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.