Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking back, looking forward: 2010 in Review

There is something about changing the date on the calendar that makes us all want to look back at our mistakes and successes of the past twelve months. So briefly here are some reflections on this past year of my running life.

Looking back just a bit further, 2009 was a pretty bad year for me running-wise. I got injured in the spring and missed all my favorite races. In the fall of 2009 I struggled to get back my lost fitness; I was just barely turning the corner by December. The year did end on a good note though. My last run was on an early, cold morning in Toronto, with someone I did not know well at the time but would later become a good friend and my new coach.

In January through April of 2010 I continued to rebuild and regain my running fitness. In May I had a great comeback race at the BMO Half-marathon in early May. Things continued to improve as I ran a strong 10k race in June (and won a bet!), and then went on to race a PB half-marathon at the end of the month (Scotiabank Half-marathon, 1:49:28).

In July and August I focused on marathon training towards my third marathon: the Goodlife Victoria Marathon on 10-10-10. Although I did not achieve my goal of a sub-4:00 time, I thoroughly enjoyed the training and the race. I was able to carry thorough the fitness gains to some strong fall races, including a PB time at the Haney to Harrison relay and another sub-1:50 Half.

This year I will have run over 3100K, easily my best year of running since I started seven years ago. This is the first year I have been able to run consistently without injury through the entire year. I look forward to continuing to build on this success with some new goals for 2011. The ultimate objective will be consistent running and continuing to find joy and satisfaction in it all.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Running in Paradise

My friend Holly often talks about "running in paradise," referring to the great running weather and terrain we have here in Vancouver and the surrounding areas. While the Vancouver area does have a great variety of running terrain and almost always temperate weather, I have to say that I have just finished visiting a place much closer to paradise for running: Hawaii.

We recently returned from a 12-day trip where we visited parts of two of the Hawaiian islands: Oahu and the “big island” of Hawaii. While I was there I was able to run every day of the trip, totaling 112K in runs varying from seven to 18K. Of course, we were there to do a lot more than running, but being able to run every morning set the tone of my vacation and allowed me to enjoy it that much more.

For the first part of our trip, we spent five days and nights in Honolulu while my husband had a conference. We stayed on Waikiki beach, one of the oldest vacation spots in the Hawaii and a less popular destination for many North Americans seeking the ideal tropical vacation on endless sandy beaches. There are some beautiful old hotels, lots of night-life and restaurants, and some small but nice beaches that never seem to get too crowded. I loved running along the road by the beach as well as the loop around Diamond Head mountain just to the south.

Our hotel had a nice coffee shop which opened at 6:00 am, so my normal routine became going down for a pre-run coffee and running by about 7:00 when the sun was up. I found the temperature comfortable but the air very thick with humidity. Still, the warm air and pleasant, casual surroundings made for some beautiful runs.

The next leg of our trip took us on a plane to Kona on the "big island" of Hawaii. The big island is the youngest part of Hawaii still with active volcanic activity. Kona is a beautiful, small city on the west side of the big island with beautiful beaches for both snorkeling, body-surfing, and sunbathing. We stayed on Alii drive in the heart of Kona, and also part of the Kona Ironman run course. Every day I ran up and down this beautiful street along the shoreline, including one run totaling 18K (11 miles).

From Kona we made our way across to the east side of the island to Hilo, the second-largest city in Hawaii. That side of the island has a wetter climate with the drier winds from the volcano usually going west; our hotel was surrounded by large banyan trees and other vegetation giving it a tropical-jungle feel.

Still, the runs along the water were gorgeous, out and back through park-land that cannot be developed in the future due to low-lying tsunami vulnerability. We visited the Pacific Tsunami Museum while we were there and learned about the destructive power of this large waves.

From Hilo we also visited nearby Hawaii Volcanos National Park. Before the trip I had this idea that I was going to run the Rim Trail in the park, which goes around the Kilauea crater, the volcanically active part of Mauna Loa (the biggest volcano in Hawaii). The Rim Trail is 18K or 11 miles long, including a part on the road that loops back to the start. It turns our that about half that loop is closes anyway since the volcano is quite active now and creating poor air quality due to sulphur dioxide emissions.

Instead we did a family hike on a trail that goes down into a smaller inactive crater. The hike was four miles round trip down into the crater and then back out, giving us some breathtaking views of this area.

On our last day in Hawaii we made our way back to Kona and the beaches for one last sunset before heading to the airport.

More photos from the trip can be found in this album.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Who will get to run Boston, Part 2

On December 18, the Boston Globe published an article discussing possible changes to Boston Marathon qualifying times and the registration process. Another article the next day addressed the issues from an historic and contextual perspective.

According to the first article, is likely that the BAA will make an announcement in January for changes that would take effect for the 2012 Boston Marathon. It is expected that some or all of the qualifying times will be adjusted to slightly faster times. However, the BAA has indicated that they "will honor qualifying times run in what has been the traditional window, which opens in mid-September." I assume this means that people who ran what they thought were qualifying times this fall will be able to use those times, even as the new times come into effect for those racing after the announcement is made.

Of course there will be some disappointed people, including those training now for winter or early spring races with target times based on old qualifying times. But there will also be disappointed people if they do not change the times, just as there were on October 18 this year. Personally I know that I have likely lost my chance to qualify with a 4:00 time for the F45-49 age group, but that is OK. It mike take me a bit longer to get there, but I still will.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Catching up

I have been delinquent in blogging but plan to catch up and make up for it in the new year. I just came back from a 2-week vacation in Hawaii, where I was able to run in the hot sunshine every day. I plan to write a running/vacation report of those two weeks and post it here in the next couple days. Also watch for a 2010 recap/hopes for 2011 post. Stay tuned. :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Racing plans for 2011

As 2010 starts to wind down, I am thinking about my racing plans for next year. So far here is what I have planned:

January: I would like to do at least one race in January, but I am not sure which one. I am thinking about the Chilly Chase 15K in Langley on January 16. A 15K race would be a good speed test and preview to my February half-marathon, but I have been warned about varying road conditions and weather. This race has a strong following and will fill up quickly as the end of the year approaches. If I do not do that one I will think about the Steveston Ice-Breaker 8K on January 30.

