Sunday, June 28, 2009

Early on, the pace run is challenging

What keeps us going at a reasonably fast speed for 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometres? I asked myself that question this morning while I was doing my 16 miler. As I did my best to hold on to near 3:10 marathon pace, I wondered how the hell I pulled this off last year. Why did it feel easy last year and hard today?

Okay, it's about another 16 weeks till I'm supposed to 'peak', so I can take a little bit of solace in the training to come, but it's a mystery to me sometimes how that while I run all year long, the difference between running and training is pretty stark.

The plan today was 8 miles at marathon pace, which for me is about 4:30 kilometres to 4:37 kilometres (4:30Ks = 7:15 miles). For some stupid reason, I only warmed up for one kilometre before launching into it, maybe because I was impatient and wanted to get the run over with.

My first two of 13 kilometres at pace were pretty lacklustre. My legs were still not warmed up and I think I was still trying to judge what 4:30 was actually like. Like other runners, I have various gears: slow long distance, general aerobic, sprightly (that's when I feel like going a little faster), marathon pace, tempo pace, 5K race pace. I felt I was at marathon pace but really I was running somewhere between sprightly and MP.

Long story short: Found 4:30ish pace by the third kilometre and was able to hold the pace for the next 11. Had to give some effort but somewhere in the middle of the run, I started to feel again what I'll get in a few months. Comfortable. In 16 weeks, this pace should be comfortable. Today, it was a little too comfortably hard.

0:04:57 WARMUP

And maybe I should fuel better and get a little more than 5 hours sleep before key runs.

I ran the rest of the run at recovery. So needed that.

16 miles in 2:08:51

Weekly mileage: 56 miles (90K)
Month to date: 198 miles (319K)
Year to date: 915 miles (1473K)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Commuting on foot on the year's hottest day

I'd been planning this run for weeks, but the signs this afternoon were not looking good. I was chatting with a co-worker when I saw the TV by him flash 31C and the words "EXTREME HEAT ALERT". Great, this will be fun.

I'm exactly 20 kilometres from work if you measure it out by the trails that lead from my office's front doors to mine. The plan was to bring my running gear to work, then after work change and go out the door for that run home.

I knew that a huge problem would be getting enough liquid so I filled three fuel belt bottles and also carried a 750 ml Gatorade bottle. It was a lot to carry but I had no clue if I'd find water fountains.

It was stinking hot, 30C with humidex of 36C, but for some reason, I kept a strong pace. Maybe it was to get this run over with, but I took the run quite strongly. Even on a cool day, the 5 minute kilometre pace or 8 minute miles would not be easy. Today, it was really difficult. Two bonuses were that the route home is downhill and there was a lot of shade.

I had biked the route in reverse a few times but I was pretty shocked that I was able to make it through the trails without taking the wrong turn.

What surprised me was how fast I got back downtown. It usually takes me at least an hour and 10 minutes to get home after work, and this run only took about 25 minutes more. That's pretty efficient use of commuting time for training time.

So there you go, I'm going to do this once a week and get in these monster 12 to 15 milers on Wednesday done.

Because if I could take this route on this day, then the rest of the summer should be okay. 12 miles in 1:37.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fight the heat

A hot evening in Toronto and instead of letting it hurt my pace, I decided to fight through it. I started out at 5 minute kilometres (8 minute miles) and by the end, was pulling in marathon pace and faster. It hurt, I won't lie, but it felt really great to battle the temperature. I took in water on the run, I passed other runners, I raced up the hill striding by cyclists, and when I finished on a boardwalk, my breathing was elevated.

I glanced down at my heart rate metre, and it was at 170 bpm. Walking and breathing heavily I cooled down. It hurt. It hurt good. I remember thinking that it's runs like today that make me a stronger runner for tomorrow and marathon day.

14K/8.7 miles in 1:06

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The year so far, according to Garmin

Just ran through some stats on my Garmin connect account and it shows an interesting snapshot of the year so far. Other than the fact that I hit the start button of my Garmin 124 times, here are the stats.

I've run for 122 hours, with an average distance of 11.45K per run (wow). On average I run an hour each time but it's the long runs that skew things. My median runs are around 45 minutes.

