Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New York Marathon race report

On Sunday November 6, 2011, I ran the New York Marathon, finishing in a time of 4:17:57. That finish time is only a small piece of a long story that started about a year ago, so sit back and get a coffee- or jump ahead to the end if you are only interested in the race itself.


I grew up in northeastern U.S., close to Boston and about four hours from New York City. I have been to New York several times in my life, including a high school day trip, a few family trips, visits to friends, and lastly a weekend with my mom and sister for my mom's 65th birthday in 2007. When my mom found out I was going to be running the New York marathon, she didn't hesitate to book a hotel room so that she and my dad could come be there with me. Then in February of this year, our lives took an unexpected turn. My otherwise very healthy mom had a massive brain hemorrhage (ruptured aneurism) leading to a stroke. She was in the ICU for a month, much of that time in critical condition. Miraculously she came out of her semi-coma, was eventually able to go through rehabilitation therapy, and recovered to about 95% of where she was before. Between February and September I took many trips to help her and my family during her long recovery journey. Up until as little as a month before my race she still wanted to come to New York, but we all decided my sister would come instead. As much as I would love to have had my parents come, logistically it would have been difficult to have them there. My sister and I got to spend some great time together, and she completely immersed herself in the role of the marathon support person.

I arrived in New York late on Thursday night, a day before my sister. As I said this was not my first time in New York, but that did not take away from the excitement and wide-eyed wonderment. Our hotel was right in the middle of Times Square. Many of the international tour companies had blocks of rooms in this area, so I was always surrounded by groups of runners amidst the New York excitement. I could write another long report about my two days in New York before the race, but I will keep it to the brief highlights: a short run with Marg to Central Park on Friday morning, dinner at two great restaurants with my sister, a Saturday matinee of Mamma Mia, and several trips to the Times Square Starbucks. We were blessed with beautiful fall weather and I wish I could have spent more time there.

Race day:

I had been warned about nightmarish pre-race logistics and long waiting times at the start area, but my experience was just the opposite. There were three start waves at 9:40, 10:10, and 10:40, and also three bib colours: blue, orange and green for the different start areas. Runners of each bib colour were mixed in each start wave time, and I was assigned green, wave 2 (10:10 start time). My ferry time was 7:30, and I went to the subway at about 6:45. I waited for about 10 minutes for the train, and I got to the ferry terminal at just before 7:20. There were so many keen people at the terminal with later ferry times that I did not get on the ferry until about 7:50. The ferry crossing was about a half-hour, and then another half-hour on the bus, plus there was a bit of walking and waiting in between. By the time I got to the green start village it was already about 9:15, and I had to check my bag by 9:30 for the wave 2 start. So much for waiting around with blankets and tarps.

After I checked my bag they were already announcing for wave 2 runners to enter the corrals. It was still a few minutes before the 9:40 wave 1 start, and the entrance to the corral was very cramped and crowded. Several of us were trying to get in, but the volunteers were about to shut us out saying there was no where to go. I was confused because I figured there must be a barricade somewhere inside to block the wave 2 people from crossing early- surely the corrals would open up more after the 9:40 start. I could not figure out why so many wave 2 people were already inside. I was not worried, though; I figured worst case scenario is they would have us wait until the 10:40 wave 3 start. But sure enough, after 9:40 space opened up and they let us in.

The green start area was on the lower deck of the bridge, and I was in the front group in wave 2. As we stood and waited in the corrals, we could see the masses of blue and orange runners on the upper deck going over the bridge. It was quite the sight and it was hard to believe that I was getting ready to run the same race; it all seemed to happen so quickly. There was lots of music and cheering in the corrals as we watched the clock tick forward toward the 30-minute mark when we would start.

The Race:

The start was very crowded and I was happy enough to take it very easy to warm up into my pace. My Garmin could not hold a good signal on the lower deck of the bridge, so I ignored it and ran by feel, checking my pace at the mile markers. I ended up running most of the race this way; there were timing mats and and clocks at each mile after mile 3, at 5K intervals, and at the half-way point. At 5K I was right where I wanted to be at 27:38, holding about a 5:30/km pace. By this point I realized I was bit overdressed- the weather was absolutely gorgeous with sunny skies and no wind, and a starting temperature of about 12 degrees Celsius. It would reach about 15 by the time we were done.

This race is unique in that the three different bib colours have different routes for the first 5K. The blue and orange groups started on the upper deck but split off from each other for a bit after the bridge. Our green group on the lower deck followed a completely different route after the bridge. All three groups would reunite shortly after the 5K mark. There were actually some bottlenecks in some parts of the course after that, probably because I was running amidst a large group of people aiming for a time of around four hours.

The next 5K went pretty smoothly and I was holding what felt like a perfect pace. Not too easy, not too hard, right in the marathon effort zone. I hit 10K at just over 55 minutes, with a second 5K split almost identical to the first. I was in a happy place.

The next 5K felt a bit harder; there was some steady climbing and it was getting a bit warmer, but overall I still felt excellent. I took my second gel break at around the 8-mile mark (13K). I passed the 15K mark at 1:24:01 (5K split in 28:51), so I lost about a minute total to the gel break and climbing. I did not realize how much time I lost so it did not really faze me. My plan was to stop at 5 miles and then every 3 miles for a quick gel/water break.