Feburary: "First Half" Half-marathon on February 13. This one is a definite (it sold out quickly when registration opened). I am looking forward to doing this race again. I have run in this race four times, all under different circumstances with varying results. In 2006 I did it as a training race as part of my Vancouver Marathon training; I was aiming for a marathon-paced time of two hours and finished in 1:56. In 2007 I raced it as an "early season fitness indicator", and got a time of 1:51:17. That time would stand as my PB in the half-marathon until June of this year. In 2008 I was returning to running after a difficult fall (various health issues), and managed a decent time of 1:52. In 2009 I had planned to race it again, but had a work-related back injury that forced me to do it as a slower training run (2:04 finish). In 2010 the race was canceled for the Olympics, so many of us are eager to race it again. I will be hoping to shave a few minutes off my PB time, but I will have a better idea of my goal as the date gets closer.

Often in March I like to do the Dave Reed Spring Classic 5K, but we will be away that weekend next year. So instead I will do the St. Patrick's Day 5K on March 12. I may also do Harry's Spring Run-Off 8K on March 20.

April: I will definitely run the Vancouver Sun Run 10K on April 17, although I am not sure if I will be racing this or running it with my kids. This is one of my favorite races-- I love the excitement and buzz and the huge-race feel. It attracts local and international elites, recreational walkers, and just about everyone in between. At over 50,000 runners, the Vancouver Sun Run is by far the biggest road race in Canada and one of the biggest in North America. The years I have raced this I have always gotten my best 10K times, and my time from 2007 still stands as my 10K PB (47:00). This year the race was moved to Mother's Day, and I enjoyed the morning running/walking with my kids to a 1:25 finish. With the wave start, we did not even cross the start line until about 10:30 am, or about a half-hour after I would have FINISHED had I run the race on my own. So I am not sure how I will experience this race next year; while I would like to race it on my own, I will have to see what we decide to do as a family.

May: I will definitely be participating in the BMO Vancouver Marathon, although I am not sure what distance. More on this marathon decision in a later post. There are some shorter distance races I may also consider for May.

I am tentatively planning on doing the Sandcastle City Classic 10K again on June 12, as well as the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon on June 26. There is also a new half-marathon in Whistler on June 4 that I have my eyes on; I doubt it will be a flat easy course, but it may make for an enjoyable weekend away and fun racing. My June racing will partly depend on whether or not I do the marathon in May.

Several of the above races are part of two of the local race series: The Lower Mainland Road Race Series and the Timex BC Road Running Series. These series award points for the top twenty finishers in each 5-year age group category, and at the end of the year prizes are given to the top points-earners. Therefore, these races tend to bring out many of the top runners in the area as well as the motivated recreational racers. In order to qualify for prizes, you must finish at least five races in a series; I would like to do few more of the 5k and 10K races in order to qualify. There are some great 10K races that I missed last summer that I would love to do this year, like Summerfast in July and the Richmond Oval 10K in August.

I will think more about the rest of the year as it unfolds, but there is one fall race for which I have already registered: The New York Marathon on November 6. I have a guaranteed entry to this race after being denied in the lottery three years in a row. I am really looking forward to this race as both an exciting international event as well as a training goal. More on this in the months to come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fall Classic Half-Marathon, November 21

One last race to finish off the year: Yesterday I continued my plan of trying to capitalize on marathon-training fitness, and I ran the Fall Classic Half-Marathon at UBC. I have not done a lot of volume or long runs since the marathon, and nothing over 18K. However, I have done some strong key workouts and had a great result at Haney to Harrison two weeks ago, so I thought I would see what I had for a hard effort in the half-marathon.

My rough race plan was to try for about 41 minutes for each of the first 8K, and then try for under 26 minutes for the last 5.1K. The start was fast as I realized we were going slightly but steadily downhill. But what goes down must come back up--just slightly but enough to make a difference, especially on the second loop of this double-looped course. I did hit the 8K marker at almost exactly 41 minutes, and 16K at 1:22:12 so I knew I was on track, but I didn't have the kick in the last 5.1K I needed to keep up the hard effort, especially as we climbed ever so gradually. Still, I was able to pick it up a bit in the last kilometre or so, and finished at 1:49:30 on my watch (so about 27:18 for the last 5.1K). That was within seconds of my PB at the Scotiabank Half in June. I was anxious to see the official time to see whether I had pulled off a PB, but somehow the timing equipment failed and I had an official time of 1:48:09. That would be nice, but I know it isn't right-- several people seemed to have gotten messed up times.

I had been hoping for a minute or two faster, but I am still happy with this result. Considering how long it took me to break 1:50, I am happy that I could do it yesterday with a less-than-perfect race on a tougher course. It has become my new base-line time . A lot of people have mentioned the conditions-- colder than we are used to (about zero at the start), some icy patches-- but overall the conditions were not a huge factor for me. I did have one annoying shoelace-tie stop, but that alone wouldn't have slowed me too much (it was in the first 8K); it was the pace slow-down in the last 5K that hurt me the most, and that was nothing but fatigue (I think because of my lower training volume).

