March 2007 Archives

Unexpected

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I've been doing some backyard stargazing lately. It's been fun, and occasionally gives me another reason to get out of bed early.

This morning, I peeked my head out the window, but was disappointed to find that the whole sky was overcast. Not a single star was to be seen, from my vantage point.

When I finally made it outside to start my run, I had to duck back in and grab the camera. The sun was just rising, and the cloud cover, as you can see from my previous post, had turned from a disappointment to a blessing.

Alas, the sun quickly burnt off the more delicate stuff, and the sky became ordinary by the time I had warmed up to my run. Still, I was glad to get out when I did.

I wasn't expecting as good a run as last Friday, and early on I my expectations were realized. My first two guestimate checkpoints were fairly slow. I tried to keep up my effort, and told myself that I would evaluate at the halfway point.

The morning sky gave me cause to reflect on the ebb and flow of life. Some of the family is going through rough times right now, and work is no picnic these days. But can it only be a few weeks ago that I complained, bitterly, about the weather? I ended up taking off my jacket and tying it around my waist for this run. It was only 2 degrees, but I had zero cause for complaint about the weather.

Nor, as it turned out, did I have cause to complain about my run. I hit the 8km turnaround in a surprising 42:30. Wow. Suddenly filled with confidence, I ran back home with conviction. Whatever I felt, I was strong and fast. I was a runner, and while the rest of the world was missing out on glorious clouds and perfect (!) running weather, I was doing exactly what I wanted.

I finished up in 1:20:54, for my second negative split in two Fridays. March has been a tough month, but April may just be my best month ever!

EDIT - too funny! 2 seconds faster than last Friday!

For Juls

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Looking Forward

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I'm looking forward to being able to run a nice, easy long slow run tomorrow.

Today is Saturday, and Saturday is speed day. I was pressed for time, but a quick 5+ kilometer run around the local route was going to be enough.

I passed my guestimated 1km mark in 4:20 or so. I was already uncomfortable, but 5km is short enough that I knew that I could be uncomfortable the whole way home. Which I was.

The wind, strangely, was from the south and east; exactly the opposite of the usual. I decided that if I pulled off a negative split, it would only be because of the wind. I'd gone out hard, and was getting slower with every laboured breath. I turned around in 11:55.

On the way back, I continued to work hard. At around 4km, my side started to hurt a bit. I just gritted my teeth, and tried to breathe it out. As I got close to home, I found myself looking up, searching for the finish with my eyes, and not thinking much about the present. It was all about being able to rest...soon.

I must have run this route 40 or 50 times by now. I've broken 25 minutes quite a few times, but never gone faster than 24:13. Today I ran 23:08.

It sounds like a huge success, but really it's just a minor cog in the machine. My goal comes in May. Everything that happens now either helps me towards that goal, or hinders my progress.

I worked myself hard today. I'll have to do it again, and again, and again, before I'm done. I've worked way too hard on my training to accept anything less than my best effort.

No Excuses

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I was up at 5, to do some stargazing before my morning run. Eventually, the sun chased the night sky away, and I got changed and headed out.

I've been a bit concerned at my lack of pace over the winter. I've always explained it away, saying that come spring, I would have the chance to rectify the issue. Last Saturday's race was a throwing of the gauntlet. There were lots of good reasons to run slowly on Tuesday, as my skinned knee will attest to.

This morning, there were very few reasons to run slowly, and many reasons to at least try to push myself.

I've reasoned out that some of my recent shin discomfort in my right leg is due to general ankle inflexibility when I run. Part of it comes from running on ice, and part of it comes from who I am. So I started off the run trying to work on this - I tried to add some spring to my step as I ran. it felt ok, but I had to keep conentrating on it.

The run felt quicker than usual, but it wasn't until I got to around the 7km mark that I started noticing how tired I was. I was still running within myself, and felt I would be able to finish at that pace (or level of effort, if you prefer). I started wondering how far below the tepid 48 minute (8km) turnaround pace I had set on Tuesday.

The answer was: 42:23

Yay!

Feeling a little bit tired, I was enormously pleased, and set off on the return journey in a much better mood. Along the way, my concentration definitely strayed a fair bit - a sure sign that I was working. I continued to focus on having loose ankles, and on trying to keep up the pace from the first half. On the slightly shorter return journey, I surprised myself with a negative split: 38:34.

THIS is how I need to be running my intermediate runs. Short runs hard, intermediate runs aggressively, but not crazy, and long runs nice and easy. That's the ticket.

