Recently in Run Report Category

Mooseman Report: Run

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Off the bike, first thing I did was hit the port-a-potty. I put on my running shoes (forgetting to take off my bike shirt), grabbed a power bar and a bottle of gatorade, and I was off!

...sort of.

I walked the first half mile, power bar and gatorade in hand. I had intended to fuel up in transition, but it occurred to me that I might as well walk while doing so. If nothing else, it would stretch my legs out for the run (or shuffle) that was to come.

I suppose it looked funny, but c'est la vie.

Eventually, I couldn't eat any more, and I put them both down by the side of the road. The first mile was an awful slow shuffle, as my legs were in no hurry to wake up and come around. I drank 2 cups of gatorade, and the second mile was better.

When I came to the one steep climb on the out, I made the conscious decision to walk it both times (double loop run). The words in my head were "this is not the battle I really want to win". No regrets, there.

There was a lot of music along the course, and occasionally I stopped to do a little jig. Just after the turnaround, there was a barbershop quartet. I stopped and faked scoring them a perfect 10. It was just so great to have distractions along the course. :)

Bill looked like he was 30-40 minutes up the road from me. He looked strong, and we had kind words for each other whenever we passed.

On the first loop, I peed twice, then peed again back at the transition area before the second loop. Clearly, I wasn't dehydrated - just the opposite!

Near the end of the first loop, I had my second chocolate power gel. It tasted every bit as bad as the first. A careful reading caused me to exclaim, aloud "oh, no wonder it tastes bad - it's coffee!". Yup, that icky chocolate power gel I'd gotten at the aid station was, in fact, espresso. With caffeine.

On the second loop, I drank a bit less, at least until I had a spasm in my calf. I took that as fair warning, and started drinking more gatorade again. I also had a second power gel - I chose vanilla from the bowl. :)

When I hear the drums up near the turnaround, I knew for sure I was going to finish. I was buoyed, and had to rein in my emotions.

After the turnaround, I was able to continue running most of the time, which made me very happy. A few more calf twinges prevented me from picking up the pace, even when I saw by my watch that I had a shot at sub-7 hours. Finishing upright and smiling was far more important to me than some arbitrary number, so I walked when I needed to.

I managed to finish in a shade under 7 hours in the end, so it's just as well I didn't push myself.

That's right. I finished. Longest open water swim in my life. Second longest day ride in my life. Longest I've run in 2 years. All in one day.

Wind at my Back

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Who knew a tailwind could be a bad thing?

I've been battling tension headaches and general malaise for a while now, but it couldn't stop me from getting a sweet ride and a solid run in on the weekend.

Sunday I opted to run around the block. I started out into a stiff breeze, and was looking forward to having a tailwind coming home. Alas, when I finally turned to the east, I found out that the wind had been keeping the bugs out of my face. Suddenly, running about the same speed as the wind, the bugs had free reign around my head and face.

I tried picking up my pace, but I really only shook them when the wind gusted. On the other hand, the quickened pace felt good. Granted, I could tell that I wasn't quite in the right shape to maintain that pace just yet, but it was like running into an old friend.

It's taken a couple of days for me to recover from the run, and I'm sure that the added pace contributed to that. Still, whatever I lost on the physical side, I gained on the mental side. Running, at best, is pure joy.

Finally Ran

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The weather was wonderfully mild this weekend, so I took the opportunity to finally get a run in. 20 minutes later, my quads would be sore for days.

This is not very good news.

A week of hard swimming coaxed me into a 35.00 50m free on Friday, and Sunday's bike (trainer) was 70 minutes long.

Things are moving forwards, at any rate.

The Wii fit is getting me a bit weight obsessed, which I hate. I'm trying to weigh myself less, and make some dietary changes. As the weather warms, though, I'm sure the weight will start to drop.

I've also started the 100 pushup challenge, but will be repeating week 3 (column 2) as I couldn't complete any of the final sets.

Memories

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As it happened, Bill is in town this week. He invited me to come downtown for a run with him.

After Bill was such a fabulous host a while back, how could I resist?

Speaking with Bill on the phone the night before, it was hard not to notice his enthusiasm for running in Ottawa. He'd already seen the parliament buildings, run across the river, and down the canal. Hearing his joy, I remembered loving running those paths, back before I exiled my running to suburbia. Back when I ran.

The day had promised nothing but sunshine, but dark clouds were rolling in when I met Bill. Undeterred, we set off to expore eastwards, down the Ottawa River.

I've only met Bill twice, but I can tell you he's one of the easiest people to get along with that I've ever met. He's enthusiastic, laid back, is a geek, loves running, loves cycling, works in the same industry as me.... There was no shortage of things to talk about (though there may have been a shortage of breath - one of us was clearly in better shape!), and the miles flew by.

The downriver run is probably the least "pretty" of the 3 runs, but it's still fairly nice. I tried to play tour guide, pointing out the art gallery, the mint, Rideau falls, the prime minister's residence and Rideau Hall. Rather than being on the water, we were high above it, with important buildings overlooking the water.

As we crossed over Rideau falls, it started to rain. Within minutes, it was raining hard - a cool, drenching fall Canadian rain. Bill bore it stoically, and we looped around Rideau Hall before heading for home.

It was over all too quickly. 45 minutes, what the gmap pedometer called 7.4 km. And before I knew it, my exile to suburbia had been reinstated.

I can only thank Bill for the superb company (again!), and for reminding me how lucky I am to live here.

Comfort Zone

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It was a bit colder than I would have liked this morning, but circumstances dictated that either I run early, in the cold, or wait until much later in the day. Given my recent track record for actually getting in those "later in the day" runs, I opted for the cold.

Next week's swim meet was very much on my mind. Also on my mind was the fact that spring will soon be here (maybe??), and that I'll need to start training harder.

As a consequence, I didn't take a walk break until the turnaround, and after that I picked up my pace a bit. I hit the turnaround in around 15 minutes, but managed to come home in 13 minutes.

On the way back, since I don't have a good feel for my speed yet, I aimed to try to keep myself just outside of my comfort zone. The theme for this year is going to be to spend as much time as I can training outside of my comfort zone, with an eye to becoming both faster and stronger. While it was only a 5km run, today's run was tough both because of the cold and because I pushed myself. It's a good start.

Habits

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They say it takes two weeks to form a habit. Yesterday was the second Sunday in a row that I'd run. It was also the fourth week a row that I'd run, once.

The local 5km route is a lot tougher than I remember it being. I've been consistently slow at it so far. Yesterday, though, I went out a little harder than usual. Last spring, I was able to run the out and back route on a zero split at will. Today, thanks to going out hard, I managed a hefty positive split of one minute.

One thing I'm very much focused on right now is stretching, and I did a very good job yesterday, despite the cold. The goal is to keep my legs healthy and strong(ish) over the winter, with a mind to picking things up come spring. Any extra work I can do now to avoid pain and injury has to be a good thing.

A Walk in the Park

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Sunday I opted for an 8km run, rather than my usual 5. It didn't feel great, but it didn't feel bad, either. Another baby step forwards, I guess.

Afterwards, we went pumpkin picking, and spontaneously decided to take a walk along Stonebridge Trail. There were lots of people out, walking in groups. There was even an elderly couple riding their bikes. In the park along the way was an Ultimate tournament.

Even though most of the leaves have dropped, now, the colours were still the highlight of the show. Every nice day feels like the last one of the year, and something to be cherished.

Of course, after an 8km run and a 5km walk, there was a price to be paid. My hamstrings were quite sore for the rest of the day, and I crashed hard come sundown. But that's...another story.

Running At Lunch

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I barely qualify as a runner these days, but I'm hardly feeling sorry for myself over it.

Monday was Thanksgiving, and after swim club some of us went out for breakfast. I ended up at a table with two people who'd done at least a half iron distance triathlon this summer. There were lots of stories told, with the occasional "Well, you know what it's like, Warren. You're a runner/marathoner, right?" I smiled.

Today I slipped away from my desk around 10:30, got changed, and headed out into the mist and drizzle for a short run. About 2.5 km away there's a park that I've taken to including in my lunchtime runs. Today, rather than run through, I stopped, and walked around.

There were throngs of people in the park, with paths lined with flags and police type tape, tents from the rain, and children running everywhere. The regional cross country running meet was on, only a short distance from work. Better yet, my son had elected without any prompting to join the team, and was competing in an 800m race.

He was playing soccer with his friends when I found him. He was quite surprised to see me. "Why, I was just out for a run," I joked.

I'd taken him our for a quick run on the long weekend. We'd walked over to the school, and he'd shown me the loop he practices on every day. We did four loops, which annoyed him, because at recess they only do 3. I talked to him about what a negative split was, and he told me stories about him passing his classmates.

When the girls in his class lined up for their race, the boys hung around near the start line, cheering them on. Eventually the pace bunny appeared and led them, and the girls were off. The boys all rushed to their corral, and stood shivering there for at least 10 minutes. There were about 25 corrals, most of which were in use by the various schools present. When all schools were ready and the bunny well rested, they, too, were off.

I tried to spot my son in the rapdily converging throng, but could not. All that meant was that he was not one of the early leaders, nor one of the early trailers. I jogged around to the midpoint of the race, and waiting for the kids to come. After cheering the bunny on ("you can take them!!"), I started cheering for all the kids wearing the son's school colours.

I had no idea what to expect, but somewhere around 30th (out of maybe 150-200 kids) I saw my son go by. He was looking very strong in comparison to the kids around him, and passed one boy as he went past. I stayed where I was, cheering each boy from his class, cheering by name for the boys I recognized.

When the runners were all gone, I ran over to the finish line. I had to dodge some traffic, and missed my son finishing, but saw him in the chute. He had finished in the top 20, and was very pleased with himself.

By the time he got to me, he was still breathing heavily, so I offered to walk it off with him. He told me that he'd felt pretty bad around the 3/4 mark, but I guess he found a second wind, because he kept passing people, including a classmate who had gone out much too quickly.

We walked back to his school's tent, where he grabbed his lunch and sat down to eat. At that, I said my goodbyes, and ran back to work.

Ok, so I only ran 5km in 2 hours at lunch, but I can't think of a better way to have spent my time!

Deltas and Integrals

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After a day of flying and a day of driving, I'm finally back home.

For the first two days I was home, it rained pretty much nonstop. Sure, I'll train in inclement weather - when I have something to train for. Right now, it feels (rightly or wrongly) like I don't, so I settled for pushups and situps. I (more or less) averaged 40 situps and 30 pushups for the two days. I could feel the strain on my shoulders on the second day, though.

Today, the sun broke through, so as soon as I got up, I headed straight for the TV. It was time trial day on the Tour de France, and I wasn't going to miss it.

I chatted with jeff before the tour started about cynicism and cheating in the tour. I, for one, can not watch the tour wondering who is cheating and who is not. It ruins the experience for me. So, just like baseball, track and field, triathlon and everything else, I cheer for my favorites, hope for some excitement and drama, and curse the cheaters when they're found guilty.

Speaking of drama, nobody brings it to the tour like Alexandre Vinokourov. He's a combination of moronic and fearless. He turned a boring stage into a great one on Thursday, and he entertained again today. He may not have the finesse to be the overall threat that some see him to be, but once again today he showed that he can make the race interesting.

The best part of today, though, was seeing Rasmussen hold onto the yellow jersey. The hills undoubtably helped him, but it was a gutsy performance through and through. The time trial in Paris may be his undoing, but he's a man who is capable of winning the race. The next few days should be key for him.

Anyways, once the drama of the Tour was done, I headed outside for a quick 5km run. The run was a bit shorter than the runs I did on vacation, but it was also a bit cooler and a fair bit lower in altitude. I felt a bit better on the run than I had at altitude, but not very much. What seemed to help is that, the further into the run I'd gone, the more oxygen I'd been able to take in. My chest started hurting about a mile from the end, but I never quite fought for air the way I had a week or two ago.

The big difference was how much faster I was running, for slightly less effort. The shorter run helped, but maybe everything did. While I wasn't exactly fast, the pace wasn't embarrassing, and I was able to fight through the chest pains to finish strongly.

Now that my vacation is coming to a close, I need to start pushing myself out the door more consistently.

Lots of Reasons

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There are lots of reasons that I hadn't run in a week and a half.

For starters, I'm on vacation. My schedule has changed, and I'm not always thinking "run" as soon as I get up. I've missed a couple of runs that I wanted to do because I didn't remember until hours later. It seems that there's always something else to occupy my attention when I could be running.

There's also the altitude change. I'm about 1000m above where I usually train. My first day here, I was playing backyard soccer with a couple of kids, and was shocked by how easily winded I was.

The heat isn't helping, either. I struggled with 15-20 degrees before the marathon, and haven't trained much since. Suddenly, it's 30 degrees every day, and I can't just train at any time of the day like I used to.

Despite all of this, I made it out this morning. For all these reasons, though, my run was inglorious.

I plotted out a 6km route, and decided to take it easy on the first half. At the 3km turnaround, I was averaging a tepid 5:30/km, and feeling ok. Around 4km, though, I could feel myself fading. At 5km, I had a hill to climb, and I was cooked. I finished the 6, but my average pace had slowed to almost 6 minutes per kilometer.

Still, I survived. Hopefully, I'll run again in a couple of days, and it will be the start of a new (old) habit.

A Tourist at the Forge

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It took me a while yesterday to realize that it had, in fact, been three weeks since the marathon. Time flies.

I knew that I hadn't run in a week, though. I was planning to run Tuesday morning, but then it occurred to me that I was actually free on Tuesday night for a change. The triathlon group at masters swimming runs on Tuesday nights, and they were doing Stonebridge Trail, one of the better local running spots. I decided that I wanted to attend.

It was fairly hot out for the run. It was also windy, and rainclouds were building, so it's possible that it cooled off as we ran. Still, the heat was more than I was used to. Oh, who am I kidding? It was my second run in June, and the running was more than I was used to.

Still, it felt good to be out. It felt good knowing that I had done my pushups and situps (which have been irregular at best) the day before, and that I was working on two days of "training" in a row. We ended up running on a trail that's very close to home that I didn't even know was there, which was awesome.

What wasn't so awesome was the heat, nor the blasts of hot air. It was like I was in a forge, slowly recrafting myself into something new. As I followed along at the back of the pack, I could see clearly where I wanted to be. I wanted to escape from being a cold weather runner who wilted in the heat. I wanted to be the guy out in front, setting and holding my own pace, rather than trying desperately to keep up with the pack.

I finished the run feeling very much beat by the run. Later in the evening, the top of my left foot started bothing me again. By the next morning, my left knee/hamstring was tight, just like before the marathon.

Ok, so the rest phase really shouldn't be over yet. Still, I think the lazy phase is. I'm willing to give myself more time to recover, but I'm not quite willing to be lazy any more. It's been nice, I guess, but it's not really me. At very least, it's not where I want to be.

16 days

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In the last 16 days, I have swam once, done a few pushups and situps, but I have not run. I have not even gotten on my bike.

What I have done is eat ice cream, jujubes, and say "Hey, look at me, I'm not breaking training!" Haha! It's been nice, and all, but sooner or later, I was going to have to get back out there.

It took a while for the itch to come, but after failing to get the bike out this weekend, it was starting to get urgent. When I was awake at 5:30 this morning, I knew it was time.

Since I haven't had the chance to look my bike over yet, I opted for a run. It was probably
20 degrees (68F) by the time I got out the door. I took it easy, more or less. It felt pretty much like what you'd expect it to feel like, if you haven't run in the last 16 days, and haven't really run in heat for half a year or more. I creaked, I groaned, I sweated. I'll spare the details.

I think I'll take my bike out tonight, and prep it for a morning ride tomorrow.

3 days to go

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Did my last run before the marathon today. Opted for 5km, easy.

Maybe it's just that I've been playing with the kids the last couple of days, but my left hamstring is still bugging me. (I know I should be taking it easy these days, but I am very restless.) I have to remind myself of how much worse it was 2-3 weeks ago. I can run normally now. I can lift my left leg up onto a ledge to stretch it without using my arms. It really is so much better than it was.

Besides, I was running 32km back when it was worse. It should be fine on race day.

My mind has been racing for days now, full of nervous energy. I guess experience is helping, though, as I haven't found much need to worry or stress about what's ahead, yet.

The race expo opens tonight, and I'm debating heading down to pick up my kit. I have lots of time, but as I get closer to the race, I'll want to go out of my way less and less. Still, I love the expo, with all the running gear and general buzz. Once I go, I know I'll be excited about the race.

10 days to go

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Monday morning I woke up with a sore throat. By Tuesday evening, I was coughing, just as my kids has been. Coincidence? Not likely.

What's a good taper without getting sick?

Thursday morning, my head was clear again, so I went out for a ~13.5 km run around the neighbourhood, along one of my favourite routes. I started out fast and strong, with my knee barely noticeable at all. The first kilometer rolled by in 5:15. The first 6km rolled by in 29:55.

At around the 7km mark, on a forest trail which follows along the river, I started to cough. Almost immediately, I could feel my breakfast wanting to come up. Ugh. I backed off the pace, got my breathing under control, and continued. As long as I wasn't breathing too hard, everything felt ok.

After the run, I had to do some walking, and my right calf bothered me a bit. Ergo, I'm still not at 100% health yet. Still, it felt good to be fast today.

10 days to go.

Another Sunday

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I sat down to map out a 24km route on Sunday morning. My first attempt wound up just about dead on 22km. Good enough.

Surprisingly, I felt pretty good almost right from the start of the run. I ran the first kilometer in 5:50, and settled into a very consistent ~6:00/km pace.

Around 9km, just as my morale was starting to soar, my right calf/achilles started twinging. It never quite became painful, but it was noticeable off and on for the rest of the run. It was frustrating, but since it was only uncomfortable and not debilitating, it didn't get me down all that much.

The bottom line is that, if my rate of recvoery continues, I may just make it to the start line in good health. There's nothing more that I can ask for, really.

What To Expect

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Got up at 4am. Stretched. Had breakfast. Stretched. Got ready for my run. Stretched. Went outside. Stretched.

Then the shuffle started.

The left knee is still bothering me. It was difficult to fully straighten the leg this morning. I worked it as best I could, but starting was uncomfortable, if not painful.

At least I knew what to expect.

The first kilometer went by in 6:15. Not great, not horrible. I pushed myself a bit, not wanting to go overly easy. It was warm, though - 15 degrees before dawn. I was sweating, I was breathing heavily, and my shin was tight. Still, I knew it would all pass, and I had 16km to go. So I kept moving.

Slowly, painfully, it got easier. I hated the first few miles, but by the 6 or 7 kilometer mark, I was moving along a bit better.

I hit the turnaround in around 45:30. Not bad, but nothing all that great. Knowing that I'd started slowly, though, I expected to be closer to 40 minutes on the way home.

As I warmed up, I started to feel more and more like my old self. I started to fly - my lungs worked hard at the exertion, but I had the familiar, almost liquid feeling of flowing along smoothly and strongly. Sure, the left knee would twinge every so often, reminding me that the strength was illusion, but still....

Over the last 2km, I noticed that I was having a harder and harder time holding the pace. Big surprise. A month ago, I could hold that pace for 18km or longer. Now, well, it's tougher. I finished up with a second half split of 40:08, which I was ecstatic about (5:01/km). Awesome stuff.

I'll be resting AGAIN tomorrow (ugh). Maybe a walk, somewhere. I've got a little over two weeks to go at this point. Hopefully I can recapture a little bit more of that feeling of speed between now and then.

Warning Signs

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Yesterday was the first warning. I couldn't straighten my left leg completely to stretch my hamstring. My knee would feel funny, and my hamstring was very tight.

Today, I started out very slowly on my run. I felt tighter than I had in a while. I ran the first kilometer in 6:30, but things weren't getting better quickly. A quick stretch at 2km showed me that my left shin was very tight again. I stretched again at 3km and again at 4km.

I ran the first 4km in something like 28 minutes.

That was all the warning I needed. My body didn't like running two days in a row just yet, even with a full 24 hours between them. I stretched, turned around, and headed home.

By about 6km, I was starting to move more normally. Still, I wouldn't have kept going for anything. I may sweat the lack of mileage a bit, but I need to get healthy. If I'm slow and tight now, then I need rest.

So rest I shall take.

What I've Lost

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I opted out of this morning's swim, preferring to run a short, fast(er) 5km run to test out my legs. It's been a few weeks since I've really been able to push myself, and I figured I was due.

Right from the start, my left knee/hamstring was a tiny bit worse than on Sunday. See? It was a setback of sorts, but not unexpected. I pushed through the first kilometer in around 5:30. This wasn't fast by my standards, but it was fast by comparison to my recent output.

What was disconcerting was how much I had to huff and puff to go even that fast.

Clearly, the price I was going to pay for the injury and recovery was a loss of form. While I'm still not healthy, I didn't expect it to be quite this bad. I had to push myself mentally just to hold a half-decent pace, and I certainly wasn't going to outdo half-decent.

The knee made itself known for the whole run, sitting at an annoying but not painful level of sensation; kind of like the annoying buzzing of someone else's alarm while you're trying to sleep.

