30 Days 30 Posts, kinda

on Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 9:19 PM

Made it through to the end, with a few days of cheating, but hey I've posted more in the past 30 days than I have in the past 4 years so you take the good with the bad.   I won't be as prolific now that it's over, but at least there won't be any more cat videos.

I've spent some time trying to decide what races I want to do next year.  Think I will stay local and either do the Mississauga or Toronto marathon next year (May 3).  Learning towards doing Around the Bay 30k (March 29) and may do Harry's 8k, but that's the week after ATB so may not be in shape to do that.  Also looking at the Chilly Half (March 1), but I think that will be a week before decision depending on the weather.  There's also an MEC race on April 12 which I will probably do as well cause it's cheap. 

All this of course means that training starts the last week of December so I have to try and get my mileage built up prior to then and find a gym hopefully to get me through parts of the winter.  It's on!

Getting More Zzzzz.

on Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 11:59 PM

So I've decided to try and do some experimentation on this HR thing and the first thing I"m going to try is to make a concerted effort to  get more sleep.  I'm already off to a bad start today since it's just before midnight, but I'll start tomorrow, I swear.  Going to aim for at least 7 hours and maybe 8. Going to try for a week and see if the HR thing improves.  Again, it's a bit random, so I have no idea if there's a one to one correlation, but I suppose that's what the experimentation is for. 

As a footnote on the fitness trackers, most are able to keep track of how well you sleep and try and estimate how much deep sleep and REM sleep you get which would be helpful I suppose.  I don't have a fitness tracker yet, but I found an app for my phone which does something similar.  You turn it on and put it beside you as you sleep and it uses the accelerometer in the phone to detect movement and the phone tries to wake you up when you're in the lightest phase of sleep.  It has a two week trial before you have to pay so I guess that should be enough time to get a feel for how well it works.  It seems to have gotten pretty good reviews so I'm hoping for the best.

Fitness Band

on Friday, November 28, 2014 at 11:58 PM

It seems that fitness bands are all the rage these days.  With Apple coming out with their watch, I suppose it's becoming the new next big thing, being able to monitor your daily physical activity.  These things are little bands you wear on you wrist that have motion sensors in them and monitor your  physical activity and sleep patterns. Lately, they've been coming out with newer ones that can track your heart rate as well, but don't require a chest strap.  They have a little optical sensor and light that detects minor changes in your skin which represent your pulse.   Looks interesting. I'd love to know how well they work though.  Fitbit who I guess are probably the leaders in this area have the new FitBit charge HR which I'd like to try, but it seems it won't be out till the new year.  Bad marketing as I'm sure they'll be missing out on the big sales prior to Christmas.

Getting heavier

on Thursday, November 27, 2014 at 7:40 PM

Stepped on the scale this morning. 149.5 pounds. A month ago, prior to race day I was hovering around 144. Yikes. Need to go on a diet, or at least run more or at least stop buying Costco packs of snacks.

I think I pulled a muscle in my hamstring on Wednesday. It was right after a run and I bent down to pick up a branch that was on the sidewalk and my left hamstring just sort of tightening up or cramped or something. It's a bit sore now.  I think it has something to do with weak hamstrings.  It kinda feels the sames as it did in New York last year which at the time I attributed to not running and the muscles starting to detrain a bit.  With the reduced mileage and only 3 days of running a week, I think I may be suffering the same problems.  Hopefully, it won't get worse and I can baby it for the next few weeks.

Polar Running Index

on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 8:48 PM

Yippe, a non-back dated post!

I'm going to get a bit technical now.  I run with the Polar RC3 GPS running watch.  When I finish my run and hit stop, it reports something called a Running Index.  This is supposed to estimate your level of fitness based on the pace and HR during the course of the run.  Over time, the number gradually increases as you get fitter, so I thought it would be interested to see how well it is able to judge running performance based on my training.  

For some basic info and a cheesy youtube video, you can find more about the Index at Polar's site.

Basically the Running Index is supposed to be able to predict your level of fitness and race times. From what I'm able to gather, it takes your max HR that you enter and uses your HR data and pace data from a run, figures out where on the sliding scale of your HR that you are at and then tries to extrapolate what pace you would be able to run at a percentage of your HR max that is indicative of various race distances.  Sounds good in theory.  The polar website I linked to has a table of estimated race times for a given Index.

So what Running Index am I at? Well that's hard to say.  See, the HR issue I occasional have really screws up the Running Index calculation since my regular maximum heart rate is probably around 187 I'm guessing which is what my watch uses to calculate the number.  The problem is when my HR spikes it sometimes gets to that number even when I'm running relatively slow and sometimes goes even higher than that.  For an example, the marathon I ran where I encountered the HR spiking issue for almost half the race, calculated an index of  46 which according to the above table means I should have run the marathon in 4:24, but the run that was used to calculate that number was actually a marathon itself that I did in 3:25. So runs with the HR spiking can't be used.

Also, relatively short runs also don't estimate the Running Index accurately. For example, the 5k race I did back in September where I ran 3.18 miles in 20:46 gave me an Index of 54 (even though my HR didn't spike) which means I should have run the distance in 23:20, again not correct.  This I can kinda forgive though.  From what I understand, the watch doesn't start analyzing your data until the 12 minute mark of the run. I guess it's to allow a warm up so the watch only had about 8-9 minutes of data to work with. It doesn't know that I already ran 12 minutes at a faster pace so it assumes that since I'm at or near my max and that I only ran at that pace for 8-9 minutes that I couldn't sustain that for another 10 so it underestimates my performance.

On the other hand, slow recovery runs tend to overestimate the Index. The highest index I saw this training cycle was 66 which was obtained on a 5.1 mile recovery run two days before the marathon where I averaged 8:52 min/mile pace.  On a longer run back in September, I was able to get a 65 on an 11 mile run where I averaged 9:00 min/mile. These predict a 3:05 marathon. Yeah, not happening.

So the best combination is to find a moderately long run at a slightly fastish pace and see what Index was calculated from that.  Marathon pace long runs would have been perfect for that, but all of my marathon pace runs suffered from HR spiking issues (foreshadowing of race day, I suppose) and so the Index predicted from those is fairly low. The best run I could find that fit the bill was an LT run that was done as part of a 14 miler. This was done back on August 20th where I averaged 7:57 min/mile pace for the whole run with 7 miles done at 7 min/mile pace. This resulted in an index of 60 which predicted a marathon time of 3:20.  Now considering that this was done two months before race day, it's probably about right as I felt I could have done at least 3:20 if not for the HR issues on race day and of course I was aiming for 3:15 which I think was doable.

My runs lately have me at a running index of  55 which is probably due to the fact that I donated blood a few weeks ago, have put on a few pounds and am doing low mileage.  I think I'm going to try tracking this a bit more closely going forward.  At least I'll now have a point of reference for future training.

NaBloPoMo Cat Video

on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 11:59 PM

I'm running on empty here so here's a cat video. Warning. It's 25 minutes long.

Pan Am Games

on Monday, November 24, 2014 at 11:53 PM

So in a little under 8 months, Toronto will be hosting the Pan Am Games.  Today, they announced they would convert some of the lanes of the highways into High Occupancy Lanes reserved for only a select few.  As much as I would love to see the games run smoothly, I think it's going to end up being a major clusterfu?k for traffic and getting around.  Traffic is bad enough as it is now. Can't wait till they start closing down streets downtown. 

I thought about getting some tickets to events, but I have a high suspicion that tickets will become cheaper as the events grow nearer.  The truth is that Toronto is very much an apathetic town when it comes to sports. There are people that will support the Leafs, but will support the other sports teams only when they are winning. I suspect that in an effort to fill half empty buildings, the tickets prices will have to come down eventually. Not that the tickets are that expensive, but it's hard to get an idea of what tickets will be good to have.  It's not like deciding you want to watch the gold medal hockey game at the Olympics.

They put out a commercial trying to excite the local populace about the event.  Nice production values.  Song is kinda catchy, but it does get annoying after awhile.

