May 2006 Archives

Oh dear!

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THE RESULTS of the men's race in ING Ottawa Marathon were thrown for a loop yesterday after 14 elite runners accidentally took a shortcut early in the race on a tricky part of the course in New Edinburgh.

I feel pretty awful for the runners. At least they were compensated, I guess.

ING Ottawa Marathon (#2)


Marathon number two is complete. Where to start?

The race was probably half a success, but no more. Looked at on its own, the time is an enormous disappointment. I basically ran the same time as I did in my first marathon.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. Going into the race, I saw flaws in my training. I hadn't run enough mileage, and I hadn't run consistently enough. Did it hurt me? You bet it did. My legs gave out before my cardio or my brain. Did it hurt my time? Yes, although I allowed for that. Did I learn from it? You bet.

Secondly, the weather. Last Saturday night, I watched it snow. No, it almost never snows in May, but that should tell you how cool it has been all month. That's over now. By the time I was in my car after the race, it was 27 degrees. Make no mistake, this was the hottest day of the year. Discouting yesterday, it was the hottest day of the year by a WIDE margin. It's conceivable I haven't run in anything within 10C of it this year.

Did it hurt? Oh, yes. It hurt my time, it compounded my leg problems, and it left me with no recourse. I don't have a problem with saying that this was the single greatest cause of my time being slower than I would have liked. I don't think there's anything more I could have done about the heat. At the end of the day, this race may just have been ok, despite my time, because the weather did not permit me to run the kind of race I would have liked to.

Ok, enough about the bad stuff.



I ran 5km Tuesday night, slowly. I ran a slow 8km on the treadmill last night. I might stretch my legs a bit on Saturday, but basically, I'm done.

Maybe even ready.

The marathon is on Sunday, rain or shine. Looks like shine, and probably warm.

Last time I ran the marathon, I was blown away by how awesome the training had been. The challenge and reward of training for a marathon are probably bigger than the challenge and reward you get on race day. Looking back at this year's training, I can't say that I'm totally happy with it. I don't regret any of the decisions I made, but next time (!) I'll do it differently. I made my decisions, and I'm happy with them, but I also learned from them. Even if I don't get through the race on Sunday, I'm a better runner for what I've learned this year.

There are two key elements to my race day plan. The first is that I aim to take on much more Gatorade than I usually do. I under-hydrated and cramped during my first marathon. I needed a full bottle of Gatorate to get myself back to basic functioning after Around the Bay. I'm a salty sweater, and I need to respect my body's need for electrolytes. I'm getting better at keeping my hydration and nutrition up, but I haven't solved the puzzle yet.

Secondly, I've been thinking a lot about my pacing. I really, really want to run a negative split. I really, really want to leave a lot in the tank for the last 10km. If my training had been everything I could ask for, I'd know exactly what pace would get me to the 32km mark with something left in the tank. Maybe. But I don't know. I can guess, but it's going to necessitate running on feeling. If I gauge myself correctly, I'll be in great shape to put in a decent time. If I don't gauge myself correctly, I hope to err on the conservative side.

For some reason, time is much more a concern for me this race than last race. I can't really say that a 5 hour marathon would be a failure this time around. Finishing is always a success. Still, having "just finished" already, I seem to have put pressure on myself to perform this time. It's wrong, but I can't seem to shake it.

The worst part is how nervous I am. I love running. I love long runs. I should be excited about Sunday. Part of me is, but worries about injuries, pain, and poor performance seem to be dampening my enthusiasm.

I've been looking forward to this for two years now. Sunday is going to be a very special day for me. I'm sure the race will go well, and even the parts that don't go so well will be good, in the end. I guess it's just that, when you've wanted something for so long, and worked so hard for it,well, as the philosopher Petty once said, "the waiting is the hardest part."

