Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Set your PVRs: Terry Fox doc airs on ESPN and TSN

Steve Nash's documentary on Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope is about to go mass audience -- I hear it's airing tonight on ESPN (huge!) and TSN tomorrow. It's the 30th anniversary of his run. I remember Terry coming into Toronto. I was just 6 but his mark on this city was huge. Now that 'marathoning' has boomed again, I'm sure people will be astounded by what he did. The clip below is of his visit to Toronto.

It's also airing during the day on Thursday on CTV. More here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

And the city turns on its runners?

Leave it to a guy named Ford to run us off the roads. For the second year in a row, marathons are making news in this city. Last year, a few headlines and frustrated motorists resulted in Toronto forcing one of two fall marathons to move. While in the end it was probably a good idea to space out our two major marathons, what annoyed me and my fellow runners was this whole idea that roads are sacred ground, never to be touched by a sole.

This year, mayoral candidate Rob Ford tells us the morning after the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon that he would, if elected next month, think about banning marathons from the city's roads. He even goes and suggests that we hold such races at places like High Park or Downsview.

So instead of just mouthing off against utter nonsense, I think there are a few good points to make.

Great cities embrace running: Can you name a big city anywhere? London, Berlin, Washington, D.C., Chicago? All of them host major marathons. In most of the big ones, marathon weekend is a major event. It brings out runners from all corners, but it also brings out the citizenry. I hear that the New York City Marathon is one of New York's finest days. Guess what? The race is run all over the city's boroughs. Boston? It's a holiday. Chicago? Hundreds of thousands come out to cheer in every neighbourhood. I was recently running in DC and I thought to myself as I saw a few hundred runners out on their weekend long run that "this is a runners' city". Toronto is on the cusp of being one. It really is. The half marathon I just ran had 4000 finishers in 2005. Yesterday? More than 9000. Great cities are places where people live and PLAY in and they support these events because they are what make the city a livable one. If we planned our cities around vehicles that use our roads as a way out to the suburbs, then what kind of city are we trying to build? It's too late, we have downtown brimmming with people, young people like the half dozen half marathoners I saw coming into my elevator yesterday afternoon. Embrace running and you can do no wrong.

Road racing is made for, well, roads: We all hear about the first days of the New York City Marathon, when it was run as loops in Central Park. (Those roads are big by Toronto Standards and yes they are actual roads.) To suggest that marathons should be run in parks goes against the whole idea of the sport. Park and dirt, they call that cross country? Sprint and short distance, they do that on the track. My sport, it's all about the roads. (Don't make me use that I'm a taxpayer... oh wait.)

High Park? Are you #$%&! mad?

See map of High Park

View Larger Map

Note that it can support 2000 runners at a time. Note a loop of it can barely get you 3 miles if you are lucky. Note that marathons has about 15,000 - 20,000 runners. Note that it's impossible and stupidly hilly.

Road issues are caused by so much more than a Sunday road race: For every race that's run on our roads, there are as many street festivals and parades that make our city great but still cause traffic chaos. And if you wanted to ban something annoying that ties up traffic, how about all the cars that come into our club district from the suburbs every Thursday to Saturday. They're clogging up my roads. How about banning fans from parking around my neighbourhood to go see the Jays game. Unreasonable? Yep, just as unreasonable as banning our races.

The best part of all of this? The last fall Toronto Goodlife Marathon is a week before the city election. Running becomes an election issue, for all the wrong reasons. Rob Ford is running for something, just not for the votes of anyone who reads this blog.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Race report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

The half marathon, I've read, is one of the fastest growing race distances, popular because it is attainable and a fantastic achievement. I got hooked on distance running through half marathons. I still love them because -- well, they are like the gateway drugs to marathoning. Do a half, and you learn about speed and endurance and longer distances are possible.

