less? Good luck Ted, hope you remember the respect for the distance and if you trained well, maybe a 45-minute PB is in the cards.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I won't make it there... time for goal setting

On a whim, I decided to check the status of my application for the ING New York City Marathon. International lottery drawings are supposed to take place mid-May, as opposed to U.S. drawings, which happen in June.

This is what I got:

YumKenny228907NOT ACCEPTEDM34TorontoOntarioCanada

Oh well, not this time.

Which means I can now firm up my fall marathon plans. I wrote last week about how the Marine Corps Marathon registration closed minutes after I saw that they only had 1,000 spots left? Well, I was in a little panic when I saw that message so I quickly signed up. Minutes later, the window closed.

So that's it. My fall marathon is the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 26. Training starts on Jun 22.

Now as for a goal, I'm going to step it up. I've been doing the Pfitzinger 55 mile program (both the 12 and 18 week) but I've been eyeing the 70 mile program. It's a lot of miles but I think I'll have to step it up if I want to get into 3:10 territory. I'm a little worried about 6 days of running a week, which I did in the rampup for Chicago in 2006 and ended up with soreness throughout.

MCM is not really billed as a race where you'll have a good shot at running a PR. It has real hills and parts of DC can be windy. It is a mass race so you have to seed yourself properly or risk the crowds. But that doesn't frighten me. I have to attempt a marathon at BQ pace to get a feel for it so why not try a race you've done before.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Three races in six weeks

I've been thinking a lot about my next major marathon goal. I do have it, and it'll take lots of work. Day 1 of the program starts on June 22, which gives me the next 6 weeks to recover, start eating well again, and set my sights on some smaller distances to help build back my mileage up. I have probably three races over 6 weeks.

Next Sunday, May 18, I've signed up for the 10K Capitol Hill Classic. It's mostly flat except for a MASSIVE hill near the end. I'm not sure if my legs will have regained speed by then but i'll try heading to the track on Wednesday to try 4x1000 or 5x600 at 5K race pace.

On June 7, my friend Fitzy is trying to get me to enter the Moon in June in Burlington. If I sign up, I'll do the 5K and treat it as a speed workout.

On June 18, I run the Nightcrawler 5 miler, a classic evening run along Toronto's waterfront. It's one of my favourite races done in the year's longest day. I've done this in the past two years and maybe if the weather is good i'll gun for a PB at this distance.

Back at it.. and a big congrats to Francis!

The post-marathon week is done and I've gotten in three runs. A four miler on Wednesday, 5.3 miles yesterday morning and just finished a 10.6 miler in 1:21:45 with an average pace of 7:43.

I started it off as a recovery run but I really felt like pushing it a little.

One thing of note, if you haven't seen Fran's blog, he's been gunning for his BQ for a bit now and he's been training with such dedication and purpose, ramping up his mileage in a big way since his last marathon earlier this year. Well, I just checked the Mississauga Marathon that he ran this morning and our boy did it with a time of 3:10:24! So happy for you, Fran. You have me in awe and I'll only no doubt do my best to follow suit!

Weekly mileage update: 19 miles (30.5K)
Year to date mileage: 767.5 miles (1235K)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mileage catchup

Before I wrap up this post-marathon week, here's the mileage I ran for last week plus year-to-date

Tuesday: 6 miles
Thursday: 6 miles with 2 at pace in AM, 5 miles recovery PM
Sunday: 26.47 marathon

Total weekly mileage: 43.5 miles (70K)
Year to date mileage: 748.5 miles (1204.5K)
Last year at around this time, i had done 403 miles or 650K. I'm well ahead of pace this year. Marathoning will do that to you, I suppose

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Race report: Flying Pig Marathon

Here's my race report for the Flying Pig Marathon. It's loooong. Pre-race here.

The sun was just rising above the horizon when the starting gun went off and after a few seconds of standing still, we quickly passed the starting line. I think Eye of the Tiger was playing on the speakers, but I had a lot of other things on my mind as we winded our way through the first quarter mile. I was pleasantly surprised to see fireworks explode over the suspension bridge -- it must of lasted at least 20 to 30 seconds, and I soaked it all in. There's nothing like the start of a big race, and this race was just beginning.

Miles 1 to 5: A explosive start then in and out of Kentucky

We rounded a corner, then another. I was on the lookout for R., who said she'd camp by third street, but no sign of her. Other than looking for her, I had a few immediate worries. The toe, it was not hurting that much but I was on guard. I was silently thanking the extra rest I gave myself (no run on Saturday) cause I was feeling fresh. The other immediate worry was Chris, our 3:20 pacer. He was just ahead of me and I had to spend a little bit of time winding my way through the crowd of half marathoners and slower runners who lined up in the front. Another cause for concern was that I was running on the right side of the street, and that's where they had drainage sewers. I would become very familiar with the drainage system in two states over the first 7 or 8 miles.

