Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What's next?

I didn't feel much sorrow having missed my BQ attempt. It was a good race for the most part. Being able to tackle most of it by myself on a lonely run was something new, and I take away a lot from it. I can think of a few factors that worked against me.

The weather, it was not ideal. I really wished it was less sunny and about 5 degrees cooler. Oh well, you can't control that.

The fuelling, maybe in retrospect, I should have taken more Gatorade, or more water. This is weird, because I remember taking fluid at every stop. I'm also worried that I took too many of the gels without taking water right away. Perhaps the gels sank to the bottom of my stomach? That's my hunch.

Mental toughness? I think I still have work to do, but I think learning the 3:10 pace had to be done and I'm glad I tried it. The last few miles of a marathon is not easy. It's not supposed to be. Somehow, I got through the Flying Pig with no major problems. Maybe it was the pacer, maybe it was a good weather and just a good day. Maybe I had gotten used to 3:20 that it actually felt comfortable.

I have all of this and more to think over the next three and a half weeks.

As a health check, my calves are still sore, sore to the point that they ache as I walk down stairs. I did take an ice bath (brrr!) on Sunday and elevated my legs. Unfortunately, I went back to work the last two days and spent long days at my desk in front of a computer. I don't think that helped. I took an epsom salt bath tonight, am taking in more sodium and potassium, etc. and I finally took some ibuprofen. Gonna go over the calves with The Stick later on.

All in all, I'll probably take another day off running before doing a recovery run on Thursday. If that goes well, then i'll do more recovery runs on Friday and Saturday.

That's because I have a freaking race on Sunday! Okay, it's not a race for me. It's the Army 10 Miler in DC and I'll be pacing with R. who will be taking it slow, even slower than my recovery. We've both agreed that we'll run slow and even walk at parts. I hope that the run/walk will get my legs back into action and flush out my legs.

I'm following the Pfitzinger-Douglas 4 weeks between marathons program. My Google Calendar widget on the right has the schedule if you're wondering what craziness I'm up to. As Fran said, he thinks I can make another attempt in four weeks. Pfitzinger advises that you make your call the week before, which is what I'll do.

Best case, I think about running with the 3:10 group, then slow down to 3:20 pace for the second half of the marathon. This fade will, in theory, let me target a 3:15 finish. The other option is to run with the 3:20 pace group until the half, then step it up for the end. Yet another option is to fun run the marathon with a 3:30 or even 3:45 goal and end it smiling! We'll see, there are plenty of marathons i'll run in the future.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Race report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

The night before the marathon, I was pretty relaxed. I had spent the day in low-key mode. I had gone for a 2K run to test out the shoes. I did a load of laundry. I laid out the running gear and pinned on the bib and I carboloaded on pasta and other such food. I tried to be in bed by 9 p.m. because I was going to get up at 3:45ish to get in my breakfast. Phoned R and was actually in bed well before 10. I actually slept well, if not waking up every once in a while to check the time.

I got up, ate two waffles and a banana and went back to bed for another hour. By 5, I was getting ready. I looked out my window and saw the race crew putting up the 19K flag just to the east of my condo. I phoned R, she wished me well, and after taking washroom breaks, it was time to leave. I started the walk to City Hall, about 2.5K away.
It was a nice walk. I could feel the warmth in the air and I knew it wasn't quite the perfect weather for racing.

Arrived at the race site with one hour to spare, so hit the porta potty, sat down for a bit, then hit the portapotty one more time. Bumped into a few friends and in the final 25 minutes, lined up into the corral, where I saw Peter, an former colleague of mine and also a many time marathoner. We chatted a bit -- he was running the half with a goal of hitting 1:35. I started looking out for the 3:10 pacer but they were no where to be found. I just saw the 3:30 but that was it.

So as the clock counted down to 7:30, it was an odd feeling. I was about to run a marathon in my home city, the biggest race of my life on home turf, without the aide of a pacer. 'Oh well, here goes nothing' I thought as I crossed the line and started the Garmin

0 to 10K: Running with the pack

We sped down Bay Street, which is on a decline so we gathered speed. The corral system works quite well since most of the runners were going at a decent enough speed. Too many runs in Toronto you have to seed yourself up at the front for fear of veering off course to stay on your pace. I tried to contain my speed as we rounded the first major corner on to Wellington and I looked ahead at the horizon for the rising sun. It's a nice view and I enjoyed the scenery.

We passed the first kilometre mark in a too-quick 4:18. I found myself running right behind Peter and we ran a bit together. Lee came running by at this point and said hello around the time we clicked past the second kilometre at 4:22 and I knew we were running too fast. Lee, who was gunning for a sub 1:30 half, sped off and wished me luck (His blistering half was 1:27 and change). Peter advise that I slow down and "run your own race." I knew too well that was perfect advice so I slowed down. We ran on the Lakeshore for a bit and I skipped the first two water stops, taking drinks from my bottle that I was carrying with me. The next few kilometres clicked thorough and I hit the 5K mark in about 22 minutes, which was about 30 seconds faster than pace. I decided to slow it down a bit and settle into a consistent run. It's really difficult to run in a race that's predominatly run by half marathoners because they can give more effort while a marathoner has to be conservative.