My marathoning obsession has put the half into another category. Not sad to say it, but I usually think of them as catered training runs -- a good way to get marathon pace for more than 10 miles or tempo for more than six miles. Looking back, I actually didn’t run a half marathon in all of 2008 (which is odd, cause I average around eight to 12 races a year.

I recall fondly the one time I put the hammer down. I created a race plan, I stuck to it, and I gave it all. The result, a huge PB (1:31:33) that I know I can match but I’ve never come close to it. It was three years ago!

Scotia is on my annual race calendar though. Including today, I've run the last six editions, five halfs and one full. The Scotia half was my very first half.

Today was my last long run before the taper. I felt it was important to not jeopardize the mileage so I would run a warmup, do the half, then warm down. That made me a little conservative, but that’s fine, again, the half mary is the appetizer: Marathon season is the main.

I did treat my last 20 mile day like a marathon day. I did a mini taper (a few days off running -- only a 2 miler on Saturday), I carbed up and I rested. Everything was going well until I realized as I as putting on my shoes that I put my chip on my new Asics GT2150s, not my newish and 60 mile Asics 1150s. After a quick save, I was out the door for a warmup jog to the race site.

I found myself at one of the front corrals when I bumped into a friend of mine, a great short distance runner who was going for his first half (he was rock star as usual, hitting a 1:33 on his debut.) I lined up just behind the 3:10 pace group and minutes before the start, I ditched my sweater and relished the cool breeze. This, the humid marathon, was finally getting a cool day. Awesome.

We ran south, slightly downhill, and I ran by feel, not looking down at my watch much. It was only a while later did I realize that I started faster than the 3:10 group (which would pace for a 1:35 half). The first bit wasn’t too bad. Not too many slower runners made their way to the front in the coloured corral system so it spread out pretty quickly.

The first two kilometres were run in about a 4:40 pace, I’d probably got bad splits from the office buildings that were interfering with the Garmin. I was glad to have my singlet on because although it was cool, the sun was out, enough to create a little warmth. I hate heat.

1 04:28 07:11
2 04:43 07:35
I reset my watch at the 2K split (14 seconds)

By this point, we were under the expressway. The 3:10 group came alongside me and I chatted with an ex-coworker who was running the marathon. I told him I was going easier, and saw that their pacer was going out strong to make some time. I thought about hooking on to go for 1:35 but it didn’t feel right. The pace I was going at was fast enough for me.

A little while later, at a water stop, I heard a volunteer yell “go 3:15s” at my general direction and what do you know the 3:15s came creeping up at me. It was time to choose.

3 04:31 07:17
4 04:28 07:11
5 04:19 06:57

I let the 3:15s go a little ahead, thinking they were going a little aggressive (see the splits, they should have been going at 4:37 kilometres). Then a competitive side of me kicked in. What the hell, I thought, lets stick with this group. This was my marathon pace a year ago and at the very least I can aim at a 1:37ish half. I started to pace with the group. It felt good to run strong again, I hadn’t done that in awhile.

The next five kilometres were textbook running with the pacer. We were probably going a little fast, but when I looked at my splits (I had a 3:15 pace band on me), we were about 20 seconds fast, not too bad. I was worried that this pace was feeling ‘hard’ and that was a bad realization to come to, but a minutes later, my heart and legs kicked back into memory. Oh yeah, that’s what it feels like to run at pace. Glad I did some strong running in the past month.

6 04:28 07:12
7 04:30 07:15
8 04:31 07:16
9 04:31 07:16

We saw the lead runners of the half and full coming back from the turnaround. I love this about the waterfront course. I took my first gel around the 40 minute mark (I didn’t take my next one until after the race, when I was prepping for my last 6 miles of my 20). In general, I was hitting all the water stops, taking in Gatorade. Our pace group was going well, swallowing up runners here and there, but I saw something ahead: A mass of runners strung out ahead of me. All of a sudden, I got hungry. I felt comfortable pacing, but I felt I had a lot more to give. Before we hit the next water stop, I ran ahead of the pace group, grabbed my drink, and started racing.