Sometime before the half-way point I started to have some GI discomfort which I was mostly able to ignore. Overall I was enjoying the course, the crowd, the spectators, and was immersed in the race; it was not until close to 20K that I realized that I was slowing down a bit. It did not seem like much as the miles went by and I thought I was making up time on the downhills, but I guess I was not. For those of you following the numbers, I was at 20K at 1:52:59, 5K split in 29:02, 21.1K at 1:59:21. So I had slowed to a pace of about 5:45/km, and average pace was about 5:37/km. But I knew I was still in great shape for a sub-4-hour race, I felt strong, and kept pushing on. I felt like I still had a higher gear in reserve, and was not worried about the pace at all. However, from around 14-15 miles the GI distress was getting worse and becoming hard to ignore. I was having trouble relaxing into my stride, and by mile 16 I was starting to dread the rest of the race. This is NOT the first time this has happened to me, but the first time in a race. I skipped the 17-mile gel and I thought I should stop at a port-a-potty, but they were all locked. Oh, forget it, I thought, and kept going. Mistake! After 18 miles it was clear that a stop was going to be unavoidable. There were port-a-potties at every aid station near each mile marker, but I could not see any as I approached the water table. In a desperate tone I asked a volunteer, “Where are the port-a-potties??” He pointed just past the water tables on the sidewalk, and I ran over to find an empty one. I will spare the details, but it took me about 5 minutes to take care of business to the point where I would be comfortable again. I did not want to have to stop again. I sent a short text my sister to let her know I was behind, but I was OK (no details). I also texted Rob who I knew would inform the trackers on Runningmania. Leaving the aid-station area I ran a bit along the sidewalk and thought to myself, “OK, here we go. Time to finish this marathon,” and I re-entered the course. I felt so much better physically and mentally. I had no more GI distress for the rest of the race, and decided with my time goal totally out the window that I would just relax and enjoy the rest of the race as much as possible. I was at just over 2:50 on my watch when I stopped, about 2:55 when I got going again and I knew I would be out there for more than another hour with over 13K to go, even if I was able to recover to a perfect pace. And my legs were not even thinking about that option anyway.

I was euphoric as I passed the 30K mark, and the later the 35K and 40K marks. As we re-entered Manhattan around 34K, the crowds continued to urge us on. This was my favourite part of the course, through the upper east side down the residential part of Fifth Avenue and eventually through Central Park. My legs started feeling the full effects of the distance but I never had to stop to a walk. I kept a slow but steady pace to the end. I tried to find my sister at her designated spectator point near the south-east corner of the park on Fifth Ave; she did see me but I somehow missed her as I scanned the crowd.

The last turn at Columbus Circle and the corner of the park felt amazing, even though I was hurting all over. The best of the on-course bands was here playing "Born to Run". The final 800m stretch to the finish line seemed to go on forever and it was great to finally cross. The time was just over 4:18 on my watch (official time was 4:17:57). My second worst time (but my third best ), and a fantastic experience overall.

After the finish line we got "recovery bags" with food, Gatorade, and water, and there were photographers taking finish pictures which I skipped. Then there was what we were all calling a long “zombie march” to the area to get our bags. Afterwards I had a longer walk back to Times Square (I had waited for a bus, but walking was actually easier at this point). I met my sister, my cousin, and his wife at our hotel for beer and some food, and later went to dinner with Lesley, Jacqueline, Leo, Ed, and their group. Everyone was enjoying sharing their stories, and it seemed that most people had a rough race except for Lesley (you go girl!).

Shortly after the race I was having hugely mixed emotions. I was thrilled to have finished such a great race with all its excitement and lore, but could not hide the disappointment with my time. I told everyone I had no desire to do another marathon. But I have already changed my mind and will be doing the Vancouver Marathon in May. Marathons are tough and unpredictable, but that is part of their charm. After the personal challenges in my life in the winter and spring I still ended up having an great year of training with several PB's and a truly enjoyable marathon training cycle in the fall. I know I am in the best shape of my life and I love what the training does for me. I do not race a lot of marathons, so it is tough when it does not all come together on the big day. But there is so much more to racing marathons than the number on the finish clock.

And my mother? She was at home at her computer tracking me the whole time, making several phone calls to my sister. She found it so exciting to be able to do that, almost feeling like she was in New York with me. And, in spirit, she was.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Taper time- let the madness begin

I did my last long run for my marathon training yesterday, and it was a great one. I ran around Stanley Park three times, including twice on the road over Prospect Point hill. The total distance was 34K, and it felt stronger than any of my other long runs have felt this season. The run took me 3:24 for an average pace of 6:00/km. I am now ready to back off a bit on distance for tapering. The marathon is just seventeen days away, and I will be leaving for New York two weeks from tomorrow. I am already starting to experience that nervous excitement that will build even more as the race approaches. I am trying to remain calm and relaxed, though. I find myself thinking about my goals and studying the course map and elevation guide. It looks like it will be a great course, but the hills will not be trivial. I am starting to think about my pacing strategy, which I hone a bit as the race gets closer.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to blogging

My plans to get back to blogging in August sort of fell apart again. And now here I am at the end of marathon training for New York. I did train well, and many people followed along on DailyMile, Itsmyrun, and Runningmania. I kept this blog open as a portal into those sites, and if you are interested in the details of my training you can read about them there. I had to stop racing for much of the summer but had a good half-marathon race last week (report posted). Now I have one long run tomorrow before the taper begins for New York, and I can honestly say that my training has gone as well as I would have hoped. I had some solid peak weeks, some strong workouts and long runs, and a great week of running with my coach back in July. My training has been consistent with about a 3:50-3:55 goal pace for the marathon. However, I've always had trouble hitting my "expected" pace in the marathon, so I will likely aim for a reasonable 3:55 goal time. Even this sounds ambitious to me since my previous best is 4:06, but I do think it is aggressively achievable.

