Sunday, August 21, 2011

Race report: A Midsummer Night's Run 30K

I blame the flowers. They looked really pretty for the first few days, but I should have known, as the lillies opened up, that it would spell bad things for my allergies. So Friday night, after a dinner, I felt a tightness in my throat that got me on my antihistamines. Saturday morning wasn't pretty, felt even worse, so I put on a second dose.

By the early afternoon, the pills had taken their toll. I was zonked, and had to nap for almost two hours (while taking another half pill). As I walked/jogged to the race site, I had visions of DNS or DNF, even the short 300 metre warmups showed my body wasn't ready to fully race. The congestion was largely gone (it's back this Sunday morning) but yes, I felt blah.

A Midsummer Night's Run has grown quickly over the years. What started out as a race that drew less than 400 30K runners has now gone up to almost 1,000. Lots of people doing the 15K. I love the race, having done, after tonight, a total of 4 30Ks and one 15K. And I got the pin to prove it!

A lot of bloggers and other running friends were there, so bumped into quite a few before the race start. Met up with Chris, and we decided to run together. The goal was somewhere around 2:40. First off, my Garmin had a major miscue, measuring off the entire course so I'm not going to put the splits off.

First 5K Was going out at 'comfortable conversational' pace, which has us doing between 5:02s to 5:11. Confirmed that I didn't have real racing in me today, and I wasn't about to test what would happen if I went out hard. So I was content to keep up the pace. The weather was not great. Humid, windy at times (good), but not ideal racing weather for me. We quickly spread out and we just stuck to pace, watching the 2:30 pacers run away. Not too many water stations, but I made sure to grab something from each. My body was still feeling blah, that post sick feeling. I kept with it

5K to 10K A lot of turns on this course. I lost Chris somewhere around the 8K mark, and I was just concentrating on keeping same effort. Already at this point, some runners were starting to slow. I knew the humidity was taking its toll so I resolved to run even effort and to only trail runners who looked like they were going at consistent pace. So a lot of passing started to happen.

10K to 15K I remember at a corner, when I was running with a woman, a spectator said to her, 'I love your smile', to which I thought I must look like crap. But I felt okay. We entered into the Leslie Spit and I was really trying, it was taking quite an effort to keep up the pace. Breathing was fine, congestion was okay, felt a little tired. From the entrance to the bridge, I had passed about 5 runners. As I went down the bridge, I passed another two, and something changed.

15K to 20K We pushed up a small slope and I felt like going faster. So I upped the pace to 5 minute kilometres and started to go. We saw some runners returning from the lighthouse later, and I used that as an excuse to go faster. I tapped the 15K sign as a mental note to go harder.

20K to 25K I hit the half marathon mark in 1:46:24, which put me about 1:30 off the 2:30 30K. I was already going. By this time, the still, humid air on the way out of the spit was getting to us. I was overheating, using water from my bottles (luckily I keep two bottles of water and two of Gatorade) to cool off my arms. I told myself that I coudln't take a walk break until at least the 24K mark. Of course, promptly at the 24K water station, I took my first walk break. I wanted to cool down and to let the heart rate settled. It worked, and I was able to keep up the pace. We had to run slightly into the Beaches area which I found tough for some reason.

25K to 30K All told, I took four little walk breaks. With 3K to go, I hooked up with a few runners and we started to go. All of a sudden, we were going really fast. We entered Commissioners, where we hooked back up with the 15K runners and for some reason, we started racing again. At 2K to go, I saw my watch hit 2:20ish range, and I knew I could probably hit 2:30 if I could go faster. Too bad my Garmin doesn't show it, but I was hauling ass the last mile. Sensing the end, knowing I could pick it up without imploding, I decided to give it my all. At the final turn, I looked at the glowing lights ahead, and I saw it about to hit 8:00, which would be exactly 2:30 after I started. So I pushed, crossed and hit my watch.

Final time: 2:29:58. UPDATE: Looks like it was a short course by about 500 - 700 metres, so I guess I could add about 3 minutes to the time. Somehow, in the last 9K, I made up 1:30 to get the 2 hour, 30 minute finish. I was very shocked at the end, I had not been looking at my watch at all during the race. My body still felt like crap (even does this morning after the race) but I managed to push through it. A lot of me knows it's really about experience at this race and distance (this was my eighth 30K). Don't get me wrong, I did suffer as this is the slowest I've done but I'm taking this as a major victory!

I saw plenty of fellow runners, including Sam, Lee, Julie, Chris, Kerry, Marlene. Saw many others on the course including a few co-workers of mine who were doing hte 15K. Love this race, was well worth it even for the discomfort. Beer and ribs solve all!.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Race report: Acura 10 Miler

"Take it easy," was the mantra I'd settled on, 2 kilometres into today's 10 miler. The weather was brilliant, I was hoping for more cloud than sun, and the crowd of runners seemed a little fast today. Maybe it was the 5K runners beside me, but I just knew to run this by feel, and the feeling was, don't blow up. The manta, as it turns out, didn't last the entire race, because the final two kilometres might as well have coined another one, more like "run like crazy."