I finished up at almost 29 minutes for my local route. 26 minutes is usually my A standard, and I've gone under 24 (I think!). I stretched out as well as I could, and got on with my day.

Interestingly, I averaged 5:19/km, which isn't nearly as bad as I had feared. Sure, it was only 5km, but it is a nice bump up in speed from last week. I need to not be so hard on myself.

Setbacks

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Whatever happened today, there were going to be setbacks.

I was determined to run 32 km if I could today - my last long run before the marathon. I was recovering from an injury, but Friday's run had shown that at least one injury was lurking on the edge of recurrence. Even in the best case - a clean run, the 20-miler would be bound to slow down my healing. And if the injuries did come back....

My plan was to double-loop my local, familiar, boring 16 km loop. I made up 2 bottles of Gatorade, and packed a single Power Gel. I set out around 11am, with slight twinges in my left hamstring. Right away, though, I noticed that there was no real additional pain when I moved from walking to running. Even better than on Friday, where it was noticeable but tolerable, today the pain didn't really impede my gait at all.

A good start.

I stretched at 3km, but there really wasn't any tightness in my left leg. Hurrah! I did my best to resist the natural inclination to pick up the pace, and plodded along.

It was 8 degrees when I started, but I opted for shorts and a t-shirt. The breeze made me feel cool in places, but when I was sheltered from the breeze, the sun warmed me up pretty quickly. Maybe too quickly. I'm pretty well used to running in cool to cold weather. I've only really been hot enough to really sweat once or twice this year. Hmmm...

I hit the turnaround in 47 minutes, just under a 6:00/km pace. I then proceded to debate with myself - was this too fast? Was the pace acceptable? I had a long way to go, and my goal was to finish strong and healthy. Again today, time didn't really matter.

Just like Friday, my left calf/achilles kept quiet for the first 16km. I got home, hit the washroom, switched gatorade bottles, and went back out. Even though I was only stopped for a few minutes, my right hamstring felt a bit tight when I started out. It faded quickly, but it was a timely reminder that I needed to be cautious.

At around 22km, the water bottle belt started bugging my stomach. I loosened it a bit, but I started feeling more pain, not less. I cut back on what I was drinking, and kept loosening my belt. Finally, at 26km, I took it off, and ran with it in my hand.

At the next stoplight, I considered my plight. I was in a lot of discomfort, and was pretty sure that the belt was to blame. Running with anything in my hands, though, was pretty foolish. So I put the belt back on, loosened it to the point where it jiggled a good inch up and down as I ran, and started on a long, slow shuffle.

From past experience, when you slow down that far into a run, it means you're doomed. My usual injury mantra of "my legs feel fine, my cardio feels fine" echoed in my head, but the words seemed hollow. Much to my surprise, though, the pain in my stomach gradually eased up, and my pace picked up. By 30km, I was moving normally again.

Weird.

I paid the price, in a way, though. I ended up chafing a bit on my back from all the jiggling my belt was doing. Bleh. Still, I could feel my experience coming into play on this problem - slowing down, taking it easy, but continuing to move forward. It doesn't usually work that well, but I didn't panic or worry, I just kept moving.

It's been a weird week. Sleeping in feels weird when you've been holding yourself to a 7 workout/week plan. I didn't feel as guilty or worried as I thought I would, though. Once you accept that you're injured, I guess, speed stops dominating your thought process.

The hamstring tightness isn't gone yet, but now my taper starts. This week has seen a huge improvement in my running health, and I'm almost optimistic again. I felt strong today, and hopefully the next three weeks will play out in such a way as to maximize my chances of feeling strong on race day.

Slow and Steady

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If there was a solid plan for this week, and I wasn't just playing the whole thing by ear, Friday's run would have been the big test. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I wanted to run the full 16km on Friday morning, and was willing to cut short Wednesday's run to help me get there.

By Thursday morning, the pain in the right calf (or achilles) had subsided. The left knee was still getting better, but I still noticed it when I had been sitting for a while. I did my best to stretch whenever I could. Still, Thursday night, it started acting up a bit more, and I got discouraged.

Friday morning, I was up at 4am. I did some light stretching, and was out the door just after 5. Walking down the driveway, I was filled with dread - the knee wasn't bothering me yet, but I was sure it was about to. I shuffled a few steps, and was relieved when my knee did not immediately respond in protest. A few more steps followed, and suddenly I was running, without the huge discomfort in my left knee.

Half a kilometer in, I finally exhaled. I could still feel a bit of tightness in my left knee, but it was SO much better. I finished the first kilometer in 6:30. Pace was irrelevant. If I could run pain-free now, I could run pain-free faster, later.

I stopped at the same spot I did on Wednesday to stretch, at the 3km mark. I went straight for the toe drag, expecting a lot of tightness. There was very, very little. Yay! Now thoroughly buoyed, I continued on my way.

Of course, that was only half the story.

At that point, I knew that the right leg wasn't really going to bother me. It had always gotten better, the longer I had run. The left leg, on the other hand, had only hurt after a certain point in the run. Would it be back again today?

I took it pretty easy all the way to the 8km turnaround, arriving in an irrelevantly slow 51:45. I walked a bit at the turnaround, knowing that I needed to keep the pace slow if I wanted to finish the full 16 more or less pain-free. I ran the next couple of kilometers somewhat nervously. I was anxious about the calf/achilles starting to hurt, but of course, if I concentrated on it all the time I would just end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, I focused on my gait.

It turns out that there were no horse and buggies out this morning - that clomp clomp clomp I'd been hearing was me. I'm normally a bit of a heel striker, but I swear I sounded like I was wearing horseshoes. Ugh. I worked on landing at least on the midfoot. Concentrating on it helped the kilometers go by; which they did. Still the pain stayed at bay.

Eventually, my mind wandered further afield, and the run got...normal. I was still running fairly slowly, but my mind was off thinking inane and mundane thoughts, and the kilometers rolled by with barely a thought. Suddenly, I was done, and the pain still hadn't arrived.

Hurray!

When I started to stretch, I immediately noticed that my right calf/achilles was very tight. It was the same pain as earlier this week, but it had held off for 16km. Doubtless it would have come up soon, if I'd continues. I felt pretty fortunate that I had planned to stop when I had. I stretched well, down the last ibuprofen, and hit the shower to let the jets beat out my calves yet again.

All of which is to say that the news is very good. I've been lazy, slept in, stretched, felt very guilty, but things seem to be paying off. In all likelihood, I will try 32 on Sunday. The long run will probably revive some of these problems, but it feels like I'm turning the corner. I also feel like I need that one more long run before the marathon. If I can survive the weekend, a normal, reasonable, sane taper madness starts monday.

New Problem

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I took Tuesday completely off. No swim. No run. It's amazing how much more enjoyable Tuesdays are when my whole day isn't rushed. I got to sleep in until almost 6am, too!

My left knee was feeling much better on Tuesday, too. It was more flexible, with a greater range of motion, and a lot less pain. Still, the pain wasn't gone for Wednesday morning's run.

The plan for Wednesday was 16km (instead of the scheduled 20), but I was very open to shorter distances. The primary goal was a healthy run.

I started out slowly, though not as slowly as on the weekend. There was some tightness in my left leg, but I managed a 6:00 first kilometer (much faster than the 7:00 I've been starting with lately). I stopped at around 1.5 km to stretch a bit, and again at 3km to do a more thorough stretch. One of the stretches I did at 3km was the toe drag, and I found that my left outside shin was VERY tight. Ouch.

Once I started up again, I started planning. If I wanted to do 16km on Friday morning, then doing 16 today didn't seem wise, if my shin was still that tight. So I opted to turn around at the next major intersection, aiming for around 10-10.5km.

At the turnaround, I did some light stretching, then started home. I was feeling faster, and more comfortable. It felt very good to be moving, and I felt generally ok.

At around 8.5-9km, I noticed the same pain in my RIGHT calf that I felt on Sunday. Yuck. This was about the same distance that it crept in on Sunday, too. There was nothing to do but continue on, but the feeling got a bit stronger as I covered the last mile.

I did a very thorough stretch, focusing especially on the new problem in my right leg. Suddenly, instead of one recurring injuries, I have two. My chances of getting to the start line on the 27th "healthy and strong" just got cut in half.

Still, as I turned the jet in the shower on my calf muscles, I reflected that there's nothing more I can really do for it than what I'm doing now. Rest, lots of stretching, and listening to my body are my best bets. There is the fear that I may lose some training over the next month, and I still do want to try 32km on Sunday, but I'll do far better to err in undertraining than overtraining over the next 3.5 weeks.

Decision Point

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Look what someone posted to the triathlon mailing group today:

"The most important rule of marathon training is to arrive on the starting line strong and healthy".
Amby Burfoot, Runner's World editor and 1968 Boston Marathon champ..

Right.

Saturday's run was aborted a mile in due to pain. The hamstring and the shin were so tight that I just couldn't move. I made a second call to my AT.

Sunday morning involved a lot of stretching before I finally made it out the door. The left knee was better, and improved quickly. By about 5km, I was able to run with a normal gait.

At around 10km, my right calf/achilles flared. Argh. It would bother me for the rest of the 16km run.

Needless to say, my mood was less than fantastic. It's 4 weeks to go until the marathon. I'm not in bad shape, but I need to make sure that I arrive healthy and strong. My paper plan was for very high mileage this coming week, then a 3 week taper. I took a look at my distance over the last few weeks, though, and I seem to have plateaued already. My distance was supposed to be increasing, but having skipped two Saturdays ago and aborted last Saturday has put a dent in that.

Apparently, my body can't handle any more distance than it's already doing. Actually, it can't even really handle that.

I'm a little less despondent today, but I'm still not pleased. I'm almost certainly going to have to change up my plan for this week, with an eye to getting healthy. The one run that I'd like to not change if at all possible is the 32km on Sunday. If I skip a run or swim this week (especially Tuesday) to try to give myself more time to recover, that would probably be acceptable.

My knee was well behaved yesterday, and might be going away on its own. The new calf/heel pain, though, is something that I don't want to revisit. Maybe my mileage has been too high for me, or maybe I needed an easier rest week somewhere in the middle of my recent spell. Whatever the cause, I'm in the mood for caution. The planned taper might be enough to see my to the start line in good health, but I'm not up for gambling this close to the real deal. Better safe than sorry.

The Knee

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I called up my personal athletic therapist on Monday, and talked about the knee. Yes, I have a personal athletic therapist, on call. It's blackmail - she happens to have the same parents as I do.

She came up with an excellent theory on why my knee was bothering me, based on her knowledge of my history.

On Tuesday, I swam, and didn't notice the knee much, except maybe on backstroke kick. I ran Tuesday night, and noticed the knee. I ran within my comfort zone, and was slow. (Great, I wait all winter for spring and the chance to work on speed, and I'm already losing it!)

I ran Wednesday morning, expecting the worst. Maybe because of my low expectations, I started out very slowly. I don't think I've run quite that slow, even on my long runs, in a long time. At the halfway mark (10k), I stopped to stretch my hamstring, and decided to test my sister's theory by stretching my left ITB. I almost injured myself - the ITB had far less flexibility than I was expecting, and it tweaked almost as soon as I started the stretch. Yikes!

Score one for the Athletic Therapist.

When I started up again, the knee felt better, to the point where I was able to run a negative split. I wasn't hugely fast, but it was a positive sign.

Thursday's swim focused on breaststroke (yay!), which was a huge improvement over Tuesday's butterfly session. By the end of the day Thursday, the knee was almost "ok".

Cue Friday.

Cue rain and wind and cold. Yuck. I started out a bit faster than Wednesday, and was rewarded with icky feelings in my knee. I soldiered on, and things gradually improved. I finished the first 10k in just over 58 minutes, which was much faster than Wednesday, but a far cry from Fridays past. On the upside, after the stretch at 9k, the knee felt pretty good, even when I picked up the pace. In fact, it felt no different at a faster pace than it did at a slower pace, to there was no real reason not to push.

Did I mention the wind was pushing the cold rain into my face? That was an excellent reason to speed up.

So I ran with my head down, my cap pulled low, and my mind empty. It felt like I hadn't run this hard in forever, and it wasn't exactly a sunny day at the beach. It wasn't hideous or unmaintainable, either, so I just kept going, and saved my thoughts for warm showers and dry clothes.

My second 10km was done in almost 52 minutes flat. Yay me!

So, for the 18 millionth week in a row, my confidence yo-yos over the course of the week. *sigh* On the upside, I'm 9 days away from the start of my taper. Yes, that's a sad thing to count down to, because I'll still be running once my taper starts. Still, it'll be a moral victory to get there, and undoubtably good for morale.

Hamstrung?

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After the run on Wednesday, my left hamstring bothered me a bit for the rest of the day. It was twinging again on Thursday, though I didn't really notice it during my swim.

I'm having doubts, lately. I'm wondering if I'm starting to overtrain a bit. Would I be wise to skip Friday's run, and rest and recuperate?

The alarm at 5am didn't help. The temptation to stay in bed and forget about the whole thing was strong. But I dragged myself out of bed, got some breakfast, and took it easy. (After Wednesday, I was in no hurry!)

Breakfast wasn't sitting all that well in my stomach, so it wasn't until after 7am that I left the house. My very first step resulted in a twinge in my left hamstring. Bleh. Idly, I hoped that the muscle would relax as it warmed up, but inwardly I entertained thoughts of having to turn back, and cut my run short (again!)

On the bright side, I was running with Gatorade this morning. When I stopped for my first swig at a red light, I also spent some time stretching my left leg. Not only was my hamstring tight, but the corresponding shin was, too. I stretched both out a bit, and kept going. Around 4km, I stopped and stretched again.

By 5km, I was noticing a definite improvement in my left leg. I think I picked it up a bit, though I still wasn't going all that fast. Fortunately, I had long since decided that I didn't care about my pace this run. All I wanted was to have a strong run and not injure myself (any more?). I hit the 9km turnaround in a slow 54 minutes, and stretched again.

By now, though, I was feeling a lot better. After the stretch, I tried picking up the pace, and my body seemed to respond just fine. Actually, it felt really good to push a little harder, and my leg didn't seem to be complaining. Fantastic.

I managed the whole second half of the run without any more hamstring pain, finishing up in just under 1:42. Note that my second half was run in 48 minutes, for a 6 minute negative split. Not surprising, but encouraging.

Hopefully, this is the end of the hamstring pain, and this weekend will be pain free.

(Ugh...) Wednesday

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I'm still struggling to solve this Wednesday mystery. Last week, I vowed to eat before my run. Ergo, today I ate an apple before I started.

As soon as I left, I found that my stomach was slightly cramped. I hoped that it would get better, but it got much, much worse. I essentially ran for an hour and a half in pain. Except that the pain started making me take walk breaks towards the end. I ended up cutting the run from 18km down to 16, due to the pace and the fact that I got out the door late.

I'd say the apple was a mistake.

After the run, I was thinking about Lisa Bentley, and her emphasis on positive thinking. Despite the pain and discomfort, there were positives to be taken from this morning's run. I ran close to an even split despite the walk breaks I was forced to take, so clearly I was able to pick up the pace when I wanted to. Just like Sunday, my legs and general strength were good - it was just my stomach that was slowing me down. I once again managed to fit in the most difficult, logistically and mentally, run of the week. I didn't wimp out.

I'm one day, and one run, closer to the marathon that I want to run.

If only I could channel all of that into feeling something other than disappointment and discouragement.

I went back earlier this week and re-read my race report for my very successful half marathon in January of last year. Two points really jumped out. One was that I really felt that the sub-5:00/km tempo runs on the treadmill had payed off. Well, there's been none of that this year. I really haven't gone much below 5:00/km at all. The other, interestingly, was that I felt that the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning double runs had paid off.

I can only hope.

I guess it's something. Even if I can't manufacture optimism myself, I can look back and see that once upon a time I felt like they payed off. Maybe that's enough.

I've been thinking hard about my pacing plan for the marathon. Nothing's decided yet, but I really need to know what kind of pace I can handle, especially as I tire. Wednesdays represent a good test of this, but I'm not sure that I'm terribly happy with the answer.

(Ugh...) Wednesday

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I'm still struggling to solve this Wednesday mystery. Last week, I vowed to eat before my run. Ergo, today I ate an apple before I started.

As soon as I left, I found that my stomach was slightly cramped. I hoped that it would get better, but it got much, much worse. I essentially ran for an hour and a half in pain. Except that the pain started making me take walk breaks towards the end. I ended up cutting the run from 18km down to 16, due to the pace and the fact that I got out the door late.

I'd say the apple was a mistake.

After the run, I was thinking about Lisa Bentley, and her emphasis on positive thinking. Despite the pain and discomfort, there were positives to be taken from this morning's run. I ran close to an even split despite the walk breaks I was forced to take, so clearly I was able to pick up the pace when I wanted to. Just like Sunday, my legs and general strength were good - it was just my stomach that was slowing me down. I once again managed to fit in the most difficult, logistically and mentally, run of the week. I didn't wimp out.

I'm one day, and one run, closer to the marathon that I want to run.

If only I could channel all of that into feeling something other than disappointment and discouragement.

I went back earlier this week and re-read my race report for my very successful half marathon in January of last year. Two points really jumped out. One was that I really felt that the sub-5:00/km tempo runs on the treadmill had payed off. Well, there's been none of that this year. I really haven't gone much below 5:00/km at all. The other, interestingly, was that I felt that the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning double runs had paid off.

I can only hope.

I guess it's something. Even if I can't manufacture optimism myself, I can look back and see that once upon a time I felt like they payed off. Maybe that's enough.

I've been thinking hard about my pacing plan for the marathon. Nothing's decided yet, but I really need to know what kind of pace I can handle, especially as I tire. Wednesdays represent a good test of this, but I'm not sure that I'm terribly happy with the answer.

What the Fast People Do

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Tuesday night, I was able to make it on time to the master swim club's triathlon group run workout. There were 5 of us, braving the cold, damp weather.

We warmed up by running to the track. Once we were there, we did some stretching, and some basic drills, such as strides, a variant of ABCs, etc. The main set was two pyramids - 200m, 300, 400, 400, 300, 200, with roughly equal rest between each run.

Fortunately, the fast guys were both recovering from races, so I didn't look too horribly out of place. Still, I was not built for speed, and I struggled. It wasn't fun, per se, but I made sure that I finished strongly on the second pyramid. A lot of gasping for breath took place, but overall it was a very good workout, and probably exactly what I needed.

I should try to make this part of my weekly routine.

Burning up the Track

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I managed to beat the girls soccer team to the track, though the coaches were already there when I arrived, setting up. I opted for 200-250m walking, instead of a full lap. That, and doing an additional repeat, promised to make a challenging workout.

The track was covered in a layer of light, fluffy snow that had fallen overnight. Yuck. On the bright side, the parts of the track that had been muddy last week were solid.

I made my mark in the snow, and did my first repeat. 3:05. Oh boy. With less rest, there wasn't much chance of going below 3:00 today.

I marked off my turnaround point for my walk break, and turned around. I was in decent shape for my second loop, which was done in 3:12. I had trouble picking out my turnaround point, though. Odd.

The next 400 took around 1:40. Yuck! With the wheels falling off, I made a concerted effort to pick it up. 3:17 shows that I did, a bit, but not much.

Fortunately, I was over the hump. On the fourth lap, I found myself running on gravel, and occasionally in puddles. Where had these come from? It didn't feel like it was above freezing, but the snow was getting thinner all over. What was going on? All I could think was that I was burning up the track. At 3:05 for repeat number 4, clearly something was warming up.

By the fifth lap, even my start/finish line was fading. The girl's soccer team had arrived, so of course I had to run a little bit faster. Well, maybe it was just that it was the last repeat. I managed a 2:56. Fantastic, but why couldn't I do that when I was fresh, on the first repeat??

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

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It was a hideous morning for a run. "Miserable", as a lady walking her dog described it.

Due to a tight schedule, I was up at 5am, and out the door by about 20 after. I always, ALWAYS eat before I run in the morning, but today I didn't have time. Did it affect me? I felt ok, but maybe it would have helped. I just don't know.

It was 6 degrees, windy, and raining. The rain was at my back on the way out, but that left me 8 or 9 kilometers on the way home with the wind lashing cold rain into my face. Ugh. At least there was some light on the way back, and I was able to avoid the soakers.

I added up the distance I've run since the start of October, just over 6 months ago. 1306km. That's just over 800 miles, by my calculation.

Days like today remind me that anything could happen on race day. I hate to think like this at this point, but if race day ends up being a total bust, I'll still have quite a bit to be proud of.

Thirty-two

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Saturday I did some intervals, on the track. 1km warmup, 4x800m with 400m walk in between, 1km cooldown. The walk seemed so long after the first run, and kinda short at the end. My goal at this point is to add an 800 every weekend.

Sunday I had 32km (20 miles) on my plate. 32km is always, always tough. Lately I've been feeling generally good about my runs, but my long runs have all been humbling. Whether I start to fade at 18km, 22km or 24km, I always think the same thing - I'm a long way from 42. It's keeping me humble, and giving me a profound respect for the distance.

