Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Obama's inauguration: The setup

It's now 20 days until the Presidential Inauguration and over the next month, I'm going to be posting -- every day or every few days depending on subject matter -- on the event. As many of you know, I'm an online journalist, specifically I'm the managing editor, digital news, for the National Post, one of Canada's national newspapers. I'll be cross posting some of my work here on the Post's news blog, Posted and also smaller updates on my Twitter account While some of my work will be done for the Post, I'm doing this as a civilian. I've seen all the major world events in my career through the lens of an editor. Now, I wanna experience it as a citizen.

I'm a frequent visitor to DC the past two years, been down here on average once every three weeks since R. lives down here. She lives right in Penn Quarter, which means her building is one block away from Pennsylvania Avenue, which Barack Obama will walk up after giving his inaugural address.

Anyways, enough of a set up of what I'm about to do, lets start with today's subject, the setup:

The streets of Washington, DC, are showing signs of being prepped for a big party. I went for a run around the capital this morning (see route) -- by far the best way to see a city that's wide, short and expansive.

I started from where my girlfriend lives in Penn Quarter, near the FBI building. I ran down Pennsylvania toward Capitol Hill, in the opposite direction where Obama and family will travel up on Jan. 20. Here are a few glimpses.

Pennsylvania Ave. looking toward the Capitol, with a newspaper box (Politico) in the foreground. They also have The Onion newspaper boxes which is a nice touch.

Next, I stopped at the Newseum, which is at Pennsylvania and 6th. You can see the daily headlines that they print out every morning and post in fron t of the building.

Then off to the Capitol, where preparations are well underway. You really can't approach the building but this picture provides a good glimpse of construction

Then off to the other side of the Mall, destination the Lincoln Memorial. It's two miles from the Capitol to the Memorial (3.2 kilometres). On inauguration day, they're expecting 3 million at last estimate. Many will be crammed into this space.

Then off to the Lincoln Memorial (we'll show pictures of Lincoln in a later post) where Martin Luther King Jr. famously gave his "I have a dream" speech. (Also sadly also famous for the Forrest Gump scene where he waded into the water).) You can see the Capitol in tucked behind the Monument.

Next off to the White House, where things are busy as usual. Girl with 'Peace' sign keeping it real in a very windy day.

Finally, back to Pennsylvania where they've already set up a good 10 sets of bleechers, big and small. You'll need tickets to get this type of seating.

You can feel the vibe. It's like the calm before the storm but the preparations are being made. On Inauguration day, I'll be among the millions trying to catch a glimpse of history.

Ran 5 miles in 58:58 with tonnes of picture stops. A fun way to run.

The year is finished, long live 2008

Short and sweet. It was a fantastic year. I boosted my mileage by more than 400 miles than last year. I ran a lot of road races and plunged into marathoning. I had my successes and failures but in the end, I now love running even more. It's part of my life, not necessarily all consuming, but it's part of my being. That said, here's a year in review.

Last mileage update: 2212

Runs since:
Dec. 24 - 3.1 miles
Dec. 25 - 3.35 miles
Dec. 28 - 5.3 miles (5K race plus warmup)
Dec. 29 - 5 miles
Dec. 30 - 4 miles
Dec. 31 - 5 miles (A run around DC)

Year's total mileage: 2238 miles
Year's total kilometres: 3602 kilometres

-Races: Ran 14, including three marathons, which is pretty crazy for me.

-Favourite races: Around the Bay was such a blast and a perfect racing distance. Flying Pig was great for a strategy and well run race. Scotia was great for the first 37 kilometres! I grew to love the 5K distance and enjoyed the three I did

-PRs: Set them in six distances! Notables were going sub 20 minutes three times, hammering a strong 30K time of 2:13:24, the marathon going sub 3:20 twice.

-Cities in which I've run this year: In no particular order: Toronto, Washington DC (and Virginia), Cincinnati and Kentucky, Miami, New York, San Francisco

-Favourite moments: The finish line at all my races. Those weekday 14 milers in the middle of summer. Feeling exhausted and exhilarated after those 20+ milers. Running in the snow. Running in general.

-Bad moments: The last few kilometres of Scotiabank marathon

-Favourite picture

-Least favourite (only cause of how I was feeling)

Oh yeah, and i'm on Twitter now (been doing it for work for a while but it's time for my own). Follow me at

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Blogiversary and 800th post!

Three years ago today, in December 2005, I was at work on a slow day and started this blog. A computer meltdown resulted in me losing mileage i'd been tracking on my computer and so I thought that doing a running blog would be a great way to track my mileage.

