Friday, December 5, 2008

What I read about when I read about running

I'm currently reading Haruki Murakami's book "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running". It's a memoir covering his preparation for the 2005 New York Marathon.

I haven't finished it yet, but I'm enjoying it. It's not just about running; it's about gaining insights on life.

My first moment of self recognition came on page nine.

"Most ordinary runners are motivated by an individual goal, more than anything; namely, a time they want to beat. As long as he can beat that time, a runner will feel he's accomplished what set out to do, and if he can't, then he'll feel he hasn't. Even if he doesn't break the time he'd hoped for, as long as he has the sense of satisfaction at having done his very best -- and, possibly, having made some significant discovery about himself in the process -- then that in itself is an accomplishment"

That pretty much tells the story of my first marathon. I originally felt that I didn't accomplish what I set out to do and the satisfaction of having done my very best and realization that I didn't give up when it would have been easy to do so came later.

I'm looking forward to finishing the book.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A blog about nothing

I know that I've been a bad blogger recently but there hasn't been much interesting going on.

I think I'm at a crossroads with this blog. I haven't got a new race goal in mind yet so the only running that I'm doing are short maintenance runs; certainly nothing worth blogging about.

I could expand upon the topics that I blog about but, then again, there's not much going on otherwise either. Geez, I live a boring life.

Stay tuned. Really. Hang in there. Something interesting is bound to come up.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Is it supposed to be feel like this?

I'm back to running regularly but so far I've been keeping the distances pretty low. In part, this is because I haven't been feeling totally comfortable while running and it's been tougher than it should be to run for such a short time. I haven't been able to get into the zone that I'm used to after warming up.

I'm going to keep plugging away at it but I hope the pure joy of running returns soon.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Short track speed skating

I haven't been doing much running lately because I've been busy volunteering at the Samsung ISU World Cup Short Track speed skating event here in Vancouver. It's the first of a series of pre-Olympics events being staffed by VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games). In one sense, it's a set of trial runs for VANOC in the Olympic venues.

I'm hoping that by volunteering for these events I'll have a better chance of being chosen as a Games time volunteer.

I'm on the Technology team in radio distribution. It's not the most glamorous or challenging of positions but I have had the chance to work with some great people. And, since it's not busy during long portions of the shifts, there's time to check out the FOP (field of play) from great vantage points (especially during practice). My camera's shutter speed wasn't fast enough to get a good picture...



It was pretty interesting to see the building transformed from a hockey arena into the configuration for speed skating. Unfortunately, I didn't do before, during and after pictures.

I've watched speed skating on TV before but like many sports, you get a much better appreciation of things watching it live. I don't really know any of the skaters except Apolo Anton Ohno of the US. Some of you may know him best from Dancing with the Stars which he won.

I'm putting in long hours and the 6:00 am shifts are a bit early for my liking but it's been fun. The actual event takes place over the weekend.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Running again...

I ran for the first time today since the marathon. I had intended to run earlier but never found the time. I only ran a couple of miles but it felt good to run again.

I realized that I never published my splits from the Portland Marathon so here they are. The first mile is an approximation since I forgot to start my watch. The last column is the split time I "should" have run in order to reach my 4:15 goal time. The splits are based on running at an even effort level and account for hills, etc.

Mile     Actual       Goal
1           9:30         9:33
2           9:35         9:45
3         10:04       10:08
4           8:20         9:40
5           9:35         9:30
6           9:33         9:36
7           9:35         9:42
8           9:07         9:42
9           9:28         9:42
10         9:28         9:42
11         9:31         9:42
12       10:15         9:45
13         9:18         9:42
14         9:38         9:42
15         9:37         9:42
16       10:00         9:42
17       11:10       10:03
18       10:09         9:51
19       10:23         9:42
20       11:05         9:42
21       13:03         9:42
22       15:41         9:42
23       10:45         9:25
24       11:15         9:59
25       10:35         9:31
26       10:07         9:42
26.2     2:17         2:03

You can see where I started pushing things too hard in Mile 4, where things fell apart in Mile 20, and where I got going again in Mile 23.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beyond the finish line

As I crossed the finish line at the Portland Marathon, it wasn't with a sense of euphoria. It wasn't satisfaction either. Relief is probably the closest emotion that I can think of. The thing I remember focusing on the most was trying not to fall down as I received my medal and space blanket. I was pretty wobbly as I watched a lady in front of me nearly collapse before she was caught by two volunteers. I told myself to keep moving.

There was plenty of food. Since Portland is the "City of Roses", each finisher gets a rose. A volunteer offered me one but I declined, telling her "It's too heavy." She laughed. You also get a pin, a finisher's shirt and a tree seedling which I also declined.

I went to look for my wife, struggling through the crowd. I think my first words to her were "I need to stretch." and "I want to sit down." I told her about how I was disappointed that I had been reduced to walking for a couple of miles. But she didn't care; she was so proud of me. I finished and that was what mattered.

It took a few days but I had more time to reflect on things. I now can look back and not focus on the negatives. No, I didn't reach my goal time and I wasn't mentally strong enough to keep running but I could have packed it in. I gutted it out and finished strongly.

