Sunday, May 30, 2010

Farewell to an old pair

My head and heart didn't want to say good bye but my knees were begging me to let go. I hang on to my shoes a little too long. They linger as long as an unwanted black toenail but I am still reluctant to let go.

They say an average pair can give you 400 to 500 miles of good running. Sounds like plenty of miles in theory, but most distance runners in the midst of heavy training can buzz through those miles in mere few months.

I seem to never be able to buy enough runners to get me by. Just as I'm getting comfortable in an old pair, it's time to trade old for new. If you don't, you do pay the consequences, I know that.

These old pairs, though, have some significance. They got me through a winter of training, tackled all my spring races. They tread the trails of High Park in Toronto, the icy paths of the Martin Goodman trail, the hills of Newton and the finish on Boylston. They are a special pair, full of memories.

Eventually, though, I've had to let go. Over the years, I've dumped or donated dozens. One old Asics, though, is tucked deep in R's apartment in DC. It annoys her to hell that I have them there but I just can't throw them away. They are years and years old, and I have this fantasy now that 10 years from now, I'll dig them out and go for a light jog. They'll feel probably not unlike the first pair of shoes I took on one of my first runs, but the difference is it has history. They're the pair I ran my first marathon in, almost five years ago.

The knees hurt. They ache and are a constant reminder that although the shoes feel comfortable, they have long given up the cushioning power they had when they were shiny and new. I took out a new pair, purchased for $82 US a few weeks ago (yes, they're going for $129 in Canada, the injustice). Within the first 100 metres, the knees were thanking me. And at the end of the run, I decided it was time to switch.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Race report: Mississauga Marathon 2010

As race days go, on paper it was a perfect day. Weather had all the attributes of what most would call a beautiful day. For racing though, I was hopeful but worried that it would get a little too warm. Not that I have a lot to complain about: each one of my last marathons I have somehow avoided truly terrible weather. No downpours or terribly hot days, though my share of a little too warm for optimal racing.

One thing I chose wrong was my running top. I only brought one singlet with me and decided that it did not fit quite right. So i went with a t -shirt. Otherwise, while waiting in the corrals in the final minutes in the sun i knew it was warm

Started off the race right around on pace, nice job that I do not often do but am learning. Within a few kilometres, I knew it'd be a warm day, but I didn't try to stress out too much. The first bit of the race has a combo of flats, uphlils and downhills. I don't mind it and I find that the long stretch is nice for getting into your pace and letting the crowd sort itself off. One trouble about mixing marathons with halfs is you get fooled into thinking you want to go faster than you should. In any case, the first 5K were on pace. Luckily there was a 3:30 pacer who didn't seemed to be going out too fast, so I kept them in sight.

1K - 5K (Target pace 5 minute kliometres)


The next five kilometres features a few turns and running through the U of T Mississauga campus. Last year, I took a portapotty break, which I did in kilometre 8. Yes, I always answer when nature calls, especially if you have an open portapotty or a little wait. Problem is with every second you lose on the break, you can quickly fall out of pace. Having lost 20 seconds or so, I exited and had a fast next kilometre (4:27). Before long with a little bit of effort and the benefit of a downhill, I eventually caught up to to pacer. I saw my friend who came on to cheer me and finished the 10K mark pretty much dead on pace..

6K - 10:

The next bit chugged on, not much to write about, just trying to keep an easy pace. We lost the pacer for a bit when he took a pee break as well but I stuck to it and before long he was alongside us again.

11K - 15K
By the end of 14, we had split off from the half marathoners. I was really looking forward to this, seeing who was among me. It was still early on in the race yet it felt a little warmer than I'd want. I had a feeling that this wasn't the day to go all out. Fine, because I wasn't. I took my second gel at this point and soon after, I felt some discomfort in my stomach. Yep, I had to go. Won't spare details but you see my 17th kilometre included about a one-minute break. I felt I had to go while I had a chance at a portapotty and I'm glad I did. Of course, being a minute behind pace gave me a sense of urgency. Yes, I could have gone into the racing just going with 4:55s and I'd make up the minute over the second half, but I felt I wanted to run with a group going as fast as I wanted, if not a little faster. Which lead me to take the next 4 kilometres at around a 4:45 pace.

16K - 20K

Caught up to the group of people running pace but somehow the pacer had gone missing. What the heck? I found the 3:30s a little spread out so I decided to just dictate my own pace. As I had done in so many marathons, I ran without a pace group and I was pretty comfortable with that. Hit the half marathon mark at 1:45:16 (looking back, that meant I ran a 1:45:38 second half).

