Thursday, July 30, 2009


I hit the 30K mark or almost 19 miles just as I passed my elementary school where I attended from Grades 4 till 8. It was almost three hours into my run, a 21 miler that I didn't intend to venture so far away from home. But there I was, striding a little harder as I retracted my boyhood steps. How did I get so far in a simple long run?

It was on those streets so many years ago that I got my first taste of running. We were sent out to run around the neighbourhood, only now I know the route is almost exactly two kilometres. My Grade 6 teacher, Mr. O'Connor, would send our class for one or two loops. On those runs, I experienced pain and what I now know to be middle and long distance running, an art that I've only recently learned to do well and of course love.

Some 22 kilometres earlier, I was at the 5 mile mark, the downtown still visible when I looked back, and I was contemplating doing a few out and backs. How boring, I thought. Then an idea occurred to me. I run so very far yet I always end up where I started. I decided then that I would run to the home where I grew up, past my parents house and beyond. I never done that trip and knew it to be at least 13 miles away.

The journey took me past my old high school that I hit on the 7 mile mark, and then on the long road towards the old stomping grounds. I passed my parents' street at mile 13 and had to burn off another 8 miles, so I went into the neighbourhood where I went to grade school.

A few loops, a few stops to buy water, and I was suddenly doing the two kilometre 'cross country training' grade school route I'd done so often. I had done 20 miles and I wanted to do one more, so I went behind the old school, and for the last mile, I ran laps around the 300 metre track. Visions of walkathons, relay sprints, road hockey, my first softball home run and Grade 5 recess came flooding back. I hit the 34K mark, stopped the watch and did a fist pump. That was epic run, I thought, adding today's run to those past memories. I went to the nearby plaza where I used to buy fries with gravy AND ketchup after school, and gobbled a few slices of pizza, a bottle of water and a bottle of orange juice, with barely enough change to take the train back home.


34 kilometres or 21.14 miles in 3:00:28

Monday, July 27, 2009

Not worthy: Matt Long and other Ironmen

So, I'm a marathoner and I spent a few hours watching the finishers at Lake Placid Ironman. That's 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike AND a marathon. I don't pretend to even understand what they go through. Swim? Me? Nah. No way. Or not yet.

It's physical and mental, for sure. I was watching cause someone I know -- and have been chatting with for a whole year -- was doing it for the first time and we knew he'd go down to the wire. I was very happy to see with 8 minutes left that he crossed the line, wearing an unmistakable top with a Canadian flag.

Then I heard that Matt Long, NYC firefighter who got hit by a bus and almost died a few years ago, was doing the Ironman. Wow. And then he crossed the finish line with a few mere minutes left. If you haven't read about him, do yourself a favour and read this.

He said he did his last Ironman in 11:18. Today, 16:58:01. "Three years ago, I was dead," he told the announcer at the finish line. "Now I'm an Ironman." Here are some pictures of his finish.

Inspiring. Then the last finisher was urged past the finish line with a massive crowd cheering on. He made it a second before midnight.

If only I can bring a fraction of that passion and determination to my marathoning, I'd be very fortunate on race day.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Puddles, a long run and a longer time off

It was a happy coincidence that I made a pitstop at my condo after I'd done 12 miles. I filled my bottles, ate a GU and, for some reason, ran BodyGlide through some sensitive parts (yes, nipples). I had seen some grey and dark looking clouds that threatened rain.

That proved to be a smart move. I ran almost 6 of the last 8 miles in rain, and I'm talking about downpour. Raining buckets. I had decided, again nice choice, to run in the city for the last 12K so I was running up a major street with other runners going long running the other way past me.

At one point, with the raining coming down so hard, I sought shelter by a building. A runner who was going the opposite way decided to also duck in as it poured. We chatted. Funny how you can open up to a long distance runner by asking a few questions:

"How long you going today?"
"26K, I'm 23 in you?"
"32K, and I'm at 24K"
"You training for a marathon"
"Yep, Scotiabank, you"
"Doing the Scotia half, the Toronto full, you done Scotia before"?
"Did it last year, great course for half but it can get hot for the full"

Heh, here we are, two soaked runners with quite a few kilometres left in our runs, trading shop talk. We both saw the rain slacken a bit, said we'd both brave it, then we were off. I kept on running and it was a blast, splashing through puddles, having people standing in dry places gawk as I ran by. At some point, I stopped caring about jumping in puddles, I was soaked anyways.

By the last mile or so, the rain stopped and I could see blue skies to the west.

I started today thinking of 15 miles but I knew that since I'd missed a run or two last week, I should start thinking about adding long runs to my sked. So 15 became 20 and I managed to work in 63 miles for the week. That's my first 100K week in quite a while.