Mile 1: 7:26 (Marathon pace was 7:37)
Mile 2: 7:27

We crossed into Kentucky over the bridge and travelled through a very pretty street with small storefronts. There was the first of many bands and absolutely fantastic crowd support. I was very impressed so many people were out there with bam-sticks and Grunt T-shirts applauding. By this time, I had a good read on our pacer so I was just keeping up my running and keeping up within reasonable distance. I controlled my breathing, settled into a good pace and started to test out my toe. It felt all right. As it turns out, although I worried about it throughout the first half, it gave me no trouble for the rest of the race! Thank god for that ibuprofen cream.

Mile 3: 7:31
Mile 4: 7:20

Our tour through Kentucky was short lived. The fourth mile saw us cross a bridge and again, I was playing hopping the gutter on the right side of the road. By then I had solidly hooked on to the 3:20s. We were going at quite a good clip, a little faster than pace as Chris had promised at the Clif Bar booth on Friday. I was starting to spend a lot of time making sure the left side of my RaceReady shorts wouldn't keep on slipping. I'd have to pull up my shorts every 15 seconds or so. The weight of my fuel was definitely making it hard to keep my pants up. That was hilarious, but I knew as I ate my way through my gels and Shot Bloks, my shorts would hold up.

I packed five gels (four Powerbar gels and a Carb Boom), a pack of Clif Shot Bloks (6 pieces of electrolyte chews with a 'cramp buster', 3 times the sodium) and I carried an 8 ounce bottle of Gatorade.

The fuelling strategy was this: Use up the Gatorade during the first three miles so I didn't have to battle the crowds to get to the water stations. I did this in DC last year and it worked great. I would discard the bottle after I used it and then would switch to water stations.

Gels: I knew I bonked last year partly because I fuelled up so poorly, only eating TWO gels in total. This year, I planned to take them at mile 5, 9, 14, 19 and 23. I would take water with gels and Gatorade at other stations, even if it was small sips to keep me hydrated. I was absolutely convinced that gels could make a huge difference this time around.

The Shot Blok I chose were margarita flavoured with salt, and I would chew them in the miles between gels, just to have some sort of carbs and sodium getting into my system to supply more energy and to prevent cramping. They would also act kinda like salt tablets.

Mile 5: 7:32

By the time we entered the fifth mile, the crowd had thinned quite a bit. We were entering downtown and the rising sun was shining right in our faces. R. and I looked at the course map the night before and with the state of her ankle, we decided that she could spot me around the 5 mile mark, then stake me out near the end. So if I couldn't see her now, I wouldn't see her until almost three hours later. I took another gel and the crowds were pretty deep here. I quickly saw R., traded a high five, smiled and went right on to work, because the hills, they were approaching.

Mile 6 - 9: The hills, they're alive

This was the dreaded climb that would see us go up a series of hills. Our strategy, we were told, was to take these hills with purpose. Mile six was a teaser, as it included a brief rise over an interstate overpass, followed by a downhill. We did that one in 7:13. Then came the mini mountains. Over three miles, we were about to climb 272 feet, with 159 feet in the first. Unbelievable. I've raced up steep hills, I've done long inclines at the Marine Corps Marathon and the Around the Bay 30K, but this was pretty freaking challenging. True to his word, Chris slowed down the pace, advised us to pump up our arms. I shortened my stride, and matched our group's advance. During those hills, a lot of the marathoners and relay racers were dropping behind. We weren't doing them that fast and as a result, we weren't tiring. The hills would take back some of the time we banked, but we'd give it back. Chris told us to look out for the view from the top of Eden Park. I had seen it the previous day when we toured the course and I knew it was breathtaking. So when we curved our way out, we looked out, enjoyed a 'woo hoo' then got ready for the plunge downward. We soon reached the splitoff from the half marathoners started going back. Or, as I remember thinking, the happy people went left (halfs) and the rest of us went right, with much work to do.

Official 6 8M split 52:33 (7:43 pace or projected 3:22:37 finish)
Mile 7: 7:59 (159 feet climb and my slowest mile)
Mile 8: 7:48 (71 feet climb)
Mile 9: 7:33 (42 feet climb)

Mile 10 to 14: What goes up must come down (and up again)
True to my fuelling plan, I took my second gel just before the 9 mile mark. I also started to chew on the ShotBlok. The next three miles were just pure joy. We had given up quite a lot of energy and time to climbing these hills, but now we were about to get some payback. We plunged down streets named Madison and Erie. I was so impressed by the neighbourhoods. There was great fan support and the houses looked beautiful. People were out there cheering us and it was so much fun to see them out there. One of my favourite sections were the relay exchange points. We reached them early enough at our pace that there were quite a few relay runners with their bibs on standing there waiting for the exchange and they were very encouraging, clapping really loudly for us. I guess in a way they appreciated that we were going the entire distance. We must have looked pretty serious. The few miles just clicked by and I felt like we were at the running forever pace. I can only describe running in a pace group like being a part of a pack, a flock, stronger as a whole than each of its individuals. We fed off each other, we jockeyed, we separated at water stations but always came back together. We were getting back those seconds we lost on the hills. Mile 10 in 7:15, 11 in 7:16, 12 in 7:29, 13 in 7:26.