They did a course change this year, and instead of going out to boonie industrial land, we turned back toward the city waterfront. In a way, it was an improvement but I wasn't happy what that would mean for me in about 10 kilometres or so. We were finally running in some shade and neighbourhoods so I appreciated that. I took an orange slice here and there and we had a downhill and a few uphills. Kinda hurt

21K - 25K

I'm not a fan of running on Lakeshore, it was straight ahead but by no means flat, in fact it was hilly and had no shelter from the run. At least the marathon gets you to turn into some neighbourhoods. By this time I was feeling alright. I believe some runners were getting hit by the heat and walking, but I was doing okay. We turned into a street and a guy was watering his lawn. I shouted out "that looks great!" and he asked if I wanted some. I nodded and he sprayed us with water. So good. This part of the course had a few turns. You get a sense the course is designed to eat up miles by having you run back and forth. Yuck. Anyways, regardless, my splits show tonnes of consistency. Hit the 30K mark a little ahead of schedule and was feeling obviously tired but also that I could still go.

26K - 30K

The problem about having run this course last year was that I knew the old course. While I was still at the 31K mark, in my head, this was where that last few kilometres were last year. Even better, there was the turnoff for the half marathon's 18K mark. So my head was not liking that. I shook my head off that and tried to ignore the heat that was setting in. I was really regretting not wearing my singlet. I actually ripped off my pace band because it was bothering me. Around the 34K mark, at a water station, I felt that I should take a water break and get my fluilds in. I knew it was a gamble. Many a walk break actually breaks marathoners. But I needed it.

31K - 35K

After the walk break, I resumed pace, feeling a little better. I made sure to take my last gel. Sun was blazing, it was warm and I was sweating. If this had been a BQ day, I shudder to think what would happen. On the bright side, I did two miles after the walk break at pace. Kilometres 38 - 40 weren't pretty. My left calf started to cramp so I was forced to slow to a walk. I chomped on a Clif Shot Blok hoping it'd help me get rid of the cramp. I was able to get going again but was forced to walk again. I took four walk breaks and three of them I had to stretch out my calf. That helped (or maybe the Blox helped) and I started to run again.

36K - 40K

With two klometers to go, I looked down at my watch and realized it was actually around 3:20 mark, which meant if I did a few 5 minute kilometres, I could meet my 3:30 goal. The walk breaks had cooled me down and the crowds were growing so I stepped her up and managed 41K at about pace. The last kilometre I just willed myself to run it in and it helped, was actually feeling pretty good by the last half mile and did 42K in 4:45. Hit the final stretched and saw that I could finish in sub 3:31 and did so with 6 seconds to spare.

41K - 42.2K

In all, marathon done in 3:30:54.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Marathon is that easy huh...

I was going to write my Mississauga Marathon race report tonight, even got my splits down and ready but too tired. Maybe it is because I decided to run TWICE today, for a total of 10 miles. It was that nice out. I just needed also to get out their and run. I feel an inherent need and two days of post-marathon recovery was just enough to get me dying to get out there again.

Speaking of running, yesterday it was a little disgusting to watch The Biggest Loser again try to hype up the marathon. I wrote about this last year.

First things first, you do not go from zero to marathon. It is plain stupid and dangerous. Second, I got so angry when those trainers blasted Daris for gaining weight during training. It led me to believe they know how to get fit, but not how to train for long distances. A long distance runner is a different breed and I hate to think that millions of tv viewers can think they can plunge into that aspect of our sport when a television program casually tosses people into that race.

Did you notice that most of the former TBL contestants who came out to run with the final four had mostly gained back significant weight.

Oh well. As I wrote last year:
My worry about this is not that it'll cause people to recklessly go into marathoning -- I think they depicted that distance as a monumental challenge, and one should know that to decide to run one is not a one month commitment. And I guess as a runner first and also as a marathoner, I say this. For me, marathoning is not just one of those 'to do' things on a life checklist.

Speaking of which, I still can not get over how Daris ran a 21 minute 5K when it looked like he was gong much slower...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Upstaged at the end!

Funny story and even more hilarious picture. At the end of the Mississauga Marathon apparently I was trying to whoop it up at the end. Unknown to me, my buddy Tim Fraser (see his site, he's a most talented photographer) was on assignment for a, er, national newspaper and had the finish staked out. I guess he was just testing his angles when he caught this shot.

He didn't realize until he was going through the photos that one of a guy with his shirt pulled over his head had me in the foreground.

Now two things. First, why is it that some racing photos add a few pounds to you. As Tim and his wife said, the picture didn't look like me! Second, the guy, no way he was running the marathon, right? Maybe he was on the corporate team, doing a half or was a bandit! That's my theory.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mississauga Marathon done

This was an interesting race. I thought I'd take it easyish pace but a few pit stops had me rushing to keep on pace. Not comfortable.