HR issue revisited

on Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 11:59 PM

So getting back to the tachycardia HR issue. I've spent some time googling around trying to see if anyone else has had these types of problems. Salty is a fastish runner who has blogged about the matter with her and went so far as having the ablation procedure performed as did the Vegan Heart Doctor. There is also a tumblr thread on the issue. Other discussion threads I've found that talk about the issue are at:

http://www.patient.co.uk/forums/discuss/supraventricular-tachycardia-and-exercise--216514, http://www.firehouse.com/forums/t85631/,

So it seems that this happens to a lot of people.  As for my trip to the GP, I have to wait for some blood tests before I get a referral and I have to wait a bit to do that in light of the blood donation a few weeks ago.  I ended up trying a new GP. My previous one moved his practice out of the city so I'm trying a new family doctor. I'm not so confident of the guy. He's about 50 and new to the city and country and is originally from Iran and only received his Canadian license in the past year, but has been a doctor in Iran for over 20 years. He's at least got some experience so I don't really have an issue with that. What kinda bothered me was the clinic he was working in is computerized and while typing my history into the computer, he would do the one finger pecking thing on the keyboard.  In this day and age, a part of me doesn't quite trust someone with today's modern medical technology who can't type without looking at the keyboard.

In any event, he wanted to do a normal ECG reading and if that didn't show anything, he wants to do a 24 hour monitor which I suppose is what I was actually hoping he would want to do in the end, so maybe he won't be that bad.

Warming up

on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 11:59 PM

Another back dated post.  I'll try to remain on schedule. There's only about a week to go.   You may get some youtube cat video posts though.  So after some winter, it's warmed up to about 10C which is normally shorts and a t-shirt weather, but I find that I get weird looks when I go out like that in the colder months, even if the temperature says it should be so.  Knee length shorts and a long-sleeved T. 

I've started to notice some little aches in my legs, probably due to me not stretching and the lack of core and leg strength work.  I'm going to have to start that back up again. I also have a Bosu Ball that I purchased about 7 years ago that has been sitting in the closet for a while.  Back then, it was all the rage and ridiculously expensive for what it was, half a stability ball on a plastic base.  Supposed to help you utilize your stabilizing muscles which makes you stronger.  The thing is I never actually knew how to use it.  I could do squats on it and push ups, but didn't really feel that it was doing much and wasn't sure what else I should use it for.  That's all changed with the advent of youtube.  Do a search on Youtube for Bosu Ball and there are a ton of hits for various exercises. In fact, you can do a search for any fitness related thing and you'll find something about it.   Handstand running? That's out there. Bellyflop diving? Yes. Triatholon Juggling? Yep. In fact, I thought about the craziest running related thing I could think of, putting lipstick on while running and guess what? That's out there too.  In fact, she puts on all her make-up while running.

Weird, eh?


on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 11:59 PM

Whoops. I slipped off the NaBloPoMo bandwagon so I'm going to cheat and back date this post. So had the first few winter type runs this past week where it's was below zero and there was snow on the ground.  Wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. So maybe I won't need a gym membership.  But it's still early and we haven't received any of that -20C garbage that we got last year.  Also, we didn't get that 6 feet of snow that Buffalo appears to be digging out of. Even though we're farther north than they are, they seem to get far more snow than we do.  They call it lake effect snow where cold arctic air blows south over Lake Ontario and picks up moisture that gets dumped when it encounters land. 

In regards to running, I'm trying to get maintenance miles in and trying to decide what races to do next year. There are the usual suspects for spring marathons here in Toronto, Mississauga and the Toronto one.  I'm also thinking of Around the Bay 30k and Harry's 8k race. Also I'm intrigued by the MEC race series, which offers no frills chip timed races. No shirt, no medal, no high fees. Typical race fees are $15.  May try a few of these next year.

A loser again.

on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 11:59 PM

So didn't get in to the Berlin marathon.  That's three times a failure for New York, (getting automatically on the fourth), and one failure each for Berlin, London and Tokyo.  Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.  My luck's got to change eventually.  Now, the question is whether to try and go for a tour for either.

Cadence Revisited

on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 11:52 PM

Ran outside in what I would call the first winter run of the season. -8C, some snow and some ice on the ground. Wasn't too bad.  Noticed that my cadence rate was still above 90/min even though I was running relatively slow and more importantly not while I was thinking about it.  It could also be that the fact that I was counting the rates subconsciously forced me to increase my cadence. Not sure.  I'll try the footpod thing again and get some more info. 

In other news, I'm waiting on results from the Berlin marathon lottery.  I had applied for the Tokyo  one in February earlier and didn't get in and now applied for the Berlin one and the results are supposed to start coming out tomorrow.  I was hoping to find out about the Berlin results and then if I didn't get in, I was going to think about doing Tokyo through a tour group, but there appears to be a waiting list for that now so that's a no go. Maybe that's for the best though and I would probably should have already started training for that if that were going to happen.

Snowy Day Aborted

on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 11:52 PM

So first potential running day of winter was a fail.  It was too windy this morning and there was snow on the ground.  Had intended to do it in the evening, but it was still too windy and cold.  I know I just have to force myself out there eventually and deal with it.  Excuse I gave was that I got the flu shot on Monday and I need time to let my immune system do it's thing.  Maybe, (probably) tomorrow when there's expected to be more snow. 

Snowy Day

on Monday, November 17, 2014 at 11:36 PM

Winter's a coming. It toyed with us a bit on Sunday dropping a few flakes that didn't stick. Today was a bit more and some of it covered the ground and partially melted.  It's supposed to get cold overnight so depending on how many people bothered to shovel their sidewalks, running tomorrow might be a bit dicey.  Guess the winter running's got to start sometime, even though it still won't be technically winter for another month. 

I've started giving some thought to gym memberships again with perhaps signing up but only if I can do so for the winter months.  I have no interest is signing a year contract, knowing full well that come April I will never set foot in the gym again till next winter.  My workplace has a gym that also requires a membership fee, but it's pretty cheap. I think it's about $15 a month and you can sign up by quarter.  It's not a big gym, but it has fitness classes and all the equipment you need. It's just that they don't have that many treadmills and there's a 30 minute limit.  Almost no one uses it after hours, even though it's technically open 24/7 so I suppose anyone can use it for however long you want assuming no one else is waiting in line.  It's just it's a bit far for me to go to do a long run there on a Sunday and I'm sure it would feel kinda weird going into work on Sunday, not to work. 

There are some no frill gyms around me so I may try and see what they're like rather than go to the more established, chain type gyms or I could just suck it up and force myself to run outside come hell, high water or the next ice age.

HR Issue

on Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 11:35 PM

So I thought I would write a post about the HR issue in more detail in case people are googleing around finding similar symptoms.

The marathon has had me thinking a lot more about the HR issue now.  It's always been something I worried about, but it obviously hasn't caused me serious harm to date, but that's not to say that it won't.  I've read about Ryan Shay and Danny Kassap who were both high level professional marathoners who collapsed during races due to the heart issues and would later die. In fact, I heard that someone collapsed 10m from the finish line at the Hamilton half marathon and that the individual was an experienced runner who also died. Part of me worries that I might suffer the same fate.

The technical medical term for this phenomenon is a tachycardia and depending on what is causing it can mean it's extremely dangerous or just annoying.  

When it happens to me, I barely notice and most of the time, I only know because the HR display on my watch is telling me. The polar info I posted during my race report is one example, here's a better more clear example from a run.  This was from a  8 mile run that included 3x1600m interval session I did back in October.

It actually happened twice during this run.  It happened near the start, about 6 or so minutes in during the warmup when the HR (red line) jumps from a little over 125 to over 150, I ran with it like this for a few minutes and then started to walk when it then comes back down on it's own and then I continue with the warm up. I then get to the track when I immediately start into the intervals.  The first one is fine and the HR tops out at about 180 at the end of the interval, proceed with the recovery which involves a slow jog and as soon as start the second one, the HR jumps to over 200, after this interval, I start a walk recovery because I realize the HR is spiking, I think it actually recovers during the walk, but my pace dropped to 0 for a while and if I recall correctly, I think I did the squat maneuver just to make sure that it was low, I then proceed to walk the rest of the recovery and then do the third interval which is fine where the HR tops out at 185, and the HR issue doesn't return.  All three intervals are done at roughly the same pace so the drastic difference between interval 2 and the first and third isn't a result of pace difference.

