Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another long run done, 50 days to go

February is done and was, compared with other years, one that was fit for running. Warmer than usual, almost no snow in Toronto. The six days I spent in DC gave me some exposure to the elements.

Also this month, I took a 'rest week' that was really needed, going down to 20 miles the second week of February. I was run down and needed a break.

Otherwise, I did log in some necessary mileage, now up to 164 miles on a monthly basis, compared with 183 miles in January.

With 50 days to go till the Boston Marathon, I'm feeling good that my fitness is at a decent shape to run a marathon. Racing it, i'm pretty sure, is not in the cards.

Take today's 20 miler, my second of the month. I started off really rough, my calves were tight and I had to stop to stretch several times. After about 10K, I started to loosen up and started to up the pace. By the end, I fit the run in 2:48:31 about two minutes faster than another 20 miler I did in early February.

March is THE month before the taper: I have three races, a 5K in two weeks, a half marathon in three and a 30K in a month. All three will sub in for much-needed quality work.

Meanwhile, the splits and map from today's run.

Distance: 20.02mi
Time taken: 02:48:31
Average/Max Speed : 7.13/10.79 mph
Average/Min Pace : 00:08:25/00:05:33
Calories: 2364

09:10:27 1.00mi 00:08:59 6.68mph 10.6mph
09:19:57 1.00mi 00:09:02 6.64mph 7.9mph
09:29:54 1.00mi 00:08:44 6.86mph 7.3mph
09:38:58 1.00mi 00:08:54 6.74mph 7.3mph
09:47:52 1.00mi 00:08:59 6.67mph 7.5mph
09:56:52 1.00mi 00:09:15 6.49mph 7.6mph
10:06:29 1.00mi 00:08:39 6.93mph 7.5mph
10:15:09 1.00mi 00:08:33 7.01mph 8.5mph
10:23:56 1.00mi 00:08:11 7.33mph 9.0mph
10:33:16 1.00mi 00:07:57 7.54mph 10.8mph
10:41:48 1.00mi 00:08:12 7.32mph 10.8mph
10:57:03 1.00mi 00:08:23 7.15mph 8.1mph
11:05:26 1.00mi 00:08:18 7.22mph 7.7mph
11:13:45 1.00mi 00:08:15 7.28mph 7.9mph
11:22:25 1.00mi 00:08:03 7.44mph 8.1mph
11:31:00 1.00mi 00:08:12 7.31mph 8.2mph
11:40:19 1.00mi 00:08:04 7.43mph 7.8mph
11:48:25 1.00mi 00:07:57 7.55mph 8.1mph
11:56:22 1.00mi 00:07:47 7.70mph 8.3mph
12:04:10 1.00mi 00:07:52 7.62mph 8.5mph

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A sporting life

A lot us are fixated on sport these days, watching our winter athletes compete in the Olympics. I chatted away with my friend Lee after we met up to do about 12K last night after work. As we ran through our first few kilometres, we chatted about the speed skater Clara Hughes and how her mind boggling 5K skating time would earn her a speeding ticket.

Talk of Olympics quickly turned into comparing notes on our own winter training, then turned into the inevitable: the 'Olympics' of the running world, Boston. In April, I will run my first Boston and I told him that the victory was getting there. I'm going to enjoy the experience.

He kept on saying that he didn't want to spoil it by telling me everything, but I can already see it now. Arriving in Boston, seeing other marathoners, walking into the expo, lining up for the school bus ride to Hopkinton, lining up in the athlete's village. Just my talk of that, Lee said, sent shivers down his spine.

Excellence. I think we strive for it in our running lives. There is a point to our hard training. Boston celebrates excellence, but it also celebrates running. I don't run every day necessarily to find excellence, although my training program pushes me out the door for fear that if I don't follow it, I won't put in into the bank that i'll empty out on race day. I run to get rid of stress. I run to get some alone time away from my Blackberry. I run to feel pain and to feel what a human body is capable of if you tend to it. I run to earn my stripes as a runner. It's what we do.

On our run, we passed other runners and traded hellos. Enough of us were out there, even on a night when the rest of the country was settling to watch a hockey game.