Home Stretch


I've taken advantage of the long weekend by heading home to visit my parents and in-laws. Frankly, the weather up here has been dreadful. When I woke up this morning, the government weather office said 2 degrees C was both the current temperature and daytime high. It was looking like I wouldn't get a run in (I'd only packed shorts and tshirts - hey, it's may!), but when I peeked my nose outside, I decided to risk it.

It ended up being a very good run. The rain held off for the first 45 minutes, and by then I was on the way home. As I came by along the lake, I heard footsteps behind me. It ended up being a runner who is also from Ottawa, was also in town visiting relatives, and who is also running the marathon next week in Ottawa. Pretty cool. We ran together for about a mile before we split off to go our seperate ways.

I ended up running a 5:30 pace. It felt comfortable, for the most part. I had occasional twinges in my right calf, but hopefully with a more adequate warmup it won't recur on race day.

This is it. One week to go. I'll swim Tuesday, run Tuesday, run Wednesday, and maybe go for an easy 15 minute run on Saturday. The preparation is winding down. The excitement is ramping up.

Time to see what I can do.


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I skipped swimming this morning, and opted to run instead. I probably would have skipped even if the swim hadn't been focused on kick. Right now, I need to be focused on running and conserving myself.

This was the second morning in a row that I woke to cloudy skies, but no rain. Both runs features lots of wormhopping, evidence of plenty of rainfall overnight. I'm not sure how I keep missing all the rain. Just lucky, I guess.

In contrast to Tuesday, I tried to run comfortably both days, for the distance. In other words, I ran faster than marathon pace, but still in the same area code. Both runs were pleasant, and pain free.

Actually, it has been a while since I had any pain in a run. I'm guessing the drop in mileage is doing wonders. This may come up again during the marathon, but I never would have expected a pain-free marathon, anyways. That's not what marathons are about.

While the runs have been good, my mental preparation hasn't been what it should be. I seem to be preoccupied with my next marathon - thinking about what I'll do differently, how much better it will go. I really need to spend more time and energy visualizing having a great race next week. I know I can finish. I know I can be faster than last time. I know I'll be faster next time. Knowing all of this, I need to be focused on making this marathon the best race it can be.

Whatever happens, I've been looking forward to this marathon for 2 years now. All numbers and expectations aside, if I'm not in love with what I'm doing on the morning of the 28th, it won't be a success.

Taper Mistake


I hit the pool yesterday ready for big mileage. I had 100m in before the warmup was even fully on the board. As it turned out, we did some lane switching, so that we could do speedwork side-by-side rather than inline. All the lane shuffling took up enough time to rule out 3000 metres. On the other hand, I got to see just how fast some of the other people in my lane are. I'm definitely not the fastest swimmer in our half of the pool, when everyone shows up. At least, I'm not consistently the fastest.

It felt very good to be pushed.

That theme continued into the main set. The main set was 1600m, broken down into 4x400m as follows:
- 100m free on 1:55
- 50m pull on 1:00
- 200m free on 3:50
- 50m swim on 1:00
- 30s rest

After the third repeat, we only got 15 seconds rest. Guess we were running out of time.

Anyways, my two lanemates for the day, R and Ironlady, were right on my tail the whole way through. I couldn't gain more than a metre or two on them. Right around the 1450m mark, I did speed up and pull away, although the effort really cost me. Practice is not a race, nor a contest of egos, but it felt really good to be pushed. At no point could I back off, even a little bit.

After work, I went straight out for a 5km run. The idea, I guess, of tapering is that you run at your usual intensity, but for a shorter time and distance. I'd been trying to put in a bit of speed on my Tuesday runs, though usually this had led to having a stitch in my side. At first, this run seemed like more of the same. The stitch played hide-and-seek with me.

After the turnaround, I tried to push the pace, but it felt like I just didn't have the speed or the strength. I seem to have done less and less speed since December, which is naturaly I suppose in a way, as I've added mileage. Still, it feels like I've been losing more speed that I intended. When I tried to push the pace, my legs didn't seem to have the extra drive, and it took a lot of exertion to enact even a small gain in speed. Since I'll be running lots of 5km and 10km runs this summer in the triathlons, I made a mental note to get back to basics after the marathon.

