Wednesday, 19 December 2012

#91 You Can't Do That

The (not so long) 'Road to Boston': Hamilton headaches continue

It's now been 4 full weeks since training for Boston officially began (on M 19 Nov). Those weeks were meant to serve as continued recovery from Hamilton as well as begin to build 'base' for the upcoming Boston cycle. The mileage was relatively low (60, 100, 60, 120) and most runs were (supposed) to be easy and comfortable. It should have been a walk (okay jog) in the park/MGT. Instead, my training has been a roller-coaster ride of random injuries, setbacks and inconsistency all likely stemming from that brutal downhill and the last painful miles of Hamilton. My right foot/leg has continued to cause me headaches with a combination of foot and knee pain, 'shin-anigans' and now Achilles tendinitis/ankle issues. I'll be the first to admit that these issues are to a large degree self-inflicted. On easy days, I tend to run too quickly, sometimes too far, and generally fail to take the necessary time to properly warm-up, cool-down and stretch. I should know better! Taking care of your body while NOT running is just as important as the actual running you do, and yet I continue to underestimate this important principle.

I am now trepidatiously entering the SWEP portion of the program feeling much less than 100% and will have little/no time to tend to meddling muscles and troublesome tendons. And with only 17 weeks left until Boston, every day counts. There are however still 6 weeks until the first test of the new cycle: the Robbie Burns 8k in Burlington, which leaves 'plenty' of time to take care of myself, be smarter about recovery and hopefully get back to feeling strong and confident. I again hope to recap and summarize the coming weeks of training just as I did for NYC  Hamilton in a regular ((bi)weekly) post which I'm hoping will get picked up and featured on the Canadian Running website. We shall see.

In other news, our new training group is beginning to take hold and things are coming together nicely. 'Black Lungs Toronto' aims to be a performance based running club where running hard, training smart and racing fast are our primary and sole objectives (with a secondary emphasis on drinking beer, talking smack and socializing). All (20 or so) members of BLT are highly competitive and committed distance runners who have met our "sub-elite" time standard roughly equivalent to a sub 1:25 half and/or sub 3hr marathon. We are committed to training ('the program'), to racing, to wearing club colours (black and white) and to training together and contributing to the camaraderie of the group. Expect big things from BLT in 2013 as we make our presence on the Ontario running scene well known...

That's all for now. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and most importantly, keep running!

Thursday, 13 December 2012


I came across this random piece of writing I had done in a notebook (I love to take notes the old fashioned way) and which was dated early September. It’s rather amusing (to me) so I’ve chosen to transcribe it verbatim (including structure, format, grammar and spelling) and post it here. Please enjoy my entirely natural neuroticism and my continuing journey to sensational senility.

Random ramblings while riding the rails. Via rails. Despite failing to acquire that which I came for (Police check), I had a very nice day in Ingersoll, particularly spending time with Oma & Opa, who are the most humourous people I know. And certainly wise with a lifetimes worth of knowledge and understanding of this crazy world we live in.
As Opa points out, life is far too short to waste worrying about things we can’t control or the sad state of society, and should rather be spent enjoying the simplicities of life.
- like the chick next to me doing organic chemistry on her laptop
- I really need to re-nerdify myself and start refreshing my knowledge of biology, science and world capitals.
- I’m slightly bothered by my current reliance on running as the defining aspect of my identity. I have become far too one-dimensional and have let go of many of my past passions and interests. While I cannot merely ‘step away’ from running, I need to do more to broaden the scope of “how I am” both seen by myself as well as by others.
- I feel I have a healthy, if not mildly offensive, sense of humour which rejects our societies obsession with political correctedness. I enjoy finding the humour in all things especially myself. Bc let’s face it: I’m pretty damn hilarious.
- So you want to be a teacher huh? Seems like a pretty stupid idea considering the current job market. But that’s ok. I’m sure I’ll do fine. But how can I be so sure…
Why I’ll be successful as a high-school teacher. Bc like most of the students, I don’t give a shit. Ok, maybe that’s not true. I do give a shit. I sincerely want to make a difference, no matter how small and insignificant that might be. Looking back, I’d say it was a handful of HS teachers that have led me to where I am right now and in some way, wanting to emulate them. Ms Hunter. Mr Mol. Mr Boin. These teachers made a difference and that’s really all that matters. So I’ll put up with all the PC, EDSJ bullshit for 10 months, smile and nod, try not to offend anyone, and I’ll do what it takes to make myself as ‘marketable’ as possible and perhaps even get a job one day.
And while we’re being optimistic, how bout thinking about some life goals… the things I want to achieve before I die (of which I’ll decide when and how) [ Note to self – really need to brush up on my English language skills: grammar, spelling, word definitions, etc, etc] So ya, life goals: So one day I’ll be a high school teacher. I’ll be good at it, make some powerful friends and earn just enough to justify the major headaches of dealing w modern-day youth. Maybe I’ll even become principal one day. SKINNER!
I also have my running goals which in short… are to run fast. Like sub 2:30 fast. Maybe sub 2:20 (that’s really fast!)
I plan to live in the country and run a hobby farm with pigs, sheep, goats, a cow or two, plenty of ducks, a big dog (Bernese) and perhaps a donkey.
I’d love to live a fairly long life which will continue on as long as I’m healthy (ie independently functionable).
Ok, that’s enough journal writing for today.

It then continues on the next page…

If I died today. If I died right now. That would be okay. Not that I want it to happen. But it would be okay if it did. I don’t want to die. Not now, not for a very long time. But I guess it would be okay. I’ve had a good life. A great life even. It hasn’t been perfect (what is perfect), nothing is perfect. It’s been the life I’ve chose to live and for that I have few regrets. I don’t ‘believe’ in a “other side.” I’m not even sure I would want to if it existed. Bc if it did, what would be the point of being here now. I hope this is all there is. That way, I can/will be sure to make the most of it (most of the time). I’ve been here for 25 yrs. I still have many more to go. Let’s be sure to make them count. To make the most out of everything. Always.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

#89 All I've Got To Do

The Road to Boston 2013: A preview

It's now been two weeks since Hamilton and my body and mind seem to be coming along nicely. I managed to run 80k this week and felt great doing so. Perhaps it was those 6 straight days I DIDN'T run following the marathon but rather fully enjoyed the rest and recovery by bingeing on more than my fair share of Halloween candy and chocolate.

There are now only 21 weeks to the Boston Marathon on Monday 15 April 2013 (Patriots Day) and the spring training program officially starts tomorrow...

Coach Campbell has once again put together an impeccable program to get us there fitter and faster than we've ever been and will surely produce another exceptional array of results and fast times from the group.

Find below a mere snapshot of what we have in store:
  • 21 weeks = 147 days + 1 (Boston on 15 Apr 2013)
  • (Only) 12 days 'OFF' (no running); 4 coming in the first two weeks (continued recovery from Hamilton)
  • 147 - 12 = 135 days of running  ('ON')
  • 135 + 41 days of doubles (ie. running twice) = A total of 176 individual runs
  • 10 long runs of 32+ km plus an additional 21 runs of 20+ km
  • 18 'workouts' either intervals or hills (and all of them hard!)
  • 4 tune-up races + Boston = 5 opportunites to shine
  • A total of 2700+ km averaging  ~130km/wk
Boston, here we come.

Monday, 5 November 2012

#88 Let It Be

The good news is that I finished 2nd overall and took home a cheque for $400, thus unofficially kicking off my amateur career as a distance runner.

The not so good news is that my time was 2:36:27 (3:42/k), technically a 32sec PB, but almost two and a half minutes slower than what I was gunning for (2:34) and what I realistically feel I should have been able to run. But given the circumstances of the situation, I must admit I shouldn't be all that surprised. So perhaps some context to put it all in perspective...

As most of you know, running the Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon was not what I was expecting or particularly (psychologically) prepared to do, even some 48hrs before I lined up in some random park at ~8:10am yesterday morning. In fact only 24hrs earlier on Saturday, I was still in New York City, desperately trying to get on a plane to take me back to Toronto. And only 24hrs before that I was on a flight TO NYC and both ready and excited to run the ING NYC Marathon two days later. How quickly things can change...

Melinda and I woke early on Friday morning and made our way to the Toronto City Airport where we boarded a flight at 8am for Newark International Airport (in New Jersey and some 10 miles from downtown NYC). A few hours later we were on a bus into Manhattan and around noon, we checked into a Hotel with no power or hot water, the status quo for most buildings south of 34th street. This hotel had been frantically booked not 48 hrs earlier when our original reservation for a hotel on 57th street was unexpectedly cancelled and we were forced to find new accommodations (not easy given that millions of NYC residents were also looking for temporary accommodations after being displaced by the recent Hurricane). 

