March 2006 Archives

Around The Bay Report


I drove down to Hamilton on Saturday, and I'll admit I was still a bit nervous. It wasn't until I had crossed over the skyway, and could see parts of the course, that I got excited. My pre-race mantra of "I get to run tomorrow!" came back, and suddenly I was eager to race.

I drove to downtown Hamilton early on Sunday, and parked in the same place I did last year. They moved both the start and finish line this year, so I wanted some extra time to get my bearings. Fortunately, Copps Coliseum (the finish line) was right beside last year's pre-race washroom, and the start line was in sight of Copps. After watching the start of the walk at 8:30, I headed over to the RBF meeting place to collect my thoughts.

After a little while Ali showed up. She was very friendly, and we chatted about the course, running in general, the RBF, and of course the wonderful weather. Though the school which had been open in previous years was closed, we were able to stand directly out front and soak up the warm sunshine.

After a bit, we decided to check out the backup meeting place for Jon. When he didn't turn up there, we headed back to the school, and Ali ran back to the bus to change into something better suited to the nicer weather. While she was gone, I stretched a bit, and tried to get myself focused mentally. While I waited, Jon finally showed up. Long lineups had waylaid him, but he had outsmarted them, and had made it to the meeting place, albeit a few minutes late. Of course, now Ali was gone. So we waited for her. And waited. Could it be that Ali and Jon are never seen in the same place? Was I in the very presence of an alter ego?

Just when I was beginning to wonder ;) Ali returned. We talked some more RBF and such, and then suddenly it was time to get to the start line.

It seemed to me that the start area was narrower than in previous years, which made the line longer. Of course, it's not impossible that the crowds were just bigger this year. They said afterwards that there were 6800 runners. No matter how many lanes wide the road is, that many runners will take up some room.

Jon and I settled into the back, waving adieu to Ali, who was running with her group. We passed the time until the race started, and shuffled off towards the start line. When it was our turn, away we went!

We spent the first few kilometers together, chatting and relaxing. It's usually very easy to start too fast, and I wanted to do the first 5km in 27 minutes or so, so I had no qualms about taking it easy off the start. We missed the 1km marker in the crowds and the chatting, but we hit the 2km marker around 11:20 or so, I think.

I should note that my most optimistic goal time was 2:30, which is an even 5:00/km. I ran that pace at the Hypothermic Half, so I knew it was doable over some distance. Actually, my plan was to run the first 10km in 53 minutes and the second 10km in 52 minutes. From there, the hills start, and I figured I'd do whatever I could. Last year, I ran the 3 stages in 52/53/59, so I needed to focus on keeping something more for the end.

Another point worthy of note is that even if 5:00/km wasn't really all that realistic (and if you look at my breakdown in the previous paragraph it wasn't really), the math is very easy. Every kilometer marker runs by in a x:x0:00 or x:x5:00, so knowing how far ahead or behind of this pace you are is pretty easy. My reasonable goal was to break 2:40, or +10. My goal for the first 10km was +3.

Back to the race. The crowds were still pretty thick, both on the road, and beside, cheering. Unfortunately, cars had been allowed to park on the road overnight, and Jon and I kept having to squeeze into the crowd to run around them. Maybe a one-day bylaw is in order? Anyways, at 3km, we were something like +3:00, which worried me. I wanted an evenly paced 53 minute 10km. I didn't mind giving up a bit of time at the front, but now I was drifting off pace. Jon and I hit the first water station, but on the far side of it I said my goodbye, and took off on my own.

It's possible that I made a mistake next. Having set myself up with an easy start, I set about trying to hold a 5:00/km pace. It felt good, but while I'd been aiming for a 53 minute first 10km, I'd meant for it to be 53 minutes of taking it easy, not a few slow kilometers followed by a mad rush. Certainly, when I ran a sub-5:00 kilometer for the fifth kilometer, alarm bells went off.

Then again, based on how many ~5:00 kilometers I did put in, maybe I took it too easy on the start. In the end, I'll probably never know. Still, if I did start too slowly, that's a much better and less common error than the reverse.

At the 9km mark, I was still at +3, and was feeling pretty good. I'd needed a washroom break since before the start of the race, but it wasn't urgent, and I knew there would be a good opportunity around the Skyway, at the 15km mark. Right before the relay handoff at 10km, I saw a guy veer to the right, and take a pee break beside/behind a brick half-wall. What a great idea, I thought. I grabbed another half wall, and took my turn. It seemed like it took forever, and then I was back into it.

