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Winterlude Year 3 Results

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50 Breast: 43.42
200 Breast: 3:21:42
50 Fly: 34.15
800 Free: 13:50.60

Winterlude, Year 3

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aka The Nepean Masters Long Course Swim Meet - In Memory of Doug Petty

The results still aren't posted, but I'll say what I know, and fill in the blanks later.

This was my third year doing the swim meet, which has been described in the past by the adage "do one thing every day that scares you". Swimming is, for me, anything but a lifelong pursuit. There's a clear distinction between me and a lot of the other swimmers. Many of these people swam when they were young, and are either continuing or rediscovering their passions. These people learned efficiency and technique young, and have an element of grace in the water.

That's not my story.

It has been interesting, though, to observe my development over the years. It probably took me 6-8 months to swim 100m in under 1:50. It took 1.5 years to get under 1:30. It took almost 2 more years to get under 1:20.

Clearly, I'm learning. Clearly, I had a lot to learn. But the returns are diminishing. Gone are the days when I could jump into the pool, put it all together, and shock myself. Progress these days is slow, and metered, when it happens at all.

Case in point is my breaststroke time. Two years ago I swam 43.13 in the 50m. Last year I swam 44.05. This year, despite intent, I really haven't been any faster than those times.

I was signed up for 4 events:
50 breast
200 breast
50 fly
800 free

(My earlier post had an error - apprently I couldn't remember what I'd signed up for!)

The most important race, for me, was the 200 breast. I put in a very good time in December (under 3:20), but had been over 3:20 more recently. This is an intensely gruelling event. The whip kick is powerful, anaerobic, and very hard to sustain for over 3 minutes. Even on my effort in December, I'd felt like I was badly failing towards the end.

The next most important, I suppose, was the 50 fly. I knew I could be fast in this race. Both my 25 fly and 50 fly in December had been very good.

One key difference between my practice times and this meet was the pool length. I swim in a 25 metre pool, but the meet is in a 50 metre pool. I should expect to be slower in a 50 metre pool, as there is less opportunity to use a wall to get a burst of speed. This did not really factor into my pre-race expectations, but maybe it should have. In past years, I was improving quickly enough that small considerations like this didn't matter. These days, every small detail matters.

My first event was the 50 breast. I did not seriously think that I could challenge my PB (43.13), but I wanted to focus on technique, especially getting a solit glide and strong pull, in preparation for the 200. Unfortunately, I got butterflies right before the start, and my abdomen didn't really unclench for most of the race. Overall, the swim was ok, but I don't think that I had the power in my kick that I did in previous years. From recollection, my time was ~43.9.

Next up was the 200 breast. I tried to start out with a moderate first 50 and build from there, hoping that I would have something left at the end, without sacrificing too much time. Dropping from 7 turns (in a 25 metre pool) to 3 may have helped my breathing a bit, too. Still, by the end, I was getting near to the end of my rope. My time was something like 3:21. This wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but I think it's a decent result.

If I could do it all over again, though, I think I'd go out hard. It might not have given a better result (and quite possibly would have been slower), but I think I'd like to know how the more courageous option would have fared.

After the break, my next event was the 50 fly. I was wary of the butterflies (haha) on this start, but managed to stay loose and keep them at bay. I was quietly optimistic about this race. I did 36:00 2 years ago. This year, I broke 35 seconds for the first time (34.95), and broke 15 seconds on the 25 (14.23). My goal was more technical than result oriented. I wanted to keep my head down as much as possible, taking as few breaths as possible.

Off the start, I was able to keep my head down for the first couple of pulls. After a second pull, I was able to keep my head down for about 7 pulls in a row, taking me past the halfway mark. I mentally resolved to focus on picking up my kick over the last 25. When I came up for my third breath, though, I took on water, and was forced to breathe again the next pull. Yuck. That threw my off my game just a bit, and I had to breathe at least 2 more times on the way in. Still, I came in with the PB that I was hoping for, swimming 34.15 (?). This is not only a fly PB, but a PB over 50 metres over any stroke. It's also my first World Masters qualification time in a 50 metre pool.