I knew a few days ago that a high of 20C would not bode well and for some reason avoided wearing a singlet.

In the end, a varied pace run including a few cramp induced walk
breaks had me on the edge for the last two miles but I recovered for a fast last kilometre.

Final time of 3:30:54, a decent way to close spring marathoning. Lots
of work to do to regain the form I had last fall. That's where the fun begins.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Racing the marathon

Was flipping through my Runner's World and saw the marathon ad that some have been talking about.

Controversy aside, it reminded me that this weekend I should approach my 10th marathon the way I've done so many -- with a race plan in mind and to a degree run it not just for the challenge of completing it, but competing with myself.

Even after nine marathons, I still approach every race of 42.2 kilometres with caution and respect. I have to eat properly, rest up, pack up for race day and contain the nerves for race day.

Before many a race, I've felt blah in the days before, but as friends say at the end of a marathon training program, 'the hay is in the barn' and you've done all your work. Time to cash in those pennies put away.

True, I just finished a 11 day stretch of work and in this week have only run twice, but I think that even so, I can look to Sunday's Mississauga Marathon with some hunger. I want to compete, even if that notion of competition is to better my time from Boston, which I ran for fun. I said that Mississauga was also for fun, but I'm thinking that any marathon, after the 18 or so mile mark, you have to start to dig deep. I plan on that.

Picked up my 3:30 band. I'll go out at that pace and see how it goes. And I've been told that there's one runner I should look at beating. I sure hope he's not a speedy one. Game on.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A long stretch around the corner

Still haven't decided what pace to do this weekend's marathon. I have a good idea why I'm doing two marathons this spring -- part of me wanted to maintain some momentum going into the spring, and having a race in later May would give me a pause between Boston and when I start to ramp up the training.

So then it crept up on me. Weather looks like it may be good this weekend, so I'm tentatively planning to go out 'easy'. What is easy? Well, I'm thinking 3:30 marathon pace for the first half, then see where I am after that.

Didn't get a chance to run for the last four days, and am on my ninth day of work in a row, with another few coming. So the next few days, I'm going to try to cram in some rest along with the start of carbo loading.

It is weird taking four days off so today's run I felt it was important to reinforce all the fitness I've maintained since I started the Boston marathon training cycle in mid-December. Almost 10K in a decent 7:47 pace per mile, speeding up while the run went on. Felt good, and I think I'll put in two more 6-8 milers in the next few days, take Friday and Saturday light.

Oh, and the reason why I didn't run this weekend? Partly because R. was in town and also was working on a special project, which included spending a surreal weekend with a few notables.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Yay taper (again)

Somewhere in there, probably 5 miles in, I felt great, watching my shadow to my right as the setting sun showed that there was enough light for the rest of my 15 mile run.

Today I dreaded my run, but really by the time I was 40 minutes in, I had forgotten about it. It was great to feel alive again. A few days after the last marathon, I flipped to the back of Pfitzinger-Douglas and looked over the four week between marathon program.

It says basically that in the four weeks, you have to recover, build up and maintain fitness, then taper.

Which meant that my speedwork-10K-race last Sunday should be followed by more running to keep my cardio up. I ran 10 miles two days ago. And today, my last long run.

Since Boston, I can't really get into a long easy pace. Everything has been at or faster than 8 minute miles. Don't know why. Today's long run, I thought, would force me to run a little slower.

But by the 10K mark, I saw I was running right around 5 minute kilometres again, 8 minute miles. Ah ha, I thought, my body could never keep up with that over 15 miles right? I had no water with me. I was tired from work.

But I kept up the pace. And even in the last 10K into a strong headwind, I fought and got faster.

So then I finished 21.1K in 1:44:46, and 24K in 1:58:42. Maybe this should be my marathon pace in eight days? It's a 3:30 marathon. Food for thought. I really didn't want to push it this spring, and I may just decide to cruise again next Sunday. But part of me just wants to run a harder effort than Boston.


