Recently in Reflections and Plans Category

Five Long Years

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"It's been five long year and I love you just the same."

Five years ago, I started running.

Ok, it wasn't like turning on a light switch. There had been two previous attempts. My life had been moving in that direction.

I'd love to say I've been a runner ever since, but that's not quite true. Nonetheless, my vision of the future involves me running for as long as humanly possible. It's not something that I plan to give up on.

The greatest gift that running has given me is that I just plain like/love myself more when I'm running. I love the sense of accomplishment, the challenge, the opporutnities to reflect in silence. I love the strength, especially the strength that comes from knowing I've pushed my own limits. Overcoming adversity is good for the soul.

Five years ago I made a resolution, and started on a new path. It has taken me to places that I simply could not have foreseen. It has also presented unanticipated challenges. The new year brings new challenges to life balance and to willpower.

I feel I'm up to the challenges that may come my way. Bring it on!

Kindness of Strangers

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My lack of blogging consistency lately is based primarily in the desire to not be negative here. It's cold out, work is tough, and my willpower is somewhere below my all-time high.

Fortunately, some of the feedback I'm getting is helping to put things into perspective. Joe at See Joe Run/See Joe Swim had an excellent comment which helped to put the swim season into perspective. A friend remarked the other day that I must be really pleased with how training was going, as I was getting much stronger. These kinds of things make me pause and think, and that's generally a good thing.

So I haven't run in two weeks. Work, home, and training in general are still progressing and coexisting. This is life, and success and failure aren't measured by mileage or race times.

Life is good.

Humility

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So as I'm struggling through this morning's swim, the coach asks

"Did you swim this summer?"
"Nope"
"But you ran, right?"
"Umm... a little."

He laughed.

Well, you reap what you sow. Granted, this morning's workout had more kicking than I wanted, but I struggled pretty badly. I earned it, though. Clearly, it's time to get back into proper shape.

It occurs to me that now is an excellent time for a little humility. I'm essentially starting out down the road of two separate endeavours, both of which will involve a lot of learning and hard work. Yes, I ran a great marathon this year, realizing a dream of mine. Yes, I've been active for a few years, and have been in very good shape as recently as this spring. Yes, I'm a smart guy. None of these facts will help me get to where I want to be. The road ahead on both fronts will be a long one, and it would be best if I approached these endeavours with the respect they deserve.

One final word - while travel and other interests kept me out of triathlons completely this year, the swim club's triathlon group has had a great first year. One of the stronger swimmers did his first (and apparently last) iron distance tri this past weekend, and was telling the story this morning. Great stuff. While I'm not going in that direction anytime soon, I'd love to be there someday. Plus, I DO intend to do triathlons next summer - as many as I can. I'll need to, as the plans for a year from now are exciting, and challenging.

I've come a long way, but there's a long way to go. Today isn't the beginning, but it was a beginning.

Winter Goals

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In my last post, I alluded to the fact that my goals this fall would lie outside of running.

My long term goal is to focus more on speed than distance. This applies equally to running, cycling, swimming, whatever. I've asked myself "how much further can I go?" enough times, for now. (For now!!) In order to continue developing as an athlete (that part sounds SO weird), I need to focus on doing what I can already do, faster.

My first short term goal as part of this plan is to swim a World Masters qualifying time in a race, sometime this swim season (before next summer). The qualification times for Perth are listed here. (NB: I am NOT going to Australia, even if I qualify!)

Here's a quick analysis of where I stand with regards to these standards:

Freestyle: 50m is right, right out. I'm not powerful enough to sprint like that. 100m looks tempting - I'd have to improve by about as much time as I did last year. Wait, I'd have to improve by MORE than I improved last year. Of course, I should improve by less time, even if my technique improves by the same amount. So 100m is unrealistic, but I'd like to think I can get close.

200m involves losing 30s. 400m involves losing a minute. I actually suspect I'll make more gains on the 200s and 400s than on the short distances this year, but that's a huge delta.

Backstroke: Get real. (I don't have a single recorded backstroke PB. Now you know why.)

Butterfly: My time from 2 years ago is only 1 second off the qualifying time for the 50m. Wow. Um, seriously wow. Interesting...