My last event was the 800 free. Unfortunately, I was a bit fatigued by this point in the meet. I decided to break the swim down like this:
- 200 focus on technique
- 200 moderate
- 200 build
- 100 fast
- 100 sprint

They had bells out to ring at the 700 metre mark, but we were swimming 2 to a lane, and I was a bit paranoid about losing track of where I was. Ergo, I worked very hard to try to keep my mind clear and focused.

The first threat to that came at the 70 metre mark. The heat featured a staggered start, with heat 3 starting, and moving into one half of the lane. Once they got to the far end of the pool, our heat would start, and we would move to the other half of the lane. It was all a bit complicated, so I both listened carefully and watched to make sure I knew where to swim. Alas, my lanemate may have missed part of the instructions because at 70 metres he swam right over me.

I settled back down quickly, but at 150 metres I started swimming very "heads up" looking for him. He did not trouble me any more, though.

I still don't have the results for this swim, but I suspect that I was quite a bit slower than I had hoped to be. Part of it was fatigue. Talking to one of the club coaches afterwards, she confessed that she was surprised that I didn't start out a little harder than I did. Point taken.

Right after the 800m, blogger Wendy approached me, to offer kind words and congratulations. She had been slated to swim in the same heat, but alas a cold had shelved those plans. Still, she was very complimentary of my swim.

Hopefully, the results will eventually be posted. Overall, I don't think my results were great, but nor were they horrible. They probably fell where they could reasonably be expected to fall. Overall, I did ok, but if I have a regret it's that I did not swim aggressively enough.

2k Marathon splits

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If I missed the split, I'll post the average in parentheses.

2k: 11:49 - 11:49
4k: 12:18 - 24:07
6k: (11:42)
8k: (11:42) - 47:32
10k: 11:39 - 59:10
12k: 12:15 - 1:11:25
14k: 12:16 - 1:23:41
16k: 11:14 - 1:34:55 (started to pick it up here)
18k: 11:17 - 1:46:12
20k: 11:32 - 1:57:44
22k: (11:24)
24k: (11:24)
26k: (11:24)
28k: (11:24)
30k: (11:24)- 2:54:44 (oops - where did my mind go for the last hour?)
32k: 11:42 - 3:06:26
34k: 11:57 - 3:18:23
36k: 11:43 - 3:30:06
38k: 11:46 - 3:41:52
40k: 11:44 - 3:52:37
42.2k: 13:04 - 4:06:41

ING Ottawa Marathon #3

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Short version of report: 25 minute PB, 2 hours in medical tent

Long version of report:

It was pretty much a perfect day for the race. Low of 10 degrees, cloudy, slight chance of trace amounts of rain.

I was downtown before 6am, and stayed warm in the city hall until 6:45. Then I made my way to the corral. (Ambitiously, I was in the 3:30-3:59 corral, but whatever.)

My A+ goal was to break 4 hours. More realistically, I wanted to get close. My plan was to run the first 15km on 6:00/km (4:13 pace). I would make an adjustment there, and again at 32km. Playing it by ear was the plan.

Right off the start, I found myself moving backwards. The watch told me that I was running the desired 4:13 pace. My eyes told me that people around me were nuts. Expected.

The first few kilometers were new, and nice, but we did run through some shady parts across the river, in Quebec. There was a guy at one point cheering "Go, go, Quebec, Canada". All he knew in English?

Unexpectedly, my sister turned up on her bike at around 7km. Yay!

The crowds in front of the art gallery were in their usual state: loud, rambunctious, and plentiful. The race goes in both directions at this point, and I was able to run past the halfway mark just as the lead runners arrived.

"C'mon, guys, we can catch 'em!" I yelled.

