Monday, March 30, 2009

The running virus spreads...

I think this running bug is spreading everywhere I go. I got into the office today, myself feeling a little achy through the sore muscles, and one co-worker who ran Around the Bay was hobbling around. Another one, Ben Kaplan, who I ran with for a bit yesterday, wrote a nice little piece for The Ampersand, our Arts & Life blog at the National Post.

I really like his kicker, the last few graphs of his column (read the whole thing here)

I never played sports in high school or college, frankly, this was probably the biggest athletic achievement I've ever completed in my life. I'm limping like crazy when I walk into the stands and find Julie, and she has her camera out and smiles from ear to ear. People are still finishing and I'm soaking wet and I did it: I finished something, something hard, and I finished it well. We hug for a long time. This is a race I finally won.
He's also hobbling, by the way, and now seriously thinking of running Mississauga.

Meanwhile, another co-worker who ran the 30K, who sits across from me, I'm egging her on all day that she might as well run a marathon since she's got this training in the bag. Between her hobbles, I think she's thinking about it.

And finally, while that's going on, another group of my friends, including Tom, Jelly, Frank (who's coming out of semi retirement after running 2006 Chicago) Fitzy, are coming out this Saturday as we tackle a 5K race as a team (name's Running Copy).

Running, it's everywhere.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Race report: Around the Bay 30K

From A whole lot of soles...

I spent Saturday morning clearing my chest of congestion and it continued through the afternoon. Ugh, this cold has haunted me for the past two weeks and I'm sick of it. By the time I got to Hamilton, I was feeling a little better. Picked up my race pack -- the T-shirts this year are really nice, fits me better than last year's.

Later on, I met up with Fran and we had beer and nachos at the bar near the hotel. We chatted running and called it a night just after Earth Hour began.

I had a great night's sleep and woke up dismayed by the rain. Had my bagel and around 8:30, went down to the lobby to take a look at the rain. Yep, coming down hard.

Fast forward to the start, just before 9:30, the rain tapered and I lined up near the front.

The first 5K
I shot out at a pretty good pace, feeling that I could breathe properly and get my stride going. A lot of puddles everywhere so it was difficult jumping over puddles. After a few kilometres, I already had soaking wet feet. Oh well. The first two kilometres were great at the 4:33 range, a little slower than 2:15 pace. I saw the 2:15 pacer run by and decided that this just wouldn't be the day. Sure, I could have tried to keep up but today, it just didn't feel right to go any faster. A 30K requires you to bank energy and I was feeling good at first, but I knew that the lack of real mileage in the past two weeks and that my full lung power would not let me do 4:30s throughout. It was then I decided to slow down and go for a comfortable pace which turned out to be 4:37s.

1. 4:33
2. 4:33
3. 4:37
4. 4:37
5. 4:37

5K to 10K
We were running through the streets of Hamilton and it was nice to see the area again. It felt a little frantic since a lot of runners were jockeying for position. I brought a small disposable bottle of Gatorade and had that done by the 3K mark so I was depending on the water stops for Gatorade. It was my goal to take liquid at every stop and I did.

Soon after the 6K mark, my co-worker B. came running up to me and we high fived. We started running together and we chatted. He was going a little faster than his pace and I told him I still had a cold. It was kinda nice to have someone to run with and we kept up our pace and conversation through the 10K mark. By the 9K mark, we were slowing a bit, partly because we were talking and also we were pacing off runners who were slowing. We hit the 10K mark and there was the first series of small hills as we started running close to the Bay.

6. 4:37
7. 4:33
8. 4:41
9. 4:44
10. 4:38
The 10K split was 46:25

10K to 20K
Gonna write about this entire section cause, well, a lot of it was flat. I was still running with B. until we hit a water station somewhere around the 13K mark. Since I've gotten used to taking in liquid at stops, he was a bit behind and I decided that I should continue to the pace and even raise it. Unfortunately, since I was so focused, I couldn't say goodbye and wasn't sure where he ended up finishing. The pacing was pretty straightforward, I was judging it by effort and by who I was running around rather than to worry too much about the splits. You can see that most of my splits were around 4:35 to 4:40 range. It was at this point that I felt congestion building (In gross speak, that's mucus building up). It was strarting to interfere with my breathing and I had to cough and spit at times. The rain picked up and so did the wind so from the 10K now until about the 25K mark we were dealing with wet weather. It was pretty brutal.

We entered Burlington around the 18K mark and I was dreading the moment. I was trying to figure out how I would deal with the hills from the 19K to 26K mark but even just entering North Shore, there was a long incline.

