I want to be a part of it....

on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 5:18 PM

Today is the eve of the New York marathon.  I started this training cycle with the intent of not doing a long run pace marathon, but it seems that is probably what I will end up doing tomorrow.  My calf is  better, much better than it was two weeks ago, but I haven't really tested it.  I went on a few runs over the past few weeks hoping to do at least 10k each time, but ended up calling it quits after less than a mile.  My left calf still had a dull achy feeling that made itself known as I would start to run.  I felt that any losses in cardio could be made up for by going slower during the race, a busted up calf however would force me to drop out so rest was the preferred course of action these past few weeks..  

I feel I've loss quite a bit of fitness.  My resting HR is much higher than it normally would be at peaking training and even the few runs i've done have been at more elevated HR.  A goal of 3:15 is out the window and so is 3:20.  I ended up with a 3:30, 3:40 and 3:45 pace bands from the expo, but won't make the call until after the first few miles of the race when I get a feel for my effort level and calf situation. I may end up doing the bring a camera along thing and forgoing a goal time all together.    

Whatever happens tomorrow, I'll be okay with since I've learned a lot this training cycle so hopefully bigger and better things are in store for next year.

If you're reading and interested in tracking, I'm bib 7525.  See you on the flip side.

Damn Calf

on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 11:11 PM

So my calf is definitely injured. I ended up doing the 1:45 pacing gig at the Scotiabank half marathon which I've done for the previous 4 years.  Whether that was a good decision or not is still up in the air.  It's a nice gig to have since they give you a bunch of free stuff including shoes. Though I had thought about droping out, the problem is that if you pull out, they expect you to pay for the stuff.  I can kinda understand why. In previous years, they would get a bunch of people signing up to be pacers, who would receive the stuff and then pull out.  Since they started the "pay if you drop out" policy, the drop out rate has been extremely low. 

I ended up finishing in 1:44:59.3 which is really just a stroke of luck.  Since they started showing video of the finish line as part of the race pictures, it's hard to "cheat" at pacing since the obvious signs of slowing down and staring at your watch as you approach the finish line can be easily seen. I could run the last 100m, 1000 times and probably not come that close ever again.  They give out a prize to the pacer that came closest to their time.  Though you'd think I would be a shoe in, nope.  One of the other bunnies came in 0.6s over their goal time.  Even though it's the closest I've ever come to my goal time, I would probably rate this performance as subpar. One of the important roles in being a pacer is not running too fast at any point in the race.  One of the km I ran was 4:33 which should have been around 4:45 based on the 10/1 pacing I was doing.  That km was on a downhill, but still it was probably too fast. I hit the 10k mark at 48:59 which should have been 49:37 for a walk adjusted split. In previous years, I hit this mark at around 49:20 or later which is about 20 seconds of banked time which is about right considering that the 10k mark is downhill from the start. An extra 20s on top of that over 10k doesn't seem like much, but as someone who's doing the run/walk thing, the pace during the run phase is faster than if the person was doing it continuously and I'm already pushing people to run at a pace that is uncomfortable for them, to run just that little bit faster can really mess things up.  Well thankfully this was the last year they are doing the 10/1 1:45 pacer.  They are going to change it to a continuous one next year. 

As for the race itself, my left calf was hurting through the whole thing. The calf was okay (ie, no pain) before the race, but I knew that something didn't feel right as it still seemed tight. I ended up wearing a compression sock on just the one leg to provide some additional support.  Never run in the thing before, but I was more worried about the calf failing then about chaffing issues. Plus, I'd been wearing the sock for most of the week without any undue rubbing so I thought I'd be okay. It was definitely the right call.  Though I got through the race with a the calf hurting through much of it, I could barely walk after the race.

Since then, I've decided to rest for the remainder of the week and will try a short run this weekend.  The calf is getting better but is still sore when I walk down stairs. I'm trying to stretch and foam roll and stick it to helpfully get it healed before NY. Not sure how much fitness I will lose.  3:15 is definitely not possible and I think 3:20 may be slipping away also.  Well whatever. At this point, if I can run it without having to hobble, I will be happy. 