Overall it was a great way to end the year. I have nowhere to go but up from here. 2011, here I come. :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Haney to Harrison Relay, November 6, 2010

A group of us have participated in the Haney to Harrison (H2H) Road Race each year from 2005 until this year. This 100K run starts in Haney (part of Maple Ridge) and winds its way to Harrison Hot Springs. There are ultra-marathoners who run the whole 100K; we participate in the very popular 8-staged relay event. Sadly, this was the event's last year, but a new event is set to take its place in Whistler next year. In the meantime we were determined to make this year our best ever, and we didn't fail. We have shuffled around runners and added and lost people over the years, but there have been a few of us at the core of our group:

Team name: Take the Rains

The players:

Steve (a good friend of mine, our fearless leader and Stage 2 runner this year)
Heather (Steve's wife, Stage 3 runner)
Marcia (injured this year, team support person, photographer, cheerleader)
Steph (new runner this year, friend and neighbour of Steve and Heather's, Stage 1 runner)
Mike (another good friend and my almost-weekly running partner, Stage 7 runner)
Cindy (partner to Marcia and our team volunteer- her role is exchange captain at exchange 4)
Julianne (Cindy's niece, has been running with the group for three years, Stage 5 runner)
Rob (a new running friend of mine and new member of the team, Stage 4 runner)
Jennifer (Me, Stage 6 runner. I've done this same stage each year.)

Since Rob, Mike, and I were running later stages, we planned to meet up with the group at exchange 3 before Rob's run start. Mike and Rob picked me up at the Skytrain in Surrey at about 7:30 am, and we made our way through Maple Ridge and Mission to try to watch some of the early running. Our team start time was at 6:00 am, and we found out that Steph, our Stage 1 runner, had had some problems on her run. She had knee pain (ITBand) and was forced to slow down to a run/walk hobble by then end, but she did finish her stage and handed off to Steve. Soon after she went home ice and baby her knee, so we didn't see her for the rest of the day.

Stage 1: Steph, 9.57K, 1:07:59, 7:07/km

We tried to spot Steve on the road, but he was too quick for us and had already handed off to Heather by the time we drove through exchange 2. He finished with an impressive time given his limited running since Victoria Half-marathon.

Stage 2: Steve, 13.51K, 1:13:17, 5:26/km

Driving from Maple Ridge to Mission near the Stave Dam we did manage to see Heather on her run. She was climbing one of the challenging hills, and well on her way to a very impressive finish. This is the best she's done in this relay, following a string of PB races in her first year post-baby #2. Great work, Heather.

As we were looking to spot Heather coming into exchange 3, we saw another runner with bunny ears. Steve said, “She's not too far behind the bunny.” We kept watching and soon she came in, looking strong, and handed off to Rob.

Stage 3: Heather, 15.12K, 1:21:45, 5:25/km

Steve took Heather home and we would meet up with him later at exchange 5 before my run. He also planned to bring Patty, another friend and neighbour of theirs, who was to run Stage 8. Meantime, Mike, Marcia, and I then drove on toward exchange 4 where we would meet up with Julianne and see Cindy, exchange 4 captain and our team volunteer. While driving along Stage 4 to the exchange, we did manage to see Rob a few times and stop and take pictures. [Marcia has those pictures so I hope I can get one up here later.] Rob had never met Julianne before, so I told him to look for someone “very blonde” (we didn't know what she was wearing). Thankfully, exchange 4 went without a hitch as we spotted Rob coming down the small hill and alerted Julianne. She was off.

Stage 4: Rob, 14.42K, 1:12:02, 5:00/km

I was a bit nervous about getting to exchange 5 with enough time to warm up and get changed, so we started driving soon after Julianne left. We got there in plenty of time and Steve met us there just as I was starting my warmup. As I was warming up, it occurred to me that Steve was alone-- where was Patty? Well, Patty was sick at home with a bad migraine and couldn't run. While I was warming up, Mike, Steve, Rob, and Marcia were discussing who would run Stage 8 (a very flat run of about 8K). Heather wasn't feeling up to doing another run and she was home with the kids; Steph was obviously out, and Julianne was also making her way home as she needed to go to work. Rob's calf had seized up badly at the end of his run; he was OK after some icing and stretching, but not willing to risk another run on it. Mike could do it, but wasn't sure he was really up for back-to-back runs totaling about 21K. In theory, I would have been the best choice, since I'm not too far from marathon mileage, but they didn't want to suggest this to me and possibly force me to run slower than I wanted to in Stage 6. That left Steve, who thought he'd be up for the task, but we decided to wait till I finished running to confirm. They encouraged me to run Stage 6 as fast as I could, and if necessary I could jog the 8K afterward. That turned out not to be necessary (Thank you Steve!), and I'm glad I didn't even consider holding back on my run.

Julianne came in looking strong but a bit earlier than we expected, so I wasn't quite ready. I quickly went to the exchange mat, getting my Garmin and iPod ready. I had a great playlist prepared and I didn't want it to go to waste!

Stage 5: Julianne, 13.12K, 1:13:22, 5:36/km

My run went about as perfectly as I could have expected. My goal was to be as close as possible to 5:00/km; in earlier years my best pace was closer to about 5:15/km on this slightly hilly route. I locked into a pace of about 5:00/km early on and stuck with it. It felt TOUGH as early as 3-4K, but I just kept telling myself to hold on. I didn't let my heart rate freak me out, even as it crept up near and over my lactate threshold pretty early. The hills slowed me down a bit, but the downhills seemed to go on forever. Even though this route does have a slight net elevation gain, it somehow felt like I was going down more than up. I liked that. I was passing lots of people, including the bunny-eared team member. About a third of the way in I caught up with guy wearing a yellow-singlet, and stuck behind him for a while. I passed him at one point, and then he passed me-- this would happen back and forth about three times before I finally passed him for good.