Back then (funny how I can say that) there was a strong fledgling community of running bloggers. The RBF was well established and I was quickly hooked. Two friends of mine who were all running the Chicago Marathon that year started blogs later in 2006. We found other bloggers -- from Wisconsin, from Illinois and from all over who were also training for Chicago. As a solo runner, I've really appreciated having a community in which I could read about shared experiences, learn from and also converse with.

Blogging also became more than just logging a daily run, our outlining a training program's particular challenges. Along the way, I got hooked into actually writing about life in general. A blog was my way back into writing -- I'm a journalist by trade and now I'm on the managing/editing side so this blog was a great way to get back into what I've always loved to do, to write.

But lets get back on stride, shall we? It's a running blog, after all. I have logged more than 5500 miles worth of running in this blog. I've documented more than 30 road races, 5 marathons and a tonne of personal milestones. Like my running, this blog ebbs and flows with the seasons: Spring and Summer are all up tempo and lactate thresholds with trackwork on the side. Winter's a slow time but a time to reflect, enjoy running and embracing the cold. Fall's the time to lay it out on the line.

Today's post, started on an airport bus and finished as I wait to board the plane for DC, is the 800th one. I've written so many milestone posts that I'm getting pretty tired of that, but like reaching your goal mileage or hitting your splits, it's nice to see beautiful round numbers.

What's next in my online life? I now spend most of my time online -- it's my livelihood and my hobby. This blog won't die by a long shot, it'll just get a little more focused. Will I post as much during marathon training? Maybe not as much as I used to. I'm going to be playing around on the blogosphere a bit more over the next while, starting a new neighbourhood blog on the side. More on that later but for now, I'm gratified that three years ago I took the plunge. It's as gratifying to share a running experience sometimes as much as it is to run itself. And having a community to run alongside is also nice too. I'm a better runner for it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Race report: Resolution Run 5K

I think I'm going to call this the annual Resolution Run 4.86K run because every single year, it measures the same on my GPS. To the folks looking up your results, the course is not a 5K distance so any PRs are, well, unearned. This is in my opinion.

Anyways, I have not raced in, um exactly two months since the Marine Corps Marathon. The last two months i've gone into extreme maintenance mode.

The mileage has dropped dramatically in the last two months but this is not unlike the last two years when I also ran fall marathons. Running has been sparse the past two weeks partly as a result of a busy schedule but also because I've been feeling really run down lately and then I got sick on Boxing Day.

I'm on the up now and feeling about 80% physically, which is pretty darned good.

Had dinner with R and her family last night and then she flew out early this morning so I was up early. I checked the weather at first and it felt warm. Then I saw the weather alerts and then changed my gear three times. With about 5 to 9C with 70km gusts, I decided on tights, a skullcap, a T-shirt with a fleece polypro on top that I cold roll up the sleeves.

Out at 9 and I ran to the race site, a 3K warm up. The course is familiar. A lot of turns with two hair pins. We took off and I felt pretty good so I stepped it up for the first 100 metres to get up in the pack.

1K: 4:11. Saw my splits and felt ok. The breathing was not to laboured which was a good sign, but I felt still weak so I ended up pacing off a few people. This kilometre included a hairpin turn

2K: 4:24. It's a funny feeling holding back but this speed is a little slower than my lactate threshold speed, which in theory I can run a 10 miler to half marathon in. I coasted and kept on checking my breathing to see if I had the lung capacity and aerobic fitness.

3K: 4:22. I was running in the top 35 or so, kinda lost count. Not a very competitive crowd and I spotted a few runners that I felt I could catch up to. Another hairpin turn and the cloudy windy sky turned into bright blue windy sky. Beautiful, cold, chilly, and gusty.

4K 4:18: Passed a few runners and was passed by one. Was just using this run to pace and to push myself a little more than I have in the past two months. A nice feeling. Felt I could have pushed it more.

5K 3:31 (4:05 pace): The last .86 kilometres were good. I just maintained pace then kicked i up a gear in the final stretch. So did the other runners. I think if I was more competitive I would have kicked it even higher and overpassed a runner or two but I was just happy to run it strong. As you can see, the freaking split from the 4K mark to the finish was 3:30 which is impossible for me for a kilometre given the amount of effort I was given. I ran it at 4:05 pace which makes a lot of sense.