I don't seriously believe people swim longer than 50m of butterfly, though. Not if they're sane, at least.

Breaststroke: This has always been my best stroke. So let's see...

My PB is within 2 seconds of the 50m qualification time for the 50m. Nice. The 100 breast qualification is, I think, around 7 seconds faster than I've ever done. That's tough, but honestly, with the speed I had even last season, when breaststroke got the last amount of work, it would be a question of holding a "doable" pace. I really think this might be doable.

The 200 breast time looks extremely fast. They don't let you drop much pace at all from the 100. Also, that would be 200m of crazy leg burn. I really don't think it's doable, but I should probably try some 200s and 400s in training anyways, to get my legs used to the burn.

Individual Medley: My 200 IM swim from last season is "only" 8 seconds off the qualifying time. Two seconds per fify in one discipline sounds reasonable, given enough work. Two seconds per fifty in four disciplines is really only going to happen if you work very hard in all four disciplines.

I really don't see this happening.

The idea of even attempting a 400 IM is just funny at this point. If you're not sure why, read my comment on the idea of doing 100m or more of butterfly. (The 400 IM STARTS with 100m fly....)

Summary: Breaststroke looks like my best chance (big surprise). In 3 years of swimming, though, my breaststroke times really haven't improved much. I may really need some help shaving off even a couple of seconds.

For anything else to happen, my kick is going to have to improve by leaps and bounds. Stronger legs can only help my breaststroke, so I expect to suffer my way through lots of kick drills this fall. If I make a breakthrough on flutter or dolphin kick, the 100 free or 50 fly may be on the cards.


In order to help give myself a chance to succeed in any of the above, I've applied to switch from 2 mornings a week to 3 in master swim. I find the very notion a bit surreal and bizarre, as I only started out doing swimming to cross train, and maybe stop myself from drowning in triathlon. Suddenly, I'm planning 6 months down the road for a swim meet.

Bizarre.

Still, this is as close as I'll ever come to sprinting. It seems as good a place as any to start on my long term goals.

Plus, in the middle of January, I'd rather by driving to the pool than running past it.

Sleepless Reflections

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Insomnia has me wide awake. I haven't run in 10 days, but I've had a lot to think about.

The last 8 months have been pretty amazing. I trained harder than I ever have before. I did my absolute best to balance my training with my home life, and diligence at work. I tried to stay healthy, to make myself fast, and put more miles in than I ever had before.

I succeeded in some things, failed in others. In some, maybe, the jury is still out.

In the end, the marathon was everything I hoped it would be. I ran a negative split. I ran a smart race. I was able to run down Queen Elizabeth Drive, rather than limp. This time, when I crossed the finish line, my arms were raised in triumph.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

I honestly don't think I could have gone any faster, on race day. The last 5km were probably the least amount of fun I've ever had while running. Well, that's not true. I've been in more pain, and run more slowly. I've never had it so tough, though. It was mentally demanding. I'm proud of what I did at the end, keeping going, pushing constantly even though I was suffering. I'm proud of it, but I'm in no hurry to repeat the experience.

Honestly, I fully believe that I have a faster marathon in me. In fact, I think I have a much faster marathon in me. I wanted to break 4 hours, and I probably can. And I will.

But having done all that I've done over the last 8 months, I've gained a fair bit of insight into what that will take. It will mean a lot more speed work. It will mean more miles. It will mean more personal sacrifice. It will mean that I will need to ask even more from my family.

It will mean more pain.

I still have the fire. I want to be faster. I want to break 20 minutes for the 5k. I want to challenge 40 minutes on the 10k. I'd love to run a 1:30 half. If I can do those things, I'll have the speed I need to run the kind of marathon I dream of running.

I came to running with a desire to test my endurance. I was the smallest kid in class growing up. I'm not strong, not fast, not gifted athletically in any particular way. I love endurance sports, though. I love being able to set a pace, and maintain it for hours. Often, when I run, I'm running a pace that I feel comfortable with. I like to push myself to run a little further, but running a little faster isn't something I'm geared towards doing very often.