Portland Half-Marathon Race Report

Portland Half-Marathon
October 9, 2011

Gun: 1:49:33, Chip 1:49:14
181/2272 overall, 56/1668 Female
7/218 F45-49 (not a hugely competitive race with a large charity runner/walker component, but I'll still take it ;) )

As I planned my marathon training for this fall, I knew I wanted to do a half-marathon in October as a tune-up and fitness test. I picked Portland as a change from the BC races I've done before. I had heard lots of good things about this race; plus, we have friends to stay with which made it a nice mini-vacation. In preparing for the race, I thought I was in shape for about 1:45, which would mean a pace of just under 5:00/km. My training has been really strong overall, but I had mild cold last week my paces were dragging a bit. I was not sure if it would affect my race time, but I decided to wait and see how I felt as the race got started.

The 7:00 am start was early for my liking, and it was actually still dark in Portland we assembled in the corrals. The half-marathoners and marathoners start together and much of the beginning of the course is the same. Rob and I had met for coffee before the start, and we wished each other good luck as we went to our respective corrals. The gun went off and I quickly got into a smooth steady pace. The course starts on a gradual uphill which was a bit difficult, but nicely starts to come down after about mile 3 (just after 5K). I had settled into a pace that was over 5:00/km average, but the downhill was fast and felt great.

I probably should have studied the course map a bit more carefully because I didn't realize I would be running most of the half-marathon race with the marathoners. I could not remember where the split was, but as I approached the half-way point I thought it should have been earlier. This race has way more marathoners than half-marathoners, and I kept peeking around me to make sure there were still some half-marathon bibs near me. There were... but not many. After a stretch along the river in downtown, we went on a long out-and-back along the railroad tracks. After the 6-mile mark I finally saw where the marathon/half-marathon split was on the other side of the road (around 11 miles). I thought to myself, once I get to there it won't be long before we're done.

My pace was pretty steady but I always felt like I was fighting for it. I remember hitting the 5-mile mark (just over 8K) at about 41:30, which I knew was off my original goal pace but I was still running pretty strongly and consistently for what I had that day. I did not bring water with me and stopped three water stations on the course-- at one of them the cups had about 20 mL in them each. I don't know what those volunteers were thinking! I took about five of them. And at another I got to the last table and it wasn't water but gummy bears. I took some but later threw them down. In retrospect it might have been easier to have my own bottle with me, but I'm not sure how much difference it makes on a half-marathon course. I made my last stop at a water station around 9 miles where I also took the gel that Rob generously gave to me.

As a faster half-marathoner for this field, I had been assigned to start in the first corral. This was odd, though, as my expected pace was slower than the marathoners in that corral. The 3:15-marathoners and slower were in the second corral and a minute or two behind the start gun; therefore, the various faster pace groups kept catching me and passing me. Around 6 miles I was passed by the 3:30 pace group, knowing that they were going approximately my goal pace. I hoped maybe I could hang with them, but I couldn't. At this point I wanted to make sure at least the 3:40 group never passed me, because that would mean I had slowed to slower than a 1:50 time. They never did. Rob was in that group, who did see me on the out-and-back section and tried to reach out his hand to wave/high-five. I didn't realize it was him until he passed, but the gesture was still appreciated.

I came upon the 10-mile mark (just over 16K) at exactly 1:23:00, so I was keeping a very even pace. I knew I could hang on for the last 3.1 miles (5K) and had hopes of possibly speeding up to squeeze in under 1:48. But instead I had a pretty hard time hanging on at that point and actually slowed a little bit. I am not sure why- this never happens to me and I was pushing pretty hard on the course. The last 2-3 miles felt like they went on forever, but I finally came in just over 1:49 (official time was 1:49:14).

My time was two minutes slower than my PB from May, but I am still very happy with this result given how I felt overall. I remember after that race in May I wrote that sometimes you feel like you have to fight the whole way to keep your pace, whereas other times you feel like something is giving it to you and you just have to hang on. I will not always have that magical feeling, but I can still have a lot of good races. I had to work hard for it Sunday, but it was so worth it. The overall race experience was amazing and I would definitely do this one again.

Now with less than four weeks till New York and just a handful more key workouts, it's time for sharpening and tapering. I am so looking forward to that race.

My kilometre splits from my watch for anyone who is interested in these things. (The course is marked in miles, but I still like kilometres on my watch.)

1 5:08
2 5:08
3 5:07
4 5:14 (uphill)
5 5:15
6 4:46 (downhill, yay!)
7 4:46
8 5:11 (still downhill but water stop at end)
9 4:58
10 5:04
11 5:05
12 5:10
13 5:11
14 5:27 (water stop)
15 5:07
16 5:08
17 5:13
18 5:14
19 5:17 (small hill, but still surprised to slow here)
20 5:10
21 5:12
21.26 1:14

Final time: 1:49:14

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Failed blog ... maybe

A good friend of mine once told me that 95% of all blogs end within a month. I was determined to keep going longer on mine from the start, and I did... but lately I have been slack. It has been a crazy year for me with my mom's illness (she's doing great now, by the way), and a bit up and down with training. But I did have some great races in the spring, and after a bit of a disappointing set of races in June, I managed to get back on track in July. I am now in the beginning of training for the New York Marathon in November.

I now plan to continue this blog, with a bit less of a clinical style Some of you follow my training through the various logs I have (see sidebar), and I will continue to log there. I hope to be able to post some more interesting posts as my training continues. So if you're still with me-- thanks! I plan to blog more regularly now, even if I only have one or two readers. I have also updated my race plans/results page.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Race report: BMO Vancouver Half-marathon

BMO Vancouver Half-marathon
Sunday May 1, 2011:

"Sometimes it just works."

Official time: 1:47:20 (PB by two minutes, course best by five minutes)
Overall placing: 806/6522
Female: 214/4165 (wow, a lot more women doing this race than men!)
F40-44: 30/568 (top 5.2%)

A bit of history: This is the sixth time I have done this race. It was my first half-marathon in 2004 and my first sub-2:00 in 2005. In 2010 and 2008 I ran strong races having come back from difficult injury or other issues. 2007 was the only year I had a very disappointing race, coming off a great spring race season. I had run the 10k race of my dreams three weeks before and had high hopes for the half-marathon. I ended up having a very off day and difficult race with a 1:52 time. I was able to repeat that time in 2008 and 2010, and later in 2010 improved on that time to get my sub-1:50 PB.