Final time: 20:47

This year, I was about 45 seconds slower than last year but more than a minute faster than two years ago. Given I was running it two days after being sick and generally haven't been training hard, I'm very happy. My underlying fitness has not fled my body, after all. As 5Ks go, I've run 3 other races this year on courses that are actually 5K or close and I've gone sub 20 minutes on all three, two on very hot and humid days.

The race is special for me because it has always launched my winter training season. So as I was walking home, I was making plans to eat better, to research my winter races and figure out a training plan. First goal is to get the mileage back up to 35 miles a week by the first week of January. Then it's training time all over again. Nothing like a race to get your competitive spirit up again.

Interesting race conditions...

This as I'm about to head out for that 5K.


Um, kay, some clothing changes will be needed.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

24 hour sickness

Felt it at first late Christmas night after dinner. R. was already sick on Christmas day so that by the time I woke up in Burlington, I was done for: achy, stomach not doing so well.

So I was laying in bed or a couch most of yesterday in Hamilton and Burlington. Back in the city today and picked up my race pack for tomorrow's Resolution Run. May be a miracle by tomorrow morning but i'm feeling about 65% right now. So plan to run tomorrow at a reasonable maybe marathon pace then ramp it up  for the last mile if I feel okay.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A lot of presents?

Merry Christmas!

Well, if you search the web for 'world's largest candy cane', you get one of my posts with this picture I took a while ago. So in the spirit of today, here it is again.

Of course, it's the season for eating, which prompted these photos of a small dinner I prepared for my immediate family:

Pork tenderloin, shrimp with garlic/ginger and lemon sauce and my home made perfect focaccia.

Braised fennel and onion, stuffing, caramelized sweet potatoes, mushrooms with roasted whole shallots and garlic. Not pictured is the prime rib. Very yummy.

So today, just to work off a few of those calories (but not enough) I did a 3 miler plus a bit. I didn't bring my YakTrax to my parents' sadly, but I kept to the roads as the sidewalks were iced over. Now, on to Burlington.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Maybe time for a run?

Ha, busy busy busy, I'm not surprised that I haven't gotten out there for a run since Saturday. I will try for 3 miles today before I head to the parents' place for Christmas Eve. Bringing shoes for later in the week when I go to Burlington.. hm, thinking of it, I could have done the Boxing Day race.

Lots of snow out. Time for the YakTrax again.

UPDATE: Lots of SLUSH. Didn't need YakTrax but I need to dry out my shoes. 5K in about 27 minutes

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Surviving snowmageddon

Pretty hilarious yesterday, the deal with the 'snowmageddon' (we live blogged it at work). In reality, it's just snow, lots of it, yes, but it was snow. Torontonians get a lot of flack about how 'wimpy' we are about snow but I don't think it's about the snow, it's about commuting in the snow. I spent two hours getting home after work, double the normal commute. That sucks. Snow I can take.

Of course, the dumping of snow means that it's time to get the YakTrax out. There was still a lot of snow on the streets, but the cleaning crews were too effective with the Martin Goodman trail that I was actually looking for snow to run in. When you use YakTrax on pavement, you really lose the bounce your shoes would give you. I ended up doing 5 miles today on the trails. A few runners were out there.

With a few days before Christmas, it's getting busy with family so running is slowing down. Here's a recap of my last handful of runs:

Today, Dec 20: 5 miles
Thursday, Dec 18: 3.1 miles
Wednesday, Dec 17: 4.4 miles
Monday, Dec 15: 5.1 miles
Sunday, Dec 14: 4.5 miles
Saturday, Dec 13: 4.63 miles
Thursday, Dec 11: 6.2 miles
Year to date: 2212 miles

Which means i've topped the 2200 mile mark or 3,560 kms. Yeesh, I've run a lot this year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

They paved my running trail

This is huge progress in Toronto. I heard a while ago from a colleague that the city would be paving the waterfront Martin Goodman Trail through the winter for those who use the route.

To my delight it was paved when I went on my r miler out to Ontario Place from my condo at Spadina. I wonder how far they got. This is great news for my winter training!

Monday, December 15, 2008


What a day. It was below freezing a few days ago but just as I finished my run, it was reaching 13C, with a high of 17C forecast. I wore shorts and a long sleeve with a singlet underneath. After about a mile, I had to take off the top to run with the singlet. Sunny, breezy and warmish. I can't wait till spring. I forget the doldrums I get in cold weather.
This shot was taken from the lawn of the Capitol, where a month an d a bit from now, Barack Obama will be sworn in during the Presidential Inauguration. (And I'll be in town for that week and blogging the whole event!) Looks pretty quiet now huh? 

