Sunday, 24 March 2013

#100 I've Just Seen a Face

I was planning to write an insightful (i.e. extensive) race report about my ATB performance today, but am finding myself totally fatigued after having to prepare a lesson on plants for some high school kids as I continue my practice teaching placement tomorrow. So I guess I will make this 'brief' and just mention the highlights.

So ya, Around the Bay (ATB; 30k), my all-time personal favourite and "North America's oldest" road race, was this morning in Hamilton and in short, I smoked it (fitting perhaps for a Black Lung)!

I ran 1:45:43 which is an incredible 3:31/k or 17.02kph!!! It was also good enough to place me 16th overall (and 15th male as Lanni Marchant ran an absolutely amazing 1:44:40 setting a new course record. Kudos to Terence Attema for his fine performance and finishing kick to win in 1:35:44).

In sum it was a great day for me, being over two full minutes faster than I ever imagined (I was earnestly hoping for a 1:48). Hands down, this was my greatest race/result to date. In the words of Krista Duchene (who ran an inspiring post-injury 1:51:40, good for second place female): "Boy, do I love to run!"

And while all of my BLT brethren opted to do the smart thing and 'pace' the race (they all finished comfortably in under 2 hrs) in order to save their legs for upcoming marathons; I simply couldn't hold back and so "I went for it," giving what I feel was damn close to 100%... and what made me feel like 110 when I finished! I felt great from start to finish and ran exactly according to how I felt (i.e. fit and fast).

Some interesting stats to highlight how to run a smart (and speedy) ATB race: 0-10k in 35:11; 10-20k in 35:07 and the final (very hilly) 20-30k (including a 1:14 flat 21.1k) was in 35:25 making for only an approximately 20 second differential between all 10k splits. The first half (0-15k) was run in 52:42, and the second (hillier) half (15-30k) in 53:01 (again, only a 20 second difference). And while not technically a negative split, this is perhaps as close as you'll come on this course. The lesson here is not to try to "bank" time for later but rather to run a consistent effort throughout. Also note that my fastest km was the first in 3:21; the next fastest was my last (29th... or is it the 30th?!) in 3:24!

So, what's next? With only 3 weeks to go to Beantown, this week calls for a 'mere' 130k but the emphasis will be on rest, recovery, mostly easy running and (as always) not doing anything stupid. My legs took a beating today and although I'll be eager to keep training and move forward, I need to be super cautious, careful, and listen to my body at every step during the next few weeks.

My performance today suggests that a 2:34 marathon is not only attainable but perhaps a bit too 'easy' and so I am now upping the ante and admitting to my ultimate and absolutely ambitious goal of running a 2:32! Note: this is Boston we're talking about here so I do admit that perhaps I am getting greedy but if on April 15th, I feel the way I did today, I will once again 'go for it' and see what happens.

Onwards to Boston. T-minus three weeks...

Monday, 18 March 2013

#99 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Road to Boston: Running 5k 'for fun'

As of today, there are exactly 4 weeks to go until the Boston Marathon on Monday 15 April at 10am. Last week I found out that I will be sporting bib #263 which in a field of 30,000+ is pretty low. Note that the lowest numbered bibs are assigned to those with the fastest overall qualifying times. Needless to say, I'm excited.

I find that there always comes a point in training when the desire to run the goal race, to compete to ones best, to 'get it over with' exceeds the desire to continue to train, to improve, to 'need more time.' For me, this point has now come. Given that I still need time to taper and load up for the race, I'm grateful it's not tomorrow; but in my mind, the work has been done, the 'hay is in the barn' and it's now simply a matter of being smart and making sure I stay healthy.

Yesterday I ran a 5k race (16:13; 3:14/k; 6th overall) which capped off my second straight week of running 170+km. I've felt great in that time, am not at all injured or breaking down, and feel I am beginning to peak in terms of my fitness. Feeling really fit is a truly amazing and unique experience and something that only happens for a few weeks every cycle. You feel incredible, almost to the point of being invincible and are ready to go at any moment. You want to race, to perform, and you become really (mentally) preoccupied and distracted with the training, the race and all things running (hence why I'm writing this right now). It's all that seems to matter and all you seem to think about. It's not a bad state to be in but tends to lead to minor dysfunction in other (important) areas of life. For some, it could be labelled as addiction!

The 'Around the Bay' 30k is this Sunday (the 24th) and has without a doubt become my favourite race of the entire year. I love the distance (more than a Half but less than the Full) , the course, the whole thing from start to finish! Many people have expressed concern over the prospect of racing ATB all out and then being worn-out for Boston 3 weeks later. I don't pace when I race so will be 'going for it' on Sunday and hope to run sub 1:50, perhaps a 1:48. The course is tough with some considerable hills in the last 10k so I acknowledge my legs will take a beating and remain banged up for a week or so afterwards. The day and week after ATB will be the 'official' start of the taper to Boston (and comprise of some 150kms!) and I'm confident with age on my side, I should be able to recover completely and run a stellar race in Beantown on Patriot's Day.

I mentioned that yesterday I ran the Achilles St. Patrick's Day 5k Run/Race (I'm not sure what they call it exactly). It was cold, windy and like any 5k race, really tough! I passed a few people in the last 2k which tells me I ran a good race and for the first time in awhile, I got into a 'sprint to the finish' scenario with some dude in the last ~400m which I sadly lost handedly in the final hundred metres (did I mention I ran 350kms in the previous 2 weeks?!). My lungs felt like death afterwards and I was slightly disappointed not to run a bit faster (the elusive sub 16 is still yet to come) but overall am pretty pleased with the result.

I'm still not really sure why I/we did this race given our high mileage week and focus on endurance (ie  marathons), other than perhaps because there was a 'team challenge' that we wanted to win and so Black Lungs Toronto entered a team. And we would have come damn close to winning said challenge had we not been 'DSQed' for not having a women on our team... Now, had we been at all aware of this small yet significant stipulation, we could have entered a team that met the requirement. Yet, since there was, nor is, any indication anywhere that said it was necessary to have a women on the team, we fielded a team with all and only our 10 most healthy, uninjured and available members of BLT. That team did exceptionally well too. 8 of us were in the top 20 and their average time was sub 17min (good enough for first place perhaps?)! Yup, BLT continues to dominate and it seems that "every race will now be a Black Lungs race."

Onwards to Boston... but first ATB!