I remember mentally breaking up the run into 2K chunks, telling myself, “OK, just get to 6K, 8K, 10K...” Each 2K bit would take about 10 minutes, and after 10K I knew I just had to stay on cruise control. Don't get me wrong-- it was TOUGH, but I remembered, “This is a race--- not too much longer to hold on.” When I saw the exchange tent I just kept pushing, and then handed off to Mike. “Have a good run!!” I was THRILLED to see my time of just under 1:06, or 1:05:54 to be exact. 13K at 5:00/km is exactly 65 minutes, but this run was just over 13K (13.08K by course measurement) which gave me a pace of 5:03/km. I'll take it, and then some. :) That's almost three minutes faster than my previous best time on this course. Here's a link to the data in case anyone is interested:

Stage 6: Jennifer, 13.08K, 1:05:54, 5:03/km

Rob and I quickly got back to Mike's car, and Steve and Marcia drove Steve's van up ahead. We decided to stop along Stage 7 to try to take pictures of Mike running and discuss the plan for Stage 8. We passed Mike, stopped somewhere about half-way, and then decided that Steve would be our double-duty runner. I was relieved. :)

Mike's run had a huge hill up and a long hill down, and he really rocked it. He finished with an impressive time given he's taken some downtime from regular training and is now getting back into regular running. Soon he'll be wanting to run too fast for me on our weekly runs. :)

Stage 7: Mike, 13.47K, 1:09:45, 5:11/km

Mike came in to exchange 7 and handed off to Steve, who would run Stage 8 at a pretty quick clip considering his lack of training and running on supposedly tired legs. :) We drove along to the finish area hoping not to miss him. Marcia managed to get a picture of him coming under the finish-time clock and approaching the timing mat. That time would be our best in all the years we've done this as a group. Not bad considering we are not fast-stacked and we had some injury issues along the way.

Stage 8: Steve, 7.87K, 40:18, 5:08/km

Total: 9:04:22

I will definitely be sad to let this race go. I had a great time running with everyone and spending the day together. This report doesn't even mention many of the funny and fun things we encountered along the way (I figured it was long enough ;) ). I hope our group can stay together for future versions of this race. Thank you all for such a great experience.

I'm having trouble uploading the pictures to this blogpost, but you can see them in this Facebook album.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I love short races!

James Cunningham Seawall 9.5K Race

And I loved this race yesterday. I have never raced this one before, but it follows the same course as some other races and many runs I have done, around the seawall of Stanley Park. For historical reasons they keep the distance at 9.5K, and many runners seem to not like the idea that it's not an actual 10K race. Maybe that would have turned me off if I thought I was in PB shape, but I knew I wasn't, so I went out to just do my best and have a good time.

My goal was to hold about a 4:45-4:50/km pace which I thought was reasonable but challenging enough based on my recent training and fitness. The first kilometre was a bit slow in the crowd and it ended on a bit of an uphill, so I wasn't surprised to see 5:05 on my watch. But I felt great and hit my stride, and from then on was hitting the splits all between 4:45 and 4:50. It wasn't easy, though; even before 5K it was already feeling tough, so I just took it one kilometre at a time. I knew that once I passed around 6 or 7K, my body would continue if my mind didn't give up. Having a few helpful racers as pacers along the way as well a good knowledge of the course made the mental battle a bit easier. The best thing about a 9.5K race is that it's over earlier than a 10K race. I was actually able to pick up my pace just a it on the last half-kilometre, which gained me about 10 seconds. I crossed the finish line just over 46 minutes, which turned out to be a 45:58 chip time. That was good enough for 4th in my age group in a pretty speedy crowd (to get top 3 I would have needed a time of 42-something).

I am happy with this time; the pace equates to about a 48:20 10K, which is faster than I was able to do in June without the downhill help of that course. I have done very little speed work other than tempo pace throughout marathon training and since then, so I know I have a lot of room for improvement. I am looking forward to this Saturday when I race stage 6 of the Haney to Harrison relay. My best pace on this hilly 13K stretch has been about 5:15/km; I'm hoping I can get that down closer to 5:00/km this year.

The best thing about short races is that there is no wall when you know how to pace them properly. I guess that's the same for marathons, but I have done so few of them and haven't quite figured out the pacing yet. I haven't given up on the marathon yet, but I want continue to work on my speed before I tackle another one. I am already looking forward to the spring.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who will get to run Boston?

Yesterday the 2011 Boston Marathon opened for registration at 9:00 am and was closed in just over eight hours when the limit of 21,000 applicants was reached. It has never filled up this quickly-- even last year, which was the fastest ever sell-out up to that point, took about two months to fill up.

Boston is the only marathon in North America other than Olympic qualifying marathons that requires runners in general registration to meet qualifying standards. (There are also spots open for charity fund-raising groups, corporate sponsors, and some community-based entries.) Historically the qualifying times were simply about limiting the field, but they have come to mean more than that to people. Qualifying for Boston has become the benchmark of amateur marathon excellence for many people, and many work hard in running and training for a chance to run in this historic marathon. And with the prestige attached to the qualifying times themselves, more and more people have wanted to run it and more and more have qualified. Over the past years as interest in the race increased, the Boston Athletic Association (or BAA, the organization that puts on the Marathon) has opened the race to more runners by starting the race earlier, introducing a two-tiered start, and increasing registration numbers to what some people say is near-limit capacity.

Last year was surprising enough when the 2010 Boston Marathon filled in November 2009, just seven weeks after registration opened. In previous years it had not filled till January or February before the April race. When it filled last year in November, many people who had qualified were surprised and had not had a chance to register. Still others were hoping to qualify in late 2009 or early 2010 races. People who ran qualifying races after September 2009 were eligible to register for 2011., Therefore, a lot of these people were ready early when registration opened yesterday, as were those anxious runners who qualified in races later in 2010 (up to this past Sunday).

The very fast fill-up means that many runners who had hoped for a 2011 spot were shut out, either because they had trouble registering on-line (a computer glitch caused many problems for people early in the day), because they didn't actually believe it would fill up that fast, or because they haven't even run their qualifying race yet.

Although I was not able to register for 2011 (I would have needed a 3:50 marathon time, and my best so far is 4:06), I was keenly interested in watching how the day unfolded yesterday. Most people did expect the race to fill up quickly, yet it is still somewhat shocking how quick it really was. In the months leading into the registration date, there was already a lot of talk about how Boston would have to change the registration process in order to make it more fair for qualified runners.