Around 1pm, we walked the few short blocks to the Zavitz Centre where the marathon expo was being held and joined thousands of others in picking up our bibs and race kits (including our official NYC 'Marathoner' finisher shirt). A few hours later, already feeling exhausted from the days events, we boarded a tourist bus and perhaps inappropriately, rode the 'Downtown Loop' and witnessed first-hand the very real and very scary signs of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy that was still affecting much of lower Manhattan. The place (everything south of 34th St) was nearly deserted, almost entirely without power, a majority of businesses were closed and some boarded up, areas were still flooded and being pumped of water and everywhere was still buzzing with sights and sounds of emergency vehicles and recovery efforts. We were not in the New York City that I had seen before or wished to see any more of. We were not in the right place at all nor at an appropriate time. For the first time, I questioned why I was there and whether I truly should have been.

A short time later after concluding 'the tour', we tried to get connected at a coffee shop and contact our many friends who were then somewhere in the city. Without any luck and beginning to hunger, we sought out a restaurant for dinner. As we walked around midtown searching for a place to eat, Melinda got a text from a close friend which cryptically concluded: "I'm so sorry". We both wondered what it could mean and concluded that our friend had decided last minute not to come to NYC to run the marathon. It wasn't until a short while later while waiting to be seated at Heartland Brewery at 8th and 41st (terrific by the way) when we overheard a random conversation which seemed to concern the marathon. I curiously inquired as to what they were discussing and it was then that we heard the most disheartening news: "They've cancelled the marathon."

Upon hearing this, I was instantly angered and emotionally upset which was visibly shared by a number of others in the restaurant. How could they wait so long to cancel the event? We were all already here. Some travelling thousands of miles and spending thousands of dollars to be here. I was confused, I was angry, I was in utter disbelief. 'What now,' I wondered?

After forcing myself to eat dinner, I sought out the others who were staying at a nearby hotel. Doyle, Rob C et al., had made the journey to NYC via car (a 9hr voyage!) and had only recently arrived and checked into 'the New Yorker.' We joined them for a collective venting session and began to consider our options before heading out to meet up with Roger and Dave Clark. Again we expressed our shared frustrations, mostly directly towards Mary and the NYRR for waiting so long to make such an important decision. Surely they must have seen how bad things truly were after the storm hit on Monday evening? They must have known that the marathon couldn't happen. Why didn't they say so sooner?! 

In my mind there were now only two options. Stay in New York City and continue to spend money whilst essentially giving up all the months of training by forgetting about the marathon. Either that or go home immediately, no matter what the cost (it would be cheaper than staying) and run another race in another place... Hamilton. For me, the choice was obvious.

And so, Melinda and I opted to head back to our Hotel relatively early with the intention of checking out first thing in the morning and then getting on the first flight back to Toronto. I had no desire to stay in the city or spend another cent there. We were 'fortunate' to arrive back to a fully functioning hotel with both electricity and hot water (although oddly no WiFi) which hadn't been expected for another 24hrs. Unfortunately, that meant that the fee for a one-night stay (in our case totalling less than 8hrs) doubled to almost $450! It also turned out to be much less restful than I would liked for the penultimate night before a marathon.

On Saturday, we woke before 6am and were checked out and waiting for a train to the airport by 7. We were at Newark by 8 and after a difficult and trying interaction with the Porter people (and another $350), we were on an 845 flight back to Toronto. We arrived back in the city and were home by 1030 and spent the majority of the day lounging about, trying to rest, relax and wrap our minds around the prospect of running a very different race in Hamilton the following morning. I really must say that my head was never quite in it and nothing seemed unique or exciting about the whole situation. We were able to get a descent nights rest and seemed to effectively max out our glycogen stores as our bodies were refusing to take on any more carbs/sugar.

Simion, our savior of the weekend (who had graciously volunteered and was successfully able to register our group for the race and pick up our kits on Saturday) was also kind enough to drive us to Hamilton on Sunday morning. We made a slight detour to pick up Doyle, Rob, and Stefan who had stayed the night in a downtown Hamilton hotel (after driving all the way back from NYC on Saturday!) and arrived in Confederations Park just shy of 7am to board the buses to the race start. We arrived at the 'start' closer to 745 (the race was set to start at 8) and quickly checked our bags and did a brief warm-up in the parking lot. After some last-second bus arrivals and the singing of our national anthem, the countdown to the start was under way at ~815am.

The horn sounded and we were off. I started right on the line so was with the lead pack (of 4!) during the first hundred meters or so before the leaders began to spread out. The previous year's winner, Joseph Onwenga, made an early move to take the lead from some guy from New Zealand with long frizzy red hair in second, and another really tall dude in third which put me all on my own in 4th place (the worst place to be). I ran a fast first km (3:29), then a perfect km (3:40), followed by a few very 'slow' kms (3:49, 3:45, 3:43). In sum, I was all over the place. My nerves steadied a bit when I heard somebody come up behind me and I instantly knew it was Doyle. We chatted a bit and tried to calm ourselves. We were running south on the edge of the escarpment which afforded wonderful views of East Hamilton, the lake and just visible in the far off distance, the CN tower and the city of Toronto. We turned right after about 5k heading westish and here I found myself pulling away ever so slightly from Doyle but more or less hitting my target pace of ~3:40/k. Around 10k, we turned right again and now ran north into a negligible but noticeable headwind. This continued for almost 7k and despite the wind, I found my pace had increased slightly and I was now running consistent low to mid 3:30 kms. Just after 10 miles (16.1k), the course began its signature descent down the Red Hill Valley Parkway, a considerable decline in elevation that continues for approximately 6km. My pace again increased to ~3:30/k and also meant I was running past a large number of half-marathoners who had started ~20min after we began. This meant weaving through and around large numbers of slow moving individuals which often prevented me from running the tangents I would have liked. I was both pleased but also surprised slightly when I passed the half-way mark of the race (21.1km) in 1:16:10 (3:36/k) and was thus well on pace for my dream time of 2:32 and even looking okay for a slight slowdown in the second half to still hit 2:34. I would have liked to say that the first half felt comfortable, but since starting the downhill portion at ~16k, my quads and hamstrings were beginning to feel tight and would only get worse.

More annoying however than my own mechanical misalignments, was the newly revised portion of the race route which took us 3km along a random hiking path that at this point in the event was utterly inundated with half-marathoners. My constant appeal of "On your left" was met with confusion, misunderstanding and even hostility. At one point I was yelling so much I self-inflicted a terrible side stitch which significantly slowed my pace for a km or so. I also came to a complete stop when some guy actually moved into my path and collided with me. I seriously don't know what the organizers were thinking but clearly they couldn't have cared less about faster moving marathoners mixing with slow halfers (with their damn earplugs in). That particular path came to a fortunate end after 3 or so k but was followed immediately by another path (this time paved along the Lakeshore) which again was full of slow moving humans. I meandered my way through the best I could and at 27k the crazy course sharing with the halfers finally ended and I was free to run solo on the ominous out-and-back...and out-and-back section of the course. For the first time in almost 10k I was able to see the guy (tall dude) ahead of me who was now much closer than he had been almost since the start. I slowly reeled him in and eventually passed him right around the 30k mark. I put him in my rear view and was at that point still moving at a comfortable (although increasingly painful) pace. My unofficial (Garmin) 30k split was 1:48:30(3:37/k). I maintained this pace for another 5k or so where I split 35k in 2:07:00 (still 3:37/k average) but then the wheels started to come off.