Here are the 11 to 20K splits

11. 4:32
12. 4:42
13. 4:34
14. 4:36
15. 4:39
16. 4:41
17. 4:40
18. 4:41
19. 4:39
20. 4:42

The 20K split was in 46:31, only a few seconds slower than the first 10K

21K to 26K
Last year, I made major work of the hills. I charged up them, letting my breathing get laboured, then I coasted down the downhills and I made major time. Today, I took it easy on the hill. The breathing was already laboured and the weather was making me miserable. I really wanted to take walk breaks but I knew that if I gave in, it could have been game over. Having reduced lung capacity, mucus buildup and a little less training than I'd liked, made the hills a real test of resolve. I really huffed and puffed my way up the hills and barely did recoveries on the downhills.

Near the cemetery, in the kilometre before the last big decline and the huge incline, I started to  find somewehre near my pace. Looking at the splits between 21K and 26K, I can tell that I'm just not where I should be. Last year, I was clocking sub 4:30s on a lot of those kilometres as I made time on the downhill portions.

The final downhill, I was happy to hear the loudspeakers blare 'We Will Rock You'. The downhill and uphill afterward were tough and I managed to make it up the killer hill but it was hurting big time. Did I mention that my hat, my tights, my top were all soaked?

21. 4:46
22. 4:49
23. 4:46
24. 4:52
25. 4:47
26. 4:39

The Final Four
My slowest kilometre is around the 27K mark, which accounts for the hill and recovery as we coasted downtown. The final four kilometres were really tough. I was having trouble getting my breathing in check and the fact that I hadn't done truely long mileage in three week was hurting my strength. I did this last three/four kilometres last year at near 10K pace (low 4 minute kilometres) but today, my turnover just wasn't doing it for me. Mentally, I thought maybe I had gas but I knew that if I picked it up early, I would risk a redline and decided to enjoy and coast to the finish. By the final kilometre, I had regained some speed with a 4:32ish pace.

27. 5:03
28. 4:54
29. 4:37
30. 4:32

As we entered the downhill ramp, I was very happy for it to be finished. The rain had stopped a few kilometres before and I felt good having done my longest mileage of the year, all at a reasonable 3:20 marathon pace. I crossed the finish line at 2:21:10 and pumped my fist. Very happy with this effort. A good test of resolve. It hurt a lot. I probably shouldn't have gone out at that pace and even talked myself that a 2:30 would be a good time to go for.

Here are my splits at the 10K marks

Chip time: 2:21:10
Overall: 392/4916 (92 percentile)
Gender: 341/2617 (87 percentile)
Division: 40/248 (83.8 percentile)

A nice shiny medal

I'll write up a race report later but the gist is that I ran a strong race given the conditions and my slowly improving health. 2:21:12 is better than I thought I'd do even after I threw down a few good kilometres at the beginning.

This run was huge for me, and a big building block as I get my training back on track. I have six weeks until the marathon which means 3 weeks of hard training before the taper. I think it's safe to say I'll adjust my spring marathon time.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Race or fun run, finding a happy medium

I do love to race, it's one of the things that first hooked me on to running. Nothing like putting your own goals and previous records on the line, nothing like seeing what exactly your best is and nothing like the feel of pushing your body to a rational max.

When I signed up for Around the Bay last November, I had sights set on a sub 2:15 finish. Not only was I capable of doing that time, I had done it the previous summer at another 30K race. I was all excited about this being a goal race and looked forward to it.

Of course, life can throw things at you, like two weeks of a cold and lack of training. I'm not bummed out at all, in fact, I'm looking forward to seeing how I feel when I wake up tomorrow. Who knows, maybe I'll feel like myself.

Spent a few hours catching up with Fran tonight. He's running the ATB at a slower pace than he's used to -- he's using it as practice for when he becomes a pace bunny for the Ottawa marathon. I have another friend, Tom, who's in the midst of training for his first marathon. He has definite real goals and a real challenging pace.

I've run long enough now that every race is not the be all and end all of my running life. I've run two Army 10 milers in DC the last two years, both pacing R, and I've loved running at the slower pace, it helped me 'smell the flowers' and appreciate the act of racing. When you're hard core racing, you tend to lose that part -- that it's a celebration of fitness and running.

I have three co-workers running tomorrow, two of them it's their longest distance. I know quite a few run bloggers who are also running and other friends. Some will give it their all, some are off injuries, some are focusing on other races and others are pacing less experienced friends.

Tomorrow will be a toss of a coin, but I do intend to have fun, finish it strongly and look to get some decent pacing, and I intend to enjoy myself, even if I don't give it my all. Getting to the start line and working our way to the finish and gaining fitness, confidence and a sense of one's own physical and mental limits, that's what the race is really about.