As quoted in an article in the Boston Globe, Guy Morse, the BAA's executive director said yesterday: "The challenge for the BAA is to find the right mix of field size and qualifying times to allow as many as possible to run. I’m not convinced tightening up the qualifying times alone is the answer. I would like to find a way to allow more qualifiers to enter. That would speak to the field size question, but we don't want to increase the field and reduce the quality of the event in the process. In the way we’ve approached it and the way we’ve set it up, this event remains about quality, not quantity."

I believe that an adjustment of the qualifying standards is inevitable, and we will likely see this happening within the next year. Some people have guessed that when the BAA does adjust the standards, they will set the changes for a future marathon such that those already training for the existing times would not be short-changed. We really don't know what they will do, although I am personally prepared for the possibility that the qualifying time for the F45-49 age group will be harder than the 4:00:59 time I thought I needed for a 2012 entry. We shall see. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Monday, October 18, 2010

Moving forward

It has been a week since the marathon; the disappointment is still there but not so heavy anymore. Although I did not achieve the goal I had worked so hard for, I did finish the training without injury and I feel stronger than ever now. I have thought about what went wrong in the training and in the race, and will be ready to make those changes next for time. I am not ready to commit to when I will try another marathon, but I am starting to think about what next year's racing will look like. But this year is not over yet, and I am looking forward to a few more events in the next couple months.

First: recovery. I have been feeling really good since the race, and think I might have actually gotten this recovery thing right for once. I have felt better this time than I did after my last two half-marathons this year, likely because my mileage leading into those was a lot lower. Last week I took Monday and Tuesday completely off, and was planning on going to the gym for an easy spin on Wednesday. But my legs just wanted to run. I met my friend Mike downtown for our usual Wednesday lunchtime run, and it was great. I did about 6.5K with him at an easy pace. The next day I went to the gym for an easy 3K on the treadmill, followed by lots of stretching and foam-roller work on the back of the legs. I took Friday off, and then went for an easy jog on Saturday on my normal neighborhood loop. It was pretty slow (6:45/km) and by the end my legs felt a bit dead. On Sunday I felt the zip back in my legs and ran at a quicker clip, 10K at about 5:45/km. And today I did 4 miles on the treadmill in 36 minutes, which translates to about 5:30/km.

Next up will be a few short races, as I hope to capitalize a bit on the fitness gains from marathon-training. I will probably do a 10K race on October 31 (well, it's actually 9.5K, but more on that later). On November 6 I will be participating in what has become an annual tradition since 2005: the Haney to Harrison 100K relay. We have a team for this 8-stage event, and my stage is about 13K. I have done the same stage each year, so the race itself has become a bit of a fitness benchmark for me; more importantly it always proves to be a really fun day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Victoria Marathon Race Report 10-10-10

I had a great race in Victoria on Sunday. It was not the sub-4:00 BQ that I was looking for, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am happy to have finished my third marathon. My time of 4:07:13 was within a minute of this same race in 2008 in what would turn out to be a very similar race experience for me.

How did it all happen? The first 30K proceeded as planned, with my split times pretty even throughout. I quickly settled into a nice and relaxed pace of 5:35-5:40/km, a pace that I hoped I would see as an average for the race. For most of first half of the marathon I felt great, maybe just a bit harder than a long training run. There were a few hills on the course, but nothing long enough to get me out of my desired heart rate zone for very long. I enjoyed the running, talking to a few people along the way that had similar goal times to mine, but ended up holding my own pace for most of it. At the half-way point I was still right on pace at 1:59:xx.

I did start to feel like the pace got harder after the half-way point, but I didn't worry too much; after all, it is supposed to feel tougher than a training run, right? But I wasn't sure. Would I be able to hold this? Just after the turnaround between 23 and 24K, I saw my friend Cheryl who was doing her first marathon. She looked strong and fluid, and I knew she was having a good race. She would pass me around 25K, just as I started to get some nasty calf-cramping. OW! I said out loud at one point? “Are you OK?” asked another runner. “Oh, I'm fine, I said. I'm just getting some calf-cramping.” “Change your pace,” he suggested. I tried to change it a bit, and that seemed to help, but I didn't want to fall off my 5:35-ish average on my watch. I kept thinking, just hold this as long as you can. “As long as I can” turned out to be about 35K, although I was already slowing a bit between 30 and 35K, hitting the splits at closer to 5:45-5:55 each time. My friend Rob passed me at one point and was looking great. He tried to pull me along mentally, but I was falling back in pace and energy.

By around the 37K mark I knew I was losing too much time that I would not be able to get back. The calf-cramping had subsided, but my body was not cooperating as I tried to regain my pace and stride. The wheels just simply fell off. It was the wall again, just as I had experienced it the last time on this course. It was very hard to keep pushing on at that point, but I did-- the course goes beautifully along the water here and there were still lots of spectators. One woman was cheering loudly and then said, "Wow, look at the smiles!" when I passed. Yes, I was still smiling- enjoying the experience, pain and all. I was enjoying participating in a great race and pushing my body to the limit, even if that limit had come earlier than I expected.

The last 5K brought us along a gorgeous stretch of waterfront and then right by our hotel along the point at around 40K. All I could manage was a painful run/walk shuffle, and I was jokingly thinking that it was a good thing I didn't have my hotel key card. In reality with less than a kilometre to go I knew I would jog it in over the finish line. My husband was there to cheer me in; my kids had missed me as they had walked back a bit, but saw me after the finishing chute. The clock said 4:08:04, and chip time was 4:07:13, so just a little slower than an almost identical race in 2008.

So the sub-4:00 Boston qualifier remains elusive, the goal is still there when I am ready to try this all again. I am not sure when that will be, but I will be planning and reassessing as I let my body recover in the next couple weeks. I will admit to some being somewhat disappointed, but not about the race itself; only that I overestimated my fitness improvement and misjudged how much more training I will need to break through the wall after the 30K mark.