The pain in both calves was become excruciating and my stride and foot strike were clearly altered because of it. I knew I was slowing down but didn't dare to look at my watch to see how badly. I completed the second 'loop' of the course passing a number of fellow marathoners in the process. At one point, I was surprised to see past winner Omwenga just ahead of me and struggling badly. I flew by him knowing he had nothing left and would find out later he would eventually drop out. Here I was in second place, with about 7k to go but knowing full well it was not going to be easy nor pleasant. I recall seeing km 37 and telling myself there were less than 20min left to go (not true!) and counting down the final k's one at a time. At some point, I re-merged with still more and still slower half-marathoners and could barely muster the energy to say anything to get them to move out of the way. 38, 39 and 40km came and went in what felt like an eternity. Seeing 41km lifted my spirits ever so slightly and I gave what little I had left as I entered the finishing area in Coronation Park, made the final turn and ran (I certainly didn't sprint) that final 200m to the finish. It was then that I caught a glimpse of the clock which read 2:36 something and my heart sank. Had it really been so bad in those late stages of the race. I looked at my watch: 2:36:24 (for 42.41km). I stumbled across the line, my lower legs almost immediately cramping/seizing up, was covered in a space blanket and a medal placed around my neck. I limped painfully away from the finishers corral, stumbled over a concrete curb and without any reasonable explanation whatsoever, broke down in tears of bitter disappointment. This was not the finish I had dreamt of for many weeks and months. This was not the place I wanted to be nor the time I had wanted to see. All those months committing to the hard work and training had not paid off. I had not met my goal, had not really come close, and now I was alone, cold and in terrible pain for all my efforts. It was a definite low point in both my running and in my life.

My father and sister who had come to see my finish soon appeared to congratulate me and feeling ashamed and embarrassed I tried to hold back the tears but my disappointment and frustration seemed obvious. I settled down a few minutes later and returned towards the finish to see my team mates complete their respective races. One after one they came in, first Rob Campbell (2:46), then Bellamy (2:48). Hiddleston and Gough (2:49) followed with Conrad (2:54), Simion (2:56) and Stefan (2:57) not far behind. A short time later, Melinda finished in an amazing time of 3:12! Darren, Davey and Chapman went 6th, 8th and 9th in the half all in a time of 1:16! Some incredible results for some, and modest gains for others. Overall a very good showing for the group.

As I sit here writing this, I continue to experience among the worst running-induced pain I have ever felt. My lower legs (especially my calves) are very tight and extremely sore. My quads and hamstrings are likewise but less so affected which has made walking generally but climbing stairs specifically an absolute nightmare. I plan to rest and recovery for several weeks knowing that my fitness will remain for some time and that there is no need to force anything. I wish I could have ended my season and this current cycle with a better result, but again, given the extreme circumstances surrounding NYC and just getting to the start of Hamilton, I feel that it was never meant to be. Much is to be learned from this race (such as never run this race!) and taken forward. 

Currently I am not particularly looking forward to doing this all again. If I wasn't already signed up for Boston in the spring, I might have said I would prefer to give marathoning a break for awhile. It's a considerable challenge that deserves a great deal of time and energy to properly prepare and if not taken serious, can make you pay in numerous ways. Sometimes I wonder if the reward is worth the price to be paid. This time, I can't say it was. Next time, who knows...

Sunday, 28 October 2012

#87 It Won't Be Long

NYC preview: Only one week to go.

Today is Sunday 28 October and as of approximately 11am this morning after finishing the 22k 'easy' run with most of the LB crew, my training for the NYC marathon is now (unofficially) complete. Yes, there is still the 'small' matter of this final week - which also happens to be perhaps the most critical week of all - but in terms of running, I could choose to do absolutely nothing all week and still be 100% okay (well, maybe 92%). As a wise man once told me (okay, it was just Anthony Davey): "The hay is in the barn."
See. The work is done. Now for some fun...
I wish I could say I was 100% ready to go, but unfortunately, for the first time all year, I have a very minor injury in my right foot which has put me on edge and has me taking extra precautions. Our group ran the last long run (32k) of the program on Wednesday evening and I foolishly wore a pair of NB1400s which is far too light and unsupported for easy running for that long. As a result, I stressed/strained a number of muscles in both lower legs and it seems my right ankle is the one brunting the worst of it. It's totally manageable (with ice, elevation and massage) and should in no way threaten my goal of killing the marathon next week, but it's still something I am dealing with, as untimely and unwanted as it may be. The way I see it, I was able to pretty much go to the edge of my training limits and am now more fit than I've ever been because of it. Being healthy is something I (we all?) seem to take for granted until we lose it (only a matter of time) and running pain-free is something we should all enjoy while we have it.

But other than this small distraction, the past two weeks have gone overwhelming well. In the week post-Scotia, I re-increased the mileage and ran 145km (16, 28 (10am, 18m), 20 including 4x1600m@3:20/k or faster, 26 (10am, 16pm), 12, 26, 16) and felt fantastic doing so. This past week saw 16, 27 (10am, 17pm), 32, 0 (a day off, Horray!), 16 including ~10k@MP, 8, and 22, for a total of 121k but was obviously not ideal. This coming week, depending a lot on how I feel, will be a dramatic decrease in mileage which should total between 75 and 100k total (including the race).

But aside from the importance of cutting back the mileage and letting the body rest and recovery, the reason this week is indeed so crucial is due to carb-loading. Beginning on Thursday morning, my overall intake of energy, particularly those coming from carbs, will increase significantly. So much so that I intend to intake about 10-12 grams of carbohydrates per kilo of body weight per day. For a small, skinny guy like me, that's roughly 600-720g of carbs (2400-2880kcal) repeated for three days! Nearly half of that will likely come from fluids (ie Gatorade) and another significant portion from my new favourite snack, Sun Rype Fruitsource 100% fruit snacks (I plan to eat about 7 a day). My 'normal' diet will make up the rest of what I need, and as a result, my glycogen stores (depleted to some extent since mid-June) will return to normal and then hopefully overcompensate to reach their absolute max (I'll need every ounce of it). And so with adequate rest, recovery (stupid foot) and a ridiculous amount of carbohydrates (Mmm bread), I should be ready to rock the roads of NYC. Mission sub 2:34 commencing...

At 32g of carbs per bar, I'd need to eat 20 a day to meet my quota. I think I'll aim for 10 max.
And finally, in case anyone cares, I did some math on the numbers and came up with this...

Since beginning 'the program' the week after the Cabot Trail on 26/27 May, I've logged 22 weeks (154 days) of training.
In that time, I have run a grand total of 2872km (Garmin Connect data)! That's ~130km a week or 18.6km a day.
That includes 10 runs of 30 or more kilometres and another 10 runs of 25-30k (all in a single session).
The plan also included 18 days of running doubles (ie running twice a day), sometimes three times a week.
(Sadly) It only included 10 days 'off' (ie no running).
Finally, I ran 9 tune-up races and set PBs in the 5k (16:03), 10k (34:16), 16.1k (10-miler; 57:15) and half-marathon (21.1k; 1:13:29) distances.

There is a tonne of gratitude due to the people who got me to this point, in particular to my amazing training team mates, but I'll hold off thanking them until I reach my goal and can officially celebrate (in less than one week from now). Until then, it's time to hunker down and face the impending Frankenstorm. Here's to hoping NYC is still there in 7 days. And even if it isn' was all still worth it.

The crew: (from left) Chris Chapman, (half the face of) Rob C, Gerardo, myself, Gough, Metzger, Dave Clark, Darren, David Hiddleston, Bellamy, new guy Gregor and Conrad. MIA: Doyle, Davey, Rog, Stefan and Simion.

Monday, 15 October 2012

#86 Good Day Sunshine

Editors note: There was in fact little to no sunshine on this day nor during this race. The use of the word 'good' in 'good day' is also the opinion of the author and is not necessarily shared by others in this post.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront (Half-)Marathon Race Report

1:13:29 (official gun time). 1:13:25 (chip time)

What else can I say?!

Okay, this is what else I'll say...

It was probably, nay definitely, the best race I have ever run both in terms of how it felt (mostly comfortable), how it played out (controlled and consistent) and my overall finishing time (kick-ass) which was an approximately 2.5 minute PB over the 1:16:06 I did in Oakville 3 weeks ago. In terms of placing, I was also 12th overall (although someone told me 9th at 20k and for a time after the race, I didn't exist at all according to Sportstats) in a field of 9692; 4555 of whom were male and 723 whom were in my 25-29 age category. All in all, I AM the 1%! So in sum, it was simply excellent.

But it didn't start out way. I was sincerely unsettled with the weather forecast in the days leading up to the event, and even the night before which still called for constant rain and strong winds. And yet when 8:30 rolled around on Sunday morning, it seemed that once again, the running gods were smiling down upon me. The rain mostly held off, the winds were mild at worst and the heat and humidity (what humidity?) didn't really have any effect at all. Sure, the conditions weren't ideal... but they were pretty damn good, particularly if you were only running the half.
The new and improved (and accurately measured!) 2012 STWM course route(s).
And best of all, because it was the Canadian Running Series, the course was accurately measured! The new course was a huge improvement. Sure it seemed less flat (especially that 'long' 1km climb up Bay St to the finish), but the atmosphere and energetic crowds in some of Toronto's nicest neighbourhoods including Queen's Park, U of T, Bloor St, Yorkville, St. George, College, and Bathurst, really made a difference and seemed to distract from the Task in the early stages of the race. Likewise, the out-and back along the Lakeshore was significantly shortened from previous years and seeing the crowds of both charismatic cheerers and fellow runners made it seem entirely tolerable. Kudos to CRS for the changes.