Weekly mileage: 63 miles (102K)
Monthly mileage: 175 miles (282K)
Year to date: 1108 miles (1783K)

My blog has gone quiet for the past week and little while. Last week was a busy one as R's sister got married and, well, there were a lot of fun family functions to be a part of. I'm actually shocked I stayed the same weight giving all the noshing.

Also, some changes on the work front. This is my run blog so I very rarely write about my day job as a journalist. I'll say it now only to note that I have the next month or so off as I recently left a job here for a job here. I was looking back at my blog and remembered blogging about leaving the place I'm returning to almost three years ago.

I've never had more than two weeks off in a row in, say, the last 15 years so having about six is pretty unheralded. I've always had to struggle through summer marathon training where your hours are spent working, commuting and then running. So for the next month, i'll be resting, running, visiting friends, going to DC twice, New York once and working in this passion into middays instead of early mornings or 'after work'.

Hopefully I can get in a few miles while I'm also resting.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Race report: Acura Toronto 10 Miler

It's been a busy week and I've missed a few runs. Spent yesterday helping my girlfriend's family with a Trinidadian cookout which involved standing in front of a deep fryer making doubles and bakes. We stuffed ourselves yesterday, so as I lay in bed this morning, I had this feeling of supreme laziness. I actually considering not running this race.

Crazy? A little, but I think it was all the oxtail and mango curry I'd consumed the day before. R., who's getting ready for her sister's wedding later this afternoon, was up early and I finally got to my senses. I PAID to race this 10 miler. And anyways, it's the perfect way to burn off calories and get prepared for tonight's wedding bash (the limo's arriving to pick me up in a few hours).

The race: I've done this twice (2007 race report and 2008 race report). Full out racing, my 10 miler PB is 1:09:29 that I did last year. Two years ago, I hit a 1:15:48 as I was using it as a pace run.

Today's goal was a little conservative: I'm better from my cold/flu a few weeks back but I still have a little congestion. I decided to treat the race like a combo training run. I'd do the first 10K or so in 4:30 kilometres and pretend it was a 6 mile MP run, then I'd ramp up the ending to include an almost 4 mile LT run, anywhere from 4:15 to 4:25 kilometres.

As it turns out, the plan was executed pretty much perfectly. Doing MP runs as part of races is so easy compared with doing it by yourself. You have a group of people helping to pace you through it. Since I've done the race twice, and that it's on one of my common long-run training routes, I didn't have too much to worry about the course. I just focused on hitting my stride and letting my fitness dictate whether marathon pace was okay.

As the splits show, I was a running machine. Although in retrospect I should take too much credit for keep a near-perfect pace (within 2 seconds of 4:30 on most splits) because there were a few runners keeping on that same pace, and I kept them in my sights.

One hard thing about pacing properly in races is the 'going out too fast' thing you'll see other runners do. If you're running with a group, don't take it for granted that you're on pace -- they may actually be slowing. Once I get my proper feedback from my Garmin, I start relying on runners up ahead (they may be ahead by more than 20 metres) and my stride turnover than the group I'm with.

here are the splits from 1 - 10

I knew I had a lot left in me because my breathing was totally fine, I kept on thinking during the first 10K that I had at least three more gears left in me (my tempo, 10K and 5K speeds) so I always tried to keep loose and also let my breathing relax me.

The next six kilometres were a lot of fun. After we hit the 10K water stop, I ran faster, making some movement. I'm not sure what it looked like to runners who I'd been with for the last few kilometres, but I definately turned it on and not many followed. I targetted a large group of runners way ahead and made it my goal to go tempo and slowly get them in my sights.

I like the idea of starting off races slower than you plan to finish them. It gives you a confidence boost. When you turn it on late, you're passing runners who may be giving their all.

One thing I'm not fond of is guys who try to draft off of you and all of a sudden race with you. Example is one guy who bounded away from my group in the early kilometres. He had a long stride and bounced, an odd running form (mine isn't exactly clean either, so I should talk). Form aside, by the 13th kilometre, I caught up to him and was running slightly ahead of them when he decides to start running with me. I'm like 'I took 2 kilometres to catch up to you and all of a sudden you're faster?'. He's so competitive that he ramps it up so he runs past me and I let him go only to catch up to him again -- again, i'm not racing him, he's just slowing. I then witness another two runners who have increased their speed go blazing past me. He tries to tail them and they lose him after 30 seconds of chase. In a few minutes, i'm running alongside him and he tries to race. After a few back and forth, I get really frustrated and throw in only 10 seconds worth of a surge to clearly blaze ahead and I lose him for good. Geez.

Anyhow, here's the last six kilometres. The last two are my fastest and the last kilometre is near 10K speed. I had lots left.