Taper Time

on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 10:34 PM

I originally thought I was heading into the taper in pretty good shape.  Most mileage I've ever done in a training cycle and no injuries to speak of. Alas, not quite so.  Last Friday, two days before my last scheduled 20 miler, headed out for 11 miles and my calf got really sore about half way through.  Did a short run on Saturday, took Sunday off and then tried to do the 20 miler on Thanksgiving Monday, but had to stop after 7 miles. Took the last two days off. I'm supposed to pace the 1:45 half marathon on Sunday at a local race and part of me has been thinking maybe I should bow out now.  I'd hate to drop out at the last minute and leave the organizer in a lurch. Will try a short recovery run tomorrow and then make the call.

I guess neglecting with the posting in this blog also caused me to not bother to review what I've written previously which is one of the whole reasons for starting this thing.  If I had bothered to look back (here and here), I would have read that in previous marathon training, I had a tendency to develop trigger points in my calves during the taper.  This time it happened a bit earlier, but all the warning signs were there and I just ignored them.  Tight calves at the beginning of run, plantar fasciitis pain.  All things I had dealt with and supposed learnedly from before, but I guess that feeling of invincibility I had while getting through some of the longer mileage and faster mileage weeks left me feeling a bit cocky.  Now I'm paying for it.  I've been kneeding my calves every hour for the past couple of days, even bringing my Stick into work. 

I usually pick a marathon goal about a month before the race.  As I previously posted, 3:20 was a reasonable goal with 3:15 as an outside possibility.  My recent 15k race made me a little more confident that 3:15 was doable if the stars aligned.  Also, did a 19 mile long run with 14 at MP with 7 at 3:15 pace so was feeling pretty good about that. But since I last posted about goals, the BQ times have come out for next year. Last year, when they implemented the new BQ times, everyone that ran their time got in, this year you had to beat your BQ time by 1:38 to get in.

Now it could just be that there is an intense interest in doing Boston now due to the bombings this year or it could just be that it took a year for marathoners to step up their game to adjust to the new times. 

Whatever the reason, it's looking like 3:15 may not be enough. While I thought I had an outside shot at 3:15, to run a 3:13 marathon would require a 7:22 min/mile pace which I haven't trained for and am probably ill prepared to attempt.  Though it may not seem like much of a difference, as someone that tried numerous times for 3:10 and failed, getting into that sub 3:15 range is a little dicey for me.

A 3:15 that doesn't get me into Boston might as well be a 3:20 or 3:30 for that matter.  At this point, I haven't run a marathon in 3 years so any time better than a DNF would be welcome.  I still haven't made a final decision yet, but I'm leaning towards the original goal of 3:20.  This may get slower or faster depending on the outcome of this calf issue.

15K Race Report

on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 10:48 PM

I ran the Running Maniacs 15k race this past Saturday. The timing of the race fit in well with the Pfitzinger training plan I'm on that wanted an 8-15k race done on that day.  I did this race 7 years ago when it was only a 5 and a 10k and run for the first time.  Didn't care much for the organization at the time, but hey they've had a few years to work out the kinks, right?

Situated in the little town of Newcastle, about a 45 minute drive east of Toronto, the race is really more of a fall festival for a local running group in the area, but a race is still a race.

Decided to sign up for the 15k. Though I had thoughts of doing the 10k after my miserable 10k performance 2 weeks ago, I realized that the main goal is to race a marathon this fall so longer tune-up races were preferable.  I went into this race with a slightly different mindset.  Rather than pick a pace to try and hold or try to run on perceived effort, I decided to return to my training roots and run this by HR by keeping the HR just under 180.  If I encountered a HR spike, I was going to stop until it returned to normal.  With this mindset, I think the tension of the race went away and I just perceived it as another training run.