Thanks again to everyone for their endless support and encouragement. There are too many of you to list here, but I was so impressed with the outpouring of comments here, on Facebook and elsewhere in the days before and after the race. Thanks especially to Pat, my coach and friend, and to my good friend Greg who has been with me on my journey since before my first marathon. I know you all will be with me as I continue to move forward.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Victoria Marathon- Brief Update

Today I finished my third marathon in Victoria, BC. I was trying for a time of 4:00 for a BQ, but it was not to be; I finished in a time of 4:07, so just over the time of my second marathon. In short, I had some bad calf cramping issues starting at around 25k, but was still able to hold onto my pace till about 35k-- and then the wheels fell off.

I can't say I'm not disappointed, but I'm still very happy to have finished. Any day I can finish 42.2k is a good day. I really enjoyed the whole experience; I talked to some great people out there on the course, and learned a lot about myself.

I will write a full report and post it Tuesday. Thanks to all my good friends, family, and new on-line friends for your endless support and encouragement. I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The "Inner Game" (from Chris Russell)

One of the podcasts I enjoy is RunRunLive by Chris Russell. Chris is a great writer and runner, and often he is able to articulate my feelings about running better than I ever could.

This week Chris talked about the "inner game" in racing. I thought I would share some of his words here:

"I know lots of you have big events coming up. I’m not going to lecture on Taper-Madness or tell you what equipment to lay out the night before your race. As is my want, I am going to ask you to think about your inner game.

If you have made it this far you have done your training. Whether that training was good and sufficient is no longer important. You have what you have. The last couple weeks before an event, if you have trained well just relax; if you haven’t, it’s too late so relax.

There are no special foods, no special potions, no special clothes that are going to make any difference now. Just avoid any kind of cramming activity. Don’t swill fluids and eat pasta to excess. There is very little you can control there, but you can control your inner game.

Many of you first-timers and those of you who have trained these many long weeks will have a huge emotional investment in this event. I’m going to ask you to set that aside. I’m going to ask you to practice emotional detachment. You need to save your emotional energy for the race and not burn it all up in the taper.

Repeat after me:
'I have done my training. There is nothing else I can do to prepare for this race except relax my body and soul in preparation of a glorious effort.'
'I have prepared. I am committed to show up at the start and perform to the best of my ability on race day when the gun goes off. So, now I give myself permission to relax.'
'I will sleep deeply in the strength of my training feeling like a coiled spring. I am sanguine, calm, untroubled, comfortable, stress-free, unperturbed, peaceful, undisturbed and tranquil.'

Now go forth and own that race."

You can download the podcast (Episode 140) from iTunes. Read more about Chris's RunRunLive community and podcast on his website at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Race day is almost here

There are only a few days till the Victoria Marathon on 10-10-10, and I am definitely ready. My training is done; only a few more short taper runs and I will be ready to go on Sunday. I am nervous and excited to do this and to see what race day brings me. I am not fretting about the weather or the conditions, and I am not even worried about my pace. I know I can do this.

My plan is to stick to the 5:30-5:35/km pace as closely as possible for my sub-4:00 goal time, which I know I can do for at least the first 30K as I did in my last marathon. If my training has worked, I will be able to keep going without hitting the wall. Simple, isn't it? Yes, but I am not so delusional to think the last 12K will be easy.

You can actually follow my splits in real time on the website. This is a first for Victoria Marathon; they will be updating from timing mats on the course at the 10K, 21.1K, 30K, and finish line marks. My bib number is 2577 if you care to follow me. Or watch this space for a quick update and full race report later on.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great day to be in Toronto

Yesterday was an exciting day to be in Toronto. At the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, the male and female winners ran the fastest marathons ever in Canada: Kenneth Mungara of Kenya finished first with a time of 2:07:58, beating the previous fastest marathon in Canada by 33 seconds. Sharon Cherop, also of Kenya, led the women with a time of 2:22:43 in a very close finish and beating the previous fastest time in Canada by over three minutes. In fact, the top seven women all beat the previous course record for this marathon. Full coverage of the marathon and half-marathon races can be found on the race website.

Reid Coolsaet had an awesome day with a time of 2:11:23, beating Athletics Canada's tough qualifying standard for the Olympics and the 2011 World Championships with just six seconds to spare. This does not automatically secure him a spot in the London 2012 Olympics, but he will be there as long as three other people do not beat his time. (That would be quite surprising, considering Canada sent no one to the Bejing Olympics for the marathon.) He wrote a very descriptive and inspiring race report in his blog. Eric Gillis of Canada came in just one place behind Coolsaet with a time of 2:12:08.

I also have many running friends who had great races in Toronto yesterday in the marathon, half-marathon, and 5k distances. Congratulations to all of you. The Toronto Waterfront Marathon is one of the country's best, and I hope to be able to participate some day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Taper

Tapering is as much of an art as a science, it is said. Once you have reached the peak in your training, about 2-4 weeks before the marathon, you lower training volume to allow your body to fully absorb the training. In theory, taper brings you to the race optimally trained, rested, and ready to have your best race possible. Since this is only my third marathon, it is hard to know how much tapering is optimal for my training style. I have a feeling I tapered too much in my first marathon training back in 2006; in my second I suffered an injury right at the peak of mileage and had to take almost a week off running with only three weeks to go before the marathon. Although I hate to use this expression, I feel like this time around I am the prototypical "experiment of one."

I did my longest training run of 36K on Thursday, September 16, or three and a half weeks before the marathon. That week was my biggest training week at 89K, but this week won't be much less. On Wednesday this week I did a very strong 30K run with the last 5K at or faster than race pace. My coach really liked that run, coming so soon after a hard effort in the Terry Run last Sunday. On Sunday this weekend I will do a 21-22K run where most is at race pace, which will make this week another pretty high week at over 80K. Then the real taper will begin.

In the last two weeks I will do probably a couple more medium-long runs, but probably nothing over about 15K. There will likely be a steep taper in the last week where I will take it very easy with just some tuning up. My coach has said that like the rest of the training we will discuss and plan the taper as it goes, so I am not exactly sure what I will be doing, but I know there will not be be anything too taxing.