Fast forward to this spring: because of family and time issues I have not had a very focused season of training. But I have been doing good workouts when I can, including some strong speed work and long runs every other week or so, and I have been getting in consistent mileage (although lower than I've liked). Previously I would not have thought that this style of training really suited me, but I have been having some decent results with it. I had two really good 15k races in January and March where I was able to average under 5:00/km, but I had to miss my favourite half-marathon in February. I was eager to test out my speed two weeks ago at the Sun Run 10k where I had that magical PB four years ago, but came up flat this year. It just wasn't my day.

But some of that magic came back yesterday.

I felt very good as I waited in the starting corral for the gun; after the gun went off and we started to move forward I felt an amazing sense of joy and excitement. We were blessed with perfect race weather and somehow I knew that this was going to be a good day. I had to do some weaving at the crowded start, but very soon found my groove. As early as 4K into the race I knew I was having a great day. It is hard to explain, but some days you feel like you have to fight for the pace the whole time, and some days you feel like something is giving it to you and you just have to take it and hold on. That is what I felt yesterday.

This is a gorgeous but tough course with some rolling hills and a long climb in Stanley Park up to the top of Prospect Point. This is one of the biggest hills I have ever seen in a road race- a 200-ft climb over about two kilometres starting at the 12K mark. Since I have done this race so many times, I knew the course well and knew exactly what to expect. I knew the hill would slow me down and I figured this into my plan. I thought I could pace for about a 1:47 finish, which would require an average pace of 5:05/km. My plan was to stick to a pace of just over 5:00/km average for the first 12K hoping to be under 61 minutes. Then I would attack the hill, expecting but not fearing the inevitable slow-down. If I could stay strong to that point, I knew I could use the downhill after 14K and push hard to the end. I am not exactly sure how I did it but I was able to execute this plan perfectly. The early kilometres felt tough but strong and the pace was coming just as I wanted. At 12K, just at the start of the uphill, I was at about 1:00:40 on my watch. The climb was slow but I just pushed as hard as I could without feeling like I was going overboard. I passed the 14K marker at just over 1:12, so I slowed by about 40 sec/km on that hill. After 14K I was ready to take the gift of the downhill and hold on strongly to the finish. It felt really hard in the last kilometres, but I knew I could hold to the pace as I pushed through. The beautiful weather brought out a larger than normal number of spectators and running through the tunnel of cheering along the Beach Ave corridor helped me greatly. I did have some calf-cramping which forced me to back off the pace just a bit, but I was still able to average about 5:00/km in the last 7K. I crossed the finish line at just over 1:48 on the clock with a chip time of 1:47:20. That is more than a two-minute PB and about five minutes faster than I have been able to do on this course in the past.

Overall I had close to what I would call the perfect race. I am hoping I can build on this success as I do more races this year, so keep watching. :) Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Vancouver Sun Run 10K 2011

Short report (for those who hate searching through a report for the results):

Vancouver Sun Run 10K, April 17, 2011
Official time: 48:40 (4:53/km pace)
2727 out of approx 40,000 finishers
32/2032 in F40-44

Long report, Intro:

I was excited to be racing the Sun Run 10K this year for the first time since 2007. I had one of my best races that day four years ago and hoped I could find some of that magic this year. I have not been able to race it since then: in 2008 I was away, in 2009 I was injured, and last year I was in injury-recovery mode and ran it with my two kids. This year I thought I might even have a shot at a PB (47:00 from 2007), but at least I wanted to give it my all. My original plan was to run with my son again this year (my daughter ran with her friends), and I was happy to do that. But late last week I came up with a scheme to race the course myself first and then catch up to my son who would be arriving at the start-line around 10:00 with my husband. The official start time of the race is 9:00, but since it took us till almost 10:30 to cross the start-line last year with the wave start, I figured there was no need for them to rush to the start. The finish line and start line are about 1.5K apart, so this would be quite doable.

Sun Run Part 1:

My friend TK and I got to the start area pretty early and made our way into the yellow wave corral just after 8:00. This is the area just behind the elite/seeded wave, and they close this corral at about 8:30. We were pretty close to the front of the fence. It was a cold morning but we tried to stay warm by moving around and dancing to the sound of the Neurotics, an awesome rock cover band that plays at the start every year. The music and crowd energy was infectious; still, was a long time to wait with no good time to warm up for the race.

The elites were off right at 9:00, and immediately afterwards they opened our fence and let us through. I thought there would be more of a wait so I was not even quite ready, but got into it quickly. I love the downhill start of this race, and let it move me down with a 4:40 first kilometre. Up to kilometre three, I was just over 14 minutes and right where I needed to be for a 47-minute finish and I felt pretty good. But I never really got into that completely fluid feeling as I had hoped for.

I slowed a bit but was still at just under 24 minutes at the 5K mark. I felt like I could hold on to a sub-48 finish at this point, but it got harder and harder to hold on. I had some bladder pressure issues (YIKES!!) and cramping, which made it uncomfortable and difficult to fully relax. I was plagued by negative thoughts that I just had to push away: "Maybe I should drop out, maybe I'm too old for this." Just shut up and run. I tried to dig deep but the second half of the race just felt really, really tough; I did manage to keep the pace at sub-5:00 kilometres the rest of the way. I crossed the finish line at 48:44 (official time was 48:40). So not exactly the race-day magic I was hoping for, but still a decent effort for what I had. I was happy to be finished... at least temporarily.