It was hard, really hard. For days after the race, my legs weren't just stiff, the joints hurt. But, it was all worth it. I faced a challenge that I've been dreaming about for years and got the job done.

On to the next challenge... whatever that may be.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Portland Marathon race report

I'm back after hobbling around the Oregon Coast the last few days so it's time to write this epic. Simply saying "I completed a marathon in 4:29:00" doesn't do justice to how things really unfolded.

Course map
Course elevation
The day started out well. I had a good night's sleep for the first time in days and the weather looked good. It was cloudy but dry.

We got lost on the drive to the start area and arrived later than planned. The lineups for the porta potties were incredible and I worried that I wouldn't make it to the start line in time.

In fact, I didn't make it to the starting corral before the gun went off but because it was a wave start I reached the 4:15 group just before we were ready to go.

I guess I was a bit flustered since I forgot to start my stopwatch and I didn't put on my knee strap which was still around my ankle. I noticed both about 2 minutes into the race.

I had decided that my goal time was going to be 4:15 and that I would stick with the 4:15 pace bunny. That plan lasted 4 miles. The 4th and 5th miles are downhill and I found the pace too slow. I felt that I was expending energy to slow down on the hill so I decided to break away from the pack and run at a comfortable pace (for me).

I thereby broke Marathons for Dummies rule #1: don't go out too fast (can you sense the foreshadowing?).

Anyway, I felt good as I ran past my wife as she cheered and took photos around the 5 mile mark. By this time I was feeling quite warm and, looking at the skies, it didn't look like it was going to rain (there's that foreshadowing thing again) so I gave her my hat as I passed her.

I soon decided to turn on my iPod. The course entertainment was fine (some really good) but I decided to take advantage of any edge I could.

Miles 7 through 11 are an out and back so on miles 7 to 9 you can see the leaders as they come back from the turnaround. I saw the 4:00 pace group coming back and I was about 8 minutes behind them. That surprised me a bit. I had had brief fantasies about catching up to them. I missed seeing the 4:15 group as I ran back so I had no idea how far ahead of them I was.

I took my first gel at 7 miles. Up until that point I had taken Ultima, Gleukos and water from the aid stations. Portland is a bit funny in that they serve an electrolyte replenisher (Ultima) which is distinct from their carb drink (Gleukos). Gleukos wasn't available at every aid station.

They also distributed gummy bears on course and I grabbed some. They were sticky so I stuffed all 5 into my mouth. It didn't take long for me to decide that this wasn't a great idea while trying to breathe normally. I decided I didn't like sucking on them and since I had just taken the gel I figured I had enough carbs for the moment so I started spitting them out. At the next aid station, I used more water to wash my hands than I drank.

Around this time it started to sprinkle. My decision to toss my hat was going to come back to haunt me. The rain progressively got worse over the next few miles but it wasn't too, too bad, perhaps even refreshing.

I passed the half marathon mark at 2:04:37. I was slightly ahead of a 4:15 pace and feeling good. Half way to the finish is a significant milestone in the mental game.

I planned to take my second gel at 14 miles. I ripped open the package just shy of 14 since I thought there was an aid station coming up (you have to drink water with a gel to avoid stomach problems). I ended up carrying the gel pack for almost 2 miles before I encountered the next water station.

Miles 16 and 17 are uphill leading to the peak of the St. Johns Bridge. That's a cruel place to put the steepest part of the course.

After mile 17, most of the rest of the course is downhill. I tried to think of this to keep my spirits up but I could feel myself noticeably slowing down.

Shortly past the 19 mile mark I was passed by the 4:15 pacer and his group. They didn't just pass me; they blew by me. This was very discouraging to say the least.

I reached the 20 mile mark and told myself that there was only 10K to go. However, I was feeling drained and rather than feeling good about that, I felt discouraged. Up until then, I had only taken short walk breaks at aid stations as I drank fluids. But, shortly after 20 miles, I took what turned into an extended walk. I tried a couple of times to start running again but I only lasted a few seconds.

I decided that I was done and figured I would walk the rest of the race. I even thought about the emergency money in my pocket and briefly considered finding a taxi ;-)

I took my last gel at mile 21 and also drank more Ultima to try and get in more electrolytes to ease the cramping. By this time my calves were killing me and I stopped to stretch them a couple of times.

The course goes more steeply downhill after mile 22 so I sucked it up and decided to try running again. I figured the downhill run would stress different muscles. I felt better and decided that running was less painful than walking. For the rest of the race, I only stopped at one more aid station before deciding I was done with walking.

With 5K to go I decided that 4:30 was still possible so I kicked it up a notch (as much of a surge as possible at that stage) and started passing people.

As we crossed the Broadway Bridge back into downtown Portland I continued to press forward. I was passing runners with many reduced to walking (much like me just a couple miles back) despite knowing that my running form must have been pretty bad.

I finished relatively strongly with the last mile being my fastest mile split of the last 10. I waved as my wife cheered me as I turned the corner down the finishing chute. I heard my name announced (amused as he struggled to pronounce my last name) as I crossed the finish line.



26.2 miles. 42.2 km. 4 hours and 29 minutes.

It wasn't pretty but I finished. I am a marathoner.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I am a marathoner!