On the far side of the 10km mark (which I crossed at something like +4, though I may have been a bit under that), I stopped and had my first Power Gel (Vanilla!). I gulped it down as quickly as I could, walking up the overpass that was really the only hill in the first 17km. As soon as I was done, I was off again.

I hit the 11km mark at +4, which was fine. Along Beach Blvd, I focused on having a steady speed, and slowly moving past the people in front of me. The crowd was great along here, though many just watched instead of cheering. I missed the 12 km mark altogether, but I think I went through 13km in +4:20. I tried to pick it up from there, and I thought that I'd managed to stay around +4:00 to +4:30 through 15, but the official results seem to indicate that I was at +5:00. Still, at 15 km, I felt quite good, though I wasn't thanking the cheerers quite so often anymore.

We went over the lift bridge, and for a change I didn't look down through the metal grill at the waters of Lake Ontario below. I was just focused on the road in front of me, and each step. By the time I got to North Shore Blvd, past kilometer 17, I knew my time was slipping again, and I wasn't feeling all that speedy. Around 18km, I was +6. I saw the little girl from last year with the "Repeat After Me: I Love Hills!" sign, but I couldn't repeat it.

North Shore means rolling hills. They're gentle for the first 2.5 kilometers, though, and I sailed through them pretty well. I hit the 20km mark in +6:00. I was now one minute behind last year's time and, while I wasn't exactly ebullient, I knew I was having a better race than last year.

Last year, I ran 52, 53, then I really struggled. My pace dropped significantly, and I really suffered over the last 10km. For the whole last 10km, I tried hard to focus on the person in front of me, and tried not to let them drop me. As time went on, I NEEDED walk breaks, and I kept finding new people to try to mentally hold on to. This year, I was pleased to note that at the 20km mark, I was still very slowly reeling people in. After taking my second power gel, I made a mental note to try to catch someone with a yellow hat off in the distance.

In the rolling hills, I tried to use gravity to speed me up on the downhills, taking short steps and picking up my cadence. While I often passed people on the downhills, I seldom did on the uphills. There was a particularly steep hill on kilometer 21. When I got to the top, I gave myself a mental congrats. "You conquered the tough roller!" On kilometer 22, I met the last hill's big brother. Again, I conquered it. Again, the mental congrats. I went through kilometer 22 in +6:00. The race was getting tough, and while I wasn't feeling great, I was running very, very well.

Kilometer 23 broke out of the rolling hills, but finished with a right hand turn and uphill climb to Plains road on kilometer 24. I passed the 24km mark in +6:40, but I started to get some mental energy back. I knew I was getting close to the last 5km.

We turned onto Spring Garden road, and into the second last water station. I grabbed some Gatorade, and took off again. The hill sloped gently downwards as we passed 25km (+7:00). From experience, it's not good that the road was sloping down, because what goes down must come back up. The crowds picked up, though, and they cheered us on towards the famous hill. Eventually, we could see it, snaking away in front of us.

When I got to the bottom, I was philosophical. So I would lose a minute here. I'd known that all along. Let's just get up this thing. No walking this year. I can do this.

I got caught for a second behind some spectators who were walking up the hill. I'd complain, but they decided to cross to the outside of the hill at that moment, to get out of the way of runners, which I appreciated. I ran, but it wasn't a gazelle-like sprint. Rather, I relaxed, and kept myself moving. I tried to pump my arms a bit harder than usual, and focused on the ground 6 feet in front of me. Somewhere near the top of the hill, I passed 26km in +7:40. Only 40 seconds lost so far? Not bad at all!

When I hit the top, I tried to resume my former pace. I was breathing a bit heavily, but I knew that that would sort itself out. By the time I hit the 27km mark, it had. I was still around +7:40 I think, and I was pretty optimistic. At worst, I'd finish +8:00, but I now had the opportunity to push myself on the long downhill to the finish line. Maybe +7:00 wasn't impossible if things went well.

Around half a kilometer later, something happened that changed the race for me. It was something I'd never experienced before. Suddenly, I had a pain in the left side of my chest. It was very likely too low to be anything heart related (most likely a chest cramp of the breathing variety), but when I put my hand on hit I could feel my heart hammering in my chest. Well of course it was hammering, I was running a race! Still, I walked for a few seconds, until the pain subsided. When I started up again, I could feel it again. I backed off the pace until the pain subsided, and tried to hold the pace there.

Gone were the thoughts of +7, or even +8. I still wanted to finish in under 2:40, though, which meant under +10. I hit the 28km mark in +8:20 or so. Was there still time? It would be tight.