Sun Run Part 2:

I got some water and then exited the finish area to make my way back up to the start area. With my quick start it was just after 9:50am, so I figured I had plenty of time to slowly make my way back up to the start area. But just then I got a text from my husband saying they were already moving up in the corral and would soon cross the start-line. I told him I would be there as soon as I can and started to move more quickly. Five minutes later, they were on course (walking), so we decided to meet about 1K down the hill from the start-line, just before the course turns onto Denman Street. They had to wait for me for about two or three minutes; I quickly grabbed the backpack from my husband and started running with my son. I worried my son would be upset for not being able to run right from the start, but he was fine. We were sort of caught up in a sea of mostly walkers, but it did not faze him at all. If anything it kept his pace moderate enough so he could run most of the way. I actually had trouble keeping up with him at some points on my tired legs and running with the small pack. He stopped at water stops only three brief times, and kept a fairly consistent pace of about 6:15/km.

After we crossed the Burrard Bridge and neared the 7K mark, I told him, “Only 2K and then we're at the Cambie Bridge. Let's really focus on these last 2K... then we're almost there.” He ran the rest without stopping. As we neared the 9K mark I told him, “You are doing so well today; next year we will both enter with green bibs and we'll run the whole thing together.” He crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:16:38. That is ten minutes faster than we did last year, and he would have been at least five minutes faster had it not been for the walk and wait for me at the beginning.


Overall I had a great day. Although I did not have my best race, I am happy I decided to race it on my own first. Maybe I did not quite get my game face on in that first 10K, but so be it-- I will have another chance soon. My time was slightly better than the one 10K I did last year, and the season is still early. Being able to come back up to the start and run the course again with my son made the day for me. He has not even been training for running-- he just does a lot of running around on his own, playing soccer with his friends, and plays floor hockey in an informal league. I would love to see what he could do for running if he focused on it. My whole family participated in what was a gorgeous race day; my daughter finished with a friend in just over 1:17 (their time was also lengthened by a forced stop before the finish for a medical emergency), and my husband and mother-in-law walked in 1:53.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Who will get to run Boston, Part 3

A few months ago I posted that changes to the Boston Marathon registration and/or qualification process would be announced some time in early 2011.

On February 19, The BAA announced that effective for the 2013 Boston Marathon, qualifying times would be lowered by 5 minutes in each age-group category. For the 2012 Boston Marathon, qualifying times will remain the same as before, but some changes will be made in the registration process. Those with faster times within each age group category will be able to register sooner, thus making running time and not computer access time the limiting factor in whether one can get in. This graduated registration process will continue in 2013 and beyond.

What does this mean for me? First of all, it means that even if I had just made my sub-4:00 marathon time in October, likely would not have been good enough for a 2012 Boston entry. Unfortunately I do know some people who have qualifying times from fall marathons, but now might not be able to get in for 2012. Although I think the new system is a fair way of adressing the registration overload problems they had this past fall, it seems a bit unfair to those who thought they had qualified under the old rules before February 19. But the BAA never made any promises that those times would be good enough for 2012; people had made assumptions based on what had been done in previous years.

On a practical level for me, the new registration system and qualifying times mean that I will simply have to work harder and run faster in order to try to qualify for 2013 or later. I would need a qualifying time of 3:55, but I might actually need a faster time than that once registration takes place. This will be tough since I have only run three marathons and I have slowed down in each one, despite starting at a pace that was in theory reasonable based on my training and half-marathon pace. I will need more long training runs, more training runs at race pace, and more lactate threshold work in order to achieve this big goal. Is 3:55, or even 3:50 a reasonable marathon goal? I think so, but I can only see how well I progress as I work toward taking time off my half-marathon time first, and then train for the best possible marathon I can do.

I am still thinking about the option of obtaining a Boston Marathon spot with a fundraising organization, but I will think about this after I run my fall marathon.

But for the sake of this blog, the short answer to the question, "Who will get to run Boston?":

I will. Someday.

Race report: Birch Bay 15K, March 26 2011

On Saturday I ran the Birch Bay Road Race in Birch Bay, WA (near Blaine, just across the border from here). This small race is only in its fifth year, and includes 5K, 15K, and 30K distances. I ran the 15K race with the hope of slightly bettering my time of 1:15:19 from my first attempt at this distance back in January. I was hoping for a time around or just under 75 minutes, or an average of 5:00/km. That pace seemed doable based on my recent running.

I started without a warmup and just tried to get into my pace really quickly. This was easy to do with a nice downhill start in the first kilometre, which reminded me of the Sun Run. The course was absolutely beautiful, along the water in Birch Bay for the first 6K. I had been averaging under 5:00/km and hit the 6K mark at 29:24. After that we started a steady climb away from the water for about 3K to the turnaround point for the 15K. The climb made it tough to hold on to the pace, I slowed down just a little bit but knowing I had build up a bit of a cushion. At this point I was pretty happy that I was doing 15K, as the 30K runners kept climbing steadily to their turnaround point (apparently this 30K race is even hillier in the second half than Around the Bay). Before I reached our turnaround point, I started seeing the 15K leaders coming back at me. I started counting the number of women that were ahead of me, and counted what I thought was about 20 women.

I was expecting this downhill part to feel really good after the steady 3K climb upwards, but instead it felt almost as tough. I then realized that the uphill was not as bad as it could have been since we had a tailwind -- of course I did not notice the tailwind as much as the headwind. So I just kept pushing on trying to maintain my pace. I hit the 10K mark at 49:29. I took a short break for water around 12K and then tried to pick it up a bit more down the rest of the hill. Kilometre 14 and the beginning of 15 were flat but the wind was still strong as we came along the water; I was running pretty much alone with two women just ahead of me. I tried to keep them in my sights and hold on to their pace, which worked really well to finish that tough part of the race.