Wasn;t too sure about the organization so prior to the race, I started asking around about the water stations, and no one seemed to have any clue if there were any or where they would be.  One volunteer did try and be helpful by saying he was sure that there was one at 12k mark, but that seems quite late. Not taking any chances, ended up running with a water bottle, an actual water bottle with a screw cap, not a squeeze bottle, as it was the only thing I had available. Didn't really get a good chance to warm up, which essentially consisted of about 200m of slight running right before the start.

To keep from going out too fast, I started at the very back of the pack.  There were only about 80 people in the race, so there wasn't going to be a lot of jostling. Hit the first mile marker at 7:00 min even which I thought was fairly good and controlled. Only real drama was during the 2nd mile when I could hear a train in the distance and I turned a corner to see a set of train tracks up ahead and started to wonder if they train was going to coincide with me passing the tracks, but it didn't, but it did pass by about 2 minutes after I crossed so it probably did effect some people.  The race is a mix of roads and paved trails and is a bit hilly in places. I would have to cross over train tracks twice more during the race, but no sound of horns in the distance so no train worries. Not a lot of volunteers or course marshals. I eventually figured out that they had spray painted arrows on the roads when one is supposed to turn which would have been nice if they had told us ahead of time. 

Rest of the race went without incident. HR didn't spike and HR was kept just under 180 with it going above it only on the hills. Remaing splits would be 6:53, 6:52, 7:06, 7:11, 7:05,6:49, 7:00,7:14.  The slower splits are a result of uphills and the faster splits are from downhills so things looked okay. Data from my race is here. Total race distance was around 14.7 km according to the GPS so a bit short.  Average pace for the whole race was 7:00 min/mile pace even for a finish time of around 1:04.  I say around because I had to go with my watch time which I didn't stop exactly at the finish line, maybe 5 to 10 seconds after.  My "official" finishing time has me at 1:41:23 which I don't understand at all.  Maybe I was just going so fast that relativistic effects started taking place and time for everyone else started to slow down or maybe the timing guys just messed up. I'm leaning towards the latter.

I emailed the timing guys about double checking, but its been a few days and haven't heard back from them. It probably won't help much as it appears from the race results that despite the start and finish lines being at the same place and using chip tracking, they only offered gun times. Since I started at the back of the pack, I think my watch time will actually be closer to my actual time then the gun time. 

My first thought when I saw the time mess up was that I had been stiffed yet again for an award  which had happened the last time I did this race, but lucky for me, I wouldn't have placed either overall or in my age group so it didn't really matter. I would have finished 10th overall, 5th in my gender and 4th in my age group.

There was some screw up with the chips though. In fact, we had to wait over an hour for them to announce the winners and they never actually did post the times at the event. I had to wait until Sunday night to find out my time online. In fact, I don't even think they had a clock at the finish line so one could have run this race without a watch and left the race having no idea what your finish time was. Apparently, some people had taken chips that weren't assigned to their bib numbers  which ended up messing up the results.  I know I received the right chip so that couldn't have been the issue for me, but who knows. 

I'm fairly happy with the race.  The 7:00 min/mile average pace for about an hour is approximately what my LT pace should be according to Daniels which means I've been doing my LT runs at the proper pace and intensity this training cycle. This has me still considering what marathon pace I should aim for in New York, but I'll get to that in another post.

That's it for tune-up races for me. Pfitz technically has one more scheduled for two weeks from now on a Saturday, but I'm supposed to be a pacer at a local half marathon on the Sunday which probably means an all out race the day before is pretty much out of the question. 