It's a nice philosophy if you're out for a sense of personal accomplishment. Running my first half marathon felt good. Completing my first marathon felt great. Completing my first olympic triathlon was a thrill.

I've done all that now. I've run as far as I'm likely to ever run. I have proven my endurance, my ability, to myself.

To beat my PBs, to go to the next level, is going to require a change in philosophy. I want to continue to improve. I want to be fast.

I also, incidentally, still want to be a multisport athlete. Swimming, cycling and running are all in my plans.

So are Sunday mornings with the kids.

I've learned a lot, and I've achieved a lot. I suppose I've suffered somewhat, too. Somewhere out on Queen Elizabeth Drive, I decided that I wanted something a little different. I love the marathon to death, and I will come back to it someday.

For the time being, though, I'm done with them. Onwards to something new, something different, and hopefully something a little easier to balance.

Dear Boston Marathon Participants

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I have 5 of you up on my monitor now. Even though I know it's early, I still find myself hitting REFRESH, hoping for some results.

As I continue to struggle to bring my body up to the point where I think I might be able to manage a 4 hour marathon, my admiration and respect for everyone I know who is running Boston, or even just qualified for it, grows. You are amazing people. Having experienced Boston from the sidelines, I know that you're in for an amazing day today. I wish you all best of luck. If you find yourselves down for even a moment today, remember - so many of us out there wish we were you.

New Shoes

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I was expecting a tough morning swim again on Tuesday. While it wasn't as demanding as last week, it was still very much focused on racing.

Our main set was 6x200, choice, with focus on race strategies. We had several different strategies for a 200m swim given, and were encouraged to try several different ones, to see how they feel/work. I only got to try some of the simpler ones, but they definitely seemed to help. Even just a simple plan like build through each 50 seemed to boost my time. I suspect that it has something to do with helping me throttle back early in a race. I would have liked to try the more complex plans, but I guess I have to start somewhere.

I clocked two different runs of 3:20 for the 200 IM, and a 3:10 for the 200 free as the last repetition. Decent.

Afterwards, I came across a blog entry which got me thinking about my swim times in a competetive context. Looking over the top 10 performances in the province last year, most of them are far beyond what I'm capable of. The only ones that didn't seem completely out of reach were the breaststroke times. Honestly, I'm not sure just how fast I can go in breaststroke. I know I'm ok at it, but I also know I haven't worked at it. Can I go any faster than last year? If not, I have a long way to go. If I can pick up a few seconds over the 50, I might not be in bad shape.

Suddenly, I had a fierce desire to do a bunch of repeats of 50m breaststroke, timed. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to benchmark myself on Thursday.

On my lunch break, I went out to buy myself a new pair of running shoes. My Saucony Grid Omni 4s are working great for me, but at 750km already they're due to fade out soon. Unfortunately, the store didn't have any in my size. I ended up trying on 4 different pairs, including Asics and the Saucony Hurricane 8s. The Asics and another pair (New Balance?) were bizarre. The Hurricanes were close, but felt like high heels. The third pair I tried on, though, were really good.

Turns out they were Brooks Adrenaline GTS 7s. The only pair of shoes I've run in that weren't Saucony Grid Omni's were Brooks Adrenaline GTSs. Guess that explains why they worked so well.

I took them out for a short run last night. Once again, no matter how fast it feels like I'm going Tuesday nights, I'm never as fast as I think I am. I turned in a ~30 second negative split last night, and really worked hard, but my time was merely ok. It felt better, and I expected a faster time.

Saturday should be the real test of my speed. Before then, I have a couple of 12km runs to do. Hopefully, as the weather warms up, and I scrape together a bit of extra rest, my zest for the outdoors and for running will slowly return.

Three Week Plan

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My highest ever weekly mileage (kilometerage?) is 63.3km.

Here's my plan for the next 3 weeks:

Week 1 - Total Distance = 58 km
Tues: 6
Wed: 12
Fri: 12
Sat: 6
Sun: 22

Week 2 - Total Distance = 65 km
Tues: 6
Wed: 14
Fri: 14
Sat: 6
Sun: 25

Week 3 - Total Distance = 72 km
Tues: 8
Wed: 14
Fri: 14
Sat: 8
Sun: 28

I've been building my distance slowly (nay, leisurely) since early October, starting in the low 40s per week. Two weeks ago, I peaked in the high 50s, and had a rest/lower mileage week last week. My goal is to ramp a bit more aggressively distance-wise,a nd cut back to around 55-60km in week 4.