The route is also new in the east end. We ran past the Prime Minister's and the Governor General's. We then headed back into the subdivision, ending up on a road that ran parallel to the Rockcliffe Parkway, across a broad expanse of field. I had to do a double-take at this point because, out in front of one of the houses facing this field was the Right Honourable Jean Chretien, former prime minister of Canada. Two runners actually turned around in front of me and ran back to talk to him.

I was holding the pace perfectly, waiting for 15km to come. When it finally did, I felt good, so I picked it up a tiny little bit.

I actually think I started going 5:30/km at this point, but I'll have to check my watch, later. Anyways, it felt good. I felt like I could hold the pace forever, which was the point.

I saw my sister again just before halfway, and had my second gel at 19km. Almost immediately, my tummy was slightly unhappy. I thought about ditching my running belt. I'd been taking on a lot of Gatorade, and my tummy was getting full. Bleh. At the famous Ottawa U dropoff point, I dropped off my belt.

Along the canal, down Colonel By, I seemed to encounter a difficult spot. I slowed to 6:00/km again. I was getting close to 32km, though.

I finally hit it under the underpass on Heron. They took out the parking lot this year, which is stupendous. I, however, was less than stupendous, so I didn't really pick up the pace like I'd hoped.

4:00 was pretty much dead.

I, however, was not. For the first time, I got to 32km, and wasn't starting to fade. I didn't have the next gear, like I'd hoped, but I wasn't moving backwards.

Except that I was wrong.

After a bit, I started running kilometers that were just perceptably faster than 6:00. I didn't feel like I was, but I was. Aroud 37km, I started to fade a bit. My sister was riding along side me (on the grass, the rain - yes, it was raining, was keeping the crowds away), offering words of encouragement to me and everyone else. I felt like I was losing steam, but the kilometers were still going by a tiny bit more quickly.

I wanted to walk. Oh, I just wanted to take a little break. I knew, though, that 4:10, my new silver standard, would fade away quickly if I did. I might even cramp up and be done. So I kept going.

I passed 41km in right around 4 hours. I was so close, but I wasn't there yet. I wanted to be, but 1.2km was looking long.

The signs started counting down the metres. 1000, 750, 500. At 500, oddly, I was feeling light-headed, and breathing...oddly.

I saw the family, and gave high fives to everyone. So, so cool.

I was slowing down, though, finally. Something wasn't quite right, and so I coasted in, arms upraised.

The red-shirted medical people were there. One asked me if I was ok. I mentioned my breathing problems, and they plopped me into a wheelchair and led me to the medical tent....

...to the back room.

My vitals were decent, but not perfect. My temperature was almost a degree below normal. My electrolytes were low enough that they gave me a litre of IV. Missed the vein the first time, too. They put a heater under my blanket (where do you buy these?). I suddenly had like 6 people waiting on me hand and foot.

Obviously, I wasn't totally ok, but I wasn't in serious shape, really. They replenished my electrolytes, got my breathing and heartrate calmed down, and got my temperature back up.

The problem was that, while they did this, my legs went completely bad. I cramped up so badly I simply could not move. When I tried, or when the cramps came back, I quite literally screamed in pain.

So I spent about an hour getting to the point where I could stand, with help. I was another hour before I was ready to walk out the door, with help, and get to the nearest place the car could be parked (not near - shame on the race organizers). Yuck.

I did cry at one point, though not from the cramping pain. When I first tried to stand up, and my legs could not support me, or even really move, exhaustion and fatigue reduced me to tears. It's no fun to run a marathon, only to find out you very literally can not walk afterwards.

All in all, though, I'm thrilled with my time, and with my effort. I could not have run any faster today, period. My preperation was adequate to the task.

This salt thing, though, is becoming a real problem.

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.

North Bay Triathlon

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The first triathlon of the season is done. And like last year, the water was incredibly cold.

This was a homecoming of sorts. It's the first time I've ever raced in the town I grew up in. The results list has a few familiar names on it. A teacher I had in grade school. Some people I went to school with.

