Monday, 24 February 2014

#120 It's all about the numbers!

There are now but eight weeks until the Boston Marathon on Monday 21 April. For a few reasons, I opted not to run the Peterborough Half yesterday and will instead race the Chilly Half in Burlington this Sunday, which boasts a flat (and potentially fast) course, a competitive field and means I'll get to line up with many of my fellow Black Lungs Toronto teammates, where we hope to have a strong showing as a club. I'm feeling very fit these days and am eagerly albeit anxiously looking forward to testing myself with a longer race. We'll see how things go on Sunday.

If you haven't already realized, (marathon) training is very much the same day to day, week to week, month to month: run everyday, sometimes twice, go easy most days, hard on others, then run even further (and hopefully faster)... And so rather than bore you with words and details, here are some numbers which can have the same effect.

Training: the past 4 weeks...

12. 27 Jan-2 Feb: 144 (16-25-22-23-23-0-35)
11. 3-9 Feb: 147 (18-19-16-25-23-13-33)
10. 10-16 Feb: 158 (16-26-28-26-26-10-26) Winterman Half (1:19:00; pacing)
9. 17-23 Feb: 150 (16-17-21-26-16-14-40)

The next 8 weeks...

8. 24-2 Mar: 100 (16-24-16-12-8-0-24)  Chilly Half (Goal: 1:13:xx)
7. 3-9 Mar: 150 (16-24-24-21-21-10-34) 
6. 10-16 Mar: 160 (16-24-24-24-24-12-36) Achilles St. Patrick's Day 5K (Goal: 15:xx)
5. 17-23 Mar: 150 (16-24-24-21-21-10-34)
4. 24-30 Mar: 100 (16-24-16-10-8-0-32) ATB 30K (Goal: ??? Was planning to pace; very tempted to race)
3. 31 Mar-6 Apr: 140 (16-24-24-24-16-16-20) 
2. 7-13 Apr: 120 (16-24-33-0-16-10-21) Yonge St. 10K? (Goal: 35:00 flat; pacing)
1. 14-20 Apr: 80 (16-20-16-12-8-8-0)

0. Mon 21 Apr: 42.2 Boston Marathon (Goal: TBD Each day I am more and more tempted to go for it)

Happy end of February; Hoping that March brings some spring!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

#119 The one where I almost won

As of yesterday, which was also the Family Day holiday here in Ontario, there are now nine weeks until the Boston Marathon...

Training update time!

This is now (okay, almost) the critical period where there is no longer time to get injured or experience significant setbacks (ok, when is there ever?). The race start is slowly coming into sight and all training is now being tailored specifically to the goal race (i.e. It's all about endurance). However, nine weeks is still a long time. There is still plenty (too much?) time and pressure to keep building fitness, adding mileage and progressing towards the eventual finish line. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of this period!

Luckily, there are a few tune-up races and rest weeks planned which strategically provide a much needed physical and mental break from the seemingly un-ending training and (in Ontario anyway) the relentless winter we've been forced to deal with this year.

This is one of such weeks where I'll be racing the Peterborough Half on Sunday (And yes, that means missing the Gold medal hockey game at the Olympics. So far however, I've seen nothing from Team Canada to suggest our place in the game is secure and so perhaps I won't be missing much). In case you're wondering my goal for the race is to run a sub 1:14. Last year I finished second running 1:14:20 in near ideal conditions. And although I won't be close to my PB for the distance (1:12:58), I do hope (and expect) to run slightly faster this year on the same challenging out-and-back course.

And so in order to have what I hope is a great race and result, and to prove that all the time training in the snow, slush, ice and wind has been worth it, I'm planning to take this week as a significant "down" week and scale back considerably on the training mileage and intensity. This means running 'only' about 100K, including the 21.1K race on Sunday. This aims to provide the necessary rest and recovery that my body (as well as my mind) rightly requires (and deserves) after three progressive weeks in which I ran 144, 147 and 158 K's. 

Last week, I had originally planned to run 100 miles (161K) but opted out of my 5K cool-down after the Winterman Half Marathon (and thus fell 3.4K short...the OCD in me was thoroughly tested). Being in Ottawa for the long weekend to visit friends and experience some of Winterlude, I was all-too-happy to pace my BLT buddy Chappers to a sub 1:19 result and what turned out to be 1st overall! We ran together (pretty much side by side although not hand in hand) for the whole thing and after moving into the overall lead around the half-way point, we ran a smart negative split and finished as comfortably as we could. This was all the more impressive considering the temperature on race morning was a mean minus 20 (and that was BEFORE the windchill). 