I had been warned about the steep climb from the beach just before the finish, but man, this was brutal!! About 150 metres straight up, it seemed, and my legs were burning. But then around the bend it flattened out and I could see the finish area, and then the chute. I pushed on when I saw 1:14:xx on the clock and passed through at around 1:14:30 (official time was 1:14:28).

My time was good enough for 3rd out of 31 in the F40-44 age group. One of the women that I was chasing in kilometres 13 and 14 was in my age group, so I was also just behind number two by about 17 seconds. I will have to work a little harder for it next year. However, the next age group category is even more competitive--my time would have only been good enough for 7th in that next age group. I turn 45 in May, so I really better get working. :) I will definitely be back for this beautiful spring race.

Official results:

1:14:28 for 15K (4:58/km, 8:00/mile)
35/232 overall finishers
17/167 women
3/31 F40-44


4:51 (downhill start)
5:05 (beginning of hill)
4:59 (downhill, but headwind!!)
4:57 (uphill but then a good finishing kick)

I am very happy with this result. Lately my running has taken a back seat to the other issues in my life and I have not been able to stick to a regular workout schedule. I had to miss the First Half half-marathon in February and have had to rearrange some other plans, so I decided to do this race only a week ago. I am happy that I have been able to maintain and even improve my speed with consistent although unstructured running. And although I did not feel like I was holding back on the course, I did feel like I could have gone a couple more kilometres at that pace and did not feel totally spent at the end. Maybe this is because of my inexperience at pacing this in-between distance, or simply having the discipline to keep the 5:00/km pace, or maybe because of my lack of speed-work lately. It does not really matter, though, because the next real goal is to hold that pace for another 6k in the half-marathon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vegan recipe of the week: White Bean, Spinach, and Barley Stew

I made this last night and it was amazing. I found the recipe on line at Allrecipes.com but modified it a bit to my liking. So here it is:


1 cup uncooked pearl barley
3 cups water
2 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 vegetable bullion cube (natural, no MSG)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dill
2 small or one yellow, orange, or red bell pepper
1 19-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce can Italian-style Roma tomatoes, including liquid
2 cups fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Bring the barley and water to a boil in a large pot. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes.
2. Add more water if needed, about 1 cup. Add onions, garlic, soy sauce, and spices right into the pot. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
3. Add pepper, beans, and tomatoes. Chop tomatoes in the pot, and stir; simmer another 15-20 minutes. Add more water if needed.
4. Add spinach and salt and pepper. Continue cooking 10 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.

Makes about six 2-cup servings.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 30

I can hardly believe it has been 30 days since my mom's stroke. I am happy to say that not only has she made it to this important milestone, but that she is also showing amazing progress toward recovery. There have been ups and downs, but the past couple days she has made some great strides. She is recognizing us more, seems to understand lot of what we are saying, and communicating to us through smiles, facial expressions, and small movements. Our hope and patience has been well worth it. She will soon be moving to a rehab centre in Massachusetts and will start working toward what we hope will be full recovery. She still has a long road ahead to recover her physical and mental strength, but there is no sign of permanent damage now. She will be surrounded by family and friends as she goes through the rehab process. I am planning periodic trips to Massachusetts to see her during this time, and to be near my sister and dad.

The thoughts and prayers from family and friends over the past weeks have given us that extra strength we needed to make it through this difficult first month. I am so happy that we can now look forward with even more hope and strength. I have had to be away a lot from my family in Canada and I thank them for their endless support. While in Florida I been able to reconnect with my aunt and her family in Florida, a wonderful blessing that came out of this difficult time. As I left Florida yesterday, I told them that I will not wait for another family illness to return.

And through it all I have kept up my running. Running has helped to keep me mentally and physically strong, and I know mom will be happy to know that I was able to run almost every day while in Florida. And I am still hopeful that she and my dad will be able to come with me to New York as planned in November when I will be running the marathon. Either way, that marathon will be for her.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A change of course

I have been absent from blogging for the past couple weeks, as my life has taken a major change in course.

On Tuesday February 8, my mother suffered a massive stroke. She is only 68 and had no risk factors, so this is a bit of a surprise (this type of stroke-- a subarachnoid hemorrhage--generally does not correlate with heart disease risk factors). She was lucky enough to get medical attention quickly; she had some life-saving procedures and is now in the neuro-ICU of a large hospital, receiving excellent medical care. Her doctors assure us that she is following a pretty standard course of recovery, which is good. She is sometimes but not always responsive to their stimuli and sometimes following commands. The doctors and nurses assure us that many people go through these ups and downs before recovery. We do not know how much recovery there will be, but the chances are very good for at least partial recovery. They tell us that now its critical that she make it to day 21 (we are now at day 17) with no major complications; after that, somewhere between day 30 and 60 we will likely have a better idea of what we are dealing with. So we wait, and keep going up to visit her every day, because they tell us that helping her keep connected to he "outside world" helps her to recover. We do not know if she can always hear us, but she sometimes can. Hearing is usually the last thing to go when people can't do things like move and blink (temporarily).

My parents winter in Florida, which is where this all happened. Their permanent home is in Massachusetts where my sister also lives; I live pretty far away from both in Vancouver, Canada. So my sister and I, with the help of several close friends, are flying back and forth to Florida to be there for my mother and help my father. My father relies on my mother for much of his daily routine and care, so we need to make sure his needs are met as well.

This is by far the most challenging situation I have ever been dealt. But we take what we are given and we move forward.

It will not come as a surprise that my running goals for the spring are now on hold. I am still running regularly, almost daily, although I am not following a regular training schedule. I can often enjoy runs of up to an hour, sometimes more when I am back home in between visits. But running is more for stress relief now, without the pressure to get faster or hit certain paces.