To tell the truth, other than the occasional spasm, I didn't have any more pain on the way in. I felt a bit light headed, though, and all my concentration was on keeping my pace under control. We went around a corner, and then I could see Copps Coliseum. It was 2:30:15 on my watch. From experience, though, I knew that the finish line was visible from a long way off.

I rolled through 29km in over +9 (+9:15?). I was gaining confidence, but I was also starting to get emotional. I was almost teary as I entered the corral alongside Copps. People were cheering, but I was almost disconnected from them. Then, we turned went down a sharp ramp, and there it was, the finish line. The time above the banner didn't make any sense, but then I remembered my watch. As I crossed, I checked. +9:48. Hurray!

Finishing the run didn't immediately make me feel better. I leaned on one of the sides of the corral, and just breathed heavily, letting it hold me up. I must have run fairly hard, I figured, because you could have knocked me over with a feather. I tried to keep moving, but suddenly felt the need to sit down, so I did.

Thereafter followed a few minutes of attention from the volunteer medical staff. They were very nice, and pushed a whole lot of Gatorade into me. After a few minutes off my feet and maybe a litre of liquids, I started to feel better.

So, in the end, I ran something like 54/52/54, for just under 2:40. It was a PB by over 4 minutes. If it hadn't been for the weird chest pain at the end, I would likely have run 54/52/52, which would have been amazing (considering the last 10k is easily the hardest).

All in all, this was a good result. I still have a ways to go to be able to maintain 5:00/km for long periods of time on anything but a perfect day. Still, I ran a lot of those kilometers at that pace, including a lot of them later in the race, under tough conditions. I can't help but by pleased with that.

I think I got a small reminder that I need to really focus on my electrolyte intake in these longer events. I AM a salty sweater, as indicated by my blog name, and I need to work very hard to replace the salt I sweat out. If more than half a litre of gatorade right after the race made me feel better, then chances are taking that much more DURING the race wouldn't have been unwise. I knew this, in the general sense, but I've just been issued a firm reminder.

The biggest downside to the race, I think, was the ITB pain I had after the race yesterday, and again today. My IT problems are starting to make me ask serious questions about my ability to train for a marathon.

As I drove home this morning, I drove over the skyway, and was presented with a brilliant view of the north shore. Behind the trees, the rolling hills were obscured from view, but my legs remembered them. The shore stretched on and on, and I was overwhelmed with the feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes, in running, we get used to "running distances", and we lose sight of just how far we really go. From high up on the Skyway, the north shore looks long and peaceful, and Burlington Bay looks enormous. To travel around it looks like a long journey. To run around it seemed like madness. To race around it, obsurd.

And yet, I did race around the bay. ALL the way around. Suddenly, all my plotting and scheming and reflecting on minutes won and lost seems strange. I suppose it's a madness that all runners share, but as I drove on, I was able to step outside of it, and marvel at my achievement as a non-runner would. It was an awesome race, and I had a fantastic run.

Around The Bay Summary


Just a brief note to say that I survived Around The Bay. I managed to improve on last year's time, coming in just under 2:40, which was my goal.

I met up with Ali and Jon before the race. We got to stand around in the gorgeous sunshine (it was a beautiful day!) and joke and compare notes. I even ran the first 4km with Jon before breaking away to run my own pace.

From the published results, it looks like I managed to meet my goal of running a negative split (by a few seconds). Considering how much harder the second half is than the first, I'd have to say that this represents a pretty big success. I was pretty pleased at how many kilometers I managed to tick off in right around 5 minutes, however I was a bit disappointed that my average pace (5:20/km) was so much slower than back in the hypothermic half in January (where I managed a 4:57/km pace). There were several reasons why it was, but I suspect the most important one was that I had a great day in January, but only a good day yesterday.

I'll give a more detailed report shortly.

Race Preparations


The ITB discomfort seems to have receded. We'll see how I feel at the 25km mark on Sunday, but for now, it seems like I'm in good shape.

Yesterday's swim was fairly tough, featuring three speed sets of different distances. I opted for a shorter run last night, deciding that 5km would be plenty. I was hoping to put in a fast run, but almost immediately I got a stitch in my side. It cleared up about 8 minutes into the run, and I managed a pretty fast return lap. It was the fastest I've run that loop in 3 months, though admittedly it still wasn't all that fast.

Instead of running this morning, I've opted to run tonight (8km or so), and I think I'll skip all of Thursday's and Saturday's festivities. I might try to get a brisk walk or 20 minute jog in on Saturday, after the drive. Other than that, my goal is to rest up, and prepare myself mentally for Sunday.