Official 12M split 1:32:12 (7:41 pace or 3:21:26 finish)
Official 13 1M split 1:39:47 (7:36 pace or 3:19:34 finish)

By the halfway mark, Chris had taken us to a perfectly paced half-marathon, just a few dozen seconds of banked time. Mile 14: 7:25

Miles 15 - 18: Beautiful neighbourhood, ugly highway
I took my third gel at the 14 mile mark, which already was one more than I'd taken during my last marathon. There were so many water stations in the course and I appreciated it. I took cups at most stations, even if it was to take a few gulps of water or Gatorade. I took water with gels, and Gatorade the other times. My drinking on the run has definitely improved in the last year and I can manage a near-pace run while drinking.

We entered really pretty neighbourhoods of Madisonville, Mariemont and Fairfax, which seemed to be made up of older houses and had great fan support. It was also during miles 15 to 17 that there was a mini out-and-back so we were able to see runners who were about a mile and a bit ahead of us. We ran a lot of corners and at one point, Chris noted we had about 10 miles left. I remember him at some point saying 'we've got only 80 minutes left'. That seemed like a little too far away to start counting down minutes but it was nice to know we were knocking down time. He would repeat this later '50 minutes,' '30 minutes'. There were a few hills in this area but nothing we couldn't handle. Chris was so great during the hills. He'd warn us they were coming and we'd prepare by taking them slow. And when hills were followed by downhills, we got the benefit.

My splits show we were going at pace or faster. We did 15 in 7:25, 16 in 7:40, 17 in 7:29 and 18 in 7:40. The 18 mile mark was pretty important to me because I reminded myself that I did a 30K (18.7 mile) road race and that I turned up the pace over the last 6 miles. I ran strong that day and I wanted to remember what that felt like. I also reminded myself that my longest run was 23 miles only three weeks ago so I had not reached 'noman's land' yet. I was trying to steel myself out for the next sections, which would include a possible encounter with the wall. We hit the highway overpass and ran on the parkway for a bit. It was a largely boring mile but it was a good time to take stock of where we were. By this time, our group had thinned a little. There was definitely more space. Chris told us there was a gel station coming up and I grabbed a Raspberry Clif Shot, which I quickly took before the 19 mile mark. It was my fourth gel.

Miles 19 to 23. Pushing us on, and right through the detour
19 7M 2:29:09 (7:34 pace or 3:18:30 finish)

By the time I had hit the 20 mile mark, we had run a well-pace race. By the time the 'second half' of the marathon began at mile 20, we had paced ourselves for a sub 3:20 finish. But this was a point i'd been before. I knew I had to fight off bonking by fuelling, by running relaxed and strong, and by summoning inner strength. We ran through the Old Eastern Avenue that has some gradual hills.

Our pack started to lose some of our runners. Some went ahead, only to be reeled in later, and some faded a little. We were starting to catch up on runners who'd either injured themselves or had gone out too fast. Each time, Chris commanded people to stick with us but they were on the verge of hitting the wall. I felt up to the 20 mile mark that I'd been doing a simple pace run. I had not hit a massive fatigue level, but I was a little tired. But I knew that running 10K at marathon pace after running 20 miles was not not an easy weekend run. Chris told a joke, started to remind us that we should be drinking at water stations. In between miles when I had gels, I'd force myself to eat the Shot Bloks. I had six and damned it, I would eat them all.

We hit mile 19 at 7:45 and mile 20 in 7:37, pretty much on pace. I remembered that I put up a post about my mother and when it got tough, I reminded myself I was doing this for her. That if I started to bonk, I would run through it because what I'm going through during this race is, in the larger scheme, nothing (but everything, at the same time, if you know what I mean). We hit mile 21 in 7:44 and mile 22 in a fast 7:21 (there was a 58 feet decline, my Garmin shows).

Then we hit the detour caused by the three-alarm fire that turned .47 miles into .74. I didn't know we hit it until Chris mentioned it. They had set up a water station and had spray painted all the pot holes (there were many). We ran through a bike trail and I nearly tripped over a speed bump that was spray painted. The two volunteers there were too busy clapping for us to tell us that there was a bump (they warned us after I almost tripped). As we rounded the final corner of the detour, I felt the dreaded mini-cramp, a slight twitch in my upper leg followed by one in the lower leg. I hoped the salt I consumed would prevent massive cramps. I also kickd up my heels to stretch out my legs a little. We finished mile 23 in 7:27, the same point that my meltdown happened last year.