I'll do a full race report later but here are some of the stats:

Gun time: 4:35:06
Chip time: 4:29:00
Result in entire field: 3483 out of 7488
Result in gender (male): 2253 out of 3587
Result in division (M4549): 287 out of 423

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Week 18 - Ready to race

Over the last 18 weeks, I've been following Hal Higdon's Novice 1 marathon training program. I have run over 66 hours, covering 367.5 miles (591 km). Today I ran just two easy miles and that's it. I have completed my last training run in preparation for the marathon on Sunday. There's nothing left to do except just do it.

She Who Makes Waves added a few items to my marathon checklist including inner strength, determination and a positive attitude. I think that I've got those checked off but I guess we'll find out on Sunday. I have to admit that I'm starting to feel a bit nervous and I'm not sleeping as well as I'd like. It's difficult not to think about all the stories I've heard about how hard the last 6 miles are and of hitting the wall (the point where you've utilized all glycogen stores in your muscles and your body starts burning fat. This causes you to suddenly feel very weak. Without proper carbohydrate intake, many runners will hit the wall around the 20 mile mark).

Anyway, I've put in the training miles. I have a re-fueling plan. I have a realistic pacing plan. I am ready.

I'd like to thank everybody for their support along this journey. I'm off to Portland!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Making a list...

I've been working on my checklist in preparation for next weekend's race.
  • Shoes - Asics Cumulus 10
  • Running socks - WrightSock
  • Patellar tendon strap - Pro-tec
  • Compression shorts - Sugoi
  • Running shorts - Lululemon
  • Technical shirt - Nike
  • Hat
  • Watch - Timex
  • MP3 player - iPod
  • Gels - 2 chocolate PowerGels, 1 vanilla
  • Advil
  • Bandaids
  • Vaseline
  • Money
  • Throwaway sweatshirt
  • Race bib
  • Timing chip
  • Pace bands

The long range forecast is calling for rain on Sunday morning so that sucks. If it rains, I'll add:

  • Long sleeve technical shirt - Lululemon
  • Throwaway poncho or garbage bag

My post-race gear:

  • Sweatshirt
  • Sweat pants
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Sports drink - Gatorade
  • Meal replacement shakes
  • Granola bars - Kashi

I can't help but think that I'm missing something.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Week 17 - T minus 1 week

This was an easy week as part of the taper leading up to the race. The long run today was an easy 8 miles. I tried to keep the intensity up this week, at or near race pace. I'm finding, though, that when I'm running outside, without the treadmill to dictate my pace, that my "natural" pace is faster than what I'm going to want to run the marathon at. I think I'm going to follow one of the pace bunnies to help set my pace during the race.

With one week to go, the runs will be short with the longest one being 4 miles. It's all about resting and carbo-loading. You want to ensure that your muscles are stocked with fuel efficient glycogen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Runnin' in the rain

I think it would be fair to call me a fair weather runner. As most of you know by now, I do most of my training on a treadmill. If it's cold or wet outside, I'll just run indoors. Heck, half the time it's nice outside I still run inside.

But today, when I saw that it was raining, I decided a run in the rain was in order.

The Portland Marathon is in 11 days. They say that it has only rained once on race day in the last 27 years. That's actually one of the reasons I chose Portland over Victoria. I figured it was more likely to rain in Victoria in mid-October.

Despite this history, I thought it would be prudent to do a practice run in the rain since I can't remember ever doing so before.

I only had to do 3 miles. It was cool but the rain wasn't coming down too hard. I was torn between sprinting to get out of the rain and practicing trying to maintain marathon pace. I ended up doing something in between.

All in all, I didn't mind the run. It was refreshing and more enjoyable than running into the headwinds I encountered earlier in the week. Yes, my feet got wet and I noticed some potential chafe points but mission accomplished: I feel that I'm better prepared if it rains on race day.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Week 16 - taper time

I completed week 16 of Hal Higdon's Novice 1 marathon training program. This was the first week of tapering which is a reduction in the training load to allow me to rest my body after the last 15 weeks of progressively tougher training.

I'm maintaining a good pace for my runs, especially the shorter ones. The intensity remains the same; only the distance is reduced. I worry, like a lot of runners it seems, that I'll lose some conditioning as I cut back for three weeks but all the experts agree that this is not the case. Anyway, my key goal right now is to get to the starting line injury-free.

One of the pitfalls the experts warn about is weight gain during the taper. Many runners maintain their calorie intake that they are used to while their workouts are reducing. I'm not experiencing that so far. In fact, I've lost two pounds in the last week. This is certainly not intentional and I didn't think I have been eating less. As I mentioned in a prior post, I'm not running to lose weight. I don't want to put on too many pounds prior to the marathon but I certainly don't want to lose any more. Post marathon, I'll probably focus a bit more on bulking up a bit.

The taper continues next week with the mileage going down even more. Only two more weeks to race day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hundred push ups

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the One Hundred Push Ups Challenge lately. I hate to admit it but I fell off the bandwagon. I managed to complete week 5 and began week 6 which is supposed to be the final week leading to the ability to do one hundred consecutive push ups. I was failing miserably at the week 6 work outs so I simply didn't keep it up.