A key to that preparation is having a plan. Last year, I ran the race in roughly 2:44, or around 55 minutes per 10km. I'd love to be able to drop down to 50 minutes/10km (my recent half marathon pace), but that seems on the optimistic side of things. I think somewhere in the 2:30s is doable, if the race goes well.

I was really pleased with my pacing at the half marathon in January, and I want to emulate that run as much as possible. I started slowly, had an easy pace goal for the first 5km (27:00), and went from there. I also ran a strong negative split. The AtB course is one that really punishes going out too hard. I'm tempted to try for something like 28:00/27:00 for my first two 5km splits. That leaves me on last year's average pace, and 3 minutes slower than I ran the first 10km last year. It would make averaging 50min/10km awfully difficult to achieve, but hopefully it would leave me with plenty of gas for the rolling hills of the north shore.

Nothing's set in stone, yet, but these are the kinds of thoughts I'm thinking this week, as I look ahead excitedly to Sunday.


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The discomfort in my knee receded on Thursday, but I decided to play it safe and not run anyways, and skipped Thursday's run. Friday, I felt totally fine, which was encouraging. Still, I approached this morning's run with trepidation. Rather than run my usual 12km route as planned, I opted to run on the treadmill. That way, if anything flared up, I could stop immediately, without a cold and awkward walk home.

I set the treadmill for a comfortable 7mph, and opted for 1.0 on the incline, much less than what I usually run. I was pretty sensitive about my knees. My left ITB felt hot for quite a while, but maybe it was my imagination. After a while, I decided that I wouldn't run beyond 10km. I just didn't see a point in pushing things, especially with another run tomorrow.

I'm happy to report that I'm still not feeling any discomfort. We'll see how tomorrow goes, but so far, I'm hopeful. Maybe I just tweaked something outside of running.

Unexpected Developments


Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting at my desk when I felt my right ITB twinge. I was in an odd position at the time, so I moved, but the discomfort didn't go away. Instead, it haunted me for the rest of the day. Suddenly, I was uncomfortable walking around, and in pain going down stairs.

This development was hugely disconcerting. I'd been wondering if my ITBs would give me trouble at some point, but I had expected a more gradual onset. Instead, with basically no warning, here I was.

I'd been pondering for a few weeks whether or not I would taper for Around the Bay. I'd been thinking I wouldn't, after the fiasco with Hypothermic. Hypothermic was technically a B race, but I lost 4 weeks of training to it - 2 weeks of taper, 2 weeks of recovery/apathy. I really couldn't afford another whole month off of my marathon training.

Well, now I probably don't have much of a choice. I woke up this morning, and the first thing I felt when I moved was my ITB. It complained a couple of times during the swim, most notably during back kick sets. It's better than it was yesterday, but I'm still worried. I've definitely cancelled today's run.

Speaking of this morning's swim, with the exception of the occasional ITB discomfort, the swim was excellent. After a 700m warmup, we were essentially given 8x(25m kick, 75m swim). Half of that was done freestyle, 2 sets were backstroke, and 2 were breast or fly. We were encouraged to try fly if we wanted, and take extra breaks after every 25. I did so, using the extra rest to refocus on technique, and to make sure I wasn't so winded that I ended up thrashing. Of course, my technique is pretty awful in fly. I'm usually pretty happy to just get the right number of kicks in in the right places. Still, whatever I was doing earned some praise. Or maybe it was just that I even tried fly in the first place.

The first main set was promised to be a "real" swim set. When she wrote down that it would be 500m, my heart sank. For it to be "real" and short meant "fast", in a bad way.

20x25m on :35, descend in each group of 4.

Now, to be fair, we got longish breaks after 4 and 12, so it wasn't quite as bad as it looked. The idea was to go 25 seconds on the first in the subset, and descend down to under 20s for the last. Then you repeat the descent subset 5 times.

I'll admit, my descends were pretty uneven. Sometimes I started at 25s. Sometimes I started at 22s (oops!). I think one time, my third 25 was 30s (yikes!). Still, I was able to get most of my lasts at or under 20s, which felt good (well, felt good in an achievement sense, not in a physical sense). The two longish breaks were both extra feedback regarding wall starts, but I suspect they were inserted to be merciful.

The final set was 3x100m. She promised 1 minute rest between, then set the pace time at 2:30. (So basically, full minute rest between only if we all swam at around my race PB mark!) The idea was that we'd just swam fast with very little rest, now it was time to put it together. (We were all told we would be expected to swim 1:20, but someone asked what the coach had been smoking.)