Overall, an okay event, if you don't mind the short course, and the timing fiasco.  The timing company was one I had never heard of before in this area.  There are basically two big timing companies in the area and a bunch of smaller ones.  The one that was used (splitstiming.com) seems to be relatively new.  They don't use the Championship chip system and they don't appear to have mats. Instead they have little antennas on the sides that pick up signals. Not sure how well they work; they obviously didn't work for me. Presumably they were used because they were cheaper, but sometimes you get what you pay for. As for swag, we got a tech shirt (not a fan of the colour) and a Tim Horton's coffee mug. Not bad for a $54 last minute 15k registration fee


Marathon Pace

on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 8:42 PM

I haven't posted at all about training this time around so here's an update.  Training so far has gone surprisingly well (touch wood). I think this may be the most mileage I've done during a training cycle.  I've done seven 20+ milers and had nine 50+ mile weeks so far and I still have more to come. Most of these miles, however have been on the slow side.  I started this training cycle about 10 pounds heavier than my racing weight has been in the past, so the hope that was doing a lot of slower runs would help shed the fat molecules without requiring me to crash diet. I believe I"m pretty close to where I should be in regards to weight, so the hope is now to build up some speed.

I have one last marathon pace type run this weekend and it's had me thinking quite a bit about where I might be in regards to my marathon fitness.  When I started this training cycle, 8 min/mile seemed reasonable considering that it's been a few years since I've run one, but I think that may be a bit conservative.  My training paces to date and progress seem very similar to what they were when I did Chicago back in 2006.  At the time, I was aiming for 3:20 in Chicago, but ending up finishing in 3:17. So 3:20 (7:38 pace) seems to be a reasonable goal for New York.  I've done three marathon pace long runs this time around, the 2nd of which was done at the beginning of August with 12 miles at 7:50 pace as part of a 20 mile long run.  The third marathon pace long done a few weeks ago was a bit of a disaster where I only managed 7 miles at 7:45 pace on a windy day, but I just considered that to be having a bad day and not carbo loading.  Who knows maybe I can pull of the 3:17 magic again.

Now the big wrinkle in all this is that my BQ time for 2015 is 3:15, so is 3:15 really that much different than 3:17?  My ego thinks that I could totally do 3:15, but the rest of me keeps reminding myself that I haven't raced a marathon in 4 years. In addition to that I'm 7 years older when I did Chicago and though 7 additional years of "experience" may be worth something, the truth of the  matter is there's a reason Boston gives you additional time as you get older.  In addition, New York is a tougher course than Chicago and I recently learned, I'm not very good at racing on hills, even though I've been trying to do my long runs on some hillier courses. 

Looking back to when I last did 3:15 which was in fall of 2009, I'm definitely not at the same level of fitness as I was back then. Back then I was doing my LT's at under 7 min/mile pace and I ended up doing a kinda hilly half marathon at a similar pace. Just recently, I struggled putting 7:15 pace down over a hilly 10k.  Looking at these numbers, 3:15 would be a pipe dream, but in reality back in 2009, I was training for an outside shot at 3:10 so I don't think I necessarily need the same fitness to do 3:15, but it would mean that I would have to race pretty close to my limit.

So the weekend has a 14 mile marathon pace run with 18 total miles.  My thinking was after a 2 mile warm up, to try to run 7 miles at 3:20 pace and then try to do the last 7 at 3:15 pace and see what I feel like after.  Still a few weeks of training left and at least one tune-up race so I should have a pretty good handle on my fitness after that. 

Hope training is going well for the rest of you!

Zoo Run 10K Race Report

on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 5:13 PM

It's been a while since I've written a race report. Heck, it's been a while since I've actually raced.  Last race and report was the Acura 5k back in July of 2010.  I've run in other races since, but didn't really "race" them.  They've always been as a pacer or with some sort of training purpose in mind.  I did do a 10k back in the fall of 2010 in the 44 minute range and though I seem to recall running it pretty hard, it was done a week after pacing a marathon so I wouldn't count that.  Here is a picture postrace from that race with 4 Olympic medalists and also Reid Coolsaet before he became a somewhat famous marathoner in Canada.  

BTW, I beat both Reid Coolsaet and an Olympic medalist in that race. Okay, the medalist was a figure skater and Coolsaet decided to run with with one of the sponsors representatives, but it still counts.

Pfitz' plan has several tune-up races as part of his marathon training that are generally between 8k and 15k.  They are always on a Saturday and hard to rearrange since the plan still requires you to do a 17 mile long run on the Sunday.  This year, luck was on my side as there are a few races in the area that fall on the correct dates.

