Friday, March 21, 2014

Around the Bay 30K new course route and strategy for 2014 (updated)

It's a month out until the old granddaddy of Ontario road races, the Around the Bay 30K. As usual, I'm coming out with an updated Around the Bay 30K 2014 strategy guide based on the new course. I'm going to look at bit at the first 10K that was changed this year.

UPDATE: The Around the Bay 2015 course will not have the infamous hill, according to the race director in several reports.

The changes to the race route took place after a train delayed runners from crossing. I documented some pictures from those delays last year.

Update: Canadian Running has uploaded a virtual course video. Great job guys.

So here's a look at the new route, which has runners going up on Bay St toward the waterfront, then on to Burlington St. before it rejoins the old course around 11K in.

New Route

Here's the old route, which runners are familiar with

Last year's route

The Around the Bay folks did a little map that showcases two water stations in the first 10K

View Around the Bay Road Race in a larger map

A couple points I'll note, based on these Streetview maps:

The route is relatively flat at the start, even looks slightly downhill

View Around the Bay Road Race in a larger map

Waterfront running is nice

View Around the Bay Road Race in a larger map

Should be a few interesting turns around the park getting to Burlington St.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The streak

Am I running today? I get asked that question a lot these days as the horrible winter continues.

Runstreak day 104 was different than any other. The usual pre-run satellite locking, the quick walk in the cold winter air, the anticipation had all but vanished, replaced by a shivering self, a shell of a runner who was regretting the third or fourth layer at home that was probably necessary. Necessary because I was on hour 18 of a 24-hour cold.

On most days, the first feel strides of a run feel like freedom, the fleeting moments when my soles hit pavement on road and the shoes. No matter their age or state of repair, those shoes are bouncing.

This streak, I didn't set out to do this. I've been on running streaks before, where I would count, tally and track. By the time I pull the cord and take a rest day, I usually didn't feel like running.

Early morning solo speed work.
But No. 104 was a crossroads for me. Runners remember sick days very well, I think. We get sick and if it's a weekday, we first think, can I go to work, followed by, can I run? Usually I think, "if I can run, then of course I can work." Not 104. I definitely wasn't able to work. But run?

There are those who approach the run streaking with purpose, to the point that it doesn't seem very natural. Run streakers have run longer than a lot of you have been alive, the top ones with more than 44 years of continuous running. They have rules (1.61K continuous) and keep lists.

Streaking, no matter how shortlived, I have always done for different reasons.

I leaned on running in 2013, hard. For me, it was a necessary outlet to deal with stress, loneliness, fear, loss. In the process of losing myself, I found so much on the trails. I found hidden strength. I regained my running writing voice, and more tales to tell. I found that my passion for running had never subsided, but rather realized my maturing relationship with running.

Ten years ago, I embraced the sport for fitness and to produce a better outcome for my health. Seven years ago, I put  myself into heavy training so I could get to Boston. Five years ago, I ran for the act, but never with the same zeal for challenging myself to go faster, stronger.

A year ago, when I needed it most, running drew me out, tended to my mind, forcing me to think about how the heart, mind, body and muscles combine. My loss of my mother, the end of a long relationship, the Boston bombs, in different ways, they all shook me and somehow running was the constant and antidote to endless hours in front of a TV. It had calmed me, the act of running every day. It was the thing I had to do, evening or morning. It was always in my calendar, a constant, simply there. When I pulled the plug on my last run streak in March, 2013, at 72 days, I was satisfied, and when I look back, I see how it was The Big Building Block for my running comeback.

How did this streak start? The 103 days leading up to 104 were no fuss and the streak never really became a thing. I started it with the Runner's World US Thanksgiving to New Year's runstreak challenge, and just kept on going. In the meantime, I joined a running team and told my coach in December I run every day. I think he took that seriously because he has given me a schedule with no rest days.

So now I run every day because I'm told to. Easy.

Four 'easy' days a week, though.
I've made some tweaks since I'm quality training again. I've learned the true value of recovery. I run every day, I train hard, I book time for myself and I schedule around these runs. Does it work for everyone? I don't think so. Some like to say that the longer you run, the older you get, you can focus on quality and get more rest. I think there's another perspective, in that when you run recovery you can strengthen your legs instead of tiring them, repair damages rather than sedentary recovery. In this training cycle, I've been the strongest runner I've been. I've been focused. I've been training smart. I've been running well. The group running has helped this streak unlike the more lonely winter of 2013.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Race report: Chilly Half Marathon 2014

It may have been around the 18th kilometre sign that I knew how this race would likely end. But it was even earlier, at around the 9K mark when I passed the pace bunny, that I had an inkling today would be my day.

(Burlington 2014 Chilly Half Marathon results here. Also the Frosty 5K results)

As a long distance runner, I've considered the half marathon as my first taste of endurance running that quickly propelled me into marathoning. My first two halfs, in 2005 in the span of a month, sparked my desire to go longer at a fast pace. Since 2007 and a time of 1:31:30, I put aside the half marathon to focus on the marathon, using them as marathon pace runs and pace bunny assignments.

Morning enthusiasm 
But since getting a coach, I've been pretty much on autopilot. He says run, I ask how fast. So when a bunch of us Black Toe runners were signed up for Chilly, we started to ask him what we should do. "Race it," he'd say a few weeks ago as we were wrapping up our hard training sessions.

We all dread Wednesdays, members of our Black Toe group. The runs are tempo runs but more appropriately, they're intensity runs. Over the course of the past few months, we've been running loops of the Exhibition grounds or going back and forth on dark paths on the waterfront, nailing progressively faster runs, intervals that have been getting faster (4:10s, 4:05s and kilometre repeats at 3:55s or sometimes a bit faster.)

Also, the miles, I've been racking up two straight 200+ mile months, weeks of more than 100K of running. Those dreaded 16-18K tempo workouts are followed up by 15K Thursday morning runs, and Friday fartleks, Saturday recovery runs and then long runs going up to 35K. That's a lot of running.

Goal setting?
By some point, the 4:10s started feeling manageable, almost reachable given we were hitting them in a windchilled, polar vortexed winter.

Against all of this, came the race instructions from Rejean, who sent this note a few days before the race: "You and Mike are ready to go out at 4.15/km(1:30) to 4:20/km(1:31.30) depending on the weather. Stay in that range for the first 5-10kms, feel in control, confident, and make a push to start catching people. You've been putting some great training in your workouts and long runs, so go in feeling confident and strong."

So confident and strong, but could I nail 4:15s for 21K? That was the question. Also, 1:30. Woah.

The snow came in overnight, it was -20C with windchill and though that would be an easy way to call it a day, the snowploughs and salters were out, the roads had just enough wet asphalt and slush free paths for us to say, it's race day, lets go.

Team Black Toe