Hopefully, now that my plan is recorded, I'll stay healthy long enough to see it through. Since early October, the only real failures in my distance training have been illness-related.

(I don't think I need to explain what caused my dietary lapses. (A little bit of resolve is what I need now.)

2006 - The Year That Was

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Another year has passed under the bridge. In so many ways, it wasn't what I expected. At times, it was disappointing. At times, it was fun. At times, I worked harder than I've ever worked before, and at times, I was lazy and blew off training regularly.

Let's start with the numbers.

Yearly totals:
Running: 1559.46km (+305.46)
Swimming: 192.35km (+48.75)
Cycling: 1207.3km (+340.95)

All my distances are up from 2005. This comes as a small surprise to me. Let's break it down.

By month:
Running:
2006-Graph-Running.jpg

Swimming:
2006-Graph-Swimming.jpg

Cycling:
2006-Graph-Cycling.jpg

Summary:
Running:

In the early part of the year, I was running five times a week, and being fairly consistent with my schedule. Two things effectively derailed my marathon training - tapering and recovering from supposed B races, and an unrelated medical problem which sidelined me for a few weeks. As a result, my training over the first 5 months of the year was inconsistent, and inadequate.

After the marathon, I worked on getting my biking up to speed to do a few triathlons. I ran infrequently and sporadically, with little thought or plan. It showed; while my running wasn't really bad this summer, it wasn't the strength that I usually rely on in triathlons.

I had been planning on not starting to train seriously until November, but as the September race season drifted by (with me not running anything), it occurred to me that I was already more well rested than I had rights to be. So, in October, I got back to running 5 times a week, and slowly building mileage. I've been sick twice since then, but excluding that, my weekly running chart looks pretty consistent.

2006-Graph-Running-2.jpg

I had hoped to hit 1600km this year, and fell just short of that. I really should have run more this summer than I did. However, this didn't really happen out of laziness. I set out to enjoy my training this summer. I wanted it to be laid back, without a strict regime, but with lots of swimming, and riding for fun. It was all that. Running suffered, but I didn't. Not really.

Swimming:

I chose to swim all summer this year, mostly to stay sharp for triathlons. Other than the cold-water nightmare at the North Bay Triathlon, my swimming exceeded my expectations all year. It started with my unexpectedly strong results at my first ever swim meet, and just got better from there. I continued to improve in the pool all year. Even switching coaches in September seemed to help. By December, I was already on the doorstep of meeting my end-of-season (April/May) goals..

Cycling:

What can I say? I loved my bike this year. LOVED it.

The season started with the best ride of my life (hill notwithstanding), and went from there. This summer, Saturday meant 50+km bike rides, usually with a camera and an eye for sightseeing. I looked forward to those rides, and I loved being able to wander far from home.

Sometimes, a year after you make a big purchase, reality starts to set in, and you fall out of love with your expensive new toy. This wasn't the case for me and the still-unnamed road bike.

Overall:

2006-Graph-Summary.jpg

Hmmm, what to say? Race-wise, this was a very weak year for me. I essentially had one good race, maybe two. Ok, two - the half marathon in January, and my first ever olympic triathlon in August. Ok, and the swim meet was good, I said that already. Still, I didn't run many races, and most of those weren't run particularly well.

It comes down to training. This year, I showed that I could train very well (leading up to the half marathon in January), and that I could train very poorly (spring and summer). The choice was mine - was I going to be forever a laid-back athlete who ran casually but never really pushed himself, or was I going to be all that I could be?

My last three months has been the beginning of my crafted answer to that question. I have five months to go to the marathon. Along the way, without damaging my marathon training, I plan on shattering a few PBs. I plan on being very serious and attentive to my training. I owe it to myself to build on the lessons I've learned in 2006.

