Tuesday, June 29, 2010


No need for any sane human to comment on this, but I walked through a different downtown on Sunday morning, my seventh day at work, searching for an open coffee shop, surveying the damage. I shook my head and snapped a few pictures.

Everyone gets irritated once in a while. Maybe it's long hours, a brimming takeout container of work and, for me, too many hours in front of a computer for (what seems) like little payoff. I was hyper aware that I was in a foul mood. Others too in this city, it seems.

There were other factors that added up to my demeanor, but among them must have been that I missed my weekend runs. And I was too exhausted to get out on the streets yesterday.

Today, I sought to reclaim my own streets. I took my irritated self (and knee) and set out west. Into the angry wind. I fought my frustrations and took it out on the asphalt, the trails.

Then something happened. I felt it release. I looked up and saw other runners, also running with purpose. We started acknowledging each other. Smiling. Nodding. Even a raised hand. As I turned around 41 minutes and 4 miles later, and with the wind at my back, the pace increased, and I was in full flight. I felt strong. I had returned.

Back on Sunday on the streets, I was carrying my coffee, secured after visiting three shops that were closed as a precaution. A customer looked up from his Sunday paper and said "Hey, we made page eight of the New York Times." "Yeah, it's crazy," the employee said, drowning my espresso in hot water. I drank it and another two in the next two hours, adding to the irritability.

I walked on a deserted Queen Street in what was the calm before the second storm, and looked at the boarded-up businesses. I checked on a friend's store. Luckily, it and most others were untouched. Ahead, going toward me, was a runner, slowing to the jog, doing the same surveying. I wished I was in her shoes, running my city, making sure it was okay.

Tonight, I looked out into the harbour, and saw where just days ago, two police boats, a coast guard ship, and an RCMP cruiser were docked, was now replaced by a beautiful tall ship. And as the sun was setting, another one arrived, into the wind, gracefully docking beside my park. Irritation is gone. Serenity. And my 10 miler has put me in peace.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Race report: Night Crawler 5 miler

In the starting area of tonight's 5 mile race, I repeated a few numbers, just throwing them out there: 4:45, 4:37, 4:37, 4:30...

Training hasn't gotten off to the greatest start. In short, my right knee is bothering me a bit and I don't want to push it. It doesn't outright hurt, but some times I feel the onset of runner's knee. Funny, I have escaped knee injuries since 2006, when I had sore knee while ramping up the mileage for my first marathon.

(Results are here and my old race reports: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006)

I ran the 3.5K to the Night Crawler 5 miler start area. Yes, it's my fifth year in a row racing it and I love it. It's a great little race, and they serve hot dogs and Krispy Kremes at the end. And cool T-shirts.

Lee was also running it and I met up with him and his wife. I told him I'd do today more as a marathon pace and take it easy on the knee. Besides, it was freaking hot out.

"4:45, 4:37, 4:35..."

I seeded myself a little farther back than usual. Today was not pure 5 mile racing but a good pace run to test out the knee and my cardio in general. We went out and I had to do some weaving.

Hit the first in 4:33, then locked right into pace. I am constantly amazed that once I find my pace, I can just start banging out the kilometres. Problem early on was that everyone was going out too fast, and I was the only one going out at a constant pace. I passed runners for the last seven kilometres

1. 4:33
2. 4:37
3. 4:36
4. 4:35

We were running on the road and I was marvelling at the freshly paved asphalt. Made for smooth running. Also absorbed all the heat and put it back to me. I looked up at the setting sun (the race started at 7:25) and was grateful for that wisp of cloud that blocked the sun for a few minutes.

By the time we hit the half and the winding paths and slight inclines that led to the hill, I decided to just ramp it up a bit. There was a long line of runners ahead of me, and I knew that at my pace, if I was comfortable, I could start overtaking more runners. Again, I have done this race in the past running 4:05 to 4:20 kilometres. I was happy that at 4:30ish pace, I was not close to red lining. It was comfortably hard at the humid conditions, but no red line. Phew. I could hear runners I was passing labouring at their breathing more than I was. Great for me.