I took my first gel at 8K and I was enjoying running on the road that had a nice downward slope to it since most of the course is flat. During this and so many of my kilometres, I got into a nice smooth groove.

8K in 4:30
9K in 4:30
10K in 4:29.

I hit the 10K split in around 45 minutes flat.

Splits: 10K split: 45:08 12.2K: 54:32

12.2K to 21.1K: Pack running, then the split
From the turnaround at 12.2K, we headed back east for a long trek to the city's east end. At the turnaround, you could see who was behind you, so I took a look for this supposed 3:10 pacer. I didn't spot any and I was perplexed. Luckily, there seemed to be a marathoner who was about 10 metres ahead of me who was running at the same clip as I was. I guessed that he was going for a 4:30 pace so I gave him his room and just used him as a marker. As it turns out he was going at around that pace, which was perfect for me. I kept to my plan. I took a Clif Shot Blok a few kilometres after taking the gel, then I'd take the next gel at the 15K mark. It's a pattern that I repeated for the rest of the marathon.

It was important at this point that I maintained 4:30 pace because quite a few of the half marathoners had gone out too fast and were slowing. This began the pattern that would happen for most of the rest of the race. I was running a steady pace and just passing people based on that pace.

We hit the half/full marathon split off before the 18K mark and I knew that's when the real race begun. If I was passing anyone ahead of me at this point, they had to be fading because it was my goal to run even splits.

Here are some splits

13K: 4:28
14K: 4:24
15K: 4:29
16K: 4:23
17K: 4:28
18K: 4:29
19K: 4:20
20K: 4:25
21K: 4:25
These are splits from my Garmin and I think some of them are off (as in recording the splits as too fast). From looking at my watch throughout the run, I was only 30 seconds faster than pace.

I remember running with four guys and I asked an older runner 'has anyone seen the 3:10 pacer?' Silence. Then he said, I'm going for 3:15. He asked the guy beside him (right behind me, how fast he was going. No answer. Then it turned out noone in that group knew what time they were going for. I just told them 'We're on 3:10 pace' to which the older runner said '3:15, lets go!'.

I left them about 100 metres later.

Running on Queens Quay was a dream. This is my neighbourhood and I was so happy to see real crowds gathered there. I know a lot of people cheering on friends and family were here to see marathoners before going to the end of the course, so I knew these people were actually out there to see us. Quite a few people were saying my name from my bib which was nice to hear. I was running alone, feeling strong, in a groove.

Hit the half marathon mark in 1:34:36 and as I write this, this is pretty amazing. Two years ago my fastest half marathon was 1:34:41 (My current PB is 1:31:34) yet during this marathon, I was cruising into the same time with plenty of gas left in the tank. This just shows where my training and experience has gotten me. (Reminder to self to race a half marathon in the next half year to see what I'm capable of).

21.1K to 30K. In and out of the Spit.
Shortly after the half, I saw a surprise cheering section that included a friend of mine (she's R's best friend who ran the 5K). That was a nice boost. I gave them a thumbs up and powered my way into the next section. I knew that the halfway mark to 20 miles would be an exercise in restraint. To try not to waste too much energy and emotion -- that's what the last 6.2 miles are for. The sun was fully out at this point and I was getting a little worried about the lack of shade on this course. We ran on Commissioners, which is an ugly industrial area, but it's also my home training ground. At about the turn into the Leslie Spit, an out and back into a park/reclaimed land/landfill dumping ground, we spotted the lead marathoners coming back. They were about to hit the 37K mark and looking strong.

I had still remembered to take my gels but I was increasingly consuming them well before I hit water stations. I was so intent to get my fuel in me that come hell or high water I'd put them in my mouth and just wait for the next water stop to take the water to wash them down.

Here are some of my splits

23K: 4:28
24K: 4:27
25K: 4:29
26K: 4:24
27K: 4:26
28K: 4:26
29K: 4:28
30K: 4:29

As you can see, I was within one to 4 seconds my marathon pace. At around the 27K mark, the guy who i'd been using as my semi pacer suddenly stopped at an aid station. At this point, I was truely alone in reaching my goal of a 3:10. Quite frankly, there was no one else around me who seemed to be going for that pace. I just bared down and decided to keep the pace up. I would not let the pace of those ahead of me dictate my running turnover. I hit the 30K mark in 2:14:35, which was 25 seconds faster than planned. I was very happy with this pacing job. In my head, that gave me about a 1:30 bank to meet 3:10:59.

30K: 2:14:35. Target pace 2:15

30K to 39K: The homestretch

The next bit had me run farther east, into the Beaches then up to Queen. It was a lonely road. There were only a few runners ahead of me and by keeping up my pace, I was starting to over take people. I continued to take the water, the gels, the bloks and I felt pretty good, pretty good for going more than 20 miles alone. I hit the last chip check mark at 33.7K, which I clocked in at 2:30:10. At the turnaround, I could see the CN Tower and I just told myself, it's only 9K home. I started to think of the distance in miles and it really didn't seem that far. At around the 35K mark, I felt a slight twinge in my right calf but I thought I could shake it out. I wished that I'd change my stride a bit and make kick it out a bit. I wish I had a group leader to talk us through the inevitable rough patches. Instead, I was alone with my thoughts. It was freeing, but also daunting.