My plan was to run a double loop - 18km, stop at home for water, then 14km. The temperature was mild, but the wind was surprisingly brisk, and out of the southeast. This meant that I would be facing the wind heading home, both times. Ugh.

As soon as I got myself headed west, I tied my jacket around my waist, and was wearing only a short sleeve tee above the waist. I ran along, trying to stay as comfortable as I could, and was surprised to clock 47 minutes for the first 8km. I guess the wind at my back was helping, but I would have been happy to see 50 minutes on the clock. I felt relaxed and slow, which boded well for what lay ahead.

I put my jacket back on when I turned around at 9km, and headed back home. The wind pushed hard against my chest, making me feel slow and upright. On the way back, it occurred to me that I could alter my plan slightly, and split my run 21/11 rather than 18/14. This would have the advantage of not having to run past my house at the 29 km mark. The only drawback was that I would have to wait longer for water. The prospect of a shorter second half won out, though.

Around the 18km mark, my mind started to fade a bit. I started feeling a bit thirsty, and vowed that this would be my last long run without a water belt. I wasn't in any trouble, but I could recognize that my mind was getting fatigued.

I was home in 2:03 for a water break. I also got some vaseline and two licorice sticks. I took on nearly half a litre of water. The water break ended up being just under 7 minutes.

Heading back out, I started slowly, worrying about the sloshies. It felt cooler than it had the first loop, and started to drizzle about a mile out. My stomach, despite my concerns, was fine, and eventually I refound my rhythm. My mind was still tired, wandering between complaint, empty numbness, and occasional weak attempts at calculation. My legs, however, seemed very solid. My pace picked back up, and I didn't seem to be flagging, despite my mental state.

I started to wobble a bit the last kilometer or two, but gutted it out to the line. I finished up in just over 3:18, including my break, which puts my pace at just under 6:00/km over the 32 km. I don't know how that compares with years past, but I think it was crazy fast.

After stretching, I went in out of the light rain, grabbed some more water, and sat down. Almost right away, I felt awful. My stomach seemed to want to cramp, and I felt weak and shaky. I ate a few potato chips, finished my water, then fetched a gatorade from the basement. I then stretched a bit more, and my distress seemed to go away. Still, it was a humbling reminder of just how far I had gone. And yes, the marathon still seems long, at over 10km more running!

This week was another high water mark, as I put in over 75km this week. The good news is that I still feel very good. The weeks are starting to become few, and I think I'll be drawing up a more formal plan for the runs between now and the end of May. Hopefully, there will be time for two more 32km runs, and a first class taper.

Unexpected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Excuses

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

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

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

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

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

The answer was: 42:23

Yay!

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

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

Black Ice Rain

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March just hasn't been my best month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Good Run

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Tuesday's run was not good. Any run that has to be cut short due to a washroom emergency can not be good. The less said, the better.

Wednesday's run got delayed until the very end of the day. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful, as it didn't dip below -6 until after I fell asleep.

As this was my last run until Sunday, I was determined to actually do the run, despite the fact that it wasn't fitting well into my day. So when I finally went out, after 8pm, my focus was on just relaxing and getting through the run.

I had plotted out a new route for 16km. I actually knew what the various distances would be if I happened to bail out early, but my pride wanted to see the full distance completed. With no real incentive to perturb myself, I relaxed, ran a laconic pace, and actually found myself enjoying myself. My hands weren't getting numb, my face wasn't cold, and the moon was playing hide and seek behind the wispy clouds overhead.

I hit the turnaround only averaging 6 minutes per kilometer. This slow result didn't phase me. I knew there was no point in wasting energy to close to Saturday's meet, so I just continued on my way. I practiced visualizing Saturday's heats, while my body shuffled along on cruise control.

Eventually, my hands started to chill just a bit, and I started wishing for a pee break, but by then I was nearly home. My feet picked up the pace of their own accord once I got back onto familiar ground, and before I could find a single reason to complain, I was done.

The question is, have I been under siege for so long that I'd forgotten how relaxing running can be, or did backing off the pace make that much of a difference?

Either way, it was a good run.

The Variability of Self

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I set out this morning trying to match Tuesday's 8km run. The sun was shining, it was mild, though still windy, and I was better rested. I could tell within the first two minutes, though, that it just wasn't there.

I ended up over 2 minutes slower than Tuesday.

The lesson, I guess, is to apply this knowledge to race expectations. There is no magical bonus for races. You may come out on fire, or you may come out flat. If you've got your heart set on that huge PB, better plan on racing as often as you can.

Speaking of racing, the swim meet is in 7 days. I'll do full runs Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and swim Tuesday and Thursday. I'll skip Friday's and Saturday's runs, but will run as normal the day after the meet.

I know what my goal times are, but honestly, que sera, sera.

Like a Hammer

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Friday is the day we've all been looking forward to. The winds are finally supposed to die down, after at least 48 hours of constant howling. The temperature is supposed to warm up, too, with a high of -6. (Plus, hey, it's Friday!)

None of that was in evidence at dawn this morning. It was still cold, still windy. I opted for a technical long sleeve over a technical tee, rather than Wednesday's fleece, and hoped it would be enough to deal with the -25C wind chill.

I wore my glasses out, but they only lasted a few minutes. My ears were being chilled by the icy probes under my ear protectors. Gah.

Running north was very tough. I wondered how I was going to manage 16km. Actually, I wondered if I would make it to around the 6-6.5 km mark, when I would turn south, and hopefully have the wind at my back.

When I made it to the farm, I turned west. The wind was still in my face, but there was very little to shelter me from it. It was horrendous. It felt like I was lying down with a hammer just sitting on my chest. The pressure was constant and unrelenting, slowing me down, pushing me backwards. What it did to my face and hands was far, far worse.

Occasionally, the wind would gust. This was also like a hammer, a blow that would try to throw me off stride, and maybe even leave me gasping for breath. One time, when a school bus drove by, I had to grit my teeth from the force and the cold.

When I finally made the corner, and turned south, the change in pressure was palpable. I checked my watch. 36 minutes. For 36 minutes, I had been running into a stiff winter wind. It was nothing I wanted to have to do again.

With the wind at my back, the run was bearable. The air was only -14, which was on the verge of being comfortable, now that I was warmed up. Occasionally, the wind would hit me from behind, and it would feel like my hamstrings were bieng pushed and raised up. Once, running through some drifted snow, I wondered if it was going to push me into the ditch. It felt weird.

As I turned east, snow was blowing off the cattle pasture to the north of me, whiting out the road and building drifts on it. I had to run with my left hand at my face, trying to keep the ice from stinging my face and eyes. I could see civilization through the blowing snow, but I was left alone against nature.

Fortunately, when I finally turned back into the wind, I had a subdivision to partially shelter me. Or, maybe, the wind was finally starting to die out. Either way, I felt strangely strong. I'd come through something, and was going to make it, and everything was alright.

I mean, it was still cold, and by "it" I mean everything, but it was alright.

All that, for just one training run. There are dozens more to go.

Highs and Lows

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I woke up Wednesday in the same mood I'd been in on Tuesday.

The weather was even worse. It was cold, there was a wicked wind, but this time it was snowing. It looked and felt like a full out blizzard. Schools were closing down, plows working around the clock, the whole bit.

I packed my running stuff and brought it all to work, determined to run when it was the least cold out. Finally, after lunch, I could wait no longer.

The goal was 16km. Given my general mood and the weather, achieving it seemed doubtful. The footing was terrible - I was running in an inch of snow even where the plows had obviously been by. I decided to stick to sidewalks, as I wanted to stay as far away from cars as I could. (I did see one car which had spun out, trying to right itself. I heard of two accidents in the area around that time, as well.) This left me with limited options, so I ended up finding a stretch which was slightly protected from the wind, and running back and forth.

Running with the wind at my back was almost pleasant. Sure, it was slippery, but I wasn't too cold. Actually, I was too hot; I'd worn a full fleece as a mid layer, and I was sweltering under it. It left me sweaty and uncomfortable on my trunk, while my fingers were numb with cold.

Running into the wind was unbelievable. Within seconds, there was snow on my eyelashes. I had to squint to stop the ice and snow from blowing into my eyes. My face went numb within seconds, but it was an uncomfortable, frozen numb.

I did not have a measured route laid out, but I figured I should be running for at least 90 minutes. So I ran back and forth along my sidewalk until my watch read 45 minutes, then I turned and headed back towards work. As soon as I did so, I saw the flaw in my planning. If I'd treaded water for a while, then it wasn't going to take me 45 minutest o get back. Not even close.

When you're cold, frustrated and bored of looking at the same sidewalk over and over again, having your hopes dashed is a bit hard to take. I wasn't going to turn back - I was going to head to work, and figure out what to do when I got there.

I managed to run past work, and go about a block further, before I turned back. Still, it was a mostly empty victory. The run was cut far short of what it should have been, and I didn't feel like I had a good enough reason.

At least I didn't skip the run altogether, I guess.

Total running time: ~1 hour, 12 minutes.
Distance: Dunno, but not 16km.

Hard Times

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"There should be a science of oppression. People need hard times to develop psychic muscles."
-- Frank Herbert

The challenge, yesterday, was getting out the door.

I'm starting to get very beat down by all the cold weather. There are only so many days of running in dangerous, painful cold weather I can take before I get frustrated. With yet another "wind chill" day yesterday, I was looking for a reason to skip the 8km run I had planned.

The problem, I guess, is that I knew that Wednesday's run would be even worse - 16 km, cold, and snowy. It wasn't going to make sense to wimp out on a run, if the next run was going to be even worse. I also had a hard time convincing myself to break the momentum I have.

So, around 5:30pm, out the door I went, a bit bitter and frustrated.

I was intent on just getting the run finished, so I could get back inside. My stride was different than usual - I was kind of slamming the balls of my feet down, and my cadence was kind of high. I was trying hard not to pound so much that I hurt my shins, and I was trying hard not to "heel strike", whatever that is. Still, my mind mostly was not on my run. Mostly, it was on four letter words, the most prominent of which was "wind".

At the first turnaround, I was starting to have some inkling that I was going fast, so I checked my watch. Uh-huh. With the wind more at my back for the second leg, I tried to keep up whatever it was that I was doing. Back at the junction of the T, I took another glance at my watch, and nodded.

The thing about running fast, in my experience, is that it feels smooth and effortless. I wouldn't say that I was quite running effortlessly, but surprisingly my pace felt quite sustainable. I wasn't quite comfortable, but I wasn't deteriorating. Well, I wasn't deteriorating physically. Mentally, I think the exertion was keeping my inner dialogue muffled, which had to be a good thing.

At the second turnaround, my time made no sense. I've been there in close to 32 minutes on slow runs. Thirty mintes is maybe an average winter run. I think the last time I tore up that route, it was around 28 minutes. My watch read 26:18.

Clearly, there was no choice but to concentrate on whatever it was I was doing. It felt reasonably smooth, and I imagined that I looked sort of sleek and fast. (Well, I imagined that I did, anyways!) The balls of my feet were still pounding, but otherwise my stride felt more smooth(er) I was still stupendously cold, and looking forward to getting back indoors, but it wasn't so cold that I couldn't set aside the wind and the chill and just gun it. By the end I was almost sprinting.

I finished up in 38:26, for a course just over 8 km / 5 miles. From memory, going under 40 minutes on that course is something rare and special. I reflected that I probably could have held that pace over a 10km run, and wondered how it compared to my PB.

It turns out that I've broken 38 minutes once on that route. Still, yesterday was the second fastest time I've ever put in on that route - and I know I've set out to go fast more than a few times. Yesterday, I wasn't really aiming to set a PB.

As for a 10km equivalent, I was on pace for a 46:10 time. Not quite a PB, I think I've run faster than that twice, including nearly a full minute faster. This was kind of surprising to me, to think that I've gone even faster than that, once upon a time. Still, I was specifically working on speed and 10k races at the time.

In the end, I'm not sure that I'm any mentally tougher than I was yesterday. I still dread going outside, and am not looking forward to today's run. Still, I think that there's evidence that I'm getting physically stronger. Sure, yesterday was an abnormal and special training run. Still, it's something that I can build on, and try to recapture. Spring is getting closer, even if it doesn't feel like it. Soon I'll be shedding the layers. Soon, the ice will be gone. Then, I can get serious about all this stuff.

Warmer, but not Warm

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Where was I?

Tuesday's run was slow. Actually, the swim probably was, too.

Wednesday started out ok, but by kilometer 5, my hands and butt were getting cold, and the sun still hadn't come up. I was hoping that things would improve after the turnaround, once the wind was at my back. They didn't. I ended up having to give myself a mental speech. I asserted to myself that the distance was doable, even easy. I needed to stop worrying about how cold I was and just get it done. Things improved after that.

Thursday I was reminded how awful my dive starts are.

Friday was milder, but with an unbelievable wind. I was scheduled for 14km, but the whole first 7km was going to be with the wind at my back. Around the 6km mark, out in open farmland with no shelter from the wind, I opted to turn back early, even though I was still feeling strong. My intuition about the wind was spot on, and the run back was tough.

Yesterday the sun was shining, it looked beautiful out, and I had a mediocre run. I also timed it awfully, forgetting what my schedule was, and causing my family undue grief. Oops.

Today's 28 was tough. It was -11 when I got up, and -9 when I left the house. Not warm, but at least I wasn't dealing with the killer chill from recent weeks. I stopped at home at 16km for water and a gel, then went back out. Things started falling apart shortly thereafter, and the run was far from my best this year. All I could do was remind myself that the marathon would be tougher.

Another 70km week is now under my belt. This morning, I would have told you that I wasn't as tired as I expected to be, but after my run, I'm not sure I can say the same anymore.

Restback

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I was just congratulating myself for not having missed a run in January when people around me started getting sick. Sure enough, Friday I missed both the run and work.

I probably wouldn't have run on Saturday if it had been longer than 5km. The run was uninspired and lethargic, despite the reasonable weather (only -5!)

I took it easy for Sunday's 21km run. I retraced last week's run, through the snow. The footing was still less than great. I decided to hope that the adversity was strengthening my ankles. That which doesn't kill me....

The good news is that I felt very comfortable at the 18km mark, and was only just getting the slightest bit wobbly at the end. The run was slow, but for now, it's the distance that I'm primarily concerned with.

Speaking of distance, I've got a lot of it coming up this week. Wish me luck!

Week 3 - Done!

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My fear of the cold was getting better than me Sunday morning. I had a long run to do - 28km. This was the longest I'd run since last May. All I could think of was my awful runs in the cold and wind over the last two weeks. I delayed until after noon, and finally the temperature got up to -12. The one thing that I did notice about the weather was that the winds were pretty slow (4 km/h). Maybe it wouldn't be so bad....

I opted for a long sleeve t-shirt as my mid-layer. I bundled up against the cold, even wearing my toque with the flaps that cover my ears. Finally, I shuffled out the door.

When I got to Greenbank, the pathway was not plowed. Of course. Some snowmobiles had been by, though, and their tracks were flat and stable, especially where they overlapped. I found myself running through virgin snow a few times, but never for very far. Still, plowing through 2-3 inches of snow gave my legs a very gook workout.

Unfortunately, the relief that I'd hoped for on Hunt Club was not to be. The path wasn't plowed there, either. Nor were there snowmobile tracks. This was the hardest part of the run. I either plowed through virgin snow, or shuffled through other people's tracks. The problem with the existing tracks is that the footing was very uneven.

On the bright side, the wind was still, and the sun was shining on me. I actually flipped up my ear flaps, and, looking completely ridiculous, enjoyed myself.

Finally I reached Woodroffe, and was done running in snow for the day. The cleared sidewalk felt great. I reined in my temptation to go faster, reminding myself that I had a long way to go. I also started eating my sports beans for the day.

I will say this about sports beans - they're very tasty. Unfortunately, they seem like a choking hazard when I'm running, so I end up walking with them. They're probably ideal for a laid back run. For a race, though, I think I prefer gels, which can be swallowed directly.

I stopped in at home at the 16km mark, drank some water, and headed back out. I became cautious. My last two long runs, I've struggled past 20km. Also, this would be the first week in my life I go over 70 km in one week. So I took it easy, tried to keep my arms relaxed, and did not push the pace.

As it turned out, I felt fine the whole second loop. I didn't have any washroom problems, the water and sports beans sat well in my stomach. My legs felt strong all the way home, despite the hard run the day before. My time wasn't amazing, but I did finish in under 3 hours. Besides, speed is NOT important on long runs.

I must say, I'm really looking forward to the lower mileage this week. If nothing else, maybe it will mean less time outside in the cold!

Slow/Fast

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My current training plan calls for two tempo runs a week. The tempo runs come with an asterisk, though. In winter, the temperature and footing can preclude running at speed. So, for now, I'm concentrating primarily on distance. Speed work will come, but for now, I'm not expecting too much from myself.

That said, I would like to be a little bit faster than my recent from would indicate that I am. I should be getting stronger, and the shorter runs should be getting easier (theoretically, I hope!). On weeks when I'm stretching out my mileage, like this one, that may be less true. Next week, however, I'm cutting back my mileage (rest week), so my tempo runs may be taken a bit more seriously.

Saturday's tempo run was delayed until around noon, while I waited (again!) for the temperatures to become a bit more reasonable. When I left the house, it was around -10. Two minutes out the door, it occurred to me that, with no mid layer on, I might be a touch underdressed. The solution was to keep moving, and move I did.

I was doing my local 8km route, which by now I'm very comfortable with. By my log, it looks like I've run it at least 50 times, so I'm pretty comfortable with the feel of the route, and of the timing of it. The route is basically T-shaped, featuring two turnarounds. At the first turnaround, my time was around 12:30. This really surprised me, as I'm usually in the 13-14 minute range at this point. Clearly, I had a bit of speed in me today.

I decided to try to keep the pressure up on myself, to keep pushing. Passing the middle of the T, I was just under 21 minutes, which was still good. With the wind at my back, I strode along, trying to make up some time, knowing that the wind would be in my face on the way home.

As I approached the second turnaround (no longer feeling even a little cold!), I reasoned out that, to go sub-40 minutes, I'd need to hit the turnaround in around 27:00. I actually settled on 26:50, allowing for the wind to slow me down. I slowed to a walk, and dug my watch out from under my coat sleeve. 26:47! Oops! No time to walk now!

I've only broken 40 minutes on this loop 4 times, and never in the chill of winter. In fact, it had been over a year since I'd last done it. I didn't really feel like I was that fast, but I did feel like I was working. I thought about the recent article on completerunning.com, where Paula Newby-Fraser discussed how races, like training runs, come in a broad spectrum, from good to bad. Clearly, I was on the good side of my luck.

When I stopped my watch, it read 39:08. This is my third fastest ever run of this loop. To pull this off during my (planned) highest mileage week ever is a bit strange, in my opinion. Apparently, I am getting stronger. It will be interesting to see, though, how this run impacts my long run tomorrow.

Sun Comes Up, It's Wednesday Morning

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Yesterday's swim was possibly the toughest all year. There were a lot of sprints, intermixed with some longer stuff. Probably exactly what I needed.

Yesterday's run felt fast, but wasn't. The sidewalks were clear and it was mild out, which made it feel fast, but I'm guessing I was still a bit wrecked from the morning swim, which slowed me down. Still, running while less than fully rested is part of training.

Speaking of lack of rest, I was up and out the door before 6am this morning. It was coldish at -9C, but that was as warm as it would be all day. There wasn't even a hint of twilight as I went out the door. Beyond the streetlights, the stars shone brightly - cold but beautiful companions. Saturn was there, too, as was Jupiter, huge and bright in the south. The moon, however, couldn't be bothered to join me.

By the time I got out around the turnaround, the southeastern sky was lighting up, providing a beautiful view. It wasn't getting any warmer, but in the transition I was encouraged by the growing daylight, but could still marvel at the stars who were fighting to stay onstage as long as possible.

It's moments like this that make running, and staying active in general, easy. Sure, it's cold, and frequently uncomfortable, outside, but if I was sleeping in or watching TV or whiling my days away doing whatever it is people do, I'd be missing out. The sun, the stars, the wind and weather would all still be happening, but I'd be obvlivious to them. Disconnected.

The distances are getting longer. I'm not so much noticing it by my exertion as by my time. Short runs still feel short, medium runs still feel annoyingly time consuming but easily doable. What's changing is that the impact they're having on my daily routine is growing. I embrace the impact, both for the mental and physical challenges it offers, and for the opportunity to watch the sun come up on Wednesday mornings, while the rest of the world rushes through their morning routines.

Long, Long Way To Go

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Week 2 of the 3-week plan is done. All in all, it was a much colder week than week 1.

Saturday's 6km run was done at a chilly -20, but at least it was short. Unfortunately, I ended up scraping up the back of one of my heels. I had tucked my pants into my short socks trying to keep my ankles warm, but the zipper chafed. Yuck.