I do really want to take another shot at this, especially since the program has been modified recently to make the progression from week to week easier. However, I think I'll wait until after my marathon since I'm in taper mode now and not supposed to be adding more exercise to my regimen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Week 15 - 20 miles seems much farther than 18 miles

I completed week 15 of Hal Higdon's Novice 1 marathon training program. This is the peak week of the 18 week training schedule with a total of 40 miles. I ran 20 miles this morning.

The 20 mile run is the longest run in the whole training program. While it's only a couple more miles than the 18 miler I did a couple of weeks ago, it seemed much more difficult. I felt pretty comfortable doing the 18 mile run during week 13 but I was already feeling tired today at the 15 mile mark and had to gut out the last 5 miles. I'm hoping it was just an off day today. Perhaps I went too hard earlier in the week when I ran a couple of fast (for me) 5 milers.

I can understand how they say that the 20 mile mark is like the half way point of the marathon and that it becomes as much a mental challenge as it is physical. I think that I will carry my iPod during my marathon just in case I really need a boost late in the race.

I was feeling a bit sore and stiff after the run so I took an ice bath (actually just a cold bath). We'll see how I feel tomorrow.

It's only three weeks to the marathon so it's time to taper. With fifteen weeks of increasing mileage under my belt, my fitness level has peaked and my body has become accustomed to the rigors of distance running. Now it's time to allow my body to rest to be primed to perform on race day. Next week's mileage will be only 29 miles and the long run will be an easy 12 miles.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

To iPod or not to iPod

Most major races ban the use of electronic devices due to safety concerns. However, the Portland Marathon bills itself as "MP3 Player Friendly" and actually promotes the use of MP3's.

I use my iPod during almost all of my training runs but I have not used it during a race before. I'm undecided whether to plug-in during the marathon.

I do find that an up-tempo song provides a lift when I need it. On the other hand, I'm tempted to go without it so that I can fully take in the marathon experience. I enjoy listening to the support of the crowd, the variety of bands on the course, even the panting of fellow runners as I pass them ;-)

There are supposed to be over 72 entertainment groups on the course so I don't think there will be long stretches of nothingness. Then again, I don't think they'll all provide the energy that I get from listening to my hand-picked song list.

Right now, though, I'm leaning towards going without my iPod.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Week 14 - Word of the day: chafe

chafe - verb - to become worn or sore from rubbing.

I completed week 14 of Hal Higdon's Novice 1 marathon training program. It's a stepback week and today's run was only 14 miles. Once again, I finished strong with a negative split.

However, when I was showering I noticed that my skin was raw in my underarm area. Chafing is one of the hazards of running. You hear stories about guys who put bandages over their nipples to prevent them from bleeding. Typically it's worse when wearing cotton clothing which tends to absorb sweat and becomes more irritable to the skin. I was wearing a technical shirt which is supposed to wick the sweat away and be less prone to chafing but it didn't help in this case. I won't be wearing that shirt for my marathon. I'll also have to give more thought about using Vaseline or Bodyglide as a preventative measure.

The Portland Marathon is now only one month away! Next week is the peak week for my training with 40 miles total for the week and a 20-miler as the long run. After that, I'll begin my taper where the training load is reduced to allow my body to rest in preparation for the marathon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How long is that marathon?

A friend asked how my running was going. When I told him that I was training for the Portland Marathon, he asked "How long is that marathon?" From the way he asked it, I could tell he had no idea that a marathon is a standard distance.

A marathon is 26 miles, 385 yards (approximately 26.2 miles or 42.2 km). But, it hasn't always been that distance.

The name marathon originates from the legend of Pheidippides. Pheidippides was a Greek soldier dispatched from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Greek had defeated the Persians in battle there. Marathon is about 25.4 miles (40.8 km) from Athens. It is said that Pheidippides ran the whole distance and then collapsed and died upon delivering the news of victory.

The first marathon event at the modern Olympics was run over a distance of 40 km (24.85 miles). Over time the distance was changed to 26 miles. However, at the 1908 Olympics, an extra 385 yards was added to the course so that the royal family would have a better view of the finish line from their royal box. This new distance was adopted by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as the official marathon distance.

So, I have Pheidippides and the royal family to blame for the extreme challenge I plan to put myself to. As Frank Shorter (1972 Olympic marathon gold medal winner) once said at the 16-mile mark of one of his first marathons, "Why couldn't Pheidippides have died here?"

Friday, August 29, 2008

Week 13 - 18 miles? No sweat

Well, maybe a little bit of sweat.

I ran 18 miles today. That's the second longest run I'll do in preparation for my marathon. I felt pretty strong and I ran a negative split. That means I ran the second half faster than than the first.

I took two Powerbar Gels during the run along with some Gleukos sports drink and water. I felt sufficiently fueled but I still need to work on the mechanics of refueling. I tried squeezing out the gel with one hand while holding a drink in the other and continuing to run. Let's just say it wasn't effective. I think I'll take walk breaks when I take the gels during the marathon.