I've never felt quite up to the challenge of the 10 mile distance. Maybe it's because it really should be much more painful than a half marathon, and I have been having little tolerance for pain. In any case, I was actually very interested to see what today would throw at me. I've been really finally ramping up the training and I think I've got a great base of fitness just by the miles, not the speed. In the last eight weeks, I've been in an average of 45 miles a week (I had two slowdown weeks where I did 30) and in the last four, it had gone up to an average of 50. The last two Sundays, I put in a 20 and 21 miler.

Today's race was a litmus test for what I would try at next week's 30K race. What do I choose for my pace run? Could I even do a 16.1K run at a reasonable effort?

Which is why I chose to feel out the course, and see how my body would react to the pace. The plan was to target somewhere around 4:35 to 4:40, and see how it went. In long-term theory/history, that's been my past marathon pace but this year, I've been doing just distance.

The first 3 kilometres, it was mainly running in packs, where I would just focus on turnover, breathing and looked a lot up at the sky. That way I wouldn't be tempted to race.

1. 4:34
2. 4:41
3. 4:43

As we entered into the Leslie Spit, I shifted tactics just slightly, making sure I paid attention to who was in front of me. I knew that some runners would fade, so mini-racing effort would help pull me along. The mantra held, but I did feel the effort increase as the kilometres clicked by. The big packs of runners started to thin, so I had to be wary about actually trying not to be too content running behind/beside runners.

4. 4:40
5. 4:40
6. 4:37

As we were nearing this point, I was feeling good. I took Friday off and did a slow 5 miles yesterday, so my legs, though tired from the training, was able to maintain the speed. I was really glad to have my fuel belt bottles, it's nice to be able to take a swig once in a while and use water at the stops to throw over my head.

7. 4:39
8. 4:32

When we got to the midpoint, I decided that there were too many runners ahead of me. Or something like that. I've used the second half or the last 4 miles of this race in the past as tempo miles, so I started to up the pace. A runner or two stayed on me, but my focus now turned from the sky to runners ahead of me. Racing time.

9. 4:26
10. 4:28

It's amazing how your body adapts when you just turn up the pace just a little. I actually think I run more fluid when I do so with pace. Was also feeling good to pass, to race. I was a little worried I'd upped the speed too fast, but those are just mind games. I just pictured that it was about 4 miles to go.

11. 4:30
12. 4:30

More of the same. I ran underneath this mister that the organizers set up. It gave me a little boost, along with the fact that I wouldn't really slow down at water stops. More runners that I started passing where in turn increasing their pace. This got me going a bit faster.

13. 4:26
14. 4:24

So we hit another water stop and I'm pouring water over my body and just picturing how little left we had to go. A guy who I'd been trailing off of earlier and who I had passed had come blazing by me. I started tailing him and together, we pounded out a nice final few.

15. 4:19
16. 4:17
.1 and change 0:51

Final time: 1:13:20 with a pace of 4:34. My first 5 miles were done at 37:55.7 and second five at 35:48.8, giving me an almost two-minute negative split.

This is exactly the race I needed. It was 20 seconds faster than last year, though off from the 1:09 I did back in 2008 (I just re-read that race report, wow, the splits I was doing that year)

Next week, I finally have the pace in mind for the 30K, nothing too ambitious, nothing faster than I've done before, but this race gives a nice little boost. Safe it to say that next week, I'll have to reuse that mantra.

Finished the day with 17 miles including my pre-post running.

(And notice the salt on arms.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The runner's high five

I sat at my first baseball game in about a year a few weeks ago. I was watching the building of the wave as it made its way around the upper deck. It's not a big deal, seeing everyone raise their arms and go 'woaaahh!' Part of the way baseball has its charms. A group of 40,000 can feel a lot smaller when everyone shares a moment.

My Running Shorts wrote a nice little post recently about friendly (and insular) runners on the trail. In it, she makes a few great findings about the friendly (wave at you) runner and the non-friendly (so into myself) runner. She has a theory that in the summer, the ratio of non-wavers to wavers dramatically rise in favour of the non social.

With so much time on our hands, runners love to obsess over this interesting (to us) topic.

I would have to agree. Something about summer draws out the mass. Just an observation, but the trails become just a little less friendly.

I notice it enough that I've written about the runner's nod or wave. I notice I write about it on truly crappy weather days, when only the insane make it out.

Here's one post from the dead of winter:

So as I aimed out west into the sun and against the wind, the best motivation? Other runners, at least a dozen, who had probably lost their battle against logic and treadmills. We had head masks and multiple layers, we had wind chapped lips and red faces (sunkissed or chilled) and we all traded a wave or a nod. Misery demands it.