Highlights:
Best training run:

Nothing hugely stands out this year, so maybe I'll nominate this one. I was in the right frame of mind. It was a nostalgic, if cold, run.

Best training swim:

On a couple of occasions this year, I've really been able to notice the difference that being coached in swimming makes. Obviously, it helps improve from and technique. Sometimes, though, being coached can coax me to push myself harder than I might have pushed myself on my own.

This swim featured an excellent mix of being pushed, being instructed, and being educated. Maybe this is why I'm liking swimming far more than I ever thought I would.

If I was counting races, the half hour open water swim in Mooney's Bay would be it. Rhythm, solitude - I was in a zone I'd never been in before.

Best ride:

I think I said this already. New England. I seriously can't thank Jank enough.

Worst moment:

Wondering if I was in danger of drowning in North Bay Triathlon. I managed to get my emotions under control, and got the swim done, but at some point out there in the cold, cold waters, I forgot everything I knew about myself and about swimming and panicked.

Best moment:

I just conquered Boston, ARRRR!

I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again - I can't thank Jank, flipperhead or runninmomma enough. Jank and his family were simply awesome hosts, flipperhead was very patient and gracious as my lifeline, and runningmomma and family guided me around a strange city in a strange country. Hopefully, someday, I'll be able to repay my new friends for their generosity and hospitality.

All of which enabled the highlight of my year - watching my favorite super hero - the Amazing Hip - run the Boston marathon. It meant a lot to me to be there, supporting jeff, and taking in one of the most amazing races on the planet. I mean, I even got to see the Hoyts!!

Boston was a hugely motivational and enjoyable experience for me. I'd love to go back as a runner - someday. I'm at least 2 years away from being able to try, though. And it's entirely possible that I don't have enough natural speed to make ever qualify. If this year was as close as I'll ever come to the Boston Marathon, well, all I can say is that it was still pretty darned awesome.

Having experienced the highs and lows of 2006, I can't wait to see what 2007 has in store for me.

Whither Blogging

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I've been hit by the scourge of blogging - comment spam. Like every good thing out there, there's always someone who wants to come along and rain on the parade. For now, I'm keeping an eye on it. If it remains a problem, then I may consider blocking all comments for a time.

I've followed quite a few running/fitness blogs, off and on, over the last year or two. I've avidly hung on the words of everything from world class athletes to penguins. I get a great deal of motivation, inspiration, and wisdom out of my blog subscriptions. Some of that even pertains to running!

I've always been pretty clear, though, on my own target audience. Basically, the audience that matters most to me is me. I get value out of writing my thoughts down. I reread my own posts from time to time, wondering what I was thinking or doing that was working (or wasn't). Everyone has their own reasons for writing, and I respect that, but for me, if nobody else ever read my blog, that would be just fine.

That said, I know that friends and family do read the blog. If it helps them understand what training means to me, then all the better. While, in general, I don't write to them, I happy that they listening in.

As for the blogosphere in general, well, if I can give back any of the insight or inspiration I've obtained from my own readership, then all the better. If not, well, I can live with that. Maybe some people need the feedback that their blogs generate - I can understand this, and generally try to comment when I have something to add. Me, I appreciate the feedback, but I don't go looking for it. If nobody comments on one of my posts, I generally figure I've accidentally been clear and concise, for once. :P

Anyways, everyone has their own reason for blogging. There are some fantastic, generous, wise people out there blogging, and I'm glad I've gotten to interact wtih them. If things do end up changing around here, I certainly hope that the legitimate commenters do not take it personally.

Done.

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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."

A Tourist in Boston

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Well, it's confirmed. I'll be spectating the Boston Marathon next week. I can't express how much I'm looking forward to the trip. I can't wait to see jeff run his race. I can't wait to see my (fast) friend who will be running. I'm going to be close enough to a legend to touch it.

I can feel the excitement. It's already transforming itself into motivation. 'cause you know, once a monkey sees something, he'll probably want to do it, too.

Putting the Curse to Bed

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Well, the half marathon curse is finally beaten. It took five races, but I've finally put in a reasonable half marathon race. No injuries, no sickness, no weather troubles, no bad decisions.