Mile 24 to 26.2 and beyond. The wall? What wall?
Hitting mile 23 and feeling still strong bolstered my confidence. I kept on telling myself, hey, this is only a 5K race now and all I had to do is to run it with a consistent pace. We saw the clock and it was almost close to 3 hours. We passed a checkpoint and the volunteers told us we were on pace for a 3:20 or 3:21. The memories of the 24-25 just melt at this point. I was really in a zone I'd never been in before. I do remember these moments

-I reminded myself to keep on running strong and stick with the pacer. At this point, I was running beside Chris. We shared a short conversation, me mentioning that I flew down from Toronto and how today was just the perfect day for a run, starting around 7C and up to 13C (40s to low 60sF) and sunny
-I took my fifth and final gel at mile 23. A little while later, I went into my pocket looking for a Shot Blok to chew on, but there were none left. I cursed myself but I was also happy I finished them all. I had met my fuelling plan.
-I missed a water station almost on purpose, but our pacer had an extra cup and gave it to me. He reminded us we were still a ways from the end and we had to drink. I gratefully accepted it and drank, happy in the end I took it.
-I repeated to myself a few times, 'Mom, this is for you', or I remembered how strong she's been. That gave me a boost every and helped me surge at certain points.
-At the frequent water stops, we had a sense of urgency. Our pack was small now and we spaced out behind each other to grab water, but then we all caught up to each other to form a tight group again once hydrated again.
-Chris shared tips with us: 'Kick up your heels to stretch your muscles' and was generally motivating

And so the next two miles, so much was going on. I could see the city emerge from around corners and it was an amazing sight. I was not fading. We did mile 24 in 7:24 and mile 25 in 7:34, both faster than marathon pace.

Chris told us throughout the last few miles how strong we all looked and that if we had an extra umph, that we should take off. I wisely decided to stick to pace and remember that my goal for this marathon was to fuel smartly, run strong and steady. I had done this, but hitting mile 25 and feeling relatively fresh, I knew I could have the energy to turn it on.

And so I did. I upped the pace slightly and just ran by feel. My run turned into a tempo run from a marathon paced run. We were now running on highway and there were half marathoners walking back toward us after they finished the race. They were cheering for us. The crowd was getting louder and I was picturing the finish. I stepped it up again, spurred on by the moment. I ran a 7:19 mile (the third fastest of the marathon so far and it was on flat land) and I had more to go, but I felt it was in the bag.

As I reached the final three-quarter miles of this course, I could see a ramp followed by the final 800 or so metres. I saw a lot of people walking and I used that as impetus to run even faster. I was thinking about the diversion, I was thinking about my mom, I was thinking and looking out for R. who promised to be near the end, I was thinking about the wall, and why hadn't I hit it yet, and in the distance, I could see the finish line, which said "Finish Swine" and it hit me that I would run this entire race without stopping to walk and never slowing outside of the hills. A small smile crept into my face.

And so I ran faster than I'd run the entire race. Within 800 metres of the finish, I saw R. waving at me, looking happy, and at that time, I exploded. I raised both arms and let out a big 'yeah!' and then I turned it on even more. The crowd was loud and I was soaking it in. I pumped my fists. I saw in the distance that the clock was still showing 3:20:xx and I knew I had a chance of getting a gun time (let alone chip time or adjusted time) in the 3:20 range and so I broke out into a near sprint.

I'll tell you what, I felt like a runner possessed. I must of looked like a relay runner because my last three quarter miles were 1:46 (7:04 pace) 1:40 (6:44 pace) and 1:36 pace (6:28). Quite simply put, I ended my marathon, this 26.47 journey, by running interval speed. I was so happy that I raised my arms before I hit the finish line.

This was the finish I had aimed for. Strong, happy, fast, and on target. This race was everything I hoped it would be. The weather was perfect. The course was challenging (25% uphill, 25% downhill, 50% flat). Last year, I cramped up and felt dizzy and defeated from bonking. This year, none of that. This year, just for three hours, 20 minutes, 25 seconds, I ran my perfect race. Chip, gun or real time, you can't adjust that feeling.