I've burned 104,409 calories, which would have lost me 30 pounds. Guess I've been able to each that many extra calories cause I'm more or less the same weight (a few pounds lighter than earlier this year)

Anyhow, kinda cool, here are the rest of the stats.

Count: 124 activities
Distance: 1,419.35 km
Time: 121:59:14 hh:mm:ss
Elevation Gain: 59,743 m
Avg Speed: 11.6 km/h
Avg Heart Rate: 154 bpm
Avg Run Cadence: --
Avg Bike Cadence: --
Calories: 104,409 C
Avg Distance: 11.45 km
Median Distance: 8.83 km
Max Distance: 42.21 km
Avg Time: 00:59:01 hh:mm:ss
Median Time: 00:46:29 hh:mm:ss
Max Time: 03:24:11 hh:mm:ss
Avg Elevation Gain: 486 m
Median Elevation Gain: 363 m
Max Elevation Gain: 2,207 m
Elevation Loss: 63,293 m
Avg Elevation Loss: 515 m
Median Elevation Loss: 414 m
Max Elevation Loss: 2,177 m
Max Avg Speed: 15.3 km/h
Max Speed: 353.3 km/h
Max Avg Heart Rate: 165 bpm
Max Heart Rate: 207 bpm

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Race report: Night Crawler 5 miler

Update: Race results available here
There's this saying, I race for the T-shirt. I'd have to say that this, my most favourite of races, is one I do for the T-shirt (best designs ever), the hot dogs and the community of runners that it fosters.

This is now my fourth straight running of the Night Crawler 5 miler (race report 2008, 2007, 2006). It's special in that it's a weekday race (Wednesday evening right around the first day of summer) and thus it tends to attract a small but dedicated crowd.

That was all the more evident today as it was raining pretty much all afternoon. I arrived and there was a crowd of people gathered under the tents. I took the shirt and immediately checked it into baggage check and waited for the start.

The course is an out and back and today, we had a tailwind for the first half. The wind was brutal, with gusts of up to 50 km/h or 30 mph.

Mile 1: Went out pretty fast for the first kilometre, which included a downhill section. Clocked in a sub-4 kilometre then decided to dial it down a bit. I wanted to feel really comfortable so I slowed down just to the point that my breathing never got laboured. Passed the first mile mark at 6:27. I saw Lee go blasting out and decided not to give chase when I looked down at my pace. Didn't want to burn out and I wanted to at least salvage the race as a tempo pace run.

Mile 2: By this time, we were pretty much running in small groups. There were a few runners ahead of me, including a guy who had his laces untied. I was averaging about a 4:10 kilometre at this point and still felt good. I'll note now that I switched back to my OLD Asics GT-2130s for this race. They're pretty much spent but I didn't want to race in my new shoes (which I'm pretty much giving up on when I pick up my new pair in a week or so). Would note that from this moment on, I was never passed until the end. Mile 2 in 6:41.

Mile 3: This included the turnaround in which we hit a WALL of wind. It was unbelievable. I was running alone, having dropped a few runners I was with and looking ahead, the next group of runners were a good 20 to 30 metres ahead. This kinda sucked as I had no one to draft. This section included a downhill followed by a few uphills as we were climbing a ramp up to the bridge. I was really trying to maintain a good pace while fighting the wind. As I reached the 3 mile mark, I had made good ground on the a long tail of runners (they were running right behind each other, about 10 of them). Mile 3 in 6:45

Mile 4: The next mile we were running on boardwalk, which kinda sucks for two reasons. 1. It isn't stable to get good footing and 2. Freaking Canadian Geese crap all over it. I had to actually play dodge the goose droppings while fighting headwinds and doing a 4:20 kilometre pace. That sucked. During this mile, I was starting to pass runners and when I passed this girl, she suggested we work together. I was totally up for it and then we took turns taking the headwind. I'm very happy we worked together, each one of us taking the lead and ramping up the pace for about a minute before the other person took over. We gradually made our way pass a few runners and got another runner to join in. Teamwork!!! Mile 4 in 7 minutes

Mile 5: The last mile of the race is pretty challenging in that there's a big hill that's about 400 metres long. It's a good climb. The three of us were still working together. We reeled in another group so that there were now six of us running in a pack. I could see the girl wanting to take the lead but she was boxed in. So we tucked in for a straightaway and got ready to climb the hill.

