Sunday, March 29, 2015

Race report: Around the Bay 2015

My eighth straight Around the Bay happens 22 days before my goal marathon, and while I thought I had fitness to race it, it's too risky to go all out, or so I told coach Rejean.

His battle plan was to run 5K at 4:30 kms, 5K-10K at 4:20, then 15K at 4:15 (marathon pace) and close the final 5K in 4:10.

Race, but only to a point. Run but only to pace. But what could you do if you followed the game plan? That would give me a 2:08 ATB and a solid close to a long distance taper run with 20K at MP or faster.

My team all gathered at Copps and we took the team photo. I was going to run with Andrew who had similar plans.

We set out to run our 4:30s but were swept away in the crowds even though it felt easy. We knew it was a bit warmer than yesterday's forecast had indicated, but I had pretty much made the perfect gear choice save for the gloves which at that point felt a little too warm. I carried it for much of the first 10K.

The course revamped has a series of rollers but we were running on well maintained roads and we were able to get on to pace. Seeding ourselves in the first corral we were able to find our space. We made room from the 2:15 pace bunny and started to hit our paces. By the time we hit a 4:23 fourth kilometre, I was ready to start testing 4:20s.

1 4:18
2 4:25
3 4:19
4 4:23
5 4:19

Glorious day, we tend to get them at the ATB, and it was good to run among strong ruers. My paces started to dip below the 4:20 mark, logging a 4:16/4:17 and also a 4:07. None of it felt particularly hard but I knew that this run would give me a tonne of benefit for Boston. I've done a number of 30+ km runs this training cycles, six of them at 35K, but none of them were subscribed for this pace. Aside from speedwork and hills, our long runs were getting us endurance in often cases bad conditions.

We turned the corner and up the ramp to hit the 10K relay mark, and the wind picked up. Good decision to have the gloves, I concluded as I also resolved to now think of the game as on.

6 4:17
7 4:21
8 4:16
9 4:07
10 4:10


This portion of the run is usually when I get into pace, it was also the time when Rejean wanted me to start hitting 4:15s. He was pretty adamant that I be true to pace this run so we started to ramp things up. We were naturally starting to pass runners as we sped up.

Passed a few runners we knew and I made sure to take my second gel, having taken the first before the race. Looking back, these kilometers were strong -- I only hit 4:15 once, but the other four kilometres were pretty consistently on.

11 4:12
12 4:16
13 4:17
14 4:15
15 4:18

Halfway mark and the move into Burlington. The rollers were coming and I mostly ran by feel, not really looking much at the average pace. I knew running up hills the best tactic was to run by effort -- if I looked at the watch I'd probably get a little freaked. A 4:15 effort into hills would take a few seconds off here and there, but for every uphill, you'd get a flat or a downhill.

Andrew and I around 21K in. Photo: Tom Sapiano

The splits I'm fine with, even happy with.

16 4:19
17 4:10
18 4:21
19 4:14
20 4:18

The 21K mark is a top Lasalle Park, which is the biggest hill, but there were two more mini hills left, I knew. my average pace may have had my passing the half marathon mark in about 1:30, not a bad warmup.

The next kilometre or so, we climbed the hill and tried to make it up to pace. Around 22 or 23K, Andrew told me that he was going to stick to his current pace so I decided to keep the pace strong. By the 23rd-25K stretch, I was now getting closer to the 4:10s that coach wanted from me for the last 5K.

21 4:20
22 4:19
23 4:11
24 4:17
25 4:10

So the dreaded and infamous hill, Spring Valley Road, is no longer there, but while we got flat road, we got a lot of wind. I had no one to draft off of, so I just tried to up the pace. I was recovering from the final hill and I had looked at this final 5K like the last part of Boston after you crest Heartbreak Hill. Could I hammer it home, even into the wind?

After we passed the 26K mark I had hit is in 4:18, I felt that the race was now down to a very manageable portion. I started to push a bit, hitting 4:11 for 27K and you could see the final stretch, one I've raced the past seven years. I did 28K in 4:13 and found another gear, hitting the last two kilometres in 3:58 and 4:06.

I entered the arena and even in the last 500 metres I knew I'd have a new PB. Crossed the finish in 2:07:33, more than a minute off my Midsummer's Night race from 2014 and 4:30 faster than last year's ATB.

26 4:18
27 4:11
28 4:13
29 3:58
30 4:06

In a lot of ways, breakthroughs are moments to celebrate. Today was a breakthrough at the 30K, but it was also the logical output of a season's worth of training. My half marathon at Chilly, at 1:26:25, was the barometre that would set the rest of the season -- today felt like it was one I'd had to go out and earn. The prize is cashing in on my fitness and taking that, and a healthy body, right to Hopkinton in three weeks.

Around the Bay is that annual test though, and I'm so happy with how this one unfolded. A 2:07 and a silver medal is well below what I would have told you I could have done a few years ago when going sub 2:15 felt like hard work. Come a long way indeed.

A photo posted by Kenny (@yumkerun) on

Thursday, March 26, 2015

So about that Around the Bay hill in 2015 (and 2016)

So no hill, now what?