Black Ice Rain

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March just hasn't been my best month.

Just as I was getting over an injury and getting back into my routine, I got sick on Sunday. Nothing serious, but as I was getting ready for my run, I crashed - lay down for a minute and was asleep. Bleh. I hate hate hate missing long runs.

It wasn't until Wednesday night that I finally got back out for a run. 16 kilometers, nice and easy.

The forecast called for freezing rain. As I left the house, there was a tiny bit of ice underfoot, but mostly the footing was fine.

If you're not familiar with black ice, it's basically invisible ice on pavement that results from freezing rain. As driving and footing conditions go, it's one of the worst. It looks just like wet pavement. The only way you know the ice is there is you slip or skid.

As I ran along, the conditions slowly got slipperier. It wasn't until about 6km that I started noticing it, but then I started really noticing it. Part of my route was concrete sidewalk, which for whatever reason was more resistant to ice formation. The middle 5km and most of the last 3km, though, was black pavement, and this was particularly treacherous. During the middle 5km, I had a foot slip out from under me a couple of times, and I became convinced that sooner or later, I was going to fall over.

At about the 12km mark, I habitually felt my pockets to see if my key was still there. It was then that I discovered that the bottom of my jacket was covered in a fine layer of ice. Freezing rain indeed.

About a mile from my house, making a sharp left hand turn, my inside leg shot out from under me, and I banged my knee and hand down hard on the ground. Ouch. Since the ground was soaking wet, I got up and started walking. I was pretty sore. I quickly decided I needed to be running, so I ran. Gradually, the pain eased off.

When I got in, the brim of my cap and a triangle at the bottom of my coat zipper were coated in a thin layer of ice. It looked pretty cool. Sadly, I couldn't find the camera to take a proper picture of it.

When I finally took a look at my knee, it was skinned up - about a square centimeter was red and icky. It looked just like every skinned knee I got when I was 7 years old. Kind of funny, actually.

St. Patrick's Day 10km

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Someone at the swim club is trying to organize a triathlon group within the club. He emailed a recommendation that we all sign up for the 10km race today. Of course, then the forecast called for snow, and he backed out.

Yup, snow. Several inches worth, overnight and today. After a week of above-freezing days, the race dawns snowy, windy, and -6. Blech.

The best way to get better at racing is to race. The best way to convince yourself to put in speedwork when it's snowing is to race. I ran the night before, I'll run the next day. No taper, no warmup (too cold out!), but still a race.

We all huddled in the gym until about 8 minutes before gun time. Then we all shuffled (and shivered!) out to the start line, and bounced around, trying to keep warm. Soon enough, we were off.

My goal time had been 48 minutes, until the morning had dawned snowy. I had revised to 49 minutes, due to the wind and the accumulation. In truth, the road was generally clear, though there were slushy sections. They'd done a good job clearing the road before the race - so I couldn't really complain.

I started near the back, and spent a lot of time weaving back and forth passing people. I hit the 1km mark at 5:20. First kilometer times should be slow, but this was a bit too slow. I tried to relax and stretch out a bit, but still stay within myself. I hit the 2km mark in 10:20, having run the second kilometer in 5:00.

At this point, I started thinking that it would be a pain to memorize all my splits. Then I remembered that I (finally!) own a proper watch. I resolved to start recording all my kilometer splits.

I ended up tucking in behind a gentleman, and following him as we slowly overtook the field. The wind was mostly at our backs, and I was trying to keep myself focused on not overdoing it. Kilometer 3 rolled by in 15:24.

I haven't really been doing much speedwork yet, but this was getting ridiculous. I did NOT start training in October just to run a 4:15 marathon. Am I not at least a little bit faster than this? Guess not.

I missed seeing my kilometer 4 split, but it was 4:25. I ended up passing the gentleman, and setting off on my own. I was getting concerned about my time, but at the same time wanted to be able to go harder the second half and post a negative split. Goodness knows I was going to need one.

At the turn, I checked my watch. 24:5x. Bleh. A 5:04 5th kilometer, and I was barely a 50 minute 10k runner. What had happened to me?

At the turnaround, we were instantly reacquainted with the wind. It sucked. It was cold, and it was in our faces. I looked out in front of me at all the runners I could see, and wondered if I could pass them all. Nobody had passed me in 2-3 kilometers, and I'd been slowly moving up the field.