10 04:29 07:14

Racing on this course is actually a lot of fun. You have a lot of long stretches where you can see half a kilometre ahead of you. You can also look across to see the runners way ahead of you on their way back from a turnaround. I also saw the 3:10s on their way back. You know what they looked like to me? Targets.

So I raised the tempo, just a tad at first, then to a nice little cadence that was never satisfied with running beside someone I had just pulled alongside with. I immediately looked ahead.

11 04:35 07:23
12 04:23 07:04
13 04:23 07:04
14 04:24 07:06
15 04:27 07:10

That was the next five kilometres, solid running, keeping to shade, getting my Gatorade, pulling alongside, and passing. Felt great and I knew that I had no excuses for running hard. The weather was cooperating, even with the sun in our eyes.

16 04:18 06:56

We were nearing the point where the marathoners and half marathoners split, and the 3:10s were 100 metres away from me. Within a kilometre, I had come alongside them. As usual, I wished them and their pacer well. “Happy hunting, marathoners,” I shouted. “Save us a beer at the finish” the 3:10 pacer said. Ha, I said, and as they turned right, I turned it on for the final kilometres.

17 04:22 07:01
18 04:17 06:55
19 04:25 07:06

More running, didn’t lose much pace, but it was funny cause I was running alone, targetting runners ahead of me. I caught a lot of runners in the last 12K.

The next two splits are baffling, beause of running under expressway and being under office buildings. I’m doing the math and saying that I averaged 4:20s or faster the last bit.

20 05:07 08:14
21 03:25 05:30
.1 01:01 0.18 05:44

Some people hate the last kilometre of the race, it’s slightly uphill. I blew up in that stretch in 2008 when my BQ attempt when awry on a hot day in the same race. But today, I loved it, mostly because of the support we got in the final 800 metres. So much so that every time a person called my name (on my bib), I’d find it in me to go a bit faster. I stepped it up even more in the final 300 metres, and saw that the clock was still under 1:35! With my delayed start, that meant I was in for a 1:34 and change. Nice! I sprinted down the final metres and made it under the wire for a clock time of 1:34:59 or 1:34:27. (Full results)

This was a race to be proud of. Once I turned it on, I never looked back. Also, I managed to log my second fastest half! Most of my times are in the 1:35 range as that was my marathon paces.

Taper time

This really couldn't come soon enough this year but I think I'm ready for a great fall racing season. I may even be in better shape than I thought, but I'm really welcoming the taper that began a few hours ago.

Just finished the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon, sandwiched between other miles that made up my 20 miler. I was really happy with the race because I went into it with light goals and kinda made my mind up on the course to first pace, then race. The result was a progressively faster run, the perfect kind. Race report later. Best news is my legs still feel pretty good after today's run.

Here are the race details, but the splits are off because we ran under an expressway twice.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What would Google say about running?

You probably know about a feature in Google, Google Instant. You start typing a word and it starts to suggest searches. It's pretty creepy. And fun.

The other day, I was typing in "runners"in my search box when this came up...

I would agree with three of them, and am kinda happy with the "runners are weird" suggestion.

Which led me to search this:

Haha.. nice.

So who couldn't resist (basketball is fixed, really?)

Socialist? Lame?!


And this one was baffling

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

About that mileage thing

The good news is that I'm feeling like I could start to do some real quality running now, a month after I shook off a blah first eight weeks of marathon training. Knee issues suck, and two months ago I was just happy to run, let alone think of doing tempo or track work. So now I think I can actually consider doing these harder runs.

The bad news, it's five days until the taper.

Oh well, I tried to ramp up the speed today, the 13th day in a row i've run. Aside from the lack of a rest day, it was nice to try speed but problem was speed today was kinda like marathon pace a year ago. Clearly I've lost some of that top speed that made me hungry last year. About time I regain a little bit of hunger.

So I checked for the first time in a few months how my mileage was doing. I will be lucky if I hit 2000 miles for the year. That said, 2000 is A LOT of running.

