Friday, May 30, 2008

5 for 5

Between my wonky back and still trying to regain my pre-marathon energy levels, I had been feeling a little discouraged about my training recently. To try and kick start things between the ears, this week I set myself the goal of running every weekday for 45 minutes at 140BPM. The alarm went off at 4:45 today and I really, really wanted to sleep in. And I did for about 5 more minutes until my bladder, which apparantley loves to get up early, forced me out of bed. And youknow it goes, once you're up, you might as well stay up.
And I'm glad I did.
5 for 5 this week. Hit all my workouts and am looking forward to the long run on Sunday.
And for the record, I did all my runs at the Y on the treadmill and I loved it. Just popped on the iPod and settled in.
No one kicked me off and I didnt see any testicles.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Back" in business!

All is well in regards to the back situation. Took pretty well all last week off to rest up on the advice of my chiropractor. Whadda know? All that school taught him more than how to remove tonnes of cash from my wallet! Kidding, it's money well spent for someone like me with a long history of back issues.
Anyways, Monday and today 45 min at 140 BPM, nice and easy with a pile of gentle stretching afterwards.
I didn't write about this, but a few weeks ago, a gym regular approached me while i was on the treadmill and asked how long I would be. I had seen this guy in the gym pretty well every morning that I had been there. Tall, early 50's, grey hair with a way-too-good tan. Like George Hamilton. The Y has a 30 min policy and I had already been running about 55 minutes at that point. I told the guy, "No problem, I'm done. I've been on here a while anyways." He replies, " I can see that..." which i thought was a little dick-ish seeing how I was more than gracious about stepping off. But whatever, I had gone over and he was totally in the right to ask me to hop off so I didn't think too much of it.
After I wipe down the treadmill I head over to the core/stretching area to cool off. Along the way I pass the other bank of treadmills and there are about a half dozen free machines!!!! What the crap? Why would that dude ask me to get off when there were piles of free machines to use?
I was telling this story to Brian today, and not only did he know exactly who I was talking about, but had a story for me as well.
Apparently, this old leathery bugger is the 'stands at the mirror and shaves with all his junk hanging out' guy.
Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jacked Up Back

Haven't even looked at my shoes for the last two days. My lower back has been totally tweaked. Hunched over, shooting pains down my legs tweaked. Went to chiro yesterday, two days shy of my regular monthly visit, and he moved things around down there but today it's still pretty stiff. I have another appointment tomorrow so we'll see how it goes.

Brian thinks that volume since the marathon might be the culprit and without any other obvious reason as to whyI should suddenly be shuffling around like a retiree it seems as likely as anything else. I haven't increased my total weekly mileage all that much since the marathon but I have increased the number of days that I have been running per week.

I know that for me to have a shot at Boston in November I have to log miles and stay healthy. This set back is the first time that I have questioned whether or not my body would withstand the rigors of training. I need to check my head, it's going to bad places.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


It was a hot weekend and we left the windows open in our bedroom last night. About 5AM the windows were shaking and it started raining like crazy. Thunderclaps, lightning bolts, the whole works coming down pretty much right on top of our house. We get a lot of rain, but this was unusual even for here. My alarm was set to go off at 5:30 and I was laying there thinking "I don't want to get up, I dont want to get up, I don't want to get up..." But really, there's no going back to sleep in that kind of storm. Plus, the room was still cooking so I knew it wouldn't be cold. Just wet. Really, really wet.

Anyways, hopped out of bed and had at 'er. Felt sluggish but legs were moving pretty well. Tuesdays are scheduled 'hard' workouts, 75 min at 150 BPM. Still easy aerobic but higher HR than the rest of the week. Had to push a little at the beginning to get my HR up to 150 but settled in not too long after that. Total mileage was around 9 miles, 75 minutes at 149 BPM average.

