Tuesday, May 31, 2011

National Running Day: Where did they all come from?

Apparently, tomorrow is a day where we all run. Cool. Question is, where did all those runners come from? And why are they running only on one day?

Here I am, getting back on the road after a little holiday from running. What's that? A near traffic jam of cyclists, runners, walkers. Yes, it's my annual, what happened to my trail post where I talk about the fact that I run on that waterfront trail 12 months a year, just about every day.

Even as I was running tonight, I spotted a freaking road race across the street. Hundreds of runners. I didn't even know there was a race. What the heck?

Of the massively exploding running population, my favourite moment came while rounding a corner near kilometre 1, when this muscle bound guy grappling a water bottle came blazing past me. I was already going at a good clip. Something about how he passed made me almost want to gave chase. I just watched him go, and less than 600 metres, he stops and walks.. ah ha.. so I step it up again so that I'm 15 metres behind him when he looks back, picks it up... for another 300 metres.

He stops, I blaze past him, and never look back. As I was rounding a few more corners, I stepped it up while noting the year-long rollerblader going back and forth and the few other winter runners. I wonder if they recognize me.

Nothing much in that story other than the fact that it's actually kinda nice to see so many people take up running. I never remember it being like this even two years ago let alone seven years ago. Running gone mainstream?

On the training schedule, I'll quickly looking at the beginning of the fall training season. Ugh, which means I gotta get it back to the 35 mile week schedule pronto. I've got 11 miles on the week, got to get a 10 miler in very soon. Back to the packed trails.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Um, hello running...

Nice to meet you, running. It's Kenny, that marathoner. Want to get together tomorrow? I dunno, morning, afternoon, can you fit me in? Maybe a 5K run, just for old time's sake.

Sorry, running, kinda had a busy week, one of the craziest and fruitful weeks of my career. Think I had to turn my attention elsewhere.

Haven't seen you much, maybe twice since the marathon 12 days ago? That 2 mile run on Wednesday morning. That was bliss. Tell ya what, I got a few marathons in October. How bout a few miles, reform that habit. We can go long later.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I went for a run yesterday, four days after running a what I'll now call my miracle marathon. That calf issue has not been treated. I feel tremendous soreness that made it near impossible to do fluid running at pace. So I just enjoyed the sun, the trails and took it easy. How did I ever make it through an entire marathon with the beginnings of this tight-calf injury.

Wish I had some athletic tape.

Of a marathon of another kind, this week marked the finished line of a great job at my home course. I'm destined for an interesting adventure. As I was clearing my inbox, I found another use for tape to clear two years worth of my 'cloud email'.

So I'm in a period of transition in my work and running life. The end of a training season marks a pause point. I remember my first run of the year on the beach in the Dominican Republic. Seven hundred and sixty seven miles later, after training through dark, snow, winter and early spring, I've had a remarkable spring season. Two marathons, including Boston. A pace bunny assignment. Oh, and did I mention the second marathon.

I'm headed to DC for the weekend, and running and work are really not on the schedule. Running, I've got to nurse the leg back with recovery and ice. Work, I have to clear my head, reset the brain, come up with some ideas, and get ready to tackle that race. It'll be a sprint at first, no marathon there. For running, it'll be a jog before I can run.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Let the marathon debate begin: Mississauga v. Toronto

When it was announced that Toronto and Mississauga would have marathons on the same day, drivers took a collective sigh about what streets to avoid in two neighbouring cities. Meanwhile, runners thought, which one should I choose?

So the big headline out of this mega marathon weekend in the Toronto area?

50% more runners ran in race this past weekend than in last spring. Hooray for fitness! Running boom is here!

Mississauga and Toronto suffer drops in attendance. Can we ever build a big-city marathon ever?

The numbers are interesting to look at. For the marathon, 2390 people ran this year in the combined races while last spring, 1711 did Mississauga in 2010. Toronto attracted more racers for the full, half and 5K. I didn't count relays.

In total, year over year, Toronto saw the number of finishers drop 24.3 per cent in 2011, compared with 27.1-per-cent fall for Mississauga. Mississauga is interesting because they offered a deep discount early in the registration window.

Anyways, I take it as an interesting study that's not complete until Ottawa is finished and we see the number of finishers across all distances. But interesting numbers nonetheless.

See my fun (and kinda poorly organized, sorry) Google table below.

The real story will probably emerge when we see the number of finishers for Scotiabank Toronto in October. If that can't get more than a 40% rise (as the marathon distance did get this spring, then we may have run out of steam.. Marathon bust in Toronto?