The first 100m felt very much like the set of 25s we'd just finished. I started out smooth and strong, and quickly drove my heartrate up as I tried to keep up a torrid pace. I focused on doing quick open turns. At the 50m mark, I could hear, briefly, my coach urging me onward. I managed to finish up in something like 1:25. Amazing! Basically, I'd just beaten the PR (granted, different pool size) that I set at Winterlude.

This was one of those moments where I was so happy to have a coach. I'd struggled and struggled to get below 1:40 earlier in the year, and then one of these workouts comes along and shows me how to get it done. By no means am I a perfect or even a techinically sound swimmer, but I'm "getting" something.

I was pretty beat up after the first swim. My heartrate, I'm pretty sure, didn't come all the way down in the minute rest I had. I felt it almost right away, too - I wasn't as smooth, relaxed or strong in my stroke. I stove valiantly, but in swimming striving valiantly counts for much less that swimming sound technique. I finished up in 1:30, still very fast, but the coach pointed out right away that my form was off. All I could do was acknowledge the truth in her words.

I wanted a return to form for the third 100m, but it just wasn't there. My arms were starting to really feel it, and a consistent power transfer to the water was beyond my ability. I finished up in around 1:31-1:32, but again, I knew that it hadn't been my best stuff.

So it's kinda been a weird last 24 hours. Some pretty bad news from my knee, but suddenly my huge "out of the blue" swims at Winterlude aren't looking so startling. The masters season is going to be winding down soon, but already in the back of my mind, I'm thinking that with next year's (tentative) schedule, there may be room starting this fall to transition myself from fit hack to a swimmer with some decent, basic technique.


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Both yesterday's swim and yesterday's run had me feeling pretty taxed. It's a good thing I'm dropping my mileage this week (and not just because I race next week!) I dragged myself through 6.5 uncomfortable kilometers after work. The weather was still passable (above feezing, but windy), but I didn't feel strong or comfortable running.

This morning was colder, at -5. The wind was even stronger, and as I left the faintest trace of a snowfall was just ending. I just totally did not want to be running. Even though I had 13km scheduled, I decided that I would do 12 any way I could.

I started out slowly. There was no passion to my run - I was running a maintenance run, and I would be happy when it was over. Possibly the saving grace of the run was that the wind was at my back early. Usually, I hate that, and want to get the headwind out of the way ASAP, but today being pushed along helped me get comfortable in my run. I still felt like I was moving slowly, but at least I was moving.

About 20 minutes in, I turned west, and got a face full of cold air. All at once, I was back to being unhappy. At least, I thought, after 10 minutes into the wind I'll turn around and have it at my back for 10 minutes. Of course, I also realized that the last 15-20 minutes would all be into the wind, too. Oh well, I was out the door and far from home, now. It was too late by far to turn back.

Bren Maur was just ugh. Once I finally got beyond the houses, I got a faceful of blowing snow from the adjacent farm fields. The road was covered in places with blown snow. My eyes were tearing up behind my glasses, and my nose was feezing quickly. It was moments like that that make people hate winter running.

Before I knew it, I was at the turnaround. Suddenly, all was calm again, and I moved along comfortably. For a little while.

After that, it was all gritting teeth and thinking warm thoughts. As I came close to my final turn, I knew that I would go past and add on that one more kilometer so that I would run my planned 13km. It's funny how these decisions are always made last minute, no matter how much thinking you do beforehand. Oh well, it was for the best.

My time was slower than either run last week, but not terribly so. Actually, given the weather, my mood, and the state of my legs, I thought this morning's run was pretty much a success.

Coached Out of Comfort

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Our swim coach this morning reiterated that the rest of the season would be focused on endurance. What she didn't make immediately clear was that the focus would be on speed over endurance type distances.

After a 1000m warmup that was a healthy mix of everything (free, breast, fly drill, kick, scull, pull), we got our main set. I'll admit that lately, pace times don't give me a whole lot of pause. Sometimes, I'll be unhappy at how little rest the pace time gives me, but it's been a while since I looked at a pace time and knew I might not get a rest.

8x125m @ 2:20

This sounded pretty tough. It might be doable, but 8 is a large number of repeats. Plus, I don't think I've ever done 125m repeats before. So, off I went into the unknown.

My first rest break, I got a full 20 seconds. After that, it was generally 10-15 seconds. This isn't a lot of time to recover from a not so slow swim. Once or twice, I'm pretty sure I had less than 10 seconds. Towards the end, I seemed to catch a second wind, and things became easier. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that after the 6th set I knew I was going to make it. Until then, there had been doubt.

