Tuesday, 31 January 2012

#47: The Night Before

With a growing list of things to do (my MSc. thesis, RA and TA work, Longboat VP responsibilities, and running/training) and less and less time to do it; I've decided to take some time and to do what I prefer and enjoy, rather than what I need to do. Right now, that's to write this blog post.

Today is the last day of January. Where did that month go?! I managed to return from an ankle injury in December to run 419km this month including a race, the Robbie Burns 8k, this past Sunday (29 Jan) when I surprised myself and ran a time of 27:45 (3:28/k), cracked the top 10 (9th overall (out of 827); 8th male (out of 417)), and almost managed to beat all my fellow LB club members (I let one of them beat me to the line by less than a second but beat him on chip time). It was a near perfect day as conditions were good (not too cold and not too windy) and the course was practically flat. I tried something totally new which was to go out "slow" and ease into the race. This strategy worked out well since I didn't over extend myself in the opening km's and thus I really didn't fade at all. Splits: 3:28.25, 3:27.81, 3:27.61, 3:27.27, 3:27.07, 3:28.18, 3:29.94 and 3:19.78!

It was a great race and was followed by a great day. The reason I was rather surprised by this was a) I had missed 3 entire weeks of running prior to coming back in early January and had thus missed a number of key (speed) workouts and base building; b) was feeling apathetic towards the race and was doubting my ability to perform and c) had been out the night before until 2am, where I drank half a bottle of red wine and a couple of beers (not usually a wise choice). I certainly wasn't about to create excuses before the race but oddly wasn't feeling as 'worked up' for the event as I usually am. In the end, it may have actually helped.

It certainly seems that my (our) training has been going well and is now paying off. There are now just less than 5 weeks before the next test, the Chilly Half-Marathon in Burlington on 04 March, and plenty of work to be done including higher mileage (a minimum of 110km/wk from here until May); no days off in all February, and plenty of tempo, hill and speed workouts. With my ankle still not at 100%, I'm hoping to survive the mileage and workouts and continue to improve ever so slightly as we move from day to day. My goal for the Half will be 1:17 anything (essentially sub 1:18), with a 1:18 or 1:19 as acceptable and a 1:20 as a 'worst case scenario.' I have no reason to think that the goal can't be met if I stay healthy and stick to the training schedule. It certainly helps to have my training partners (MD and DL) to slug out these many kilometres day after day and the wisdom and experience of my coaches (RC and RM) to back me up. Without them, none of this would be possible.

It goes without saying but doing the training certainly won't be easy, since as mentioned, I am currently busy (overwhelmed) with many other aspects of my life. In case you didn't realize, running/training is only just one part of my life; albeit an important and significant one and often the subject of this blog! My life as a graduate student is hopefully coming to a close as I intend to write and defend my thesis before the end of May before celebrating briefly (Cabot Trail) and then finding work. Making this task more complicated is my continued role as a teaching assistant, a research assistant/work-study student, and soccer official; not to mention my "social" life. The details of these aren't very exciting and thus won't be elaborated upon.

Well that's it for now. In sum, I had a great race recently and am now looking forward to more training and preparation for the big event (Goodlife Toronto Marathon) in May. I'll try to keep the other aspects of my life under control and perhaps even try to enjoy them. I'm trying hard not to start any more 'war of words' with fellow running bloggers but won't promise anything. This one really tried my patience. Until next time, keep running. Cheers.

Monday, 23 January 2012

#46: Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey

It's Monday and it's miserable out... so I'm going to write a blog post.

First up is a surprising find and suggestion. It's a blog called 'Not Born to Run' by a 40-something naturopathic doctor and obesity advocate named Dr. Jacqueline Jacques. In it, she eloquently describes her own introduction to running and best of all, she admits to not liking it very much. It's been so long that I now forget my own beginnings and immense struggles with running, but can assure you that they did not all go smoothly and that I was not a natural. No one is born to run! We can be raised and nurtured to run and some of us may even find we are good at it; but everyone must find that out for themselves, and that is a highly personal journey. My profound passion for running came after great costs of time and energy. Like anything valuable and worthwhile in life, we must persistently work at something and dedicate ourselves to making it work.

This find may be particularly surprising due to the recent attention I got for criticizing a mediocre "newbie" runner for her own blog which appeared on Canadian Running. There was a great deal of controversy and criticism directed at me for this and that's fine: I stand by my statements and expect to be held accountable for my actions. What I hope to make clear is that my criticism and comments were not made because the of the authors’ ability, talent or fact that she wrote a blog, but due to what (in my opinion) constitutes a lack of accountability to show any degree of commitment to the pursuit of her public and published goals. I highly respect and support runners of any ability who are willing to take the time to set and achieve their goals and who show passion and commitment toward their training. However, those who train willy-nilly and yet expect to be recognized and praised for their admittedly poor efforts frustrate and annoy me to no end. I am tired of the entitled and politically correct attitude of current running society where every runner must be accepted, celebrated and praised for everything they do. Call me old-fashioned, but there was a time (the 70’s and 80’s) when runners actually had to work hard for what they hoped to achieve and those that did were rewarded (while those who didn’t were criticized and cast aside).

I’m not here to start a new war of words. Everyone is welcomed and encouraged to run to the best of their abilities; one of the few activities that almost anyone can do. Regardless of the reasons you run (for pleasure, fun, fitness, health, and/or for social reasons), running is a sport which inherently involves competition (whether you like it or not). Running in its purest and most basic form involves covering a distance as quickly as possible. When done for this (intended) reason, it’s also called a race. And if you sign up for a race, you consign yourself to participate in a competition and thus be judged and evaluated based on your performance. If you want to run a marathon, that’s great. But a marathon is a race and always will be! You can race against your current self, your prior self or others; but you will race.