Before the race, I decided that I would dedicate miles 23 to 26 to my mom. She's been through so much but is fighting and I thought that at the very least, some 20 odd minutes of suffering on my part was nothing. I hit the 37K mark and I couldn't believe where I was. I was a little more than 5K away from my goal and it was just within reach. But while it was close, 23 plus minutes felt so far away.

The splits below tell the story. I was simply on a tear. Not too fast, just pounding out those kilometres.

31K: 4:27
32K: 4:30
33K: 4:27
34K: 4:29
35K: 4:29
36K: 4:24
37K: 4:29
38K: 4:31

39K to the finish: The struggle home
Then it happened. The cramps just hit. First a twinge, then it hit with full force. That's it. After more than 38 kilometres, I was forced to slow to a walk. When I think back, I don't know what forced it. It was maybe by this point that despite hitting all my splits my breathing pattern and gone to the red line stage? I was running in the sun and I felt over heated. The cramps caused my first walk break. I remember a few moments before that. I felt that I was staggering a bit. I remember a course volunteer biking by me asking if I was okay. I remember another volunteer asked me if I wanted to sit down, if I wanted to just take it easy.

There was no way I wanted to. My Boston goal was still well within reach so I forced myself to start running. My watch says I did 39th kilometre in 4:50, which is still a decent pace. In fact, if I was able to keep up that pace, I could have very well met my goal.

The next kilometre was not as kind as the cramping continued. I may have been in a panic at this point, just dismayed that with every second of rest, I was throwing away all my training. Every second of rest felt good, a respite from the pain and three hours of running at a hard intensity. But every second worked against me.

Again, I summoned more and ran toward Bay street, turning the corner, taking frequent walk breaks. My Garmin goes wonky at this point due to satellite coverage, but I know that in the last kilometre or two, I did fit in bouts of running. If I were smarter, I would have reverted to a recovery run. Instead, I decided to beat the cramps by running strong and I was able to do this for a bit. I must of ran up to a kilometre at real pace but then it became too much. I was out of breath.

If you've ever seen a runner stagger near the end of a marathon, stagger like a drunk tries to walk a straight line, then you may have a good idea of what I looked like when I took a walk break around 600 metres from the end. I heard people cheering my name, but the only thing I could see was how far away the finish line seemed. In other races, I can visualize 800 metres as two times around the track and it'll give me an impetus to finish the race. But at the end of a marathon, the last thing I wanted to picture was any lap around any track. Trackwork, I guess, I associate with hard running!

I walked slowly and was losing control of my cramping legs. My friend Peter, who emerged out of the crowd, grabbed me by the arm and helped walk me a few metres. A race official also went out and asked me if I wanted to stop. Peter urged me on. He steadied me when I took one step back then a step to the side. He then convinced me and the official that I could totally finish the race. He grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and told me to take a few sips, which I did, then he yelled something like, 'it's only 500 metres to go, you can do this'!

We exchanged emails later Sunday and he told me that someone almost pulled me off the course!

And he shared a little more of the carnage he witnessed.

I saw a guy about 10 minutes ahead of you who was having an even tougher time - he was weaving right across Bay Street. There were others - after I left you there was a guy on the ground around Richmond. And an ambulance a little later on in the same area. I figured the sun, the heat coupled with the humidity in the morning would really take a toll on a lot of people.

Ain't no way you weren't gonna finish that race.

Thanks Peter.

And off I went. This was the toughest end. I was checking my watch as my A and B goals went down the drain. I knew then that I just had to finish it for myself. I fought through panic of a summer dedicated to training for one race. I fought through the pains in my legs, my head and in my very lungs. I fought because the crowd was urging me on, cheering my name. I staggered to the finish and it was over.

(Chip time: 3:19:39.)

After I hit the finish line, I guess I was staggering, because a race official came up to me, while another came with a wheel chair. I was spent but alert. I was wheeled into the medical tent. They took my pulse, they took my name and address and lifted my legs on top of a case of Gatorade. It was an odd feeling. My legs were done, the muscles were throbbing and I had a Charley Horse or two while there. I drank a few cups of Gatorade that they advised me to sip. I had to ask for another few cups before I felt good enough to sit up on my bed/stretcher. I looked around and saw other marathoners, guys and gals like me who had finished around my time. There were at least 10 of us in there. Wow, I thought, this race that done in a lot of people. After about 15 minutes, I got up, thanked them, checked out and lined up to grab my medal. (I remember sitting on the bed thinking 'hey, am I gonna get a medal or not?!')

I hobbled around the corner, grabbed a foil blanket and hobbled all the way home, down Bay Street. As I walked, my legs were recovering. Blood was moving into my legs and as I watched marathoners go by, the 4 hours, 4:15, 4:30, I saw the same faces as mine. I saw smiles, I saw determination, I saw courage, I saw young, old, male, female. They were all headed up the same road that I had toiled on earlier. I felt proud to be among them. They were my kind of people. Marathoners.