While it happens randomly while I'm running, it most often  happens when I come to a stop after running and then restart suddenly (like with interval repeats), this makes stop light stops a pain in the behind because it will usually trigger an event.  I can usually get it to stop by doing the walking/squatting thing. This isn't a problem on long runs or intervals where I can throw in a walk recovery, but it becomes an issue when doing tempo runs where I like to do continuous running for between 4 and 7 miles. Breaking that into pieces to throw in a recovery isn't so great.  I was lucky enough this training cycle that I didn't have any HR issues when doing the tempo runs, but I did notice that the HR spikes seemed to be more frequent this training session during long runs. Other ways of getting it to stop involve what are known as vagal maneuvers which force the vagal nerve to send signals to slow down the heart, they involve holding one's breath or dipping the face into cold water or bearing down like you're having a bowel movement.  These are all difficult to do while running. I discovered the squat method while trying to do the bearing down thing. I'm not sure how one can pass a stool while standing up so the first couple of times I tried it, I would squat down, but I found the act of squatting was itself enough to get it to come down which I'm kinda thankful for.

Over the years, I've tried a number of different things to try to mitigate it. I'm constantly eating salt, which supposedly causes an increase in blood volume which supposedly helps to prevent it. I've been taking calcium&magnesium supplements which supposedly prevent it. I've cut out caffeine completely from my diet  which is supposedly another potential cause. Another potential cause is not getting enough sleep and this is one thing which I have difficulties with.  I can usually get by on 6 hours of sleep, but I find it hard to sleep for longer than that.  My body just naturally gets up after 6 hours.  I guess I need to figure out how to reprogram the internal alarm clock.

I did attempt to get this looked at a few years ago. Family doctor referred me for an echocardiogram and a stress test.  The echocardiogram did not reveal anything abnormal about my heart, and the stress test wasn't able to reproduce the HR spiking symptoms so the doctors' diagnosis was everything's fine, but I knew that something was still not quite right. I purchased an ECG monitor a few years ago on ebay, hoping that some blatantly obvious ECG problem would show itself, but while it's easy to spend $200 on an ECG device, the $100,000 medical degree that allows one to interpret it isn't so easy to come by. But hey if you're curious and can see a difference.

Normal at rest -HR 56
Tach, jog HR 176

The only difference I see is the tachycardia one is just faster.  The shape of the waveforms look pretty much the same. Ideally, I should have captured the ECG running at the same pace, both when it's spiking and when it's not.  It's just not easy to do since I have to run while carrying the ECG monitor with wires hooked up to my chest.  I did this experiment only once while running around a track back in June and I was excited to capture the tachycardia event with the monitor, but I realized after I should have planned it out a bit better. I'm thinking maybe I should try it out on a treadmill.  

The cause of tachycardia is usually a result of extra signal pathways in the heart that cause extra signals to make the heart beat faster.  The way to cure this is through an interesting procedure called a catheter ablation where they use drugs to force your heart into the spiking mode and a catheter is sent into the heart and the tissue that generates the extra signals are basically burned off. This is kinda scary cause after all this is your heart and if they get it wrong, there's a chance you're wearing a pace maker for life.  I've been reading recently that they've introduced a new technique where they use liquid nitrogen to first freeze the tissue to see if it solves the tachycardia problem first. If not, they let it thaw and start looking elsewhere so this at least offer the possibility of a do-over but it still seems kinda risky. 

In any event, I've decided to try and get this thing looked at again from a medical viewpoint and will hopefully get some more information this time around.  First appointment is tomorrow with family physician to try and get a referral to a cardiologist. 


on Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 9:52 PM

Day 15, so half way there. This is going to be a bit of a filler post since there's only a couple of hours left in the day and I don't feel like thinking too much right now.  Here's a pic of some graffiti that I saw in an alley somewhere.  I don't remember where exactly, but thought it was pretty cool. 

Cheating at the Marathon

on Friday, November 14, 2014 at 9:10 PM

By now, you've probably heard the story of Tabatha Hamilton who was disqualified at the Chichamauga Marathon this past weekend.  She crossed the finish line first in a not to shabby time of 2:55 or so. She had a really good day and ran a 1:18 negative split.  That is, she ran a 1 HOUR and 18 minute negative split.  That's right. After crossing the half mark in 2:06:51, she then proceeded to run the second half in 48 minutes. To give you some reference, the men's half marathon world record is 58 minutes and change. 

Now she claims that the timing half timing mat was wrong and that she crossed at about 1:36:51 which put her second half at 1:17:30. That's still a 19 minute negative split. I'm sorry, but you don't accidentally run a 19 minute negative split.  It's fairly obvious that she cheated. Now I will admit that I've given some thought to how best it would be to cheat at a marathon. Not that I would ever do it (or so i think), but it's an interesting mental exercise.

Here are some tips that I think might be useful if you want to cheat at a marathon.

1) Don't set a world record.
This is fairly easy.  If you're cheating at the marathon and want to get caught fairly quickly, be sure that you run the race, or portions of the race at a pace that's faster than any other human being has run in the past.

2) Don't win.
This is another fairly easy rule to keep in mind.  Leaders of a race usually have a bike or escort of somekind.  If you suddenly pop up in front of the escort without the escort seeing you pass them, it's a definite red flag.

3) Know the course.
Knowing the course ahead of time allows you to plan your route, you can easily see where you can cut portions of the course if you need to.  Marathons will usually post the course route on the website.   Course that have out and backs are good to cheat with as are courses with loops, as you can cut out portions of the race but still generally be around where you need to be. The caveat being that if the race has a timing mat in the loop, this can get you into trouble (see point 4).  Courses that are point to point in one direction are harder to cheat at unless you have "alternative" transportation.

4) Know the location of the timing mats and do the math.
This is what ended up betraying Ms. Hamilton.  If you know where the timing mats are, you can plan exactly where you have to be at certain times and cross the mats at those times to give the illusion that you are running continuously.  I would say that you have to be fairly precise about this. Your pace between the various mats has to be fairly consistent.  For some races, this is generally easy as they will have a mat at the half and finish. So you need to figure out what time you want to run, head to the half mark and cross the mat at about half what your goal time is and then head to finish and cross the mat at your goal time. Some races may only have a mat at the end so it's really easy to cheat at those races.  A race like NY is going to be very hard to cheat at, just simply because they have so many timing mats and they aren't all advertised.  Also some of the mats are on bridges and they will be generally hard to get to unless you are running in the right direction.  Also the mats aren't precisely positioned so even though you may figure out that you need to cross the 8 mile mat at a certain time, if the mat is actually at 8.3 miles and everyone elses times is delayed by that, a "proper" 8 mile split will still out you. If you haven't run the course before, you can find out locations of timing mats by looking at the results of previous races. 

5) Figure out your alternative transportation.
Even if a course has out and backs and loops, the presence of timing mats at the turnaround portion can seriouly affect your ability to cheat as you will need to travel to the turnaround point to cross the mat. This is of course, why they have the mats there in the first place.  While you could just simply run there, which is what you're supposed to do, you need to get there faster so you will need some form of alternative transportation.  Rosie Ruiz had the Boston public transportation system at her disposal which I think runs parallel to the route so that would have worked out well. I think you might be able to do it with a bicycle or if you have an accomplice with a car, that might work too.  Again, this would be highly dependent on where the race is.  If it's in an urban setting with lots of streets that are blocked off, a bike might be the best option.  If you're running in Boston with a lot of roads than run parallel to the race route, a car might work better.  It would certainly leave you more room for error.  