Getting back to the idea of commitment: a necessary component of successful running. We may not all share the same degree of commitment to our running. We all have other important priorities, obligations and responsibilities that mean running will only ever be a part of our lives. We can only dedicate so much time and attention to our running at any given point in our lives. But when one sets a goal and commits oneself to the achievement of said goal, one then becomes accountable to that goal. If you don’t set goals, you can’t become committed and thus are not accountable. Many people like this idea and thus simply refuse to set goals in the first place. These people are cowards!

The state of running today is a microcosm of society at large. People refrain from setting goals and being accountable; they commit to nothing or only as little as they can afford and then they expect validation and celebration for their modest and mediocre efforts. This is what I oppose and this is what I will continue to speak out against.

To conclude: today is a shitty day. It’s cold and wet and will rain all day long. My training program says I am supposed to run 16k today with the middle 7k at 4:20/k pace. Yesterday I ran 27k and tomorrow I will run 15. By week’s end I should have done 120! I really don’t want to do this. I’m tired, my ankle is sore, the weather sucks and I have other/better things to do. But I’m going to do them anyway... because I set a goal (a modest and relatively mediocre 2:45 marathon), I have friends to whom I am accountable (as well as myself!) and this goal/outcome is important to me.

Friday, 6 January 2012

#44: A Beginning

First up, Happy New Year! 2011 was good but I'm sure 2012 can be even better... that is if the world doesn't suddenly end and we all die horrible terrible deaths!!! Because if that were to happen, it would only be slightly better than 2004 and of absolutely no comparison to 2011 (I'm kidding of course... 2003 was way worse!)

2011 was a good year for many reasons, many of them related to running (many of them not!). To summarize: I ran my first ever marathon (STWM) in a respectable time (2:49) and also set impressive PB's at pretty much every distance I attempted. I also got to know a tonne of awesome people (many of them associated with Longboat) and participated in some amazing team events like the Cabot Trail Relay and Simcoe Shores. I was also mostly injury free. That was until I developed a problem in the final 2 weeks of December...

And so during the past 3 weeks, in which I wasn’t running at all due to a persistent foot/ankle issue (posterior tibialis tendinitis), I had a great opportunity to spent time doing what runners do when they’re not actually running; that is... THINKING about running!

You’d think that during the busy holiday season with friends and family all around, plenty to eat and drink and lots of travel and running around to do, that I’d have let running slip to the back of my mind and just let it go for awhile... well apparently not! In fact, not being able to run may have only made thinking about it far more intense. What follows below is a fairly funny but also amazingly accurate portrayal of...

What runners think about when they’re NOT running...
When was my last run? how did it go? too easy? too intense? how far did I go? was it too long? too short? what was my pace? too fast? too slow? what was the purpose? speed? endurance? aerobic? recovery? did I stretch enough before? after? do I feel a pain in my anterior tibialis? could it be shin splints again? how does my butt/ calf/ hamstring/ ankle etc etc feel? maybe I should do some stretching right now? when is my next run? how many hours away is that? what am I going to do? how far/long? how fast? what am I going to wear? should I do laundry? where are my running tights? where should I run? what route will I take? it that too long? too short? what is the purpose of this run? do I need to do more speed work? should I go to the track? how many miles have I run this week? how many do I need to run this week? this month? this year!? am I hungry? when did I eat last? what did I have? was it too much? too little? when should I eat again? what will I have? am I drinking enough water? when did I last go to the washroom? when should I go next? was it a number 1 or 2? what did it look like? am I eating enough fibre? too much? how much do I weight today? how much did I weigh last week? how much do I want to weigh? if I lost 2 more pounds; how much faster would my 10k time be? what’s the weather like right now? is it cold? what about the wind? what will it be like when I run today, tomorrow, Thursday? what’s the long term forecast? how about for my next race? when is my next race? where is it? how am I getting there? what should I eat before? will so and so be there? do I think I can beat him/her this time? what will my time be? what should it be? what could it be? am I training hard enough? what else should/could I be doing? am I cross training enough/at all? should I do more core work? how many sit-ups can I do? how many miles have I got on my shoes? is it time to get new ones? what kind should I get? how much do they weight? how much will they cost? are they on sale at running room? what else do I need from running room? how old are my racing shorts? is it time for a new pair? what about socks? should I get some more socks? what colour? is my garmin charged? where is my garmin? where is my OTHER garmin? did I upload my last workout? where did I put that usb cable? was that mild discomfort in my right knee? I wonder if I should be concerned about that? when was the last time I saw a physio? what was the problem then? it’s gone for good right? I wonder what will go wrong next? should I start increasing mileage again? how many should I run before the marathon? am I really ready for the marathon? what if I hit the wall? how many gels should I take? how often? what kind? what flavour? wasn't it the raspberry that caused all those stomach cramps the last time? what was that half time again? what pace is that? what speed?

This is no word of a lie. This is what really goes on inside our heads. It's not this busy/bad all the time, but it can be. I'm sure I'm also forgetting a whole bunch of other random thoughts too. Some might think this is crazy, and you're right! The line between passion and problem can be a very fine and fickle one.

Well, that's my first post of 2012. It wasn't a great one, but I had nothing else going on at the time. I'm hoping that as my injury continues to heal, I can start to actually run a whole lot more and think about it a whole lot less.