I won't bore you with the details of the race, but wish to highlight that my 'decision'/strategy to use the elite Canadian women (Krista DuChene and Lanni Marchant) and their respective pacers (Rejean Chaisson and Brandon Laan) to push and pull me through the first 20k of the race, really paid off in a huge way. I more or less stuck in front or beside them for the entire way, knowing they were trying to hold a pace of ~3:30/k and wanted to split the first half (21.1k) in about 1:14 or so on route to hopefully breaking the Canadian women's marathon record (2:28:36). A huge congratulations to both of them for going for it, and to Krista for finishing a very gutsy race in a time of 2:32:14. A further congrats to Mary Davies of New Zealand who actually went on to win the race on the women's side in an impressive time and 9min PB of 2:28:56. I ran right next to Mary for a good chunk of the way while on the Lakeshore and she was looking very good early on and was even so kind as to share a few kind words with me (probably just wanted me to shut up and block the wind). I had no idea she would go on to win the damn thing. Way to go Mary... and you're welcome for the drafting you got from me in the first half Haha

So ya, I was extremely lucky to have that group to run with for almost the whole race and who no doubt pushed me to do things I may not have thought possible on my own (like running 3:30/k for 21.1k!). I hope I didn't push the pace too much or throw them off their 'game': “Probably went out too fast in the first half,” DuChene said. “We were about 30 seconds too fast." Oops! But I may have gotten a little carried away knowing I was being filmed as part of the live broadcast (at one point the camera guy even asked me to move out of the way). Thanks again to my impromptu race and pace crew. You all did awesome out there!

2012 STWM female marathon winner Mary Davies of NZL (2:28:56) and top Canuck Krista DuChene (2:32:14).
The final set of both congratulations and praise goes out to my fellow Longboat Roadrunners, particularly to my amazing training team, who absolutely tore it up out there occupying 12 of the top 51 spots overall in the half! Dave Clark ran an incredible 1:15 (Wowzers!). Darren ran 1:17, a week after doing 1:16 in Victoria. Chapman, Metzger and Coach Campbell came flying in one after the other all under 1:19 and not far behind were Bellamy and Hiddleston both running sub 1:20 (that's 8 guys running sub 1:20!). Reyes, Gough and new guy, Gregor, were all under 1:21 and Conrad came in at sub 1:22 despite a niggle of the knee. Then it was Simion, Francois and Stefan all coming in at 1:23 and Sharlene C, our top female finisher, in a time of 1:24. And the list of LBRs goes on and on... Congrats to John M, Greg, Aleks, Richard W, Tara, Rob Kay, the other Kevin G(allagher), Peter de Vries, Kevin C, Rob H, George H, Dana, Laura M, Melinda, Jimmy, Juliana and so many more!!! A terrific day for Longboat and the flying feathers.
Updated team photo coming soon...
The remainder of the day was equally (but not equity) excellent in that I was able to spend a majority of it hanging out and relaxing with my training team/best buddies; drinking beers, eating junk food, raving about the race and general running stuff and even watching some crazy Austrian dude free-fall from near Outer Space. That was insane! I then came home and caught a majority of `The Lion King`on CBC, ate a falafel and a Reese's ice-cream sandwich, played some Uno with the lady friend (I lost) and took a nap. What could possibly be better?!

Next up, as everyone should know, is the NYC Marathon, now only 3 weeks away (on Sunday 04 November). My mileage will increase moderately from the 128k I ran last week to about 140k this week, before tapering off to 120k two weeks out and about 100k in the final week, including the race. My goal of running 2:34 is now looking more and more feasible and perhaps, based on how I feel in the next weeks, I might just try to go for something even a bit more daring. Only time (and the taper) will tell...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

#85 Carry That Weight

Despite not really having time for this (Teacher's College is A LOT of work! Not really hard work, but A LOT of it), I wanted to post a brief update to highlight what my training has looked like over the past two weeks, 10 and 11 of the 15 week marathon build to NYC.

In sum, they were intense!

It began the day after Oakville, which has since been re-measured and sure enough, found to be 316m long. That Monday featured an 'easy' 21.1k (a true half-marathon) followed by a 30k double (10k am, 20k pm) on Tuesday, 21.1k on Wed (including intervals of 3.2k, 800m, 2.4k and 800m @3:15-3:25/k) AND another 21.1k on Thursday and then a double (10k am, 21.1k pm) on Friday. Saturday was an easy 11k before the long run on Sunday which totalled 33k but was unfortunately disjointed and consisted of several mini-runs over the course of 3 or so hours. Nevertheless, the weekly total was 168km (104 miles).

Running at home along country roads featuring fantastic Fall colours.
Week 11 was always going to be tough given that it was planned as the highest volume week of the entire program. Coach Campbell aptly named it the "Fat Bastard" and the whole crew was feeling ready to take it on. In short it went like this: 17k on Mon; 34k (12k am, 22k pm) on Tues; 20k on Wed (including 9x90sec hills @HMP); 30k (12k am, 18k pm) on both Thurs and Friday (60k total); a 36k long run on Saturday due to a tight travel schedule for Thanksgiving and which featured tough pick-ups of 1,2,12,1,3,6min on rolling country roads; and then a final 15k on Sunday to top off the week which totalled an insane 182km (113m)! This was the fourth (and final) 100+ mile week of the program for me and I have to say that it felt pretty damn good the whole time. However, I was much looking forward to the current week which would see a short 'mini-taper' for the Scotiabank Half.

This week (week 12) has so far started off high with 18k on Monday, 30k on Tuesday (12k am, 18k pm) and 25k on Wed including perhaps the most challenging workout of the season (5 intervals of 2k, 2k, 3.2k, 2k and 2k @3:20-3:30/k) which we nailed in tough conditions. Many thanks to DC and MDF for pushing and pulling me through this one.

Since I'll be racing the Half on Sunday (the current weather forecast is NOT looking good... 50kph winds), I began my 'mini-taper' by running 15k on Thurs, will run 12k on Fri and will take Saturday completely off (only the 9th day of no running in 20 weeks/140 days). The weekly total will 'only' hit about 120k but is well deserved after the two weeks prior. Following the race, there will still be 3 weeks left to go until NYC but the unofficial taper will then begin with weekly totals of ~140k, 120k and 100k (including the race). Check back shortly for a Scotiabank race report where I feel I am ready to run a sub 1:15 (weather permitting).

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

#84 I Am the Walrus

In a rare change of direction (ie NOT running-related), I'd like to share with you a reflection that I've been asked to do as part of a course I'm currently taking at OISE (Teacher's College at U of T). The year-long course is called 'Teacher Education Seminar' and essentially is a course which outlines and introduces us as teacher candidates to various issues, ideas, topics, tools, strategies and situations that we are likely to face as potential educators and challenges us to think critically about who we are as individuals and what that will mean to and for our development as future teachers.

The following prompt was provided for us to reflect upon and will be the focus of my subsequent ramblings. It is part of a larger 'Professional Growth Portfolio' assignment and essentially highlights my current, but constantly evolving, 'Philosophy of Education.' It asks:

In what ways have your personal values, beliefs, social identities, strengths, personal biases, and assumptions influenced the way you teach and learn?

The short and simple yet unsatisfactory (and slightly sarcastic) response would be: A LOT! How I learn and teach, what I choose to learn and teach, with whom and for whom I choose to learn and teach, where and even why I choose to learn and teach are inevitably based on my personal 'lived' experiences, both past and present. These experiences, in various ways, have subsequently led to the current set of values, beliefs, and attitudes I currently possess which in turn directly and indirectly contribute to my sense of personal identity (how I see myself or imagine myself seen by others) as well as my social identit(ies) (how I am seen and viewed by others). Tied in to all of this, are the various biases, assumptions, and preferences I have/hold towards ideas, events, individuals and ultimately the world around me.

In order to better understand 'where I come from' and 'what I see' (ie to understand my unique perspective of the world...the world according to Dan Way), the following information is most certainly relevant and should thus be openly disclosed.