Sunday dawned at -20, but by noon it was up to -14. I opted for a 15km loop, a water/gel break at home, then 10km more. The 15 went very smoothly - I felt strong and reasonably fast throughout. It turns out my pace was only around 6:00/km, but that's fine. Long run speeds don't matter.

After my house stop, I continued on, feeling fine at first. Around 18km, my GI started quietly objecting. Maybe I ate the power gel too fast. Anyways, after the turnaround at 20km, I started really feeling the distance. The mental algebra told me that I was a long way from being able to even finish a marathon. For all the mileage that I've been running lately, I was running 17km less than a full marathon, and my mind and body were starting to shut down from exhaustion.

I finished up cold and very tired. I actually recovered from the run fairly quickly, with the help of an Advil and a few jelly beans. Still, I nervously look forward to next week, wondering how hard Sunday will hit me.

One...

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The great thing about the internet is that it lets you play cards with friends from high school who now live in a different country. The drawback is that doing so is not conduscive to getting a run in first thing the next morning. When I woke up two hours later than expected, my first thought (after "Did I turn my alarm off?") was "Guess I'll have to run from work today."

The problem with running in winter isn't the day in and day out stuff. Sure, it's cold and snowy, but properly attired, all that is liveable. The problem with running in winter is the exceptional days. Yesterday was one such day. By delaying my run from morning until noon, I allowed the temperature to warm up from -25C to -20C.

Warm being strictly a relative word.

I mapped out a 14km loop near work, which would keep me on streets with regular traffic, in case the cold became a problem. The loop ended up a bit short, but I wasn't going to complain.

The out leg was straight into the wind. My nose started running immediately, which was uncomfortable, and made breathing tough. In, out, in, out, sniffle, out, sniffle, sigh, sniffle, wipe nose, repeat. I was wearing a ballaclava, but my nose and eyes were still cold. The wind straight in my face was also chilling the unmentionables to an uncomfortable degree.

The run totally changed after the turnaround. For one thing, my hands got a lot warmer. I was able to run most of the way back without my gloved hand tucked up my sleeves. Also, my face was much more comfortable. Unfortunately, not all the sidewalks on that side of the road had been plowed. What is UP with that? Grrrr....

Anyways, I got the run done, which made me happy. One very cold day down....

The Pool is Closed

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Well, I was up at 5am this morning, and at the pool by 5 to 6. The only problem was that the parking lot was nearly empty, and what few cars that were there were either leaving, or were surrounded by people chatting.

Uh oh.

Turns out the pool is closed until further notice. There was an electrical problem, and heating and air circulation are out. This is bad for chlorinated pools, where the air above them can get unsafe if it doesn't circulate.

So, after all that waking up early, brushing off the car, and shivering as it slowly warmed up, I had nowhere to go. I knew right away that, if I was smart, I'd go home and run, getting it done before work. The only problem was that it was cold; -15, and probably the coldest day so far this winter. Did I really want to run?

Maybe, maybe not, but it turns out I wanted to run in the morning more than I wanted to have to rush around after work.

I bundled up as warmly as I could. I doubled my socks, wore a thick fleece as a mid layer, and covered my face and ears. Finally, running out of excused to delay the inevitable, out I went.

It wasn't all THAT bad out. There wasn't too much of a wind, and the sky was clear. Jupiter really stood out, even in the dawn twilight. The sidewalks were a mess of snow, so I ran on the roads when I could. I wasn't fast (just not possible), but I tried to get home as quickly as I could, to warm up.

If nothing else, I'm one run close to, well, whatever I'm training for.

Week 1 - done!

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Week 1 of the 3-week plan is done. I was undisciplined when it came to blogging what was on my mind, but I was disciplined when it came to the actual running, which is more important (I think!).

Tuesday's swim was mostly an endurance set. I loved it. I ate it up. Thursday's had a bit more sprinting in it. I managed to hurt my arm/shoulder a bit doing a 50 fly sprint, and that kinda tempered my enthusiams. It was still a decent go, though.

Tuesday's run started with a huge wind at my back. I thought I was just flying until near the turnaround, when it dawned on me that I hadn't really noticed a wind yet. Sure enough, as soon as I turned around, I found it. Turns out I wasn't as fast as I thought I was.

Wednesday, I was slow. Very slow. No explanation as to why, but it nearly made me late for work. It felt ok, but clearly wasn't. What it was was really, really cold. So maybe that was it.

Friday's run was much milder, in a light rain. I wore a cap, which kept the rain out of my face, and stopped me from getting too uncomfortable. I reran Wednesday's route, and took over 5 minutes off my time. Weird. Saturday's tempo run was faster than Tuesday's, as well.

Today was clear, and semi-mild, with the temperatures around -5. I decided at some point early in the week that I'd been underdressing lately, so I wore a long sleeve tee as a mid layer. It seemed to help. I was also trying out some of the Sports Beans I got as a gift. Overall, the run could probably be broken down as: 12 miles of fun, 2 miles of ugh. For the first time in a long time, I finished a long run feeling pretty well destroyed. I finished fast and reasonably strong, but when I was done the tank was pretty much empty.

What stood out was how thirsty I was. I think that for my longer-than-half runs, I need to start bringing liquids again. Up to 10 miles, I find I can live without. Now that I'm back in the big leagues (distance-wise), it's time to be smarter, I guess.

All in all, it was a strong week. It will be interesting to see how much tougher next week is.

The Other Kind of Tough

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Last week's running was a success. Despite far too much cake eaten, I managed to meet my goal of running lower distance, but faster. I wasn't blazingly fast, but I was a bit faster than I had been in previous weeks. It's a start.

A local triathlete recently said (I'm paraphrasing heavily) that regular racing is essential for mental toughness. I haven't raced in quite a while, and I can say that this week really highlighted my lack of mental toughness. I found it difficult to push myelf, and even more difficult to maintain a high heartrate/effort level. I can vaguely remember loving the feeling of running hard, but anything like that is long gone now.

I may need to consider running some 5km and 10km races this spring, as part of my weekly workouts, just to work on regaining my edge.

My two 5km runs were done at 4:45/km and 4:37/km pace, respectively. My 10km PB is around 4:31, so there's really no reason I shouldn't be able to hold that pace for 5km, even in training. I'm not there yet, but I'm close enough to be reasonably content. My 10km runs were done at 5:38/km and 5:09/km. The first was more or less a disaster. I'd like to be running my medium distance runs at 5:00/km right now, so Friday was at least close, especially when you consider that I was stopped for a few stoplights. (I religiously count stoplights in my run time - after all, they're free rest.) Ultimately, I'd love to be able to do a 46-47 minute 10km on demand, but we'll see how that works out.

Sunday long runs are NOT about pace, and I worked hard at trying to tell myself to slow down. The trick, I guess, is to force myself to run at a low, comfortable heart rate, and let my pace do whatever feels right. 5:17/km for a Sunday run seems awfully fast to me at this point, I would think that around 5:30/km would be right. I'm betting that my shorter distance was the culprit. Over the next few weeks, as my Sunday runs get really long, I expect I'll run a fair bit slower.

For now, I continue to content myself focusing on distance. Come late March/early April, when the weather warms up, I should have an excellent foundation on which to build some speed.

Cold and Slow

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This week's plan calls for a reduction in distance, and hopefully an increase in speed.

The snow from last weekend has finally been swept or melted away, so the footing so far has been excellent. I have felt like I've been able to push myself a bit on both yesterday's and this morning's runs. Unfortunately, that hasn't really translated into a huge speed increase.

It isn't helping that it's only the first week of January and I'm already becoming a huge wimp. I'm starting to really dread the cold. I wanted to put on a fleece under my jacket before I went out this morning, despite the fact that it was barely below freezing. Sure, 10 minutes into the run I felt alright (well, until I turned around into the wind), but for the first few minutes all I could think was how badly I wanted to be back home, in my warm bed. It's going to get SO much worse; it's been a mild winter so far.

Running on Memories

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I was back home this weekend, for a whirlwind Christmas visit with the inlaws. I didn't get a run in on Saturday, due to a combination of sleeping in and lots of driving. C'est la vie.

Sunday I did my usualy long run route at home - out along Trout Lake and back. Maybe it's just that I'm getting used to putting in my long runs back home. Maybe it was the mild weather. Whatever it was, it was a very enjoyable, very nostalgic run for me.

I started out along Ski Club road, towards the lake. I marvelled at how each house seemed to be familiar. Small wonder, I guess, as I took the school bus up and down the road for six or seven years. It was interesting to look at the same houses through the eyes of an adult. Were they as nice as I once thought they were? Do the people who lived there when I was young still live there?

Passing though the tunner under the railroad tracks, I had a sudden flashback to this year's disastrous swim at the triathlon. I found myself running along Trout Lake Road, one eye on the lake. It looked deep, dark, and cold. It also looked big. Like all of my failures, it seemed to draw me in. I wanted a second chance - a chance to overcome. Not next year, I think. Maybe the year after.

Turning onto Anita, and I was on the run course from the triathlon. The hills were bigger than I remembered. Well, they felt bigger, anyways. I guess I shouldn't be running exclusively on flat roads around here. I remembered not really having as much left in the tank as I would have liked. I need to keep running hard, and keep putting in my miles. Strength and endurance come slowly, but they will come.

It wasn't until Silver Lady Lane that I saw another runner - a young girl with headphones on who didn't spare me a glance. She was really flying along. "Sundays aren't for speed" is almost a mantra with me, so I kept to my easy-going pace, and continued on my way.

When I finally turned around, I found that the cold breeze was now in my face. I was grateful for the forests and the switchbacks which offered some protection. Down by the lake, running the last mile of the triathlon, though, it was cold and lonely, with no shelter. I remembered, and ran on.

Back on Ski Club Road, I climbed uphill towards my destination. I looked forward to the warmth of being inside, and I looked forward to the washroom. I didn't look forward to losing my solitude. The run was fantastic, and everything I needed on a busy weekend. As much as we're always glad to finish up a good run, there's also a bit of a sense of sadness, of loss.

Snow and Ice

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The snow and freezing rain continued all day Friday, making driving a nightmare and ushering in December with visual flair. The ice, which covered pretty much everything Saturday morning, turned the tempo run into just a run. 5k without falling over was good enough for me.

Today was cold but sunny. It turns out that not all of my local 10 mile route gets plowed, so this will probably be the last time I run it for a while. It had snowed this morning, though, so the footing was less icy than it had been the day before.

I took it easy the whole way around the loop, both because of the footing, and because of my ITB pain last weekend. The sunshine and relaxed pace made for an enjoyable run, at least until I turned south and the sun was right in my face. The sun made it almost impossible to read the traffic lights, which made things interesting, but I made it home. The best part is that there was no ITB pain during the run, or during stretching.

Beyond Ten Miles

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Sunday was my first run over 10 miles in rather a long time. I wanted to run 19km, but I actually had to sit down with GMap Pedometer and fiddle for a while to find a route of suitable distance. I ended up opting for a route which was more like 19.5, but covered a lot of familiar ground.

The weather was decent, cool, but not cold. There was little in the way of wind. I zoned out mentally, and the miles just flowed by. It wasn't until I was done, and stretching, that my right ITB let it be known that it was unhappy. I tried to stretch it out extra well, but time will tell whether it's going to be an issue or not.

I have yet to decide whether I will up my mileage again this week, or whether this week should be a rest week, with reduced mileage. (I'll either rest this week or next). The IT discomfort might be a hint that my body would like more time to adjust to the added mileage.

Grey Day

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There was no rain on Sunday morning, but no blue skies either.

I did the same local 16km loop that I've been running for weeks now. It's going to be nice to mix it up next weekend. The wind was from the north, which made it cold, but also meant that it was at my back coming home. That always helps.

When I was running into the wind along Greenbank, into the wind, I was startled by a sudden movement from the cornfield. There, just ahead of me, on the opposite side of the fence, was a deer. The buck was running away from me, tail up high. Doubtless I had startled it more than it had startled me. There was perhaps 12-15 feet of cleared land between the fence beside me and the corn stalks. I'd been too absorbed in my own thoughts and the roar of the wind to notice it until I was almost on top of it. It made good time getting far away from me, though.

When I finally got the wind at my back, my pace picked up of its own accord. (Honest officer, it wasn't my fault!) I actually felt pretty strong the whole way home. My slow start probably helped a bit, but mostly I'll credit the wind.

I have a friend who firmly believes that running more than 10 miles at once is dangerous. We'll find out next weekend, I guess. ;)

Recovering

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I woke up Wednesday, all set to go for a run, and generally make the most of the morning. To my surprise, while there was still a large indeterminate animal on my chest, I wasn't coughing. In fact, I was breathing fairly well, despite the pressure.

I felt so good that I cancelled my plans, and decided to take it easy. It sounds like a contradiction, but if I'd been feeling worse, I'd likely have tried to run. Suddenly, though, I was on the mend, and I wanted to give myself every chance to improve.

Today, again, I felt pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good. So out the door I went.

I spent the first 5 minutes or so coughing a bit, but settled into a rhythm farily quickly. It was a slow rhythm, but it was still a rhythm. The air was cold, below freezing, but the sun was shining. People were out and about, doing their morning routines. It felt great to be out, and to be active again.

As soon as I stopped running, the coughing returned. As I stretched, though, it eased up again.

I think that running rather than swimming this morning was a good idea. I'll probably take tomorrow off, but will hopefully be back on schedule on Saturday.

Good Advice

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Yesterday's swim was ok. I tried to focus on my pull technique during freestyle. We did a 400m free, that went like this:

100m free
10s rest
100m free
5s rest
200m free

My total time was 6:45, which I was pretty pleased with. I felt surprisingly strong throughout, though I have to admit I went out much too hard.

We also did a 300 IM, which I handled fairly well.

I went out fairly hard for the tempo run last night. Again, too hard. I had a stitch in my side by the turnaround, and between nursing that and my mind wandering, I couldn't keep the pace up all the way home. My time was a bit disappointing, but hopefully a lesson was learnt. If nothing else, I got some more practice at pushing myself.

Of course, the CRN had an excellent article about overdoing speed yesterday. I took it to heart, and went out very easy today.

It was nice. I was able to enjoy the run (despite the cool temperatures). I gazed at the stars (the 3 that were poking through the clouds), and my mind wandered all over the place. I thought about astronomy, my dreams, my training plan, bridge, work, old friends, money, parenting.... You know, the usual stuff.

In the end, my pace was pretty slow, maybe even too slow. Still, if I can avoid injury, everything else will come in time.

Easy and Hard

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Yesterday's tempo run went well. I've been running strong negative splits on my tempo runs, which tells me that I've been going out too easy. I think this run was better paced. I wasn't really able to pick it up the last kilometer or so, on account of general fatigue. I just couldn't seem to concentrate. It feels like, when you go harder, blood stops flowing to your brain, so you go into lala land, so you back off a bit, so blood returns to your brain, so you suddenly realize you've backed off and try to go harder again. Around and around it goes.

By the end, I did not feel fast, but I came in under 25 minutes for only the 6th time ever. Not quite speedy, but a solid effort.

Today was my long run, and I opted for the same route as last week. At first, my shins felt a bit tight, but as time went on I started feeling stronger. I picked up the pace the last mile, though I'm not sure why. Maybe because I could.

I'm about 3 weeks into this running 5 times a week thing. I'm leary of my shins or ITBs tightening up, and I'm trying to be diligent about stretching to prevent that. I have no real expectation on my times, yet, but I'm finding that I have a not insignificant level of conditioning already.

Some final words. First, congrats to Marisa on her BQ. Secondly, IM Hawaii was yesterday. For the first time in a few years, I did not follow the webcast. Michellie Jones won her first (of many) Kona title. Natascha Badmann was apparently dry heaving for much of the run, but still managed a top 10. Plus, it was nice to see my personal favorite Lisa Bentley get on the podium. I'm looking forward to reading the local triathlon mailing list on Monday to see how the locals did.

Fall is a big racing season, and there's lots out there on the web to help motivate me. I'm starting to get really excited about what lies ahead.

V

A Gift

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After last night's weather, you can imagine how excited I was to drag myself out of bed at 5am this morning.

So I got drank my water, ate my oatmeal, read the news, but did not open the curtains. Didn't check the weather either. Bad news can wait, right?

At 10 to 6, I finally peek at the weather.

Drizzle. 12 degrees celsius.

What??

12 degrees would make an excellent daytime high for mid-October. For it to be that warm in the middle of the night was a real blessing.

I opted for a short sleeve technical tee under my jacket, but 6 minutes into the run, my jacket came off. Rumours of precipitation were greatly exaggerated. There was no rain at all. Just a pleasant, mild wind out of the west.

If this had been spring, this would have been one of those days that gets everyone outside. Sure, it's not warm in the grand scheme of things, but after being cold, it felt fantastic.

I picked up the pace over the last 2 km, probably because the wind was finally at my back. I really didn't want to stop - the moment was just too perfect. I felt sorry for the people behind the solitary lights in houses, just now waking up, and having no idea what they were missing.

Uncomfortable

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I ran before dinner tonight. It was about 7 degrees, raining hard, and the wind was strong out of the east. The wind was strong enough that I felt like I had to lean into it to prevent being blown over.

So much for a tempo run. This was a survival run!

The whole drive home, I was dreading the run. The grey clouds just seemed to sap the will out of me. I wanted to train, but I didn't want to be outside.... My natural inclination was to try to outwait the rain. I wanted to go home, get inside, eat dinner, and just be comfortable. Getting myself out the door was tough.

Getting back home was tough, too. I angled my hat to keep the wind out of my face. I was pushed around, dripped on, and my nose was running. Plus, I had that vague uncomfortable feeling behind my belly button that sometimes comes up during running. It surprised me, as I hadn't eaten in hours.

Anyways, I completed the loop. Survived the run. Can't say that I'm like to remember the run a month from now, but at least I didn't skip. THAT I would have remembered.

Long and Lonesome Highway

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I was up at 5am, but couldn't drag myself out into the cold until nearly 7am.

Fortunately, it wasn't raining, so it wasn't nearly as bad as yesterday. Unfortunately, I talked myself out of wearing gloves, and my hands were freezing the whole way.

Rather than head south, like I usually do, I headed north, and ran the loop around a block of the experimental farm. The block is maybe 7 square kilometers, and the roads along each of the 4 sides are generally straight and long, with few side roads. While it's fairly flat, it's generally very nice for running, especially since there are multi-use paths along 3 of the 4 sides.

It wasn't until I got to Greenbank, which is maybe 4km of uninterrupted, flat path, with either dead corn stalks or empty fields liking one or both sides of the road, that the difference between running in subdivisions (where I've been generally running lately) and running on the open road really hit me. My mind would wander, as it is wont to do when I run, but every time I momentarily snapped back into reality, it struck me that I really hadn't moved very far.

When your surroundings are changing rapidly, it's easy to feel like progress was being made. Here, it was hard to tell I was moving at all.

In a way, it was a good thing. My running focused on maintaining a rhythm, and with fewer interruptings, turns, etc, I suspect my pacing was more even than usual. The other benefit was that, with less navigating and traffic to think about, this was one of the more peacful, thoughful runs I've had in a while.

One final note. Kudos to the Amazing Hip, who is volunteering at a local race this morning. I'm reminded that it's been over a year since I last volunteered at a race. As runners, we always appreciate the volunteers when we're out giving our all. It's only fair that we return the favour every so often.

Growth and Challenge

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I ran yesterday, I ran today. I'm on a mission!

This morning it was cold and rainy. My least favorite kind of weather to run in. It was even windy, for an added kick in the shins. Still, I will not be stopped, so out I went for a 5k tempo run.

I was a bit slower than I was on Tuesday, but that's ok.

What is less ok is my diet over the last 10 days or so. I am NOT on the road to being fitter and faster, based on what I'm putting in my mouth. I've never been one to care, especially, but this time I aim to do at least a little bit better. I refuse to focus on my weight, but I'd like to cut down on sugar, potato chips, etc. I've done well in certain moments (such as turning down free cake), but for the most part my diet has been haphazard and undisciplined.

The good news is that, in the RBF, motivation is never hard to come by. Flipperhead, who was my saint and lifeline on my whirlwind Boston trip earlier this year, ran a BQ today. I'm so happy for her, and maybe just a tiny little bit jealous.

That jealousy translates, at this point, in a desire to train harder, to run harder, and to try to do the little things to make myself a better runner.

The Routine

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I ran last night before dinner. I put in a fast 5k on my home loop. I ended up doing 5.4km in just a shade over 25 minutes. This probably was just about as fast as I could have gone. I've run that loop in under 25 minutes maybe half a dozen times before, so clearly I've been faster than I am now. Still, it's a very good starting place.

Today I ran my local 8km loop in the rain. It was just mild outside to be bearable. Barely. I put the weather out of my mind, and did the run, only walking at the two turnarounds.

That makes 3 workouts in the last 26 hours. The good news is that the tough part of the week is over. I swim again tomorrow, but don't plan on running again until Friday.

If I want to both swim and train for a marathon, this compression is going to become part of my routine.