Today, the weather turned into winter. Cold. Windy. Snowy. I traded messages with Lee and we both complained about the weather. Last thing I wanted to do tonight was to face the weather, but I forced myself out. It was tough at first, but running in snow covered trails was liberating. And wouldn't you know, 8 miles in, who did I see but Lee, hammering in another tempo run. Twelve miles later, I had logged in the run. Felt good. Another memorable run in the books. Fifty three days till Boston.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Toronto Marathons: Two seasons and a packed spring

So the two Toronto marathons will continue. City hall put out a release after the two sides made nice.

Goodlife is moving to "the spring" while Scotiabank Waterfront keeps its fall date.

It's kinda nice to see some positive vibes from the two race directors:
“We look forward to continued co-operation in building a sustainable, unique, and signature running atmosphere in Toronto” said Jay Glassman, Race Director, GoodLife Toronto Marathon.

"We are delighted to have the support of the City of Toronto for our Signature Fall marathon in 2011 and look forward to continuing to build a world class marathon that showcases our great city to local, national and international runners,” said Alan Brookes, Race Director, Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

The more I think of it, we've just created a potential for a massive headache for our spring running calendar. Already, it's a packed schedule, and that's great because we get a relatively roomy two-month period where you can do racing in great coolish weather. That is, until now.

But think about this: There are two major Toronto-area races in the May period, a week apart, that could be very unhappy with the move. There is a major marathon in late May and there's the grand old lady of Canadian distance running in late March. The Toronto Marathon's going to have a lot to contend with.

One, funnily enough, is the 10K Sporting Life that's organized by the Waterfront Marathon group. It runs on the first week of May and yes, it's down Yonge Street. I just can't wait for the reaction when everyone realizes that both Toronto Goodlife and Sporting Life go down Yonge. I do not want to see the Toronto Marathon avoid the current first half of the race. It's a nice course. Sporting Life is Toronto's true big race -- one distance (10K) that attracts big crowds. What will happen in this case? Will the Toronto Marathon be run as a result in mid April (too cold?) or late May (too hot and competing against Ottawa Marathon).

The Mississauga Marathon runs a week after the Sporting Life. Mississuaga has been building a very big race weekend. I've run it and think it's a great spring course. Perfect timing for cool weather. I thought that it had a firm place in the spring racing calendar. In fact, I'm running it this year.

So here's what a packed race calendar looks like in the spring

-Last week of March: Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton/Burlington
-First week of April: 5K/8K in High Park (no traffic issues there)

FIRST OPPORTUNITY FOR MARATHON: Three weeks of no major races but Boston is run in the third week of April.

-First week of May: Sporting Life, most popular single distance road race
-Second week of May: Mississauga Marathon, a growing and popular marathon with perfect weather
-Third week (or so) of May: Ottawa Marathon arguably the premier event since it hosts the national championships.

SECOND OPPORTUNITY FOR MARATHON: Last week of May or early June.

Lets not kid ourselves, this is a packed schedule and there are plenty of marquee races. Mid to late April may be doable but I don't see a hell of a lot of people training in January for both Mississauga and a new Toronto. Late May may be too late because of the weather.

So can a spring marathon actually hurt running in the area? Not really, but it could dilute the crowd.

Here's a visual representation of some of the races with the Toronto Marathon entering the scene:

Fall: All of a sudden, we see that the race calendar after late Sept. shrinks. Like I wrote previously, I think the Fall marathon should be in October, possibly mid October to take advantage of the cooler weather. Also, pick a better route!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Tonight, it took a slick surface, a dark trail and some brand new shoes to teach me how to find my stride again. Snowed all day but none of it really accumulated so tonight that turned into ice. I compensated by shortening my stride and in the span of the run, started to turn it up that I was at near marathon pace by the end. The new shoes, they felt GOOD, well worth the $65 I dropped a few days ago. (Aside: Why anyone buys running shoes in Canada is beyond me.)

I distinctly remember glancing down at my watch in the middle of the path -- I was almost 10K into the run, the time on the Garmin read 48:49, and I thought: "This is what it feels like to coast." I often find my stride after the 4 or 5 mile mark of any longer run. My stride feels good, the breathing settles even at a faster pace, my form improves (though is never perfect) and I feel like I can just keep on motoring. Forty eight minutes of solid, heart racing cardio to be followed by another 20 or so minutes. That's what I love about distance running. It's not about the first few kilometres, but it's when you start piling on the minutes, when 30 minutes turns into an hour, then you lose yourself for a few miles and you've knocked off two hours and 14 plus miles.