I am a white, 25 year old, heterosexual, Canadian male from a middle class background. This affords me a tremendous amount of power, privilege, opportunity, advantage and social 'capital' which I may or may not be aware/conscious of at all times but inevitably exists. In sum, I am extremely lucky!

Gazing West. Dairy Way Farms Inc. 
However I did not come from a particularly wealthy or 'well to do' background. I grew up in rural Ontario and spent a majority of my childhood and adolescence living in the country on our family (dairy) farm where I spent many years working hard and building a strong work-ethic and sense of responsibility. My parents divorced when I was quite young but I was always surrounded by what I would call a loving and nourishing extended group of family and friends, an environment which has grown and exists to this day. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic elementary and high-schools but currently hold no religious or spiritual affiliations. I do not believe in God, ghosts or goblins but am open to the idea that extra-terrestrial life exists somewhere in our universe. I am highly educated, possessing both an undergraduate (BMSc) and graduate (MSc) degree and have been fortunate to take part in two separate international exchange programs, to the UK and Germany, as well as travel extensively within Western Europe. I have enjoyed my education, predominantly of the life/biological sciences and have a great appreciation for the natural sciences and the physical world in which we live. As a science educator, I am predominantly concerned with understanding and explaining the natural world including laws, theories and facts about how it all works. I am particularly interested in human biology and how this relates to health. There was also a time not so long ago when I knew the capital city of every country in the world as well as the formula for every amino acid. I also knew a great deal about the Star Wars films but have sadly lost a great deal of my nerdiness and knowledge of useless facts. Sharing and extending my knowledge and understanding of the world is a major impetus as to why I want to teach and inspire a new generation of thinkers and doers. I don't expect and won't attempt to change the world, but am open and excited to make a difference, no matter how small.

I am also currently highly committed to distance running as a serious hobby and form of amateur sport and so value health, fitness and physical activity. From this I've also come to value competition, performance and a constant dedication to self-improvement and mastery. In other words, I believe in objective outcomes. I also believe in meritocracy and being rewarded for ones hard-work and effort. I believe that individuals, or groups of individuals, are largely responsible for themselves, their health and their overall sense of well-being. That said, I am all too aware that many complicated, complex, and higher order 'factors' exist (race, class, gender, etc, etc) and contribute in significant and lasting ways. The world is indeed unbalanced and some have it better than others. That is a fact of life. I feel that it's important and indeed essential to be conscious and aware of these factors, to understand and appreciate their impact and extent, and in fact work towards finding meaningful and measurable solutions where inequalities exist, but I do not feel this is my main focus or objective as an educator and thus my approach is far more moderate. I am not an activist or an evangelist; I am an educator and seek to provide knowledge and understanding. The rest is up to you.

My philosophy of education is likely to change, perhaps dramatically, as I develop as both a teacher and as an individual over time. I look forward to the journey and the inevitable highs and lows to come. For now, I embrace and accept the person I am including all my various strengths and weaknesses, my biases and assumptions, my preferences and priorities. Recently, during a discussion with friends, someone asked: "If you were stuck alone on an island for an entire year; could you live with yourself?" My response, accompanied with a cheeky chuckle, was 'Of course I could!' And I honestly believe that.

PS: In case you were wondering, I also ran 168k last week, week 10 of training for NYC. Only 5 weeks to go.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

#82 Long, Long, Long

Sunday 16 September 2012. Over the hump and on our way.

This was week 8 (of 15) of training for NYC. That represents the median for those who know a thing or two about math and means we are now more than half-way through the training program. I ran a total of 167k (104 miles; my highest weekly total ever) during 9 individual runs on 7 days and according to 'Garmin Connect', I've run 685k in the past 30 days and have run 36 days in a row. I got tired just writing that.

I also ran my longest run today which totalled 37.2k and ran in just under 2hrs 42min. And although it was not an official part of the program and was in fact 2 separate runs of 4.2k and 33k with a 10min break in the middle, it felt entirely awesome and is a huge boost to my confidence moving forward. In the last k's I was doing some mental math and figured I maybe could have broken 3hrs for the full 42.2 had I any desire to do another 5k (I didn't!). I also tried a fantastic new energy gel that Doyle gave me. It was from 'Honey Stinger' and was an 'Acai Pomegranate Organic Energy Gel.' I highly recommend it. Kudos to the huge contingent of LB peeps who ran this one today. It was one of the biggest groups to date and everyone was running really well (and with only minimal complaints from Hiddleston).

To quickly summarize the entire week, it went a little like this: 21.1k on Mon; 28k on Tues (11am, 17pm); 20k on Wed including a 2 mile interval at HMP and "Toronto's toughest 5k XC race" in which I barely broke 20min and lost by a fraction of a second to Doyle during a final sprint to the finish; 28k on Thurs (11am, 17pm); 21.1k on Fri; 12k on Sat and 37.2k on Sunday. 167+k!

The start of the LB XC Championship race in Riverdale Park on Wed 12 Sept 2012. 
The sprint finish between Doyle and I at the end of XC. He won by a fraction of a second in 19:39.xx.
The week ahead will be greatly reduced in order to 'taper' for the Oakville Half next Sunday (23 Sept) where I hope to run a 1:15:xx. I'll alter the numbers in order to decrease volume (to 120k or so) but keep the frequency and intensity about the same. I'll also get to take the day off on Saturday!

Runners heading to NYC also got to know our bib and corral assignments this week. I will be running as #2228 and will be starting in the first wave (9:40 EST start), orange corral #2. Luckily, some of the other LB guys will be starting with me although not all of them. The 3 different corral colours take slightly different routes early in the race before coming together for good at 8 miles. I hope to run with Doyle for a majority of the race so we'll have to see what happens. There are still 7 weeks to go to race day but already the excitement is growing among our crew.

I'll have a much better idea after next weeks half whether I am on target to hit my goal of 2:34:xx (sub 2:35) in NYC and have set a subsequent goal of placing in the top 100 overall (last year a 2:37:24 took 100th spot). I figure breaking 1:15 at Oakville or Scotiabank will put me in a good position to break 2:35 and achieve my goal(s). However, NYC is a much more challenging course than both Scotiabank and Goodlife, my prior marathons so I won't be overly ambitious. There is much still to be seen and still much work to be done. My third and final goal is to have fun and enjoy the race experience and so no matter what happens on 04 Nov, I will succeed in some way (a few exceptions apply).

Finally, a huge congrats to Doyle for winning the inagural Milton (more than) Half-Marathon today (the course was a little longer than 21.1k) in a time of 1:16:12 (~1:15:30 at 21.1k)! And to Bellamy for 2nd place in the 5k (also longer than expected or desired). Seeing all the hard work, dedication and group camaraderie pay off is a tremendous reward and boost for our crew and I'll say again how proud I am of all my training partners. Keep it up everyone.

Monday, 10 September 2012

#81 Ticket to Ride

"It all starts here"?...
Today is Monday September 10th and 99% of you who follow this blog regularly (because admit it, you love the controversy!) will know that today marks the opening day for registration for the 2013 Boston Marathon. And while I wasn't glued to a computer screen at 10am to register the second that it opened, I have now completed and submitted my 'application' and am all but guaranteed to get in for the April 15, 2013 race (the 117th edition). For those who don't know, Boston requires a qualifying time in order to register for the race. For me, in the open category (aged 18-34), my qualifying time is 3:05. I bested this mark by a full 28min way back in May when I ran my BQ (Boston qualifier) at the Goodlife Toronto Marathon in 2:36:59. By exceeding the standard by 20min or more, I was able to register today with little concern that the race would sell out (as it has very quickly in past years). For a breakdown of how it all works, check out Doyle's summary on the CanadianRunning website.
No... it all starts HERE!
In unrelated news, today was also my first day of 'school' at OISE (Teacher's College at U of T) where I begin my ~10month journey to become an educator (yikes!). And also, less than two weeks ago, on Wed 29 Aug, I successfully defended my MSc. thesis entitled: “In it for the long run: An ethnography of psychological and social benefits of distance running“ which explored commitment to the physical culture of distance running via an ethnography of a local running club (can you guess which one?!). In doing so I briefly presented a summary of my work which for those interested can be viewed here.

But less about that and more about running (NYC training)...