I did NOT sleep well last night. The wind blew, the rain fell, thunder boomed. Me, I did not sleep much. I wouldn't really say that I was stressed about the race, but something had me burning the midnight oil.

I was up at 6 (after checking the time on my cell phone no less than 4 times). I had some cereal, and checked the weather. Windy (yeah, I heard that). Low of 16, high of 21.

I headed to the beach an hour and a half before race start. I racked my bike, set up my transition area, and lay down to watch the clouds go by. They were really moving. The PA announced that they'd lost buoys during the night, and that the swim had been cut to 750m. This revelation was well met by the competitors.

Half an hour before race start, by cheering squad arrived. I started to warm up, first by running, then I got my wetsuit on and tested the water. It was as cold as expected. I took a few minutes to acclimatize myself, but did not dive in over my head. Then I headed for the beach, to await the start. I hopped, and paced, trying to keep warm.

Suddenly, I heard the countdown from 4, and we were off. I ran as far as I could, then jumped in. As soon as the water closed in around me, the air was squeezed from my lungs. I gasped for air, breathing every second pull, and still needing more air. I switched to heads up freestyle. It was awkward, and still I gasped for air. I switched to heads up breaststroke, trying vainly to keep myself above water.

It occurred to me that I was in some trouble. I stuck with heads up breaststroke, and eventually calmed myself down. As I did so, I watched the field pull away from me. This was frustrating. I thought of Lisa Bentley, and of how she spoke about taking everything as a positive. I could still envision myself having a great bike and run, but what about the swim?

The only positive was that the turnaround was already close by. I did whatever I could to get there, and rounded the buoy alone.

About halfway back to shore, I flipped over onto my back to rest, and saw the lead women, who had started 5 minutes behind me, coming up fast. I moved aside, and struggled onwards to shore.

When I finally made land, I could move at no faster than a walk. I found my bike, changed gear, and took a swig of Gatorade. I walked my bike to the mount line, and was off.

The bike course features a huge climb, two loops of a hilly area up top the hill, then a descent back to the lake. I was already breathing heavily from the swim, and I knew that the ride would be no fun. I breezed up to the turnoff, then started the long struggle to the top. I passed a few people, and some bikes blew by me - mostly relays, or so I hoped.

At the top of Lees, we turned onto Tower, but kept climbing. I switched to the granny gear, only to have my chain fall off. Grrrr... I thought this was fixed. I put it back on, and continued the climb. Fortunately, I was at Carmichael by then, and the start of the two loops.

The loop was mostly across the wind, with two short bits into the wind. I spent a good amount of the first loop trying to catch my breath. I was pleased with my progress, until I turned onto Airport, and found out just how strong the wind was. I actually overbroke for the corner, not realizing that the turn was 45 degrees, not 90. That lost me some speed from the previous downhill. The rest of the speed was lost on a short, steep hill just past the baseball diamond, on the base.

Just past the hill, and I crawled along, my parents were at the main intersection, cheering me on. I went by, trying to stay low to the wind. A gust from off the runway blew my two feet to the left before I could react. The wind was murder.

Onto Little Down Lane, the yellow Bianchi I'd been tracking slowed up to drink, and I passed him on the right. I had some speed, but nearly blew in on the turn back onto Carmichael. I had to brake hard to avoid going off the road.

This part of Carmichael, I had the wind behind me. It was a gradual uphill, but I had no problem holding 35km/hr. That's how strong the wind was. Yellow Bianchi repassed me, asking jokingly if I had a spare front derailleur. =( So that's why he was clattering and clanging. I charged past him on the downhill, but he caught me on the uphill, and passed me on the subsequent steep uphill. Lap 1 was, however, done.l

The second lap, I picked it up a bit. I felt more comfortable, I took a swig of Gatorade on Carmichael, and another on Springdale. Then, I set myself to picking off a few bikes that were in front of me.