Which brings me back to a funny moment after I staggered past the finish line, a mess of a runner with jelly like legs. A volunteer who was guiding me toward the wheelchair asked me if this was my first marathon. I just held out my hands, put up my four fingers and smiled. 'Four,' I said. 'This is my fourth.' I'm sure she'd think I was crazy if I told her I'm running my fifth in 28 days.

Chip time: 3:19:39
Overall: 180/2532 (92.8 percentile)
Age group: 34/219 (85.8 percentile)
Gender: 156/1577 (90 percentile)

Run details on Garmin Connect. Note that it records it as 3:16 and change. I think I hit my stop button really early.

Next: Reflection on my training, on goals and what's next for the Marine Corps Marathon.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Licking wounds

Thanks for the good wishes. I'll write up a report but here's the gist. I was on 3:10 pace right up until kilometre 39. Maybe even 39.5. Then the cramps hit big time. I had to walk. I tried to run and I did. The sun was hitting me (Toronto, plant some freaking trees!) and I was just a mental mess. Thanks to Peter, a former co-worker who ran that half, who came up and helped me get my bearings straight in the last 500 metres. It was a painful last two kilometres and I managed to run in bits but I was a stumbling mess. The marathon is humbling -- I know that very well.

Next time, indeed. Race report in a few days I think.

Chip time: 3:19:39

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The day has arrived

As I type this, about 24 hours from now, I'll be in the latter stages (or end) of my fourth marathon. More than three hours ago, at 7:30 this morning, my alarm went off. The countdowns are no longer in months or weeks. Not even days. It's hours and minutes. A few things

The fuel

This is my fuel plan. I'm following the same plan I did in May for the Flying Pig. It worked out great and I always had something I could pop into my mouth every few miles. I think it's critical for me to mark on my pace band when to take the gels because in my first two marathons, in the excitement, I never took enough fuel.

Gels: The plan is to take five gels during the run: At the 8K, 15K, 22K, 30K and 37K marks. There are water stations around those times thankfully enough. (Calories: 500)

Shot Blok: To prevent cramping as much as I can, I'm also taking Clif Shot Block with 'cramp buster' This has 210mg of sodium for every three cubes (plus 100 calories). I plan to pop one in my mouth in the kilometres between the gels. I hope to have one left for the final 5K. (Calories: 200)

Gatorade: Yes, I'm bringing a bottle with me to (sadly) toss away. There are water stations at 3K and 5K but I'm fully ready for them to be congested so my Gatorade will get me through the first one, maybe two, stations. I'll drink when I pass the stations so I'm following proper hydration.

Sportsbeans: I plan to eat them to calm my nerves before the race. I've done this before about 30 minutes before race. They're easy to digest and represent sugar intake. (Calories: 100)

So in terms of nutrition, I will get a 500 calorie breakfast, and 800 calories from gels, bloks and beans. I'll take water with gels and may take a few Gatorades a stations. It's tricky this business of fueling for the marathon.


Here's my bib! 647. You can click here or here to track me.

The course:
I have never run a marathon in my home city, but i've run thousands of miles in it. Not only that, I live at around the 19K mark of the marathon. This is my home course, no doubt about it. On the western part of Toronto, I run out there on average 3 time a week and have done quite a few races out there. Many people don't like the Leslie Spit and Commissioners Street part on the west, which is run in an industrial area, but I do many of my training runs on Commissioners and have been doing Leslie Spit quite often. The most eastern part of the course, the Beaches, is typically part of any long run I do of more than 14 miles. It's safe to say I know every rise, every bend, every pothole (luckily there are only a few) and even how it feels to run this course on windy, snowy, rainy and sun-filled days. One of my favourite sights when I do long runs is when I'm heading back to downtown, which would be around the 34K mark of the marathon. You can see the beautiful Toronto skyline with the CN Tower rising above it all. When I see that, I know I'm getting close to home.

Still deciding on singlet, but I'm going to go with my new shoes. Fran suggested I replace the insoles of my new ones with the more worn out versions from the old one. I did so and it 'feels' much more comfortable. I also stuffed newspaper down the toebox to get a little bit on an expansion. I did about 2K this morning with no problems. I may another jog in the afternoon.

Final plans:
Watch TV, visualize the race, massage with The Stick and generally lay around. Oh yeah, and eating...

6 pm.: Early dinner of pasta with a little bit of protein (chicken)
10 p.m.: Small late nite snack (to top off fuel)
10 - 11 p.m.: In bed
3:30 to 4 a.m.: Up to take care of business and to eat breakfast of two waffles and small instant oatmeal or half a banana). Maybe some peanut butter
4:15 a.m. Back to bed for nap
5 to 5:15: Get up and get ready.
6 - 6:15 a.m.: Leave my place and walk/TTC it to City Hall. It will be crowded!
7:10ish. After portapotty break, start making my way to red corral.
7:30... um, race.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Just picked up my race stuff at the expo. Ran into quite a few people I know. Now at St. Lawrence eating pasta. I love carboloading.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Long walk home...

So much for any type of run today. There was a major subway delay that resulted in my walking almost 8K so I could catch the streetcar home. I left work at 6 p.m. and got home at 8:40. Crap.