Another two training weeks are now in the books and one of them featured a number of mini milestones.
On Friday 31 August, I ran a double (11k AM; 16k PM) which brought my mileage for the month of August to just over 600k, my highest one month total ever. On the same day, my total mileage for the year exceeded 4000km and there are still 4 months to go including some massive weeks (150k+) in September and October. Cracking 6000k for the year is a real possibility. I also ran a little further than expected (36k) on Sunday September 2nd which brought my weekly total to 163k (101 miles), the first time I've ever eclipsed 100 in a single week. I'll admit that I did this somewhat purposefully just to say I could and it was not exactly part of the scheduled program (but Rob C still approved). And other than a minor shin problem that flared up during the speed session on Wed (since completely gone), the week felt great and I'm confident that my endurance is really coming along (sadly at the expense of my speed).

This past week I decided to take a bit of a 'break' and back down on the mileage in order to recover from several weeks of increasing volume (and steady intensity). This meant 'only' running 16k on Mon and Tues and a mere 12k on Wed where I was so busy organizing an Ekiden race that I wasn't able to warm up at all but rather, simply toed the line, ran a 34:20 10k and then did a quick 2k cool down. It ended up being a great event and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Except Dave Clark who injured his quad. Sorry Dave.

Thursday was a double day (10am; 18pm) and Friday morning featured a hilly and windy 17k on the back roads of Ingersoll, ON. Due to the LB Island race happening on Sunday, the long run was moved to Saturday which just happened to be the wettest and wildest weather day in recent history. I was already drenched when I arrived by bike to the Y to meet the others at 7am. A committed (and crazy) group of 6 departed shortly after for a 32k run up to the Beltine, down the Moore Valley and back again and which at times featured torrential downpours and flash flooding. We all managed to survive (good thing we could swim) and were forced to believe we were better off for it (something about building character...stupidity and stubbornness are character traits!). On Sunday, many of us club members helped out at the Longboat Island Run (5 and 10k) which featured some wicked fast times and new M&F course records inthe 5k (good for $600 each...I sure wish I was faster!). My 'job' was to act as a courier and continuously bike back and forth between 5-10k (the 5k course route) in order to monitor the runners and make sure no one died. No one did so I consider the day a complete success. Once the race was done and everything was under control, I and some of the guys headed back to the mainland and biked to Rob C's to fit a run in. We ended up doing 17k including a section with some of the others who were grinding out their long run. The week total ended up being about 139k, but felt anything but like a 'recovery' week. The week ahead should see a return to higher mileage and the always exciting LB Cross-Country 'Championships' organized by Bert. Good thing the club has insurance.

That's all for this post. Sorry George for the lack of controversy. Just for you, how about I say that although I think that the new Boston qualifying standards and the process of opening registration to those with the fastest times are an overall improvement and step in the right direction, I'd still like to see the standards increase, especially for the women (to say 3hrs for men and 3:20 for women (in the open category)).  And no charity or sponsored runners either! For us recreational runners, this is our Olympic marathon… where only the best should be!

Monday, 27 August 2012

#80 Not a Second Time

"Wow. That's a lot of running!"

That, the response of my mother NOT to me running 150km last week, but to my brother playing 6 ball hockey games in the span of 2 days! Haha Oh, and apparently according to my brother, Toronto is full of a bunch of 'fairies.' See, being controversial runs in my family.

So ya, this week (NYC Marathon build week 5) was pretty crazy. It started with an easy/aerobic 18k run with Doyle up through Prospect Cemetary and out and back on the beltline and which felt fantastic... probably because it wasn't 30 million degrees plus humidity. Tuesday was a 17k run west along the Lakeshore/MGT on my own until I ran into some random local dude who is also running NYC in November and who just happens to also want to run a 2:34. How weird is that?! This was particularly exciting for me since finding people to run with gets increasingly difficult as you get faster ("Oh woe is me, it's so lonely at the front"). This also goes to show how incredible and unique our current group at LB is right now, with 10 or so strong, and all guys (and a gal) capable of running sub 3hrs and some knocking off sub 2:50s and sub 2:40s.

Wednesday evening featured the workout of the season so far and perhaps the hardest one of the program. I was sure glad to have my LB brethren with me to get this one done. 3k warm-up plus 5 strides to wake up the legs, then 4 intervals, 2 times 3200m and 2 times 2000m all at 10k pace and with only ~500m recovery. I managed to hit 3:24, 3:26, 3:20 and 3:23/k for the intervals respectively and totalled 22k for the day. Combined, I ran faster than my current 10k pace (34:20; 3:26/k) for longer than 10k! It would also turn out to be faster than my race later in the week.

Thursday was the first of 2 double days back to back. I ran 10k in the morning on my way to meet Steve Metzger and together we spent a majority of the day driving around the city picking up supplies for the Sunset Shuffle (a 6k race on Toronto Island put on by Longboat) and later setting up and prepping for the race on the island. An hour before the race, at 6pm or so, I and some of the other guys (including a much missed Anthony Davey who had been sidelined with injury for far too long) ran 16k around the Island including the last few k's on the race course to check out the finish. 26k for the day.

The next day was more of the same. A 10k easy run in the morning on my own and then a 16k run in the afternoon, this time with a mostly different group of guys (and gal) in High Park and up and back down the Humber Valley Trail system. We saw a doe with its fawn right along side the trail which was super cool. Unfortunately, we didn't see the missing dog that Shar had us out searching for.

On Saturday, Melinda and I (and Charlie) were set to drive to my home in Ingersoll, so woke up super early to squeeze in a 12k run (the dog stayed home). We then hit the road and spent a busy day with my family in the 'country' where we lounged by the pool, played crokinole (Melinda is terrible) and 'the Mexican train game', ate Oma's pancakes, and I said farewell to Tom Butler who heads to Teacher's College in Thunder Bay.

On Sunday, I ran my hometown 10k race, the Ingersoll Harvest Run. This year, my fifth year running it, I was kinda hoping to win the damn thing to cross it off from my list of lifetime running goals (...To win my hometown race!). I sorta figured 34min or so would win it and I also feel that's conveniently where I'm at in terms of my current fitness (also based on the Wed workout). Moreover, there was no pesky Warren Ringler there this year to beat me. Turns out I would be more or less right about the winning time (33:54) but unfortunately it wouldn't be me breaking the tape. In fact, I wasn't even close! Some college kid who runs XC for Western turned up and went out fast and never really faded. I found myself in 4th place from 100m into the race and was at least 10sec behind at the first kilometre. Because the 5 and 10k races started at the same time and followed the same route for awhile, I convinced myself that the group of 4 who went out blazing fast were all running the shorter race. They continued to pull away and as we approached the point where the two races split apart, I was eagering expecting the runners to all turn left while I veered right. Much to my dismay, 3 of the 4 runners all went right to follow the 10k course. My heart sunk immediately as I found myself running alone in 4th place while the top 3 guys sprinted off ahead in a lead pack. To make matters worse, it was hot, humid and surprisingly windy. Not a day for fast running! At 1k, my split was 3:24, right on target for a 34 flat. However by the 5k mark at the half, ~17:30 had already passed and I figured that just running a sub 35 would be a massive struggle.

Somehow I managed to maintain my composure and even though I would say that this race was one of my least enjoyable experiences, I found myself holding pace and little by little the runners ahead were slowly coming back to me. The pack of 3 had broken apart around 3k as one of the runners, the eventual winner, pulled easily away, leaving the two others to struggle. At 8k I caught the 3rd place guy and sailed past him to prevent him putting up a fight. He was hurting badly and couldn't even throw a punch (he would finish more than a minute behind me). It took all of another k to get the 2nd place guy who did manage to fight back a little but was also clearly paying the price for the early fast pace. I made a move to pass him with speed and while he tried to hold on for a few seconds, he too fell off and further behind. The last k featured a longish gradual downhill which I used to build some speed and then a short steep uphill which I cruised up and ensured that the 3rd place guy was as good as gone. I saw the leader up ahead but the gap was at least 300m and I had no time or distance left in the race. I sped to the finish covering the last k in 3:15 and finished in a time of 34:35 (3:28/k). At first I was neither happy with my time (~20sec off my PB) or place (who is ever happy with 2nd?!), but have now come to realize that given the days conditions, the time is actually pretty descent (especially considering the not-so-flat course) and was also happy that I managed to claw back two spots and place second while running an impressive negative split.

But perhaps even less enjoyable than the race itself was the fact that I still had to somehow squeeze in another 13k for the day which I did as part of two cooldown runs (interupted by the 'awards' ceremony... where I only got a medal). I wouldn't count it as a long run but I still managed to hit 28k for the day (5k WU + 10k race + 8k post-race run + 5k CD). As mentioned, that brought my total for the week to 150k (perhaps another reason to figure that running a 34:35 is not too shabby).