I should point out that our lane had 4 fast people today, and at least 2 couldn't finish the set. That's not a brag or a knock, just an indication of how tough the set was.

After the set (as we all stood around gasping), she put the set into perspective. We'd just done around 15:15 for the first 800m. A week or two ago, when we did the timed 30 minute swim, I swam the first 800m in something like 14:05. Do I feel like a wimp? Do I feel emboldened that I'm actually able to do that swim, more or less, without the breaks? I think I need to think about it a bit more.

We were next instructed to do 200 easy pull. As I usually do on pull, I tried to focus on a strong, smooth pull, and body roll. At the end of the set, the coach asked us admonishingly if we'd taken it "easy". I avoided the burning gaze of accusation. Still, I'd gotten something good out of the pull, and I hadn't taken it too hard.

The final set was 2x200 free. First swim, she wanted us at or under 3:20. The second swim we were to hold, or go faster.

I'm pretty sure 3:20 is my 200 free PB, by the way.

The coach pointed out that people quite often DO go faster on the second set. The problem, she explained, is that people relax on the second set. They're less worried about getting tired, and their stroke smooths itself out. We all know that the key to endurance sports is relaxation - that effortless exertion that seems so paradoxical, and is so beautiful to watch. We all also know that it's never as easy as it looks.

I set out in the first 200 trying for a relaxed, minimal kick, and trying to replicate my arm motion from my pull. I wasn't interested in having a fast turnover, but I pulled hard with each pull, and tried to keep a semblance of body rotation. 3:20 requires an average of :50 for each 50m lap. I was encouraged to see that I was keeping up that pace, and even more encouraged when I didn't start to fade in the third 50. After the last turn, I tried to pick up the cadence without "thrashing". The goal is to still pull just as much water, just as hard, but recover over the water a little quicker. I think I managed to succeed, and was rewarded by finishing up in 3:14. I found myself breathing fairly hard at the end, but not as hard as I'd expected. There was something left in the tank.

What followed was a long rest. The coach's words? "We have 10 minutes left to do 200m, so rest up!" No problem!

When the second set finally started, I focused again on the pull, and on relaxing. My first 50m was a blistering :45. Could I keep that up? How fantastic would that be? The second 50m came in in :50, though, which while disappointing was more realistic. The third 50m was done in :50 as well. Time to start pushing. After the last turn, I aimed to pick up the cadence again. This time, I felt myself thrashing almost right away, and had to back off, and try to keep my pull strong and smooth. It was clunky, but I guess doing this kind of thing under duress is what training is all about. I finsihed up in around 3:12, which was fantastic.

Afterwards, the coach talked a bit with the two ironladies in our part of the pool. The coach figures we should all be capable of sub-20 minute 1000m swims in the pool. It turns out their iron ladies' swims are all faster than that, pace-wise. The difference? Wetsuits. But what large advantage do wetsuits offer, asked the coach? Body position. Right.

The practice ended with a pretty good discusssion about mental toughness, technique, pool vs open water, and what we should all be capable of. It was nice to not be pushing for distance for the last 5 or 10 minutes, and instead to get some insight into things. It certainly didn't feel like wasted time.



With the nice weather we had yesterday, I had visions of a pleasant long run this morning. Alas, it was not to be. The forecast was warm, 10C, but the forecast called for rain. Cold rain is NOT my idea of fun.

I hooked up with the clinic group again, and we headed out. They were aiming for 23km, I was aiming for 25km. Strangely, the group got strung out pretty quickly. The group leader hung back with someone else, and some other people tore off like it was a race. Right from the start, I felt the pace was fast, so I tried to hold back. After about 5km, we reconvened long enough for everyone to learn the route, then we essentially split into two groups. The leaders all took off together, and the rest of us hung back at a slightly slower pace.

It was around this time that it started to drizzle. It wasn't more than 3 or 4 degrees, so the drizzle wasn't too comfortable. As we ran the bridges loop, the drizzle started and stopped. I really only noticed it when it came down - I wouldn't notice that it had stopped until it started again. As we moved on to the Governor General's loop, though, drizzle started alternating with heavier rain.

Interestingly, as we moved from the bridges to the GG's, we noticed that the fast group wasn't pulling away from us anymore. I guess they were starting to feel their fast start. I decided that I would pick up the pace a bit once I passed the halfway mark, and overheard someone else say the same. I finished my power gel at the first walk break after the GG's, and picked up the pace. Nobody came with me, though.