Hindsight is a funny thing, though. The curse looks a lot smaller in retrospect than it did at the time.

Sure, getting sick before a race is bad luck. But if you run enough races, it's bound to happen sooner or later. Getting negative about it is the wrong way to go. There will always be another race.

In the end, the reasons that this race was better than the others were twofold - training and strategy. I took last May's half marathon very seriously, but when I looked over my training data for March/April/May of last year, my mileage didn't really follow an obvious progression. Mentally, I wanted to peak at the end of May, but I don't think that the training that I did helped this happen as much as it could have. I've been much more disciplined and focused the last few months, not to mention faster, and running more distance per week. Put it all together, and I was better prepared physically to race a half marathon than I'd ever been.

Of course, I thought I'd been prepared in the past. Each failure had taught me to be more focused and committed the next time. Suddenly, rather than a string of failures followed by a success, I can see a process of learning how to run a half marathon well. Each race was a learning experience. I learned from them, and they helped me succeed in this race.

The other main contributing factor was my strategy. My plan was to run slow at the start. I really wanted a negative split. Even if that didn't happen, I wanted to avoid starting too quickly. This was my biggest mistake last May.

How did I do this time? On Monday, I estimated my times for each of the 4 5km loops:
Loop 1: 26:45
Loop 2: 25:30
Loop 3: 24:00
Loop 4: 23:30
1.1 km: 4:39

I'm thrilled that I was able to go faster the further into the race that I went. If I'd known that I could run sub-5:00/km the whole second half, I might have wanted to start faster. It's a tough decision to make, though, because once you bonk, you're done. Still, experience tells me that next time, I might be able to go out a little bit harder. There's room to go faster, I think.

My speed at the end blows me away. I likely ran under 4:20 for the last kilometer. I reallly WAS flying. If anything, maybe I had too much energy at the end. Not a bad thing to know about myself.

So when I put together decent weather, health, a good training plan and a solid race strategy, suddenly it all comes together. Surprising? It shouldn't be. I've learned my lessons, and I've applies my past experience successfully. That's all.

Listening to Eleanor

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"Do one thing every day that scares you."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
(Thanks to Susan for the quotation.)

Well, I've met Eleanor's quota for the day. I have officially signed up for a Masters Swim Meet. Based on a perusal of previous years' results, I should be one of the slowest swimmers in the pool, period. I mean, I might be able to keep up with the 60 and 70 year olds, but then again, I might not. I certainly won't be anywhere near anyone in my age group.

Still, it should be a good experience. It should be fun, despite the butterflies. It should be a chance to learn and grow. And it should be an excellent opportunity to show my children what it is that I do two mornings a week. If it inspires them even a little, then all the better.

Punished

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I signed up for Around The Bay today, so it's official. It'll be my third year in a row there. Here's hoping for better weather than last year.

There were definitely a few lessons to be learned from yesterday's run. For starters, I think BodyGlide has a problem with cold weather. The less said about that, the better. Secondly, I need to get used to a water bottle belt again. Two hours with one yesterday left me with a very sore spot on the small of my back. I've run with this belt in years past without a problem, so I'm guessing that I just need to readjust.

Last, but not least, was the nap. Last weekend I ran 18km, and felt sort of groggy all day. After 20km yesterday, I ended up falling asleep in mid-afternoon. I'd really rather avoid doing so on Sundays after my long run, because it reduces the amount of time I have with my family. Yesterday, though, it grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and didn't give me a choice.

I'm really hoping to minimize the impact that Sunday runs have on the rest of the day, so it's something I'll have to think about in the coming weeks.

During the run yesterday, the subject of pacing for long runs came up. K, who is generally faster than I am but suffers from frequent shin problems, had some interesting points to make on the subject. He almost always suffers from shin problems during marathon training and has to adjust by backing off the pace. In training for Disney, though, he ran his long runs slower than usual. For the first time, he avoided shin problems, and was able to put in his second fastest marathon.

All of which is going to make me think pretty hard about what lies ahead. I'd love to be able to put in a longer race at 5:00/km (~1:45 half, ~2:30 AtB or ~3:30 marathon), but maybe trying to achieve that pace in training does not make sense. Most of my shorter runs are done in the 4:20-5:00/km range. If I content myself with running 5:45-6:15/km on Sunday long runs, will that get me to where I'm going? If it cuts the chance of injury, it may be worth it, even if it slows me down a bit on race day.