Anyways, I took it easy on the walk. Tomorrow, i'll try out the new shoes again for another short run. I will do a 3K run on Saturday I think.

I have tomorrow off work!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dress rehearsal

Key workout of the week is done, the 'dress rehearsal'. Schedule called for 7 miles with two miles at marathon pace, just so you can get a feel for the speed. It's also great for testing out your gear and other things.

One thing about marathons is that I stack up my RaceReady shorts with all my fuelling needs. So I stuffed five ClifBar gels and my one pack of Clif Shot Blok (margarita with 'cramp buster' formula -- in other words, salt). I filled up a small fuel bottle with Gatorade. I finally figured out how to tie my shorts tight cause I spent the first few miles of last marathon trying to keep my shorts on!

Put on the old pair of shoes, the singlet I plan to wear and my hat. The plan was to run about 3 miles at MP as a result of a recommendation I got here. I ran 1K of warmup and launched right into it.

Details on Garmin Connect

Marathon pace is 4:30 kilometres.

1K 4:24
2K 4:32
3K 4:27
4K 4:29
5K 4:28

Not bad, was able to click off fairly consistent kilometres after a too fast first kilometre. Gonna massage with The Stick later tonight. I'm sure it's partly in my head, but yes, my old shoes do feel a little flat. They are definately more comfortable than the new ones. I may wear my new ones to the office tomorrow to see if they break in a bit more with daily use. I think I'll make my shoe call on Friday after doing a few short runs Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'll stick with the old shoes

Went out for a 5 mile run (details) after work today. It felt great and my legs felt very fresh. This is good. I've been trying to break in my new pair of shoes that I started wearing about a week ago. It has better cushioning but it's just not feeling right. A little tight and I could see that over a marathon distance my feet could get numb/blistered.

So for my dress rehearsal tomorrow, I'm going to wear the old pair that I only started wearing at the beginning of August. I ran 300 miles in August and another 160ish miles this month so it's reaching the end of its life but i'll see tomorrow if i'll take comfort over brand new cushions.

A little tinge of soreness on some knee muscles, but that's pretty normal. I'm pretty surprised that I don't have that much soreness overall.

So it's 4 days, 11 hours. Thanks for the well wishes, every one. It's almost game time!

Monday, September 22, 2008

How I got here

In mid-May, I was reading the Pfitzinger Douglas book Advanced Marathoning, which I have called my marathoning bible for the past two years. I was flipping through the well worn training section at the back, the 55 mile, 18-week program. But my hand turned a few pages and I started to pore over the 70 mile, 18-week section.

It was only a few weeks after I'd run my spring marathon and I felt there was unfinished business. But looking at those pages, I was intimidated. I counted more than 5 20+milers, two or three mid-week runs of 10 to 15 miles. A Thursday or Friday (Who the hell trains on Friday!) run of about 10 miles. To me, it was staggering. Six days of running and an average mileage in the mid-60s and topping at 70. The thought of logging 112 kilometres in a week while commuting and working was pretty scary. That's even without factoring the LT runs, the V02 sessions, the pace runs.

Not to mention that I had a new marathon pace of a 7:15 mile or 4:30 kilometre for that 3:10 goal. Fact is, I knew I had to step up the volume. Nothing but hard work and extra hours on the road would get me up to fitness.

It was intimidating, but I took the challenge. I gave up summer evenings out in favour of running the trails. When I did go out, I was always planning my next run.

It's funny, I'm deathly afraid of the last 6 miles of the marathon. I've hit the wall pretty hard twice and even though I ran a great consistent marathon in May without hitting the wall, the fact that it exists scares me.

If there's one thing that is giving me some peace, some feeling of confidence moving into race day, it's something I read on Simon Whitfield's blog a few weeks back after he won the silver medal in Beijing. His race was amazing and he dug down when they counted him out. One excerpt of his race report really stuck out. Not only stuck out, it was almost a revelation :

Race day I felt so relaxed and happy, the days leading into the race set me up to arrive at the pontoon knowing we had done everything possible to get to the start line prepared and ready to take a crack at it. Jennie sent me the perfect email the night before, it contained words of support that were the final nail in the coffin for any fear I had of failure. I felt like all I had to do was express my fitness, I wasn't hoping for miracles, simply expressing fitness earned through hard work. The race unfolded perfectly and when I tossed my visor off with 800meters to go I was basically stating to myself that I was going to fight to win all the way to the line and after running so patiently for 9.2 kms - it was now or never.
So that's my own pep talk I've been repeating now and again "expressing fitness earned through hard work." How true is that? Marathons aren't necessarily about pulling out a miracle on race day. True, weather, fuelling, race course can work for you or against you. You need the mental toughness in those final miles. But the foundation of that is fitness, earned through hard work.

They say race is your victory lap, that the race was the training that got you to the starting line. I think after all these thousands of miles, I'm slowly learning -- and believing -- what that means.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Despair, then joy

Yeah, so I took a look at the stupid long range forecast yesterday and it was not pretty.

It called for rain on the 28th. I hate rain and running. Drizzle, sure. Light rain, for training runs, okay. Rain for race day, ugh. It's the one factor you can't control. Even worse than rain was it showed perfect, enticing sunny days before and after marathon day.