All along this journey I have been worried about whether my right knee would hold up to the training. It's been fine. Instead it's my ankle that continues to bother me. I took extra care to stretch it before the run but it is still sore. Next week is another stepback week and, once again, it's a welcome break. Still, the long run will be 14 miles (more than I had ever run a few short weeks ago).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dig deep like Whitfield

The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing are over now but there were some memorable moments: the opening ceremonies and performances in the pool and on the track. But, for me, the events that held the most interest were the marathons and triathlons.

I didn't get to see the men's marathon but I watched parts of the women's. Watching Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain veer off to the side of the road, squat and relieve herself was amusing, especially in light of my recent musings on mid-run bathroom breaks.

The agony on the faces of some of the women was certainly sobering but, then again, I don't intend to push myself to finish the marathon in two and a half hours.

The men's triathlon was the most memorable race at the Games. Canada's Simon Whitfield was in fourth place during the run (the last segment of the 1.5k swim/40k bike/10k run race) with the three leaders pulling away from him with about .5k left to go. It looked like he was fading and a podium finish wasn't possible. Then, he threw off his visor and I thought, "He's going to go for it!" Remarkably, he refused to quit, digging deep to find another gear and he reeled in the leaders and took the lead on the final stretch. Germany's Jan Frodeno eventually also managed to find something left and he passed Whitfield in the final 100m to take the gold. Whitfield took the silver but it was a remarkable and inspiring run nonetheless.

While my goal isn't much more than simply finishing my upcoming marathon, if I find that I'm struggling during miles 20+ I plan to remember the determination and grit that Simon displayed and dig deep like Whitfield.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I've got bradycardia

During my incident in the emergency ward, I was hooked up to an ECG. As I spent hours on end watching the ECG, I was surprised at my heart rate. In general, it was around 52 or 53. When I focused on it, I could get it down to 48 (at which point the numbers on the ECG all went red). I'm pretty sure that a year ago my resting heart rate was in the mid to high 60's.

Over the course of the afternoon, several nurses and doctors checked in on me. Several times, one would explain to the others "He's a runner." I guessed that that was to give them the context to explain my heart rate.

I googled "low heart rate" today. I have a condition called bradycardia. Basically, it simply means a heart rate lower than 60. It's completely normal for fit athletes (and obviously, that's the category I'm in ;-). "Too slow" is relative to your current medical condition.

I've been monitoring my resting heart rate each morning recently. An increase would indicate over training but I'm still consistently in the low 50's so I guess my body is managing to adapt to the ever increasing miles I'm running.

I've got bradycardia. And, that's a good thing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Week 12 - only 6 more to go

I'm two thirds of the way through the Hal Higdon's Novice 1 training program. Week 12 was another stepback week with reduced mileage and, once again, it was a welcomed break. I still ran 29 miles this week since the "shorter" runs are getting longer but the long run today was only 12 miles.

My ankle was pretty sore from last week's 16 mile run but it wasn't painful and, if anything, felt better the longer I ran. It feels like a sprain but it's getting better so that's promising.

I have been using my new shoes for the shorter runs and should have somewhere around 100 miles on them for the marathon. That sounds about right for breaking them in.

The Portland Marathon is on October 5 so it's only 6 weeks away. I have three more weeks of 30+ miles each and then I'll begin to drop the mileage as I taper in preparation for the race. Next week's long run is 18 miles.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hundred push ups - week 5 again

Since I failed to complete week 5 last week, I repeated it but this time I stepped down to an easier workout.

Day 1
Required: 35, 28, 25, 22, at least 35 (60 seconds between sets)
Actual: 35, 28, 25, 22, 20

Day 2
Required: 17, 17, 16, 16, 14, 14, 12, at least 35 (45 seconds between sets)
Actual: 17, 17, 16, 16, 14, 14, 12, 25

Day 3
Required: 16, 16, 14, 14, 12, 12, 10, at least 35 (30 seconds between sets)
Actual: 16, 16, 14, 14, 12, 12, 10, 28

While I did better than last week, I still didn't manage to make the 35 push ups required for the final set for each day. I'm going to repeat week 5 again but once again I'm going to drop down to the easiest workout.

I'm confident that I'll complete week 5 on the next go.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'm going to Portland

I did it. I signed up for the Portland Marathon. There's no turning back now.

I wanted to wait a bit longer before registering but they started a countdown on their website as they get closer to selling out and the spots are going pretty quickly. My ankle is bothering me a bit but I'm confident it's not anything serious.

I'm excited but a bit scared too. What did I get myself into?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hundred push ups - week 5

I tried to do week 5 of the One Hundred Push Up Challenge. "Tried" is the key word. It wasn't even close. Week 5 is so much harder than week 4. The time between sets of pushups is less, the number of sets goes up, and most notably, the number of push ups required for the final set goes way up.

Day 1
Required: 40, 32, 30, 25, at least 40
Actual: 40, 32, 21 (I gave up after 3 sets)

Day 2
Required: 20, 20, 18, 18, 15, 15, 14, at least 40
Actual: 20, 20, 18, 18, 15, 15, 14, 16 (not even close to 40)

Day 3
Required: 18, 18, 16, 16, 14, 14, 12, at least 40
Actual: 18, 18, 16, 16, 14, 14, 12, 14 (even worse)

My test after week 4 put me into the hardest category for week 5. I think I'll step it down a level and re-do week 5.