Chip Time: 3:20:25* (for 26.47 miles)
Official adjusted marathon time: 3:18:31
Overall: 228/4728 (95 percentile)
Gender: 212/2720 (92 percentile)
Division:30/333 (91 percentile)
Pace 7:35 miles

For me, this marathon marks a 'mission accomplished' for a goal I had set way back in January, 2006. Back then, based on my other race times, I felt I was capable of a 3:20 marathon. Chicago in 2006 saw me hit the wall hard and finish with 3:35:15, well short of the goal. The next year, I signed on to the Pfitzinger program (thanks to the blogging community who are so hooked on it and turned be on to it) and knocked off 10 minutes with a 3:24:23. On the way to that, I set a whole bunch of PRs. This year, I didn't train as long, but I put in all the quality work and built on the 2007 experience. And so now I've come down to the 3:18 range. My next goal? Aim higher, go faster. More on that another day.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Marine Corps Marathon registration closes in six days

I'm blogging like a madman today. Craziness. I just happened (don't know why) to go on the Marine Corps Marathon site.

Eight minutes ago, it said "Less than 1,000 slots still available." Last year, it took two weeks to sell out. I thought I had a least another few days to decide.

I checked it a few minutes ago, and guess what:

But a certain person may have just gotten in the last few spots. Guess who?

I guess people are looking for an alternative to Chicago (which also sold out a few weeks ago).

Pre-race report: Flying Pig Marathon

I remember writing about the aches and pains that manifest during the taper. Little did I know that one of those aches would cause a major worry right until the starting gun.

I ran in Toronto last Wednesday, a double run in the morning, the first a pacer, the second a recovery run. I took the day off work Thursday because I was into my 10th day in a row at work as a result of an unexpected weekend duties at my job. Thursday was a godsend. I caught up with sleep, started to pack and finally think about this race. I've been trying not to think about because other things have been on my mind.

With extra sleep in the bank, I started to notice that my left foot was starting to ache. It was a dull pain that registered every time in my toe when I took a step. It was not in the bone, and I could stretch my toes, but every time I landed on the ground, I almost had to wince. I thought nothing of it and just thought It'd go away.

On Friday, I was the first from the convoy to arrive in Cincinnati, arriving just after 1 p.m. I cabbed it into the hotel and found the expo was right next door from the Millennium where I was staying. So after getting into my (very nice) room, I went to the expo. There was a steady stream of people and within an hour, I had grabbed my chip, shirt and bib and also raided the Asics area for a hat, a hilarious T-shirt ('I'll run a marathon when pigs fly') and an Asics pullover fleece. Also hit the drug store for Gatorade (fuel), breadstick mix (fuel) and muffins (fuel).

I walked around downtown, had lunch at Potbellys at the Fountain Square. JellyP, who drove down with CMan since Thursday night, texted me to tell me she was too bagged to get dinner so I waited for R. to arrive from DC for late noshing. We went out to an overpriced Italian joint that had pretty good pasta (penne with bolognese and a few refills of bread). We went back to the hotel and settled in. During the night, I told R. how my toe was really starting to bug me. When I was carrying my dufflebag, I could feel myself actually limping. The rest of my legs were compensating for the pain. Walking was like this: Step (ow), step, step (ow), step, step (ow).. you get the picture.

I got up early on Saturday to see how dark it was at 6:30 (it's dark) and went out to grab a small bag of fuel at the bagel store. The wind was howling, it was cool and it was pouring! had a breakfast (egg, sausage and cheese on sesame) and watched the beginning of the 10K. I was so surprised they had a good showing considering the racers had to wait in the rain for the race to begin. JellyP and family pulled into the hotel next door and we did a quick drive through the course. We toured the hills and we had a major freakout driving through miles 5 through 8. Part of it was because we (in retrospect) took a wrong turn and encountered some deadly hills, but we also previewed the right ones and knew it'd be a massive challenge.

They did the expo thing after and we had a very late lunch (3 p.m.) at Rock Bottom Brewery, where the girls did the beer sampler while the boys didn't touch any alcohol. I was the only boy racing, by the way. I guess the girls thought were fine since they were doing the half. I had a club sandwich with slaw but had a few of R.'s nachos.

Photo: The half marathoners (JellyP and family) and me.

We finished, parted ways, made it back to the hotel while JellyP and family went to her sister's inlaws in Kentucky to watch the Kentucky Derby and drink Mint Juleps. We watched the derby, was happy and sad about the outcome (one glorious victory, one untimely death) and R. nicely went down to get me some linguini and chicken from the hotel resto. It was, well, store-bought quality but I was happy to carb up.

I guess I should back up and reintroduce the toe problem. We hit the expo earlier in the morning. My foot was still hurting and I was starting to really get worried. The toe area bears a lot of weight in each step. If I was experiencing pain for every walk, could I 1) sustain a run 2) sustain a pace run for 26.2 miles? I picked up some Motrin (ibuprofen) and took one in the morning. The pain dulled a tiny bit but it was still there. I could go on my tippy toes, but when /i walked it hurt and when I put pressure on the fleshy part between the big toe and the second one, it really hurt.

At the expo, I saw a booth had for sale a product called IB-RELIEF. It was a ibuprofen cream for muscles and joints that also reduced inflammation and helps increase mobility. I'm not a type of guy who jumps at taking such medication but I took a few glances at R.