Thanksgiving Run

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I slept in on Sunday. When I finally woke, to a peaceful house (not mine!), I had to drag myself out of bed. Forunately, the sun was shining, the weather was more beautiful than I had any business expecting for October, and a long run awaited me.

I ran the usual route that I run when I'm back home, only with a different start point. I did not have a watch on, and did not know how long the run would be. I eschewed my usual walk breaks, and tried to keep the pace comfortable.

I'd been dragging all week, both in the pool and on the roads, but for some reason, I felt great on Sunday. Maybe it was the new shoes. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the awesome scenery. Maybe it was that I'd slept in. Maybe it was all the friendly runners I saw, whom I had had no idea existed in my hometown. Whatever it was, the miles just rolled by.

GMap Pedometer hints that I may have run as much as 18km. More importantly, I ran three days in a row and enjoyed it. What better incentive can there be to train?

New Shoes

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Yes, 947km is too much for one pair of shoes. So I finally picked up a new pair, Saucony's Grid Omni V. They felt good, good enough that I noticed how dead the previous pair was.

This morning's run, in my hometown, was a randomly picked route down semi-familiar streets. I ran up airport hill, and back down by the golf course. It ended being just longer than 5km, which was perfect. The shoes felt good, the sun was warm, and it was a great day to be running.

I happened to come across IM (Ironman, this time) Canada on the TV afterwards. Naturally, this show like all others focused on Ironman was a bit over the top. That didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying the coverage. I could smile, remembering the triathlons I did this summer. It made me feel that there were far too few of those. I really do love triathlons, and I can't wait to do them again.

Motivation really can come from everywhere; even from watching the television.

A Friday Run

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Yes, I actually ran on a Friday. Yay me!

I have the day off today, so rather than the usual trial of finding time to run, it was a trial convincing myself that it was time to run. Important tasks seem easy to put off when you've got (seemingly) the whole day to deal with them. The fact that it was 2 degrees outsie when I got up didn't help. Still, eventually, I went out and did the local 5 mile loop.

The prospect of running a marathon next summer is really making me think. I've been pretty laissez-faire this summer, but slowly, the idea of working my butt off this winter is starting to sink in. I've lived with the knowledge of my potential for just about long enough. It's time to start doing. It's time to convert the confidence I have in my potential as a runner into some amazing memories.

It starts with consistency and commitment.

Expectations

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So I didn't play with my alarm last night, expecting it to go off at 5am, just like yesterday.

Well, that would assume, I guess, that I didn't turn it off when it went off yesterday.

So, instead of being out the door at 6, I was out the door at 8. Fortunately, the fog, which had started building up well before dusk yesterday, was still thick. It looked idyllic, and I was expecting a calm, beautiful, even surrreal run in the fog. Instead, what I got was a sticky, humid run. (I mean, come on! It's October!)

Much like yesterday, I wasn't really feeling all that powerful. When I finished up, my time didn't really set me afire, either.

It wasn't until I logged the run, and the computer showed me having run basically a 5 minute per kilometer pace, that I was forced to reevaluate the run. Sure, I'd love to be running 4 minute kilometers for hours at a time, but let's be realistic. For now, 5 minutes per kilometer shouldn't be all that comfortable. That I'm running it on an off day in September is encouraging.

Speaking of encouragement, the latest talk around the house involves travelling next june, so that I can run the Salt Lake City Marathon. There are a lot of hurdles to be overcome, but I'm very, very excited about the possibility. I might even just have to get a little bit more serious about not skipping runs.

Feels Like Starting Over

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Sometimes, a training log can become more of a personal health log. The gap in last week's training wasn't brought on by lack of resolve, but rather by health.

I swam on Tuesday. On Wednesday, when I got home from work, I skipped both dinner and my run and went straight to bed. I barely ate at all on Thursday, and on Friday I didn't eat at all.

By Saturday, I was on the mend, and feeling ravenous. I was also pretty lethargic, so I decided that going for a run would not be wise. By Sunday, I was myself again, but there was just zero opportunity to run.

So I packed my running stuff up this morning, and brought them in to work. At around quarter to noon, I got changed, and headed out for what GMap Pedometer promised would be a 10.5 km run.

The pace felt pretty good, but my legs felt a bit dead. In particular, my shins felt a bit tender. Not good. They never felt worse than uncomfortable, but I was keenly aware of the fact that my shoes have almost 600 miles in them now. I can't put off buying a new pair much longer.

With winter coming, running at noon is going to be a lot more attractive than running at night, in the cold. I think it's time I started getting in to work a bit earlier in the morning.

Not Quite Four

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Ok, so I didn't quite run four times this week. Three is close to four, right?

I didn't get out for a run Tuesday or Thursday nights. Running after swimming in the morning is tough, and I don't seem to be that kind of tough yet. I also didn't get out Friday, at all, despite having the day off.

Saturday, I went out for the local 5 mile loop again. Ran a continuous run this time, and felt ok doing it. I tried to pick it up a bit in the last third. Well, maybe more accurately, I tried to keep myself uncomfortable in the last third, to get myself used to the feeling. I went hard enough that my breathing was a bit laboured, but not so much that I felt like I was sprinting.

The best part was that I passed 1000km for the year. I probably should have done so months ago, but a milestone is a milestone, and I'll take it.

This morning I didn't get out for my long run. No idea why. Well, maybe it's the late hours I've been pulling. Fun, but it always seems to impact my running. Anyways, around 3pm, I finally decided that I'd better go out. So off I went.

My legs were feeling a bit achy, so I opted for 12km, less than either of the last two long runs. It fit, though, since my weekday runs were longer than in previous weeks. It was crazy windy out, which made it feel cooler than it actually was. I set an unambitious pace, and aimed to survive.

In the end, I was pretty happy I went out,.and not altogether unhappy with my pace. Next week, I will (he said to himself) get the four runs in, one way or another!

Cold, in Shorts

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No alarm this morning, but I was awake by 5:30, and up before 6. I ate, relaxed, then around quarter to I put my shorts and Tshirt on. Then, in a brilliant tactical move, I checked the weather.

9 degrees.

Mentally, I know that 10 degrees in shorts is doable. I usually wimp out in the spring, when I'm coming from winter, but in the fall I usually wear shorts for as long as possible. Last week, I wimped out and wore long pants when it was 10 degrees. I was too stubborn to change today, though.

I did think to grab the mp3 player, which I haven't run with in a while. The same mix is on there from at least a year ago. Oh well.

The first two minutes were a touch chilly, but I picked up my cadence right from go, and was comfortable pretty quickly. Folks were out, all bundled up, waiting for their busses or walking their dogs. Not me. If they stared, I didn't notice.

I did the local 5 mile route this morning, opting for a bit more distance than I ran last week. It felt surprisingly good. I was doing 10-and-1s, as much for injury avoidance as anything else. I know that route very well, and I know where my stops usually are. I knew I wasn't setting any land speed records, but I wasn't slow, either.

Of course, when I logged my run afterwards, I saw that I'm almost at 1000km for the year. It made me want to run back out and run a few more kilometers. =) It's actually a bit disappointing not to have hit that milestone months ago, but it's still a milestone.

Maybe tomorrow....

Weekend Wrap

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Friday morning, I again ran my local 5+ km loop. This time, having done a bit of reading on both Clara Hughes and Paula Radcliffe's sites, I was feeling the need to push myself, just a bit. I wouldn't say that I went out hard, but I made the pace a little uncomfortable for myself, and held it there. The result was that I ran the loop over three minutes faster than I had on Wednesday.

I took Saturday off, mostly out of laziness. It was a gorgeous day, and I may regret wasting it as the weather cools off.

Yesterday's long run also featured beautiful weather. It was mild, with temperatures in the high teens. The leaves are just starting to turn, and a couple of times when the wind picked up a bit I was running through a shower of leaves. Very picturesque.

When I left the house, I had two possible routes in mind - the one I'd done last week, or a slightly longer one. Since the first 5-6 km were common, I allowed myself the luxury of deciding en route. The pace was a bit faster than my recent Sunday runs, though I wouldn't call it fast. Still, it was fast enough that I chose the shorter route.

About 45 minutes in, I started to fade. I don't know if I slowed down, but I started to lose mental focus, and it was harder to keep my drive. Nonetheless, I finished the ~13.5 km loop 8 minutes faster than I did 8 days ago.

That's two 3-run weeks in a row. The last time I pulled that off was the two weeks leading up to the marathon in May. (Hard to believe, but that's how badly I've been neglecting my running.) This week, I think I'll aim for 4 runs.

Tough

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I had one of my rare bouts of insomnia Sunday night. Woke up around 1:30am, and didn't get back to sleep until just after 5am. It happens. I seem to have learned how to just shrug it off, and adjust my plans accordingly. (When I was younger, it seemed to cascade into multi-day and multi-week events.)

So, my Monday morning run was scuttled. I slept fine on Monday night, and was at swimming bright and early Tuesday morning. The workout was really tough, especially for me, since it featured a lot of kick, which isn't my forte. I survived, though, so it's all good.

This morning, I turned my alarm off (a partial concession to Monday's insomnia), but vowed to be up early-ish to get a run in. I was up and eating by 6:30, and out the door just after 7am.

It was 10 degrees out, and I wimped out and wore long pants and a long sleeve technical shirt. It started drizzling halfway through the run, so I was glad of being warmly dressed.

I'd love to tell you how awesomely strong I ran, but that wasn't really the case. It felt like I was starting running all over again, which, considering my summer mileage, might not be that far off. I'm trying to be mindful of likely having better cardio than legs at the moment, so I'm not pushing the pace too much, for fear of injury. Still, it was hard. It wasn't long ago that I would have considered that pace rather slow.

It kinda got me thinking about how dedicated my training was last winter, and how much the mileage really helped. I want to get back to that mileage, and I think I'm on the road to rebuilding it now.

I stumbled onto Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes' webiste and journal today. Reading some of what she has written gave me a huge burst of inspiration. Hughes is an amazing athlete, and her gold medal in the 5k in Torino was one of the most inspiring and outright amazing things I've seen in my life. Her journal give some insight into where her toughness comes from. She describes hard exertion, not done once in a while, but over and over again until it brings pain, nausea, and exhaustion.

Most of us, myself included, will never be olympians. We lack the talent for it. The point, though, is that talent alone does not bring the olympics. Hughes may very well know pain and suffering as well as any athlete on the planet. Her ability and willingness to push herself hard, to enter into the realm of pain, is independant of her talent. We mortals like those in the RBF are just as capable of making huge demands from ourselves. We, too, can push ourselves hard, accepting pain in the name of something greater.

I'm not about to turn masochist, but I always tacitly assumed that elite, talented athletes worked by different rules than the rest of us. They had more time and talent to persue their goals. There was basically no common ground for comparison.

Something in Ms. Hughes' writings bridged the gap, and got me thinking. I've trained pretty hard, 5 days a week hard, for a while. Have I ever really pushed myself in training? Have I built and sustained the kind of base that I would need to achieve the kinds of PBs that I know I'm capable of? Have I accepted the possibility of running hard, exhausting myself, on a weekly basis, for months and months on end?

When will I get around to doing it? It's like running. I always meant to run, but it took a kick in the butt to actually get around to starting running. You can waste your whole life waiting for the right moment.

I may have just caught a glimpse of something I want.

Running In the Dark

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I made it out for a run tonight. I did the local 5k loop. Nothing too ambitious, sometimes just getting out is enough.

I didn't want to go too hard, but something about cool evenings just makes me fly. Of course, even a bit of speed left me feeling laboured, so I let my pace go up and down. Sometimes, I felt strong, like I was moving with real speed and purpose. Sometimes, I felt a stitch coming in my side, and my form felt weak.

I hit the turnaround at around 14:00, and took a brief walk break. I wasn't feeling all that great, but I was glad to be out.

The run home was more of the same. I half-surprised some people out walking as I ran by them, but was too out of breath to apologize. I didn't really feel like I was going any faster, but when I stopped my watch before 26:30, I knew that I must have picked it up going home.

Landfall

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I finally made it to swimming this morning. We did a balanced back/breast/free workout. My shoulders were a bit sore, and I felt a bit slow, but wasn't too harshly punished for my truancy last week.

When I got home from work, I talked myself into heading straight out for a run. Almost immediately, I got that sloshy feeling. Bleh. Sometimes, running is a perfect concert of balance and power; sometimes, it's, umm... not.

I passed my phantom 1km mark in aroun 5:30, and thought about the fact that I'd be uncomfortable for more than half an hour before I made it back home. Somehow, I just wanted the run to be over.

Without intention or purpose, my pace picked up. I hit my first walk break a bit further than usual. My second walk break was probably a full minute beyond where I usually stop, and I felt like I was really moving. After the restart, I felt a bit slower, but was still working hard. When I took a cheater's walk break at the second turnaround, I was genuinely surprised at my time.

If there's one thing that I've been lacking lately, it's speed. Mostly, it's that my running since the marathon has been erratic. Just before my third walk break, though, as I moved onto the grass to pass some walkers, I felt it, just for a moment. It was something in my core, something powerful. Suddenly, I was doing more than moving my arm and legs quickly - I was running. The feeling was gone in a heartbeat, but I reflected on it on my walk break.

When I started up again, I was flying, and really trying to work on recapturing the feeling. My breath was ragged, but despite the exertion I wasn't ready to fade yet. When I made my final turn towards home, a bit further out than my 1k mark, I glanced at my watch. On my mind was whether I had been quick enough to leave myself 5 or 6 minutes to get home in under 40 minutes. What I saw was disappointing - 35:something. I'd need four something to get home in time.

I backed off the pace, but only for a moment. I still wanted that feeling. The pace wasn't fun, but I was holding it. That which does not kill me and all that.

There was no sprint to the line. I could up my rhythm, a bit, but I wasn't up to breaking it. I hit the line, and was a bit shocked with my finish time. Apparently, I really had been working on the home straight.

Did I feel it? Yeah, I felt it.

Fast vs Philosophy

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The plan for the first part of this week was simple. Run 8km at a comfortable pace Tuesday. Run 5km fast on Wednesday.

I haven't been feeling all that fast lately. What I have been feeling is philosophical. I keep telling myself that if I work at it, the speed will come. I also keep telling myself to rebuild a bit of a base before I get too worried about speed.

Well, today was the day to benchmark myself. Just how slow was I?

I hit out on the local 5km loop (5.3 or so, technically), and tried to establish a quick cadence right away. This necessitated some careful attention to oxygen, because for the first minute or two I wasn't getting enough. I wasn't interested in huffing and puffing, so I tried to relax myself and get it under control.

Once that settled down, well as much as it ever did settle down, I started wondering how I would ever be able to keep up the pace. If this had been a race, I thought, I would run a positive split for sure. Then again, if it had been a race, I might have been willing to kill myself to keep the pace up. Since it wasn't....

I hit my imaginary 1km marker (I really have no idea how far in it is, but it's fun to pretend that it's exactly 1km) in under 5 minutes. Apparently, there was actually some benefit coming from all this exertion. I guess I'm stuck in a swimming mindset, where doubling your exertion can easily have no visible impact on your speed. I started thinking about how you're supposed to build a race - first third easy(-ier), second third maintainable, last third really pushing. Based on my current level of effort, that plan just did not seem possible this morning.

As I rounded my second corner, I could see two runners ahead of me. I made a mental note to try to catch both of them. This gave me some motivation on the front nine, and took my mind off of what I was going through. Probably broke up a bit of the negativity, truth be told. Anyways, I did catch them both, at the bottom of the small hill. I powered up the hill to the turnaround, and took the barest 5 second walk break at the turnaround.

My split was 12:25 or so, which predicts a 24:20-24:30. This of course assumes that I can hold my pace, which I wasn't placing any bets on.

The first half of the return route seemed to be dominated by the thought "I'll just wait, and pick it up at the turnoff." I don't really know how good that mindset is at helping keep my pace up. Strategically, it probably would have been better to have been focused on the present. I was feeling the effort of the exertion, though, and the current limits of my training. Somewhere in here, I reminded myself that I'm able to keep up that kind of exertion when I'm swimming. I don't know if that's true or not, but I told myself that it was. I'm not sure if that counts as positive or negative reinforcement.

When I finally made the turnoff, I focused on keeping my head up, and aiming for a point in the distance. My cadence probably picked up a bit, but I could not have told you if I was going as fast as I had when I started. I could feel that my will was a bit tapped, but still held on to whatever pace I could manage. If I'd believed that I was still on pace for sub-25:00, I would have been telling myself how rare and cool going under 25 minutes on this route was. But since I was far enough out of my recent comfort zone to have no idea how I was doing, I just didn't know.

There was no real sprint at the end. I maintained, maintained, then clicked the watch and slowed to a walk. 24:22. Nice. Unexpectedly, I had not lost a step on the way home.

Even better, it turns out that I've only ever run that route faster once, a 24:13 over a year ago. I guess that I can be philosophical all I want, but the speed that I thought was missing isn't really as far away as I'd thought.

Happy Father's Day!

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I actually slept in until after 7am this morning. Had a quick breakfast and checked the weather. 20 degrees already? High of 31? I'd better get out there soon!

My goal was to run around the Jock - out along Bren Maur, and back along the Stonebridge trail. I didn't really have any goal pace-wise. Mostly, I just wanted to survive.

I did the first kilomter in 5:30-5:50 pace, which felt surprisingly good. I let myself fall into a rhythm, but resolved to take a walk break every ten minutes. By the time I'd reached my turnaround, I was sweating, and feeling very hot. I'd brought the MP3 player, and it was helping take my mend off things, but I was looking forward to getting to run in the forest for a bit.

Running under the canopy of trees was wonderful. It was a break from the direct heat of the sun. A bullfrog sang as I went by at one point, but other than an occasional walker or runner, I had the place to myself. All to soon, I reached the highway, and had to turn off for home.

The last stretch, back in the sun, was very hot. I had a feeling that my pace slacked a bit, but all that mattered was making it home. As I ran by the park, I thought that I didn't have a finish in me, but Guerilla Radio started on the MP3 player, and my cadence picked up all by itself.

It seems pretty sad to complain, because it was only 20 degrees, but I'd forgotten just how unbelievably hot and sweaty it can be to run in the summer. I was soaked by the time I got home. Cold water and a cool shower felt like the greatest gifts on earth, too.

Afterwards, the kids took me out to breakfast. So nice to not have to feed myself after a run! Happy Father's Day, everybody!

Home Stretch

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

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

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

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

Time to see what I can do.

Wormhopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taper Mistake

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

It felt very good to be pushed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intermissions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speed, Remembered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30, Unexpectedly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Family and the River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pit

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I worked pretty hard this week on trying to get my training back up to the level it was at in April. All the while, I was surrounded by sick people, both at work and at home. It all caught up with me Thursday night when, after tucking the kids into bed, I eschewed my planned run and crawled into bed myself. 12 hours later, I was calling in sick to work.

I felt better yesterday, but still took it easy. This morning, I felt ok when I got up (though my stomach was unsettled during breakfast, which is unusual). It was with trepidation that I drove down to the store, with a 30km run pencilled in.

They say that there's a two week lag in training - whatever you do doesn't really get reflected in your fitness level for two weeks. If that's true, then today's run was an investment in the future. Two weeks ago I wasn't really running yet, so I expected that this run would be very, very hard (despite last Sunday's successful run). No matter how much I struggled, though, I knew that getting a tough, injury free run would pay dividends down the road.

Sunrise

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I had originally pencilled in a bike commute today, weather permitting. While the rain from the last few days stopped yesterday afternoon, it was -2C when I woke up this morning. Try as I might, I could not convince myself that a ride would be fun.

So, I opted to run instead.

I opted to try an easy 12km run. I was doing 12-13km on Wednesday mornings before around the Bay. I figured if I gave myself a few minutes grace, I just might be able to manage it.

I wore my gloves as I headed out the door into the morning twilight. It was a bit chilly, but with winter such a recent memory, the air felt wonderful. What didn't feel so good were my abs. They felt exhausted for some reason. As a result, I was barely able to muster a 6:00/km pace out the door. (Which was fine.)

As I plodded through the neighbourhood, my gait felt off, as though I was striking the ground way too hard. Whether it was that, my lack of speed, or something else, I'm not sure. When I finally hit Bren Maur I started to feel a bit more comfortable. I think my pace picked up a bit, too. I hit the turnaround in 34:00 (proving to myself that I'd been running faster than I thought I had).

On the way back, the sunrise was in my face, and I could feel it warming me up. I took off my gloves, and enjoyed myself. I watched all the people scurrying off to work, and took some secret satisfaction in the simple fact that I was enjoying the morning.

I rolled home in 1:07 - no great shakes by Febrary/March standards, but faster than I thought I'd manage it. More importantly, I felt ok, and stretched out thoroughly.

Right now, the plan is to swim tomorrow, but not run unless I really feel up to it. The weather promises to be mediocre until the weekend, so I may hold off cycling until Saturday morning. We'll see.

My Own Backyard

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My goal for this morning was to survive a 20km run, and to use the run to gauge my fitness. Running-wise, April's been fairly off, and I need to answer some questions fairly quickly, with the race weekend coming up next month.