Until that freaking horn goes off, bets are off then. :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Around the Bay round the corner

One of the search terms I see on my blog is 'race while I'm sick'. I'm not going to search that tonight but I would have a week ago.

I'm about 80 per cent right now. I feel fine but I still am a little congested judging by the amoung I spit during yday's 10 mile run.

I have lost a lot of trackwork, some tempo runs and last week's long run. I choose to call it a taper instead.

So tomorrow I head to Hamilton to stay overnight - and my initial thought is that I may have to dial down the running pace. We'll see on race day.

Meanwhile, might as well carb up on sushi rolls. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A setback, minor at least

So, after not running since Tuesday, went out on a beautiful day in DC. It's 13C and rising and I decided to go out in the afternoon. I announced to R that I'd run 10 miles maybe. Don't get yourself sick again, she said. I nodded.

A good 30 minutes later, I called the run in at 5K or just over 3 miles. Just not feeling right just yet, still congested and not really feel like putting it in. I walked the rest of the way home, just enjoying the sunshine.

I suppose now that this is a real setback. I've missed a key long run, missed a few tempo runs and generally my cardio must be dropping a bit -- not much, but when I'm asking alot of my body, I need everything I can get.

I have a 30K race a week from now, and am now seriously realigning goals. I don't think at this point that I'm going to drop out, but I'm not as confident in my running as I was last Tuesday when I put a monster of a run while still congested.

Being sick twice in a week is not the worst thing that can happen to you. I've read plenty of my fellow run bloggers who have missed seasons or major races because of injury. During todays' run, I had flashes of 'oh my lord, i'm losing all this training that my marathon in May is in danger!'. A little dramatic, yes, I think so. Best thing to do is to nurse myself back to normal health, get in the miles then, and then never look back at days and weeks like this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

19K in shorts!

Spring is a few days away. Today was perfect though. 13C, a little wind and sun. Ran 12 miles or just over 19K after work and it was glorious. Started off quicker than usual, and had to spend time clearing my chest, but I hammered most of the kilometres with the exception of a walk break after 5 miles going at 4:35 km pace.

Ended up doing the run in 1:31 at 4:43 kms or 7:35ish miles. That's a satisfying run because I hope to at least do that at Around the Bay in less than two weeks. Tomorrow, a 5 miler then I have a challenging LT run on Friday, when I'll be in DC.

Monday, March 16, 2009

That's pretty cool

R. and I saw a huge group of soldiers, police officers and others run in an amputee veteran -- so courageous -- during the final stretch of yesterday's 5K.

As it turns out, our nation's top soldier was also there.

Video and story by Toronto Sun here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Race report: Achilles 5K

I won't lie, on Friday, I was considering making this a DNS as I was hacking up my lung, trying to clear it of, well you know, stuff, after my cold this week. Lung power is something I need for this 5K distance. I've made great improvements over the years at this distance. Last year, I raced in three and broke sub-20 minutes in all, two of them in hot and humid days.

For me, a primarily long distance runner, the 5K requires a strong uptake of oxygen, good leg turnover and just the mental strength to hang in there. Any disruption of my breathing, by mucus or anything, wouldn't let me work at full intensity. I ran 20K on Saturday through the hills of Burlington and I had to slow down several times to clear my chest.

Anyhow, this morning, I woke up and started coughing again in the bathroom and R. told me I sounded bad. A few hours later, I did a 200 metre jog out my front door to the start line near by. Didn't feel too good. I met my friend Tom (who did fantastic at the race, a sub 21 5K) and I told him I'd do a feel striders. I returned and said 'no, today's not the day'. I had leg speed, but my lungs/chest were not operating normally. I told Tom about my game plan. Go for fast first kilometre, if that went well, maintain that for the second, 'hang on for dear life' in the next two, then bring it home in the final bit. If not, then run it at a tempo pace and aim for a slower time.

That aside, it was a perfect day. About 6C and sunny with slight wind. I still gathered near the front of the start.