I finished up my run in 24:43. I was very surprised to come in under 25 minutes. A quick look at my records showed me that that's the third fastest I've ever run that loop (and I run that loop a lot). What a huge surprise! So much for my lack of speed!

Still, running that fast on taper week has to be a tactical mistake. While it's an ego boost, I'm supposed to be building up my energy reserves, not wasting them on flashy bursts of speed.



This weekend's weather had been the pits. I don't think I've seen the sun in days.

It rained hard all night on Friday, with the rain making a wonderful noise against the bedroom window (certainly more wonderful than, say snow). Saturday morning dawned bleak, but surprisingly mild (11 degrees at dawn) and with a break in the rain. By 7:15, I had the kids out the door. My wife was either still asleep, or pretending to be. After breakfast at Timmy's, we hit the Stonebridge Trail.

Actually, it worked out better than I expected. As we went over the Jock river bridge on Jockvale, the kids excitedly pointed out the river. "You guys want to walk down, try to find the river?" I asked innocently....

The path winds between the golf club community of Stonebridge on one side, and the Jock river on the other side. In general, the path doesn't get too close to the river. There is a lookout at the dam, though, and the path goes under the same bridge at Prince of Wales as the river does. This was our turnaround point.

It turned out to be an excellent walk. The forest looked and smelled vibrant after the overnight rain. There were more trilliums along the path than I've ever seen in one place in my life. The kids were very enthusiastic, and enjoyed themselves immensely, though I did need to do some carrying on the way back to the car.

I had planned on running on Saturday, but all I ended up doing was the walk. It may not have done all that much for my legs and my cardio, but it was a much more enjoyable way to spend my time.

This morning, I did a ~23km loop, retracing the full second half of the marathon route (parking lot and all!) I ran the first 9-10km with some friends from my first marathon training session. It made for a relaxed and enjoyable first half. After that, I picked up the pace a bit, but stayed with 10-and-1s. I felt fairly strong the whole way (maybe faded a bit at the end), and more importantly was blessedly pain-free. What's also nice is that I likely won't be needing a nap today.

Just as I was getting in the car to drive home, the rain started again. It's funny, I haven't seen the sun in days, but it was the first time I'd been rained on all weekend. It's hard to complain about rain when all the important stuff I've done this weekend has fallen into the intermissions.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to call my mother.



Busy week.

Tuesday's swim hit 3000m, again, mostly due to 5 or 10 minutes of freestyle pull tacked onto the end of the scheduled workout. I was pretty beat on Tuesday, though. When I got home, I didn't have the energy to run before dinner, so I ate, and sat around until after 10pm for a run. I did a decent 10km in the dark. It was nice out, but I'd been hoping for a longer run. Also, I'd felt like crawling into bed around 8pm, so mentally I just wasn't into it.

The ride in to work on Wednesday was fantastic. I was fast, I was pain-free. The ride home featured left knee pain yet again, and strong headwinds. It took me almost 14 minutes longer to get home, though admittedly having the chain fall off didn't help.

This morning, our swim focused on speed. I really struggled, especially with anything that wasn't freestyle. I stole an extra long break, though, and went for it on the last 200m free. Came home in 3:17, which I think is a PB for me. It felt good, but it took SO much out of me.

I figure I'll run tonight, but probably no more than 5-8km. I just want to keep my legs moving. Tomorrow will be a rest day, and I need it badly. Next week the taper will start, and I'll be able to back off - a bit. For now, though, I'm pushing pretty hard.

Speed, Remembered


If there's one thing that's going very well in my training, it's sleep. Both Saturday and Sunday nights featured at least 9 hours of sleep. Yes, running ~30km in the rain Saturday helped immensely. Still, sleep can only help.

