Updating the blog

on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 11:05 PM

Guess it's time for my once a month post. This past month has been fairly slow on the running front. The odd run here or there. I got up to 25 miles last week and was hoping to get up over 30 this week. Most of this was done at a recovery pace.

I've been pretty good at my new year's resolution of not entering races unless I actually intend to race them which basically means I haven't entered any so far this year. Probably won't for a while since I feel so slow. The plan right now is to do the Toronto marathon this fall on October 17 which means an 18 week program would start at the end of June so I still have about a month to build up some endurance and try and find some speed.

I'm not sure if I want to do Boston next year and I haven't decided if I want to try for a BQ time in October yet. I'm technically already qualified for next year. However, I used to be of the camp where one qualifier should entitle you to run only one Boston, but now that I'm put into the position of actually having to adhere to that, I'm not so sure. Right now, the plan is to leave it to fate. I'm going to see if I can get a comp entry as a pacer for the race. If so, then I just take it nice and easy. If I don't get in as a pacer, then I'll probably try for the BQ.  Either way, I'll decide on Boston when it opens which just so happens to be the day after the race (October 18).

I'm still having problems getting up early in the mornings.  It's just way difficult.  Even with the sun coming up and the bird chirping and the temperatures being fairly nice, I just have problems getting up at 5 to 5:30 for a short 6 mile run.  I've been doing them in the evening, but that's been tough as of late cause it's been really warm in the evening.  Like today, did a 6 miler in the evening and it was 26C outside. 

As for races during the summer.  There are a couple here or there that I'll probably try to race.  One race that I think I'll try is the Night Crawler 5 mile. It's on a week day downtown and it's always a race I've wanted to do, but couldn't cause I worked way up north.  I'm just sort of hoping I can find some speed before I take it on.  I'd hate to race it and end up with an average pace slower than my half marathon PR pace.

More scenes from Big Sur...

on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 7:49 PM

I realize that I forgot to put up the slideshow of the remaining pics from the Big Sur marathon so here you go.

Picasa Link

And as promised here are some quick video clips from the race.

Youtube Link

2010 Big Sur Marathon Report

on Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 10:21 PM

Short story is I finished the Big Sur Marathon in 4:51:44. Had a great time. Perfect weather.I'm not sure I will have a lot to say.  This is one of those cases where pictures are worth a thousand words.

I arrived in San Francisco the Friday afternoon and drove to Carmel-by-the Sea. The weather wasn't so great and it was raining. Saturday things had cleared up and was looking to be quite the weekend. Steve who had the distinction of being the last official finisher of the 2010 Boston marathon came down from San Francisco and we caught up. Steve also introduced me to Hansi who is a 60-something runner who was also doing the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. She's actually quite fast and finished 4th in her age group at Boston and would end up finishing 1st in her age group at Big Sur.  Thanks to Steve for the picture.

Steve, Hansi and Me

 Went down to the expo to pick up my bib and bought some stuff at the expo.  I purchased some salt pills cause I thought they would help to try and avoid cramps.  I had bought a salt shaker while in Vegas hoping to increase my salt intake over the days leading up to Big Sur but when I tried, I just couldn't eat salt straight or even mixed with gatorade. Tasted too salty!  Ha. I suppose that was the point. Much better to just swallow it whole.

Went to the race sponsored pasta dinner and headed back to the hotel to turn in for the night. The buses to the start line would start leaving at 3:30am, with the last bus leaving at 4:15am and therefore required a very early wake-up call.  I had been trying to stay on eastern time so this wasn't too difficult.

Rode the bus to the start line staging area.  Still really dark outside.  Wandered around a bit, used the facilities and ate a bagel. Sat down and tried to collect myself.  Then headed to the start line.

Start Line

My original pie in the sky goal was to beat my time in Boston so I had a 4 hour pace band and positioned myself near the 4 hour pacer.  When the race started however, I had to immediately reconsider my goal.  The first little bit of the race is on a downhill.  I hadn't run at all since Boston and though I was feeling fine walking around the day before, it became immediately clear as soon as I starting running that my quads had not fully recovered.  They were achy.  Not painful mind you, but achy.  This was a new experience for me.  Realizing that I was about to run 26.2 miles on a hilly course with achy legs, I turned to plan B which was simply to finish.  I decided to run as slow as I could and then walk for a minute after every mile marker. 


