Tuesday, 31 December 2013

#114 A Day in the Life

I've now officially exhausted all the Beatles song titles to use for my blog posts so will need to find something new and original for 2014. As for now, I conclude 2013 with this fitting post, looking back at a successful year of running... mostly in circles, squares or simply out-and-back again.

2013 Year End Review

Although we runners are often focused on the future and already looking forward to achieving the next goal or outcome, it's also important to reflect back on our past accomplishments and take pride in the hard work and commitment that went into making them happen. So just as I did a year ago, I'd like to look back at the year that was (2013) and highlight some of my running and racing accomplishments. 

Here are some training numbers to get things started. In 2013, I ran a grand total of 6428K. I ran 335 days of the year and took only 30 days off! I ran 12 races and set PBs in 9 of them! I also ran two incredibly fun relays with the Black Lungs where our team placed 1st and 2nd, at the Ragnar Relay Niagara Falls and Cabot Trail Relay Race, respectively. But over all those K's run and raced, some of them were certainly more memorable and significant than others. So here are my top 10 of 2013:

10. Febrrruary run streak; Fri 01 - Th 28 February28 consecutive days, 37 individual runs, and 640 total kilometers. Also a second place finish at the Peterborough Half. Take that Canadian Winter!

9. Milton Half; Sun 15 September. 1:12:58 (3:27/K). First overall & a 30+ second PB. Best of all, twelve Black Lungs finished in the top 12 overall and we continued to exert our dominance on the local running/racing scene.

Which way to Chicago guys? The BLT crew celebrate our domination of the Milton Half.
8. Training; Wed 28 August. During this weekly workout, we were given the seemingly impossible task of running 3-2-1 miles (4.8-3.2-1.6K) at 8K pace with 1K easy in between. On a hot and humid day along Toronto's Lakeshore/MGT, I managed to run the 5K interval (because who cares about 4.8?!) in 16:25! and then followed it up with 3K in 10:05 and 1M in 5:15 (http://www.dailymile.com/people/Dansway07/entries/24780043). We often overlook the hard work that goes into making race day successes happen. This workout, and the fact that I nearly nailed it despite dreading it for days, is one I'll remember for some time!

7. Boilermaker 15K; Utica, NY; Sun 13 July. 52:04 (3:28/K) & 1st Canadian. It was a hot and humid day on a far from flat course but I made the most of it and had a great time at this truly incredible and well-supported (world-class) event. The weekend of camping with the guys, plenty of boozing, and even the travel to and from, made this experience amazing from start to finish. Being a part of a team and the camaraderie we share is a not so secret and certainly significant aspect of my individual success as a runner.
The BLT crew enjoying some post-race refreshments following the Boilermaker 15K in Utica, NY in mid-July.
6. Pride and Remembrance Run (5K); Sat 20 June. 15:53 (3:11/K) & 3rd overall. My first and only (so far) sub 16 and a slight PB to boot. Black Lungs Toronto easily won the team challenge and everyone later enjoyed an ideal summer day spent drinking beers on Rob Campbell's rooftop patio.

5. Summer run streak; Wed 29 May to Tues 01 Oct. For 126 straight days, I ran each and every day (often more than once) and covered a total of 2,610K (20.7K/day) as part of training for the Chicago Marathon. During the streak, I set PBs at the Longest Day Ekiden Relay (10K), the Pride 5K, Boliermaker 15K, Rock the Road 10K, Sunset Shuffle 6K and Milton Half.

Standing on the line of the Rock the Road 10K in London, ON in mid-August.
4. Around the Bay 30K; Sun 24 March. 1:45:43 (3:31/K). To date, this stands as my best individual race result with a VDOT score of 65+. This event has become my all-time favorite running race that I look forward to racing each year. The historic event and challenging course is something special and we were lucky to have optimal weather in 2013. And if it "ruined my Boston" in the process... Oh well, there's always next year!

3. Chicago Marathon; Sun 13 October. 2:34:13 (3:39/K). Still shy of the elusive 2:32 I felt I had worked so hard for, but a 2+ minute PB and an all-round amazing experience in one of the world's coolest cities and best organized events. Moreover, I got to spend time with many of my Black Lungs Toronto teammates and my lovely girlfriend, many of whom set impressive personal bests of their own. Overall, a near perfect way to end the Fall racing season.