I think this 6 week challenge is (not surprisingly) going to take quite a bit longer. But I'm not giving up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Week 11: lessons learned

After the low mileage last week, I wasn't quite sure how to resume training this week. Would the break from long runs help or hurt my training? Do I resume the scheduled (really long) runs? I decided to jump back on plan and do the scheduled Week 11 runs of Hal Higdon's Novice 1 Training Schedule.

I felt fatigued, more so than usual after each run, and my ankle is a bit sore but otherwise things went well.

Today I ran further than I ever have: 16 miles. I learned that I still have some long run logistics to work on. I need to figure out how much to drink pre-run to be properly fueled and hydrated but not so much that I need to stop for a bathroom break half way into my run.

I also have to practice how to drink on the run so I don't gag and spit a mouthful of water onto the gym floor (I know, I know... yuck). Aside from that, refueling went well. I tried Gleukos as a sports drink since it's going to be served on course. It was fine although I'm not fond of the lemon flavour. I hope they have other flavours available. I probably could have taken another PowerBar Gel as well.

By the way, yes, I ran for almost 3 hours on a treadmill. That's a long time, even for a devoted treadmill runner like me, especially when my iPod battery died (note to self: make sure to charge the iPod before a long run). Luckily, the Olympics were on TV.

All in all, it was a good week and I'm glad to be back on track. I'm going to have to make the decision whether to register for the Portland Marathon in the next few days.

Monday, August 11, 2008

All systems go

I had my heart stress test this morning after the chest pain incident a week ago. They hook you up to an ECG (electrocardiogram) and put you on a treadmill. You start out walking (on an incline) and then every few minutes they increase the speed. The technician told me that most patients don't last 10 minutes.

As you are walking/running they monitor the electrical activity of your heart to see if it changes as more stress is put on your body. Changes could be indications of partially blocked arteries. They also periodically take your blood pressure.

My test lasted 12 minutes. I didn't feel all that winded but I guess they had enough data. The results were good; very good. The doctor said that there was no abnormalities detected with my heart. She figured my chest pains were gastronomic.

The best part was that my wife was with me when the doctor said, "Go run your marathon."

That's it for now... I'm off to go for a run.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

One step closer to Team 2010


I received notification from VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games) that they are offering me a volunteer role at a pre-Games event. I'll be working the Samsung ISU World Cup Short Track event in Vancouver in October.

Volunteering for pre-Games events increases my chances of working during the Games since I'll have direct experience working in the Olympic venues.

My job title is Radio Distribution. It doesn't sound like the most exciting or challenging role and certainly not what I expected when I signed up for the technology team. I'll give it a go, though, and see what it's all about.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hundred push ups - week 4 again

My stress test is scheduled for Monday. They'll be hooking me up to an ECG while I run on a treadmill to see how my heart responds to the stress.

In the mean time, I have been taking it easy with running. I only ran 3 times this week with the longest being only 3 miles. I was scheduled to do a 15 mile run this week.

I did complete week 4 of the One Hundred Push Up Challenge. Each day you do 5 sets of push ups with a short break between sets.

Day 1
Required: 27, 20, 20, 17, at least 27
Actual: 27, 20, 20, 17, 27

Day 2
Required: 27, 21, 21, 18, at least 25
Actual: 27, 21, 21, 18, 30

Day 3
Required: 30, 22, 22, 20, at least 29
Actual: 30, 22, 22, 20, 33

At the end of week 4 you take another test to see how many you can push ups you can do. I managed to do 52. Half way to one hundred.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back at it

I ran for the first time since the emergency room incident. I'm going to take things easy until I have my stress test but that isn't scheduled yet. In any case, I can't see that eliminating all exercise is going to be the end result.

I negotiated with my wife and she allowed me to do a one mile run. So I went and did a two mile run ;-). It felt good to run again.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hundred push ups - week 4

This hasn't been a great week for me. Besides yesterday's adventure at the emergency ward, I didn't complete week 4 of the One Hundred Push Ups Challenge either.

While preparing dinner the other day, I managed to slice my finger. I think it's fair to say that my culinary skills are limited.

I did do days 1 and 2 before the accident.

Day 1
Required: 27, 20, 20, 17, at least 27
Actual: 27, 20, 20, 17, 27

Day 2
Required: 27, 21, 21, 18, at least 25
Actual: 27, 21, 21, 18, 28

As you can see, I'm barely managing to do the minimum push ups required for the last set. This challenge has quickly become a lot more difficult.

My finger is close to healed now so I'll re-do week 4 next week.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The marathon quest is over?

I didn't do the 10 miles I was scheduled to do today. In fact, today didn't turn out anything like I had planned.

I went to see the doctor this morning. Yesterday, I had a brief, sharp chest pain. It was the second time in the last week that I experienced it. I also felt some tightness in my chest during my last run. I figured I better get it checked.

The doctor did an ECG (electrocardiogram) and didn't like what she saw. She immediately referred me to the emergency ward at the local hospital.