There goes 4 hour pacer

Rather than stick to a fixed schedule, I ended up just walking whenever I felt like it.  This would happen for pretty much the whole race.  My achy legs never quite got better, but they never got worse so i suppose in the end it worked out well.  The mile markers in the race were quite humorous at times. Some with interesting sayings or jokes.

It's funny cause it's true!

At each mile marker, they would have volunteers calling out split times, average pace and expected finish times.  I got a picture of every mile marker except for the first one so rather than post all 25 of them, you can see them as part of the picture slide show below. The finish times being yelled out started out at 4 hours but would slowly start to increase.

There were a lot of musicians at the race, playing all types of different music. I've got some short videos of some of the musicians which I'll post later after I get them uploaded to Youtube.

Harp player

 The first little bit of the race is actually through a forest area so the view though scenic for a forest isn't that great.  The view however does slowly get better over the course of the marathon.

First scenic view of the ocean

So the race continues on. I had worn my Boston 2 Big Sur shirt and it was pretty amazing getting lots of cheers from fellow runners yelling "Go B2B".  Two girls who were doing the B2B had worn their Boston bib on their backs.  During one of my walk breaks, i encountered one Korean fellow wearing a B2B shirt (you can see him below), he was stretching out his back.  We would play leapfrog for most of the race.  The last I encountered of him he was really hurting.  I sure hope he was able to finish.

 There aren't a lot of spectators on the course, other than the musicians and at the aid stations, but with the scenery, there sure is a lot to look at. 

Blue Girl- Body paint or special type of sun screen?

So there's a first hill right during mile 9.  Mile marker is sorta funny.

That Pinocchio!

It's funny cause the hill to end all hills begins soon after this.  The hills leads up to a point called hurricane point which is quite far up.  The grade isn't so bad. I've run steeper.  It's just that the hill is so darned long.  You can get a sense of the hill from this picture.

Those little specs are people

At the base of the hill, they have people beating rhythmic drums to try and get you to charge up the hill.  

Photo op!

You then proceed to spend the next 2 to 3 miles climbing up to Hurricane Point.  They put a nice sign at almost the top of the hill for you to get you picture taken.  If you're racing up the hill, this certainly is the correct description.

It's funny cause it's true!

After you crest Hurricane Point, there's a slight downhill to the next interesting point which is the half way mark and Bixby Bridge which is famous for having the Grand Piano and a pianist playing.

I gotta run over there?

Once you get to the bridge, you encounter the wonderful sounds of a piano playing all sorts of different types of music.  You can see my previous post for a video of the piano player.

Getting closer...
I'm here!

 I'm not sure when i crossed the half mark.  They had a timing mat there, but they don't seem to have published split times.  I seem to remember it being between 2:20 and 2:30 which seems to coincide with the drop in heart rate on my monitor when I stopped for 5 minutes or so to record the video and enjoy the piano a bit. At this point, I remember thinking that beating 5 hours would be a doable goal.

Some more scenery.

Those Kenyans
More scenery.
More piano playing.  Not quite the same, but he was quite good!

Up until this point, I had been doing the walk and run thing and it had worked out quite well.  Somewhere during this time, I encountered Jeff Galloway and his group.  Galloway was doing a run walk thing and was aiming for a 5 hour marathon.  I would leap frog with him for a little while but I realized that my legs weren't getting worse so I thought it might be possible to bump up the pace a bit.  I would still do the walk breaks but would be a little faster on the run portion.

hmmm, strawberries.

Continued on and as I pass the 26 mile marker, I decide to bump up the pace a bit trying to pass some people so that I can position myself so I can get a nice finish line picture. All of a sudden, I guy I had passed decides he doesn't like being passed and starts to run faster to pass me. I suppose the testosterone got the better of me and I turned the jets on. When he realized that he couldn't stick with me, he just yelled "screw it" and slowed down.  My finish line pic looks like I'm grimicing in pain, but I'm actually laughing at the whole situation. 

So final finish time of 4:51.  Got my medals, my bib and the jacket which I quite like.  Ended up wearing it around for the next few days even though it was clearly too warm to be wearing. I bumped into a few others wearing the jacket in the days following and we would nod our heads acknowledging each others achievement.


Went to the post race party and met up with Loves2Run.

