Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why go the extra mile?

Plenty of us play the numbers game in running. Part of it is it gives us a benchmark to measure progress. I ran 30 miles last week, maybe I'll do a little more. I ran a 10K in 50 minutes yesterday, maybe I want to do it in 48. My pace is 5:44, maybe I want to raise it to 5:20 by the end of this long run.

On, and on, and on. Believe me, we have the time to kill. Just some of the internal dialogue that can go through one's mind as we make our way through our weekly long runs.

The past few years, while I continue to monitor my pace, charge up the Garmin, I don't play by the numbers in quite the same way I used to.

Calendar: Run 48 miles this week.

Me: Okay, that sounds like a reasonable guideline, how about I run some miles and see how it goes.

Email reminder: 14 miles on Thursday.

Me: Um, I did 9 on Monday, 8 on Tuesday, maybe I'll do 10 today.

The games I play now are a little more fun, like today, when I was at around 13K in for a planned 32K run, I wondered how many kilometres I could measure to the lighthouse at Leslie Spit, and what mileage I'd be when I exited.

Little did I know when my dad used to, on weekends or summer nights, drill in multiplication tables (no, I did not have a Tiger Dad, but did get some academic encouragement growing up), that 30 some odd years later, I'd be sweating, dousing my arms with water, and trying to measure how many kilometres that out and back would take.

Out and backs are pretty simple, by nature. You run out 1 kilometre, you double it when you come back. Running the waterfront routes in Toronto make it a little more interesting, when you plan the equivalent of three out and backs to make up 21 miles.

Today, I planned my run so that I'd end the 32K a few miles short of home, so I could cool down, grab an ice coffee and enjoy the morning walk.

But as I was making my way to 32, I saw that I was about 3K from home. I thought back that I began the run with 41 miles in the bank, that 20 miles would bring me to 61 miles on the week, and somewhere in the back of my head, I remembered what 62 miles and change translated to in kilometres.

That was enough to push me the extra mile.

Why? You do the math.

test 1 test 2

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When will the other shoe drop on Toronto's runners

We all remember the whole anti-marathon campaign here in Toronto last fall, when the then-candidate suggested banning marathons from city roads? Remember how that guy went all populist, speaking to the driving, commuting crowd, saying how maybe marathons could be run in a hilly park where you could, at best, do 5K loops, or at a former military base?

Well, we elected that guy, Rob Ford, and runners have been wondering ever since what would become of all those threats.

Okay, not news his position on our sport, but I did think about him today when I heard that an entire portion of the Lakeshore was shut down (on a weekday, no less) so a Hollywood production could shoot.

As the CFRB 1010 report says, lots of benefit to the city

The film's budget is around 200 million dollars and is the biggest production Toronto has ever seen. It's believed a production of this size provides about 500 local jobs. The film is a remake of the 1990 version starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So yes, I'm waiting for front page news to deride the traffic-stopping movie production so a few hundred people can get jobs (not as important as 20,000 people investing in physical fitness), but really, I'm waiting to see if the other shoe drops.

And as I read about how bike lanes are being closed in this city, I shudder, even as we herald in the arrival of a forward looking bike sharing program Bixi, much like the Capital Bike Share DC has had in place recently.

Crossroads? You bet.

Toronto Life printed an article that a few of us runners have read, about the growing ranks of our citizens who have flocked to running. It mentions something that many of us have noticed over the years. More people in this city have turned to this sport. You see it on the trails, on race registration stats, and even by the very the fact that my workplace can start a running club and within two weeks we have five people out. Excuse my math, but I think we have a full 10th of our office out.

So then we have all these questions, as services like libraries (really?) face some trimming. Will our fall racing reason survive? Will marathons be forced off the roads? Will the 8K of path between my condo and the Humber Bay Bridge be cleared of snow in the winter, allowing for cyclists and runners a clearing to commute and work out?

Who knows what public policy our city's leaders will enact to stymie fitness, but I think the bug has caught on. It really is a virus, this running boom. The recession fuels it. Global warming may perpetuate it. What can stop it other than another trendy sport or gym to take a hold over our city. Fat chance, I'd say.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Too hot for running? Almost.