I fought hard into the wind, trying to work harder now. I was rewarded with a 5:01 kilometer, and a ~30:00 6km time. I told myself that at 7km I would open up, and try to run 4 minute kilometers the whole way in. I'd run that speed before, but there wasn't much confidence behind my internal bravado.

Kilometer 7 was run in 4:31. I noticed that I'd gone under the 5 minute kilometer, finally, as I started to pick it up. The crowd in front of me was thinning out, but I was still picking them off. Actually, I was blowing by them. It was like I had finally started running a bit faster, and everyone else had gone out too hard and was blowing up.

Kilometer 8 was 4:41, though it felt like I was working harder. I picked it up a bit again, picking jackets in front of me and trying to catch them. Truthfully, I was flying through the field - nobody was passing me, and anyone I could see was catchable.

Kilometer 9 was 4:26. There were now only two people who looked to be easily catchable, a woman and a man. I started seriously hammering, telling myself that it would not last long. The ragged breathing I'd been hearing from other people for 6 kilometers finally came to me. I passed the woman noisily, but the guy had picked up his pace. I stopped noticing the other runners. I could see the crowd at the finish line, and my breathing was starting to dominate the rest of my world. It was hard slogging, but I accelerated, building naturally to a full sprint.

My 10th split was 4:07, assuming I remembered to stop my watch right away. Maybe it was even faster. It felt good. Tough, but here was the speed I'd been looking for for most of the race.

My final time was 47:28.8. I finished just out of the top third of my age group.

This is only a beginning. I aim to demolish my 10km PB this year (45:12). Still, it was a very good beginning.

Now, the real work begins.

30 minute swim

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Today we did the annual 30 minute continuous swim.

Last year, our coach told us to go out hard off the top. I did so, and was able to finish up with 1725 metres. This year, I was out to beat that mark. What I was not willing to do was to go out hard.

For the first 200-300 metres, I focused on trying to cut my number of strokes per length of the pool. After that, I settled down, and just swam.

I counted my laps up to 19 repeats of 50, but then I started getting lost. (I also got lapped.) Fortunately, the coach was counting for us. From the occasional glances at the clock when I made my open turns, I didn't think that I was doing all that great. I figured I could get to about 1500, but I didn't figure I'd go all that faster.

So, with something like 8 minutes left, I stopped counting laps, and started counting strokes per length again. I wasn't able to get below 19 very much, but I started working harder, and apparently going faster. The guy who lapped me remarked later that I started reeling him in towards the end.

Of course, this added effort got pretty tough on me. I now had one eye firmly on the clock. I couldn't wait for the swim to be over, and was pacing myself to go hard right to the end.

I finished up, and caught my breath while I waited for the tally. 1775m. Hurray!

My split times were something like:

400m: ~6:40
800m: ~13:35
1500m: 25 something? not sure....

My shoulders are going to be sore today, I think....

Ian Button Memorial Swim Meet

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A lady at the meet asked me if I'd known Ian. While I didn't know him well, I could have picked him out of a crowd. Still, his death last spring came as a huge shock. There was definitely some imperative to attend a swim meet in his honour.

My original primary goal for the meet was to break 1:20 in the 100m freestyle. My secondary goal was to do a 200m IM. Of the two, the second was far more daunting, even without a specific performance goal. In the light of hindsight, I think that I invested more mental and physical preparation in the Individual Medley.

In the end, I selected the following races:
- 200 IM (No previous 50m pool experience, 25m pool PB: 3:12)
- 100 free (Last year's time: 1:27.73)
- 50 breast (Last year's time: 43.13)

Other than having been at the meet last year, I also had the advantage of having swam in the pool last summer. We only used half the pool, but I had had the opportunity to get familiar with the temperature of the pool. Compared to my usual pool, the sportsplex pool is cold. The temperature is supposed to be better for competetive swimming, a subject to which I only technically subscribe. All I knew was that getting in was not a lot of fun.

When they opened the pool for warmup, everyone got in, and the lanes got quite full. I had to warm up in all 4 strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle) as I would be doing all 4 in the IM. In a packed lane of an unfamiliar pool, this was a little scary. Then I did a dive or two, to practice. I almost hit the bottom on my first dive, and made a mental note not to go too deep on my starts at the shallow end. Once I was warmed up, I got out, pulled some clothes on over my swimsuit, and took it easy.

Shortly thereafter, my parents showed up, having come into town for the weekend partially to watch. After nearly slipping and falling down trying to get their attention, we sat together, and watched as the first events started. Mom was impressed, much as I was last year (and again this year) at the broad range of people involved in master's swimming. There are faster 70 year olds, and very slow 80 year olds. There are incredibly fast 30-40 year olds, and then there are people like me - just getting into it in our 30s and 40s.