As I was getting my running gear together this morning, the following conversation took place:

Wife: "You going for a run today?"
Me: "Yup."
Wife: "That's weird. You never run on Mondays."
Me: "Well, I never do long runs on Saturdays either. But I did, and had a rest day yesterday, so I'm running today."
Wife: "It's still weird."

I suppose she was right. Still, it made sense. Basically, my habit was to do a short to medium run, long run, and take a day off on Saturday/Sunday/Monday. I still did so this week, it's just that the order was different.

So, I was out the door at 7am this morning. All I could think was "let's not have this go like last week". I really wanted to make it more than two minutes out the door without a stitch in my side. So off I went, a little cautiously. Once several minutes had passed without catastrophe, my mind started to wander.

The subject which occupied my attention was marathon pacing. Once upon a time, I'd been of the mind that running 55 minutes for the first 10km would represent a nice, conservative start, and would give me a reasonable chance at a negative split. Lately, though, that kind of pace had been entirely out of reach. This was probably mostly due to long runs kicking my butt, but the pain in my left calf/ankle (which, yes, was back again) sure wasn't helping.

So as I weighed 55 minutes vs 60 minutes, and whether a 4 hour marathon was even remotely doable, my legs took all this heavy thinking as a challenge. My first 10km was slightly fast, and after my first walk break, my legs wanted to go just a little bit faster.

I could tell that my body was just a little bit unused to the speed. I wasn't exactly comfortable, but I wasn't really suffering either. I hit my second walk break at a reasonable point. From where I stopped, I knew I wasn't fast (no sub-5:00/km day today), but I also knew I wasnt' really slow, either. I huffed and puffed and tried to relax my left calf, then took off again, even more determined.

Around the 25 minute mark, I could feel the faintest bit of a stitch coming on. I backed off for a minute, and it passed, and I picked it up a bit, again. I made the turn-around in just over 29 minutes.

Now on the way back, I was feeling a bit more bold. On my third walk break, I decided I had a shot at sub-43 minutes. I haven't gone sub-43 on this route since December, so I was pretty keen to give it a try. When I made the last turn at 37 minutes, I thought I might even be able to get close to 42 minutes. I tried to pour it on, without sprinting or otherwise unduly risking myself. It felt good to be flying, and my left calf/ankle was cooperating by bothering me less than it had been for most of the run. Weird.

I came in in 42:10, which pleased me enormously. The ~5:05 pace tells me that yeah, maybe a 55 minute first 10km will be just fine, after my taper.

Less than 3 weeks to go, and things are starting to come together.

30, Unexpectedly

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I got up on Saturday morning thinking I'd be running a 10km When my wife reminded me that we had plans for Sunday morning, it became obvious that I would be running my long run a day earlier than expected.

I packed up 2 bottles of Gatorade, and used the GMap Pedometer to plan out a ~30km route that would bring me by my house about halfway, to switch bottles. Once I picked it, I took it easy for a bit, hoping the rain would abate, then headed out the door.

I felt pretty comfortable for the first half an hour or so - no pain in my knees or calves, just an annoying headwind, and a cold drizzle. Around the 5km mark, my left calf started making itself known, much to my annoyance. Still, it was bareable, so, like the rain, I tolerated it, and went about my business.

Around an hour in, I turned from Jockvale onto Prince of Wales, and looked ahead of me. Suddenly, I knew I'd be making a detour.

Fifteen minutes later, I was back on course. I headed straight for my house, where I ditched my cap and gloves, switched bottles, used the washroom, and headed back out. The rain had stopped, but I was now running north, right into a yucky wind.

I ran up to Hunt Club, then over to Greenbank. I was now two hours into the run, and my left calf was bugging me. I think my gait was still consistent and balanced, but it wasn't exactly fun. As I turned onto Greenbank, the wind was at my back, but the rain started again. Cursing the Weather Network for telling me there would be no rain in the afternoon, I longed for the hat I'd left behind. Still, the wind was at my back, so the rain wasn't in my face, at least.