We can take this heat wave in perspective. Having a running blog for close to six years, I only tend to write about the weather when it strikes me as relevant (hot, cold, nice, wet, snow) which is when I log it down.

Truth is, as an outside runner, I deal with the elements about 300 days a years, nothing to write about warm days, even cold, freeze-till-you-can't-feel-your-face days. But the ones that make you suffer. You remember those.

Add this little spell to the notch. As I type this, in D.C. it's a high of 40C, and through my life, I always wondered what 108F feels like. Well, with humidex, that's what I just walked through an hour ago trudging from a grocery store a few blocks away to R.'s condo. We walked a block to pick up dry cleaning/ice coffee and while it's tolerable with the right dress, it's not ideal for exercising.

I've felt the heat, even trained through it in the years gone by. Heck, just search "humidex" on my blog and you'll see me run races (set a sub-20 5K years ago on a crazy hot day), do long runs and sweat buckets.

Just this past week, knowing I'd be in D.C. for this heat wave, I decided to cram in my miles in Toronto. Problem was, we weren't immune to the heat. I did a 10K Tuesday night, a 10K Wednesday at 4:30 a.m., followed by 16K that Wednesday night. By the next morning, when I only had enough energy to do a few miles, the heat had set in.

The past two days, I've been getting used to the heat, a 5K at 6:30 a.m. yesterday in D.C.. Today, bad me, I slept in till 6:30, did an hour of work, and ran 7K. It hurt, it was nice to have water to douse my body in.

The bonus, at least I'm up to 40 miles for this week. It may be tough, but my body's slowly getting used to it. The hard part will be in the next few weekends as I try to go long in this weather.

The smart advice I'll take: Go run early, drink lots, get your salts in and just be content to get a run in.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Race Report: Dawn at the Don 8K

There are certain runners, and I don't know many, who love do to short races. By short, I'm thinking 5K and 8K. Me, a long distance runner, I can deal with three plus hours running hard. I can deal with the wall (most times) or mile 22 to 26. And in the end of the day, I know the mental toughness gathered during marathon training (and racing them) makes you well suited for other distances.

Pain, though, even if temporary, is what I associate with the distance. I never really train for 8Ks, but rather let them express my fitness level.

Funny then, that I signed up for the inaugural Dawn at the Don 8K today. Other than the fact that it replaced one of my favourite races (Night Crawler 5 miler), a few buddies were doing it, it was in the park, it was a good chance to get some quality running in.

And pain.

Especially when I walked out of my condo at 7 a.m. and realized how warm it was already.

The race was run through Sunnybrook Park and in my 300 metre warmup, I knew it'd hurt. Hurt so much that by the time I hit the 1K mark, I was trying to do some mental math of how much of the race I had left (87% by the way).

I wasn't going to aim at any 8K PB but wanted to get in a decent run in. So I sorta aimed at sub 36. Fast enough, given the weather.

The field was pretty small -- about 180 runners. And when we took off, I was already in the front and not many ahead. So I just went out with a good pace, looking for comfort, not any running that would be taxing.

1. 04:17
2. 04:30

Ran a good first kilometre, reined it in a little at the 2nd, and decided to just run strong, not to lose much ground to anyone who was ahead of me, and to not give chase to anyone who crept up behind me.

The course had its hills, and while it was a little 'cooler' when we walked through some parts of the park, it was hot. Uncomfortably so. The tactic? Run and race, but never to the point where my breathing would suffer. Tackled some good hills and slowly made up ground on some runners.

3. 04:32
4. 04:32

At the turnaround, I saw that my buddy Lee was within the top group -- I actually thought he was leading. And since I had hit half way, my only thought was about the percentages, the location of the next water stop, and to tell myself not to slow down. I caught up to a few runners who had clearly gone out too fast, and was able to ramp up the pace.

5. 04:23
6. 04:30

We caught up with 5K runners, who started after us, and that kinda helped us go a little faster. I was hot, the water I poured over my head was helping but I was ready for this pain to end. I kept thinking of marathoning and how 8K was really not much.

7. 04:20
8. 04:15

Which led to me running the last kilometre as my fastest split. Man, I was glad to finish, glad that I got a hard fought run on a hot day, and nice to hang out with a few friends early on a Sunday morning.

