Sunday, October 27, 2013

Race Report: MEC Toronto Race Series 7 15K Toronto

Today another running streak was broken, but at least I set a new record. For the past six years, I've run the Marine Corps Marathon. If there is a 'hometown' race, that would be it. Anyways, today is MCM day, but it didn't happen for me -- I wasn't interested in doing MCM then NYC a week later.

With a week to NYC Marathon, I knew I had to get in 10 miles. A 15K race was on the Toronto race schedule, so I signed up more than a month ago, not knowing what exactly I'd be doing.

MEC Race Series 7 results 5K/10K/15K Oct 27

Of course, the target this fall was the Chicago Marathon two weeks ago. I emerged from the race in pretty good condition, and last week ran Sam and Nicole in for the half at 1:45. The longer term injuries I'd been dealing with since early August have been fading away with the rolling, stretching and fewer miles.

How fast did I want to do the 15K race? I was telling my friend Jen -- who is also doing NYC -- to go out slower the week out, but I knew I wanted to see what I was capable of.

Was a chilly but gorgeous morning -- hovering around 5C, feeling a little cooler. Yesterday, I had done a 5K run and forgot my gloves. I was left chilled, so today, it was shorts, longsleeve with a light singlet underneath, plus gloves.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Go, go, go, go, Simon!

"Let's go Simon!" Canada collectively yelled at their TVs that day in 2008, when Simon Whitfield threw down his hat on a Beijing course, and ran one of the most exhilarating races I've ever seen. Ever. Really.

If you don't remember screaming your lungs out, just listen to this woman in the video below who caught the finish live. It wasn't just her. We were all screaming "Run Simon!" From fourth, he ran his heart out to first through the final turn, and grabbed a silver out of nowhere.

Official IOC video. (Boo, they don't allow embedding)

That race, well that was epic. And the runner in me loved every second of it. And today, as Simon announced his retirement, it's worth marking a remarkable career.

Simon is not a marathoner, but he is a runner, and an endurance athlete. I once read on his blog the summation of what training and racing meant. It's one of the most important lessons I've learned about road racing:

From my post last year about Paula Findlay, I wrote:
It was fellow Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield who for me succinctly summed up what race day meant for his sport -- or any sport where preparation is the key. A few weeks after he ran that thrilling silver medal win in Beijing in 2008, he wrote:

"I felt like all I had to do was express my fitness, I wasn't hoping for miracles, simply expressing fitness earned through hard work," he wrote on a blog at the time.

Anyways, I thought it's worth saying that for triathletes especially, but also runners, that Simon was a class of the field and one of my favourite Canadian runners.

From the archives, my post from 2008, titled "Hero"


Simon Whitfield tops awesome, if there was a word to top that. I've been following his blog since 2006 and over that time, you get a picture of a down-to-earth, hard working and impressive athlete with a sense of humour and humility. He won gold for Canada - in surprising fashion -- eight years ago in Sydney. He didn't medal in Athens and apologized to the nation. But what most didn't realize in between 2000 Olympics and now is that he had built an amazing resume with tonnes of wins. He's the real deal, a legend of the sport, not a flash in the pan.

I'm not a triathlete. I can't even imagine adding two sports to my one (running). But I do identify with the pain they must feel pounding the pavement after swimming and cycling at the paces and the heat. In the Olympics earlier today (last night) I was so happy that CBC was playing most of the race. The run was just fantastic. So many times, Simon seemed to be dropping back from the lead pack but he reeled them in again. Then with a kilometre to go, he seemed too far back that the three ahead of him would escape with the three medals. He was out of the picture frame. Then he took off his hat, and started to work. Amazingly, he clawed back and the four of them were running for their lives in the last 600 metres or so. R. and I were yelling at the TV set. He took the lead, turned the corner and held it only for a bit longer, but finished strongly, and happily, in second place.


From Bruce Arthur, sports columnist for my newspaper:

But in his mind, Whitfield kept repeating one thing: Sing like Kreek.

Few athletes endure what triathletes suffer -- more than anything, triathlon is about eating barrelfuls of pain. And Whitfield began to close. Whitfield ate the pain, and spat it out. And in his mind, he kept repeating, sing like Kreek.

"I didn't think he was coming back," said his coach, Joel Filliol. "Normally that doesn't happen -- when you get dropped, that's it."

Except that in the final 200 metres in the shadow of the magnificent Mings Tomb Reservoir northwest of Beijing, Whitfield kicked as he had on that magic-filled day in Sydney, and took the lead. Thanks to a supreme act of will, everything was in front of him. It was all possible. And he kept saying it: Sing like Kreek. Sing like Kreek. In the stands, triathlon officials and his coach were screaming those words, too. Sing like Kreek! Sing like Kreek!

The rest here.