Jolting highlight: I was running through the neighbourhood under a light post when I thought I saw and heard the light bulb burst. A split second later, I was hit by the thunderclap RIGHT ON TOP OF ME! All the hairs on my one arm stood up and the pressure popped my one ear. I was sure that I would get home and see that half my hair had gone white. I even checked my Garmin to see if it was fried. I've never been close enough to a lightning bolt to hear it crackle before and I hope I'm not that close again. As if my shorts weren't wet enough before that!

A question for anyone out there who might have the answer: I read somewhere that a person should avoid a high carb meal for up to 90 minutes before a workout to prevent the body from relying on those carbs for fuel and force it to burn fat stores instead. I've been trying this as my HR has been low enough to get away with it but the problem is I'm getting hungry on the longer runs.

Has any one:

a) heard this as well?

b) have a solution to the hunger issue?


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Weekly Recap-28 weeks left

33 1/3 miles for the week. Average heart rate 143. Total hours 5:20.
Now that the Vancouver marathon is done, I'm back to focusing on building my aerobic capacity and getting my pace up while my HR is down. I'm using a three week rotation with times and HR that I'll post here tomorrow.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Time for Sunscreen

Sun was already peeking out at 5:30 when I got going today. Summer's coming.
8.5 miles @ 150 average.
Yesterday, 5.5 miles @ 140.
Still slow, but I can feel my fitness improving. I'm starting to understand why athletes training using HR get to place where they have to hammer to get their HR up. Not that I'm there....yet.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Take Aways

Things I learned from Sunday's race:

1) Don't rely too much on technology.
For those of you doing the math at home, you may have wondered how I could have thought I was on pace to do a 3:30 even though I was pacing the group at 8:40 throughout the race. The answer: something weird happened with my Garmin and when I checked my watch at mile 19 it did say 2:20. Sadly, this number was incorrect (obviously) but I don't why. I have the Garmin set to stop the timer when my speed drops below a certain pace and I'll have to remember to change that for next time but that still doesn't explain it. I wasn't stopped or walking for 30+ minutes. Anyways, I should have been able to look at the watch and KNOW that it was wrong, but I didn't. I looked and took it for granted.
Same goes with the iPod. I was counting on it to give me a boost for the last part of the race and it worked. Sorta. It worked too well when I didn't really need it and not at all when I did. No sense in making up a pile of time over miles 21 and 22 just to give it all back over the next three. Have to work on my mental toughness. At 20+ miles I still need to be able to do the math and motivate myself.

2) Overall, I am good at finding a pace and keeping it.
Below are my race splits. First 10K, First half, second half, 20 mile mark, finish.

56:17 1:56:44 1:56:35 2:57:17 3:53:19

Looking at the numbers, it's actually a little freakish. 10 second negative split over a marathon? Sure, just like I planned it! The first 10K and the last ~10k are within 20 seconds. Until the last 3 miles I didn't really feel like I was pushing hard. I wonder what effect a faster pace throughout would have had on my finish.

3) I have a problem with cramping that I need to address.
So far, I have had problems with hamstring cramping in every race I've entered over 2 hours. I thought it was because I have seriously short, tight hamstrings but this year I worked on my flexibility and it's still an issue. Which may be related to my next point...

4) I need to focus on hydration and nutrition in the last part of the race.
Which may help to address the cramping issue. I went through 150 calories of Gu2O dissolved in 24oz of water in the first 10 miles of the race and didn't quite finish the same amount over the next 16. When I finished, there was A LOT of salt dried on my face and I can't remember if I was still sweating. Either way, at some point I slowed my fluid intake and that can't be good.

5) Marathons are fun!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Race Day!

Alarm: 4AM. I haven't slept well but I get up because Brian is coming to get me. And I paid. Can't forget that part. I voluntarily handed over 85 of my not-so-hard-earned dollars for this.