Then of course I went this morning to check on my misery and see this!

The skies had opened and sun!

Anyways, i'm not going to jinx myself any more. Things will change as these stupid weather systems are apt to. I think Thursday will be the day i'll truly freak or jump for joy.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon: 1 week to go

They say that in your last week before your marathon, one of the things you should to is visualize yourself running the course. I plan to do that as I relax this week and when I plan to actually sleep something close to a normal 8 hours (is there such a thing?).

I ran my 13 miler today following much of the last half of the course. I ran east to the Beaches, back toward downtown, and went up Bay Street so I could remember what the last bit is like. There is a hill in there, and after an incline, the last half kilometre is pretty flat.

I ended up doing 13.8 miles in 1:49:46 with average pace of 7:57 miles (Run details).

Hit pretty much the mileage plan for the past week:

Tuesday: 8 miles
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 8.8 miles with 3x1600
Friday: 3 miles
Saturday: 7 miles
Sunday: 13.8 miles

Weekly total: 46 miles (74K)
Year to date: 1855 miles (2985K)

The Pfitzinger plan calls for more runs than I'd like in the final week. Here's what it says

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 5 miles AM/ 4 miles PM
Wednesday: 7 miles with 2 at pace (Dress rehersal)
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: 5 miles with 6x100
Saturday: 4 miles
Sunday: RACE!

My inclination:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday 6 miles with 2 at pace
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 2 miles to keep legs fresh
Sunday: RACE

So he calls for 26 miles before the marathon, I think I'm in for 16 if not less. It's just me, I want to be really fresh on marathon day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Easy seven

Took it easy today. By the time I was out there, the sun was out and although it was cool, it was warm enough to make fast running a little uncomfortable. Really down to the last few runs. I have a 13 miler tomorrow that I'll do some at pace but if I feel like taking it easy, I will again. No gains to be made, only a little fitness to be lost.

Marathon day is coming up fast!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I broke in my new pair of Asics GT-2130s a few days ago. It felt a little stiff on a 8 miler on Tuesday, a little better yesterday during an early morning 5 miler, but today I took them for a nice spin around the track and I think they're just starting to break in.

Today's the last hard quality workout, 3x1600. As usual, I ran about 4 kilometres up to the track (see route here)

As an aside, the map you see was generated by my Garmin Connect account and my brand new Garmin Forerunner 405! My sweetie got it for me for my birthday a little while ago and I was able to start using it in the past week. Still playing with it, and having some problems synching it with my Garmin Training Centre, but it's a lovely watch.

A cool day, probably around 16C, and there was a light wind, perfect for doing track work. I targetted 6:14s based on the latest 5K race time.

Here are the three stats

1. 6:09 (177 bpm average heart rate)
2. 6:09 (182 bpm)
3. 6:10 (183 bpm)

See more info on the run from my Garmin page

I'm loving these splits. Here are the last two 3x1600s I've done in prep for the past two marathons

April 2008
1. 6:15 182 max heart rate (173 average)
2. 6:15 186 max heart rate (178 average)
3. 6:14 189 max heart rate (181 average)

October 2007
1. 6:21 184 max heart rate (176 average)
2. 6:27 188 max heart rate (182 average)
3. 6:28 187 max heart rate (182 average)
Now how is it that I've managed to take off 11 to 18 (eighteen!) seconds of my times from a year ago. That's insane. I don't know. I do know that my legs felt very fresh today. I know that my legs were operating at a high level, that I wasn't gasping for air. I know my third lap wasn't pushing it. I know that the pace I chose was not sprinting, just fast running.

I guess the numbers say it clear: I am a much faster runner than a year ago. The work I did in the months following last year's fall marathon (the winter upkeep, the early spring training for the spring marathon) kept me sharp and had me gaining fitness throughout the past 12 months.

Tomorrow morning, it's 5 mile recovery, followed by 7 miles on Saturday and 13 miles on Sunday.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon: 2 weeks to go

Oh lord, 13 days to go. I've been out of town in DC over the last four days so it's been a blur. Been busy as well and my running was cut back a bit.

Here's the update from last week:

Monday: 5 miles
Tuesday: 12 miles
Wednesday: 7 miles
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 3 miles
Saturday: 3.1 miles (5K race)
Sunday: 11 miles

Weekly total: 41 miles (66K)
Year to date: 1809 miles (2911K)

Mileage last week dropped pretty far. I was supposed to do 56 miles I lost 6 miles on Sunday (cut it short, don't regret it) and I raced a 5K instead of a 8K to 10K. Again, no biggy. I'm going to hit my mileage goal this week of 46. There are two key runs this week: The 3x1600 track work and the last medium run of 13 miles on Sunday.

Here's the plan of attack

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 8 miles 8x100
Wednesday: 5 miles Recovery
Thursday: 8 miles with 3x1600
Friday: 5 miles Recovery
Saturday: 7 miles 8x100
Sunday: 13 miles

Only one run that's in the double digits!