When I passed the 25km mark, I remembered how things had fallen apart last week. This time, though, while my right knee bothered me a bit, I more or less kept it all together. The last few km flew by. I got home in 3:25 on my watch, with ~20 minutes worth of stopovers.

Speaking of which, I never did explain the first stopover, did I? I ended up running past the family cemetary, and stopped in to say hello to a few ancestors.

The Family and the River


I deflected last night's run to this morning, since I had the day off. When I offered to have my wife tag along on the bike, pulling the youngest in the bike stroller, she suggested we wait until the eldest was done school (which was early, today), and head down to the river for a run and ride.

So, we loaded up two bikes and one trailer into the vehicle, picked the rugrat up from school, and headed down to the Ottawa river. We ended up at the beach that is used for the River Keeper Tri (my first ever triathlon). We unloaded the bikes, and headed out for a 5km jaunt.

I've been wanted to do this all spring, but this had to have been the perfect day to have finally gone. It was 18 degrees, and big fluffy clouds dominated the sky. It was just an awesome spring day where it felt great to be outside, but there wasn't a hint of heat in the air.

At first, my wife took the lead, and I ran right behind them. She tried to keep the speed to around 12km/h, to give me a chance to stay close. This worked for her, but not for my eldest, who wanted to go FASTER! As a result, he took every side path that came along. I urged them to go ahead on the downhills, figuring I could make up ground on the uphills. We followed the Ottawa river for 2.5km, stopping at the base of Woodroffe.

After the turnaround, they were often further ahead of me. Since I was largely concentrating on making sure my son followed the basic safety rules, didn't hurt himself, and learned how to use his 7-speed gears to negotiate hills, I gave very little conscious thought to the actual run. This was probably a good thing - I ran naturally, comfortably, and without a thought to pacing. Other than a tense shoulder, the run was completely comfortable and pain-free, too, which was fantastic.

When we got back to the beach, we opened the lunchbox we'd brought, and shared some juice, water, granola bars, fruit and candy. Then, we explored the beach, and took pictures of the tree, the ducks, and the guy who kayaked by with a dog in is boat. Then we went for ice cream.

According to my eldest, this was "the best day EVER!"

8 or 9?

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After Tuesday's "bit of everything" swim, Thursday was all about distance. (Yes!)

We opened with a 4x200 mix. 200 swim on 4:00, no problem. 2x(25 scull, 75 pull) on 4:30? Well, apparently, I don't scull as fast as I should. 200 kick on 6:00? Would 7:00 do? Then another 200 swim to round things off.

The next set was a tough timed set - 4x(100m on 2:05, then 50m on :55). I went out way too hard on the first 100m (as I often do). The 50m sets were the tough parts. I think I finished them all in :45, but that only left 10 seconds before I had to swim 100m. Yuck. So the 100s became progressivly easier, as I tried to rest.

At this point, we were halfway through the practice. 1400m - not yet halfway to 3k. Yes, I was thinking about it!

The next set was 2x (200m pull on 3:50, 200m swim on 4:00). Now this was right up my alley. The coach made a note about not doing catchup, and to be sure to start the pull as soon as the hand entered the water. Since I figured I was one of the guilty parties (I like to glide, especially when I fatigue), I made a mental note to try to keep my turnover quick, to prevent me from doing "catchup". Both pull sets felt fantastic, and I consistently got ~20+ seconds rest between the sets.

With just under 20 mintues left, we were given our final set: 10x100m on 2:00, with a goal time of 1:40. The goal time was impossible. The whole set was really tough. The coach offered to count for us. Off we went.

My first 100 was strong and smooth, and came in around 1:38. That wouldn't last, and I knew it. My next couple of sets were around 1:42. I knew I would tire before much longer, but I really wanted to hold on for as long as I could. I started playing with 1:45, making it occasionally, going a bit faster occasionally. I wasn't really counting, but thought I knew how many I'd done. Once the fatigue set in, 50 second 50s were awfully difficult to pull off. I kept plugging away, knowing I had a shot at going over 3k.