1K: A crowded start, had to hold back because of a crowd, but that's actually good cause we're always tending to start out fast. There's an incline here so after 400 metres, you start gaining on those who are out of their speed league. This is followed by a downhill up Spadina Ave. I checked my watch at the 1K split and it was sub 4 minutes. Okay, not a surprise. Split was about 3:52

2K: A lot of corners and already I was beginning to feel it in my lungs. I selected a runner ahead of me and decided to not lose him, he seemed to be going strong. In another race, I would have turned it up just a bit once I found my stride, but it was just not happening. And so early in the race, I was looking up at the sky trying to ignore the spectators and other runners. Not good. I think this was a slower kilometre (my GPS went wonky recording a 3:45 kilometre, I knew it was slower than that)

3K: From the 2K to the turnaround, I was gaining a little confidence from the people I was passing. I had the choice to pace off these slowing runners or not. A girl who went pass me after the 2nd kilometre was in sight so I targetted her. I avoided the water station and took a wide curve and quickly spun around, shaking another runner. I'm learning to run corners after these years. Split in about 4:08

4K: This was the 'hang in there' kilometre. I was hurting but because this was an out and back, I could see all the runners behind me and I just kept on asking myself to keep on strong. I was not losing ground to runners ahead of me. I caught and passed the girl I was tracking but she passed me 400 metres later with a burst of speed. I knew halfway through this kilometre that I could keep up a strong pace through the rest of the race. Whether it would mean sub-20 was another matter. Split in 4:04

5K: The last kilometre starts with the killer hill and I charged up it -- I love this hill and yesterday's training in Burlington reminded me on how to run it. I passed a few runners, hit the top and was ready for the gradual downhill to the end. With about 600 metres to go, I saw the watch and I knew that it was close, that I could still hit sub 20 so I turned it on. I would have started the kick earlier but I knew I wouldn't have much gas at the finish so I held back.. Probably a bad idea. Picked it up and kicked it up near the end, saw R., waved (which probably in the end lost me that one second!) and then kicked it higher. I actually saw the clock switch 19:58, 19:59.. as I was reaching it so I knew it was mighty close.

Hit the finish in 20:01 watch time, which was confirmed by me chip time. Amazing that I missed sub-20 by 2 seconds, probably even less. I would probably be disappointed by this if I were chasing the 19:xx time but I'm not. For me, this 20:01 was earned through a cold (and probably run when I shouldn't have) and with four days off running. I think this run tells me that my potential to do the distance in that time is still there, or that my experience gained in running allows me to pull off that time, something I wouldn't have done a few years ago.

I love this race because it includes free beer, chili, cookies and a box of Lucky Charms. St. Patrick's Day indeed.

Overall: 66/1339 (95 percentile)
Gender: 61/578 (89.4 percentile)
Age group: 21/199 (89.4 percentile)
Time: 20:01

Friday, March 13, 2009

Race day coming

 Okay, I can feel it already, the anticipation of the year's first race. I'll say it that I'm not in the shape to run sub-20 minute 5K right now. I mean, sure, I can surprise myself but given the remaining congestion after the cold and my still ramping up training, I doubt my body can sustain 5 sub-4 minute kilometres.
Picked up my number and race pack today after running for the first time in 5 days. 5.6K in about 32 minutes.
Tomorrow, about 20K in hills of Burlington as I prep for the Around the Bay.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Big plans, a cold and lessons learned

Yeah, it was supposed to be a tough midweek for running. A 10 miler with 5 miles at 4:15 to 4:20 pace, a 5 miler and a 11 miler. I should have done two of the three but am about to go under the covers to take the shivers out of me. Have a cold, feel bad and in no mood to go out running. Haven't run since Sunday's 26K.

I suppose a few years ago I would have snuck in a run. Today, I know to listen to the body. I hope to rest it off, see if I can run tomorrow if I'm okay just to keep cardio going. Weekend, still have a race and a long run through the hills of Burlington.

Time to sleep off the aches.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

This upcoming week, big tests

In short, I ran 43 miles this week, capped with a 16 miler today done in just over 5:09 kilometre pace. Also fit in an 11 miler and an 8 miler midweek.

Fitness isn't bad but i'm really untested. In three weeks or so, I'm racing the 30K and don't have many pace runs. This week should be a good test.

Speedwork and tempo: I have a 10 miler with 5 miles at LT and a 5K race next Sunday. That should be interesting. I'm really unsure about going for sub 20 minutes but will give it a shot. Weather should be good.

Long: A 11 miler midweek and a 17 miler on the weekend. More on that in the next point.

Hills: I'm going to stay in Burlington overnight Friday to hang out with R and her parents. Then I run the hills of the Around the Bay course the day after.

That's it, more catch up later, but errands to run.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Marathon is a go

Yeah, so in the third week of marathon training, with 9 weeks to go and I hadn't signed up. Tonight, that's been fixed. I registered for the Mississauga Marathon.