Me: Should I get it?
R: Sure, why not?
Me: I dunno, you think it works?
R. Couldn't hurt
Me: You know what, It couldn't hurt
R.: It's $20, that's kinda expensive
Me. If it works, it's the best $20 i'll spend this weekend

I thought it was hilarious that there was a sampler there. I mean, you put it on and wait for a few hours? I followed two other racers who were having similar discussions that R. and I had. Before lunch, I put on some around the toe. In a few hours, the pain definately was reduced but was still there. I read the back of the package, it said 'May take 48 to 72 hours to become effective' and I prayed that this 'may' thing was applicable to me.

After dinner, R. and I walked down to the starting line by the football stadium. It was so quiet and dead. It reminds me of what the SkyDome area of Toronto looked like 10 years ago before they put up 20 condos in its vincinity. We plotted out where she'd camp out the next morning. I went back to the hotel, put on more cream, was happy that it was starting to work, and went to bed after 9 p.m. My bedtime reading was a printout of the race strategy from the Pig website.

I slept very well given the circumstances. At 2:15, I woke up, ate a bagel with some Gatorade, did a washroom break, went back to bed. At 4 a.m. I got up and started to dress, had a banana. I was shocked that my toe didn't really hurt when I walked, just a little hint of previous trouble. I applied more cream and then put in a Motrin pill with my gear, just in case I needed it during the race. The night before, I had done the bib, the chip, so it was just a matter of putting on the clothes, and getting ready. I hit the washroom a few times and was out the door at 5:25.

The lobby was buzzing and I went outside. It was dark, so I had abag with my shades for later, a jacket for after the race, a phone to call R. with to coordinate after the race. I made it to the race site and there was a nice crowd. I checked my bag, took my fuel and hand warmer (cool call on my part) and headed to the starting area. The corral for sub 3:30 was prety empty, but I got there before 6 a.m. and started to stretch. Over the next half hour the pacer Chris arrived, and more racers were in the area. I did a pee break about 6:10 and got back to the crowd. We were settling in sardine-mode when they announced that the race would be delayed 15 minutes and that there was a three-alarm fire on the race course. They said they needed extra time to divert the course and that by the time the first marathoners were there, it'd be all taken care of. We heard the announcement and that got us buzzing but the time went by. Nerves I guess.

The countdown came out of nowhere ('50 seconds!'), we all got our game faces on, I was within spitting distance of the pacer and the gun and we were off.

Want to calculate your real time for Flying Pig Marathon?

Update 5/7/08:
The Flying Pig site has put up a calculator that will let you get your adjusted time. Click here for it. My method below still works as accurately.

Update 5/5/08, 6 p.m.
Just after I wrote this post about how long this race really was, I saw this story on So their word is that the course is .2514 miles longer than planned. Using the real distance for marathon we get (26.21875 + .2514 = 26.47015 miles). The thing is, I was pretty dead on using my two methods below. More on the story, including the fact that they'll never post the marathon time.

Flying Pig Marathon runners who just missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon during Sunday’s race might have their times treated leniently by Boston Marathon officials.

The case with the Flying Pig Marathon centers on a last-minute detour around a fire on the course Sunday morning that added .2514 miles to the original 26.2-mile course. The Flying Pig is one of the qualifying marathons for
the Boston Marathon, and the detour Sunday did not change that status.


Connolly said, however, that the Flying Pig won’t be posting adjusted times. “So the official times, will be the times on the course as it was run,” said Pete Riegel, who certifies courses for USA Track and Field. “Any adjusted time is completely unofficial and tells people how they might have run if it were a standard course. But, Boston tends to be pretty lenient with those situations.”

Original Post 5/5/08, 5 pm.:
I'm obsessing over how long we actually ran the Flying Pig Marathon so with the beauty of Google Maps and also GPS technology, I found two seperate ways of finding out what the extra distance was. I then calculated the total distance . Then I found a way to calculate the real pace that we ran at and therefore, found out my likely marathon time if they ever get around to calculating it. Why did I do it, because like others, I spent a hell of a lot of time training for this marathon so I'd like to know what my actual MARATHON time is, not my Marathon plus a mini victory lap.

First, my best guess (and remember I'm not the official word on this) is that this marathon was 26.47 miles compared with the usual 26.2 miles. That's a difference of .27 miles or 434 metres. That's a chunk of space to cover. I mean, my track repeats at 5K speed would have me cover 400 metres in 1:36 or so. That's a lot of time!

So I'll outline the two methods I came to this conclusion then show you how to calculate:

Method 1: Map it out in Google Maps.
According to this report, this is the route that the race organizers took to avoid the three-alarm fire.