This course is my home course and the hill is often on a route I take. I often power up that freaking hill, making it a game to fight my way up it and even up the pace. As the six of us started climbing, I felt great so I started to go a little faster. Over the next 200 metres, me and a guy started making a lot of room as we scaled the hill. By the time we reached the top, we had left the others behind and we tucked into it, ready for a slight downhill before the final 300 metres. How fast were we going? In the last kilometre, I did it in 4:12 one of my faster kilometres.

As we reached the final 200 metres, I started to kick it into high gear. Had lots left and saw the clock tick toward 34 minutes. Decided I wanted to beat it and did, punching my Garmin in 33:46.

Saw Lee, who had blasted the course and came in around 32:40, fantastic run. We caught up with him and met up with his wife who also ran.

Perfect race. Cool, drizzly with a side of hot dogs, doughnuts and conversation with fellow runners. A perfect way to welcome the longest day of the year and the first day of summer. I'll be back next year for all of this and a T-shirt.

I got my second fastest time of 33:46ish compared with the fastest time of  32:49 and slowest of 35:42. I have to say that this race is a great indicator of my fitness going into marathon training. Given the wind and the fact that I didn't go all out, I'm pretty pleased with today's showing.

Garmin time: 33:46
Pace: 6:44 miles / 4:11 kilometres

1 6:27
2 6:41
3 6:45
4 7:00
5 6:47


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Morning runs and evening races

So it's 9:15 p.m. and ready for bed. Why? Because I decided to set my alarm for 4:45 a.m. this morning and was up after 5 and starting a 11 miler by 5:30. I'm telling you, getting out of bed is the hardest part for these morning runs. But I ended up going out and feeling great by the end that I managed a sub 8 minute pace for the duration.

No morning run tomorrow cause I'm doing my first race in about a month -- a 5 miler, the Nightcrawler. It's tomorrow at 7:15 p.m. and is one of my favourite races. I set a PR at the distance, a sub 33 minute run, last year. This year, I'm in pretty good shape but will target a tempo pace so a 34 minute or so. We'll see.

11 miles in 1:30

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's go time

Well, that was my break, 5 weeks off of marathon training. It's almost been like a reverse taper. The mileage from the past five weeks:

24 miles
31 miles
35 miles
45 miles
42 miles

I decided to not progress from 45 to 50 miles this week, wanted to give myself a breather before I go into it. Officially, I'm doing the 70 mile peak program, but having done it last summer, I know it's a tough one. I'm seriously thinking of paring down the mileage a wee bit by turning a recovery day into a rest day. If so, then I'll run 5 days a week and my mileage would probably top at 65 miles, which could actually be a good thing.

I think I could get battle ready on the 55 mile program but I'd like to be in top form by this fall. The difference between the 55 mile and potentially 65 mile peak adds up to an extra 10 miles on average through 18 weeks, so that's 180 extra miles. If that will bring me over the top, then i'll believe it.

This week has me peaking at 55 miles and includes my first quality run, a tempo run. As it turns out, i've sign up for a 5 mile race on Wednesday night, so that will substitute quite nicely.

Time to get down to work. Marathon day in 18 weeks.

Week to date: 42 miles (67K)
Month to date: 87 miles (140K)
Year to date: 849 miles (1366K)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ramblings from an unfocused runner

Sometimes when you get that midrun pain, my mind loses focus on 'smooth running' and I do thinks like look up at the sky and strain with the exertion.

I do that sometimes to take my mind off the road and just let my mind wander, which leads to rambling thoughts like:

You can tell the marathoning community of Toronto is gearing up for fall training. I see it on weekday mornings, when pairs of runners stride down the sidewalk. On the weekends, you see larger groups out there for longer runs. I was standing on top of a bridge taking a mid-run breather (it was supposed to be recovery) and watched a big running group stream below me. I later caught up to them when they were taking their walk breaks.

Went out for a 10K run this morning, felt pretty sluggish and just contemplating what I'm going to put myself through the next 18 weeks. More on the mindset of a runner in training, but I'm really trying to soak in the next few runs when I can just focus on getting in some miles.