Hmmmm....

December 1st

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Well, my 2-month downtime for the year is done. Yup, October and November were all about rest, recovery, healing, and trying to figure out what would work in the future. All in all, they were a success.

So far, I'm still thinking of having 3 "A" races next year - Around the Bay (30k), National Capital Marathon, and the Canadian Half-Iron Triathlon. "B" races I'm looking at are the Hypothermic Half Marathon, and the Smith's Falls, Sharbot Lake, and possibly other olympic triathlons. Part of me would love to see my 10k and half marathon PBs lowered, but realistically that will be tough to fit in. At best, I may squeeze in a "C" half marathon in April, and a "C" 10k or two in July and August.

November was surprisingly busy. I put in over 110km of running, which is on par with my half marathon preparation back in April and May. I also put in my first month over 15km of swimming, soaring up to over 18.5km. The jury is still out, at least a little bit, on 5 runs a week, but so far I think it's the right way to be going.

The major change that's going to happen now that December is here is that my diet is going to matter again. No more chips at work. No more cookies and ice cream whenever I feel like it. I'm not a weight freak, and I don't care if I lose 10 pounds over the next 6-9 months or not. But I do care if my diet holds back my training, so starting now I'm aiming to be conscienscious.

My plan for the next four months is clear. Swim twice a week. Run five times a week. Be consistent. Add distance slowly. Try to capture and maintain speed, if and when I can. Avoid injury, always the elusive grail of training hard. I've proven to myself in the past that I can run distance. Now, it's time to ask harder questions of myself. How fast can I go? How hard can I work? How much better shape can I be in?

When the snow melts in April, and Around the Bay is done, I'll need to evaluate what my plans are with regards to cycling. I really have no idea how that's going to work out. But for now, my path is clear. There's something that I want very badly. This plan, if it's workable, is about giving myself what I want.

The gauntlet is thrown down. Like every good challenge, the outcome is in doubt. Let it begin.

The OPTIMISTIC Road Ahead

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I'm still very pumped up about Saturday's race. I'm totally satisfied with the effort I put out. I think that this race is the first real sign that the belief and confidence I had in my abilities before I started running were valid and true. I'll never be an elite runner, but the ability to be a good runner lies within me. After a lot of hard work, that good runner is starting to emerge.

Saturday's race is probably my best ever, period. Emotionally, though, my marathon stands as a much bigger achievement, one I'll savour long after Saturday's run through the farm is forgotten.

Run for the Cure Plans

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For the last two years, my wife and I have made a point to run the "Run for the Cure" run in support of breast cancer research. This year will be no different.

Over two years ago, we met our neighbour's sister, K. K had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and was undergoing chemotherapy. K wasn't coping well with chemo, and would often spend time at her sister's, recuperating, and getting to know her only niece.

Bike Practice

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I've been our for a couple of short rides on the new bike now. Up and down the street on Wednesday night. Around the block a few times Thursday morning, after swimming. Today, I went even a little further afield, putting in 9km.

I still have some nerves about the race tomorrow. Part of it is the swim. My swimming has been getting stronger, but 500m all at once is still a lot for me. Plus, if I really concentrate on form, I can go faster, but my arms tend to wear out pretty fast. I need to keep working on my arm and shoulder strength.

Running is problematic. My running has dropped off in the last few weeks. I'm aiming for an October half, but I'm going the wrong way. My cardio is still strong, and I've had good speed the times that I've run, so I guess my biggest concern is going to be developing an overtraining injury.

As for the bike tomorrow, there's a lot to be excited about, but there's also a lot to be nervous about. The new bike is fast. I was putting in some speeds into the breeze this morning, on flat roads, that made me grin. The bike is so smooth, and geared up so much faster than my old one though, that I may have difficulty pacing myself. The 30km distance tomorrow represents one of my longest rides of the summer. Ergo, I will most likely fade towards the end, and have to start conservatively.