5. 4:32
6. 4:29
7. 4:28

With about a mile to go, we had a straightaway followed by an uphill. I love that hill as I've written before. Run it all the time, know how to attack it. I passed at least six runners going up it, then another four in the flat after the hill. Approached the last bit and saw about five more runners. Finally upped the tempo to faster than race pace.

8. 4:10

Last bit in 16 seconds and a blistering (for me) pace.

Final time: 36:28.2 or 4:32 pace (although my Garmin says 36:28). Well off last year's 33:53 but I'm not going to sweat that.

Here's Lee and I at the end.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Struggling through

I can't remember having such a bad run on a long-run day, but at least I made it through. Today scheduled 13 miles with no particular pace in mind. The weather is starting to heat up so my alarm went off at 5:40 (yeah right) but I was up a little while later for a 7:40 start.

Even in the first few hundred metres, I wasn't feeling it. I was dehydrated from the day before when I wasn't feeling too well in the morning. I must not have taken in enough liquids. So began a 13 miler with many walk breaks and even at the half way point I contemplated walking the 10K back. Again, yeah right.

A few runners played carrot to my rabbit and for that I'm grateful. In the end, run done on a beautiful day. Next time it'll be better. 13 miles in 1:58.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


The business of marathoning begins today. Still a little daunting looking ahead at the next 18 weeks (and the three marathons that will be at the end of that road) but it's good time to do a little bit of planning.

This year was always about the victory lap, and I'm going to try to remember that while I train, even if I set ambitious goals. The last six years got me to this point and while it's not really a time for cruising, it's also a time to set course for myself as a runner for the long term.

This fall, it's three marathons. The Toronto Marathon on Oct. 17 is my goal race. If weather does not cooperate, I will not transfer hopes and time dreams from it to the others. It's the one shot. I will not lose out on 2011 plans if I botch it. Marine Corps Marathon two weeks after that is a true fun run. I have fun three in a row and it'll be an honour to run my fourth MCM. Hoo-raw! And a week after MCM, it'll be the final marathon of my three-majors in NA tour: The famed New York City Marathon. I. Can't. Wait. It'll be even stress free than what Boston was. If I'm smart, I target my slowest (within reason) times for MCM and New York, and aim at among my fastest in Toronto.

In the summer, I have a race a month (a 5 miler in June, a 10 miler in July, a 30K in August and a half in September). All will have specific purposes and maybe one will be a flat-out race.

That said, here are some thoughts as I head into tomorrow's first training run:

Long-term running: I have to now think about the type of runner I want to be when I'm 40 and 50. I will probably always look to my watch and think about time, but I can also look to enjoy running and just run by feel. Even during marathon training, I can use recovery days to be joyful running days. Just go by feel and go even a bit slower. Stretching and other workouts have to be incorporated. Wish me luck as I find the proper programs.

Eat like an athlete: I love this phrase and my friend Marlene used it recently when talking about preparing for racing. My goal could be 'get down to optimal race weight by losing 6 pounds' but I think it's more smart to think about diet. I've been thinking about the type of food we eat. I once saw a few people in front of me in line at the grocery store. One had two bags of chips and a bag of apples. The other had frozen pizzas and other processed foods. I know I need carbs, protein and all the minerals and nutrients that are, in the end, better to get from fresh produce. For the last month, I've been switching to buying more groceries, filling my basket with fruit and veggies and avoiding the bad foods (ie. snacks, fried foods, over processed foods). So, eat like an athlete and the weight will get to where it needs to, especially when I balance that with an increase of exercise.

Focus on quality: Today's run was a 8 miler with 4 miles at lactate threshold pace. This winter, I threw away all quality and focused on the miles. So it's back to work. I targetted 4:20 - 4:25K pace per kilometer but went out a little too fast. Anyways, I did turn it down after only 4K at that pace. Didn't feel right, but it will soon enough. Marathon pace runs will come back, as well track work and strides. I absolutely know these runs will hurt. But I also know they will build a foundation on the miles that will make me a strong marathoner in October.