It was a great event overall with the only drawback being the rather hilly out-and-back loop course which we needed to complete a full four times and also meant weaving and dodging around dozens of fellow participants and having to squeeze on the sidewalk for short sections. The event was held in the impressive Canadian War Museum which provided warm and comfortable race amenities and the organizers did an excellent job overall. We also won some great prizes including an amazing event blanket, New Balance product and gold, silver and bronze medal lanyards.

Two happy, and still slightly frozen, Black Lungs at the end of the Winterman Half.

With my sights specifically set on Peterborough and doing all the little things right this week, I'll put off looking/thinking forward past Sunday but be sure to post a subsequent update shortly. The weather still isn't getting any better here in Toronto (we got a fresh 5cm of snow last night and are expecting rain later this week) so "surviving" this training cycle is still very much the goal. 

I'm also 'working' on an exciting new opportunity to support and be supported by an excellent organization which I hope to announce shortly.

Until then, keep training, running and aiming to always be better!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

#118 Be Better

Yesterday evening, around kilometer eleven of a 17K scheduled easy run along Toronto's MGT, battling a slight headwind, slippery surfaces, and the now all too familiar cold (-20 with the windchill), I found myself asking the always difficult and quintessential question of 'why'. Namely: "Why do I do this to myself?"

I tried to silence my increasing anxiety and agitation with simple and seemingly straightforward responses. I do it for my health. For my fitness. For my mood and mental well-being. For my sanity! I do it to get better. To be better. To run faster and further than I have before. I do it because I enjoy it... Or do I?

Distance running is an immensely demanding activity. It requires weeks, months and years of progressive training and preparation. It demands more and more mileage, harder workouts, and faster paces. Attention to diet, sleep, rest and recovery. Aches and pains, injuries and discomfort. It can be physically and mentally draining, not to mention the social (or lack there of) implications.

So why do I do it? Why do I put myself (and others) through this day after day, for weeks and months on end?! 

I still struggle to put forth a solid response to these questions. Some days I fail altogether to justify this crazy commitment and tell myself I want to quit. Obviously I don't. I won't. I can't!

When I did eventually finish my run and arrived at home, I instantly felt relieved. It was over, at least for now. I was satisfied with myself and the anxiety seemed to disappear completely. I then spent the evening watching the Olympics and hearing stories about the athletes (and their families, friends and communities) who give and sacrifice so much to realize their dreams. I envy them for getting to where they are. For getting the recognition and appreciation they most certainly deserve. I can't know for sure what it takes to be an Olympian and often I wonder what it is that they have, that I do not?

To be an Olympian, to be the best at a given sport or activity, an athlete requires a great deal of drive, devotion and determination. It requires the relentless pursuit of excellence and a constant commitment to the task. A skill set and mastery that is perfected over time through rigorous practice and endless energy.

But being an Olympian also involves a great deal of luck. It requires being in the right place at the right time. Born into the right family, with the right combination of genes/genetics. Raised in the right way. In the right location with the right access to facilities and opportunities. It requires having the right amount of support (especially financially). 

Sorry kids, but being the best is not simply just about wanting it or dreaming it. Anything is NOT possible; not always. It is infinitely more complicated than this.

Despite my daily dedication to self-improvement and a sincere desire to be the best I can be; I will never be an Olympic athlete. I will never represent my country or stand on a podium and hear my national anthem being played. Perhaps this is because I chose the wrong sport. Or was born in the wrong country to the wrong parents at the wrong time. Perhaps it's because I didn't start early enough or have the right amount of support... 

Ultimately it doesn't matter. Being THE best is not my goal or aim. Rather it is to be MY best!  To commit to being better. To being the best I can be. To spend the time and energy required. To test and push my limits and capabilities. This is why I run. Why I train. Why I compete.

I hope this post will inspire everyone to find purpose in their pursuits and a passion to be better. To commit to self-improvement in some way. Some might say that this is selfish. And it is! But by being better, by being our best, we inspire others to be better too. That is why I love (the idea of) the Olympics. The spirit of sport and the exhibition of excellence.