Instead of continuing straight on Riverside Drive, runners turned left onto Strader Avenue, then right onto a Cincinnati Parks bike path, then right onto St. Peter’s Street and finally left back onto Riverside Drive, rejoining the original route.
So, using this direction and looking at my GPS route in SportTracks to get the corners right, I mapped it out in Gmaps Pedometer. See the link here.

The diversion distance shows as 0.745 miles or 1.199 kilometres.

Okay, now lets mark out the intended route, which you can see here.

The original distance shows as .4756 miles or .7655 kilometres

The difference (.745 new route - .4756 original) is .269.

Which means we ran 26.469 miles or 26.47 miles

Method 2: Map it out using GPS and GPS software

I use a Garmin Forerunner 305 and had it on during the race. It's not perfect in all areas but I know this area didn't have surrounding buildings to interfere with the signals.

Using SportTracks, I did the same thing: calculate the original distance and calculate the diversion and find the differnce. You can see my screenshot below

The diversion distance shows as .74 miles

The original distance (see red line) shows as .47 miles

Which also equals .27 miles extra

This method leads me to this same conclusion: We ran 26.47 miles.

Now how to calculate that time. That's easy.
1. Get your chip time
In my case, it was 3:20:25

2. Go to a pace calculator to calculate your true pace.
Here's a link to a really good one by Cool Running.
In the link I provided,
a) Fill out your time
b) Fill out the actual new distance (26.47)
c) And click on calculate pace
This gives you the actual pace you were running because it accounts for your total time and total real distance. In my case, it was 7:34.28.
Keep the screen as is.

3. Calculate your final time
a) In that same screen, you keep the pace as is.
b) In the distance field, select Marathon. It'll fill in the numbers (26.21xxx)
b) Finally, click on Calculate Time.

And you get your final time.

Of course, this is not official and not like you can put this number as your official time, but at least you can figure out what your true marathon time was until they let you know. There are professional course certifiers who will measure or already have measured the entire course again who said the course was, indeed, 26.47 miles. But using my simple logic, it's pretty easy to see the difference in distance and apply it accordingly.

My time went from 3:20:25 to 3:18:20. That's almost a two-minute difference. Huge, man, huge.

Flying Pig Marathon, the long course?

The talk among marathoners since the race ended has been the rediversion or the reroute of the course after mile 22. We were told at the start as they delayed the race by 15 minutes that there was a three-alarm fire and they dound a different route. The announcer said 'don't worry, this course will at least be a marathon' to which we wonder 'how much longer'.

Update: I found an unoffical way of looking up your actual time. See post

In today's Cincinnati Enquirer, race director Iris Simpson-bush says the race is likely to be approved and remain a qualifier for Boston. "After we get a new distance, we can deduct runners' times by determining their pace and then apply it to a 26.2-mile distance," the director told the paper, adding that it'll likely be a few tenths of a mile longer.

I've seen mentions of a quarter mile. As we were running, it really looked to be at or more than one lap of a track. When I'll get home, I'll map out the original point to point and compare it to the reroute.

I really think they should recalculate the distance and make all official marathon times reflect. I'll take that, even with an asterick.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

It is finished, part 2

I'll write up a race report later. Long story short: there was a three alarm fire at mile 22 so they rediverted the course, adding probably a quarter mile, maybe more. But I stuck with the 3:20 pace group until the end (more on that later). The wall? Never hit it. Final time of an extended Flying Pig Marathon in 3:20:23ish. I'm pretty freaking surprised. I had more in me.

It is finished

It is finish. 3 hours, 20 minutes, 23 seconds it was a a longer course. Incredible. listen

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Why I'm running today

I post-dated this entry for 9:30 a.m. Sunday, a time I hope to be in my final miles of this Flying Pig Marathon. The last month has been difficult to find any focus, in any aspect of my life. My mom is not doing so well, and for that, I found myself tremendously sad and even more helpless.

Many years ago, when I was still in elementary school, my mom had a first of several strokes at a young age, not much older than I am now. She's a fighter, so she recovered and returned to work and life, but emerged somewhat changed. Eleven years ago, she had another complication that resulted in a coma and long recovery. She fought back. Last summer, she had another battle, but she battled back within a season. Six weeks ago, she suffered another head injury, and now we're just hoping for the best -- every day is touch and go. We're also bracing for any possible outcome, but we're not willing to accept defeat.

So many parts of me was telling myself to quit this marathon, but other parts of me were telling me to do it for exactly the reasons why I shouldn't. I find myself here in Cincinnati today and I found the reasons why. I run here today because I share the hope my Dad has for her recovery and I should therefore try to continue to live my life. A vigil is just that, a wait till the end. Not me. I run here today because, well, simply because I'm running this for her. I run here because for me, running and marathoning are a celebration of life.