When I got back to the Alexandra bridge, the weather had dropped all pretense of drizzle and was raining pretty steadily. In fact, it probably rained harder and harder the further I went, though maybe I just got wetter and wetter (could I even tell the diference?) I caught the fast group at the Portage bridge, but they were running a different route from that point, so we went our separate ways.

Back along the canal, the sidewalks were still frozen in places from the overnight freeze. It made footing tricky in places. I was also totally soaked. The only way I could have been any more soaked was if my right foot had been swimming, too. Ugh. My mood soured, my pace slowed. I just wanted to be done.

I did have occasional twinges in my right knee, but nothing that ever stuck around for long. Hopefully, it was just the strain of the distance and pace (I did back off a bit when I felt it happen), and not the onset of something more serious.

The hardest part was that I was tacking on a 2km loop at the end of the run, which meant that I would run right past the "finish line". I can't tell you how much I wanted to just stop there. I was wet, I was cold, I was miserable. The only two factors I could conjure to convince me to go on were that this was my last long run before Around the Bay, and that I wouldn't really be any drier or warmer once I stopped. So on I went, trudging out my extra 2 kilometers in silence.

When I got back to the car (after stretching!), I took off my cap, belt and coat, and put in a dry long sleeve tee over my short sleeve technical tee. I was still wet, but less so. I then bought a bunch of bagels (including 6 chocolate ones, which really hit the spot), and headed home.

I really home that's the worst weather I see this spring. I don't relish the thought of another run like that.

No Jacket Required

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Saturday was, easily, the nicest day of the year. Friday was warm, but rainy. Great for getting rid of snow, but not so nice for actually being outside and enjoying the warmth. Saturday, though, dawned bright and sunny. The roads dried up a little bit, though the melt continued.

My morning run was the first run of the year where I didn't bring a jacket. I didn't miss it, either. Though it was only a few degrees above zero, the sun was warm, and I was able to relax and enjoy the run without giving the elements a second thought. It showed, too, as I reran Wednesday's route over five minutes faster!

Afterwards, the neighbourhood convened in various driveways, playing hockey, chatting, and/or meeting the winter newborns, as befitted their natures. I wandered around in pants and a T-shirt, which might have been a touch optimistic, but wasn't uncomfortably so.

Eventually, having watched the hockey for long enough, I went downstairs, brought the bike up to the garage, and put air in the tires. When they didn't immediately deflate, I decided that a few spins around the block were in order. This prompted a few other people to bring out their bikes, and stretch out their legs.

The snow is still pretty thick, and there's not really any grass in sight yet, but Saturday was a wonderful hint of what lies ahead.

Unknown Territory

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Last week was the highest weekly mileage I've ever run. I'd better get used to that, because it'll be true fairly commonly for the next couple of months. I'm really entering unknown territory here. Last time I ran over 50km/week, my ITBs drove me nuts. I needed a lot of attention and therapy to get them under control. This time? I keep expecting something to happen, injury-wise. Every twinge, every funny feeling, and I'm nervous.

It's been cold this week, but less windy. Nothing like last week. I ran 6km on the treadmill on Tuesday, then 13km outside yesterday morning. Actually left the house around 6:30am. I'm starting to get used to getting up at 5am more consistenly, which can only help me cope with my busy schedule. The nice part is that the sun is starting to rise noticeably earlier, so my early wakeups have an added payoff.

Tuesday's swim was another huge distance swim. Today's was shorter, but much tougher. We did a ton of pulling, but we also did a lot of kick sets. Ugh. Kick sets, how do I despise thee? Let me count the ways. All of the fast women were in my lane today, too, and they all seem to kick faster than me, for most strokes. Yes, breaststroke kick is still my saving grace.

Actually, I led out the first kick set, which was 4x(2x25 kick on :50), IM order. Being in front of all these fast women has me working HARD, on the back and free sets especially. Perhaps because of the pressure of having all these fast kickers chasing me, I was able to keep up with the :50 pace time the whole way. I drew a few compliments on how my kicking has improved, which felt good.

Of course, on the next set, 4x50 kick IM order, two women offered to go ahead of me (I wasn't offended), and two more switched lanes. Improvement is, obviously, relative.

Still, my kicks ARE starting to get a little bit better. Maybe in the fall, I'll be able to start to put it all together. I did a 100m free pull in under 1:30 during warmup - a time I probably couldnt' have managed had I been kicking. If I can just figure out how to use the kick constructively in my swims, I may actually be able to turn the corner towards being a competent technical swimmer.



The usual crew didn't seem to be around this morning, so I grabbed one of the faster marathon clinic groups and ran with them.