I have to say that the 15-20 seconds I was getting between sets were VERY little help. I gasped for air like a dying man. I never came close to catching my breath before the next set started.

when I finished what I was pretty sure was my 9th 100, we were stopped. I looked at the clock, and we had run just past the end of the session. The coach had been convinced by some people that we had only done 8, but my ego felt that we'd done 9. My lanemate who'd done the best job keeping up the pace times agreed.

So, I either swam 3000 or 3100m today. I'm really not sure which. I know which one I'm logging, though.

EDIT: I should point out that my left knee was still pretty sore and stiff this morning. It's funny though, the further I went in the pool, the less it bothered me. Was it the miracle curative powers of water? Or maybe it was the miracle curative powers of chlorine? Or maybe I just got too tired to notice?

No, I suspect that all the turns and kicks represented a low-impact stretching exercise. I can only hope that the effects are permenant.

Sightseeing Commute

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My plan all week was to bike commute to work on Wednesday. I checked the weather on Tuesday morning, and everything looked good. When I told a colleague about my plans later in the day, he asked if I'd checked the weather. According to him, it was supposed to rain.

I finally checked early Wednesday. The forecast? 30% chance of rain in the morning, clearing and warming up. Well, that I could live with.

I work my running pants and jacket over a running tee and tri shorts, and set out around 10 after 6. I was only a few km in when it started to drizzle. Figures! Still, I thought, if that was as hard as it rained, it would probably be fine. Which, for the most part, it was.

Rather than my usual country roads commute, I opted to cut through Steeple Hill. Mostly, I was after a change of scenery, and maybe avoiding some traffic. Although the path looked hillier, it occurred to me that it might follow the crest of the hill (it didn't). It also occurred to me that that path might be a bit shorter (it was, maybe as much as 800m shorter).

I got to see a nice mix of estate houses, nice houses (an old style stone house which I think was actually new, with black shutters, stole my heart) and churches (3 in one town!) was much better eye candy than open fields of tilled earth.

All in all, the ride was pretty slow, but I was amazed at how good I felt when I arrived. Plus, someone commented on how nice my bike was when I got to work.

The ride home was less positive. My left knee started bothering me, on the outside behind the ITB. No idea why. Also, all those nice right hand turns on the Steeple Hill ride became an annoying number of left hand turns.

All in all, though, I was pretty happy to have gotten to ride. Hopefully, once the marathon is past, I'll commute often and regularly on the bike.

Girls and Boys

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Our warmup at the pool this morning was 15 minutes of "choice". I opted to see how far I could swim, freestyle, in 15 minutes. I got to 700m before the coach stopped us. Maybe it was 750m - I lost track somewhere in the 300s.

The main set was circuit training. 6 minutes at a station, 1 minute (sometimes, generously, 90 seconds) to transition. Here are the stations I did:

- 300m free, continuous. Fairly easy, considering what I'd just done
- 8x12.5m streamline. This involved pushing off, and staying underwater from one side of the dive tank to the other. This was a lungbuster.
- 4x50 fly. Ok, it was supposed to mix fly and breast, but I'm not doing breast right now.
- 12x 15 second vertical scull, 15 second rest. Ugh.
- 6x25 kick (2 fr, 2 bk, 2 fly). Double Ugh
- 12x 15 second vertical kick, 15 second rest. I heard one of the ladies I was doing the rotation comment "This is so much easier than sculling." Just then, chlorinated water filled my lungs, and I went under, never to be seen again.
- 6x50 pull, build, on 1:00. I have to admit, hearing one of the women grouse "Might as well have been 300 nonstop" felt VERY good. Yes, I got at least 10 seconds rest after each pull. Yes, I was the only one who did.

Which just goes to show. Women are better at kicks. Men are better at pull. I don't know why, but there you have it.


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  • 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
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  • Wendy: Sorry to hear you were so ill, Warren, but good read more
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