Sunday, May 15, 2011

How Sammy Wanjiru changed the marathon

Much will be written in the hours and days to come about the death of Sammy Wanjiru and his legacy, but I recall while watching the 2008 Olympic Marathon as one of those defining events that make the marathon so unique. That race had me in absolute awe.

I blogged about it back in August, 2008 when he was known as Kamau. He boldly stepped on to the world stage and changed marathoning.

As I wrote back then:

Watched it from start to finish. Great thing about having access to Canadian TV, U.S. TV and internet is that I was able to catch the whole thing, even with commercial breaks thrown in.

At first I thought that maybe the lead pack would get reeled in but wow, what a performance by Kenya's Kamau Wansiru with an Olympic record -- amazing given the weather -- of 2:06:32. Maracco's Jaouad Gharib took silver and Tsegay Kebede overtakes his compatriot from Ethiopia Deriba Merga in the final lap around the stadium. Merga showed the world what it's like to hit the wall yet showed so much courage. Felt so bad for him.

Did he change the sport? I think from the moment he made the gutsy move in Beijing, when everyone was hanging back in the heat, when Haile decided to not do the Olympics, something was changed. It led to so many 'gutsy' performances, so audacious that you see runners now go for broke over 26.2. See the Boston records smashed in the last two years? It's not Haile, I've decided. It all started with Sammy.

Anyways, I'm no pro when it comes to rating pro marathoning, but wow, he left a massive legacy. Died too early, like other running icons. He won't be forgotten.

Race report: Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon

When they said 'don't try anything new before your race' they should have added 'or do something stupid.' Yes, I fully respect the distance, but for some reason, I had this absolutely silly idea that I would try on my Vibrams (after not wearing them since last October) and then go for a 4 mile run. Not on grass, mind you. Concrete and asphalt. Not slow, considering I haven't used them in awhile. 7:34 miles. Wow, that was dumb. Since Wednesday, I've noticed a massive tightening of my left calf AND my right heel felt tender.

I actually had not run since Wednesday -- I was in DC for Thursday to Saturday morning visiting R. Once in a while, I'd stretch my legs and try to work out the kinks in the calf.

Today's race forecast was a good/bad news story. Windy = bad. Windy that was a tailwind for the first half = great. Misty/rain = a great cooling source. Misty/rain + gusty winds = I can't feel my hands any more. True to my bad preparedness for this race, I had only brought one glove with me, so that was my one source of warmth.

My warmup before the race was about 50 metres of a run at pace. Uh oh. The calf did not feel right at all. It was tight as heck. Fine for short runs to loosen it up but I was absolutely worried about running a marathon -- I could picture my calf seizing up at the 20K mark or earlier.

Oh heck, whatever, lets go.

I started the race catching up to the 3:30 group. I seeded myself behind them and it didn't take too much work to catch up to them. My leg was at the point where I felt I could push it to the 3:30 or a little faster pace, but not much more. Knife's edge. Yup.

1 00:04:50
2 00:04:58
3 00:04:52
4 00:04:53
5 00:05:09

By the 4K mark, I was ahead of the 3:30 and caught up to a friend. We chatted and I was soon on the way. I was feeling good cardio-wise. Wasn't pushing it. Enjoying the tailwind, taking it easy.

6 00:04:56
7 00:05:00
8 00:04:59
9 00:04:49
10 00:05:02

Hit the 10K mark pretty much on 3:30 pace. Decided in the next while to bump it up as my leg loosened somewhat. The 10K to 20K segment of the course is a great place to gain speed. It's flat or downhill. I took advantage of it, although there were a few kilometres where we got a taste of the wind we'd get at the end of the race.

11 00:04:56
12 00:04:52
13 00:04:33
14 00:04:46
15 00:04:45
16 00:04:46
17 00:04:49
18 00:04:50
19 00:04:46
20 00:04:48

Not bad splits. Again, was really testing out the legs. They were not feeling quite there. I had a thought that I would have to go out hard enough to give me a buffer in case I would have to start walking. Not a great feelng.

21 00:04:42

Hit the half at 1:43:08, good enough for a 3:26 or so marathon.

Out to the 30K was fine. I was enjoying running my 'home course' so I had the benefit of knowing every turn. Every turn, it seemed, had some sort of head or cross-wind. I got into a real good groove and took advantage of it. Another runner had turned it on as well (he had a friend with him and a bike) and we silently ran alongside or slightly behind each other. I later saw him at the finish and congratulated and he said I'd paced him as well.

My buddy Lee I saw on the way back. He rocked the course and I cheered him on. He came in 12th and booked a 2:54. Amazing.