Did 5.2 miles.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Looks nice out

A view as I'm about to land in DCA (on ground now). Looking nice and sunny in Washington. I think a long run is in store.

UPDATE: Did almost 5 miles in the late afternoon around the Mall. Perfect run, feeling a little sluggish after a big lunch but I'm good now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What I want for Christmas

Okay, I really don't want these things but the other day, R said I was impossible to buy for. I'm pretty easy, since running isn't the cheapest sport, so just to prove that I actually like stuff:

Shoes: For a 1600 to 2000 mile a year runner, I can go through up to four pairs of these. Me? I go for Asics GT-2130s, size 9.5. I've always thought of trying another brand and thought maybe i'll do so in the off season. By the way, Canadian prices for shoes are robbery. $150 for a pair of shoes I can get for $95 in the States? No thinks.

Summer shirts: I loooove Saucony singlets. Show me a top that's as light and breathable and I'll happily switch, but every other type I've gotten never did the trick.

Summer shorts: I've tried a lot of short shorts (no, too much chafing) but my standby is my racing shorts by RaceReady. I'm looking for other pairs taht will provide comfort from heat, allow fast running and little chafing.
Hats: I've too many of them, cause I collect them at all big races I do. Besides, I loooove my two Brooks caps from MCM.
Winter gear: I trust only one. My SubZero Sugoi.. It's gotten me through three winters.. Hm, gotta dig that out right now. Also looking for a decent polypro fleece top. It has to be pretty heavy. Other than that, hand warmers are nice.

Electronics: I've got that covered. I love the Forerunner 405 (Thanks R!)

Fuel: It's not fueling season but I could always stock up on a few SportsBeans.

Reading: Oh, I have a few suggestions. (Yeah, and I probably have most of the others)

And If you want to give me a good present, maybe you will just get yourself something I've already got for myself and come run with* me.**

Oh yeah I like things other than running as well.

*If I register next Tuesday (reminder to self) ** If I get in next year. ie. wishful thinking

It's cold... sigh.

I am under the weather. No, I'm trying not to blame a single run on my sickness. But I could, and would be justified.

I felt absolutely chilled to the bone during Sunday's eight miler. Braver souls than I did big long runs while others, maybe smartly, didn't.

Sunday was beyond cold. It was, middle-of-February, freezing cold. I'm not ready for February. I want toasty interiors, the smell of egg nog and the warming lights of decorated evergreens. I always thought that Christmas was the reward for the winter we're about to face, so for me, the extreme cold ain't supposed to begin until Boxing Day.

No, I'm well aware it can be bad elsewhere, but I thought I was being smart Sunday when I had the four layers on top (Craft base, Saucony fleece, Running Room sleeveless windbreaker and a Sugoi outer layer), my cold weather tights, double gloves, a hand warmer, a skull cap and a MEC neck thingy that you can pull over your face.

Not smart enough when I run on the waterfront and the full 50km gusts were hitting me head on for the first four miles. Tell you what, when I turned around, I was certain that some parts of me, er, would be hit by frostbite!

Although one thing quite good about Sunday was the sheer amount of other crazy people who were out for their runs. Stupid, we may be, but brave, yes we were.

I felt ill on Monday and took Tuesday off. I put it to exhaustion from a very long year. It's been a very busy news cycle this fall: Two elections, one Parliamentary crisis and only now we in the news business can take a breather. I went back to work today and feel better, but it will not be before tomorrow before I get out there for another run.

Haven't stopped the running, however.

Last week's mileage: 30 miles
Year to date: 2179 miles

Gonna return to running tomorrow then log some miles on Friday. I'm spending a long weekend in DC starting Saturday so should be able to knock off some decent mileage in the capital city.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


As I type this, lots of blowing snow happenin outside my window. Kinda pretty to look at but not fun to run in.

I took too many days off in a row earlier this week. Monday wasn't up to it, Tuesday was supposed to get up early but that didn't work and Wednesday didn't feel like it.

So undaunted by my 30 mile a week goal, I did a double on Thursday: 5 miles at 5:45 a.m. and 3 miles at 6:30 p.m. I had yesterday off cause I worked through last weekend and did a chilly 10 miles in about 1:30. I have the full winter gear out now -- base layer, fleece long sleeve, sleeveless windbreaker and another windbreaker on top of that, Nike skullcap, windproof gloves (yeah right) and my tights. Luckily, I broke out a hand warmer that I switched hands every three miles.

So having done 18 miles, I added another four today in similar conditions, which leaves me 8 miles tomorrow. It could be an interesting one if this snow keeps up...