Focus, even with this blog post, I'm feeling pretty unfocus, and that's a good thing. Good to let the mind drift before I'm pulled back in the world where I tick off each run and measure each one against my own expectations.

Now before I start thinking up future posts on my goals, or what marathon pace runs mean to the overall life of a training cycle, I'll just focus on getting some sleep. That'd be nice.

10K in 55:22 (YAY, finally did a recovery run)

Monday, June 08, 2009

The last build-up week

Yep, folks, we're about to launch the 18 weeks of marathon training. A co-worker asked if I was in training and I said, not it starts next week. He goes 'so you've stopped running?'

In a way, kinda, but not by a long shot. I logged 45 miles last week which is a proper buildup to the 50 miles I'll do in the first week of training. In my last week of 'pre training' I'll use as a recovery type week, a step back from last week, so I can enjoy one last lighter training.

I've been loosely following the recovery cycle from Pfitzinger Douglas and I mean loosely because I've ramped up my long runs way more aggressive than they suggest. I'm already back up to 15 miles yet even next week's run is only prescribed as 12 miles (i'm making that 13). That's because the 70 mile program is pretty aggressive and will have me ramp up very quickly to the high teens and 20 milers. Not going to hurt myself by going from 12 to 16 in a week.

So today, I'm taking a breather, resting the legs and beginning a morning routine. Here's the sked.

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 6 miles AM
Wednesday: 8 miles AM
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 9 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 13 miles

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Remembering a runner

How do we want to be remembered? When we're gone, what words will be used to described who we are?

I read a sad obituary in the Globe's Facts and Arguments page, about Don McDonald, who died near Buffalo in an airline crash earlier this year.

In these pieces, the paper usually uses a line to describe the person. For obvious reasons, it grabbed my immediate attention:

Loving husband and father, son, brother, friend, runner, outdoorsman, family man. Born March 6, 1960, in Timmins, Ont. Died Feb. 12 in Clarence Center, N.Y., aboard Continental Connection Flight 3407, aged 48.

The piece recalls his love of the sport:

Don was an accomplished long-distance runner in high school and had regained his love for the sport in recent years. He ran competitively, finishing first in his age group in many races. At the time of his death he was well into his training to qualify for the 2010 Boston Marathon. He had planned to run that race in April next year to celebrate his 50th birthday.

A very sad and haunting piece.

That, and the sad story of the Air France crash, got me thinking again about life and mortality. All can be gone in moments and we're told constantly that we should "seize the day" or live life to the fullest and that famous line: What would you want to be remembered for?

I wrote about Haruki Muarakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" before. I won't give away much by citing a passage from his book but he says he's selected what will be on his gravestone:
Haruki Murakami
1949 - 20**
Writer (and Runner)
At Least He Never Walked

Yes yes, I don't want running to take over my life but can't deny it's a big part of it. Today, while I was running on a bright sunny day on the Leslie Spit, with dozens of cyclists streaming by me, I smiled as I hit a comfortable stride and the perfect beat from a song came on my Ipod. Damn I love this series of motions, running is our natural act. I want to be known as a runner, and I am, but in truth, we're all meant to run, I think. Modern life has forced us to go out alone and find it for ourselves.

15 miles, 2:07:24

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Not too crazy about the new shoes

They were okay, I thought. They felt fine, in fact, I distinctly remember pushing against the toebox when I tried my Asics Nimbus. Yep, I had plenty of room.

Not sure if my feet have grown in the past month, but i'm constantly loosening my shoelaces hoping to buy a little bit more room. In the past, I've worn thinner socks for fit, and I may try again, but I like my pairs of Nike. Thin socks tend to wear on my feet for some reason. Anyways, I'm going to snap up a pair of GT-2140s soon, and cycle them back into my training.

In other news, I've got another week and a half of 'base mileage' before the marathon training begins. Amazing how fast the season ramps up right after my spring marathon. I feel like I'm in decent shape but man, running at 4:30Ks seem a little more laboured. I'm very interested to see how the first month of training will go and how quickly I regain the speed I got last summer.

I'm up to 16 miles for the week, and the plan is to build up to about 15 miles for the weekend long run with the goal to top 40 miles this week. Next week, I'll dial it back and enjoy the last light week before 18 weeks of heavy running. Should be fun.