I really can't believe it's coming that fast. I bought a new pair of shoes that i'll break in immediately. I'll see by Thursday's workout whether they'll be the pair that i'll wear on marathon day. Also starting to prep myself for the race. I bought The Stick muscle roller thingy in DC and i'll work on my legs. I want to eat properly but not over eat. I want to get enough sleep. Even in hot and humid DC I felt on Saturday that the race showed I have good fitness. I think the weather kinda made me doubt my general fitness but a cool week in Toronto should bring back racing memories to my muscles.

I think the last six days before the race will be key. After Sunday's 13 miler, I'll shut down to prep mode. I really have to focus and shut alot of other things out of my mind. I'm taking off the Friday before the race so I can pretend i'm out of the city. My three marathons so far were held out of town and that got me in the frame of mind. Doing a hometown race will be interesting... More on that later.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hot, bothered but inspired

Today was supposed to be 17 miles. It also is, like yesterday, freaking hot. 32C with humidex of 36C or 90F/96F with humidex. I got out at 7:40 a.m. and it was really warm out. I knew it would be a challenging run and the original goal was to try to run for time, not distance. Originally I was aiming for two hours or to try to be back at the condo by 9:30 a.m. since JellyP is in town for work.

I ran to the Mall and started it out when I heard loudspeakers ahead. As I approached the Monument, I saw the cyclists and I knew that it was a triathlon. I ran into Hains Point and saw the volunteers setting up the aid stations. I later saw the race leader with a huge lead. I was energized and I thought 'If these guys can race in this weather, I should at least suck it up a little and get through most of this run'.

I ran into Virginia and again across the bridge to Lincoln Memorial when I saw the 9 a.m. wave of swimmers in the river. Amazing. I then ran again near Rock Creek Park and saw the cyclists whizzing by. By this time, I was clipping out good 5:05 kilometres or just over 8:15 miles or so. I decided that I woudn't do the 17 miles. I have build up the fitness and I would not lose it if I'd miss a 17 miler. This is taper and the amount of effort I ended up doing might as well have been a 14 mile run. I ended up with 11 miles in 1:33:17 with an average pace of 5:15 kms. I took some walk breaks to let the heart rate settle. At the end, I saw that the finish line of the race (the Olympic distance) was two blocks from R's condo so I watched and cheered in some of the racers.

So it looks like my longest run will be next weekend's 13 miler. No biggie that I've missed today's, I've got plenty of 17 to 22 milers in the bank with weekly 13 to 15 miles done on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Plenty of miles in me already.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Race report: National Press Club 5K

Here are the race results. Took me a while to figure out where to find them.

So it was pretty scorching hot today -- it's now 32C or 90F. When we started the race, we had to deal with 90F real feel. Are you crazy?

I'm in DC for an online journalism conference. I worked last night from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. after going out for drinks. So I was pretty tired and trying to hydrate.

Another bad thing. I had forgotten my racing gear -- my favourite Saucony ultra light singlet, my lucky hat and race ready shorts. In return I had to use a heavier singlet, these long Nike shorts and a black cap.

The route was from F street and 13 down Penn Ave. then back. Penn Ave has no shading. That sucked. I would have loved to have a 7 a.m. start but the sun was blazing. We got off to a fast start and a runner had fallen (first time I've seen that). As it turns out, I think he got up and ran to the front of the pack. I had positioned myself near the front since looking at the results from last year, I thought I should be up there somewhere. There was a downhill on 13 street until we landed on Penn Ave.

We were going fast. The downhill was not great for pacing because it left us with a really quick start and I think we were all trying to stay at that quick pace. I wanted to run strongly and not really lose ground to any pack of runners, so I kept it up.

1K: 3:37. I saw the time and was a little worried. That's really fast. To go sub 20, all I needed was to go 3:55 or so and keep it consistent. Then again, I've read some articles that suggest a fast start in a 5K is actually not a bad idea. The big test is if you red line it early, that you have the endurance and fitness to keep it up.

We hit the first mile, near the Canadian Embassy and the Newseum, in just over 6 minutes (like 6:02 or something) and my jaw dropped. This is way to fast. By now the heat was getting to us. Some of us, myself included, had run to the side of the road to get what little pockets of shade there was on the north side of the street. Hit the 2K mark in 3:46, still blazing fast for me. We made our way to the turnaround area and there was a slight incline, followed by two water stops. I took some water, got a gulp and was on my second half of the race.

I really was holding on for dear life. I was counting the minutes down. I saw my watch said 11 minutes and I said, 'only 7 minutes to go.' Hit the 3K mark in a slower 3:57 when I decided that I should try to make up some ground so I targeted a few runners ahead of me and stepped up the pace. I was picturing the rest of the race.. The FBI building, 13th, the uphill and the final stretch. The heat was pretty bad and my race gear was getting me really hot. I had a little bit of a desire to stop right there but I knew that was going to happen. Just bear the pain a bit more.

Hit the 4K mark at 3:49, which I was happy with since I had picked up time from the last split. I tried to run strong knowing that a sub 20 was very much possible even with the final hill. When we reached, other runners had gained on me and I lost a few places. No biggy. I saw R at the top of the hill, waved and ran it in. The last kilometre was registered at 4 minutes flat.