My last five Augusts while marathon training

2006: 225 miles
2007: 206 miles
2008: 300 miles (Yes, I can't believe I pulled this off. 70 mile weeks)
2009: 226 miles
2010: 157 miles

Okay, I did take a week off running to go on vacation, but wow, what a difference. In retrospect, I think I needed that week off to give my legs a break (and do massive hiking in the mountains.)

September was looking to be much better but then I got sick and missed a key long run and four days off running. I'm still going to end it strong with a half marathon this Sunday (with at least 5 to 7 miles I'll add before/after the race).

So the taper will either rest me up for an awe inspiring marathon season. Or I'll just make it through the month taking it relatively easy. I think I'm voting for the latter.

10 miles in 1:16:30

Sunday, September 19, 2010

One month to go before marathon madness

This week proved to be pretty much perfect in terms of getting my miles in. I ran all seven days, threw in a few short recovery runs and one 7K run using my Vibram FiveFingers. Because of so many days in a row of running going back into the last week, I didn't really hit today's long run with speed in mind but distance.

Weather was perfect. Cold start, but I anticipated a warming up so I wore a singlet and wasn't disappointed two hours later when the sun was out. Perfect.

This week actually called for about 18 miles, but since I missed last week's long run due to illness, I made today a long one. By the way I was half way through, I decided that 20 miles could become 22.

So that's it, 22 miles with four weeks to the first of three marathons. Fitness isn't bad. Next week I have a half marathon that I'll add miles to after (or do some before), then the taper begins.

22.06 miles in 3:08:05

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bare my soles: my first Vibram FiveFingers run

Like most of you, I've been interested in this barefoot running we've all been reading about in Born to Run. Also, Vibram's FiveFingers have been going like hotcakes in Canada.

But down here in DC, they're pretty easy to find. Walked into a City Sports and asked to try some on. The guy told me he's seen people take 20 min to put one on but I got mine on in a few min. The size 40s KSOs felt pretty good and fit perfectly.

I've slowly over the years gone down shoe models to have less support and gels. I wear Asics 1150s, and find they are much closer to the road than the more fortified and popular GT 2100 series. My current pair of Asics have long lost cushioning (they are probably 100 miles past the change time) but I have come to enjoy the feeling of foot on ground.

Today, R and I went on a short run around the Mall. My first few strides on my FiveFingers were natural. It felt great. Not in the way new bouncy shoes do, but natural, like when I run down the hallway of my condo sometimes.

We ran at a recovery pace mostly but I did ramp it up to 5 min kilometers/8 min miles and it was great! I won't be able to do distance in them nor do I expect to replace running shoes but I now see the KSOs as a possible recovery running partner. I think it will also help improve my form. Running without socks will take time to get used to but I now believe that this "barefoot running movement", even if only after a 4 miler, to be no gimmick.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

3 marathons, chased with a half

This post is meant to light a fire under my running ass. That is, I've gone through the summer merrily hitting (and occasionally skipping) my runs without a real target at the end of this training cycle. I wanted this fall to be about a celebration of running and I know once the races are upon me, I'll have an absolutely amazing time.

But I'm in total uncharted territory this fall. This is my racing season and for once I don't have a lofty time goal. The goal is a lot different, but no less daunting.

Part of me wanted to complete my fall with an insane-ish (I know, others have done more) four marathons in four weeks. I even thought I'd put a four marathons in four weeks all under four hours. It would start with the Toronto Marathon, followed by two others before I toed the line at the start of the New York City Marathon. That would have been epic and so much fun.

But then I thought maybe it was a little too much. And then an opportunity presented itself.

Running buddy Fran, who has now been a pace bunny for quite a few raaces, passed my name on to the Running Room and a month later, I just sent in my form to be the 1:45 pacer for the Niagara Falls International Marathon half. That's 5 minute kilometres and I'm raring to start getting that pace down in muscle memory.