2. Cabot Trail Relay Race; Cape Breton, NS; 25/26 May. The Black Lungs improve on our inaugural year and again cemented a second place finish 'just' 32min behind the "invincible" Maine-iacs. In addition to being an extremely well-organized and implemented running event, the whole weekend is the highlight of my calender year and is spent in a most beautiful place (the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island) with an incredible cast of friends, teammates and fellow runners.
A not so original team photo shortly after the finish of Leg 17 and the 2013 Cabot Trail Relay.
1. Boston Marathon; Mon 15 April. 2:37:43 (3:44/K). Far from the result I was hoping for (2:32) but the most humbling and important running/racing/setting unrealistic goals and failing experience of my life. I went into my first Boston feeling super fit and ready to tackle the net downhill course having enjoyed a nearly flawless build-up in training. As it turned out (and despite the persistent warnings of my coach and other far more experienced Boston finishers), I was overly arrogant and not prepared for the challenging and relentless course. I was on goal pace all the way to the top of Heartbreak Hill but knew well before, that things were about to get bad. My quads had been thoroughly trashed over the first half of the race and around mile 22 and with still ~7K to go, for the first time ever in a race, I actually came to a complete stop and attempted to walk off the course. Thankfully, the encouragement of a single and supportive spectator and a few fellow competitors kept me moving toward the finish. I hated every minute of those last miles and wished more than anything that the cheering and supportive crowds were not there to see me suffer in my moment of self-loathing. With about 5 more minutes than I had hoped for, I crossed the line and immediately teared up, feeling sorry for myself and angry at the world (writing this I feel completely ashamed). However, only a few hours later, after I had reunited with my friends, teammates, and Melinda, and as we prepared to celebrate the day, we would learn of the tragic and senseless bombings that would rock the running (and non-running) world and bring us closer together more than we'd ever been. 

And on that note, I end my list of 2013's most memorable moments.

2014 is set to be a special year. I'm gearing up for a return to Boston which needless to say, will be an emotional event where I and 36,000 others aim to reclaim the celebration and excitement that was stolen from us last year. If all goes well with life and training, I also plan to take a hard, honest crack at breaking 2:30 in the Fall (likely at home at the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon). And of course, I look forward to another year spent training with my Black Lungs brethren as together we continue to push each other to personal and team success. 

Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who has been an important part of my continued, and occasionally challenging, journey to be the best runner I can be. I couldn't do it without your support and am forever grateful. 

Cheers and happy, healthy running to all in 2014.

Which way to 2014? That way... I think.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

#113 Why Don't We Do It in the Road

STREAKING that is!

More specifically, run streaking!

(I'm running out of Beatles songs to use as blog titles)

A recent Runner's World poll asked readers what their main motivation was for getting out and running in these wet, windy (and pretty much miserable) winter conditions. Far and away, the number one choice of respondents was "avoiding a big fat zero" in their training logs (i.e. running zero miles on any given day). This timely poll was conveniently taken at the same time that many of the magazine's readers are taking part in the #RWRunStreak (with the aim of running at least one mile every day from (American) Thanksgiving until Christmas) so perhaps the results are a bit biased. Nonetheless, there are clearly many people who are motivated to run each day, simply because that's exactly what they did the day before, and what they plan to do the next day. They simply love to streak!

I too have been no stranger to streaking this year. For no reason other than to gain a motivational edge (okay, also due to my extreme stubbornness), I have embarked on 3 specific (although often unintentional to start) running streaks in 2013. 

The first was in February (and fittingly called the FeBrrruary Run Streak) in which I ran each and every day that month (which conveniently only has 28 days...but often very COLD days). Moreover, almost all of those runs (sometimes more than one per day) occurred outside (one was on a treadmill and three on an indoor track), and ultimately totaled 640K for the month (which at the time, was my one-month mileage PB). As it happens, the streak wouldn't last much longer. It totaled 34 days, including the last 5 days of January, but only the first day of March, after which I had to take two days off due to injury.

The next one was purely accidental in the sense that when I went for a run on Wed 29 May, after taking two consecutive days off (and 2 days was a big deal) to recover from the Cabot Trail Relay, I could never have imagined that I would go on to run the next 125 days through the entire summer season, and which would feature more than its fair share of hot and humid days. In that time, 126 total days, I ended up covering an incredible 2,610K (an average of almost 21K per day) and which would go far in helping me to achieve a new PB at the Chicago Marathon.

Finally, and most recently, after being pretty banged up after Chicago, and barely able to go 3 straight days of running, I decided (this time consciously) to run every day in November (and when I had done that, December), a time when most runners hang up their shoes, cut back the kilometers, and get some much deserved rest and relaxation (as well as pack on a few pounds). Nope, not me. After tonight's 15K easy run (still to come, knock on wood), I'll have hit 50 straight days since the streak started (on Wed 30 October)! And with no reasons or excuses as to why it should stop (aside from it being cold, dark, snowy, slippery, the Holidays, etc), I may just keep running well into the New Year too!

I'll conclude by stating that streaking is not for everyone. Honestly, it's totally arbitrary and kinda absurd. The risks of injury and illness (not to mention relationship issues) are no greater than when pushing the limits of the body (and mind) in some stubborn attempt to avoid a zero in your training log. That said, streaking can be a powerful motivational tool to keep you active every day, and often, you'll find that if you run 1 mile (the minimum distance most consider to be a run and thus count towards the streak), you can keep it up and easily do 2, 3 (5K) or even 5 (8K) to 10 (16K)! But streaking doesn't have to take place over a set number of days, weeks, months or seasons. Again, it's arbitrary and should really only matter to you! The important thing is to be active in any way you can (and hopefully that you enjoy).

Happy streaking!