I decided to tag along behind the 4:00 marathon group, but I wasn't really impressed with the route they were running. About 1km in, I passed M, running the other way. I turned around and ran with him, to say hi and to chat. I ended up running with him, and while it was a bit faster than I'd planned on, I ended up being very glad that I did.

M was running 30km, and suggested that I could run 10km with him then turn around. He said that he'd be running through my old stomping grounds. We ran up the canal, through the arboretum, then on to farm. M had run Around the Bay as well, so we chatted about the race, and various other goings on. On the far side of the farm, we picked up the bike path, and ran along the northern edge of the farm. The ground rose steadily here, to one of the highest points in the city (don't laugh). Eventually, we broke into a fairly wooded area, right as we hit the 10km mark.

My return journey was obviously downhill, but it was also into a stiff, cold breeze. It had been drizzling all morning, and my hands were burning from the cold and the damp. As I hit the farm, I realized that the road I was running on was shared by both the Hypothermic Half (PB) and Barrier Breaker 5km (PB). My old stomping grounds indeed.

I had some quad tightness both at the start and towards the end of the run, but my consultant tells me that's likely due to the cycling that I've been doing. All in all, the 20km came fairly easily. I was pleased with how I was able to handle it (though I'm SO sleepy right now).

Hopefully, though, I won't be seeing too much more of today's weather.

Ginger

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

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

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

Cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Misery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beginnings

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

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

Weird.

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

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

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

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

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

Break in the Weather

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

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

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

Staying In

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

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

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

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

The Best Laid Plans

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This past weekend was not the nicest weekend in the history of winter.

Saturday, I ran in blizzard conditions. It was snowing, albeit not especially hard. It was also cold, -15C. There was also a fairly stiff breeze coming out of the east.

The first 12-15 minutes of my run were more or less straight into the wind. The first 10 minutes are usually the coldest anyways, so I spent the whole time wishing I was elsewhere. Or maybe that's elsewhen. Once I hit the first turnaround, I thought I would have the wind more or less at my back for 25-30 minutes. The truth was, as I ran south, occasionally the crosswind would feel like it was in my face. I don't really think it was, but it was chilly enough that I didn't entirely feel like I was getting a break.

Right before the turnaround, I ran maybe half a kilometer due west, with a downhill followed by a long slow uphill. That part was ok, but of course it meant that I'd have to turn right around and run the reverse, right into the wind. It was my last bit running eastward, and boy was I glad. It felt like my face was being assaulted by pins, needles, and cold water. It was absolutely unrelenting. I tried running backwards (too dangerous), I tried holding my hands in front of my face. At one point, I felt like I was being slowed down, almost pushed over by the strong winds. It was only a short leg, but it seemed to take forever for me to get to the corner.

I ran the same route as Wednesday, though it took me several minutes longer. Hardly surprising, considering.

Sunday, I was all set to do 20-22km, but my wife woke up feeling pretty sick, so I scuttled my running plans, and spent the day with the kids. The way the day went, there just really wasn't an opportunity to fit in the long run.

So be it.

I guess that and talent are what separates me from all those athletes who've been on the TV the last two weeks. When push comes to shove, there are more important things than getting in every last training run.

A month from now, I'll never even miss it.

Snowshoe

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I woke up at 5:30 this morning, but decided it was too early to move. Finally climbed out of bed around 6. I ate, drank, and waited. Around 7:30 I was out the door, for a 7 mile run.

(What is 7 miles, anyways? 11km? I had no idea. Oh well. Time to improvise something.)

This morning dawned brightly, though it was cooler than last night. The temperature had dropped below -10C. Fortunately, there was little wind to speak of, so once I warmed up, I wasn't too uncomfortable.

The snow had stopped, but everything was dusted with maybe a centimeter of new snow. I was able to see, in the less travelled areas, excatly how many people had been by that morning before I had. Or, in some cases, how many critters. For example, the rabbit had been by my driveway this morning, ducking under the care before scurrying away to a neighbour's driveway. There had also been a rabbit (or was it a snowshoe hare?) along a quieter part of Leikin. I tried to see where it had come from/gone to, but the tracks ran parallel to the sidewalk for a long way, and running while facing sideways is a recipe for disaster.

I was running 10-and-1s, and the first part of the loop was one that I run quite often. My first walk break came fairly early, and from experience I figured to be running around 6:00/km. Based on that stop, I projected my second walk break to be at the same location, on my return journey. However, when I got back to that spot, I still had a minute to go before my walk break. I guess after the first 10 minutes I sped up a bit.

Unlike yesterday, though, I had no real intention or desire to run a particular pace. I ran whatever was comfortable, and enjoyed the taste of the cold air in my mouth.

I tired a bit towards the end, but managed to carry my pace through until the end. Gmap Pedometer says that I ran 10.25km this morning. Not exactly 7 miles, but not that bad an estimate.

Churning

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I opted to go curling after work. I guess you could say it was my Olympic-inspired activity for the week. I even managed to not be completely awful. I made a takeout, and a draw or two that were pretty much on target. Most of the rest was in play, too, which is all you can ask for.

Curling, though, meant that I ate late. Eating late meant that I ran late.

I left two hours after I ate before I got ready for running, but even at that my stomach was still unhappy before I even got started. Still, I need to be up early to run again tomorrow morning, so there was no putting it off any longer.

I did the first kilometer in around 5:30. Not bad, not amazing. Around the mile mark, my stomach was making its displeasure known. Frankly, I felt pretty awful. There was nothing to do but tighten up the stomach muscles and push on as best I could. By around 2km, my stomach had backed off a little, and I was almost comfortable.

When I got to the turnaround, I checked my watch. Almost 15:00. Once again, I was running way slower than usual.

Something in my couldn't take it any longer. Maybe it was my dreams inspiring me. Maybe it was that my stomach was finally settled. I picked up the pace. I did my best to push all the way home. The snow had picked up, so the footing got worse on the way in, but I was undeterred.

I stopped my watch at 28:20. I'd been hoping for a 13:00 trip home, and I was within 20 to 30 seconds of that. Decent. Acceptable, I guess.

It's still not the right time to worry about speed, so I won't. Sometimes, though, when you're running, you just need to GO. Tonight was one of those nights, I think.

Warming Quickly

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Yesterday, it was bitterly, bitterly cold out. I opted to put in my run on the treadmill, and avoided going outside altogether.

This morning dawned a chilly -18C. I put a thick flannel sweater on between my dryfit long sleeve and my windbreaker, put some vaseline on my face to cut the windchill, and grudgingly headed out the door. Treadmills, I'm finding, help make winter running more bearable, but sometimes they're no substitute.

We had a flash freeze earlier in the week - the temperatures soared to well above freezing, then dove down to -10 fairly quickly. Everywhere you go, there are huge, thick sheets of ice, covering everything. The footing along the pathway next to the canal ranged from fair to awful, depending entirely on how it had looked when the freeze hit.

I seemed to luck in with the group today, and knew more than half the group. We ran around the Governor General's, then most of us ran down to Bronson and back. Theoretically, that's 18, though M said his GPS put it closer to 19. The pace wasn't all that easy on me, which is really the story of my week, but we ended up running just over 6:00/km, which should be around where I want to be most weeks (I think).

The best part of the run was how quickly it warmed up. We were warned about -31C wind chills when we left the store, but by the time we got to the GG's the sun was shining, and it was pleasantly comfortable out.

This week has been pretty tough, both mentally and physically. Hopefully next week, things will come easier, and some of the speed and endurance that I had last month will return.

Relaxing

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Yesterday it was snowing something fierce. By the time I was fully awake, the roads had several inches of thick, heavy snow on them. Treadmill time.

Of course, I got to enjoy all the comforts of home. Phone calls, more phone calls. Oh, and a nearby washroom. Talk about an easy, convenient pit stop. Officially a 10km run in just over 50 minutes, with 400m warmup and 400m cooldown. I stretched after the warmup and after the cooldown.

This morning, the roads had all been plowed. The forecast was for a high of -3, though it was -10 or so as I went out the door. It felt warmer, though; it was sunny, calm, and there were small puddles of standing (salt?) water here and there.

I was trying to hold back the pace a bit, since I was running 6km due to a taper, not because I wanted a temp run. Still, it was hard to avoid enjoying myself. So I flew along, going fast but pretending I wasn't.

The nice part is that I had lots of energy after the Sunday run. I think I'll cherish that feeling - it's not likely to come up too often.

Fall of Mercury

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After a mild week, we've snapped back to reality. From yesterday at dawn to sometime this morning, the temperatures fell from 5C to -20C.

When I left the house yesterday, it had just started to snow. The weather was just about perfect, or so I thought. 3km in, I realized that the wind had been at my back the whole time. From there on in, most of the run featured either a crosswind or a wicked headwind. No fun.

I was aiming for 10km, but decided to run a route along the Jockvale river. This resulted in me running 12km instead of 10, which was fine. I felt reasonably strong the whole way, but I will confess that the run was uninspired. This is my last weekend of training before the Hypothermic Half, but I wasn't excited about that. Neither the training run nor the upcoming race got me going. Of course, I was cold and wet at the time, so that may have contributed to my lack of enthusiasm.

Today's run was scheduled for 20. K, fresh back from a strong run at Disney, offered to run the Governor General's with me, with option of doing the full 20 if he felt up for it. Along the way, we ran into R and C, and ended up running the bridges loop on our way back from the GG's in order to hit 20. It worked out well, since the wind was out of the northeast (and boy, was it nasty!). The nice part about the last 5km was that the wind was at our backs. The not-so-nice part was that yesterday's flash-freeze had left some VERY slippery sections along the canal. C nearly fell at one point, in fact he probably would have if his arm hadn't caught my shoulder. He managed to right himself, but we were all being pretty cautious when we had to be. This resulted in us going a little slower than we had on the roads around the GG's, and also resulted in some sore leg muscles.

Still, we finished up 20km in under two hours, and considering the conditions I felt pretty good. I think that my current training program is serving me well.

Abandoned

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I was up at 6pm this morning. Usual routine - oatmeal, lots of water, don't even look outside until I'm getting ready.

The temperature was 0, with a high today of 6. Mild indeed for January. The problems were twofold - it was raining, and it at freezing rained overnight. Thus, the weather was just about as uncomfortable for running as you can get, and the footing was uncertain.

I set out to do a local 10km loop. After the first 10 minutes, I was already feeling like cutting it short. Physically, I felt fine, if a bit wet, but the footing was unstable in places. Even the main roads were slushy. I was trying to give cars a wide berth, but that was breaking my rhythm. In short, the run wasn't much fun, and wasn't being all that productive.

After the turnaround, I bailed, and took a shortcut home. It made for a disappointing morning, but honestly, I have no regrets at this point.

Sometimes, you have to play the hand you're dealt.

Tough Weekend

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I'm wearing out the reload button on jeff's blogcast. So exciting!

The kids have been under the weather this week. That and the cold weather convinced me to wimp out and run on the treadmill yesterday, so that my wife could go out.

I was aiming to put in a 50:00 10km, at 2.0 incline. About 15 minutes in, my left leg started to nag. I decided that it would be wise to slow down a bit, so I dropped from 11.9km/hr to 11.6. It seemed to help.

I found out pretty quickly that fifty minutes is a long time to be on the treadmill. I tried talking myself into only doing 8km, but decided to stick to my guns. With around 2km to go, I bumped the speed back up to 11.8km/hr. It felt ok, but I was tiring. I finished up in around 51:30, tired but pleased.

Today the plan was 18km, any way I could. Ideally, I wanted to run a 5:30 to 6:00/km pace. It's still early in the season, though, and the footing was pretty snowy and slippery, so pretty much anything would have to do. There may come a time when I want to consistently push pace on my Sunday long runs, but that time is not now. For now, I need to just focus on putting in my distance on Sundays.

I ran the bridges loop with M and someone I didn't know, then struck out for Dow's Lake Pavillion on my own. Around the 15km mark, things got hard. My legs started to ache a bit, especially the side of my left knee. Uh oh. I tried to take it easy, and just focus on finishing the run comfortably. The knee pain didn't persist, but I started feeling very tired. When I finally finished, I took extra care to stretch thoroughly, especially my hamstrings and ITBs.

Last Run

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Today was the last run of the year. Can't skip that now, can we?

Well....

It was cold outside. Like -15C cold. Plus, the glare ice is still there. Still, a day of rest (and christmas candy) had me needing to go for a run, in more ways than one. One went the extra layer of clothing, and out I went, hoping that the ice had been cleared away.

Right away, I could feel the cold. It felt like the wind was from the north, ergo right in my face. My face, especially my nose, were awfully cold. I was trying to tell myself to run faster so that the run would be over sooner, but of course, the sidewalk was covered in ice. Since I'm allergic to faceplants, I aimed for controlled speed.

Once the sidewalk ended, I ran on the shoulder of Woodroffe. I was hoping that this would be clear, but I found a mixed bag. At times, the whole shoulder was clear. At other times, it was all icy. At times, it was a mish-mosh. I did the best I could, trying to gain time on the clear sections, and trying not to fall on the icy ones.

I HAD to check my watch at the turnaround, even though it was buried under 3 layers of clothing. 26:00. Yuck. Well, maybe the footing will be better on the way back. Plus, I'll have the wind at my back, right? Hammer time!

Good news? I picked it up a bit. Bad news? The wind was still chilling my nose, especially once I broke into open farmland on both sides. Seems that headwind I'd been trying to shake was a crosswind. Yuck.

I tried to keep my effort up, reminding myself that I could stretch inside. Go, go, go! I checked my watch as I passed the gas station. This had been 50:00 on Wednesday. 47:00? Yay! That was all the incentive that I needed to hammer home.

And that's it. 2005, the year in (salty) running, is over. Next year is a clean slate, all ready for me to fill with new stories of failure and success.

2005-stats.jpg

Merry Christmas!

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Got 10 miles in this morning. Glorious day. Warm outside.

Hope everyone got what they wanted for Christmas. I didn't have to count the smiles around me this morning to know that I did.

Chasing the plows

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It snowed a bit yesterday, but I could tell it was mild today when I looked outside to see my neighbour shovelling his driveway with no coat on. Sounds like a day for a run!

The backroads were somewhat snowcovered and slushy, but I was hoping for better things on the main roads. The roads were fine, but the sidewalks were unplowed. The good news is that the snow as so wet and sticky that there was very little slipping on it. Still, it didn't take long before I gave up on the sidewalks, and started running on the roads.

My first 10 minutes was only an average speed, and I decided that I wanted to pick it up a bit. I had some success with the next segment, finishing maybe 10 metres ahead of where I usually stop for my second walk break. For some reason, though, after that it got easier.

Rather than run along Crestview, I opted for the less busy Cresthaven. The advantage that Crestview usually has is that there are no side streets, and the sidewalk is unbroken for more than a kilometer. Since the sidewalks were snow-covered, Crestview seemed the safer but.

Less than two minutes onto Crestview, my decision paid off in an unexpected way. I passed a sidewalk plow coming the other way. He was actually just finishing up, having already done the east side of the road. Hurray! Clear sidewalks!

There were still puddles and slushy spots to dodge or leap, but I was more comfortable on the sidewalk, and better able to get into the groove. I ran to the second traffic circle, ran around it, then headed home.

Despite the snow and slush, that was just about as nice a run as I can ask for in winter. The footing perils of above-zero conditions don't quite negate the joy of running and not being cold.

This run was a milestone of sorts. I exceeded 1200km, which is an average of 100km/month.

It's less than I ran last year, but I trained for and ran a marathon last year, which adds a ton of distance. 100km/month was a goal I set for myself this year, and it looked like it would fall by the wayside this summer, when triathlons devoured my attention. Nonetheless, I attained my goal, though with not much time to spare.

Frozen!

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(Apparently, the BTT theme of the day is one word blog entry titles with exclamation points.)

It's beginning to occur to me that I'm going to be running tired an awful lot this winter. Way back when I would only run 3-4 times a week, I would typically be well rested between runs, and enthusiastic and ready to go again. Now, though, with 5 runs and 2 swims in a week, I'm typically still a little tired from my last run or swim when I go out for a run. In the grand scheme of things, it's probably good, but it does mean that I'm going to have to be extra disciplined. The temptation to skip a run is going to be omnipresent, at least for a while.

With that in mind, I did get out for a run last night. That's to jeff's awesome result this weekend, I had plenty incentive to run hard. Unfortunately, I never really felt like I was flying. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe it was all the extra gear I wear in winter. Maybe, just maybe, it was the 2.5km I'd swam that morning.

This morning, the net said it was -20C out Yuck. I searched the house for my ballaclava, but in the end opted for my hat with earflaps, along with nike long sleeve shirt with thumbholes, heavy fleece, and light gloves. I rolled my shirtsleeves down over my gloves, and braved the cold as best I could.

All thoughts of pace were gone pretty quickly, as all I could think about was the cold. My nose was running, and my face got numb pretty quickly. I tried putting my covered hands up to my face and blowing every so often, but as good as that felt, I'm sure it did more harm than good. It didn't occur to me until after that I should have put some vasiline on my face, to protect it from the wind. Fortunately, the wind was calm, and it was just warm enough and my run was just short enough that I wasn't too worried about my nose freezing. After a while, though, I felt my eyelashes freezing up, and I'm sure my runny nose and foggy breath were turning my beard white.

I finished up, and stretched inside the house. I usually stretch outside, but it felt so nice to be able to be warm. My time and pace weren't quite what I was hoping for, but on a day like today, just getting the run in is enough of an achievement.

Anti

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So, I was planning to have a relaxed, social run yesterday. So much for that.

I tagged along with K, K and E. I think they were doing 16km, but they might have only been doing 12km. Right from the start, though, I hung at the back and ran quite slowly. Some days you just don't have it, and that's how I was feeling right from the start of the run. Maybe it was just that I overslept. Maybe it was that I hadn't left enough time after breakfast. Maybe it was that I was a touch underdressed for the cold. Maybe it was that my ITBs were talking to me - not painful, but enough to be noticed. Anyways, whatever it was, it was enough for me to run dead slow, hang back, and be anti-social.

I ended up stretching my ITBs out a couple of times. I don't know if it helped, or if the pace helped, or if I just shrugged off my blues, but about halfway through the run I broke out of my doldrums and picked up the pace (or did picking up the pace break my doldrums?). I broke off from the group I'd been shadowing, and decided to take a path that would be less than the 16km I was afraid that they were running.

From there on in, I felt ok. I ran on my own, at a comfortable pace, until I hit fifth avenue, where I unexpectedly ran into M, who was just starting his run. We chatted until we hit Bank, then he crossed the canal to head for Quebec while I headed back to the store and headed home.

Sometimes, life is just like that. It wasn't even remotely the run I wanted to do, but in the end I did my run, and that's all that matters.

Sunny Saturday

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What a change a day or two can make.

After the midweek cold snap, Friday dumped snow on us. A lot of snow. It looks like 6-8 inches to the naked eye, but might be as much as the foot we were forecast to have. Today, though? One of those glorious winter days that makes it all worthwhile. It was sunny, and rather mild. I started out in jacket and a long sleeve tee, but ended up tying the shirt around my waist halfway through the run.

I'm still trying to make this a lower mileage week, so I wasn't interested in going too hard. I was aiming for anywhere from a 5:15 to a 5:30/km pace, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

Tomorrow I think I'll plan for a social run - find someone I know who's doing 12-14 or so, and hitch a ride. Next week I'll pick things up again, though of course what I'll run Sunday of next week is anyone's guess.

Treadmill

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It was cold again last night. Rather than submit myself to another run in the cold, especially when my throat is still bothering me, I decided to finally try out my wife's new treadmill.

It felt like a bit of a cop-out, I suppose. I'm excited that my wife wants to spend the winter walking and running indoors, but by and large I prefer running outside. Still, I didn't feel like going out in the cold, and I wasn't about to skip another run, so....

I pressed the quickstart button for 8mph, and hopped on. It took me a while to figure out the display. Turns out I was running a 4:39/km pace, or 7:30/mile. This is slower than my 1mile, 5km and 10km PBs, so I figured it would probably do for a 5km pace.

One thing I always forget is how hot I get on a treadmill. It didn't help that I was in a small room, with not much circulation. Bleh. I ended up taking my glasses and shirt off, in an effort to keep cool. The treadmill has built in fans, which also helped. Still, it makes me wonder if I couldn't save money on my heating bill this winter....

Marathon Dreams

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Today's run was 16km, any way I could. I dreamt up my route during my run yesterday. My rough estimate, putting together two routes I knew to be around 10.5 and 5.4, gave me roughly the 16 I wanted. GMaps Pedometer reports it as bang on 16. It's always weird when math done in your head during a run is actually correct!

Since it's been months since my last 16+km run, I had no ambitions as to my pace. However, I knew that if my run was close to 16km I'd activate my parrot predictor (>marathon distance over the week). It's just a silly number, and at lower mileages less likely to be an accurate predictor. Still, like a geek with a new toy (which, let's face it, was exactly what I was), I was dying of curiousity as to what it would predict.