This week I have no idea what I'm supposed to run as I've so far refused to look at the schedule. No doubt it involves a significant amount of running (although perhaps not 150k) and what I hear is another brutal workout on Wed.

Monday, 20 August 2012

#79 Revolution 9

The Beatles wrote a lot of songs, a lot a lot of songs! Most of them are awesome and if you haven't heard them you're probably either 7 years old and I am thus amazed that you're reading this right now. Or maybe there's just something really wrong with you (perhaps you like rap music... again why are you reading this blog?!) Anyway, despite a seemingly endless list of song titles to choose from, it's getting increasingly difficult to find ones that in some way, shape or form relate to the content of my blog (which as you now know is either about running, training and racing or something totally ridiculous and controversial). This week it's about the former and due to a limited number of songs related to that topic, I've chosen something totally random: 'Revolution 9.' Number 9 number 9, number 9...

NYC Training Week 4. Time to get serious.

After a less than legendary training week of only 110k and a subjectively sub-par performance at the Toronto 10-miler, I decided to take my training to a higher level this week by bumping up the mileage and being more consistent.

It started with an easy/aerobic run on Monday to help speed recovery from the race the prior day. While some people choose to recover passively by taking a day or two completely off running following a hard race or workout, I/we have embraced the concept of 'active recovery' which is essentially easy running at aerobic pace. This acts to flush the muscles with blood and remove the 'junk' in the legs while also increasing the ability to burn alternate fuels (fats) and provides a neuromuscular stimulus when fatigued. In case you haven't heard, the 'secret' to running faster, further, stronger is... to run more!

On Tuesday, I ran longer (21.1k) and faster (1:31) than planned as I was doing some reconnaissance work for the LB Ekiden relay race I am organizing which is coming up in September (Wed 05). The challenge is trying to find an appropriate spot in Cherry Beach to act as both the start and finish line and that also accommodates three turn-around points at 2.5, 3.1 and 5k (for the 5, 6,2 and 10k legs respectively) but that doesn't require road-crossings or extensive marshalling. Organizing a race on the cheap (for free) is proving much more difficult than I had imagined even though all I'm really concerned with is having an accurately measured and precisely timed course. Everything else is just icing and I'm hoping it will all come together in time. If it does, it will be awesome.

On Wednesday, the crew got together for it's typical club run but rather than run the MGT/Lakeshore west, we headed north to Poplar Plains Rd to run some hill repeats. It turned out to be a really good workout and the length and grade of the hill was perfect for our purpose (type 2B activation). We did 3 sets of 3x90sec hills and as usual, managed to go a bit faster than planned (via the group effect). In the end we did 19k for the day and everyone seemed to look and feel good.

Thursday turned out to be much more eventful than I would have liked. My early morning easy run on the Lakeshore was cut short when the new shoes I was wearing (a brand new pair of the New Balance 890 v2... the same shoe I have been wearing without incident for 2 months) absolutely destroyed my feet and gave me numerous bad and bloody blisters. After stopping a number of times to evaluate the deteriorating state of my feet and even attempting to run barefoot for a short distance, I painfully limped my way home for 12k. I attended the best I could my ailing appendages and wrapped them up and then put in a full day of work at the 'ol shoe factory (New Balance). I then stubbornly ran 8k home later in the day only to re-aggravate my battered blisters and once again experiences a few k's of agonizing pain. It was perhaps the worst day of running in recent memory. Never underestimate the damage that can be caused by mechanical malfunctions and problems to your pedestals. Time for a pedicure perhaps.

After once again attending to my pathetic paws, I anxiously approached the Friday run with apprehension. I wrapped and bandaged the blistered areas the best I could and was hoping for the best. The crew met in High Park for what was supposed to be a simple 16k run with a middle 10k at mid-tempo pace (about 4:05/k). Instead we constantly pushed each other and the pace, and ended up completing the 10k section in ~38:20 (3:50/k). More impressive considering all the hills and the already accumulated miles in our legs. The best news though was that my feet held up and did not cause any issues.

We followed up the run with a good discussion/debate at the pub on the merits of WMA (World Masters Association) age and sex-graded scoring for race results which our club has an odd fascination with. The basic idea behind it is to 'level the playing field' by standardizing results and accounting for differences in age and sex. It does this using a complex mathematical model that incorporates the world's fastest time for each respective age and sex for any given distance and then presents your race result as a percentage of this. Simply, for a particular distance you take the world's fastest time by someone of the same age and sex and divide that by your own race result. As a simple example, if the fastest time recorded for a 25 year old male to run 28 kilometres was exactly 100min and I ran 120min, I would score 80% (100/120). If the fastest time for a women aged 50 was 140min and you as a 50yo female ran 175min, you would also score 80% (140/175). That's a very crude way to explain it, but essentially how it works. As a real example, the age and sex standard for a male 25yo for 5km is 12:54. If I ran 15min flat, I would score 86% (12.9min/15min).
Ultimately, our debate focused on the potential 'bias' such scoring has in favour of older/Master's runners (aged 40+) given that anyone 20-35 is basically being compared to the absolute best (ie fastest) in the world who are training very specifically to be the best while the records for Master's runners are relatively less competitive and the overall sample of older runners contributing to the age and sex standards are far fewer. Yet, I digress...

Saturday was an uneventful 16k easy run in the early morning to provide maximum recovery time for the Sunday long-run.

Sunday's run was a soon to be standard 32k (we have 8 more to do) with some pick-ups thrown in the mix to keep things interesting. The pace started slow and gradually increased through-out, mostly due to one seemingly invigorated individual (not me!). The first few k's were all 5+min/k while the last few were all well under 4! The 16k out and back route up to the Beltline, through Mt Pleasant 'Park' and down the Moore Valley Ravine was both conveniently sheltered from the sun as well as easy on the legs. In the end, our pace averaged under 4:20/k for the 20 miles and turned out to be well-executed workout. The slurpee from 7/11 at the end was the perfect reward for a successful week in which I hit a total of 140k.

The week ahead will again be disrupted with not one, but two races. The first on Thurs, the Sunset Shuffle 6k, over on Toronto Island and organized by our very own Steve Metzger on behalf of LB. The second is my home-town 10k in Ingersoll on Sunday. I'll still aim to keep the mileage relatively high (~140k) as training consistently (and not clocking PBs) is now the primary focus for the next few weeks until the next real test of our progress occurs at the Oakville Half.

Bored of my training blog yet? I would be! And there are still 11 weeks to go...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

#78 Magical Mystery Tour

So I watched the Olympic closing ceremony and I'll admit, I am very sad to see the end of London 2012. For two weeks, I was simply mesmerized and captivated with every and all disciplines of sporting excellence and achievement (the horse stuff being the rare exception). Sure, I think the Olympic ideals are crap (It`s about athletics, NOT world peace and social justice) and the IOC is corrupt as hell, but the sports and athletes are a class act and I love to watch the highs and lows of competing at the highest level. Bolt and the Jamaican sprinters were sensational. Phelps and Lochte in the pool were fantastic. Ennis in the Heptathlon, Eaton in the Decathlon. The 5000m and the 10,000m with Magic Mo, Rupp, and Canada's Cam Levins. The women's soccer bitter-sweet loss to the Americans... And bronze, bronze and more bronze for Canada! Loved every minute. Thank you London 2012. Can't wait for Rio. Olympic withdrawal starts tomorrow.

And what a great conclusion today with the men's marathon. A massive surprise was the Ugandan gold medallist, Steven Kiprotich ahead of the Kenyans (and where the hell were the Ethiopians?!). But best of all were our very own Canadians doing us all so proud. To Reid, Eric and Dylan (Team RED 2012 Forever!), congrats guys on running your Olympic dream and sharing your journey with us all. You've done so much for our sport in this country and your legacy will continue for years to come. All the best moving forward.

Way to go guys. CND kayaker AVK, 3 marathon men and Levins at the closing ceremony in London. 
In other news, NYC 2012 training continues. Back here in Toronto, the Toronto 10-miler & 5k was today in which I and many of my LB brethren ran extremely well despite less than ideal conditions. The sun was out and the humidity rose over the Distillery district just in time for the 8:30am start. The wind was swirling and put up a fight at times but that didn't stop many of us from posting PBs and great results. A huge congrats to Doyle, Dave C, Darren, Chris Chapman, Bellamy, Kevin G, Sharlene (6th women overall!), Conrad, Julie, Rob Kay, Tara, Dana, Richard, Melinda, Jimmy, and all other LBRs. Another fine showing from the flying feathers. Thanks for all the LB support on route as well.