(Have I mentioned how great it feels to pass a Cervelo? I mean, I love the bikes, but still....)

I repassed the Bianchi, and a few others. When I hit the steep downhill, I resolved to carry speed onto Airport. It was a bit nervewracking, but I succeeded, and managed to make it to the top of the short steep hill with a modicum of speed, though it cost me. Past my parents, I was low into the wind, and moving. Hard to believe I broke 30km/h here. I guess maybe it was downhill, but still!

Again on Little Down Lane, I nearly overshot the turn. I powered along Carmichael, catching my breath for the double hill ahead. I powered down the hill, determined to use my momentum on the first uphill. I kept my speed over 30km/h the whole way up it, which was a huge moral victory. Then came the steep uphill, where I was passed (by a Cervelo). Suddenly, we were done the loops, and on the way back down.

The downhill started right away. I looked ahead of myself, trying to figure out where on Lees I was. Eventually, it occurred to me that I wasn't on Lees yet, as Tower was in front of me. Still, the road was good, and I easily held over 40km/h.

Onto Tower, and onto Lees, I started to think about passing a few more people. I'd forgotten, though, that I was going to be a chicken on the descent. Folks passed me while I braked, and that was that.

Onto Trout Lake Road, I was passed on both sides. Remembering my rulebook, I let them both go, THEN took off, repassing both and a few more, into the wind. My family cheered as I rode into T2.

This transition went a bit better. I put on my shoes, grabbed a cap, and took a big swig of Gatorade. My legs were tight, but off I went.

Almost immediately, there were a pair of 30-something men in front of me. A chance to move up in the standing! I passed them both, but was repassed by the 36 when I retied my shoes. I stopped for water on Anita, then repassed him, and had a stretch to myself. The turnaround was at the top of a hill, which I decided to walk. 36 surprised my by repassing, but I caught him by gliding down the hill. When I caught up, he pointed out that he'd picked a good spot on the rack. HIs bike was beside me, and we were keeping compatible paces. It wasn't until I finished that I realized he was likely the yellow Bianchi rider!

I stayed ahead of him until I rewatered, at which point he passed me for good. I had visions of picking it up at the end, but I was pretty beat. I upped my cadence with 800m to go, and passed lady (who may have been my grade school teacher!), but didn't make up any more ground. I huffed and puffed in to the finish.

My results:

750m swim: 21:15, 69/88, 8/10 in my age group
34km bike: 1:17:27, 55/86, 8/10
8.4km run: 40:58, 36/85, 6/10

The race was won by Canadian Ironman star Len Gushe, who it turns out is a local.

All in all, I'm a bit disappointed with the race. My bike and run were ok, but showed I needed work. My swim was a disaster. I need to sort that out before my next triathlon, in two weeks.

Still, the postive I can take is that I recovered nicely from the swim, and I got stronger as the race went on. This is no small success, considering that this was the longest triathlon of my life.

The best part was that I got to do it in front of my family, parents, and in-laws. Somehow, it's so much more gratifying when people you love are there to cheer you on.

ING Ottawa Marathon (#2)

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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.

Around The Bay Report

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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

| 3 Comments

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.

Winterlude

| 3 Comments

The 50 metre pool sure is big.

I had my first ever swim meet today. I had no idea what to expect. Put me at the start line of a road race, I likely won't have much in the way of nerves. But today, there's no doubt that I was battling some nerves.

When you sign up for a specific event, they ask you to give a time. Originally, I left mine blank, but I was convinced last week to change that. They use the times to seed you. They try to put you in heats with people who are as fast as you. Ergo, it's to your own benefit to have a realistic time estimated. That way, when you're hammering towards the finish, there are people around you, and you can feed off them.

Of course, I've never swam in a 50m pool in my life. I've never swam in a swim meet in my life. Will I be faster? Slower? No way to tell.

I will say this - I'm awfully beat for a grand total of 200m racing. I guess all the warmups, cooldowns, and adrenaline added to that.