I really had a fun time.  Not quite sure that it's better than Boston.  Sure it's more scenic and more interesting than Boston, but the fans are what makes Boston great.  I do however agree with Bart Yasso in that if you could only do one marathon in your lifetime, it should probably be Big Sur.  Would I do it again?  For sure!  I just don't think I'd do the Boston 2 Big Sur thing again.  In fact, almost all the B2B participants I talked to afterward said they would never do it again. Mind you, this was mere hours after having completed it so understandably people have no interest in subjecting themselves to the feeling again.  Given time, they (including me) might change their minds.

As you can tell from the pictures, it was almost perfect weather.  Not a cloud in the sky.  The sun was beating down on us for most of the race, but the breeze coming of the ocean helped to keep us cool  I ran the race with a white long sleeve t-shirt and think that was the right call.

Very challenging course. Couldn't imagine trying to race on this course. 

Well that's about it.  Spent a couple of extra days in Carmel, Monterey and then San Francisco.  You can see more pics from the days follow below.

Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon

on Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 8:58 PM

I don't have much to report about Las Vegas or the Grand Canyon. I would have liked to spend more time in the Grand Canyon. I didn't realize that there's a lot stuff to do there other than look at the Canyon. I'll just leave you with a slide show of some pictures I took.

Picasa Link

On to San Franciso and Big Sur!

2010 Boston Marathon Report

How do I start?  It seems I have so much to say regarding the two marathons.  Boston marathon finish time was a 3:57:58.

Arrived on Saturday. If I had to do this again, I would have arrived earlier in the day. By the time, I had checked into the hotel, the expo was close to closing for the day. Though I probably would have been able to pick up my bib, I would have ended up going back on Sunday anyways to check out the expo which is fairly large. Saturday night, had dinner with Lee and Yumke and their significant others.

Come Sunday morning, the BAA 5k is run which I went out to watch last year, but decided not to this year. I had a number of things to do starting Sunday which included picking up my bib, checking out the expo, going to the RedSox game, eating the pasta dinner and attending a church service.

Last year, on my way to the Hynes convention centre through the Prudential Center which is an indoor shopping mall, I stumbled across a little catholic chapel that's located right in the Prudential Center. It’s literally right beside where you enter the Hynes centre to pick up your bib. It looks out of place. Guess what the name of it was?

St. Francis Chapel

Last year, I took this as a sign from above that I should probably attend a service at my namesake chapel prior to my first Boston marathon where I would attempt to run a negative split personal worse time.
Considering that it seemed to work last year and that my training this year hadn’t gone as well as I would have liked, I thought I would head back for some heavenly intervention.

During the service, I noticed a woman across the aisle wearing a Boston 2 Big Sur(B2B) T-shirt. The Big Sur people had bribed the B2B participants by promising us a free Runner’s World book if we wore our training shirt to the expo. I'm all for free stuff so I wore it. Talking to the race director at the Big Sur booth, he said he was tired of hearing people at the Boston expo say they couldn’t do Big Sur because it interfered with Boston. It was his intent to try and get a bunch of people walking around the expo with B2B shirts so that he could point us out whenever someone complained. Seems like a good marketing strategy. I ended up chatting with my fellow B2Ber after the service as we made our way to pick up our bibs.  As it turns out, she was not only running Boston and Big Sur, but she's doing a third marathon the week after Big Sur as part of a marathon maniac meet-up.  That's hard core!

So picked up my race packet and checked out the expo. I ended up buying a race jacket. Though the one from last year will always be special since it’s my first, I really don’t like the colour and don’t like wearing it in public unless it’s at a race. My plan was originally to not buy a jacket in Boston since Big Sur is giving us a special jacket for doing the two races so I thought that could be my official 2010 race jacket. However, the Big Sur race director was telling us that the jacket was navy blue fleece. I wanted something a little more water proof so I ended up buying a black one that can convert to a vest. I think it’ll get much more use.
Went to the official pasta dinner on Sunday night. Sat with some nurses from California all doing their first Boston. Though I’m no Boston veteran by any stretch of the imagination, I did my best to explain the Boston experience to them. Headed back to the hotel and went to sleep at around 11pm.

Sunday morning, met up with Lee, Yumke and Soran and headed down to the buses.

Waiting for the buses

Though we had qualified with much faster times, Kenny and I were trying for a 3:40. I had thought this would be a relatively easy pace. We had decided to start at the back of the first wave which seemed like the best option since everyone in the first wave would have qualified with a 3:35 or better.