The first of these was the Oasis 10k Zoo Run.  I decided to do this 2 weeks ago and as it was sold out, ending up purchasing a bib from someone online. Going into this, even though the last time I raced a 10k was back in July of 2008, I figured with the LT training I'd been doing, it wouldn't be too bad trying to hold a sustainable tempo like pace.  I figured a reasonable goal would be around 4:20 min/km pace for a rough time of 43.5 minutes.

Bib 2013 in the year 2013. What are the chances?
 Alas, things didn't go according to plan.  Firstly, though we had been blessed recently with some nice fall temperatures, (sub 10C), today was 18C. Second, it was raining, a steady rain which didn't go too well for me, but enough with the excuses and on to the race.

I tried to do an extended 30 minute warmup leading up to race pace since I typically do my LT runs with a 2 mile warmup and my track workout with a 3 mile one.  The other thing for the extended warm-up was to try and prevent my HR from spiking. I've posted about this before and it is still a concern for me, though I've learned to mitigate it somewhat by gradually warming up. 

I've been using a Polar GPS recently and this was the first time I've used it in a race.  Though I ran with the HR monitor, I turned off the HR display so it wouldn't cause me concern in the race if the HR did spike. In fact, I only ran with the lap split times being displayed, because I was hoping to run purely based on effort and feel.  After warming up, got into the corral with about 5minutes to start and was hopping up and down and running in place to try and keep the HR up and so the race starts.

During the first km, I tried to run a comfortable pace and gradually move up and pass people when space made itself available. The first little bit is in the zoo parking lot where the path is narrow in spots due to the fencing, but I think this helps to control one from going out too fast. After about 700m, it moves onto the road where things open up. Pass the first km in 4:20. Right on pace.

The 2nd km involves an out and back on the road with the out portion being downhill and the back portion being uphill. Still feeling quite good and the breathing is getting a bit labored on the hill climb part. Hit 2nd km at 4:25. A little slow, but okay.

The 3rd km continues uphill and according to the GPS altitude data, involves a 50 ft climb.  It was here about half way through the KM that my HR spiked going from mid 180's to over 210. I didn't know it at the time though.  Hit 3rd km at 4:23 which considering that this was almost all uphill probably means I was overly exerting myself on this, which caused the HR spike.

Typically, when the HR does this, it doesn't come back down on its own and I either have to stop or start walking where it eventually returns down to normal.  It's easy to do this in training, but obviously harder to do in a race, thus the reason for turning off the HR display.

About half way during km number 4, the route goes semi off-road onto an un-paved portion with packed dirt. Remember that it was raining so a little messy and trying to dodge puddles and such, while also trying to recover from the hill climb in the previous km.  I also notice here that my HR monitor is starting to slip down from my chest and I'm doing the pull it up thing, which I ultimately would have to do several more times in the race.  Km 4 is in 4:29. I'm slowing down. 

Km 5 continues off-road for a bit then rejoins a paved path.  By this point, I've been running with a few guys and we're jocking back and forth for position.  Breathing still feels a little labored, though the effort level is there. Hit the 5km marker in 4:28 for a split time of 22:05. 

Towards the end of km 6, there is a bit of an incline and out and back and this is where it starts to fall apart.  The first little bit is downhill, but then it runs through a foresty part which has a steep incline. Hit km 6 at 4:32.

Trying to recover from the previous incline and due to the fact that km 7 and 8 are undulating, I missed the 7 km marker as I spent most of the time looking at the ground trying to keep my breathing in check and trying to recover during the downhill portions from the uphill portions. I hit km 8 at 9:25 for a 4:43 average.

During km 9, I try to gain some speed, but my breathing is severly labouring at this point and I'm breathing in a one-one breathing pattern. Speed's not going up. Km 9 in 4:34.