17:51:49 0.62mi 00:05:03 7.38mph 8.9mph
17:56:53 0.62mi 00:05:10 7.21mph 8.9mph
18:02:03 0.62mi 00:05:06 7.30mph 8.5mph
18:07:09 0.62mi 00:05:06 7.30mph 8.2mph
18:12:16 0.62mi 00:05:05 7.33mph 9.2mph
18:17:21 0.62mi 00:04:42 7.91mph 13.8mph
18:22:04 0.62mi 00:05:05 7.33mph 8.0mph
18:27:09 0.62mi 00:05:00 7.46mph 7.9mph
18:32:09 0.62mi 00:04:59 7.47mph 8.4mph
18:37:08 0.62mi 00:04:56 7.55mph 8.2mph
18:42:05 0.62mi 00:04:55 7.58mph 8.6mph
18:47:00 0.62mi 00:04:57 7.51mph 8.5mph
18:51:58 0.62mi 00:05:02 7.40mph 7.9mph
18:57:00 0.62mi 00:04:51 7.67mph 8.6mph
19:01:52 0.62mi 00:04:51 7.67mph 8.5mph
19:09:02 0.62mi 00:04:58 7.49mph 8.1mph
19:14:01 0.62mi 00:04:54 7.59mph 7.9mph
19:18:56 0.62mi 00:04:51 7.66mph 8.1mph
19:23:48 0.62mi 00:04:53 7.61mph 8.1mph
19:28:41 0.62mi 00:04:52 7.65mph 8.5mph
19:36:33 0.62mi 00:04:54 7.60mph 8.4mph
19:41:29 0.62mi 00:04:51 7.67mph 8.2mph
19:46:20 0.62mi 00:04:51 7.68mph 11.2mph
19:51:22 0.62mi 00:04:41 7.97mph 14.0mph

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Race report: Sporting Life 10K

My fifth running of the Sporting Life was, in the end, better than expected, slower than I am capable of and a nice confidence booster going into my next marathon.

The downhill course is extremely popular, and now can boast to be the biggest road race (by the single distance) in the city. Fourteen thousand runners, an amazing amount and I think we can draw a hell of a lot more.

As late as last night, I had considered not doing the race today. The bad allergy season has left me congested, not great for breathing but I downed another antihistamine last night that made me kinda okay. I was tired, not feeling great from Saturday`s warmup run.

Took the cab up there and it was already buzzing. Bumped into a co-worker and just took it easy, no pressure. By the time I decided it was a go, I had reset my expectations. A 45 minute 10K is more of a pace run. A 40 minute would be about racing it, so I aimed at sub 43, which would make it a tempo run.

Here is a quick rundown of the race

1K 4:18: First kilometer is net downhill, and I took it easy, just getting a feel for the pace. I was not 10K racing it and I even felt my left lower calf complain, so I eased off a bit, but my breathing was fine. A little bit of jockeying for position

2K 4:12: Decided I felt okay so I stepped it up a wee bit. Again, felt comfortably hard but not the beginning of hurt.

3K 4:14: This stretch was actually a combo of up and down hill, and my Garmin shows it net uphill, with the stretch alongside the cemetery. Again the splits are not bad, about an upper tempo pace. Another runner asked out loud 'anyone cramping?' but no one answered. I ran beside him, he looked at me, sees my Boston shirt and says 'how is it going' I answer 'just taking it easy' as we run up the hill. Others around us are silent. I wish him well.

4K 4:10: I hit this part and I know others are suffering so I am starting to gain ground and passing those who went out too fast. Was feeling better than expected.

5K 4:13: The 5K mark takes us to about the Bloor area and I knew it was a little more downhill, but forgot about the slight uphill too. Again, I start to pay attention to the runners and the course. I think I decided that I could start racing this now.

6K 4:11: I look down at my splits and realize I am doing okay enough to bag in a sub 43, so with that in mind, and feeling still good, I keep it up.

7K 4:08: We turn a turn that becomes pretty flat around this kilometre, and again I am trying not to coast. Others are slowing, a few of us are keeping up pace. I track other runners who are stepping it up and we go. Great feeling, feeling a little more than comfortably hard.

8K 4:10: I kinda wished I was farther along, since I was not paying attention to the markers or my pace, I was kinda surprised that I had 2K to go when I thought I had about a mile. Oh well, kept her up.

9K 4:23: We kinda get congested around a few turns and I let the pace slip a little. In my head, I had a sub 43 in the bag and I guess I started to coast. Then we hit a stretch where several spectators cheered me on, one saying "way to go, nice recovery from Boston!" That for me is a boost, and added with another Boston cheer, I realize that yeah, I ran a marathon two weeks ago, but I took that easy, I still have more left, so I push it again. Thanks spectators!

10K 4:02: So I push her up for the last kilometre, it burns, but feels great. I never redlined it. Don`t get me wrong, it was hard at points and my feel felt like they were burning, but I kept on thinking of in the whole scheme of distance running, a 10K is a different beast than marathoning. Faster and painful, but mercifully shorter.

Chip time is 42:03, two minutes slower than my racing effort a year ago. Considering the circumstances, not bad at all. Met fellow blogger Boris after the race. Also my coworker did way better than expected (I was not surprised)