Plus, there's the whole clipping thing. If I fall over, I fall over. But I'd hate to scratch my bike, and I'd really hate to knock someone else over.

Oh well. Whatever happens, I'll do my best to take time after the race to cheer on the half and full Iron distance racers. That's bound to be worthwhile.

Reflections on my First Triathlon

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Saturday's Riverkeeper Try-a-Tri was my first dip into the world of triathlons. While I generally felt physically capable of doing the longer sprint distance, I looked at Riverkeeper as a learning opportunity.

In this regard, I definitely got my money's worth.

It's taken some thought and reflection, but I can finally say it. I'm proud of my race on Sunday.

Pushing Myself?

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From a strictly running perspective, I can't help but wonder if I should have pushed myself harder this weekend. Maybe I've been reading too much Chris Brogan, but I can't help but wonder if my state of exhaustion on Friday wasn't a good and proper thing. Sooner or later, to put in a strong race, I'm going to have to get a little uncomfortable.

Of course, part of my problem mentally is that I feel as though I'm running out of time. The calendar doesn't lie, though; there are still 7 weeks to go until the half marathon. This is no time to panic.

One final word: apparently, Marc Herremans has written a book. If only someone would translate it into English.

So Much To Say

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Let me tell you a little story about chess.

Ready To Go!

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I love pre-race excitement. I can't wait to get to Hamilton. I can't wait to see what's in the race kits. I can't wait to get to the start line. I'm really looking forward to the race experience.

I ran last night, a fast, short 4-4.5 km. I felt fine. The knee didn't complain at all. I felt strong. Ready.

Watching, Waiting

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I skipped swimming this morning. This was always part of the plan, though. I'll be doing my short run tonight with the half-marathon clinic, barring a major emergency.

The knee is noticeably better today. There's no pain, and I have a full range of motion. It still feels weird from time to time. Tonight should be a good indicator of whether that means anything or not.

Given my current injury stress, I couldn't help but be humbled by Jonathan Segal's Moment. My injury is much less severe than his, but my problem is the same. Fear. Time will tell, but tonight could be my opportunity to cast aside these worries, and start looking forward to a great day on Sunday.

Ludicrous Speed

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I've put in a couple of short, quick runs over the last few days. Unfortunately, they've been on new routes, so I'm not too certain exactly how fast I've been going.

I've been thinking a lot about my race strategy for next weekend. I'd been hoping (ok, dreaming) that I'd be able to set out on a 5:00/km pace, and keep it up basically the entire way (excepting, obviously, the hill at kilometer 27). A combination of snowy runs, watch failures (some of which were my fault) and runs over unfamiliar routes leave me with a lot of uncertainty as to what pace I'm capable of running.

The Runner's Web poll of the week asks, "What is your fastest (all-time) mile performance?" Good question, I thought. I have no idea. I've certainly never raced the distance! I decided to pour over my interval sessions from last summer, to try to find the answer.

Reflections

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Woke up this morning with sore quads, and some sprouting self-doubt.

My Running History

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I've been meaning for some time now to document how I got to where I am now, running wise. Since it's a rest day, and since Annalisa of RBF made me think of it, I figured I'd jot it all down.

Pace Goals

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I've really only been a runner for just over 2 years now. My goals when I started running were to find out just what I was capable of. In other words, I wanted to know how far and how fast I could go.

Last year's marathon answered the question of how far, at least for now. Since then, my focus has been increasingly on pace.

Anatomy of a Season

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All in all, I think I'd call 2004 a success. Sure, there was the IT Band thing in March, and September taught me in no uncertain terms that (re)learning to swim and running were NOT going to coexist. Nonetheless, both of my goal races, my first marathon on May 30th and my 10k PB on Sept. 6 were successes.

Every season needs a downtime, though, and Septmeber and October were it. I swam consistently, slowly learning to extert myself while NOT breathing whenever I wanted. Eventually, I started to learn to balance swimming and running, but by then it was November.

The summer of 2004 retaught me a love of racing. I'm not fast, and will never be, but the opportunity to measure myself is something that I relish. Having had my fill of 10ks for the time being, I wanted something longer, and I wanted it soon.

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