While I am enjoying running without pressure, I also realize how my past running and racing has helped me face this personal challenge. The mental strength I have gained from learning how to push through tough races and training runs has helped me realize I am capable of more than I sometimes think. It is time to use that strength of character to help me meet the challenges of taking care of my mother, my father, myself, and my own family during this difficult time. I will race again when I am ready. And my mother knows how important running is for me, and she would not want it any other way.

I am continuing to log on DailyMile, but will not be updating as regularly here. I will be posting more intermittently here as thoughts come up that relate to my running.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Vegan recipe of the week: Easy black bean enchiladas

Last night I made my version of the black bean enchiladas. This is my very easy weekday simple version.

Easy Black Bean Enchiladas

vegetable oil
one onion, diced
one large yam (orange sweet potato), diced in small pieces
(you could also add corn here if you want)
one can of black beans, drained
one half-package of firm tofu, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
six soft tortillas

Saute onions for about 5 minutes. Add yams and continue to saute for another 10 minutes. Add corn, beans, tofu and spices and saute for another 10 minutes.

Add filling to tortillas, and wrap and fold. Place in a vegetable oil coated baking pan, and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes until tortillas get browned.

For the non-vegans in my family , I add some sliced cheddar cheese inside the tortilla and some shredded cheese on top. I love mine without cheese, but you could use a vegan cheese here if you want.

Top with salsa (I use Newman's Own). BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Training Summary: Week 4 (January 24 - January 30)

Monday: 5.2K easy on treadmill, 30 min
Tuesday: 11K easy with Mike downtown, 1:05
Wednesday: 10K with about 7-8K hard, untimed
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 8.5K with Mike downtown, 49 min
Saturday: 8K on the treadmill in 46 minutes; later: 2.3K with my son in 15 min
Sunday: 20.25K in 2:00:00 (5:55/km). Gorgeous run.

Total: 65K

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vegan recipe of the week: Red Lentil Curry

Recently I decided to give up most meat foods (other than the occasional local salmon), and I am exploring the benefits of a vegan diet. I know several other athletes and runners that have seen improvements in their health and running after switching to a vegan diet. I will not fully give up dairy and eggs, but I want to rely on them less as the protein source of my meals. Hence, I am making a move toward a mostly vegan diet.

As I try more vegan recipes and learn more about vegan eating, I will share my recipes and insights here.

This Indian recipe adapted from the new "Vij's at Home" cookbook.

My version is actually a lot simpler and quicker. I would like to make the full version at some point, but my whole family actually like this one.

Red Lentil Curry (serve over rice)

2 cups finely chopped onion (one large or two small)
vegetable oil
5 cups water
1 3/4 cup dried red (orange) lentils
1 28-ounce can Roma tomatoes with water
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp tumeric powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional, depends on how sour your tamarind paste is)
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp masala spice mix or to taste

Saute onion in a medium-to-large pot in hot oil for about 5 minutes. Add water and lentils and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and cook partially covered for about 20 minutes or until soft, adding a bit more water if needed. Add can of tomatoes with water, mashing into smaller pieces in the pot, and stir completely. Add tamarind paste, cumin, tumeric, and sugar (if desired). Add peas. Allow to simmer for another 10 minutes or so. At this point or earlier you can add the masala spice, although I leave it out add on the table because my daughter doesn't like things too spicy. It will have a very mild flavour without it, but maybe a bit too mild for most. You shouldn't need extra salt because the tomatoes are salted.
Serve over rice and enjoy!

Training Summary Week 3 (January 17-23)

Monday: 7K easy, 39 min
Tuesday: 10K along the Richmond Dyke trail, wind-assisted negative split :) 56 min
Wednesday: 10.3K with Mike downtown, 59 min
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Intervals on treadmill: 7 x 800m in 3:34 average, 3:30 rest between. 11K total.
Saturday: 14K easy, 1:24 (6:00/km)
Sunday: 23K in 2:21 (6:09/km) partly with the Running Room group. Nice run. Another 2.3K with my son in the afternoon.

Total: 77K

Friday, January 21, 2011

Training Summary: Week 2 (January 10 - January 16)

Monday: 6.3K easy recovery run, 38 min (6:00/km)
Tuesday: 3K warmup, 2 x 3K at tempo with 3 min rest between, 3K cooldown. Tempo sets were 14:30 each (4:50/km). Great run. 12.5K total.
Wednesday: Slush on the roads meant a 7 mile (11.2K) treadmill run in the morning (65 minutes or 5:47/km)
Thursday: Skiing and rest
Friday: 13K on the dyke trail again, this time easy with a fast finish (1:13 total)
Saturday: 4K easy, pre-race rest
Sunday: 15K race in 1:15:19; full report soon! (1K warmup before)

Total: 63K

Monday, January 17, 2011

Race Report: Chilly Chase 15K in Langley, January 16, 2011

Sometimes things just work out they way you want them to. Or at least pretty close.

Short story: Yesterday I ran the Chilly Chase 15K in Langley, BC. My time was 1:15:19, for a pace of 5:01/km. Just a hair over my goal of a sub 1:15 finish, but I am still very happy.

Long story:
The start of the race was not great. Or should I say non-start: some organizational problems delayed the 9:00 start by about 20 minutes. I was not prepared to stand out in the weather for that long, and by the time we actually were able to go, my legs body was freezing and my legs were shaking. When the gun finally did go off, I managed to get moving pretty quickly (although had probably lost all the benefit of my short warm-up by then). My goal was to hold as close as possible to a 5:00/km pace for a sub-1:15 finish time. I thought my friend Rob would be running about the same pace, but he he got a better start than I did and I just let him go.

