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.