Soon enough, it was time for me to get back into the pool, to warm up for my IM. Lane 8 was reserved thoughout the whole meet for warming up and cooling down. When I got out and made my way to my lane, the butterflies started fluttering in my stomach. Pun intended.

Suddenly, I was up. On the blocks. My starts aren't the best.

The starter's whistle blows, and I have to do my first competitive dive of the season. Into the water I go. I give a couple of dolphin kicks, and surface.

Generally when I do IM, I take it easy on the butterfly. I can be pretty fast at it when I want to be, but my goal is to conserve energy. For me, that means staying relaxed; keeping the cadence down a bit, and not pulling or kicking as hard as I can.

Here I am, at the 25m mark. I'm wearing a bright yellow cap, in lane 5 (from the top, just below the blue lane rope).

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Unfortunately, I put in way too slow a pace time for this race. When I signed up, my best 200 freestyle time was 3:20, so I put in 3:30. Subsequently, I started breaking 3:15 with both. Ugh. Oh well.

Anyways, I seem to ride higher in the water than most people. I make no claims that I do butterfly correctly, but I can move myself through the water doing it.

I've always said there's a logical progression in IM. After the gut-wrenching oxygen deprivation of butterfly, you get to swim on your back in backstroke, and gasp for all the air you could want. My backstroke is arguably my weakest stroke, though I think my catch and pull are much better this year. Sadly, my kick is non-existant, and kick is where it's at for backstroke and freestyle.

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Notice how I'm all on my own? Yeah. It's not that I'm fast, it's just that I entered the wrong time. Like I said, oh well.

Anyways, I usually just watch the ceiling on backstroke, to make myself go straight. In my usual pool, the ceiling struts are parallel to the lanes. In the sportsplex, they aren't, so I had to be constantly peeking at the lane ropes beside me. This is actually the more correct way to go, I'm told. A lot of swim meets in the US are held outdoors, where there's absolutely nothing above you to use as a guide!

My time after 100m was 1:36.08.

My goal in back was to pull hard and rest my legs, because breaststroke is very, very, very tough on the legs. It's also probably my most natural, comfortable stroke.

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To me, it looks like I've come a long way out of the water here. I was trying to keep my head more neutral, and not look so far ahead of me. Oh well.

I'm at the 125 metre mark, and I can tell you that me legs are starting to burn. I'm a little confused as to why I can't see anyone, but I'm also at the point in the swim when my brain starts to not get enough oxygen to really formulate complicated thoughts. It's just streamline, up, kick, streamline, over and over.

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From memory, I was breathing every third pull here. With 30 metres to go, I was also trying to build towards a full-out sprint. I was able to do this, and felt ok. Actually, I remember wondering somewhere around here if I'd taken it too easy, as I wasn't completely destroyed at the end of the race.

My finish time was 3:06.02. This is a 200m PB for me, period. I certainly would never have expected to go this fast in the IM. I figured on being at least 7-10 seconds slower than whatever I could do in freestyle. There's simply no denying that I'm very pleased with this result.

Overall, I finished 2nd of 2 in my age group, over 20 seconds behind first. (It's a good thing I'm under no illusions about my swimming abilities, eh?)

Back up on deck, I got to chat with my parents, who were thrilled. I ate some jelly beans and drank some water. Life was good.

Next up was my A event, the 100m freestyle. I had put in an expected time of 1:20, and had been put in lane 1. This meant that everyone in my heat had put in a faster time than I had. This was very good news - it meant that there would be lots of people in front of me, to chase.

Even better, there was a guy from my session in the club in the lane beside me. We wished each other luck as we got up onto the blocks.

Incongruously, as I waited to start, it occurred to me that I'd already done more than half my swimming for the meet.

At go, I dove in, kicked twice, and surfaced. Oh my. Lane two was already well ahead of me. That gave me a kick in the pants, and I went to it - breathing every 5th stroke, and trying to narrow the gap. It didn't narrow, but it didn't widen much, either.

Here I am, approaching the turn - at the top, again in the yellow swim cap.

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It looks to me like I'm pretty much in last place, as expected. Still, I'm not too far back at all.

Here are the split times. Lane 1, me, is at 38.38. I'll take it!