So an easy, pain-free run. But not slow.

The Woodroffe path was largely snow covered. Less than a centimeter, but it had that "one step forward, one centimeter" back slippy feeling that makes running on snow an extra challenge. I probably spent 6 of my first 8 kilometers on the snow. With the exception of one small slip for no apparent reason, this stretch of the run was relaxed and incident free.

Once I got off the snow, it felt like I picked it up a bit. This was probably inevitable to some extent - suddenly, for the same amount of effort, I was getting more grip on the road. However, my mp3 player, which had conspired to play songs which made me want to run fast on snow, started mellowing out, so I followed suit.

There was little wind to speak of, and the temperatures were mild, so it was a great day to be out running. I started to feel the distance over the final few kilometers. I wouldn't say that I was fading or struggling, but I could tell that the distance was more than I was used to.

I finished up in a reasonable, sub-6:00/km pace. An hour and a half in the snow, and I wasn't feeling the cold at all - the recipe for a perfect Sunday in December. 3:42:29. Wow. I have to say that I'd be awfully happy running that in May. Of course, the parrot predictor sets a lower limit for your marathon time, rather than a reasonable time. Still, the very thought that I might be capable of that, someday, is encouraging.

While I was gazing at my parrot predictor, it occurred to me that my friend J ran a marathon in Hawaii this weekend. I'll fully admit that he's faster than me, but I'm hoping to close the gap on him this winter. If I got his name right, it looks like he ran a sub 3:30 marathon. Wow. Good for him.

Now there's a dream time to chase! Forget my parrot predictor. ;)

Speaking of marathons, this week was a carbon copy of week 1 of Hal Higdon's Intermediate-II, which I'm planning on using as my training plan for the marathon in May. So between now and late January when the 18 week plan starts, I'll probably be running some kind of a holding plan. I'll push out a bit further in preparation for the Hypothermic Half, but still give myself a rest week or two between now and then.

I logged my entry, and checked my weekly distance. 43.4km. I checked my parrot predictor.

Beating Me Down

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I had an amibitious 8 on the plate this morning. I had some excellent reasons, however, to not tackle them first thing in the morning. For one, I have a party first thing tomorrow, and can't run until the afternoon - making running early this morning less critical. For another, I'm sick of running in the dark. Last, but certainly not least, Liverpool was on TV as the early game this morning. Clearly, I could not abandon my team in their hour of need.

As it turned out, it was a "pleasant" -1 out when I finally went out for my run (everything's relative). I opted for a short sleeve techincal shirt (opted being the term for it being the only thing I had that was clean), toque, gloves, and the all-important mp3 player. After two or three minutes of taking it easy, I started moving along at a good clip. It wasn't until I turned north that it became apparent that there was a stiff breeze at my back, and that I would be paying the penalty shortly. I hit my first turnound on the T at 12:50, knowing I had up to 17 minutes of wind in my face in front of me. Still, I was off to a good start, despite doing 10-and-1s.

Knowing that I wanted to go fairly hard today, I decided that I needed to reestablish myself at the 5:00/km pace. Some quick mental math, always treacherous on the fly, told me that I needed to run the complete the top of the T by 28:00, possilby 28:30, to make my 5:00/km pace. So I pushed. My walk break came when I was heading due east, into the teeth of the wind. I tried to catch my breath, and pushed on with resolve. The turnaround finally came, with an encouraging 27:50 on the clock.

Now, I had my last stretch with the wind at my back, before 5+ minutes straigh into the wind. Determined to make the most of the wind, I tried to really fly along this stretch. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was due a walk break short, since I'd been doing 10/1s up to that point. I decided to skip it. Now, skipping the walk break doesn't necessarily gain me a minute. It can gain me much less if I needed the walk. Nonetheless, I mentally had the bit between my teeth.

When I finally made the turn back into the wind, I was starting to tire. The first few hundred metres felt ok, but then the wind started gusting. I started sucking air, and felt like I was fading. All I could do was try to keep my resolve, and run to the finish.

I was very surprised and pleased to find that I finished up in 39:34. I had a feeling I hadn't gone under 40:00 too many times on that loop. I was right.

MerivaleStonewayGraph.jpg

And now, to reward myself with a few cookies. The neighbourhood did a cookie exchange last night, and there are a few kinds I haven't sampled yet.

Layers

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Last night was -6C, and fairly calm. I opted for two layers - my longsleeve Nike technical tee (with super long sleeves and thumb holes) and jacket. I thought I might be slightly underdressed, but resolved to move along quickly to keep myself warm.

I certainly went out strong, making the turnaround in 13:00. Almost immediately after the turnaround, though, I started feeling the beginnings of a stitch in my stomach. I backed off a bit, and let my concentration wander. The rest of the run was more comfortable, but I ended up with a small positive split. Oh well.

This morning it was -10C, but since I was going 8km instead of 5km, I opted for a third layer - a long sleeve cotton tee between my technical tee and my jacket. This turned out to be a wise decision. Though the air temperature difference was only 4 degrees over the night before, a bit of a breeze had picked up, and my hands and face were chilly. My core was nice and warm, though.

After the first turnaround, I was headed striaght into the wind, and I found myself briefly wishing I was wearing my ballaclava. Yuck. Even the slightest wind is yucky when it's cold. As I finally put the wind at my back for a stretch, the sky started to glow. I felt much warmer, though it probably had more to do with the wind I wasn't feeling than the sun I couldn't even see.

I ran the full 8+ kilometers using 10-and-1s. As I gain confidence in my midweek runs, I'll probably move to running straight through. For now, though, I prefer erring to the side of going easy on my body. I've got a long way to go, and things will be tough enough before the end.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I think a third bowl of cereal is in order.

Chatting Up an Old Favorite

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I was aiming for 14km this morning. Fortunately for me, so was the Running Room half marathon clinic. So I ended up doing the bridges route with some old friends.

I ended up running with a fairly large group, all of whom are training for the Hypothermic Half Marathon in January. Four of the runners were people I knew from marathon training last year. The pace was fairly easy at first - 6:00 to 6:30 per kilometer with 1 minute walk breaks every 10 minutes. Which was fine. I've pushed pace enough this week. Today was about getting the distance in.

We ran up the canal to downtown, then across parliament hill to the Portage bridge. As we crossed the portage bridge, I noticed the slightest of twinges in my left knee. I stopped for a moment to stretch out my left ITB, then kept going. The women that I knew were stopping at the Museum of Civilization for a potty break. Rather than run on with strangers, I decided to walk until they caught up, which they did as I was crossing the Alexandra Bridge. I ran most of the rest of the way back with K, just chatting, taking it easy, and never once noticing my ITB.

Once that was done, there was nothing left to do but stretch, buy bagels, and drive home. Mmm... Bagels.

Boiling Over

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I ended up running fairly hard last night. Much harder, probably, than was smart or wise. Maybe it was just the pent up frustration from a disappointing week of training. Maybe it was that, 15 minutes before I ran, my computer told me that I was about to lose all the work I'd just done. I didn't lose it, in the end, but I didn't appreciate being told that I would.

So when I finally got out around 10pm last night, I was in no mood for a leisurely stroll. I wanted to go hard, and get out of the rain as quickly as possible. My last couple of 5km runs have featured slow first halves and fast second halves. I was determined to put in a solid 5km, start to finish.

My cadence and breathing were up right from the start. Unfortunately, the faint breeze was at my back the whole way out, which meant I'd have the cold spray of the rain in my face all the way home. Yuck.

I hit the turnaround in 13:25, faster than Tuesday, but nothing special. I tried to pick it up on the way home. I was rewarded by shortness of breath, and blindness when a car's headlights would illuminate my glasses. I tried to pour it on as hard as I could for the last kilometer or so, and finished up in 25:25.

Truth be told, that's not a really fast time, by my standards. However, given that I swam 14 hours earlier, it wasn't too bad. Most importantly, it felt good to go hard, and I'm not feeling it this morning.

November Rain

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My swim yesterday was awful. I felt flat and slow. I'll blame it on being forced to do lots of backstroke, but it could have just been one of those things.

The run last night was fine. I was a bit slow on the way out, but come home pretty hard. Felt good. Could feel my upper body stability helping me along. Only problem was the rain, but since it was 10 degrees, it was more or less comfortable.

This morning, my goal was 8km, at any pace I could muster. The rain had abated, but it was still damp. 5 degrees, though, is awfully nice for the last day of November. (Apparently though, nothing does last forever, even November....) I felt creaky right from the get-go, but settled into my 10-and-1s, and just did what I could. My left ITB might have been the tiniest bit tight, but all in all it was a fair run. I picked it up slightly over the last quarter, and finished in 48 minutes.

The warmth and the rain have washed all the snow away from last week. It's probably our last respite before spring, though, so I'll enjoy it all while I can.

The Season of Slippery Progress

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It was the first run on snow today. There was about a centimetre (half an inch) on the ground, in most places.

We've actually had snow for a few days, but I haven't been running. I had plans Tuesday night, and forgot to run. It would have been tough to fit in, but was impossible by the time I remembered. Wednesday, I came home feeling sort of yucky. I decided to curl up under a blanket in front of the fireplace for a few minutes before I headed out. Minutes turned into hours, and I started feeling worse, not better. Thursday and Friday were total writeoffs. Saturday I considered running, but decided to take the extra day's rest to be safe.

I could be pretty upset about missing some training due to being sick. Unfortunately, having young children, sometimes being sick comes with the territory. So, I look at this week as a rest week - a chance to consolidate the training that I've done; a chance for my muscles to grow stronger, and heal up from last week's hectic schedule before diving right back in next week. Maybe in the long run, it'll work out for the best.

I did go to a friend's house party last night. I trained for my first and only marathon with L. She invited a lot of people that we both know from running, as well as people from her and her partner's work, and from their neighbourhood. Work and neighbours were well represented, but I was the only runner who showed up. Oh well. One of the work friends recognized me from the Hypothermic Half Marathon (where L's partner had been taking pictures) as "that salty guy". See? My moniker is well earned!

My run today was an easy tour of the neighbourhood. I took a brand new route today, and wasn't really sure how long it was. I ended up running just over an hour, and GMap Pedometer says it was 10.5km. I'll take it.

Onwards and upwards.

Habit

| 4 Comments

I slept in yesterday, largely due to the fact that the rest of the family slept in. We had a baptism to attend in the morning. I had my breakfast, and started calculating how best to fit my run in before we went to church. In the end, I decided that any attempt to run before the ceremony would put everyone under pressure, so I decided to run in the afternoon.

It made the whole run a bit strange. Sunday morning is very much a habit for me - get up at this time, eat at this time, start to get ready at this time. On the other hand, it was nice to not have to watch the time. I was free to go as slow as I wanted.

I ran back down the under-construction rec path along Woodroffe again. It was 7 degrees outside, so I left my hat and gloves at home. This was a mistake, as the wind was fairly strong. Most of the run was along the edge of farmland, and there was little shelter from the biting wind.

I was mindful of my resolve to keep the pace nice and slow. I took a walk break roughly every ten minutes, and for the most part backed off the pace when I felt it creeping up. I ended up doing around 13 km in 1:16. I'm very happy with the pace.

All in all, you could say that it was a decent run. It was, except for one small thing. By breaking my usual running habit, I ended up forgetting one small part of my preparation. Bodyglide. The discomfort I've felt ever since has been a strong reminder to make sure I don't forget anything before my next run. =(

How Did I Do It?

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It's a milder day today. Above zero, with the patches of thin snow melting into thin streams. No wind, no rain. Nice.

I set out to do the same neighbourhood loop that I've already done twice this week. I'll get bored of it soon enough, but for now, it's close, convenient, and comfortable.

I felt good right from the start. Knowing that I could and would back off the pace tomorrow, I let myself go, trying to keep pushing the whole way. It felt good blowing my by fake first kilometer marker (I really have no idea how far into the run it is) in 4:55. But before too long, the pace started to get tough. Specifically, it got tough mentally.

I kept thinking about my 5km race back in September. "How did I go that fast?" alternated with "Man, I was strong back then!" I was pretty sure that I was going much slower than in that race, but holding up the pace felt five times harder. We forget quickly, of course, about the physical challenges of a race. Mentally, though, I knew I was miles from where I was a couple of months ago. Back then, I had my eyes on the runners in front of me, had a plan to pick it up in the second half, and the confidence that my plan would work. Today, all I wanted to do was back off until my breathing was more comfortable.

Sure, this was a workout and not a race, but I found myself marvelling at the difference. Am I really that much tougher in a race? Or was it just a really, really good day for me?

I walked for 15-20 seconds at the turnaround, something I've been doing the last couple of weeks. It's far too early in the season to be pushing pace for 25 minutes non-stop, and besides this will help me recover from pacing errors. Or something like that. Maybe I just like catching my breath. ;)

Coming back, I focused on my turnover/cadence. I wasn't going to pieces in the second half like I had in September, but concentrating was getting harder and harder. Into the "last kilometer" (again, true distance unknown) I picked up my knees and heels a bit, and tried to extract a bit of extra speed. I paid the price, but limited myself to a price I was willing to pay. I was short of race effort. Or should I saw I was short of race mentality.

I finished up in 24:32 for 5.4km, which I was surprised to see was the second fastest I've run that route. I knew sub-25 was fast, but I'd forgotten just how long it had been since I'd done it. I guess I'm pretty pleased with the run - it's more than I thought I had in me, and I explored the cushy, softer edges of my mental toughness. All too soon, my distances will start to increase, and I'll need to be living in my "tough" zone.

Relativity

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The first words I heard at swimming this morning: "We're going to try for 2800 metres this morning."

Whee!

I ended up doing 2650m. I'd say I ran out of time, but without my glasses I couldn't be certain that I was reading the clock correctly. Instead, let's just say that I did a 250m cooldown.

Speaking of cooldown, it was snowing when I left the pool. Not just snowflake, melt, snowflake melt, but accumulation. By the time I'd left work, the wind had picked up, and the snow had given way to rain. Oh boy.

This week was my first trying a Tuesday run. I aimed to be slow, since I wasn't sure how I would react (especially in a day or two, when it all starts to add up). The wind was out of the northeast. It was eerie; it seemed calm when running west and south, but running the other ways the cold water, drops on my glasses, and stiff wind made running less than pleasant. I made the turnaround in 15:20. I knew I'd been taking it easy, but was surprised that I was that slow.

Most of the return trip was into the wind. With a mile to go, though, I turned west, and all became calm. My glasses were still spotted with rain, but without the wind I noticed that I was moving fairly quickly. I guess I'd gotten used to exerting effort fighting the wind, and all of a sudden that extra push had nothing to fight against. Anyways, I finished up in almost 29 minutes - my slowest run on that course in ages. Of course, my running log puts that at a respectable 5:20/km pace, so I can't really get too upset about it.

The real test will be to see how I feel in the morning.

Reprieve

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For a variety of reasons, I decided to run from home this morning. Not the least of the reasons was the opportunity to sleep in a bit this morning.

When I finally did get outside, the air was even warmer than expected. I was glad that I'd decided to leave my hat and gloves behind. The strip mall sign told me that it was 6 degrees outside, but it might have been even warmer. Gone were the wind and rain of the last week. After slogging through some yucky runs, today was my reward.

I ran the rec path they're building on Woodroffe again. It's not much closer to being done than it was last time I ran it. It took me 20 minutes or so to get comfortable. I made the turnaround in around 32 minutes, more or less on a 6:00/km pace. At this point in my training, I'm more afraid of going too fast on Sundays than too slow. Still, on my way back, I found my groove, my pace picked up a bit, and I really started to enjoy the run. I tied my coat around my waist, and enjoyed above all else not being cold.

(Mark this day on the calendar - I might not be able to say that again until March!)

I was on a tight schedule, but had time to run to the school and back, which made the run come out close to 12km. Just what I wanted. I want to start pushing Sunday runs out to 12-14km this month. Most of my weekly distance progression will come from moving to 5 runs a week, and from adding distance to Wednesday and Saturday runs. Soon enough, my Sunday runs will get longer. Much longer. For now, I'm in no hurry.

Milestone

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I passed 1000km running for the year this week.

Once upon a time, I had aspirations of averaging 100km a month this year. I don't think I'll be attaining that. I blame this summer, especially August and September, for that. Of course, considering what I did over that time, I have zero regrets.

My plan for this morning was to take it easier than I did yesterday. I made the turnaround one minute behind yesterday's schedule, and finished one minute behind yesterday's schedule. Guess I picked it up a bit on the way home. Still, the last two days I've been comfortably close to 5:00/km. It's a good place to be starting out from.

Stormy Weather

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My 3 all-time least favorite running conditions:

3. Unbearably hot. 35C and humid is uncomfortable, and dangerous, to run in. Fortunately, around here, running early in the morning or late at night is a reliable way to avoid these conditions.

2. Unbearably cold. Yup, those -30C days do happen around here. Uncomfortable and extremely dangerous. No getting around them, either. Running at noon can help, but if it's -30C at noon, then that's as good as it gets.

1. Wind/Rain and near 0C. Spring and fall rains near the freezing point can chill me faster than any other conditions, even the one above. The problem is that layering is less effective once you're wet, and drying out on the run is impossible. Wind compounds this problem, and also makes brimmed caps less effective at keeping the cold water off your face and out of your eyes.

Today fit these conditions to a T. The only boon, and it was a stretch, was that the wind was in my face on the way out, meaning that it was at my back on the way home.

That said, it was a decent run. I've been surprised and a bit disappointed at how hard some of my 5km and 10km runs have been recently, but I felt fine throughout the run. I kept thinking that I should back off, but never felt the pressing need to.

A Farewell to Vincent

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November has arrived. October was all about taking some active rest, but November will be about building a routine for the winter. I'm looking to try Hal Higdon's Intermediate-II marathon training plan this winter, but I need to know if running 5 times a week is compatibly with the rest of my life - most notably the Tuesday and Thursday morning swims. So in Novermber I'll build to 5 runs a week, all fairly short (for me), and see how I feel. If it works, I'll start to build distance into the Wednesday, Sunday and possibly Saturday runs, working towards the Hypothermic Half in January.

October was also noteworthy for its lack of consideration for time. It has been weeks since I wore a watch, or timed a run. This weekend represented a change to that philosophy.

Running Weekend

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I was going to run on Friday, but instead rented movies. Maybe watching Saint Ralph counts as half credit?

I did get out Saturday morning for an easy 5km. Went a little slower, felt much better than Wednesday. Tried to keep my shoulders relaxed, but didn't worry about cadence or footstrike.

This morning, I ran with a group of ladies from my old marathon group. We did the route through the arboretum, probably one of the last runs through there this year, as it is impassible once the snow has fallen. Once back at Bank street, they turned back to the store, and I continued on to Pretoria. I think my pace picked up a bit, but I felt relaxed, and more strong than I have in weeks.

This week is the first time in a month I've gotten in 3 runs in a week. My goal is to keep my runs short for now, but build my running frequency, and establish a consistent schedule. I'm sure that as I do, my strength will continue to return.

Sunday Brunch

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I'm determined to be in rest mode at the moment. I celebrated this new season by blowing off running on Friday and Saturday. Result? Zero guilt.

This morning, my old marathon training group was having a reunion brunch. Some of the group I still see at two or three times a month, but some have gone on to injury, pregnancy, or different pace groups (hmm maybe that was me).

First, though, came the run. I ran with a couple of old friends. We set a goal for 10km, but in the wind and cold 7 seemed enough for the ladies. I pushed on an extra kilometer or two at a higher pace, trying to stretch out my legs a bit. It felt tough, but blessedly short.

Afterwards, we convened for brunch at K's house. Just about every face was familiar (except the newborn's!). It was neat to reconnect with everyone, some of whom I hadn't seen for a year or more. Group marathon training is a strange setting - we spent literally hours and hours together, so even if we seldom see each other in street clothes, we all know at least a few of each other's stories.

All in all, it made for an outstanding morning.

I'm still dreaming and plotting and scheming the road ahead, training-wise. It's part motivational. Actually, I suppose it's all motivation based. I'm eager to smash a few records next year, and to take another step towards realizing my (imagined?) potential. Since this is my officially-designated "rest season", scheming is a much better idea than running out the door.

Cheers!

Small Victories

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Sometimes, it's an epic. Sometimes, it's small potatoes.

Tonight was no great feat. No obstacles were overcome. No milestones were achieved.

I won't talk about strep, or about sore muscles, lack of sleep, or frustration. None of that matters. Sometimes, you live, and sometimes, life happens to you. None of that matters.

I ran tonight. It hadn't happened for two weeks, but hit happened tonight.

It's a start.

Build Run

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I signed up for the Barrier Breaker 5km on Saturday. Time to put my PB on the line.

I'm plagued by doubts that I won't be able to match my 5km triathlon split from last month. I haven't run a whole lot lately, a necessary limitation imposed by triathlon season, and I don't feel as fast as I did back at the start of August.