So with that in mind, I still have an insane four races in four weeks. Since I respect distance running, I've adjusted my goals.

Week 1: Toronto Marathon, Oct. 17: Run a 3:30 or slower. I call this a relatively conservative marathon but right for the training I've put in. If I have an amazing next 5 weeks, I will adjust faster like a 3:20 but no 3:15 or faster for me this fall.

Week 2: Niagara Falls half, Oct 24: Pace the 1:45s and do my best to run consistent 5 minutes. I can't screw this one up with a blow-up on the course the week before that. If there is an A goal race, this is it.

Week 3: Marine Corps Marathon, Oct 31: Like last year, start off at a 3:45 to 3:50 pace and see how things go. In other words, start it off like a LSD run. Have an absolute blast for a course I've already done three times. (And it's Halloween!)

Week 4: New York City Marathon, Nov. 7: Do it in under four. If slower, who the hell cares, I'll stay on the course for as long as I can. Soak it up. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I can not wait for this.

Nov 8. take a break from running for a few days, then plan for a real training winter cause I think I'm signing up for a big race in April.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sunday mornings

I've learned that to have the perfect runner's Sunday morning, you have to forgo the Saturday night. Oh well, the training schedule goes on. I had to be in bed early so I could hit the roads at 7 a.m. for my 17 miler. I wanted to be done well before 10 a.m. Something purposeful about having a date with a weekend morning, something nice about feeling fall weather for the first time in a long time, and something great about watching your shadow on the trails fall well ahead of you as the sun just barely makes it over the horizon.

Was great because clearly other marathoners are on the same vibe. Lots of marathon T-shirts were out on the trails as we were hunting for T-shirts instead of singlets. Cool air is awesome. Training enters its perfect phase now that we'll have fewer hot days than cool ones. Racing type ones.

It's done, 17 miles today, 50 for the week, and now I have the entire day ahead of me, coffee, dim sum and relaxing. And to think that many people are still in bed.

17 miles in 2:26.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The final stretch

A nice rainstorm came into town so by the time I got off work (a long week), I was ready to let loose on the roads. The air was cool and the trails were pretty quiet, being a Friday heading into a long weekend. Fall is already in the air.

I particularly love doing distance runs during the week. Feels like an accomplishment to run race distances right after work. Maybe it's that that pushes me to make a 12 mile run a 13 mile, or even what makes me run the extra .1 mile to log the half marathon distance.

I'm ready to work. The cooler weather opens the possibility for me to work harder on the roads. I may even think about doing the speedwork that I've been putting off because of the knee problems that have virtually vanished since my vacation mid last month.

It occurs to me that I have six weeks before marathon day. That's only three more weeks of build up. This will be quiet the fall racing season. At least four races, three of them are marathons. The Big Apple awaits, as does my fourth consecutive Marine Corps Marathon. This will be epic, and that's only my running life. Work will be huge as well.

Anyways, back to the day to day, today it felt great to pump up the pace. 13.1 miles in 1:48.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

It's all fuel, right?

A bunch of friends and I indulged in an annual end-of-summer trip to the Ex. In short, a midway, bad food and more bad food so horrible that it's good.

I actually got up at 5:30 a.m. to get my morning run in so I could be ready for the after-work trip.

Tonight, I watched dozens of people line up for deep fried butter. And it smells worse than it sounds.

But being an Ex veteran (having worked there through my childhood) I headed straight for the Food Building and visited my uncle's fish and chip shop (H Salt. It's the best. Hands down)

Actually, one of my buddies went to uncle's shop while I lined up here.

For deep-fried Mac and Cheese.

We took a break and had ... two desserts. Hand made ice cream waffles.

And a bag of Tiny Toms.

And that, my friends, signals the end of summer.

And explains in a weird way why some of us run. We run to eat? We can sometimes indulge before we hit the trails to burn this all off. Coming up tomorrow or Friday, a 12 miler followed by 17 on Sunday.