I spent the next few hours with wires attached. They even fitted me for an intravenous in case it was necessary. After blood tests, x-rays, etc., I was finally released. The emergency ward doctor wasn't too concerned about my ECG but the tightness experienced while exercising was worrisome. I'm going to have further tests done, including a stress test.

The doctor didn't say to stop my marathon training but he didn't exactly endorse continued extended exercise either, especially until my stress test. Of course, my wife intrepreted what he said as "Don't train for a marathon."

So, I'm not sure but this may be the end of the road for the marathon. Even if nothing shows up on the stress test, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to convince my wife that pushing myself that hard is a good idea.

Oh, and it's a good thing my mother doesn't read this blog. I can just hear her now... "Ahou!"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gearing up

I recently posted a new header picture on my blog that includes my shoes, and it's already obsolete! I'm not sure how many miles I have on my old Asics Cumulus 7's but it's at least 200 and I have another 300 to go for the remainder of the training program so they'll definitely be past their prime by the time I'm ready to run the marathon.

My wife says they still look new. And they do since most of the mileage has been on a treadmill but in "shoe years", they are getting up there. Shoes may still look okay but they lose stability and shock absorption capacity as the midsole wears out. It's generally accepted that running shoes should be replaced every 350 - 550 miles. Since I'm light and most of the running has been on a soft surface, I should get to use them towards the upper limit but it's time to start breaking in a new pair of shoes.

I picked up a pair of Asics Cumulus 10's. Although they are a neutral, cushioning shoes and not made for a over pronator like me, I have orthotics for my pronation problem. I have read debates whether orthotics work best in a neutral shoe versus a stability shoe. Some people insist that a cushioning shoe does not provide the support necessary to allow the orthotics to do their job. Others claim that a stability shoe will lead to over correction if used with orthotics. My orthotics worked well in my Cumulus 7's so I'm sticking with using them in a neutral shoe.

I'm going to rotate the use of my shoes up until the marathon.

I must have been in a shopping mood since I also went out and bought a new pair of sunglasses as well. I didn't want to spend a ton of money even though I've heard great reviews for Oakleys. I picked up a pair of Phoenix sunglasses from MEC. Now I just need the sunshine to return.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Team 2010


The 2010 Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will be held in my hometown, Vancouver. Being part of the Olympic Games would be a great chance to give back to the community and take part in an event that is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

But, becoming an Olympic volunteer isn't quite as simple as signing up to help out at a local race. I, along with 50,000+ others, applied several months ago to be one of the 25,000 volunteers at the Games.

I was called a few weeks ago for a phone interview. That went well enough and I went for an in-person 5 1/2 hour interview/orientation/training session yesterday.

First up was a security check with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). After that was a group orientation session and then a one-on-one interview. I had indicated an interest in volunteering for the technology team and I found out that they have me slotted for telecom services. The rest of the day included some group activities and more general information on the Olympics and service training. I thought it was a bit odd that we were being trained even though we weren't actually selected yet.

Now, I wait. I think my interview went well but it may be months before I know if they have selected me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Week 8: keep on running

I completed Week 8 of the 18 week Hal Higdon Novice 1 marathon training program. I did a couple of up-tempo runs to start the week but then took it easy for the next one since my knee was a bit sore. A rest day took care of that and I finished off 13 miles today feeling strong. My wife commented that I looked so fresh compared to how I looked after the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. I told her that the slower pace made a big difference but she was still impressed.

Next week is another stepback week and marks the half way point for the training program. However, even the recovery weeks are starting to get harder. The mid-week kinda long run goes up to 7 miles and the day 3 run increases to 4 miles. The long run is only 10 miles, though. The weekly total is only 1 mile less than week 8.

I also completed Week 3 of the One Hundred Push Up Challenge. This is starting to get tough. In the first two weeks, I easily surpassed the minimum push ups required for the final sets. Not so this week and on Day 3 I barely managed to do the 27 required. On to Week 4.

For my One Hundred Sit Up Challenge (modeled on the One Hundred Push Up Challenge), I'm doing a bit better than the push ups. I did 34 for the final set of Day 3 but this is still down from week 2 as the sets get tougher.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How long will it take?

An acquaintance, upon learning that I planned to run a marathon, asked how long it was going to take me to complete it. I'm not even signed up yet and I certainly didn't want to publicize my goals this early.

I hemmed and hawed at bit but gave in and told her.

It's something that I've been thinking about for a while. There have been a few sleepless nights when I would wake up and then start doing race pace calculations.

As with any first timer, my real goal should be to simply finish. But, I want more than that.

I have been doing my long runs at around a 10:55 pace. I feel pretty comfortable at that pace and I feel I can continue at it for much further distances. If I ran that pace for the whole marathon, I would finish in 4:45:49. I'm hoping that's my worst case scenario but I would be pretty disappointed at anything more than 4:30:00. Heck, even Oprah finished a marathon in 4:29:20.

A 10:00 pace should be reasonably do-able (says a guy who has never run more than 13.1 miles). That would put me at 4:22:00.

Using the McMillan Running Calculator, I should be able to compete a marathon in 4:08:50 based upon my most recent half marathon result. That's a pace of 9:30 minutes per mile. I'd be very happy with that.

My ultimate goal, the one I didn't want to say out loud but did anyway, is 3:59:59.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Don't do it!