Signing up for the race as the perfect impetus to get me out the door last night for a run, though. I opted for the ~5km route, and gave myself a stern warning to not try for any PBs.

Labour-Free Run

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Happy Labour Day!

After Saturday's triathlon, it was nice to be able to take yesterday off, and still get a run in today. If only all weekends worked this way. Anyways, having exerted myself for over 100 minutes on Saturday, I decided that this morning's run should be low effort, to allow myself to continue recovering. I decided to try for 10km, at a LSD (long slow distance) pace.

Easy Weekend

| 4 Comments

Well, Thursday's run was fantastic, but it had me being cautious this weekend. While my cardio fitness is fantastic at the moment, I've been habitually short on running miles. After Thursday's strong effort, I decided to skip a Friday evening or Saturday morning run, in the interest of protecting my legs for Sunday.

I ran into a couple of running friends, Karen and Eric, on Saturday night, and they assued me they'd be at the Running Room on Sunday morning. Which was good to know, because the place was fairly deserted. It had a lot to do, I think, with the parking regulations in the area for the Ex, and especially for the Rolling Stones concert later in the day. Folks stayed away in droves.

Fast and Strong

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Tuesday's swim tied my longest ever, 2550 metres in 1:15. The last time I swam that much in a session was when we had our 30 minute challenge, and I forged out a reported 1500m in 30 minutes.

This morning, I slept in and skipped swimming. Oh well. At least it afforded me the opportunity (read: energy) to put in a run tonight. And run I did. Despite the fact that I had picked out my home 5 mile loop (gmapped at 8.3km), I felt absolutely zero reason to hold back, so I flew right out of the gate. I had the Rio with me again, but this time my mind was largely shut down. I hit the first turnaround in 12:30, and knew I was flying. I hit the next one in 26:00 or so, probably less, but I knew I needed to step it up. I came home in 37:30, a PB on that route by 55 seconds (and only the third time I've broken 40:00).

I signed up for one more sprint triathlon this year. It'll be September 3rd, and there will be half and full iron distances the same day. It promises to be a fantastic event.

Running Through My Mind

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Press Play. Press Start. We're off.

Big Sugar, If I Had My Way. Well, if I had my way, today would have gone differently. It all started when I slept in. No, that part was good, maybe not ideal, but ok. But wife sick, kids on each other's cases. Warm. Lazy. Unproductive, yet not as restful as I'd have liked. It's quiet out here. Cool. Glad I didn't run in the heat of the day, even though July's heat, real heat, is long gone. Lady walking her dog, let's go wide around so I don't make her nervous. It's a small dog. There's my imaginary 1k bush. 6 minutes? Sheesh. Oh well, long runs are supposed to be slow. I just don't seem to think it through.

Soccer Tournament

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(Attempt number 2, due to power outage.)

My son had a soccer tournament this weekend. He had two games scheduled for Sunday morning, and one for Sunday afternoon.

I had originally planned to get my long run in on Saturday, but I really wasn't up for it. Sunday morning, we all slept in, and we had to rush out to the first game. It wasn't until we went home between the morning and afternoon games that a plot was hatched.

Fast Weekend

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I'm a bit sad that the Tour de France is over. I've watched more TV the last 3 weeks than I had all year, but it's been inspiring, engaging television. As cool as the Tour was, I'm looking forward even more to next year's race. While people did try this year, nobody really took Armstrong to the limit. Competition makes for better entertainment, and the race next year should be a bit more competetive.

Workathlon

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Q: What do you call it when you swim, then work, then run?
A: A workathlon =)

Rolling Hills

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We were out of town this weekend, visiting my nephew north-east of Toronto. He lives in a small town, so when I'd studied the map on how to get there, I'd decided in the back of my mind to run an out-and-back along the highway east of town on Sunday morning.

Tagged

| 5 Comments

jeff and jon both tagged me! (see below)

I set out to do a reasonably long run this morning. I was hoping for 16-20km, but ended up with 15, partially because of Friday's race, partially because my running brain is bad at addition, and partially because that's the route I wanted to run.

One of Those Days

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For whatever reason, yesterday wasn't a great day. Lots of little things seemed to be going wrong, and while I could logically see that at least some of them were minor, they were MY minor problems. Trapped within them, I was surly.

The solution? A good, hard, no-holds-barred trail run.

Back From Vacation

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I intended to run while I was away. I really did. There was a nice bike path across the street from our hotel, right along the St. Lawrence. But, alas, I managed to sleep in when I could have been running. I guess I'll have to content myself with having walked extensively over the weekend.

My Favorite Color

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When my son asks me what my favorite color is, I tell him it's green.

I've always loved the geography of this area, the landscapes that I grew up in. Equal parts water, hills and trees. Last night I got a healthy dose of each, as I drove up north of the city, to Gatineau Park, for a trail run.

Run x3

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This morning was nice and cool, again. Perfect weather for running.

I ended up running with Rob and André, who are both faster than me. We ran a 10km loop for Rob, who was recovering from a cold, then André and I did 4.5 km more. We didn't take any walk breaks, and didn't need them, with the cool air and overcast skies. I forgot to grab a watch, but I'd say we averaged 5:00/km, or better.

When I got home, I took my eldest for a run around the block. He's running in a kid's 1km race in a couple of weeks. Two short, planned, walk breaks were all he needed. Next, the two year old wanted a turn, so we went to the end of the street and back. He did really well, whenever there wasn't a car, dog, or person to distract his attention.

What a perfect start to Father's Day. Happy Father's Day, everyone!

...Makes You Stronger

| 5 Comments

It was hot, today. The net said 26, but for seemingly the 4th or 5th day in a row the humidity was at least 99%. It was overcast and hazy, so we were generally spared direct sunlight, but that was just about the only blessing.

The store was busy this morning, with lots of people that I knew. Most of the half marathon clinic group was there, as was most of my old marathon training group. I decided that I'd aim for 14km. Kevin, who's training for another marathon, had done 24km starting at 6:00, and he looked pretty destroyed. It was early, but it was already hot.

Tougher Than It Looks

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I biked to and from work yesterday. Felt great. I am getting more comfortable on the bike. I'm also getting a bit better at hills, though I don't see anything too strenuous on the ride.

This morning, I set my alarm for 5am, and headed for the track. I'm still technically in recovery from the half, plus I knew my legs might be tired from yesterday, so I decided I would do some 400m repeats. I figured I might be able to do 6, which isn't a ton of distance (fine by me, for now), but which might help me develop a bit more speed. I was aiming for around 1:20, which I thought would be reasonable based on my recent mile times.

Social Run

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Oh, I'm just a social runner. Every time someone says they'll go for a run, I say, "so-shall I!" -- Blizzard's Dwarven runner

Since I'm technically in recovery mode, I had no ambitions for Sunday's run. I didn't want to run far, I didn't want to run fast. I just wanted to run.

The cool thing about yesterday is that I had my first opportunity in months to run with my sister. So, I ran for, um, 45 minutes or so. With lots of chatting and reconnecting. I know we walked a fair bit in there, but nobody really noticed. I have no idea how far we ran, either. It just didn't matter.

It was the absolute highlight of my weekend.

Dry Run

| 4 Comments

Two weeks before a race is such a key run. Today, we were doing a dry run of raceday. We did the full half-marathon loop, plus a short bit from the store to the canal and back. Call it an even 22km.

Chasing Landy

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I hit the track tonight, but with no firm plans. I decided that it was time to start my pursuit of one of my heroes, John Landy. That is to say, run the mile.

I have a goal to race a mile this year. I have no idea when I'll fit it in, and I'll probably hate it, but I have a minor infatuation with the distance, and would love to try it.

I decided to do 2 1-mile intervals, with a lap walk in between. I figured my 800m PB was around 2:50, but that I haven't really been able to crack 3:00 yet this year. So I figured I might end up around 6:30 for the mile. (Bear in mind, I have no track experience outside of grade school.)

My first 400 came in at 1:35. I don't recall my half mile split, but at 3/4 I was at 4:50, and figured I had to step up to make 6:30. I did, coming in in 6:21.57.

I reversed directions on the track, and walked it off. It took me a long time to come back down. Then, I was off. Quarter mile in 1:37. Half mile in a shade under 3:14. Three-quarters in 4:50, maybe a shade under. Knowing this was my last lap, I tried hard to boot it, and posted my fastest lap of the day, coming in at 6:19.11.

(Edit: Turns out my de facto PB from last year was 6:45. Yay me!)

On my second mile, I had visions of Landy, Bannister and El-Guerrouj lapping me. Oh well. =) Gives me something to chase.

Chasing Speed

| 1 Comment

Yay! I ran last night!

We did an 8km tempo run. I have no idea how close to exactly 8km the route was, either it was a little short, or I was a little fast.

Awe

| 3 Comments

It's been a strange week. Distracting, I guess. Some good, some bad, but my focus wasn't really on running.

Sunday, though, was uncharacteristicaly free. No race, no kids birthday parties, no emergencies. I was up at 6, had a relaxed morning, and knew that I could run as far and as long as I wanted to this morning (as long as I brought bagles home!)

Finally Running

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Hills just didn't happen yesterday. I worked late, through a near-constant rain, then went home. I did leave my running gear in the car, though, as today was forecasted to be much nicer.

I was up to 7 hill repeats today. The weather was decent, but unspectacular. I was drizzled on for about 2 minutes at one point, and the wind was from the west, meaning I was running into it up the hill.

The first two repeats were very comfortable. I was pleased with how easy they felt, and how quickly I recovered from them. The next two were still easy, but took longer to recover from. On 5 and 6, I had to drop from 2-and-2 breathing (2 steps in, 2 steps out) to 2-and-1. On the last, I either couldn't find 2-and-1 or it wasn't helping enough, so I ended up 1-and-1-ing (aka panting/dying).

Overall, the run felt very good. I felt light on my feet, and strong.

Date Run

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I wasn't going to run Friday or Saturday, but my wife emailed me on Friday, asking if I would be interested in doing a short run at the track together. The idea was that the kids would play in the field while we did our loops.

Since she's been battling ankle pain, we kept the run to 2k. It wasn't the most romantic evening I've ever had, especially the part where I sprinted off to chase the youngest. We both got a run in, though, and we got some time to chat without the kids underfoot. Nice.

Tough Thursday

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My alarm went off Thursday morning, and I thought long and hard about sleeping in. I'd stayed up a bit late (guilty!), but had taken at least 90 minutes to fall asleep, which had compounded the issue. For two minutes, I was convinced I would blow off another swim. Then I decided that I was already awake, so I got up.

Anything Can Happen

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The weather network this morning said current temperature 11, high of 10. It wasn't predicting rain, but apparently had been predicting nothing but rain 6 hours earlier.

Of course, I didn't know that, so I packed shorts and a tee. I kept an eye outside, though; it was overcast, with the type of cloud that can produce rain, but usually doesn't. As the morning went by, the ground stayed dry.

Running Weekend

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Was up early late Saturday, and hit the track for my long-awaited track work. I managed 4 800 metre intervals, with a generous 90 seconds between, before deciding that I was done. I wasn't as fast as I'd hoped I'd be, 3:00 to 3:10 per 800, but I didn't feel too destroyed by it.

Recap

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I felt pretty beat on Friday. Not sick, but like my body was crying out for rest. Decided that intervals were out of the question.

Saturday, I felt better, but traded in intervals for a couple of walks with the family, and some down time. Was it the right decision? Who knows. Going from no hills and no intervals one week to both the next might have been too much, but I think I was up to something, at least.

Today I did 16km. Not as fast as the 14 last week, and no add on. It felt comfortably easy at the end, though the first and last thirds were challenging.

The next two Sundays are pretty busy, so I doubt I'll have time to add on. I'm going to need to bear down and increase my speed/strength work over the next month, to get to even my realistic (much less idealistic) goal time.

Add-On

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The weather this morning was rainy, windy, and 5 degrees celcius. It was a curious mix; early in the run, with the wind howling and the rain falling, it was uncomfortably cold. Once the rain subsided, the sheltered parts of the run were very warm.

The goal was 14km today, doing the usual bridges route. I'd been asked if I wanted to extend the run last week, but I'd still been recovering from Around the Bay. Part of the reason I skipped my run yesterday was to leave open the option of adding on at the end.

Jen set a comfortable pace at first. André took off ahead pretty quickly, I guess signalling that we were dawdling. Somehow Jeffrey and I ended up at the front, and we ended up breaking away, too.

Of Mice And Men

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I didn't end up getting a Whopper, but the fates were smiling on me nonetheless. More on that later.

The guest speaker at Thursday's half-marathon clinic was a med student who had run 3 marathons, including qualifying for Boston in his first ever marathon. He wasn't a gifted orator, but his message was a powerful mix of frankness, sincerety, and personal truth.

Back Into Speed

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I knew I wanted to try a tempo run this morning, but wasn't sure how fully recovered I was from Around the Bay. Ideally, I wanted to try my neighbourhood 8+km (5+mi) route, but I wasn't sure if I had it in me yet.

Easy Sunday Run

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After a surprisingly tough Thursday run, I decided that I would skip Saturday's run. Having both Friday and Saturday off work, with no runs scheduled, was a treat. It's definitely been a while since I went two days in a row with no work or running.

Sunday's run was scheduled to be 12km. The distance was a fair bit shorter than what I've run for the last month or so, but it was surprisingly difficult. I was still a bit tight from the race, especially in my calves, and it showed towards the end of the run.

After the run, I chatted with a woman who had finished in the top 50 women at Around The Bay. She pointed out that my 52:00, 53:00 first 20km likely meant that I was capable of a 1:45 half marathon right now. She was very positive and encouraging of my results, which was really nice.

She got me thinking that my 15km split time (1:18:24, or a 5:13 pace) was something that I found very comfortable, and that I thought I had a lot left at that point. What could I have done if I'd been pushing myself?

I think this week I'll try to do hill training on Wednesday, at work. I'll also try to do some speed work Friday or Saturday, depending on how busy I am. The real question for me will be Sundays - will I just run with the half marathon clinic, or will I continue to add distance at the end of their runs? I'm certainly capable of doing 20+km Sunday, based on where I am now. I guess I'll have to see how my body and timetable react to all this planned exertion.

Taper Week

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What a great weekend for running. March usually slips a few icy daggers into our backs before finally blessing us with warm, sunny days. The hint of spring was finally in the air this weekend. Small wonder so many the RBFers were out setting PBs! Way to go Jon, Karen and Susan!

The half marathon clinic was doing 10k on Sunday, which was fine by me. I was looking forward to being able to run a comfortable, easy distance on a Sunday for a change, starting and finishing with a group.

-19C

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-19C. Stiff wind. Slippery footing.

I can't tell you how happy I am that I'm going SOUTH for the race.

Welcome to Canada

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Weather Network this morning said -2, high of 0. Fantastic! Ideal running conditions for this time of year. I got my stuff together, including the new mp3 player, and headed out the door.

The half marathon group was doing 9km, along the canal. We decided to run ON the canal, a wise decision as it turned out. It was lightly snowing when we started, and the snow on the ice gave us surprisingly good footing. Unfortunately, the wind was swirling the snow so that it was always in our faces, and I started to worry about wearing the mp3 player on the outside of my jacket. At the second walk break, I moved (somewhat awkwardly) the armband to inside my jacket.

Once we turned around, the blowing snow started to get annoying. I'd left my gloves and hat in the car. (-2? Who needs them?) My hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and beard were quickly turning white. I tried at one point to run my fingers through my hair (which is less than an inch long) and failed. Bleh.

Time Keeps on Slippin' Slippin'

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My timekeeping woes continue. I went out and bought myself a new stopwatch, and in my haste to capture a solid 5k home loop time, I somehow managed to hit stop, reset, and start all at once. *facepalms* I'm pretty confident that unless I faded, I was at least very close to 5:00/km.

Il neige, il neige!

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...de gros flocons blancs!
-- French song, glorifying snow

It snowed pretty hard yesterday, giving us a nice 10cm of fluff to shovel. I was pretty glad that I wasn't running yesterday. Still, it snowed well into the evening, so I knew conditions this morning wouldn't be that great.

A Vote of Confidence

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Once again, my Sunday run plan was to start out with the half marathon group, then strike out on my own. We did the NAC loop, getting back to the Bank St bridge in around 51 minutes. I turned around there, and headed for the Portage/Alexandray bridge loop. I ran on the canal whenever I could, shuffling across the ice when I had to. My left quad twitched in front of the Supreme Court, but a quick stretch and I was off again, and they didn't speak up again. I estimated that the 20km mark Pretoria Bridge, and I hit it in around 1:55. Some watch troubles prevented me yet again from knowing my full run time for the ~24.5 km I did, but I think it was around 2:21, for a 5:45/km pace. I think I can do a bit better in Hamilton, but considering how good I feel now, and how strong I felt throughout, an excellent run.

One Month To Go!

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I love long-distance Sunday runs! Running faster can be liberating. The feeling (though not, in my case, the reality) of fluidity, grace and power is exhilerating. But there's just something so grounding, so exhausting, so rewarding about running for hours, that I simply find it to be the best part of running.

Since I'm not doing a marathon this year, due largely to family considerations, this next month may just be the highlight of my running year. I'll be ramping up my mileage towards the goal of racing 30km next month. (After that, I'll drop back mileage wise, and rebuild towards a half marathon two months later.)

Around the Block

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Had a hard time getting moving this morning. Eventually dragged myself upstairs, ate 2 bowl of Apple-Cinnamon Cheerios. Pulled on my running pants and long-sleeved thumb-holed running shirt. Grab the MP3 player. Socks. Downstairs, interrupt Blue's Clues to check the weather. -16C? Ugh. Back upstairs, throw on a long-sleeved cotton tee overtop. Cynically grab my hot-paws, before I remember I can pull my sleeves over my hands. As bundled up as I get short of freeze-to-death cold, I head out for my intervals.

Baby, Baby It's a White World

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SNOW!

It's snowing pretty heavily here, and has been for a few hours. I got up early again, and set out, hoping to do 8km before I had to be back to help with the kids. It became apparent quickly that Mother Nature was going to have a bigger say in my pace than I was. The snow underfoot (at least 1cm, I'd say) was sticky, and there was a lot of puddle dodging to do. I cut short my 8km run, settling for 5km in 31 minutes.

Any run Wednesday morning is a win at this point, especially on a snowy day like today.

Surprises

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I found out yesterday that there's an extra practice session in preparation for my son't Taekwon-do tournament this morning at 11am. A quick mental calculation told me that I wasn't going to have time to do the 18km that I wanted to do this morning.

Fair enough, life's like that. The half marathon clinic was doing 7km, and I figured I'd tack on another 7 or so, time permitting. There's still plenty of time left for me to ramp up my mileage before Around The Bay.

Intervals

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Decided to try some intervals in today, around the neighbourhood. It's my eldest's birthday today, so I needed a quick workout.

I think I ended up with two different stretches of road of about the same length, around 1.1 km. If nothing else, the times were about equal - 5:10, 5:00, and 4:55.

I certainly got a strange look or two as I pounded out an agressive pace. ;)

The Clinic Begins!

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So I hit the Running Room after work, for the opening session of the Half Marathon clinic. I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I saw was people! There must have been 60-80 people in the store.

Watch the Ice!

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It's funny how stressful changes in habit can be. I spent most of the night either awake or in lucid dreams, stressed out over the run this morning. Bleh! =(

I did my usual 8-and-a-bit kilometer route, around the neighbourhood. The melt we've had the last few days finally froze, leaving small patches of very slick ice. I nearly fell twice in the first kilometer, and thereafter was very cautious around the ice.

I felt like I was working pretty hard, and was a bit disappointed to find that I was running roughly a 5:30 km pace. Well, disappointed in the context of this past weekend's crazy runs. Looking at the last month or two, that's probably the right pace for my level of effort.

Of Fog and Shadow

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It was still early last night when the fog started rolling in. By morning, the world was shining gray. Driving downtown for the morning run, I had to slow down when I knew an intersection was coming, because I couldn't see traffic lights until I was almost into the intersection.

As I hit the edge of Ottawa proper, the fog abruptly disappeared, like I was flying out of the clouds. I was abruptly reminded why winter fog is so special. All the trees, especially along the river, were frosted from the fog. It's truly a special sight.

One of my favorite ways to train is by running with people who are faster than me. It can be very easy to get into a rut in running - staying at or around one pace, and never really pushing yourself. Mixing into a different crowd and chasing their shadows can be a great way to raise your conditioning level.

Conspiracy of the Elements

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Conventional wisdom says that this week should be a recovery week for me. I'm coming off an admittely casual race, and have seven or eight weeks to prepare for my next race. The agenda likely calls for an easy run today, followed by a LSD (long slow distance) tomorrow of something under 21.

The problem with conventional wisdom is that it also dictates that the first weekend in February is cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey (as they say). Today, however, was anything but cold.

Mission: Accomplished

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Since I started my new weekly schedule back in November, I've had a fair bit of trouble following it. In particular, I've been prone to skipping the Wednesday runs.

I'm proud to report that yesterday willpower prevailed, and I managed to get in a 5km run before work.

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