My Garmin registered the race as 5.09K so maybe I hit the stop watch a little later than I should have. My Garmin time said 19:36 but the official time (It was not chip) was 19:25. This is a new personal best and considering the conditions, I'm absolutely ecstatic. This is the third time this year i've gone sub-20 minutes for the 5K which I'm very happy with. I was worried the first time it was a fluke. The second time, in a humid hot night, was a nice surprise. I guess this results just affirmed my latest track work in which I was able to do kilometre intervals consistently at 3:50 range.

I plugged in 19:25 in McMillan and it predicts a 3:09:17 marathon. Runner's World predicts a faster 3:06. I don't usually give much credence to such predictions but now I know I -- technically -- have the fitness for a 3:10:59.

Was it a well run race? I don't know. In retrospect, maybe it was a good idea to go hard. But maybe if I was a little more conservative I would have run a better last half. Who knows. It's taper time anyways, and there's only one big race on my mind in 15 days.

Time: 19:25 (link to race results)
Pace: 6:15 miles
Place overall: 30/576 (94.7 percentile)
Place in age group: 6/37 (83.7 percentile)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon: 3 weeks to go

Finished up tonight with a 4 mile recovery run in the dark. Was working much of the day.

Here's the week just past
Monday: 14 miles
Tuesday: 9.5 miles
Wednesday: 8 miles
Thursday: 10.8 miles (5x1200)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 23 miles
Sunday: 4 miles

Weekly mileage: 69 miles (111K)
Year to date: 1768 (2845K) Crazy? Yes.

As I said yesterday, I'm really looking forward to the taper. On the other hand, my body can take a the mileage, I mean, I do on average of 10 miles a day and now it just clicks. I feel faster, I feel my running has smoothed out. I have better rhythym on the roads. My heart rate is lower than usual and my breathing gets laboured only on hard runs. The V02 runs have so far been encouraging.

So I guess you can say, in a sense of how I've prepped my body, that in the next three weeks, I'm going to reach the best shape I've ever been in. I'm in great shape now, but tired. Taper's supposed to let your muscles rebuild and give you extra energy. Funny thing is, I know I can get in better shape. I could do more core work. I could lift more weights. I can stretch more. I can eat better and trim up a tad. Okay, I'm not going to complain, I mean, as far as citizen marathoners go, 9 to 10 hours a week on the road is quite a lot.

Here's what the week coming up looks like. I'm going down to a whopping low-to-mid 50 mileage.

Monday: 5 miles
Tuesday: 7 miles with 8x100
Wednesday: 12 miles (only!?!?)
Thursday: 6 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 5K race in DC!
Sunday: 17 miles

Gonna be an interesting week. Flying out to DC for a conference on Thursday night so I'll have to fit in 6 miles before work.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Let the taper begin

I have one more run for tomorrow, a 5 miler recovery run after today's big long run. This can't come soon enough and I really can't believe I've made it through 15 weeks of this. Damn, that was beyond tough on my time and my body.

Today was the last of the 20+ milers and the schedule called for 20 miles. I decided to do at least 22 miles. I wanted to test out my gels and of course being on my feet for almost three hours.

The splits speak for themselves. I warmed up but then kept most of my splits below 8 minute miles. I ate a small bag of sports beans before the run, drank a bottle of Gatorade during the run, and took two gels, one at the 1:05 mark and the next about an hour later. On marathon day i'll be taking a fair bit more fuel (5 gels, anti cramping Shot Bloks and of course water and Gatorade). I really think fuelling for me now is the major worry.

I wanted to do a negative split today and also try to run the last 5 miles or so at a fastish pace. Really happy with the heart rate -- it was around 150 bpm or lower for the first 15 miles and only around mile 19 when I started to run a little harder it drifted up to 160. Weather was optimal for a long run -- not too much sun and relatively cool for early September.

So really gratifying to run the last bit at 7:37ish pace. Not quite Boston pace but I know I'm more than capable of doing 7:15s through my last 30K race. It's the last 12K that I hope this taper will help to prep me for.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

All in the head

Was dreading today's workout, a 6x1200. In the end, I only got in 5x1200 as it was getting really dark by the end and was getting really hungry. Oh yeah, and I was pretty much chickening out on doing the final one. I was targetting 4:40 1200s.

1. 4:35 (avg bpm 177, max bpm 185)
2. 4:39 (182, 188)
3. 4:39 (182, 190)
4. 4:40 (181, 190)
5. 4:40 (181, 191)

In retrospect, I could deal with the speed, just on paper it seems more daunting than it really is.

It was stronger than a previous 1200 last fall.

1. 4:40 184 max bpm
2. 4:47 184 max bpm
3. 4:50 186 max bpm
4. 4:52 186 max bpm

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon: 4 weeks to go (actually, 25 days)

Three more runs until my taper begins. In three runs, I'll have banked 15 weeks worth of heavy (for me) training. Did 14 miles on Monday since it was a day off work, 9 miles yesterday at recovery and 8 miles today with 8x100. I'm have a V02Max run of 6x1200 coming up. That will be a tough run.

Rest of the week, a 5 miler and a 20 miler on the weekend. I'm thinking of pushing it to 22 miles or beyond. We'll see.

Last week's weekly mileage: 62 miles (100K)
Year to date: 1699 miles (2734K)