Hypothermic Half Marathon

| 11 Comments

I've been pretty calm this week. Races are races, but today was a B race, and besides, there was the curse.

Which, of course, hadn't completely left town. I was sick last week - not debilitatingly so, but I did miss a day of work. For those keeping track, that would be 3 of my last 4 half marathons have involved being sick right before the race.

Still, this was the mildest of the three. I hadn't felt terribly debilitated last week. It hadn't felt like it had undone me or sapped my energy at all.

Still....

I barely gave the race a thought yesterday. Sure, I hung around the house as much as I could, and tried not to exert myself. And I drank water in abundance. But other than that, it was a usual Saturday. Well, without the run.

The alarm went off a little early this morning. My wife gave my hand a quick squeeze, and instructed me to go "sub-two". Cheerios and milk, lots of water. A few bathroom trips. A computer game or two in the dark. Usual Sunday morning stuff.

I was out the door before 7. Found the course, but couldn't quite figure where people were parking, so grabbed an empty lot a short walk from the start. Of course, there were no bathrooms near the start line, so everyone was walking past me towards the public washrooms. I followed along, happily. On the way out, I ran into a couple of friends from training, and got a ride to the start line with them. The start line, where 299 of 300 competitors were parked. /sigh

Still, we sat in the warm car and chatted until just before race time. The temperature was a pleasant -1C, but there was a wind from the east. The course ran mainly north/south, so the wind would mostly be a crosswind. Since there wasn't much shelter from the wind, the car was by far the better choice.

Anyways, at 5 minutes to, we headed for the start line. Ran into quite a few friends. Before we got too cold, we were off.

The course was 4 loops of 5km each, then a quick out and back to make up the difference to 21.1km. My goal was to run 27 minutes for the first 5km, stay comfortable for the next 5km, then decide from there. For the start, was determined to start conservatively. If I was destined for a good day, then the start would leave me with plenty in the tank. If I was destined to struggle, then at least I wouldn't have gone out too hard.

Anyways, I ran the first kilometer in 6:00. Like last year, G and K took off ahead of me. This year, though, I had a scheme. Let them take off ahead. I'd reel them in later, if the day went well. Second kilometer was too fast, 5:00. I tried to settle into comfort. Relax. The third kilometer was slower. I'm not sure what my splits were, but I know I finished the first loop in 26:45. More importantly, I felt really good.

The goal for the second lap was to stay comfortable. Kilometers 6 and 7 were done in 5:00 each. Too fast. I was feeling a tiny bit winded. Between the 6 and 7 kilometer marks, a guy kept surging every time I went to pass him. Wasn't sure what was up, but I guess I was offending him. Anyways, I eventually got ahead of him, but decided half a kilometer later to back off a bit. Kilometer 8 was 5:15 or so. I was now around 2:00 over a 5:00/km pace. Just past the 8km mark, I heard someone come right up on my shoulder, breathing heavily, and sit there. I didn't need to look to know who it was. Whatever. I hope I didn't offend the guy at some point, but then again, this is a race, not Sunday tea. He went by me eventually, as did another guy. Off you go. I'm saving myself for the second half.

My 10km split was something like 52:00. Maybe it was 52:15, not sure. Anyways, the second lap was definitely faster than the first. Did I feel ok? Was it time to pick it up a bit? Yes, and yes please.

The 11th kilometer was run in something like 4:50. I repassed the surger somewhere in here. The 12th kilometer was 4:50. The next kilometer was the hilliest, and I think I ran closer to a 5:00. I was starting to count backwards. 9km to go. Just another day on the treadmill. I think I missed my split at 13km, because at 14km I was at 1:11:25, and my watch made no sense to me. I also thought that I was supposed to take a drink from my gatorade bottle, so I did. But the drinks were scheduled for every 4km. You know, 4, 8, 12, 14.... Gah! What the mind does in exertion.