6) Try to blend in.
One of the trickier parts I would think would be how to casually join the race to get onto the course so you cross the mat and then how to casually leave the course in an inconspicuous manner.   The easiest way I think would be to join the race at a portapotty stop.  No one on the course is going to question a runner that appears to join from a portapotty.  Likewise, no one is going to question someone who appears to be stopping for a bathroom break.  If no portapotties are around, if you can plan it ahead of time, you might find a store or a fast food restaurant that you jump into/out of with the excuse that you had to stop to use the bathroom.  One of the potential problems I see is not so much with runners, but more so with spectators.  Runners on the course are constantly coming and going so the likelihood of anyone questioning you is low. On the other hand, a spectator who has been standing in the same spot, might notice that you've joined the course, crossed the mat and then left the course again which leads to my next point.

7) Conceal your bib.
The point of cheating at a race is not to get caught and in our world of smart phones and camera's, it's extremely easy for someone to get a pic of you if they suspect you're cheating.  Of course, having a picture of you is only half the battle since they still won't know who you are. If they get a picture of your bib number though, the battle is lost. With that, they can figure out your name, what your finish time was and any past results to see if anything is up.  With Ms. Hamilton, her previous fastest marathon was 4:25. Visible bib number's also allow race photographers to indirectly map your progress which can be helpful to prove that you were at a certain point at a certain time, but they can also be a detriment since if there aren't pics of you at other points of the course then it potential raises some questions.  Now you don't necessarily have to not wear your bib. You just have to show enough of it so that people know that you aren't a bandit. You could fold it in half or pin half of it to the lower part of a shirt and then cover up the top portion of the bib  with a fuel belt or a jacket or something.

8) Don't be too aggressive in your goal time.
You should pick a time that allows you to run a pace that you can actually hold for a few miles. This is for a few reasons. It will be likely that you wont be able to join and leave the race at the timing mats exactly so you may have to join and leave the race some distance away from the mats.  If you can't maintain the pace you're going for, you will stick out like a sore thumb to spectators as everyone is streaming by you.  For Ms. Hamilton, her average "pace" was to be 6:42min/mile. I have my doubts that she could maintain that pace for 400m, let alone for 4 miles. Her time goal was too aggressive.  Also, it helps that if you can run with a few other runners and are seen by spectators as these act as potential witnesses to your athletic feat. 

Well that's pretty much all I can think of. This is fairly common sense stuff, yet cheaters seems to be ignore these obvious pitfalls.  I guess if you want to be lazy at running a marathon, you might as well be lazy at cheating in a marathon too.

Running on Air

on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 7:45 PM

So the past year, on trying to increase pace, I tried something slightly different. If you've ever registered for anything on the runner's world website, you've probably been spammed with their book entitled "Running On Air: The Revolutionary Way to Run Faster by Breathing Smarter".  I was intrigued at the idea of gaining speed by just changing breathing patterns so I borrowed it from the library.  I realized that I have too many  running books that I haven't read yet and figured I could get a look at it and see if it was worth buying. 

In summary, probably not worth buying.  The basics of the breathing pattern is described on their website at http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/running-air-breathing-technique?page=single.
In the actual book, the basics of the breathing is within the first 50 or so pages and the rest of the book is just general running stuff that you can find in any running book.

Basically the gist of the method is to coordinate when you breath out with alternating foot strikes so you switch back and forth between which side hits the ground when you exhale.  This is good at preventing side stitches which is  something I learned long ago.  The problem with the breathing technique for me is that it's very unnatural. I've tried to practice the 3-2 breathing pattern for long and recovery runs,and I feel that I'm just not getting enough air in.  On LT runs though, I do naturally alternate between sides in a 2-1 pattern which is good (breathin in for 2 step, breath out for one step).  The other thing I learned from the book is a different way of breathing during short fast races like in 5k and 10k which is basically to breath in a 2-1-1-1 pattern where you breath in for 2 steps, out for 1 step, in for 1 step and out for 1 step. It's a bit awkward at first since you basically have to force the breathing pattern and it's not symmetrical, but I think it works. Towards the end of races, I had generally have done a 1-1 breathing pattern, but I always felt like I was almost hyperventilating. This 2-1-1-1 still allows me to get the oxygen I want but not be panting like a dog. This technique worked out well for me in the 5k and 10k races I did. 

Glad to have read it, but not going to be buying it.

More Random Thoughts

on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 10:01 PM

Ok, 12 days into this National Blog Posting Month thing and I'm already starting to struggle for ideas.  I think I've put on a couple of pounds since the marathon, mostly due to the all the chocolates I've eaten since Halloween. I had a 100 pack of mini chocolates that was unopened. I probably should have thought about trying to return it, but I thought I would be able to manage it. Nope. One look at my garbage pail of discarded chocolate bar wrappers and I realized yeah I'm going to be a bit heavier.

I was thinking of doing a race this weekend just for fun.  There's a 10 miler close by that I've done before, but a few years ago, I had decided I would only enter races if I was actually going to race them.  I had figured out that I was spending so much on races for fun and much of that was going to tech shirts and medals that I don't really.  Anyways, I probably won't sign up since I don't think I would be able to run it particularly fast.   Plus they are forecasting snow for this Sunday. Winter's a coming.

I am looking at maybe doing a Boxing Day 10 miler towards the end of December since that would coincide well with the start of another training cycle leading up to an early May marathon.  Just got to get used to running in the cold again.  For now, it's just recovery runs to try and maintain some level of fitness.  Will probably start working in some strides and some short tempos in the next few weeks. 

Remembrance Day

on Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 8:10 PM

So today's Remembrance Day, known as Veteran's Day in the US and Armistice Day in other's parts of the world. It's that time of the year when we remember those who gave their lives for what we have today, which has special significance in light of the attack in Ottawa a few weeks ago at a war memorial.

I heard on the news this morning that the police were still looking for the Remembrance Day flag kicker from two years ago.   As the story goes, a group of people were trying to raise some money for veteran's by selling these little Canadian flags that people would then stand up into the ground.  This guy, allegedly, ran through the flags kicking them down and trampling on them. Someone did manage to get a cell phone pic of him...as he was giving everyone the finger.  What class. Now this story is only allegedly and he doesn't appear to be trampling any flags here, so it's possible to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, but it completely amazes me that in this world of social media, that this guy hasn't been outed yet. Judging by the picture, this isn't some newbie runner as he's got a lot of running gear that you don't just pick up at Wal'mart: the calf sleeves, tri shoes (?), the compression tights. He probably runs quite in a few races and someone in the running community must know who he is.

Which got me thinking of how quick would I be outed if I did something similar.  I think it would be pretty quick. Not including, the managing editor of Huffington's Post, I guess a few non-runners might recognize me and leak my name. A google search would probably come up with race results, race results lead to race pictures, searches of race pictures might lead to this blog and social media accounts and then before you know it news organizations would be posting about the 4:51 marathon I did back in 2010 and my snot pictures from 2006.

It could just be that this guy is such a nice guy that people that do know him don't want to get him into trouble, which I suppose is a possibility or maybe it was just a big misunderstanding. To be honest, maybe it's just the patriot in me, but I find it unfathomable that anyone who lives in this country would go out of their way to kick down Canadian flags.  I guess we'll never know the real story.

Day 11

runScribe Foot Pod

on Monday, November 10, 2014 at 10:17 PM

A while back, I had posted about increasing my cadence rate and purchasing a polar foot pod to help measure it.  After wearing it for a few weeks, it's basically gone into the closet along with my other under used tech gadgets. I may decide to break it out during the next month or so while I'm not really concerned about pace.  I had also commented on maybe purchasing a garmin foot pod since that allows me to see real time cadence feed back which the polar one doesn't.  Instead I decided to go down a slightly different route.

runScribe is a kickstarter backed project whose goal is to make a foot pod tracking device.  It's a bit different than the conventional foot pods in that it doesn't attach to your laces. Instead it gets mounted to the back of your shoe either by industrial adhesive or a clip.  It supposedly gives a bunch of feedback on how you, run such as how much your foot rotates in, whether you heel, mid or forefoot strike and of course your cadence.  It originally was a stand alone system and the only way to get info from it was to upload the data after the run, but one of the target goals was that if they reached a certain funding level, they would make it compatible with the ANT+ system which is what garmin uses.  They basically blew past that funding goal as well as some others, so I ended up joining the campaign to hopefully get one of the early devices so that I could use it with my garmin and get instant feedback. I actually ended up buying two.  They say it's supposed to be used with one on each shoe, so that you can get data from both shoes, but it can also be used by having one device on two different pairs of shoes which is why I think I want it.  Originally, these things were expected to ship in December, but that's now been delayed.