Or this run I did on a rainy blah day in Montreal last year.

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.

Or when we think 1C is great weather, and those who are out, share the joy

The last two running days have been heaven in Toronto. Temperatures hovering above zero, a few moments of sunshine. I swear everyone was in a good mood on the waterfront trail -- dozens of runners I`ve passed over the last few days seemed to be smiling. I routinely do the runner`s head nod or wave but everyone was returning that today. Give us a respite from winter and runners will take full advantage.

And when you have miles and miles of trails just for yourself (and a few other privileged few)

A fresh carpet of snow, light winds and just -1C. My pair of YakTraks were giving me just enough traction that I could pull off a decent clip. On these days, when snow cover lightens up the trail, I`m loving running. I wave at the seven or eight other runners as we make tracks. Today, I only get in 5 miles, but I know longer mileage awaits. Marathon training is back.

Running for many is an individual pursuit, it can be something you to do unplug, 'get away from it'. Sure, you may do it and hate it and it hurts. Yep, that music track may be blaring, helping you pound out your next 400 metres, but there is something to be said about the open road that is very unlike that treadmill in that gym.

You are sharing the road with others. We are, in a lot of ways, following each other's footsteps. You think it hurts you? Sure, and it hurts the person who is running towards you. Maybe it takes a few years of feeling the burn, facing the crappiest weather, for you to realize that the other person heading toward you is feeling pretty much the same crap, joy, elation, muscle pain. On a winter's day, during a blizzard, that's worth acknowledging. This past Sunday, after I ran in pouring rain for 5 miles, the first thing I thought when I saw other runners was "wow, you guys are crazy", followed by, "and I am too." Give that wave or a nod. That's a runner's high five if I ever saw one.

I've never thought the nod or a wave was much effort. Really, just move your hand an extra foot or so. The nod is even easier. If you do it, you'll likely get a smile and a nod in return.

Kinda like this. Don't leave me hanging!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

'That's how we f*cken do it'

The last word on a 20 miler, that's what I said to myself after today's long run. Memorable as it was challenging. I was tired, and had just run through crappy weather. I stretched my calves and as I stood there, dripping, looking at the 20 miles on my watch, my body convulsed. What was that? Dare I say it, was it sobbing? Yes, that's a weird feeling, but I went with it. Tears of exhaustion, joy, pain?

This morning, I tucked a transit token into my short pocket. Omen? It was an odd choice because I usually wrap a $10 or $20 in plastic wrap in case I'd need to buy a drink or mid-run Gatorade. Not today, just a token, my little way out in case things went wrong. And as I was about to head out on today's 20 miler, I stopped by my running stash and pulled out the BodyGlide. It had rained earlier that morning and I wasn't going to take any chances.

The first half of the run was uneventful. It was misting, spitting, or that little bit of welcome spritzing on a very humid morning. The trails were a little quiet at 7 a.m. but I was making my way out for a big out and back. 10 miles out, then the return home. I've been finding it a little tough finding a faster pace on these long runs, but I spent a good 30 minutes yesterday with the roller on my calves, and my legs were feeling a lot more fresh.

In a lot of cases, it was your typical summer long run. Podcast episodes came and went, and I was sucking in the Gatorade at the proper intervals. The humid air was stifling.

On my way back, the misty rain turned into rain. Then rain turned into pelts. Then it turned into a full on torrential downpour. My shades were fogging over and I could barely see. I was running under storefront awnings, even ducked into an entrance for a minute or two. What the hell, I thought, lets go, but 500 metres later, seeing a college campus and plenty of dry space, I sought shelter. Waited. And waited. As I was hoping downpour would die down.

Actually considered using that token as the streetcar stopped nearby. Only considered, but it wasn't happening. So after 15 minutes, I set out for the 8 miles home.

So I was getting soaked, and although I hate to start my runs in the rain, a summer rain in the middle ain't that bad. I was thanking myself for the BodyGlide coating, hoping my iPod would survive and tried not to jump into too many puddles (there were mini lakes forming by the sidewalk). Many a shop keeper or someone seeking shelter got a good laugh from my exploits and were waving at me. "You're swimming," one shop owner said as I strode directly into a puddle.

As I reentered the waterfront path, I saw more runners. We all waved at each other. Camaraderie in the misery. The rain was cooling, clinging, refreshing, but weighing on my clothes. The feet were soaked but my legs felt great. The last few metres, just as I entered the courtyard leading to my condo, I saw my Garmin click over 32.2K, a perfect out-and-back metre.

Travelled so far. Dripping. Exhausted. Hard core. Happy. "This is how we f*cken do it", I muttered to no one in particular. To remind myself that it was true, I said it again just before leaning into my post-run stretches and eventual sobs. I had no shame, I was soaked to the bone anyways.