Isn't it just amazing, you ask yourself, how the human body can just keep on going. I've had conversations with people who think that running is one of the best exercises, that you feel that it's hard enough that you are truly working out. But I'm also amazed that, with training, you can teach yourself endurance, and run at pace or even faster two hours after you started. Running becomes easy because it really is ones of those natural movements.

Anyways, I just had that thought, somewhere between 48:49 and a few minutes later when I was running alone on the trail, pounding out step after step with my newly unwrapped runners, blasting out at a decent clip, finding my stride once again.

8.1 miles or 13K in 1:06:34

(and pictured below, an interesting self portrait at my elevator).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An intentional step back

I made my decision last Monday, a day after running my first 20 miler in quite a few months. I wasn't getting enough sleep and running in the dark days already got to me a while ago. Time to slow it down for a bit.

I'm just not used to ramping things up in December and January, and I suspect that's got me a little out of synch. My legs felt tired and I never was able to get into a good pace. My shoes were flat and needed replacing, in fact, they are the same shoes in which I BQed in FOUR months ago. I have to stop holding on to shoes longer. My eating habits had a crappy month, not having enough time to cook all my meals, I have good days and bad nights. And it's not like I'm running 65 mile weeks to burn it all off.

I've written about the funk before and in previous years, I'd think there would be something wrong with me if I wasn't able to do every single scheduled run. One missed LT and I'd be questioning whether I would be ready for marathon fitness.

Know much better now, and that rest is just as important as getting the miles in. I went to DC for a long weekend and they had plopped winter on to the streets and trails. Great! So instead of doing long mileage, I kept in aerobic shape, doing about 4.5 miles a day around the Mall, running on snowy and icy trails. The Yak-Trax came in handy.

I have to remind myself that this is not going to be a fast Boston for me. I'll give the marathon its due respect but I don't think I'm going to set my sights at a PB -- making it this far in my running career lets me take this major marathon a little easier.

So the mileage last week was 20 on five runs. I feel much rested now, having caught up with sleep. Today, sporting my new Asics 1140s, I did a 4 mile run with a progressively faster splits, ending with a 7:09 last mile. Not super fast but a lot better than a I felt a week ago.

This week is supposed to be a step-back week. Tell you what, I'll take it.

(Thought the picture below of the bag that carried a jelly doughnut was hilarious..)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow day in D.C.

R. and I tackled the streets and snow-covered trails. We didn't have many chances to get into full-speed running, the slick surfaces will get you. This has been a full-on rest week, I've done a little more than 10 miles in the last five days and I don't think I'll get that much more in the next few days. We'll see, I needed this break.

Back to today's run, man they had piles of snow. Here's a picture of R. showing the height of some of those banks

Here are some of the images and video I snapped.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Earning it on a winter's day

Been a long few weeks, work days are typically drawn out and the demands of marathon training are taking their toll. This week was supposed to be 55 miler but I felt pretty out of it yesterday when aiming at doing an 18 to 20 miler. After about a mile, I figured my tired body would appreciate some rest so I could try again today. Ended up being 3 miles.

I had a tough 12 miler Wednesday that was probably the culprit of that tired bug I felt yesterday. Spent the afternoon then lounged around getting ready for an early Chinese New Year celebration I do with 20 of my friends. We ate at least 8 courses.

Fully fuelled up on lobster, fish, crab claws, suckling pig, chicken and other dishes, I woke up this morning feeling much better rested. The temperature was chilly but, as is such days, was accompanied by blue skies and a full sun.

As 20 milers went, it was run of the mill. Started off slow as my legs were not cooperating but was enjoying being outside during the day. I won't lie, it wasn't easy to do 2:50 worth of running but judging from my splits, a 9:10 first mile to the final three miles faster than 8 minute mile pace, meant I was fully into near pace mode by the end, even though I was tiring.