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Unfortunately, by about 60 metres, I'd clued in to the fact that I'd gone out way too hard. Rather than building towards a fast finish, I was starting to gasp for breath. I fell off the pace, and swam more than 42 seconds for the second 50, to finish up at 1:20.96. I finished 5th of 6 in my age group, over 9 seconds out of 4th and 16 seconds out of first.

Ergo, I did not break 1:20. Disappointing, but it's still a PB. I had done 1:21 in the 25 metre pool, but the 50 metre pool is different. I guess the disappointing part is that I didn't race a smart race. If I had, I think sub-1:20 was there for the taking.

After this, there was a long break before my final event, the 50 metre breaststroke. This event was a throw-in. I had been much more focused on the other two events, but wanted to do something in the second half of the meet. As I mentioned, breaststroke is my most natural stroke, and I'd like to be fast at it. But since I haven't really worked at that much this season....

Once again I was in lane 1, the slow lane. There would be lots of people in front of me to chase.

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I tried to kick really hard and streamline and glide a lot. Unfortunately, I ended up kicking over the top of the water a few times, wasting time and energy. It was just not my race; I wasn't comfortable going this hard in breaststroke. I just hadn't trained enough.

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Lane 1's time: 44.05. Slower than last year. I wasn't surprised, given the mistakes I made during the race, and the lack of preparation. Oh well.

On the bright side, I won my age group. Of course, I was the only one entered.

I think next year, I may focus much more on breaststroke, with the goal of racing longer distances. I'm not a sprinter anyways, so trying to hold pace in breast might make more sense for me. Of course, it promises to be very hard on my legs - any distance of breaststroke can turn your legs to rubber. Still, I think it would suit me better than the shorter distances.

Since my performances got worse with each sequential event, I walked away less than thrilled with my meet. Missing 1:20 on the free was disappointing, for sure, but the 200 IM was a very, very good swim for me. Short events are like that, though - you only get one shot at it, and if you set your standards high, the margin for error is small. I'm still very much a beginner at this swimming stuff, so every lesson I can take away from a meet is a win.

This year, my goals were much more ambitious than they were at this time last year. Who knows, maybe next year all of my swims will again be beyond what I could hope for this year.

Trying to be Smart

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The alarm went off at 5am Wednesday morning. I sat up. As soon as I tried to stand up, I felt it. My calf. It was still very tight. So, I lay right back down and went back to sleep.

No run Wednesday.

It actually continued to bother me on Wednesday, far more than I had thought that it would. Taking advil didn't really seem to have a huge effect. I decided that I wasn't even going to try swimming on Thursday morning.

Thursday I put in a call to my personal A.T. She seemed to feel that it was likely just a cramp, though it might have been a small tear. Either way, the road ahead was paved with heat, massage, and ice after usage.

I actually turned the full pressure of the water in the shower onto my calf Thursday morning, and really tried to beat on the sore spots. It was pretty uncomfortable, but it helped. I was tempted to run Thursday night, but was too hungry and tired to when I finally got home from work. Instead, I got out a can of peas and rolled it under my calf for a bit.

(And you thought runners only loved frozen peas!)

This morning I was awakened before 6am by the constant pounding of sleet (ice/rain/snow) on the window, and the gusting of wind. Ugh. The forecast called for a full on winter storm today, but I wasn't going to let weather stop me from running.

I headed out after 8am, with already a quarter inch of snow on the ground. The wind and ice were horrific - running into the wind, it felt like I was being assaulted with icy needles. Any exposed flesh, including eyes and lips, were susceptible. It hurt.

Fortunately, my shin didn't, and I knew that the wind couldn't be in my face more than half the run (more or less). So I told myself that I was happy to get as much of it out of the way early in the run as possible, and soldiered on.

My time at the first turnaround was laughable. Wind and footing hurt, but so did only running for the second time in a week. Oh well. Despite the wind, it was mild, and I was enjoying the run, now that the ice was out of my face.

After the run, having graciously forgotten to stop my watch (probably a good thing!), I got some ice from the freezer, popped an advil, and iced down my calf. It was a bit more sore than before the run, but not much. I spent 10-15 minutes alternating icing and walking it off, before jumping in the hot shower, and again having the water beat on my calf. It hurt far less than the day before.

It's been a bit of a disappointing week, but I feel as though I've learned a thing or two about muscle cramps. Yes, they can last more than a day, but hopefully now that I'm treating the problem, the worst is behind me.

It's March now, and while that doesn't mean that the cold is over, yet, it means that the end is coming.

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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
  • 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
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This page is an archive of entries from March 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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