They had a booth setup at the NYC marathon and were getting guinea pigs to test out their prototypes during the marathon which I think is kinda cool.  Based on the feedback they got, they've decided to make some changes to the device so it looks like the shipping date is now slipping into January.  I'm sort of interesting to see what data they will post about the runners in NY and how accurate it is.

Day 10

Random Thoughts

on Sunday, November 9, 2014 at 9:12 PM

Did my first run since the blood donation and it kinda sucked which was expected. Add to that, the two weeks of limited running since the marathon and well sucky runs all around.  While putting my socks on this morning, I noticed that I actually had normal toe nails for once. I don't think I had any black toenail issues this training cycle which I suppose I can attribute to experience and sticking with the same pair of shoes for the past few months.  I bought a few pairs of Brooks Adrenaline's GTS 13's back pre-training cause they were on sale.   Running Room was clearing out last years model and they were $90 a pair which is cheap up here in Canada where it normally retails for about $150.

I'm on my last pair and shopping around, they no longer have last years model and the other discounts aren't quite so steep yet.  They're now selling this years model at a discount of $119 in prep for next years model  I may buy a few to hedge my bets, but I'm thinking the price will come down in the new year.  Google showed me the website 33-off.com which is a Canadian site that also sells discounted shoes.  Never tried them before. They don't have the Brooks shoes in my size at the moment, but they are selling the Asics GT-2000 for 98.95.  I think this is the follow-up model to the 21xx series that I've used before so I might try these again.  Only thing is they provide free shipping on orders of over $99, which means I can buy two pairs or buy one pair and some filler item. I hate buying filler items. I have to do that on amazon all the time, and I always end up with something that I never use.  Why can't they just charge me the extra 5 cents and give me the free shipping? 

Muscle Imbalance

on Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Went for a massage this morning.  It's getting to that time of year when I decided to try and use up all my yearly benefits before they expire at the end of the year.  At the beginning of the year, I had intended to go about once every two months, but just never got around to it.  2 weeks post marathon and some things are a little achy so thought it would be a good time to go.  Complained a bit about tightness in my calf and was told that my flat feet and possibly my upper right hand side of the body were a cause.  I knew about the flat feet, but I've been able to run with that find since I use stability shoes.  The upper right hand side was something new.  The therapist said it was tighter than my left side and my lower body ws trying to compensate for it, thinking about it I think I know why.  When I do my runs, I usually carry a hand held water bottle.  Normally I try to switch back and forth between hands to even out the load balance. This year, I've noticed my left upper back gets a bit sore when I carry it in my left hand, so I've been favouring carrying it in my right hand. I would say 80% of the time, I'm carrying it in my right hand.  Of course this just makes the imbalance worse. 

Even during the marathon, I didn't mention it, but I was getting a sore upper back around the half way mark, to the point that I thought about dumping the gatorade bottle I was carrying before it was empty.  I stuck with carrying it and glad I did due to the reduced number of aid stations. 

So the therapist recommended some stretching to the right side to try and loosen it. Also, I should probably try and carry a water bottle on the left more often.  Which gets me to another point. With an upcoming season of winter running, I finally get to try out an insulated bottle I bought a few years ago.  In the past, I get issues with gatorade freezing in my water bottle so I got this a few years ago with the intent of using it during winter training.  I haven't actually done any extended winter training outside in a few years now so I haven't actually had a chance to use it yet.  Technically, it's a chill bottle used for keeping the innards cool during the summer, but an insulated bottle is an insulated bottle. Even if I start with completely hot boiling water, I don't expect it to keep my gatorade from freezing completely on my longer runs, but I'm thinking if it can buy me 20-30 minutes more, it will be worth it. 

Day 8

Niagara Falls Non-Race Pics

on Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Don't have much else to post about the race, maybe some follow-up thoughts on the HR issue, so here's some pics I took the following day.  The wind conditions on the Monday would have been perfect for race day. Wind from the south which would have been a tailwind for almost the whole race.  Unfortunately wind from the south isn't too great if you want to see the falls from the Canadian side since it means if you want to get up close to the falls, the mist is basically being blown into your face so you're going to get really wet. Having had my passport with me, I crossed over into the US to see the falls from that perspective for the first time where the wind would be blowing away from me.

I actually like the viewpoint from the US side, maybe even better than from the Canadian side. You can get a lot closer to the water and the area is a little less commercial and more National Park like.  I ended up staying way later to try and get some shots at night when they turn the lights on which was at 7pm which was much later than it needed to be.  For example, this week, they now turn the lights on at 5pm (albeit with an extra hour gained because of the switch back to Standard Time).  Unfortunately stupid me forgot to bring the mounting plate for my tripod so all I got were some blurry pics of some lights. Next time, I guess.

Changing out the oil

on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 8:57 PM

Went to the blood donor clinic after work today to give blood. Second time this year.  Last time was in March before the marathon training began and before that, the last time was in 2010.  Back then, I just had hit 25 total donations and got a nice thank you pin and a customized 25x donor card and thought that would be the end of my donating years, but I suppose times change .

I think two is about my limit for the year. I used to give more often, but it obviously gets in the way of training.  The first time was in high school during a Grade 13 physics class.  I remember distinctly because the teacher said we could either write a pop quiz or give blood.  Easy choice.  In university, giving blood was a cheaper way to get quickly intoxicated.  Give blood and drink a beer. I'm sure that the nurses wouldn't condone that sort of thing and I suppose it was just a coincidence that the blood donor clinic was located in the same building as the campus pub. 

This officially puts an end to any thoughts of doing another marathon before the end of the year as I'm down a few red blood cells and wouldn't be in a position to race another marathon anytime soon.  I've always considered giving blood to be like getting an oil change.  Swap out the old blood and get some new blood in there.  I know that doesn't make any sense, since it's my body that is producing the red blood cells and it does so constantly, and I'm not technically swapping it with some EPO infused super blood that can heal all ailments (Kahn blood).  Nonetheless, I like to think that somehow I'm getting some sort of benefit from it. 

Day 6

Race Video

on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 7:44 PM

I decided to buy the race video and pictures from the race.  I haven't purchased race photos for a long while now.  The first couple of races you do, it's a bit of a novelty. But after a while, it's just a photo of you running.  Sure some are special, like your first marathon, or your first Boston and it's always nice to look back at them.  I bought the race video cause I actually like that I have a relaxed and smooth form and don't appear to be struggling while running.  I didn't even know they had so many cameras. I assumed that there would be a finish line video, but didn't know about the rest of them.

The first video is about the 9 mile mark with the wind coming from the side where you can see the peace bridge in the background. This is after the out and back in Fort Erie. You can get a sense of how alone I was at this point. The second one is at the half mark after I stopped where I'm running with a bit of a group into a direct headwind. The next one is about 200m from the finish line and the last three are at or close to the finish where I seem to be motoring right along. I gave some thought to trying to catch the guy in the blue singlet, but thought it was going to be close and not wanting to ruin his or my finish line photo, I backed off a bit at the end. 

Post Race Pic
Rather then give out the customary mylar sheets after the race, they gave out these thin "jackets". They seemed to be water repellant. I don't think they were that good for blocking wind or retaining heat.  They almost look like something you would wear if you were going to paint a room.  Should be a good throw away water repellant thing to use in a future race. 

Now to get Katy Perry out of my head...

Day 5

Niagara Falls Marathon 2014 Report

on Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 8:36 PM

So the race starts. For people that have followed my blog for awhile, I occasionally post about a heart rate issue I have when my HR will jump by about 30-40 beats a second higher than normal. It doesn't happen during my daily life, only happens when I'm running, and doesn't happen every time I run.  I know that if I can start running slowly and gradually increase the effort, I can most of the time prevent the HR from spiking. With no warm-up, I was hoping to use the first km to gradually ease into my pace.  I had set my GPS watch to display average pace which I would use during the first mile to keep from going out too fast. The watch doesn't display HR when doing this.  I had seeded myself well back, just in front of the 3:30 pacer so as to force myself to hold back a bit.Target pace was around 7:24.