Breakfast: A bowl of cereal, two pieces of toast with PB and J, a banana. I packed my backpack the night before so I'm ready before my 5:20 pick up time. I lay down on the couch and wonder if I remembered to unlock my front door for Brian. I'm asleep again when the heavy Sunday morning paper thudding against the door wakes me up. That paper guy is hardcore. Up this early, even on Sunday. I lay back down on the couch but Brian is right behind the paper guy and the sound of his car means it's time to get going. It's 5:20 on the dot and the Internet tells me it's already 9 degrees. It's going to be a great day for a run.

En route: We pick up Parmi and Balbir, 2 of only about 10 brown guys we'll see all day. This becomes a recurring joke. I make Brian stop so I can grab a coffee, we hit the Skytrain and soon arrive at BC Place.

On Site: BC Place is buzzing with people but not anywhere near as crowded as it was two weeks prior for the Sun Run. Within about 2 minutes of getting inside, Balbir has somehow found a small group of other brown guys. There are now half of all the brown runners standing in a group of five. Brian, Parmi and I make more jokes.

On the line: Lots of excitement as we move into the start corral. It's warm, and I've already dropped my extra T-shirt and custom made race gloves fashioned from old tube socks. As the runners crowd towards the line in anticipation of the starting horn, I joke aloud "Now everyone start pressing against one another", imitating the tone of the race announcer. A tall, male runner just in font of Parmi looks back at me, and nods his head in silence, then gives Parmi a high five. I can't tell if he's excited about the race or the pressing against each other. It won't be the last time today that we make a new friend.

On the way out: First three miles are nice and easy with lots of chatter and lots of other runners around. Balbir has Boton on his mind and takes off right out of the gate. I'm in charge of making sure that we don't start too fast and it's a challenge right away to keep Gunner and Parmi reigned in. I tell Brian that running slowly will be the best decision he's ever made and the stranger beside him starts laughing.

We're at about mile 3 when we see the leaders doubling back, a Polish runner barely leading a group of about five. As they pass, Brian says scolding "Ooh, they've gone out too fast." More laughs from the crowd.

First three miles are right on track, about 30 seconds slower than race pace. We had discussed our race day strategy and had all agreed that we were there mostly to have a good time. We would shoot for something around 3:45; an 8:40 per mile average.

After the first three miles I pick up the pace and try to hold it at 8:30 to make up some of the time we gave away. It's easy running through the streets of Vancouver on a beautiful sunny day. We wind out and back, through Gastown towards Stanley Park. Parmi can't believe that anyone can talk as much as Brian and I. I offer my thesis that redheads are stereotyped as losers and nerds in the media and Parmi says that has happened because it's true. Several runners chuckle and offer me sympathetic looks. Inside Stanley Park, we hit halfway and the clock says 1:58. Brian would later tell me that at the time he did the math and thought, "Hey, we're right on track for a 3:45!" Need glycogen, anyone?

On the way back: Just outside Stanley Park, I confess that for the last several miles I have had the theme song to "The Littlest Hobo" stuck in my head. I hear at least two people around me say 'Aw, man, now it's stuck in my head." I laugh to myself. Good luck with that. Parmi seems angry now that Brian and I are still talking. The pace is less comfortable, the chatter has died down and the crowds have thinned out through Stanley Park. We are keeping ourselves entertained by seeing who can have the most spectators cheer for them by name. Brian is losing and runs by a large group of people yelling "say my name, say my name!" Not surprisingly, none do. Parmi and I forget about our sore legs for a moment to make fun of Brian.

We approach the on-ramp to the Burrard Street bridge and the start of a 100' climb to the top of the bridge deck. The merge lane is narrow, just one car wide, and is lined with spectators, several hundred over a span of only about 50-60 meters. On the sidewalk and on the median, on both sides of the road people are standing and cheering, waving signs and ringing bells. I'm surprised that it's as loud as it is, and I can feel the emotion rising in my chest realizing that these strangers are cheering for me, for Brian, for Parmi. I have to concentrate to keep the tears from falling. It lasts only a few seconds and we're off up and over the bridge.