22 00:04:39
23 00:04:46
24 00:00:37 Watch reset
24 00:04:51
25 00:04:52
26 00:04:50
27 00:04:57
28 00:04:46
29 00:04:50
30 00:04:48

The 30K mark to the end. Crazy. There was wind so and I had no group to run with. So I clicked the kilometres away. I took my last Gel at the 32K mark and water at every station. My hands were cold, perhaps a good thing that I took my mind off my calf.

31 00:04:48
32 00:04:56
33 00:04:55
34 00:04:53
35 00:04:54
36 00:05:01
37 00:04:54

I ran by my condo and laughed that it would be a great place to stop. I promised myself a strong run to the base of University and see how it'd go.

38 00:04:51
39 00:05:09

By the time I hit the 40K mark, I told myself I needed a break. Leg was okay but the cold got to me. All I really wanted was a sub 3:30, more so than a 'no break' marathon. So I took 15 second breaks once in a while, and kept on running. I didn't hit a wall, just the blah leg and my general exhaustion caught up to me. nothing wrong with that, really.

As I made the final 600 metres, I have it another go, and found my pace again. Enjoyed the final run down to the chute.

40 00:04:47
41 00:05:31
42 00:05:31
.2 00:02:10

There you go. Marathon 15. I can't believe I just typed that. Fifteen marathons since I started running them in 2006. I learn a lot from every one, believe me. Even my 'veteran' attitude needs a shakeup. I was really touched when the volunteer who gave me the medal said 'I can't believe you guys do this, I really can't' with a big smile.

She's right. I can't either.

Chip time: 3:28:38
First half: 1:43:08
Second half: 1:45:56

My hands were frozen. I ducked into a portapotty to change my shirt and put on my jacket. Then I just stood there for five minutes to warm up. Then I started walking hobbling. The left calf gave out. It didn't want to move. Thank you calf, I really hope I didn't tear you apart. I hobbled home, gave my legs an ice bath and am praying compression socks will do the trick.

A buddy of mine from work was at the race (he's running Ottawa in two weeks) and snapped up this picture of me. I'm smiling, but i'm freezing!

Finally, THANK YOU.

I saw so many runners out there supporting us. Chris, a fellow journalist, was camped out at 13.1. Marie and Sam (who also raced!) were out there in the final 400 metres along with James who I saw a few times. Jessica was on her bike cheering on. And I finally put a face to a name when Runshorts came up to me to introduce herself after the race. (Nice to chat!). She was there cheering on runners. So cool. Even though the drivers and the city in general are grumpy, it's awesome to have that community out there supporting us. Thanks

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The marathon: Not for wusses

Okay, I was asking for it, I suppose. I've dodged bad weather for just about every marathon morning, except for maybe a warm day or two. Heat, I guess I can deal with. Rain and wind? Not sure how to handle. I did run a 30K in rain a few years ago, and my share of other bad races, but not for the full 26.2 miles.

I'll get back to that in a second. In terms of my goal pace and speed, I finished Boston with a decent sub 3:30 that a time I though would be a great training run for a faster Toronto Marathon. In actual fact, I do think I have the fitness for a faster run. My last Toronto Marathon was run in 3:24, ahead of three weeks that included a half-marathon bunny assignment and two more marathons. In other words, last time I did this course, I held myself back.

Tomorrow? Who knows. My fitness may give me a decent performance. I am absolutely untested in the last three weeks. In that time, I've gone through an incredibly busy spell in the news file, all while plotting a major change in scenery.

So my head is not 100% into this race at all. Add wind and rain, I've got this nagging voice in the back of my head that says "hey Kenny, you don't want to catch a cold. You hate running in the rain. You hate the wind. Where's the nip guards for tomorrow? Where's my garbage bag supply?"

I was emailing with a buddy of mine, and he relayed his conversation with another runner who will no nameless but will be toeing the line on Sunday. He was relay talk about backup races, etc.

Here's the paraphrased reply:

"I suppose there's that [bleeped out] half marathon at the end of the month for wusses that are a scared of a little rain....."

Okay. You got me. Race time is at 9 a.m. I'll be there, wind and rain.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The start line

Six days until my 15th marathon. Of the dozens and dozens of road races I've done over the years, the marathon is my most tackled distance. Unlike just about any other race, I've never felt the same way I do when I run a marathon.

A warrior spirit, that's one thought I had a few years ago as I was about to battle the course for 42.2K. A kinship with my fellow runners who trained for four months: That's what I thought of last fall before my Toronto Marathon. Excitement, almost bubbling over so fast that I had to pump my fists and clap as my last marathon began three weeks ago today.

Something about taking on that distance -- the knowledge that you will attempt your best run -- humbles you, excites you, and makes you realize even before you get that medal that just getting to the start line was a major victory.