First mile started out slow and I was trying to hold back on pace while at the same time trying to locate people I could run with.  Eyed a couple of people who seemed to be running a good pace and pull in behind them. Watch was saying that I was running 7:24 pace which was right on target.

Mile 1: 7:35

Hit the first mile at 7:35 according to the marker even though autosplit said 7:24 which is okay. The first mile is kinda curvy so kinda expected. After each split, my watch reports average HR which showed as being in the mid 160's which was a good sign, so I thought.  By this point, I'm already 10 second behind pace and now running into the westerly headwind. I decide to start moving up a bit to try and get back on pace.

Mile 2: 7:23

Second mile seemed to be going okay and hit the second mile marker at 7:23 which is right on pace, but then I notice that my "avg" HR for that lap was  196 which means my HR was spiking. Damn. Looking back now, my HR started spiking just before the 1 mile mark.  Part of me wanted to stop to let it come back down, but I knew that this had actually happened in 2009 and it came back down on it's own after the bridge so I decided that I would wait it out and see what happens.

Mile 3: 7:32

Heading into the mile three marker, I get another  taste of the westerly wind that they were predicting and it wasn't pleasant.  While trying to sustain pace, I wasn't too happy with this split and with my HR spiking, the doubts started to creep into my mind. I was now 17 second behind where I should be and the effort level I was expending seemed a bit high. This could have been due to the HR or the wind.

Miles 4 and 5: 14:47 (average 7:24)

Mile 4 takes us over the peace bridge which didn't have a mile marker.  The bridge is directly west which meant headwind.  I decide to pull up behind one guy and draft off of him up the hill and try to pick up the pace on the downhill.  By the end of the downhill I pull up on a man and woman who seemed to be running along comfortably and think they might be good to run with. I start chatting with them and it seemed like their goal time was around 3:20 which was going to be a tad slow so I pass and start moving on.

Mile 6: 7:21
Mile 7: 7:31

Mile 6 takes us into Fort Erie in a SW direction where we do a bit of a loop. Both of these miles are into the headwind and recall that my HR is still spiking.  By this point in the race last time, my HR had returned to normal. Not this time.  Mile 6 is directly into the headwind and mile 7 includes the turn around portion with the last part of this mile with the wind at the back. Even with the HR racing, there's a noticable drop in HR after the turn around when the wind goes from a headwind to a tailone. During these miles, I think I pass two people who are going a bit slower than my expected pace so I'm basically running alone.

Mile 8: 7:34

Mile 8 even with the wind at my back was a bit slow. I think this is where I tried to take my first gel and perhaps this is why I slowed down.  I had decided to run with a gatorade bottle and had been drinking from that with every mile and had grabbed a cup of water at each aid station that I came across.  They were serving HoneyMax in these plastic cups and they were terrible for the pinch and sip technique that works well with gatorade cups. I ended up having to stop to gulp down the liquid.

Mile 9: 7:17

Mile 9 would end up being my fastest mile of the race with the wind at my back and I'm cruising right along.  

Miles 10, 11, 12: 23:40 (7:53 average)
As I mentioned basically from mile 5 to this point, I've basically run by myself.  there's also very little in the way of crowd support. I forgot to hit the lap button for mile 10, but my autolap put it at around 7:16 pace also which is basically heading due north with no headwind and some buildings to block the wind from the side. By this point, I had switched my watch to HR display and the HR was starting to worry me.  I had run marathon pace with the elevated HR for up to 12 miles or so during training, but I was probably burning through more calories then I would have liked. I had no desire to see how far I could push it, so realizing that the BQ was not in the cards, shortly before the 11 mile marker,  I came to an aid station and decided to stop to use a portapotty. Not that I had to go, but I needed an excuse to stop so the volunteers wouldn't start yelling at me to keep going. I stopped for two reasons, first to hopefully get my HR under control and secondly to let some people catch back up to me.  I realized there was no way I wanted to run the rest of the race by myself.  A non-BQ that I have to struggle for and run alone is just the same whether it's 3:16 or 3:30 and with the course after mile 11 starting to swing to the west into the wind, I thought it might be better to run with a group and have some people to block the wind for me. My watch says I spent about 25 seconds in the portapotty, when I left, the HR was still too high so I started walking.  I spent about a minute walking when finally the HR dropped back down and by then the couple that I had chatted with back at mile 5 passes by and so I decided to run with them for a while.  They were actually part of a mini group of about 8 people so that worked out well. 

Mile 13: 7:40
Mile 13.1 split 1:39:16
Mile 14: 7:35

So now running with a group, the pace had slowed down a bit and I was fine with that.  I hit the half at 1:39:16, but that's a bit deceiving because of the pitstop and walk break.  I was probably on pace to hit the half under 1:38. At this point, I was going to be content with just running the rest of the way with hopefully no more drama.  I was running behind the group and using them to block the wind. My HR had returned to the mid to low 160's which was a tad lower than what I'm guessing it would be while doing marathon pace. 

Mile 15, 16: 17:55 (8:55 pace)

During the 15th mile, I slowly start to make my way to the front of the group. I had been using the group to block the wind for me for a few miles and thought maybe I should lead at some point so I decided to move to the front, but as I was doing so, my HR spiked again.  I continued on for a bit and swore a little bit and then decided I had already spent enough time running today with the high HR, so I pulled over to the side and started walking, hoping that it would quickly come down so that maybe I could join back up with the group. I waited and waited and waited and ended up walking for about 4 minutes with the HR still high. It was hovering around the high 140's but I know that when walking this should be under 110 when normal. With 4 minutes gone, I did the one thing that almost always gets it to come back down and that is to stop and do a deep squat. I'm not sure why this works, but it does and sure enough within about 10 seconds of doing the squat, the HR dropped. I started back up again, but the group was a good ways ahead of me and short of turning the gas on again, it would seem that I would end up having to run the last part of the race on my own. In hindsight I should have probably done the squat sooner and then maybe I could have stuck with the group.

Mile 17: 7:44
Mile 18: 7:49
Mile 19: 7:39
Mile 20: 7:43
Mile 21: 7:43
Mile 22: 7:45

Miles 17 to 22, I decided to run by HR and try to keep it just above 160 as I had been doing while running with the group.  I don't really have any real memories from this section.  I pass the odd person and I think a couple of people pass me.  I'm also passing a few people who are walking the half who started at the same time as we did, but 13.1 miles closer to the finish line.  I'm content with pace and nothing's really hurting or twitching.  I was also trying to do the mental math, which was basically confirmed by passing by the 20 mile mark when I had exactly 10k to go and remembered thinking if I averaged 5 min/km the rest of the way I would finish below 3:30 with time to spare.

Mile 23-26: 33:52 (8:28 pace)

Shortly into mile 23, my HR spikes again and I end up walking for about a minute until it comes back down again.  At this point, it starts getting really windy and I have to slow down my pace. I also find that I'm really thirsty. I had finished my gatorade bottle back in mile 19 or so and tossed it at an aid station.  I definitely did not get enough fluids during this race and they really needed more aid stations and preferably ones that don't serve honeymax. There were a lot more aid stations the last time I ran this race, I think almost every mile. Also having some aid stations 3 miles apart is a bit much, I think.

I stop to walk at the remaining aid stations and gulp down multiple cups of water while also consuming whatever gels I had left. (Strawberry-banana gu's). I'm also staring to feel the making of a side stitch which finally comes to an incapacitating head during the last mile where I find myself running into a head wind while trying to climb a bit of a hill and the stitch is severely cramping.  I end up having to walk up the hill for my first and only non-HR, non aid station induced walk. A couple of deep breaths, some massaging on the side and a downhill the rest of the allows me to crest the hill and pour on the speed for the last little bit.