Whatever happens I feel like I am as ready as I'll ever be for this marathon. I feel strong and confident, and I'm excited to see what the day brings me and what I can bring to the day. Another friend has warned me about the inevitable post-marathon let-down, so has suggested I plan for something fairly soon after the marathon. I have some plans, but first things first. The "big show" will be coming soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Terry Fox Run

Yesterday I ran the Terry Fox Run in Stanley Park. I hadn't heard of Terry Fox until a couple years before I moved to Canada when I watched a made-for-TV movie special about the story of his Marathon of Hope. For those who have grown up in Canada, it is impossible to not know the story of this legendary man, even if you are not a runner. Terry Fox was a young runner who was stricken with cancer at a young age. When his cancer was in remission, he set out to run across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research. He was forced to cut his cross-Canada run short when the cancer re-invaded his body, but the legacy he left behind was bigger even than that Marathon of Hope itself. Each year cities and towns across Canada host Terry Fox Runs to continue Terry's Marathon of Hope by running and raising money for cancer research.

Yesterday I ran not for myself but all those I know and those around me that have been affected by this awful group of diseases. I ran with a group from work and my gym and we all felt a bit if Terry within us.

If you don't know the story of Terry Fox I encourage you to listen to Steve Runner's podcast Episode 46, a wonderful tribute to this running legend.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Coho Festival 14K Race Report, September 12

“At about kilometre five you'll get to the first aid station with water, Gatorade, and candy. And at the second aid station at kilometre 10, you'll find more water and Gatorade, and chips and M&M's.” Chips? As in potato chips? M&M's? This race is going to be great, I thought.

We were listening to the course description and race instructions before the start line of the Coho Festival Run, a 14K race on roads and gravel trails from Kits Beach in Vancouver to Ambleside Park in North Vancouver. It was one of the first really rainy day of the season and I had a race to do. My plan was to run as hard as I could, treating this race as a fitness indicator for my upcoming marathon in just four weeks.

At the start of the race we were to loop around Kits pool. The field of 450 people bottle-necked onto a path about five metres wide, so for the first half a kilometre I felt like I was barely moving. But eventually I got into my groove and was hitting about a 5:00/km pace. Kilometre 4 took us over the Burrard Bridge, which would prove to be pretty easy at this stage of the race (recall how it felt for me on very tired legs at the end of my last race). On the other side of the bridge I felt like I was still working hard but maintaining a very steady pace-- until the real work began. The course took us up to the peak of Stanley Park, on the trail up Prospect Point hill. I've been running this hill almost every week in training, but when you are at or near lactate threshold it is a different animal. I actually had to... stop and walk. It cost me at least a minute. But I fought through it, made it to the top, and got a small handful of M&M's at that 10K aid station. That was a nice treat.

The rest of the race was tough going, but I just kept pushing. Running over the Lions Gate bridge was glorious and inspiring. On the other side of the bridge, the 12K mark came a few hundred metres early on my watch on this “perfectly measured” course-- whatever, I'll take it. I ran the last 2K in hard for a finish time of 1:11:38 (5:07/km pace). That was good enough for 148th overall and 15/82 in my F40-49 age group (strong field-- winner of this age group came in at 57:43).

I really enjoyed this race, and thought it was a good indicator of where my fitness is now. I do feel like I was working pretty hard for a pace which about the same as my last half-marathon, but I also know that this was a tougher course and I wasn't tapered or rested for this race. I am happy overall with my result and the effort I had yesterday, and I am excited about the rest of my training. Bring it on.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Training update

Only four weeks to go till Victoria Marathon and I'm getting anxiously excited.
My training is going really well. I won't post a week-to-week update here, because you can see that on itsmyrun or Runningmania if you are interested in the details. But I will mention a few key runs I've done in the past two weeks since my last update: two long runs of 32K and 34K, another progression tempo run, and a tempo interval run earlier this week. The paces of these runs were right on where I wanted them to be. The rest of the running has been easy paced, including some fun social runs with Chantelle and Mike.

I feel mentally and physically ready to take on this marathon. I am at the peak of training and fitness right now, with just two more hard weeks before a two-week taper. I have my marathon goal in sight, but I am also cautiously realistic about all possibilities. This is not a lack of confidence at all, but simply the knowledge that I will do my best on that day with what I have. To paraphrase someone more eloquent than myself, I am confident that the universe will unfold as it should.

Tomorrow I am doing the Coho Festival 14K Run from Kits Beach to Ambleside Beach in North Vancouver. Although I have not tapered for this race, I will treat it as a real race and attempt run my fastest pace for the day. This will be a good indicator of fitness as well as a good hard workout.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Running with podcasts

During these last few months I have been doing most of my long training runs alone. I often like listening to music on shorter runs, especially hard and faster runs, but lately I have been enjoying listening to podcasts. Especially on long solo runs, podcasts can help pass the time and help make the running more enjoyable. Now, I am not interested in getting into a debate about running with headphones-- I'm not a purist that thinks that you must run with no distractions to fully benefit from the training and "listening to your body". I do not use my iPod during races or when I am running with other people, but when I am alone, especially on the longer runs or on the treadmill, I just find it much more enjoyable.

Podcasts are audio programs that you can download, usually for free, on iTunes and from other sites. Some started out as actual radio programs on public stations like CBC and NPR, others are produced by commercial broadcasters or associated with magazines or other websites, yet others are produced by amateurs with varying degrees of broadcasting experience.

I used to enjoy listening to talk radio, but the quality of programming on commercial radio has gone down to the point where I can not find anything worth my time. Public radio has some good shows, but station reception and scheduling make running with a portable radio less than optimal. Podcasts are not only a welcome substitute for talk-radio, but provide a wealth of content that radio can not come close to matching.