I hit the first three kilometre splits in just over 5:00/km, but I knew I had time to make up the deficit. There was a bit of a hill at kilometres 2-3 which also slowed us a bit. For kilometres 4-6 I actually sped up to under 5:00/km, hitting close to 4:45 on a couple of them. I worried that this was too fast, but the pace felt good-- and later I realized that I was helped by the downhill and a bit of a tail wind. Although the pace felt good, I have to say it felt pretty hard the whole time. I never really felt like I got into a smooth groove, but I somehow was able to hold on. Around the 6th or 7th kilometre I saw Rob up ahead by about a minute. I was glad I was not catching up to him, though, because I was afraid that I would try to keep his pace and run too fast. Oddly enough on this course I did not pass that many people and was not passed by many either. But it was a pretty small race and we covered most of the first 10K with the 10K racers; it was hard to tell exactly who I was running against.

By the time I hit half-way I already felt like I was fatigued; it was so hard to hold on. But my heart rate wasn't too high, and my body could do it-- I just had to convince my brain. I kept a pretty steady pace although was worried that I would slow down- and I did just a bit after kilometre 10. So maybe I did start too fast, and I almost let my race go at that point. My mind was playing tricks on me: “You're not going to get under 1:15, but anything under 1:17 would be respectable...” Then I thought-- NO! Just keep going as fast as you can, don't slow down on purpose. Hold on, this pace is hard, but it is doable. Just like the end of a hard tempo.

I actually had something in the tank left as I turned the last corner and saw the finish line. I am not sure where that extra kick comes from, but it was there. I crossed the line at about 1:15:30 on the clock, which would be a 1:15:19 chip time. That was good enough for 5th out of about 20 in my F40-49 age group.

I am very happy with this race, especially because it shows I can push hard even when things start to become really rough. I might have had a slightly better time if I could have managed a negative split, but it was still a very strong effort for the day. So I did not run my best race, but it was definitely a good race-- and a great first race of the year. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all of the supportive comments yesterday.

Here are the splits from my Garmin for the numbers junkies; more data can also be found on my itsmyrun entry (Laps and Elevation):

1 5:07 (cold start!)
2 5:12 (bit of a hill)
3 5:01
4 4:49 (downhill, and tail wind)
5 4:47
6 4:52
7 4:57
8 4:58
9 5:01
10 5:08
11 5:15 (bit back uphill, and headwind! and fatigue)
12 5:18
13 5:06
14 5:04
15 5:01

(the course actually measured a bit short, 14.95K, but I'll take it. :) The splits above are by pace.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nutrition taken too far

You know it's a slow news day in Vancouver when the article on the front page is headlined: "Vancouver wants nutrition standards for street food carts". My first response when I saw this was, "Huh?" The article describes how those applying for new licenses for downtown food carts must show that their offerings are nutritious. Want to serve deep-fried food? Better have that with a side of fresh veggies.

Now this is a city that until recently only allowed street vendors to sell one kind of food: hot dogs. In addition to the Mr. Tubesteak carts and others like it, some companies got creative with condiments and side dishes. Hence, the creation of the hugely successful Japa Dog food carts that serve hot dogs with spicy Japanese add-ons. Still-- hot dogs are hardly a nutritional staple.

I don't know about you but I do not expect street food to be particularly healthy. I expect it to be greasy, salty, and maybe even taste good. Monitoring the nutritional standards of street vendors' food takes things a bit too far, in my opinion. A friend of mine called it "nanny state run amok." Either way, I think there's a place for good nutrition, and street food is not it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Training Summary: Week 1 (January 3 - January 9)

Monday: 5.5K easy, 33 min
Tuesday: progression tempo: 1.5K easy, 2.5K @ 5:25/km, 6.5K @ 5:05/km (11.5K total)
Wednesday: 11.25K in 1:07 in the cold rain
Thursday: Speed work on the treadmill (6 x 800m in 3:32 average, 3:30 rest between) 10.5K total
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 12.25K easy, 1:13 (5:50/km)
Sunday: 20K easy, 1:55 (5:45/km)

Total 71K

Yesterday's run was great. I met up with a friend at the Running Room and we ran with the marathon group for the first 12K. This friend and I used to run together quite often but our weekly schedules these days do not overlap very well for running; she has joined a Running Room clinic for this winter/spring, so the only way we will be able to run together is to go with that group. I was reluctant at first because I did not want to go back to 10-and-1 walk breaks, but it actually went really well. We ran with the 3:45 pace group whose target pace is 5:45-6:15/km average, but we were on the fast side of that. During the run portions we averaged about 5:25-5:30/km, and I stayed in my aerobic zone the whole time. The average pace of 5:45/km is about where my long run pace has settle into these days anyway, but it didn't seem to be much different with the walk breaks.

I am also glad to have broken 70K for the week. The season is looking great already.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Training Summary: Week 0 (December 27- January 2)

New for this year, I will post training summaries by the week. As the week progresses, I will update the list on the right. I will then archive the weeks in the tab above for easy reference.

Since I am not counting down to any single goal race, I will simply count up the weeks from this one. I will call this week "Week 0" of 2011 because it only includes one run from the new year and the rest from 2010.

Monday: 16.5K in 1:32: 4K@6:00/km, 5K@5:25/km, 1K easy, 5K@5:15/km, 1.5K easy
Tuesday: 10K easy in 58 min (5:50/km)
Wednesday: 5K, very easy recovery run (6:40/km)
Thursday: 2K easy, 6 x 800m (3:36 average)
Friday: 5K easy, 6:30/km
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Awesome run with a friend (first 4K alone): 18.6K total in 1:48 (5:49/km). I'm loving the quicker pace of my long runs now. It's coming naturally with no extra effort. After the first 4K on my own at about 6:00/km we did about 13K at 5:36/km average, and then a slower couple kilometres up the hill. Finally the training effect kicking in.

Total: 66K