Kreek, by the way, is Adam Kreek, one of the men's eight rowers who won the gold a few days ago. He belted out our national anthem as the flag was raising.

Video: CBC's on demand page is here (you can search Triathalon or Men's eights

Monday, October 21, 2013

Race report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon 2013

I love race day in this city and in the past decade, I've run dozens and dozens of road events in Toronto. Scotiabank, for me, has always been The Big One, I've run it nine straight years, toeing the line for six half marathons and three marathons.

It's this race that first gave me the marathon bug, where I started to set goals for Boson. Scotia, as we call it, very rarely becomes the goal race in my busy fall schedule. The half is usually a ramp up an eventual full. So a week out from running the Chicago Marathon, I found myself with not a lot of goals and fearful that without a mission, I'd potentially race out my legs before doing New York in two weeks.

Then Nicole, my buddy on Daily Mile, reminded me that she'd been asking me to think about pacing her and Sam to a 1:45.

Actually, she wrote this:

But you're here to read about goals. Well, I'm still going to put my "A" goal out there. I'm not entirely sure I will be able to get it, but I'm going to keep the mind strong and go for it. What will help is that Kenny may run with Sam and I as our personal pacer (skirt and socks not required!)!

Okay, so that gave me my goal. 1:45, or 5 minute kilometres.

I met up with Daily Milers before the race, and met Nicole (who I've seen at other races) and Sam (for the first time in real life). We dropped our bags and proceeded to the start line.

Yes, he chased the cookie through the whole marathon.

The weather was a perfect chilly temperature. It would get no warmer than 13C so there was a chill in the air before the 8:45 start. We lined up right after the 3:25 pacer and in front of the 1:45 and 3:30s. I figured the 1:45s (headed by Fran) would distort the pace since he was going 4:45 pace while doing his 10:1s. Later, I saw the 3:30s way behind us -- no clue why.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sporting Life 10K replaces race director

When runners speak, the races do listen. I've learned that more than once on this blog, and that's heartening. First, the news:

The Sporting Life 10K has named Cory Freedman its new race director after the big-city race faced runner backlash last May, admittedly falling "short" of expectations, the race organizer said Wednesday.  

Freedman, who founded Toronto Women’s Run series, takes over from Jay Glassman, who will continue to serve as a consultant for the race that will be slated to run on May 11, 2014. Glassman's Running First organizes the Toronto Goodlife Marathon.

Photo from MySportsShooter
Last year's race -- one of Toronto's largest road races with 27,000 registered runners -- saw overcrowding at the finish line, even with a staggered start. The finish-line "chaos" as this blog documented and many runners on social media vented, sparked the Sporting Life and the charity Camp Ooch's decision to re-evaluate how the race was run.

“We put a committee together and broke down the run experience and what needed to improve," John Roe, director of marketing at Sporting Life, said in a statement outlining changes to the race. "We are also working on making improvements to the finish line experience. We have changed literally everything about the run to deliver the best possible experience for our participants.

"We owe that to the runners," he said.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Race report: Chicago Marathon 2013 (The Comeback)

MY ROAD to Chicago started almost exactly a year ago, on a lonely stretch between Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood and the finish of what would be my slowest marathon. 

It hurt in the last 8K of that course, the spurts of running after a walk break. Why was I out there? It was the place where I both wanted to be and yet maybe not.

That marathon was the most emotional of my life -- not because of the race, but because of the events around my life. My mom was on her last days, I had not trained for much of the summer but I had felt a need to run that race on 10/14/12. I wanted to reclaim something. Just wasn't exactly sure what it was back then -- that the final step of the marathon was just the first in something coming.


CHICAGO, 10/13/13 -- Somewhere in the dark passage within the recesses of an overpass, a hand reached for my left arm midstride. Instinctively, I tried to help keep the runner upright, but within three strides he went down with a thud, me having no option but to keep on going. Runners streamed around him, jumping to avoid a mishap. A minute later, another man fell right in front of me, his shades sprawled around him, him on his back like an overturned crab.

Those two moments briefly changed the race from a "wow this is a big city marathon" to "this is a survival of the fittest." Being back on Chicago wasn't so fun after all.

Chicago has always been a special place for my running -- being my first marathon back in 2006. In 2011, I returned for a second time, thinking that my then-veteran status would allow me to destroy my debut marathon time, which never happened.

We arrived on Friday and did the usual touristy stuff. Shopping, the expo, eating pasta and getting in some light sight seeing. Outwardly, I was the 24 time marathoner confident for his next. Inside, I was a bundle of nerves, this might as well have been my first.

A FEW DAYS after running the Toronto marathon a year ago, my mother passed away. I wrote this post in the first lonely hours after getting a call from my brother -- before I headed home to plan our final goodbye.