As I pass km 9, I try and kick for the finish line and try to bump up the pace, but quickly realize that it ain't sustainable since it's almost all uphill. 50 ft climb over the last km.  Slow down where required, cursing whoever thought that having an incline at the end of a 10k was a good idea.  The HR strap  also ended up slipping down and I ended up having to catch it as it became unlatched.  Ended up crossing the finish line at 45:15 with HR monitor strap in hand.  Last km in 4:38.

Overall pace was 4:31/km (7:17/mile), a far cry from the 4:20/km (6:58/mile )pace and 43.5 time I was hoping for.

Obviously, not too happy with my race.  I did a 7 mile LT run two weeks ago where I averaged 7:15/mile pace and I ran a 6 mile LT run almost a month ago at 7:04/mile pace. Yes, this route was technically more difficult and the rain didn't help, nor did the HR spiking so perhaps I should just chalk it up to having a bad day.

BTW, Reid Coolsaet also ran in this race and had a time of 29:50. No beating him this time.

Here is the HR info showing the HR spike which apparently lasted through the entire race.  It only appears to drop off towards the end when the HR strap slipped down.   Up until the HR spike, I think I was doing okay as it appears to have been leveling off at the mid to low 180's even when climbing a hill. If the HR hadn't spiked, would I have been faster? I'd like to think so though I don't really know. I didn't feel too great towards the end of the race, but that could have been just because it was a race; it's supposed to get tough towards the end. 

 If you're interested in any other details of my race or the course (mile splits, route, elevation), you can get more info here.

As for what's next?   Next tune-up race is scheduled for 2 weeks from now and there is a 10k and 15k option at a race that is about a 45 minute drive east of here. I ran this race back in 2006, where I was robbed of a first place finish.  I originally thought that I would do the 15k, but with today's lackluster performance, I'm thinking maybe another crack at the 10k would be better. Will see how the training goes over the next two weeks and will probably make a last second decision. Hopefully, the race won't sell out.

Normally, I would never pass up a chance to take some pictures of animals at the zoo, but the miserable weather and the crappy race made me want to get out of there as quickly as possible, so I'll leave you some images that I've previously taken.

Back to the Scene of the Crime

on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Well I suppose it's that time of the year again for my one yearly post.  Not that too many people are still reading, but if you are, Hi!!.

So the title basically sums up what I'm training for. After my last post from almost  a year ago gushing about doing the NYC marathon, I had the NY experience stolen from me by Hurricane Sandy. Or maybe the title refers to the fact that New York Road Runners association stole another $300+ from me for the privilege of running in their race after they had cancelled the race, only 3 days prior to the race taking place.  Did I mention that I had traveled to NY before they cancelled it? Well technically, I found out while I was at the airport about 20 minutes before I was supposed to board the plane, but by then I had already paid for my non refundable hotel, my last minute flight had ridiculous cancellation fees which made the airfare a write off and a nice $80 cab ride into downtown Toronto during rush hour (ain't doing that again) to top it all off.  I figured I would go anyways since I had already spent so much.

Not that I'm bitter as I really wasn't ready to run a marathon at that time. I had put some training in, but not nearly enough to really race a marathon.  I had resigned myself to basically running the race at my long run pace of about 9 min/mile which would have put me just under 4 hours.  Oh well, even with that conservative goal, it was still a letdown to not do the race.

After a winter of putting on some weight and not doing anything training wise, I decided that I should at least start preparing to redo NY and not just have to settle for a long run pace marathon.  So that's where I am today.  Week 6 of an 18 week training program.  Trying to do Pfitzinger 55 mile 18 week program. Not sure what marathon pace I'm aiming for. It'll be 3 years since I've run a marathon and 4 years since I've raced one so it's going to be a relearning experience for me.  I'm fairly certain I should be able to do 3:30 if I keep the training up.  As to how much faster I might be able to go, I really don't know.  Time will tell.

Some Pics from NY.

Statue of Liberty

World Trade Center Memorial

Times Square

View from Empire State Building

Rockfeller Plaza
(Day before Presidential Election hence the red white and blue)