Final time: 35:25, 17th overall

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

How do you hang?

The clues that I'm a runner at home, up to a few days ago, are only in visual evidence by the newly laundered (and drying) singlets, the mountain of training shoes by my front door and the running caps that I hang on door hooks. Or the little stack of fuel belts.

The running bibs, they're kept in a binder. Some are in a newly acquired 'bibFolio'.

The medals, lately, have been stuffed into a drawer.

Until I got around to using the medal contraption thingy this past weekend. Dug out a good amount of my marathon hardware. Kinda fun to see how many I've gotten over the years. Love seeing the Chicago Marathon (my first) alongside the four MCM medals. Won't lie, the Boston medals I'm happy to now see on display.

I've seen other bloggers and how they've displayed their medals, spaced evenly. I live in a condo, no room air them out, I kinda like the bunched up look. Gives them a weighty feel.

Perfect that it's in my hallway. Funny how the collection has grown. (By the way, the secret to getting the hanger? Industrial strength Velcro. Anything to avoid using a power tool.)

Now what am I going to do with the countless other medals? Yep, they are in a drawer and will probably stay there.

Anyone else display their medals?

Monday, July 04, 2011

Not so solitary

I enjoy the moments before my long runs. It was a ritual I'd save for those weekend mornings. Where I live, there are a number of routes I could take to add up to the miles that would let me go long. In the winter, I'd usually head out west. I could be guaranteed miles upon miles of solid running paths with no red lights.

On other mornings, I literally test out the wind, gauge the sun, and decide at a moment which way to go: East? North? West?

One thing about fall and winter running I've always loved, and to this day cherish, was my zone-out time. I could count the number of other people on bikes or on foot on one hand while out on an eight miler. I've even gone a full five miles on my 10 out and back without encountering another soul, just the whizzing lights of hundreds of cars heading out into the suburbs.

I do crave city running sometimes, like today, when I was running my 5 miler home, something about whizzing past pedestrians, striding alongside cyclists or catching my breath at a stop light that feels so good.

But on those long runs, lately I've been heading east. Out there, even in the middle of 'running' season, I'll encounter far fewer runners. The industrial lands a few kilometres out that way seem to act as a barrier, that only if you were going long, it'd make sense you'd get out there. Development, it's coming, as the city starts to tear down old warehouses and put up waterside walkways and new office towers.

I'm not sure when I write something like this that there's something of a difference between me and a lot of other runners. I'm not going to call it fairweather running, but in the coldest days of winter and the humid boilers of a July late-morning bake, I stick to the roads by myself. I enjoy that time. Time to listen to tunes, time to put my eyes on the sky and enjoy the outside, time to nod or wave to that other solitary runner. Something more gritty about tackling a long stretch of road where it's just you and a handful of cyclists and vehicles.

I do love asking myself which way I'll go. It's lovely, setting out on those first steps that will end a few hours later. The path is often lonely, but I know it's well travelled.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The better half

Like all of you, just finished my first half of the year, entering into the training season for fall marathoning. It's a good time to give a check into the year so far.

For the half-year mark, I logged 946 miles, which puts me on target for about 1800 to 1900 miles for the year. I had a really slow bounce back after my last marathon in May, taking a pause to focus on work and to recover from calf issues.

The good news, I suppose, is I'm getting the groove back on in June, 150 miles compared with 100 the month before. This ain't no high mileage, but the miles will definitely jump in July.

I'm enjoying the summer so far, not minding that much that work is a commute away. It's made running home after work a perfect way to wind down while getting my runs in.

I can't help but think this is another year with no real theme to my running life. In the last few years, I've focused on number of marathons rather than the speed. In a way, it's not as hard as those harder running days, but I think I've found a pretty good balance. There will be a time again to run for time, but I'm content that training with vigor through the summer to let me do three marathons in October will be a great achievement. I'm excited to get my 18th marathon in this fall, and even more so to find an appropriate place to run my 20th.

Looking forward, I know I'll pile the miles on. Need new shoes soon, maybe a new Garmin by my birthday, and look forward to trudging my way, happily, to close off another running year, relatively unscathed.