So, here's the race calendar. I've signed up for everything but the Capitol Hill Classic

March 15: Achilles St. Patrick's Day 5K race in Toronto
March 29: Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton/Burlington ** Goal race targetting 2:15
April 4: 8K AND 5K Harry's Spring Runoff in High Park Toronto (that's right, doing two races in the span of two hours) Race 8K, jog 5K
May 3: Sporting Life 10K in Toronto Non goal race since it's a week from marathon
May 10: Mississauga Marathon ** tentatively targetting 3:20. May go for 3:15 if ATB goes well.
May 17: Capitol Hill Classic in DC10K Non goal race.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Haruki Murakami's moving words

I just did a count of the running books I've collected in my bookshelves. I see 18. Yes, 18 biographies, training manuals, novels, advice and stories about running. Geez. Not to mention the stacks of magazines underneath my coffee table.

I wrote about starting to read Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running a few weeks ago. I finished the short book on my flight to New York and like Sonia, I liked it a lot. No, actually, I loved it.

Murakami wrote the book in Japanese in a diary format, not unlike a style used by us running bloggers. But he captured a few what I'll call philosophical running beliefs I haven't read in most of my running collection. When I think about it, it's because here he is, another runner, not close to the fastest, not the slowest, but your everyday life-long runner. What he said triggered quite a few nods that only come with the agreement and acknolwedgement that he hit a nerve.

It's funny, the book, like any run, starts in fits, seeks to find a pace, then not often but at times, hits some sort of literary runner's high. I feel those moments in a long run when everything becomes clear. What you may have been thinking about -- focusing on pace, your workplace challenge, how you're going to get by the weekend -- just disappears and you realize that you're running, you're striding and maybe the trees or the water marking the horizon or the big sky beckons and you feel, well, like you've hit a physical state of exerted Nirvana. Believe me, it doesn't last too long but it's freaking fantastic when you find it. (Hint: I get these on sunny days more often than cloudy)

Anyways, back to Murakami. I dog eared this passage on his reflection on his dedication to running after finishing a marathon:
"What I mean is, I didn't start running because somebody asked me to become a runner. Just like I didn't become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I started to run -- simply because I wanted to. I've always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me and I'm wrong, but I won't change."

This one had me, I kid you not, close to tears. He was talking about other athletes after completing a triathlon, thinking about what these citizen athletes do with their time commitment to their sport. I often think these after doing an 18 miler on a Sunday when I explain the mileage to a friend. I think, wow, great run. They think, huh, you're crazy.

"Even if, seen from the outside, or from some higher vantage point, this sort of life looks pointless or futile, or even extremely inefficient, it doesn't bother me. Maybe it's some pointless act like, as I've said before, pouring water into an old pan that has a hole in the bottom, but at least the effort you put into it remains. Whether it's good for anything or not, cool or totally uncool, in the final analysis what's most important is what you can't see but can feel in your heart. To be able to grasp something of value, sometimes you have to perform seemingly inefficient acts."

And finally, this bit, about his commitment to continue running, continue training, continue racing

"One by one, I'll face the tasks before me and complete them as best as I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner."

It gets better, but you should buy the book to get the whole story. Beautiful, an ode to running.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Running more than 40

Today's long run went okay. Not sure if I was dehydrated or just a little tired but 26K felt a little harder than I thought it would, given my recent longer runs. That's okay, I'm thinking time on feet is what that matters.

I'm up to 44 miles for this past week, which I'm happy with as I was scheduled to do a little less. Here's a look at the running in the past three months.

December: 89 miles (20 runs)
January: 118.6 miles (23 runs)
February: 158.3 miles (20 runs)

So it's getting up there. This week's schedule

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 8 miles with 8x100
Wednesday: 4 miles recovery
Thursday: 11 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 4 miles
Sunday: 16 miles

I may switch a few days but will give myself Friday off.

Looking forward to racing

A rare pre-run post for me, but I'm psyching myself up for a long run in -11C weather. Not that bad, I suppose.

February marked my comeback and beginning of this marathon training cycle. I'm now two weeks in but I was upping the mileage the first week. I feel the benefits already. My ability to go long has definitely improved -- I've been able to knock off 10 to 15 milers without any major impediment to my cardio. That's great.

Speedwise, I've only had one LT run which wasn't too bad. These are the ones I always dread because they keep you honest.

And as races go, it's go time. I have a 5K race in two weeks. My training calendar has no speedwork so I may be underprepared for going sub 20 but that doesn't mean I won't try. The Around the Bay is now four weeks away. I'm hopeful I'll be in shape to run the race in sub 2:15 and to do that, I'm considering running a half marathon race the weekend before in DC. We'll see.

Off to do 15 miles.