The 2015 (and 2016) Around the Bay won't feature the final monster of a hill, instead creating a 2K diversion. Those of us who have run Around the Bay in that past know that the hill, which follows a huge downward plunge down Spring Garden Road, is a monster with around 3K to go.  Call it Canada's Heart Break Hill.

Update: It's the same route in 2016. Here is the 2015 route I ran.

2015: So not having run the rerouted 2K, I went to Mapmyrun to compare the two routes.

Here's the original route, which according to the elevation charts features 61 feet of climbing (of course, after a plunge.

And here's the rerouted map,  weirdly enough with 62 feet of climbing, but a different overall profile of course.

Odd eh? So, I'm going to say the reroute is net easier and the climbs are gradual, which most runners will be able to take in stride.

The maps can be wrong, right?

Anyone have other perspectives?


Says Laura in the comments: "It's esentially flat. You are just continuing along Plains past the RBG instead of bearing left behind it. You then hook onto York so it is essentially a longer "Straightaway" into the finish."

And Emma: "The new section of the route is flat. The elevation maps make it look like a climb because you go across a bridge, and the map trace is following the ground level rather than the bridge. Basically once you get to the RBG it's essentially a slight downhill/flat all the way to the finish. There's a small bit as you come around onto york that feels to me like a false flat, but it's short and if it is a climb, it is VERY minor"

Other posts on Around the Bay:

Saturday, March 07, 2015

What running is -- for real

Running isn't always about beautifully prepared meals, perfect workouts and the afterglow of a fit life.

Running is usually more like a rushed meal eaten over a kitchen countertop, nine hours before your next run.

Running isn't always about a runner's high. Running isn't fitfluential or inspirational. Running isn't always rise and shine lets get at it -- all the time.

Running is hitting a 5K tempo in 19:49 then missing the pace for the next two intervals because something wasn't clicking.

Running is getting in the 18K regardless of that bad end, before factoring in windchill

Running is about the daily grind, the miles of trials, the work, work, work and the payoff that is expected in many months.

Running will be a day that had highs and lows and running will be my day in Boston when all these days add up to something -- just another day of running

Running is what I'll be doing tomorrow, the 464th day in a row that I'm running.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

A photo posted by Kenny (@yumkerun) on

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Race report: Chilly Half Marathon 2015

I'm ramping up this season and Boston is in seven weeks but March would be the month of testing my fitness with a few races. Today's half marathon was the first half race since last year's Chilly Half, which was a personal best with a 1:29:17. For me, it was a landmark race, letting me finally get below the 1:30 mark and was a great indicator for the year that was to come -- a lot of PBs including three marathon that got progressively faster.

(Chilly Half Marathon 2015 results here)

The mileage has been high so far this year -- I had just finished four weeks in a row of plus 100km weeks, plus four 35K runs in a row on weekends. The tempo and interval paces were getting faster but not all of them were strong. I had added spinning since December, which had helped boost my number of quality days to five a week -- more on that later.

As I march toward a marathon time as fast or faster than my 3:02 PB, coach had us going out with a conservative start but with a progressively faster pace. He wanted us to close it strong. It was 4:15 kms for 5K, 4:10 kms for the next 10K then faster at the end.

This year's Chilly was, compared with last year, perfect weather. Last year was -17C and this year, closer to -8C. I had three teammates to run with, Erin, Andrew and Noel.

I knew going in that though coach gave us 4:15s, we'd probably be a few seconds faster than pace. So we hit 4:12s or 4:13s, pretty much textbook. The weather had held, the roads were clear, and there was a light wind. This section includes an out-and-back and a tailwind at the end of it. We were able to see all the runners ahead of us at the turnaround -- which included a hugely fast field.
5K split: 21:01

We lowered the pace to 4:10s but by then we were going faster so kept on pace. Worked together with the team to keep things consistent then we started to reel in runners. My breath was solid, I felt like I had warmed up and it felt almost easy -- that was good, it should at this point. Andrew and Noel were with me and we all were feeling strong.
5K split: 20:36

The course had some rollers but that was fine -- we'd been training on hills pretty solidly the past month or so. I was feeling like it was work but we were gaining on runners. The pace was starting to fall, maybe because we were turning it up a notch. I didn't really pay attention to total time, just making sure the splits were strong.
5K split: 20:25

Reaching this point, I knew it would be time to see if I could throw down the hammer. Coach wanted a fast finish. Andrew said he would try to maintain his 4:05s and I felt after awhile that all the energy I had saved up, I channel, so I sped up the pace, kilometre after kilometer. With 4K to I increased the effort and was running alone. It never really felt too taxing, but it was work.

5K split: 19:58

Photo: Tom Sapiano
Booked it to the end, felt I was giving it. I knew I had a strong finish, but really no clue what the number would look like, until I saw the clock. It was a good number.

Finish: 1:26:25

That's an almost 3 minute PB and a great indication that I'm at a good place. I did do a mini taper but this run comes with continuous rampup since late December. I'm feeling good and strong and with two races left in March (a 5K and a 30K) I think the work is paying off.

A photo posted by Kenny (@yumkerun) on