What struck me during the run was the healthy amount of runners on the trail. Many of us were going long and it was kind of nice to have company. It took a good 5 miles before I felt quite right and if there were no marathon at the end of this training, I'm not sure I would have done an almost three hour run in this weather. It paid off, I was feeling amazing by the 8 mile mark, and actually warm and enjoying the sun by the time 10 miles had clicked by and I was only half way through.

I made up my route as I went along, deciding to do a loop of High Park on my way back home. As usual, my running planning worked out well and I clocked right at 20 miles a few hundred metres from home.

So I managed a little less than 50 miles for the week. Some pictures I snapped during the run.

20 miles in 2:50:30. See map

The splits:

10:06:01 1.00mi 00:09:10 6.54mph 7.4mph
10:15:11 1.00mi 00:09:03 6.63mph 7.0mph
10:24:15 1.00mi 00:08:45 6.85mph 7.4mph
10:33:05 1.00mi 00:08:40 6.92mph 7.5mph
10:41:45 1.00mi 00:08:25 7.12mph 7.6mph
10:50:11 1.00mi 00:08:52 6.76mph 7.6mph
10:59:04 1.00mi 00:08:35 6.99mph 8.1mph
11:07:57 1.00mi 00:08:44 6.87mph 7.5mph
11:16:41 1.00mi 00:08:47 6.82mph 7.4mph
11:25:29 1.00mi 00:08:37 6.96mph 7.3mph
11:34:07 1.00mi 00:08:48 6.81mph 8.2mph
11:42:56 1.00mi 00:08:21 7.19mph 8.1mph
11:51:17 1.00mi 00:08:26 7.11mph 10.8mph
12:02:53 1.00mi 00:08:49 6.81mph 8.8mph
12:14:03 1.00mi 00:08:28 7.08mph 8.1mph
12:22:32 1.00mi 00:08:05 7.42mph 9.2mph
12:32:39 1.00mi 00:08:06 7.40mph 8.1mph
12:41:21 1.00mi 00:07:53 7.61mph 8.1mph
12:49:14 1.00mi 00:07:56 7.56mph 8.0mph
12:57:10 1.00mi 00:07:45 7.74mph 8.4mph

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Big view of the sky

I am always -- even after running the same trail for many years -- in awe that a 40-minute run can take me well out of the city so that when I look back, I get pretty great views of the skyline. I took a look at some of the pictures I took on my phone in the past week. A few nice ones.

Could not figure out what this was...

Until I saw the next shot. Neat. I remember taking the one below on a night with a full moon. Doesn`t quite capture how bright it was out.

And I really like this shot, partly because I have barely seen the light of day in the past few months. See larger image.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Running apps and my podcast appearance

My buddy Zoran, who I worked with at a previous job, has a podcast he started up last year called Runcast. Zoran's a fellow distance runner and we've spent more than a few hours talking shop (running) in the past few years. I'm looking forward to running Boston with him in April (he qualified in Mississauga last year on his first attempt) and he has also qualified for NYC Marathon.

I was checking out some running apps on the iPhone and Zoran asked me to review them for him for his show. You can find it here or get it on iTunes.

I looked at both Runkeeper and iMapMyRun.

Runkeeper: I didn`t end up buying the pro version (mostly because since I dished out $5 for iMapMyRun and didn`t want to spend $10 on the other)  but I did like the free version. As you can see from the screenshot below, it has a pretty cool interface and nicely shows your splits, a feature I didn`t see on iMapMyRun. Both apps allow you to use your iPod while you`re running, both allow you to take geolocated pictures while you are running. I didn`t think that a slightly better interface really made it necessary to dish out twice the amount of cash.

iMapMyRun: I ended up buying the pro version for $5 and thought it is a pretty cool tool. You really can`t argue that mapping photos to your run is a neat thing you can do. I may do this while running Boston (although I think I probably would run out of battery power over the course of a marathon). Pretty much the same tools, but a few social media options like tweeting out your run or updating your Facebook status updates.

All in all, as I was telling Zoran, the apps are as accurate as the good old Garmins, and if you have an iPhone it`s an easy (and free even) addition to your running. Garmins in the end are the superior tool for display (ie, looking down at your wrist) while giving you so many rich data points that you can track.

I could write more, but hey, listen to Runcast.