All in all, I'm happy with the performance given what I felt this morning. I know I've been pretty slow to recover from my cold and flu but I think what's great is my underlying fitness is, for sure, there. I'm getting into marathon shape, even without the 63 mile weeks I've just missed. My final time is a respectable one. I can do sub 1:10 again. Not this month, maybe next.

Time: 1:12:18 (link)
Overall: 186/1723
Gender: 154/889
Division: 37/152

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Back on the road

It was the real deal, the flu. Was out for two-plus days and I took off three days from running. On Saturday, I thought maybe I could do a 5 miler, but a few kilometres in, I knew that I would cut it short. I ended it after 5K.

Think I just needed another day to rest up, which is odd, cause this morning as I woke up, the thought entered my mind of skipping today's run entirely. I saw it was chilly out (14C) and the thought of getting chilled to the bone didn't sit well with me.

But I forced myself out later in the morning and it had warmed up to the perfect running day. Again, I set my expectations lower, aiming at 21K or 13 miles. There were a few tough miles when the last bits of the cold were making its way up my lungs but I ran the last part strongly and did 15 miles in 2:03:08 for 8:10 miles or 5:05 kilometres.

Have a 63 mile week planned. Don't think I'm going to throw myself right back at high mileage. We'll see how the next few days go. My next race (10 miler) is a week from now.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Backing off big time

My co-worker who is doing the Lake Placid Ironman in a few weeks relayed a story about a recent weekend he spent training down there. They did the bike portion of the Ironman and the next day, one of his training partners hit the track and did intervals. So sad, but she tore her calf muscle and is in recovery mode as race day approaches.

I'm sick. Maybe i'll be better by tomorrow but after my fastish 10 miler last night in chilly Toronto, I felt a cough. It's now definately fluish and I had to leave work early. I was planning a 14 miler home which i've obviously ditched.

One thing about my marathon training is that in the past, my training schedule was my bible. If it said run hard tomorrow, I did that. If I couldn't fit it in the morning, then I do it in the evening. All in the belief that if I don't stick to the program then on race day i'll be somewhat diminished.

I had two colds in March and rushing back into training contributed to the second cold. This week was supposed to be a 62 miler but it won't, and i'm not that worried. I have three months of training ahead of me and the beauty of the Pfitz 70 is that it is so aggressive that a missed 14 miler today won't hit me in the end.

Listen to the body. I've heard it loud and clear and it's telling me, rest.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Long mileage starting to feel right

I still look at my weekly schedule and get a little intimidated with the number of runs and the miles I have planned. This week, for example, I just hit 59 miles, the most I've done in a week this year but not even close to the peak I should hit (around 70) in a few months.

It's six days of running a week but I got into a 11 day running streak before I took a day off yesterday to go to a ballgame, walk a lot and watch fireworks over the National Mall.

This morning didn't feel like doing my 15 miles and even a small part of me felt like saying no, but I kicked myself out of bed and by 9 a.m., I was ready to do the long run through DC. Very lucky this visit down here, it's so very cool down here compared with other summers, this being my third training in DC. Started off pretty slow and had to stop after 2 kilometres to stretch out my calves. I think it's a combination of too-old shoes and lack of decent stretching I've been doing lately.

That aside, I started to up the pace so I finished the run with an okay pace. I really did a different route this time around, doing part of the Mall then exploring the Mount Vernon Trail, Georgetown, Rock Creek Park, back to the Mall and up to the Capitol area and Eastern Market before coming back, finishing my run just a few hundred metres away from home and exactly 15 miles in the books. Odd how we can map out a run in our heads even when we stray away from the original plan.

15 miles in 2:06

Weekly mileage: 59 miles (95K)
Year to date: 974 miles (1567K)

 Next week, i have a whopping 62 miles planned, which will get me to 100K. Here's the sked according to Pfitzinger Douglas

Tuesday 9 miles w 10x100
Wednesday: 14 miles
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: 11 miles
Saturday: 5 miles
Sunday: 18 miles

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Steamy 11 miles

I really should learn better, but the past three summers, i've had to learn that starting a run at 9 a.m. on a sunny summer day in DC (Even a cool one like today) makes you pay.

Had 11 planned today intended to hit Hains Point to get in some miles. I started off at 9 a.m. down Pennsylvania, ran past the Canadian Embassy, hummed the national anthem and went on my way. DC has lots of trees, but I was actively seeking shade through the run. Pretty freaking hot in the sun, and nice underneath bridges, trees, buildings, signs.

I had to adjust my run a few times when I found out they closed down part of the park leading up to Hains Point. So decided to run to Georgetown and mapped it out in my head pretty perfectly. Ended up the run fittingly at the Canadian Embassy. A private invitation party but then walked to the Newseum where I read the front pages of a few Canadian newspapers. That was nice to see. Happy Birthday, Canada.

11 miles, 1:34