Finish time of 3:25:48

So that's it, you can see more info about the HR issues and drama and pace in the Polar route. The HR spikes just before the 1 mile mark. I didn't seem to lose that much time due to the walking.  Based on the autosplits, the first time when I came to a complete stop and walked still was about an 8:30 mile.  The mile where I walked for 4 minutes was just under a 10 min/mile.

While waiting for the bus to take me back to the hotel, I came across this trash can. I'm not sure why, but it looked funny at the time.

Got back to the hotel and headed straight to the Hershey's store downstairs to get me some junk food.

I didn't come close to doing the BQ, but think I could have done at least 3:20 if not for the forced stopping due to HR issues. While I had previously commented on maybe doing another marathon before year's end, that's not going to happen.  I think I've come a long way so far and this was a good bit of base training. Plus, I need something to motivate me to train over the winter. Previous times, as soon as I BQ, I get lazy.  Hopefully, I can work on speed and lower my marathon pace over the winter and try again in the spring. Not sure which race I will do yet, but I have lots of time to figure that out.

Day 3

Niagara Falls Marathon 2014 Pre-Race Report

on Monday, November 3, 2014 at 10:59 PM

To quickly summarize, I finished in 3:25:48.  I knew within the first 3 miles that 3:14 was going to be doable as the pace felt a bit too hard.

Going into the race, I still had some hesitation about my goal time.  While I had picked 3:14, I wasn't sure with the wind if it was going to be possible.  Added to that, I wasn't sure the speed was going to be there.  I've basically been doing my long runs a bit faster than 9 min/miles, but reading back through my blog, I noticed that in years past that towards the end of training, I was doing them closer to 8 min/miles so during the taper, the two long runs I did, I tried to do at 8 min/miles to see how it felt.  The first one was an 18 miler on a hilly course and the second one was as the 1:45 pacer for a half, the week before the marathon. Both times, my legs were a bit sore after. Looking back, maybe I should have done my long runs at a bit of a faster pace. 

Arrived in Niagara Falls and went to pick up my bib.  They had moved the expo. It used to be at the Skylon centre, but I think there were a lot of complaints about having to pay for parking so they moved it to a Shopping Mall about 9km away from the hotel.  Though the free parking was nice, I'm not sure it really worked.  You had to pick up your bib and clear immigration at one point of the mall, where they gave you a bag, you then had to go to another section of the mall to pickup your shirt and then you had to go to another section of the mall to pick up the "swag".  Of course no one mentioned the shirt or swag to me when I picked up my bib and I only stumbled across it as I was wandering around looking at the vendors who were are crammed into the aisles of the shopping centre, kinda like a sidewalk sale of running related stuff.

Going into the race, I spent a lot of time reading my previous race report from the last time I ran the Niagara Falls marathon and had hoped to repeat everything down to a tee. I stayed at the same hotel, and partook in the race pasta dinner.  A few things were different though. I think last time I was upgraded to a "Falls view" room which faces the falls. No such luck this time, I got a room on the third floor that faced a wall. No natural light whatsoever. Whatever, not too important for me and what I was expecting based on the booking. Last time, the pasta dinner was at the Crown plaza which was the hotel next to where I was staying, but this time they moved it to a dinner theatre place about a 5 minute walk away.  They had an inspirational speaker who talked about Rick and Dick Hoyt and they even played the "I Can Only Imagine" video.  I've probably watched that thing over 100 times over the years, but it still makes me feel emotional when I see it. There were quite a few people reaching for napkins to wipe their eyes after the video played.  They also had a U2 cover band play, but I kinda felt bad for them. Dinner started at 6:30 and they started playing at 8pm.  By then half the people had left. I stuck around for about 7 or 8 songs or so and by the time I left there were only a spattering of people remaining. Went to bed about 10:30 and prepared my stuff for the following morning.

Race morning gear, including passport

So race morning comes and I follow the pre-race ritual I did last time.  Heading down to the busses for the trip to Buffalo and tried to avoid the buses with Japanese tourists since my comments the last time about US immigration taking longer with such busses. In hindsight this was a mistake. At least with the Japanese tour group, you know that the tourists are going to have the right paper work because the tour group organizer makes sure of it. Normally, what happens, is the US immgration guy gets on the bus, collects everyones passport verifying that the passport matches your face, goes off to have them scanned and then returns and gives them back to us. For the japanese tourists, before the collect the passport, they take a bit longer to flip through the passport to make sure all the paper work is there, but it will be there. As it turns out, I ended up on a bus with a single Australian runner who did not have the right paperwork which meant the whole bus was held up as she was taken inside to be processed with the right forms.  The marathon website make this clear that you should get this paperwork done the day before the race. They should require non-NA runners to acknowledge this when they register.  We ended up being the 3rd last bus to arrive, but that was only because one other bus had a person with a similar issue and the last bus was the late late late bus which picked up any stragglers.
So by the time we arrive at the race start, there was only about 35 minutes to race time which basically means that my pre-race routine that I wanted to follow that I did last time wasn't going to happen.  Didn't even have time to go into the art gallery as I immediately had to start lining up for the portapotties since I'd been sitting in a bus for almost 2 hours by that time.  By the time I got out of the portapotties, there was about 20 minutes to start time and I needed to do a bunch of things, like find water for my HR monitor strap, load up on the nutrition, get a satellite lock for the GPS watch as well as change out of my warm up gear and drop the stuff off at the bag check.  The satellite lock took a loong time. Even standing still out in the open, it took a while.  I guess when you're located in a place that's over 150 km away from the last time you used it, it takes a while.

As for gear, even with the supposed wind, it was predicted be around 7-10C which meant sleeveless T weather.  A lot of people were wearing long sleeves and pants and I knew that it was going to be too warm for that stuff.  I should probably mention that while reading my previous blog posts, I realized that I wore the same sleeveless T for my two previous BQ's so I ended up wearing this time too. Superstitious, I guess. So after getting a satellite lock and changing out of my warm up gear and taking some time to collect my thoughts, there's about 10 minutes to start and I didn't have really do much of a warmup.  Basically my warmup consisted of about a 60 second jog to some bushes to answer nature's call one last time.  I really wanted to do a proper warmup like last time including trying to get my HR to spike, but there really wasn't time. Headed into the corrals where there was a moment of silence for the solider killed in Ottawa, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. I looked around and the fastest pacer they had was a 3:30 so I was going to have to do this on my own.  I had a 3:14 self made pace band that contained mile splits and 5k splits. I picked up a 3:20 one at the pace expo, but that was in km and not miles.  The course was marked in miles with 5 km splits so the 3:20 band which only has odd numbered km splits (1,3,5, etc) wasn't going to be too useful.  Plus, in my haste, I ended up leaving it in my bag anyways so I didn't have it. 

So I line-up trying to get my nerves and hoping to hell that my HR wont start racing and I wait for the gun to go off...

Scotiabank Half Marathon Pacer Report

on Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Did the Scotiabank Waterfront half marathon as the 1:45 pacer again this year.  This is the 6th year that I've done it.  Wow that's seems like a long time.  In previous years I've had to do the run/walk thing and in talking with the pace bunny organizer last year, it was decided that it would be switched to a continuous one this year.  I think when I first bunnied this race, the Running Room were going to be the original sponsors of the pacing team and there was a desire to provide as many run/walk bunnies as possible since the Running Room is a big fan of the run/walk system.  The biggest questions I've gotten in years past was whether there was a 1:45 continuous bunny and so finally I wouldn't have to answer that.

As a pacer, the sponsor, Brooks provides a free uniform which consists of a bright neon green T-shirt, a pair of shoes, a hat, a pair of shorts and a pair of socks.  I didn't actually get the socks this year. When we went to pick up the gear, the only socks they had were white socks with pink trim which were supposedly for the women.  Oh well, not  a big deal.  I decided this year to order one of the most expensive shoes they had as my free pair.  In previous years, I just got the Adrenaline GTS which is the Brooks shoe that I'm most familiar with, but last year when I almost pulled out of pacing, I realized that if I pulled out they were going to charge me $150 so if that were to happen again, I was going to make sure I got my money's worth so I ordered the Adrenaline ASR GTX which is a trail shoe which retails for $180. It's supposed to be waterproof and has Gortex material in it.  I think it will make a good winter running shoe and it looks cool too.  I also looked at the Brooks Transcend which is $190 shoe.  It's a stability shoe but is extremely light.  Maybe next time.

