Tuesday, 31 March 2015

#141 Around the Bay Part II

This past Sunday I ran Around the Bay and as is often the case, I had another amazing experience!

It may not have been exactly 30K (my Garmin showed 29.8K and my GPS splits seem to make a lot more sense than the ones on Sportstats), but it was still a great race and I am thrilled with my result.

My official time was 1:48:24 which placed me 35th overall and 19th in my age group. This was well off the 1:45:43 (for 16th and 6th) I ran in 2013 but was also on a much different course and in a much different state of fitness (one that is fortunately improving each and every day).

Weather and conditions were good again this year with clear skies and cool temperatures. It wasn't quite as cool/cold as I had expected and I momentarily considered stripping down and out of my tights (I had shorts underneath!) as I stood on the start line with mere seconds to go, but ultimately feel it was the right choice once I rolled up my sleeves and ditched the hat and gloves.

The 2015 Around the Bay (30K?) course map.
As for the race itself, the first 10K have been made substantially harder given the rolling hills along Burlington Street and the less than inspiring scenery (and smells) of Hamilton's industrial district.
10K split: 36:20. The course then flattens out and follows the peaceful but often lonely Beaches Boulevard, passing the halfway mark and entering into Burlington. 15K split: 54:15.

Running just ahead of women's winner Dayna Pidhoresky around the 15K mark.
My favourite part of the course has always been the rolling hills and pastoral scenery along North Shore Boulevard which starts around 18K. The combination of cheering crowds, long lonely stretches and constantly changing elevation really make for a memorable experience. 20K split: 1:12:10. A slight headwind made this section seem slower and harder this year, but I was still able to maintain a steady pace, felt strong on the hills and even improved my placing during these final 10K.

I for one was very sorry to see this year's course bypass the flying downhill along Spring Gardens Road that was followed immediately by the torturous climb up Valley Inn Road. Instead we simply followed Plains Road West to York Boulevard which presented a gradual but grinding climb with a self-defeating headwind until about the 27K mark and an encounter with the infamous ATB Grim Reaper (Tim; who this year suggested to me that: "It's time to give up running"). As the course slopes down towards the finish, I picked up my pace only slightly but was nonetheless able to finish feeling strong and entirely satisfied with my time.

Another successful run Around the Bay and an incredible experience to match! Congrats to my fellow Black Lungs who were there to run, race and pace with excellent results. Onwards to Ottawa.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

#140 Around the Bay

An update: 8 weeks to go!

This Sunday (March 29th) marks eight weeks until the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon on May 24th, the race I'm currently training for. 

Sunday is also the date of this year's historic, and one of my all-time favourite races, Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton, Ont.

ATB 2013 in which I ran 1:45:45 (my best ever race result).

As we head into spring and with weather and conditions set to improve, I'm happy to say that I survived another long, cold winter and have been logging consistent mileage and completing quality workouts for the past 12 weeks. Congrats to anyone who gutted it out and ran/trained in Ontario this winter. There were times I wondered whether it would ever end.

The good news aside, I am still far from the shape I have been in the past two years, in which I was probably at peak fitness and running my best times. As such, I am having reservations about lining up on Sunday not really knowing how the race will go or how I will do. Regardless, as always I am hoping to give it my (near) 100 per cent and see what I am able to do in a longer event, which I've convinced myself is my 'specialty.'

ATB will also be a big day for the Black Lungs, many of whom are running and racing as a tune-up before Boston. It will be great to see how the group does and many impressive results are expected.

As many already know, I continue to deal with a seemingly unchanging and everlasting hip injury that has prevented me from running and training to my full potential. Over the past four months I have run far too many miles in some degree of discomfort and have often had to ask myself why I continue to train through the pain. 

The short and simple answer is that it's really not that serious. Really, it's not! Just a really stubborn and chronically inflamed hip flexor and some weak and failing glutes to go with it. I'm certainly not convinced that taking time off would solve the problem which is why I've chosen to continue to run and train.

A cold winter run with the Black Lungs. Photo: Mark Blinch

The longer and far more complicated answer is that I honestly believe I'm much better off (mentally more so than physically) running, even if some of it is uncomfortable. One simply cannot discount the tremendous value that running has for (my) mental health and well-being as well as the social benefits that come with being a part and belonging to a supportive and close-knit group (that being the Lungs).

As such, my training will continue on and hopefully even improve over the next weeks and months. The result of ATB will definitely help determine how to proceed from here, including the overall volume and intensity of subsequent training. After ATB, I've still got the Yonge Street 10K (April 19th) and the Goodlife Half (May 3rd) to look forward to before racing in Ottawa. 

Unlike in the past, I have no set goals or times to aim for, but am instead, focused on enjoying the journey, sharing/celebrating with others and taking part in what is sure to be an incredible experience on race weekend #TORW2015.

Thanks as always for reading and all the best with your own running, training and racing! 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

#139 The Not So Simple Thing

Recently I wrote a post where I highlighted a few (okay, a lot) of the tips, advice and rules I believe are essential to successful running and racing.

However, I took some slack (mostly and deservedly from my coach) for a massive oversight among the things I mention. And in light of my current situation in which I struggle daily with a stubborn, stiff and sticky hip/groin, I would like to make an important addition to my list and fittingly, provide it with its very own post. This "Golden Rule" being:

Stay healthy!

You can't run, train or race if you're injured. And you really shouldn't run or race if you're in considerable pain and discomfort. Minor aches and pains are all part of the process but major injuries, chronic pain and and ongoing issues will ultimately derail your training and all but inhibit your ability to improve.

Staying healthy sounds simple but it's actually anything but. It takes a great deal of consideration for everything from what, when and how much you eat, to how well and often you sleep, to what you do every minute and every hour that you're not running and training. 

Staying healthy means stretching, massaging, rolling and icing before and after each run. 

It means staying well hydrated and eating the right foods at the right time in order to fuel and recover from your training. 

It means seeing specialists (physios, chiros, sports docs, etc.) when you don't know what's wrong or need additional help getting back on track.

It means being educated and informed on the basic and not-so-basic aspects of running and training. 

It means supplementing your running with cross-training, strengthening or no training at all. 

It means developing a support team and learning from the experience of others.

It means taking time to rest and recover and realizing when you're pushing too hard. 

It means recognizing and accepting your own individual strengths, weaknesses and limits and not letting your goals, ego or determination get the best of you. 

Ultimately, staying healthy takes considerable time and energy, commitment and effort. And that's also why we often ignore it and take it for granted. Yet when we lose it, when it declines, or when we can't run or train as much as we want to, it immediately becomes our greatest and primary concern. It should always be our primary concern.

There is no simple way to stay healthy. There is no one thing we can do. I can't tell you how to stay healthy, but I insist you do everything possible to do it. It will be worth it.