It was a weird feeling. Maybe it was overhearing the rookies asking the veterans about the course (does it run along here? are we running it now?), but it suddenly hit me that I'll be running the National Capital Marathon again shortly. Sure, I've been training for a while, but this was the first time that I'd pictured myself on-course.


I wasn't really sure what to expect from myself for this run. I was aiming for around 22km. We ran at around a 6:00/km pace. I felt very relaxed for the first 5-6km. I hung at the back of the pack mostly, and tried to stay relaxed. I've run plenty fast this week, there's no reason to push on my long run.

By the time we got to the Governor General's Residence, I was feeling it a bit. The uphill at the far side felt tougher than it looked. I was still trying to stay relaxed, but it was more of an effort. Around here somewhere, my left middle toe started bothering me. I pictured blood, like I had last week (or was it the week before), but I put it from my mind and kept going. It bothered me all the way back to the store, actually. At the store, I left the group, and continued on on the canal to the middle of Dow's Lake (literally!), where I turned around and went back. (see the route here). For whatever reason, running on the uneven snow and ice of the canal edge eased the toe pain. No idea why.

All in all, I felt (and still feel) surprisingly good. This week was a huge mileage week for me, and with good reason. Around the Bay is only 3 weeks away.

One final note. I signed up for the triathlon in my home town this week. The race is in July. The last two years, I've been running by on race day, and either seen or just missed the race. It should be very interesting - this will be my first race in my hometown. Also, the course is one that I know moderately well. The swim is in Trout Lake, in a section where I used to watch water planes land as a kid. The bike is going to be very tough. 30km, but with a huge vertical as we climb the hill up to the airport along the back rouds, then come right back down. It's like the route I rode last August, except much more direct to and from the lake. Same crazy vertical, though. Finally, the run will be along Anita Avenue, where I've run quite a few times in the last couple of years. It's rolling hills, but right along the lake. Very nice.

You know, I think I'm starting to look forward to summer. :)

Break in the Weather

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Well, after a couple of days of hiding indoors on the treadmill, yesterday turned out to be a nice day. Not that I know that directly, having spend the daylight hours indoors. But when I went out around sunset for an outdoor run, I was pleased to find that the normally icy and snow-covered roads and sidewalks were generally bare. There were even some puddles here and there, though they were slushy. There were also occasional sheets of frozen runoff covering the sidewalk. Still, there was lots of evidence that it had, at one point in the day, been nice and warm out.

Having had two tough swims and two fairly tough runs this week, I had no real ambitions for yesterday, beyond getting the run in. However, when my feet touched bare pavement, I found myself flying along. It was windy, and getting chilly as the sun disappeared, but I found myself moving along enthusiastically. Rather than hold myself back, I flew along happily.

Ok, so it's not spring, and actually feels nothing like it this morning (-15, wind chill below -25). Still, it's March, and in the beginning hope and optimism can be as warming as the sun. Onward to spring!

Staying In

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Yesterday was bitterly cold. By the time I got home, I was too hungry and too cold to want to go back outside, so I jumped onto the treadmill before dinner. Despite the morning workout, I still felt a need to push myself. So I set the treadmill for around a 4:30/km pace, and away I went.

I have to admit, the pace was tough. Even tougher was my plan to run 6.5 km, instead of the usual 5km. Yes, it's time to start stretching out the distance in all my runs. So when I passed the 5km mark, I so wanted to stop. The pace didn't get any easier over time, but I stuck to my guns, and sweated out a tough 6.5 km.

This morning, I was up early, anticipating being out the door for a 6:30 run. When I finally checked the weather, I received a setback. -17C, windchill in the -20s. Forget running outside. I'll just wait until everyone's up, then I'll run on the treadmill.

After last night's exertion, I set a more reasonable 5:00/km pace this morming, and aimed for 12km. An hour is a long time to go on a treamill, but I got through it. I have to say, though, that I sure did sweat a lot. Yuck. Is this what summer's like?


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Recent Comments

  • Cheryl: Right on Wendy! read more
  • Wendy: That swimming fitness will be back before you know it! read more
  • deene: you have to listen to your body, you probably needed read more
  • Cheryl: The heat, mixed with the humidity were extreme and it read more
  • Wendy: Sorry to hear you were so ill, Warren, but good read more
  • Cheryl: Sounds like a tough go! It's a shame that everyone read more
  • deene: anything timed in seconds and with repeats sound tough to read more
  • jank: Ease comes soon while riding in a group. As long read more
  • warren: Sadly, no. Nor did I delve into the Leguminosae family read more
  • jeff: WOOHOO! did you ever come up with a name for read more

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