As Brooks is a sponsor, each of the pacer's is obligated to do an hour shift at the Brooks store at the Expo. I ended up going down Friday night after work.  We had our own little pacer booth setup with couches and stuff near the exit where we would answer questions.  I had a few people commented on the continuous switch this year so it appears to have been a sticking point with people.  Also had dinner with Alex and his wife who were up visiting while doing the Detroit marathon.

I spent sometime this year studying the elevation profile prior to the race.  In previous years, I just used the garmin to target about 7:40 min/mile pace for 10 min and then walk for a minute.  This generally worked out well, though I think last year, some of my miles were a bit fast.  This year, with being able to run continuously, I decided I was going to run more by effort level and adjust to the course profile. I headed into the corrals with about 10 minutes to start. This year we were given very specific instructions of which corral we had to be in and where in the corral we should be.  Apparently, there were complaints last year about bunnies not being in the right corrals. So I had to be at the back of the first corral, and the 3:30 bunny was in the front of the second corral even though technically we should be running the same pace. The start of each corral was separated by 5 minutes.  I decided to wear both the garmin and the polar watch again this year.  In previous years, I used the garmin to do the 10 and 1 countdown and monitor for pace and used to polar to see how I was doing overall. 

So as the gun goes off, we start off on University Avenue, heading north which is on a slight incline.  I figured out that the first 3 km should be the slowest of the race.  During the first km, I started to feel my HR strap starting to slip down. I distinctly remembered to tighten up the strap about 20 minutes before race start since that was the one thing I wanted to avoid and here it was slipping down. I usual try to grab the strap and yank it up, but when I tried to do it this time, I ended up unhooking it and it came completely undone.  So I grabbed it before it fell to the ground and started carrying it in my one hand. The other hand of course is carrying this big honking pacer sign and realizing that I only have two hands, I started thinking how the heck was I going to drink at the aid stations without slowing down.  Thankfully a woman running behind me recognized what had happened and she pulled up beside me and offered to carry the sign for me while I tried to get the strap back on.  Thank goodness for the kindness of running strangers. 

 1km: 5:13

Hit the first km at 5:13 which is a tad slow. I didn't really get a chance to warm-up and there wasn't any jostling for position, but I guess the first km is a little uphill and runs around the queens park circle so I suppose there's some ground that gets lost if you aren't running perfect tangents.

2km: 5:00
3km: 4:59

The 2nd and 3rd km are basically right on pace though I suppose effort wise they may have been a tad fast since these km are also on a bit of an uphill.  Crossing past the 3rd km we head south towards the lake on Bathurst. At this point, I announce that we are going to be running downhill and picking up the pace a bit. 

4km: 4:48
5km: 4:46
6km: 4:45

These 3 km are south on Bathurst and involve about a 90 ft drop in elevation.  I tried to keep this under control by not speeding up too fast and the people running around me didn't seem to be breathing too hard so I think the effort level was good.  I ended up running down the middle of the road between the streetcar tracks which was different than in year's past where I had to run off to the side due to the requirement of walk breaks which could potentially interfere with others when done suddenly.

7km: 4:55

Km 7 is technically downhill too but involves a brief climb over a bridge over some railroad tracks.  I had to back off on pace on this climb which is a bit steep, but it immediately descends again right after this.

8km: 4:55
9km: 5:03

Continuing on km 8 and 9 are on Lakeshore Blvd going west and are generally flat.  There was a little bit of wind here and I had to pull down the sign and carry it closer to the body for a little while. 

10km: 5:01 (Split of 49:25)

The 10th km involve a bit of a climb over an overpass and then an immediate descent right after.  I cross the 10km at 49:25 which is a 4:57/km average pace (should be 4:59) which I think is about right given that this is net downhill from the start. This represents a bank of 21 seconds.  Marathon Photo has a video at the 10k split and looking at it, there's a pretty big group that's running with me, much bigger than in year's past when I was doing the run/walk thing.

I pass at about the 19 second mark wearing the neon green shirt and carrying the sign.

11km: 4:52
12km: 4:56

Kilometeres 11 and 12 continue to head west into the wind. Km 11 seems a bit fast though this include the downhill at the Canadian Legion building on Lakeshare so I suppose it's probably about right.  During km 12 my HR monitor straps starts to slip down again and it comes undone.  I ended up catching it again and end up carrying it the rest of the way.  I know the woman who had helped me before was still running beside me, but I decided that I didn't want to bother her again with my problem. I ended up just bunching it into my hand and holding it with the sign so it wouldn't be too difficult to drink at the aid stations if need be.

13km: 4:58
14km: 4:54
15km: 5:03

Km 13 includes the turnaround portion and now we are running with a tailwind.  Things are clicking along as they should.  Km 15 includes the uphill at the Canadian Legion building and I tried to slow down a bit on this climb, but it seems to have been a bit fast.  I think I checked my watch around this time and had about 20-25 seconds still banked.

16km: 5:01
17km: 4:59
18km: 5:01
19km: 5:01
20km: 5:00
21.1km: 5:29

I think it was after a hill that I caught a glimpse of a race photographer.  As a pacer, it's hard to get a good pic cause usually you're surrounded by people and it's hard to be on the lookout for them. I don't really have a good picture of me running as a pacer in the past. I think however this was might be pretty good.  It looks like I'm smiling and just cruising right along, though it's hard to tell because the proof image is so small on the website. The other things is that the woman photobombing me on the right who has her hands in the air like she's about to get arrested is a little distracting.

The rest of the way was pretty much exactly on pace. I was trying to bleed off a bit of the 20-25 seconds, but I didn't want to bleed off too much. It's hard to rely on the garmin after km 17 since you're running close to the tall condos and running under elevated road ways so the garmin isn't providing accurate pace feedback. At this point, I few people doing the full marathon pull up to me and ask about the 3:30 bunny.  I inform them that he started in the corral behind us and is technically a few minutes behind me. I probably should have made an announcement about the 3:30 bunny while I was in the corral at the start telling them to move back if they were looking for a 3:30 marathon finish.

Passing by km 19, I still had quite the group with me, though a lot of people had speeded up to finish faster. I commented into km 19 to the people who were still with me, that I expected everyone there to finish ahead of me. Coming up to km 20, almost everyone took off to finish faster.  In years past with the 10/1 thing, almost everyone takes off during the last walk break and I end up running with no one for the last little bit. Sure you end up passing people and people are passing you, but they aren't technically running with you.  It seems the same thing still applies when you're running continuously. Everyone wants to start with you, but no one wants to finish with you. Passing by the 20 km marker which is just outside of the Air Canada Centre, I knew I still had about 20 seconds banked and I knew I wanted to try and bleed off about 10-15 seconds of that going up Bay St. which is on a slight incline.  While running under the train tracks just south of Front St, I was passing by a runner who seemed to be breathing pretty hard so I was trying to motivate him to stay with me by counting down the minutes and seconds to the finish line. He ended up passing me with about 100m to go and I didn't end up getting to slow down at all going up Bay St and ended up finishing at 1:44:42.

So that's basically it.  I considered this a good pacing performance, much better than last year when I did a few miles at too fast a pace, even though my finish time last year was closer to the goal time.

Weather for this was pretty good.  Not too cold, not too windy.  In year's past, I would stick around to watch the marathoners finish, but this year, I ended up leaving right after the race cause there was one week to my own marathon and I didn't want to be standing around and risk catching a cold.  
Day 2


on Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 9:53 AM


Yes, I will eventually post a race report. In my attempts to recommit to the blog, I will try and do the NaBloPoMo thing for November which will require me to post every day for the month. I figure I can milk the Niagara marathon for a couple of posts so that's the reason for the delay.  My life isn't that exciting that I can come up with 30 separate things to talk about over the course of a month.

Day 1