Running, and writing about running, helped in a way to shield me from the pain but also embrace it. It helped me deal with it and bury the loss. Any bottled up grief could be expended with a short burst of strides. I wrote at the end of that post.

After getting my medal, my 21st marathon, I knew it was the most important one i’ve done. It was for myself but somehow for her. I cried while walking past the post-finish line area, eyes shaded by sunglasses, tears covered by sweat and the bill of my running cap. I thought about how I’d lost the mom others have had for a very long time. I couldn’t share my greatest accomplishments -- work achievements, qualifying for Boston, forging that adult relationship with my parent. I thought about the marathon and how it draws out supporters for runners and how she’d never seen me run.  
Later that day, I wore my marathon shirt and went to the hospital, helped feed mom dinner. My legs were burning, my body exhausted. Her right hand was as strong as ever, gripping my hand, her thumb stroking my finger. Four days later, she was gone.

A week after she died, I found myself in Washington, DC, toeing the line of my sixth Marine Corps Marathon. I ran it with all my heart, hurting, but not broken, to a 3:52 finish, my second slowest marathon a few weeks after my slowest. As I accepted my medal from a Marine, among the many thoughts was, "I can get some strength from this." Another was, "what now?"

CHICAGO - So what got me to this point?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chicago Redux (3.0)

Yeah, so Chicago was my first marathon and my 16th and this weekend it will be should be my 25th. I wrote a version of this post (2.0) in 2011. So here goes.

2006 Marathon -- My FIRST!

Chicago 2011 -- My 16th!

2006: Holy crap, first marathon
2011: Um, how much of this ibuprofen cream can I slather on my heel?
2013: Ditto on 2011, just apply it to my knees

2006: Can't wait to hit the expo, gonna buy maybe a jacket
2011: Yes to jacket. Yes to hat. Yes to whatever you want me to buy.
2013: I'm wearing my 2006 gear to toss away. Yes, to random gear.

2006: Deep Dish Pizza!
2011: Where can I find a bagel, banana and peanut butter.
2013: Pasta on Saturday, anything goes on Sunday.

2006: Packing a long sleeve in case it gets cold (it got cold)
2011: Unpacking my long sleeve cause it'll get warm
2013: It's Singlet Baby!!!! (Why)

2006: My buddies Jelly, Frankie and I are all geared up, trained, ready to go!
2011: We've ran. A lot sometimes. Sometimes not. We'll line up
2013: A whole new gang. We are scared. We will have fun

2006: 3:20 or bust! (Ended up with 3:35)
2011: Lets see how I feel marathon morning (UPDATE: Yeah, I couldn't beat my 2006 time
2013: It's jazz, lets see how it goes.. (yes I want to smash that first marathon in the face but face it, respect the distance!)

2006: Excited!
2011: Still excited, though will stop short of putting a slammer at the end.
2013: Punching in the clock. It's go time. (okay, it's a pretty awesome time)

Marathon No. 25, here we come!

P.S.: Holy frak, it's the Chicago Marathon! This is gonna be insane(!) <- slammer

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Let explain this taper madness and marathoning thing

So after my last 20 miler, I thought it was all set, the taper was on and I was ready to rest up for marathon day.  All would be well, right? Wrong.

Taper madness, that two to three week period when marathoners look to pass without major incident, is already starting to hit. We are, according to the experts, grumpy, achy, cramming, hungry, tired, jumpy and generally have nothing to do with ourselves.

Even as I get ready for my 25th marathon -- yes, 25! -- I'm encountering the same roadblocks, making the same mistakes.

Here are the pitfalls and how I continually repeat them, or try to avoid disaster.

Yes, we've crammed in 50 mile weeks and hundreds of miles and dozens of hours logged in, yet even in the final three weeks, we think that every single run needs to be fit in or somehow you'll lose fitness. I've made this mistake, even this week when I should have taken a rest day. Result is I went out too fast and now I'm nursing a (phantom?) ache.

Lesson: What I've said, the hay is in the barn, that the 16+ weeks of training is what got you to your fitness. Best to bring down mileage to 75%, 50% and way down the week of the marathon. I know you can keep some quality workouts -- for example tempo or pace -- but cut down on junk and overall mileage.

I'm so achy!!!
Yes, the phantom pain or real cramps/aches that start to happen. I've had many a scare, and it's compounded by the fact that you're already cutting back on mileage. I once ran a marathon (Flying Pig) where I was limping on a foot three days before race day, bought a pain gel two days before, and was applying it the night before. (I ran a PB race day).

Lesson: Yes, this happens and the experts say it's your body healing itself. From experience, if you have tightness through your muscles, by lack of stretching, it can really start to hit. My advice is to pile on the rest and stretch, roll and take your hot baths. Even last minute aches can go away by race morning, but be prepared to treat it.