My brother is a follower of my blog and follows my running (probably this morning too) with keen interest. Every time he sees me, he asks me about my latest run, or my upcoming race. My father and mother know I run with a passion, and that's just good enough for them. A marathon, my dad asked the other day, you're going to do another one of those? I wanted to tell him about how hard it is to train, the early mornings, the hard runs, the amount of strength and dedication and devotion and time and effort and the miles -- oh the miles. I wanted to tell him that it's 42.2K and have him explain how far that would be, him the engineer, the mathematician. I think it'd dawn on him if I told him how LONG it was.

My brother and I are the centre of my mom's life. We know that. She lives for us. She's been through so many strokes and comas and each time we welcomed her back home, we knew we lost a little bit of her soul. But the person I choose to see is the mom on my second birthday you see in this picture. Carefree, loving, youthful and so happy to be alive.

I don't know how the emotions will bubble over as this post goes up at 9:30, but my sadness has hit me recently, at home and during my runs. On one run recently, I found myself in tears thinking of her, yet I was at a point at my most alive, heart beating, arms pumping, legs moving. Oh I wish she could see me, I think she'd be so proud. And so I run this race for my family, just for the four of us, and in the final miles, I hope to bring mom with me.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Pigs flying everywhere

I'm in Cincinnati. That's right, pigs are hogging all the attention. This projection is in my hotel lobby. 

The hotel is right beside the expo so I picked up my swag: a bag, a poster, a nice t-shirt.

Also hit the Asics area for branded pig merchandise. They ran out of small jackets but I bought a hat, a shirt and a pullover.

The Clif pacers were there and I met my 3:20. He's going to - thankfully - take the hills slow. His aim is to do the first half in '100 minutes' and the second half a little faster. Chris paced the 3:10s last year. I'm getting good vibes.

So now I'm eating a potbelly sandwich (appropriately) and waiting for more of the convoy to arrive.

Okay, I'm not the only one obsessed about the weather

From this morning's Cincinnati Enquirer, about the weather for this weekend's race.

Weather sites had predicted a high of 80 degrees, which would have made it the steamiest race in Pig history. Divine, the Pig's medical director, immediately ordered extra ice, Gatorade, IV fluids and water. He also increased his staffing.

"We've been fortunate to have great weather here," said Divine, who's also the medical director of sports medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "But ... we've got to plan for just about everything."

The forecast for Sunday's 10th annual marathon has since fallen to 58 degrees. But Divine and Flying Pig officials are still focused on ensuring a safe experience for the thousands of participants in this weekend's event.

Hot weather created safety problems in October at the Chicago Marathon. Runners battled 88-degree temperatures, humidity and shortages of water and energy drinks. One man died, and at least 49 runners were taken to hospitals for heat-related ailments, according to the Associated Press.

Latest forecast is calling for high of 17C or 62F

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Packing it in and goal setting

Checklist (and notice the duality)
-Two running caps (MCM and Red leaf)
-Two pairs of running socks (Nike)
-Two shorts (RaceReady)
-Two singlets
-Underarmour and long sleeve technical in case it's actually really cold
-Fuel: Shot Bloks, Gels, Sports Beans
-Garmin 305
-Asics GT2130
-And other stuff.. like, um, clothes and toiletries

As for goals:
I am aiming for 3:20 again. I don't believe I'm ready to go for anything faster (ie. 3:15) until I know I can run a marathon in 3:20. My goal is to run it strong and steady, to fuel up properly before and during the race. My goal is to really fight through those last miles.

The hills, they are a massive challenge at the Flying Pig Marathon, but I've encountered hills before in a race setting. The weather, fingers crossed, is looking mighty fine, so I think that'll balance out the course.

I've now gone through two training cycles using the Pfitzinger program since last June and I've set five personal bests in the 5K, 8K, 10K, half marathon and marathon, so something is going right. I'm happy because in all those distances, I've managed to lop off a lot of time.

Has this been the optimum training cycle? I don't think so. I've let the diet slip several times and I did take the quick way in with the 12 week program starting in mid-February (though I was running good mileage as of Jan. 1, just not following a hard schedule).

Weather? About perfect

Got a good amount of sleep today since I have today off.

Did a 6 miler with two miles at pace, didn't really nail them (7:37s) with a 7:46 and a 7:35, then did a recovery. Felt really really sluggish and my left toe was a little sore. True to any taper, I'm feeling the aches. My right knee which hasn't given me big problems but gets achy during heavy running, is only acting up a little. My neck muscles are a little tense from desk work and a weekend hunched over my lap top, and the toe, which I'm stretching out right now.

Gonna take it easy as I have to sort out what clothes to wear. The long range forecast is calling for rain on Friday and Saturday. I really hope that clears out by Sunday. Sunday, looking pretty darned good. A chilly start with 4C but it will only get up to 14C. This is perfect marathoning weather (haven't read up on the wind.)