Still, I was feeling good. Also, I was reeling in my 5:00/km deficit. From over 2 minutes behind, I was down under +1:30. The only drawback was that K and G weren't getting an inch closer. Every turnaround, they were stubbornly the same distance ahead of me. (Good for them!)

My split for 15 escapes me. I mean, I know I looked. I know I did some mental math based on it. But it might has well have happened on a different planet. It's gone, now.

Besides, 16km was more interesting 5km to go. I crossed at 1:20:55, I think. The deficit to the magic pace was under a minute. I felt like I could do 25 minutes for the last 5.1km. That put me very, very close to 1:45. Did I want that? You bet I did.

I'm still convinced that I've run something close to 1:45 in training. But races, with exact measurement of distance and time, are what matters. My PB in an actual race is over 1:52. The disparity bothers me.

Anyways, 5km left has a comfortable feeling. Heck, I run 5km at least 5 times a week normally, don't I? It was time to step it up just a little bit more.

Unfortunately, the wind had started to switch. Rather than being out of the east, it was out of the southeast, meaning it was somewhat in my face. I tried to keep myself moving forward, and reel people in.

I don't remember the splits for 17 or 18, but I think my gap went down like 30 seconds over the distance. I distinctly remember seeing +0:25 at some point.

Around 18.5km, I looked up, and saw a green jacket in front of me. I vaguely remembered the woman being way ahead of my at like 5km, and telling myself "I'll catch her". You know, one of those silly things you do when you're mentally telling yourself that it's ok to be starting slow. Anyways, there she was, right in front of me. She'd been in front of K & G every time I'd seen her. (Hey, where were they, anyways?)

Anyways, green jacket lady must have been surging, because I wasn't getting by her. Still, with less than 3km to go, I knew I wasnt' slowing down. So I stuck to my pace, and let her stick to hers.

Besides, there was a bit of a problem. Maybe it was just the crosswind, but my left knee felt tight. Awkward. I couldn't exaclty say how, though. Maybe the IT or hamstring was getting tight? I didn't exactly back off my intensity, but I kept a close eye on the knee.

My 19km split, I remember very clearly. 1:34:55. Boom! I was under 5:00/km. Just like that! I'd made up 2:00, and felt...well pretty good. Strength-wise, I was fine. The knee wasn't getting any worse, so I forgot about it.

I passed green jacket lady with a kilometer and a half to go. I felt like I had strength, and speed, to spare. I started thinking of all the sub-5:00/km runs I'd done, both on the treadmill and outside; especially on the treadmill, I guess, where it was generally easier. I felt like they were all paying off in spades. This was only my third run over 16km in months and months, but the distance wasn't doing me in. The pace wasn't doing me in. We passed the finish line (no 20km split), and started the out and back.

I took it easier on the out loop. Well, easier is a relative term. Let's be more precise. I kicked it up a notch on the way out, and kicked it up again on the way back. Seriously, the last 550m or so I was flying. One very nice lady gave me an encouraging word as I blew by her with 400m to go. Every 4:30 pace workout on the treadmill was being sent mental thanks.

When I saw the gun clock, it was at 1:44:1x. I was pretty sure I could make sub-1:45 easily, but of course when a huge PB is staring you in the face, you go faster. Mush, mush! Whee! It's fun, too, which never hurts.

I stopped my watch in 1:44:24, as I crossed the line. Official gun time was 1:44:34. I cleared my PB by over 8 minutes.

Mentally, the huge PB was a shock. I didn't give myself much chance at sub-1:50 before the race. My 27 minute first loop works out to something like a 1:53 half - right around my old PB. I'd been putting in high mileage weeks, but with only 2 runs over 16km, I was convinced that I would fade on the last loop.

On the other side of the coin, the result is a huge endorsement of the training plan I've been following. Those tough back-to-back runs midweek HAVE been paying off. The higher paces shorter runs have been paying off. I was able to increase my pace over the course of the race, without destroying myself. My legs held up to the distance. Maybe all that added distance taught them to.