My race was less than ideal and I wasn't overly enthused with my time (57:15; 3:33/k) but given the conditions, I think it was the best I could have done. It was also a slight (6sec) PB over the Good Friday 10-miler (57:21) I ran way back in April. I ran by feel but felt flat and just couldn't kick it into a higher gear. I simply couldn't get my pace under 3:30/k but ran consistently and was happy with my overall placing (19/634). I ran entirely alone from about 4k which is getting really boring and I would really prefer some company (hint hint guys). I guess I need to get a whole lot better in order to hang with the sub-elites or else just take up triathlon and get my ass handed to me in the pool and on the bike and try to craw back time on the run. All in all though, it was a great day as is any day I get to chill with my LB crew.

So like most weeks of training, there is nothing particularly exciting to report. Week 2 of NYC training saw another solid week of miles and workouts. 126k for the week and 6 days of running. The Friday (03 August) was the infamous LB 'Mile on the Track' which took place at the beautiful Varsity Stadium at U of T. I/we used this opportunity to run a 4x1600m workout (sorry Bert) and then ran a tempo run for the remainder of the hour in which Doyle and I hit about 10miles in those 60min. Saturday was a day off and Sunday the first of our 32k runs which went okay but was hot and humid and my body is still far from familiar with that length of run at one time. Lots of work still to do.

Week 3 concluded today with the 10-miler. I only hit 110k for the week as I opted to take the day off yesterday to 'taper.' However, the week saw 4 consecutive 10+ milers as aerobic runs including a tough hill workout and some up-tempo pace. The real training is still to come as the mileage will continue to climb as well as the introduction of double days. The next race is in 2 weeks as I head home to Ingersoll for the Harvest Run (10k) in which I hope to claim the title in my home-town event. Until then, plenty of running and some tough workouts to come. At least it seems the weather will cooperate and the worst of the summer heat and humidity seems to be behind us. 12 weeks to go to NYC.

In completely other news, I am set to defend my MSc (Exercise Sciences) thesis at the end of the month which will end a trying but tremendously influential chapter of my life. My thesis is titled: "In it for the long run: An ethnography of the psychological and social rewards of recreational running and club culture." Surprise, surprise, I found that running provides a number of significant rewards that contribute to overall health and well-being. In time, I plan to highlight some of my findings and discussion in greater depth here on my blog and share them with you (the only people who might actually care). Stayed tuned for more.

That's all from me for now. Keep running folks.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

#77 A Beginning

NYC training has 'officially' begun and every few weeks I plan to write about how it's going (as much for my own benefit as it is for yours). Yup, I'm writing a training blog but I'm hoping it will be less offensive than some of my past topics/posts. While I do enjoy stirring the pot and offending those so easily offended, I figure it's time to simply concentrate on what I know and what I do best, and that's to train hard and hopefully run fast... which of course like many things in life is relative.

Last week (Mon 23 - Sun 29 July) was the first week of the 'Marathon Build' and so far so good. There are 15 total weeks of training which end on Sun 04 November in Central Park, New York City at mile 26.2 (kilometre 42.2) of the ING New York City Marathon. My goal: To run sub 2:34. 1 week down, only 14 to go...

Although last week was technically week 1 of the marathon build, it was not exactly the start of our training program. Way back in late May and the day after Cabot, we began a 4 week 'Alpha' phase in which we gradually began building mileage and aerobic (endurance) capacity mostly through steady state runs and ~100k weeks. That was followed by the 4 week 'SWEP' (Speed With Endurance Process) phase which involved less mileage but several tough speed interval and hill workouts. It concluded with the Lindsay 10k which I review further down. Then (ie Now) we begin the 'Marathon Build.'

My first MB week totalled 121k including some easy 10-milers (16.1k), some shorter recovery/taper runs, a Sunday long run of 30k and for me, a 5k race (MEC Summer Classic 5/10k) on Saturday which resulted in a major PB and personal breakthrough of 16:03 (3:13/k). Although I was wearing my watch, I opted to run by feel and thus didn't look down to see just how close I had come to going sub 16. A lesson to be learned for any distance to glance at the Garmin with 400m or so to go in order to dig deep when necessary and scrape a few seconds off the clock if you're near a milestone time. Despite feeling very blah in the hours leading up to the race, I was able to put together something special and take a full 45sec off my previous best (16:50 at the Pride 5k in 2011). Clearly the 4 weeks of SWEP that Rob C had us do made a major impact and I have to thank him as well as my entire training crew (which continues to grow) for getting me to where I am now. 

Running 5k fast is definitely among the hardest things one can do in this sport (I'm sure shorter distances are even worse!) and it doesn't even compare to the pain and agony that is faced in the last k's of a marathon. It's a whole different world of hurt and a different kind of discomfort. Never before can I recall wanting to quit so badly in a race and having to negotiate in my mind staying in the game and not slowing down during those last 2k's. It was excruciatingly brutal and yet, as soon as I was done, I was frustrated at not having gone 4 seconds faster (sub 16) and wanted to do it all again.

Myself and Michelle Clarke, M & F winners of the MEC Summer Classic 5k
The other race to mention was a week earlier (Sun 22 July) in Lindsay, ON. The Lindsay Milk Run was a 10k that I somehow managed to convince 16 other LBRs to drive the ~1.5hrs from Toronto at 5am on a Sunday to race. I was up at 4am and in the car at 5 as we departed into the near dawn and headed north-east to Lindsay. We all arrived in plenty of time, got our race kits, geared up and then went for a 5ish k warm-up along the route which left only 5min to spare before the start. The race started just after 8am which seemed infinitely better than the year before when it started at 9 and was almost 30 degrees. This time around it was a fair bit cooler, albeit still warm, and made for faster running. The gun went off and we were on our way. Dave C got ahead of me almost immediately and not wanting a repeat of Pride having to follow him for the majority of the race, I picked it up and put myself in front of him. A kilometre in, I found myself in 4th place well behind the lead pack and there I would stay for the remainder of the race. I ran entirely alone and as I've made habit, only checked the watch at 1k (3:21/k) to ensure I wasn't over extending myself (too much). I hit the 5k mark in ~16:45 (I know this because some nice lady in a lawn-chair was yelling out splits), which would have been a PB, and then struggled slightly between 6 and 7k (a 3:34 and my slowest k of the day) where the course followed an old rail path which was ever so slightly uphill. I regained my composure around 8k at which point the route goes continuously and gradually downhill toward the finish and put together a final k of 3:15. I finished fourth in a PB of 34:16 (3:25/k average) but was unfortunately 3rd in my age category (M20-29). And no, the 33:16 I did at Yonge St doesn't count! All in all, it was a great day.
17 LBRs dominate the field at the Lindsay Milk Run
Even more impressive than my personal effort was the collective effort of the 17 guys and gals that ran on the day and saw 14 guys in the top 25 as well as us claiming the top 4 spots in the team category. Team Longboat narrowly edged out Shortplane, Tallship and Yellowsubmarine, the latter who were at a slight disadvantage since their average time incorporated all 5 runners, rather than the top 4. In addition to lifting the team trophy as well as picking up a number of individual awards, we also got to eat way more ice cream and chocolate milk than could be justified for running 10k. Well done everyone for stellar  individual and team efforts. You guys make this all worthwhile.

The week (Marathon Build 2) saw the end of July (where has the summer gone?!) in which I ran a total of 515km. This Friday is the infamous 'Hour on the Track' organized by the club which I may or may not fully participate in depending on the weather. There's also 122km to be run including our first (of 11) 32k/20m long run of the program, a double day and a bunch of fast miles to be run during a hard workout.

Next on the racing schedule is a Canadian Running Series event, the 'Toronto 10-miler & 5k' (formerly known as the Nissan and Acura 10-miler) to take place on the morning of Sun 12 August, the same day as the Men's Olympic Marathon. Since I won't be able to watch it live (it starts at 6am EST) and the results will be in just before the start of the race (8:30am), I'm hoping to avoid all social interaction that morning and watch the event a few hours late but still have the results as a surprise. Best of luck to Reid, Eric and Dylan (Team RED), our Canadian contingent for London 2012. I was amazed to see that there are 109 runners entered in the event so cracking the top 20 would certainly be an amazing result for any of the guys. Breaking Drayton's CND record (of 2:10:09) may be a bit of a stretch but we'll have to just wait and see...

Team RED: Reid (Coolsaet), Eric (Gillis) and Dylan (Wykes) set to roll in London