The climb up the bridge is long . We back off the pace a little knowing that we can make it up running down the back side. It's happened without our realizing it, but the talk has almost stopped altogether. The steady pace is starting to wear on every one's legs. I grab a stick of Vaseline and rub it on the inside seam of my shorts. I joke to Brian, "I've never done that in public before" and an old man behind me says "Oh, I think you have!" I laugh and almost fall over.

We see Balbir on his way back and he's running strong. It looks like he's on his way to putting up a qualifying time.

A long false flat out to the 20 mile turn around. The three of us are running together but not as a tight little pack like at the start. Parmi is a couple meters to my right and Brian is about 5 meters back. The only talking we hear now is from the sidelines, and from the water station volunteers shouting what they have to offer. I take a sponge and empty it into my hat to try and cool off.

We hit mile 19 and I can feel Brian and Parmi dropping off the pace. I look at my watch and it says 2:20. I think, "If I can run 7 miles in the next hour and 10 minutes, I have a shot at 3:30!" I decide that I'll keep things steady until mile 20 and if Brian and Parmi are still falling off I'll crank it up for the last 6 miles.

Mile 20 turnaround and I'm running alone. I stop to walk through the water station as I pull out my iPod. I brought it along in case we got separated and now I'm glad I did. The headphone cords are crazy tangled and I have to walk well past the end of the water station. Parmi passes me as my glycogen depleted brain tries to untangle what seems like the world tightest knot. I give up trying to untangle it and slide the knot just far enough down the cord so I can get the headphones on my ears. I fire up some Andrew Bird and I'm off again, with a PR in my cross hairs.

Andrew Bird is my music of choice for all my tempo work and the old memories kick in. I look at my watch and it says 7:34 min/miles. I catch Parmi in less than a minute. My legs feel loose and fast and I'm running smoothly. I'm relaxed and reeling in runners like crazy. This lasts two miles. Then reality kicks in. My legs did not appreciate getting jerked out of their rhythm with all the up tempo running and I can feel them staging their revolt. My left calf fires off a tiny test cramp, as does my right hamstring. I tell myself I should slow down so I don't start cramping up. It's really the safe and sensible thing to do.

Back over the Burrard Street bridge and this time it's a mother. Every time I look up I see another person stopping to walk. I stop looking up. Not one runner is talking now and the crowd has thinned so much it feels like we are all marching in a long thin line. I have lost track of the number of time spectators have called my name and I'm convinced that they are calling out all our names now, fearful that if they don't, one of us might just collapse at their feet. It's probably true. I stop in front of some nervous on lookers, but just to stretch out a cramp.

One mile left and I check my watch. 3:30 is gone but I have a chance at a PB if I can keep moving. Legs are heavy and the crowd is starting to swell with people. The iPod is on but I can't hear it over the sound of the two voices inside my head: one telling me to stop and rest and the other driving me to keep my legs moving.

I'm in the corral with 400 meters to go, running through cramps in my hamstring and calf. I check my watch one last time and it tells me I'm a minute past my PR so I cruise over the finish line looking up at all the people standing and cheering on the catwalk above.

The official clock said 3:54.


I read a post last week about running to work and I think I might try it. The author suggests driving to work in the morning, running home, then running back the next day. I'm going to try it but with my bike instead. My office is in the ghetto and I don't want to leave my car there overnight. Ride to work, run home, run to work, ride home. Sounds about right.
Vancouver race report to come. It's shaping up to be long and painful, just like the race!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Slow week

Not a ton of training this week as I rest up for tomorrow's marathon. 1 hour easy on Monday and Wednesday as planned. Skipped the run Friday because I rode my bike to work Thursday. First time I've ridden to my new office. 25 min leisurely spin vs. 15 minutes struggling in traffic. As I left my garage, I actually looked over at my car and said, out loud, "You're days are numbered!"
Looking forward to the summer and dryer days.
Stay tuned for race report from Vancouver Marathon.