Balance: Because I have largely hit my running goals, I'm going to now lower my mileage back to the 55 mile peak as opposed to the last two summers when I peaked at 70 miles. I may end up adding mileage to my rest days to get me to 60, but I trust in the overall milage and I think my body is accustomed to endurance. That reduction in mileage (ie: 15 miles = two hours of running plus a few hours of prep) will hopefully mean I'll have time this summer to see friends and rest.

Timing: This is my way of saying, lets run in the mornings. Heat usually forces me to become a morning runner but I've gotten into an after-work pattern. Must break that. Running in evenings often means I get my run done at 8 p.m to 8:30 p.m. That sucks, I must get more out of my evenings by targeting early morning runs. Hello 4:30 wakeup calls.

Back to blogging: Almost five years on, I think in many ways I've exhausted the topics to write about, but I know there's much more to write about. Plus, this is my way of giving back.

That's it for now, a good 18 weeks more to come.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A break

I'm in rainy Montreal this weekend taking a well deserved running break in the next while, looking to find a way to recover from the spring and get into the 18-week program ahead of me. In fact, I have another seven days to go until I'm embarking on the training for the Toronto Marathon in October.

The first week of the training, like any, calls for you to actually be running going into it. I'm choosing the Pfitzinger 55 mile a week peak, which starts off at 33 miles. This is a relatively easy approach to training compared with other cycles where I had a goal marathon at the end. I'll probably adapt it as I get into July and August to add more quality and a few extra miles.

When I say break from running, I'm not actually stopping running. In fact, of the past week, I've run five days. The mileage has dropped. I managed 5K yesterday before we flew out to Montreal for a weekend (R. is here for work) and I did another four miles in the cold pouring rain this morning along the canal.

This is actually what a non-training week looks like for me:
Monday: off
Tuesday: 12K, part of it with my buddy Lee
Wednesday: 5K in the morning
Thursday: 8K (5 miles) after work
Friday: off
Saturday: 5K before flying to Montreal
Sunday: 6.2K (about four miles) in the rain
35K or about 22 miles

Running on mornings like the one I did today always is fun. In a new city, you wonder if you'll see other runners in bad weather. Undoubtedly, you do, and each one of them and I traded the runner's wave and a 'bonjour'. Funny no matter where you are, if the weather is crap, and you're running with gear, any other runner crazy enough to be out there acknowledges you. It's a nice thing about being part of that community. Call it the code.

We're just in the hotel lobby chilling, taking shelter from the rain, thinking about grabbing dinner. I'm starting to cast my eye at the rest of this month and the 18 weeks ahead. It'll be nice to get going again, just hoping all the nagging little aches get worked out by the rest I'm giving my legs.

Now if we can only find a good place for dinner

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Call out to Canadian runners

After 1030 posts, this would mark the first time I'd actually use a running post for 'work' purposes. At globeandmail.com, we're looking for runners across the country (bloggers, non bloggers) who are interested in sharing tips, their favorite routes. Why? Well, we've just finished a 10K running series (globeandmail.com/running) and no secret really that we have long ambitions -- that is, the next focus will be on half and full marathons. We start up really soon just as training kicks off for fall races.

Anyways, if you're interested, drop me a line in the comments and you can reach me at kyum (at) globeandmail.com.

That got me thinking what my favourite run is at the moment -- after narrowing it down, I think it's the route I take from downtown Toronto to the Beaches in the east. Something about heading out there, where fewer runners tend to go for some reason. You hug the water through trails, pass through industrial lands and soccer fields, and then at the halfway mark you're on the boardwalk where on a beautiful day like last weekend, the beach volleyball courts are full, the yoga by the beach is in full swing and man, you just want to linger, which I usually do, taking an exaggerated gel and water break. But you gotta head back. But that view on the way back of the downtown skyline. Just gorgeous.

Okay, this work post is done. Back to your regularly scheduled blog.