The marathon is one of those races that takes brains, guts, heart and muscle. Race with your head, race up to your capable pace, race to the edge of your ability, and race when your body tells you to stop. That last part takes guts and the non-cardio part of heart. Pure heart.

Goals, I'm starting to form them. The pace, I'm visualizing. The course, I'm comitting it to memory. The pain, I'm learning to shut it out. Starting to feel the buzz. By Sunday morning, it'll be a full-on adrenaline rush. We'll need it to get through the full distance. Game. Is. Almost. On.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

For a fellow runner

I've been thinking about Danny Kassap a lot the past few days. It was Monday, election day afternoon, when one of my colleagues at work (a runner) told me that he had passed away, a day after the Sporting Life race.

I think the running community was alerted through email, through Facebook, and a lot of little conversations were had across this city. Toronto, I do truely believe, is well on its way to becoming a runners' city. I've read a lot of touching things about him, from pros to everyday runners who knew him.

Other than mentioning him a few times on this blog, I have marvelled when I have seen him at races. I've been a customer at the Running Room where he worked and there have been times when I have wandered in to buy socks or gels when he'd be ringing in my purchase. I'm too awestruck to have said anything but I have always rooted for Danny. I think for those of us runner nerds, he was our very own local hero.

He had his hardships, gaining acceptance, gaining citizenship, overcoming that horrible day in Berlin. Still, from what all I've read, he LOVED to run. In that, I see the connection that those of us at the back of the back share.

I am so sad for the loss -- and to all he touched. It's helped me gain a lot of perspective, even tonight as I ran on the trails that he had as well. Cherish life. Live your passions. Don't let a day pass without remembering the simple joys. For Danny, at least I know there is something I can give back, so I did. And I encourage you to as well.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Race report: Sporting Life 10K

Of the 70 or so road races I've signed up over the years, I've only did not start (DNS) one. The one time was for a smart reason -- my achilles tendon was really bothering me and I ducked out of a 10K.

10K races and me don't really go together well, by that I mean I don't really see them as goal races. Most of the time, they are plopped right before a marathon or right after one. In both cases, it's hard to go all out.

So when the alarm went off for an early breakfast. I stayed in bed. When it went out two hours before race time, I seriously did not want to get out of my comfy bed. Work has been busy, I've been run down generally and on the edge of sickness -- I've been taking anti-histamines every day for the last two weeks.

Funny, then, that a check of my Twitter feed had me seeing other people getting ready to race. They were running the Flying Pig (a race I did one year instead of doing Sporting Life), Big Sur and Sporting Life.

Needless to say, writing of this report means I dragged myself out of bed, ordered me up a cab and was at the start line.

SP10K is pretty simple. Two minor uphills (40ft), and lots of downhill (318ft). To run it well, you go out as fast as you can in the first 6K, then hold on for dear life (cause it flattens out at that point).

First half
I went out fast, but not at a speed I considered too painful, wasn't too sure what my tired little body would do. While others were around me were starting to huff and puff, I just kept it consistent and try not to panic too much. Took the downhills nice and speedy while catching my breath, and the uphills were pretty simple to power up. Passed people going up. Thanks Boston and Around the Bay!

My actual goal was sub 43, a fairly low bar to jump over. After a kilometre, I saw the time and the amount of effort so concluded I would be in for an okay day.
1 00:04:01
2 00:04:12
3 00:04:12
4 00:04:00
5 00:04:12

So I managed not to get in a sub-4K in the first 5K. Yep, that's when I know I'm not really going all out. Fine. With the 5K mark done, I decided to think more about racing, about keeping up the pace and even going a little faster.

What the hell was with the spaced out water stops. Maybe I'm now just used to a water stop every mile with those big races I've been doing.

The second half features a lot of flats, I just tried to play hunter. Stay behind someone for the wind shield and if they were going a little slower, then pass them. That pretty much was the strategy from 6K to 10K. Worked quite well for the most part.

In the last two kilometres, I was finally feeling the effort I was putting in. Felt a bit bloated but still good enough to keep a decent pace. I felt throughout that there was definitely another gear.
6 00:04:01
7 00:04:05
8 00:03:47
9 00:03:59
10 00:03:58
11 00:00:38

The long last bit was probably a few hundred metres that my Garmin went wonky.

Final time was 41:08, my second fastest 10K time on this course but more than a minute off. Super happy with that. Kind of wish I ran just a tad faster at the beginning because looking back, I could have had a good day. But i'll take it. I still feel blah but it's a wonder what a runner's body can do if asked nicely (tough love, I call it).

By the way, want to see how world class runners (future Olympian) finish a 10K? Look a this awesome win by Reid Coolsaet.