Anyways, I'm thrilled with the result. (How can an 8 minute PB NOT thrill you?)

Afterwards, we headed to the Arrow and Loon for breakfast. They were much better organized than last year. The indoor courtyard was open this year. Ok, the lines were still long and slow, but come on, all you can yeat bacon? Pasta? Eggs? Pancakes and french toast? Bacon? How good is that? (Did I mention bacon? And let me tell you, I wasn't dainty about how much bacon ended up on my plate.)

Oh, and now I'm eating cookies as I blog.

Actually, now I'm off to have a shower. It's overdue, and I deserve it!

Ottawa Fall Colours Half Marathon

| 5 Comments

The curse struck again. Yet another half marathon that fails to go according to the original plan.

This was never intended to be an A race. At no point did I ever predict that I would post the kind of time I feel I'm truly capable of. I figured I might set a PB, but only on a perfect day, and only then because all my other half marathons have been disasters of some sort.

When I got sick, really sick, two weeks ago, this race dropped from a B race to an event. Something I'd do. I'd enjoy it, celebrate being a runner, and take whatever the day would offer. Which I guess is what I did.

Great Barrier Breaker 5km

| 8 Comments

aka Revisiting An Old Enemy

Back at the National Capital Triathlon, something funny happened. I laughed about it at the time. It was good news, but it was bad news.

I set a PB in the 5k.

It's actually pretty sad. I ran a 22:12 5k that day, in a triathlon. My previous 5k record was 22:13, which was a split in a 10k. My actual, true 5k road race PB was 27:34.

A Party of One

| 3 Comments

I went to a race, and I was the only one who ran.

Well, technically untrue. Still, I was the only non-child, non-parent who ran the 1 mile. The race was a mass-start for the 1 mile and 4 mile races. When I turned around, I had a strange feeling that I was running all alone.

And I was.

Best of Times/Worst of Times

| 8 Comments

We all got up super-early for the HBC (Hudson's Bay Company) Canada Day Runs. I did the 10km, my eldest did the 1km run, and we all did the 3km walk.

I got up at 5am, and we left the house around 6:40. I ate breakfast and had a lot of water to drink. I also spent at least half an hour in the washroom.

A sign of things to come, and NOT a good one.

The race did not go terribly well. The weather was warmer than what I trained in (despite it being officially only 19), and the humidity was the highest it's been all year. My body did not respond well, tiring early, then cramping badly in the last 5km.

Official time: 1:52:40.4.

Physiotherapy 10k Race

| 5 Comments

The first things I heard this morning were the windows rattling from the wind, and the rain. Oh boy!

I got up, had my oatmeal and a large water. Checked the weather. 6-8 degrees, high of 16, wind, light showers in the morning, thunderstorms in the afternoon. I decide on tights, jacket and a short sleeve shirt. The marathon shirt gets picked, for good luck I guess. I leave a quiet house behind - everyone else is sleeping in. (Hmph!)

Around The Bay

| 5 Comments

I'm finally back home from my trip to Hamilton. Over six hours in the car didn't help my aching quads one bit, but my goodness it's nice to be home.

The weather this weekend wasn't what we'd hoped for. Freezing rain overnight Saturday, with snow, sleet and wind on raceday. Yuck. Fortunately, the precipitation abated about 90 minutes into the race. Unfortunately, it was about that time that my stopwatch failed.

Oh well. But I'd best start at the beginning.

Hypothermic Half Marathon

| 1 Comment

6am alarm. Glass of water and instant oatmeal. Sitting in front of the PC, in a dark quiet house. It could have been any Sunday morning.

A bit before 7:30, get changed. Gatorate bottle, belt. Oh, grab a Power Gel. Knock on the door. Goodbye to the family.

In the car. Drive a block. U-turn. Back to the house. Grab my race kit. This feels like any other Sunday, but it isn't. Time to wake up, Warren!

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  • Cheryl: Right on Wendy! read more
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