Back of the first wave

So the jets flyover and the race starts.  Before we actually cross the start line, there's a lot of walking.  It takes us about 10 minutes to cross the start line and then we are off.

Looking behind at race start

Yumke, my running compatriot

So we were motoring right along at the start and clicking off the miles, feeling generally good.  Though we had both decided to bring our cameras along, Kenny had gone the extra step and was actually tweeting during the race, including a pic of me downing a beer.  I had grabbed it with the hopes of sipping on it for a while, but all I could hear were the college kids yelling "Chug, Chug, Chug" and so I obliged.  Some other sights from early in the race.

Bandit in a suit
Taking a quick break

There must be an interesting story behind this sign
Chicken on a bike

Santa and a slightly overgrown elf
Steve (far right, almost out of pic) and Mike who pulls an oxygen cart behind him

Wonder where it leads?

So right before the half is Wellesley College which as you may or may not know is famous for its female spectators offering kisses to all-comers.  I commented last year of making the mistake of tearing through this without stopping.  This year I stopped and managed to get a video of the experience, so here you go.  Be warned though, you may get some motion sickness with all the bobbing. 

Youtube Link

Even with the two stops, I still sped through and got through the whole thing in about 2 minutes.  Ended up having to wait for Kenny at the end.  Oh well, I'll get it right eventually. 

We end up hitting the half at 1:48:55 which is about a minute faster than we were expecting.  We continue clicking along for a while.  More pictures.

Entering Newton (and the hills)

By the time we started into the Newton hills, my quads were starting to tighten up.  They were starting to get achy. Usually, I don't feel this way until after mile 20 and then it's usually after I've been doing full on marathon pace.  Considering I was running slower and was starting to ache at mile 17 or so, I was starting to get concerned.  I knew at this point, I was going to have to back off a little bit and so the pace slowed down.  My goal at this point was to get through heartbreak without having to stop and then figure out what to do from there.

More Canadians!
More bands!

So we made it up the Newton hills and up heart break and at around the 22 mile point, we took a walk break. I had thought I could do a 10/1 run/walk thing and tried to start up again soon thereafter, but my quads were close to cramping at this point and with all the downhill running ahead of me, I thought it would be a bad idea, so i started walking again.  I told Kenny he could go on ahead and so we said our goodbyes and he took off.  I ended up walking most of the last 4 miles with the occasionally slow jog just to keep the muscles moving.  During one of my attempts at jogging, my quads seized up and I had to grab the spectator barrier to stretch it out. I continued to walk. At this point, I was eating anything that was given to me: Orange slices, little candies and a Recess Peanut Butter cup. I remember thinking that was the best piece of chocolate I had ever eaten. I had hoped to run the last mile in, but I continued to walk.  I did mange to run the last half mile including the turns from Commonwealth onto Boylston, including the last little bit at a quicker pace.  So happy with that.


Here are some other pictures from Boston.

Picasa Link

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I had a miserable last few miles, because I didn't. I had a grand old time. If I didn't have to do another marathon in 6 days, I probably would have been able to just run through any difficulties, but with another hilly marathon looming, I thought it best to err on the side of caution. I did cross the finish line with my arms raised and a slight victory smile.

So looking back now, I realize that I had done a lot of things differently this time around.  My training wasn't close to where it should have been.  I did a 12 week plan with a maximum of 55 miles, but a lot of the weeks were in the mileage of low 40's.  I also didn't take any salt pills.  I had learned this lesson the hard way back in 2007 and for every marathon since that day, I have consumed salt pills in the days leading up to my marathon.  I didn't do that this time around and I'm fairly certain that is what led to the quads cramping. Also, I've also not been sticking or foam rolling my legs as much lately. I tried to foam roll my legs in the days leading up to the race and it hurt like hell. Gotta work on that.  

One thing I learned is that I think I ended up staying at the hotel (the Back Bay Hotel) with the perfect location for wave 1'ers. I was pleasantly surprised after picking up my gear and hoping to find an alley where I could change when i found myself standing outside my hotel.  Even though the hotel is quite a ways from the finish line, since they force you to walk down the street to get your medal, food and gear, the actual exit of the finish line staging area for the wave 1'ers just happened to be right where my hotel was. It also has the benefit of being across the street from the massages.  I skipped the massages and rather headed back to the hotel for an ice bath.  On to recovery. 

Next stop, Las Vegas.