When I first started listening to podcasts, I enjoyed mostly the science-based ones like CBC's Quirks and Quarks, This Week in Science, Science Talk (from Scientific American Magazine), and NPR's Science Friday. Lately I have been listening to more running and triathlon based podcasts, including Phedippidations, RunRunLive, Candotri, Kelownagirl Tris, and Geeks in Running Shoes. I have included the links to blogs associated with those podcasts I mentioned, but they can also all be found by searching for the titles in the iTunes store. In the coming weeks, I will be reviewing some of my favorites of these podcasts, but in the meantime, I encourage you all to give some of them a try.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The intersection of my work life and running life

Running from Surrey to Langley is faster than taking the bus.

At least it was for distance runner David Palermo, 27, who beat a bus in a race from Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Surrey campus to its Langley campus on Wednesday.

Palermo finished the 19-kilo-metre stretch in just over an hour, with the bus lagging behind him by 13 minutes, said Kwantlen's student association spokesman Nathan Griffiths.

The competition was staged by the student association in light of the province's decision to expand the U-Pass program -- which gives students cheaper transit fares -- to all universities and colleges across the Lower Mainland.

But unless TransLink improves its "poor" service in Surrey and Langley, the U-Pass won't be worth the $30 a month for many Kwantlen students, Griffiths said.
"Unfortunately, a U-Pass is more valuable in the downtown area where there's already good bus service," Griffiths said. ...

I posted this link on Facebook yesterday, a rare example of where my work life and running life intersect. David is a running friend of mine, and it's no accident he was chosen to run this "race" against the bus from one Kwantlen campus to another. David is one of the city's fastest runners, and not many people can run 19K in just over an hour. Yet the stunt proves the point that transit between the two campuses is slower than it should be, and makes it difficult for students who have to take courses on both campuses to rely on transit service.

Still after posting the link on Facebook I have learned that we have it pretty good here in the greater Vancouver area, even compared to Canada's biggest city. Toronto really should have better transit service for a city its size; the truth is that the speed of the service varies depending greatly on where you live and where you're going, even in the highly densely populated areas of the city.

I also learned that my own commute from home to Kwantlen's Richmond campus will now take me about 38 minutes by a combination of bus, Skytrain, and walking. The distance is just under 9K. I thought the new Skytrain line between Vancouver and Richmond would make the trip much faster than my old route on buses, but because of connections and the walking distance from the station, it ends up being just a bit shorter. As always, the limiter in transit travel is usually how close you are to the entry points, as well as the time needed for transfers. If I run, that will take me only about 50-55 minutes; I won't beat the bus, but it's pretty close. Likely I'll end up driving most of the time, which will take only 15 minutes when traffic is light with pretty cheap parking available for faculty. But I will consider a run commute a couple times per week, or maybe even a spin on the commuter bike.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Progression run Thursday

I had a great progression run yesterday.  This was similar to my progression run last week, although I was a bit more consistent with the pacing.  The run consisted of 5K at easy pace, 5K at marathon pace, 3K at about half-marathon pace, 3K at 10K pace, and then 2K easy.  That's 18K for a midweek workout, and it felt great.  My actual paces were:

5K @ 5:55/km
5K @ 5:41/km
3K @ 5:10/km
3K @ 5:02/km including a fast last kilometre at 4:58/km

This run was done on the hilly trail-loop near my house, so I'm particularly happy with the overall effort of this run.

This morning my legs felt just comfortably sore-- not painful, but I could feel that I had done some work.    My muscles seem to be properly stressed by the hard running but not to the point of pain or injury-- just enough for the desired training effect.

My other runs this week have been social runs with two of my favorite running partners, including my friend Mike.   I'm looking forward to a weekend that includes some more social running this weekend, including another run of at least 32K. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Six weeks to go

 Week of August 23-29

This has been a great week of training.   My two key runs were a progression tempo run on Thursday and my long run on Sunday of 32K.  I'm happy to say that my weekly running is about where it was when I reached the peak of training during my last marathon training cycle two years ago; yet this time, I still have six weeks to go including three hard training weeks.  I finished the week with 78K total.

The progression tempo run on Thursday was supposed to be about 5K at easy pace, then 4K at marathon pace, 3K at half-marathon pace, 2K at 10K pace, 0.5-1K at 5K pace if I could manage it, and then 2K easy.  What I actually did was 5K at just under 6:00/km, 4K at 5:25/km, 3K at 5:07/km, 2K at 5:03/km, and then 2K cooldown at about 5:30/km.  I wasn't able to go under 5:00/km even though I tried as I reached the fast end.  My coach says this is fine-- I am not doing any top speed work these days, and those speeds get harder to hit when the mileage is high and mostly slower.  I felt strong throughout, but just couldn't go faster.  Still, overall, a great hard run.

On Sunday I did my longest run so far in this training cycle of 32K in 3:18, or about 6:12/km.  That's right where I think my speed should be for my long runs.  I know people who are also training for 4-hour marathons that seem to want to push their long runs faster than this.  I don't see the need to, and I want to make sure I have the speed on my hard run day.  That run included two times up a fairly big hill; I'm trying move out of my comfort zone of flat running.

My other running this week was all at easy pace, including a nice 12K run with a friend on Wednesday and another 12K run on Saturday.  In my last marathon training cycle I only did very short runs on the day before a long run; I think these longer 75-minute runs will be another key to my marathon success this time, along with getting in more long runs.

I look forward to another progression tempo run this week, along with another long run around 32K or maybe a big longer.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Blog

I have decided to start a new blog. This will be a somewhat of a digital scrapbook where I can post links to my favorite websites, blogs, and podcasts as well as a portal to my other training and race report posts.

A while back I started a blog, but it didn't last too long-- probably because I expected too much for and from it. For now this will just be a place that brings me together with my on-line running community. We'll see where it goes

Right now I'm in the middle of a training program for the Victoria Marathon October 10. My goal again will be to break the four-hour mark; this time will earn me a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon, which has always been my distance running goal. I am from the Boston area and have been inspired by those who have qualified for the marathon since starting distance running six years ago. I hope you enjoy following my journey.