My 79 year old mother isn't exactly a supporter of Nike's slogan, "Just do it."

She was pleased earlier this year when I told her I wasn't running the 10K Vancouver Sun Run. Then I told her that the reason I wasn't running the Sun Run was because I was running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon a few weeks later.

"Ahou!", she scoffed. Roughly translated, that's Japanese for "fool".

Now, of course, she's equally against me running a marathon. I believe she thinks I'm going to drop dead as a result of attempting it. She doesn't comprehend any of the health benefits of running. So, when I told her I was running a marathon she predictably told me, "Don't do it."

Her genes are probably the cause of one of the reasons I run. I have high cholesterol just like she does. She takes medication to control her cholesterol levels. I'm not on medication and I'd like to avoid them. Exercise is supposed to increase the level of HDL (the "good" cholesterol) which should counteract the bad cholesterol. My doctor is surprised at my cholesterol levels given the amount of exercise I do and the reasonably healthy diet I follow. She attributes my cholesterol problem to hereditary causes.

So, despite the lack of support (to put it mildly) from my mother for my marathon quest, I plan to just do it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

OHPUC - Week 2

I completed week two of the One Hundred Push Ups Challenge. Here's a summary:

Day 1
Required: 12, 12, 9, 7, at least 10
Actual: 12, 12, 9, 7, 30

Day 2
Required: 16, 13, 11, 11, at least 15
Actual: 16, 13, 11, 11, 32

Day 3
Required: 15, 15, 12, 12, at least 15
Actual: 15, 15, 12, 12, 34

I really struggled, especially on days 1 and 2. I simply didn't have any energy and, as you can see, my final sets were down from what I did in week 1. I was still well over the minimums for the last sets, though.

At the end of week 2, you do another test to see how many push ups you can do. I managed to do 42. That's a pretty good improvement over my initial test (30) just two weeks ago.

Week 3 is noticeably harder than week 2 so we'll see how it goes.

I also completed week 2 of my One Hundred Sit Ups Challenge. I did 52 sit ups for my week 2 tests. Half way there!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Week 7: a week of firsts

I completed week 7 of my marathon training.

On Monday, I ran my fastest 3 miler ever, finishing it under 24 minutes.

I ran 12 miles today and it was the first time that I've run for over 2 hours. Although I ran further for my half marathons, I completed both of them in under 2 hours.

It was also the first time that I've used a gel to refuel mid-run.

Gels are gooey concoctions with a mixture of carbohydrates and electrolytes (primarily sodium and potassium). They are designed to be quickly absorbed by your body to provide fast refueling during intense exercise. They help avoid the condition known as "hitting the wall" or "bonking". This is when an athlete suddenly loses energy and becomes fatigued due to a depletion of glycogen stores. For runners, this typically occurs after 15 to 20 miles of running.

While I was in no danger of hitting the wall during my 12 mile run, I'll definitely need something for the marathon. There are a number of gels on the market and from what I've read, everybody is different when it comes to liking the taste and texture, being able to stomach the gel, etc. I've got the next few weeks to experiment with a few gels to find one that works for me. I took a PowerGel at the 8 mile mark. It was chocolate flavoured and yummy. It also contained caffeine for an extra boost. I didn't really feel that it made a difference but maybe the difference was that I didn't tire as much as I might have. I felt pretty good for the whole 12 miles and I don't seem to have any post-run soreness.

I ran a total of 24 miles this week and that's the most I've ever done in a single week.

So, it was a week of firsts but there are many more to come. By the time September swings around, these records will all seem insignificant.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Week 6

I have completed week 6 of the 18 week Hal Higdon Novice 1 marathon training program. I am one third of the way there. This past week was a step-back week so it was pretty easy.

Next week is tougher. We're getting into the territory of "longest, evers". The long run is 12 miles. While this is short of the furthest I have ever run (13.1 miles for my half marathons), it will be the longest, time wise, that I will be out for a run (since I'm not running at race pace). I have some Powerbar gels that I'm going to try.

I also completed week 1 of the One Hundred Push Up Challenge. The last workout required sets of 15/13/10/10 and then as many as possible with 2 minute rest breaks between sets. I did 36 as the final set.

I also did week 1 of my hundred sit ups challenge. I did 42 sit ups as the final set for the Week 1/Day 3 work out.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Portland bound?

No, I haven't signed up for the Portland Marathon yet. But I did book a hotel room just in case. I'll decide in the next 3 weeks whether I'm going to do it or not.

Today was Day 2 of Week 1 of the One Hundred Push Ups Challenge. This workout called for sets of 12/12/10/10 and finally as many as possible (minimum 10) with 90 second breaks. I managed 31 push ups for the final set.

I have also decided to adapt the hundred push up program for sit ups. So, I'm now doing the One Hundred Sit Ups Challenge as well. I did the 12/12/10/10 sets and then did 40 sit ups as the final set. I'm doing the sit ups with arms crossed over my chest, knees bent and with nothing securing my feet.

I also had my mid-week kinda long run today. It was only 5 miles and felt pretty good. I took it easy on yesterday's 3 mile run. As I mentioned, my legs felt pretty tired the morning after my 10 mile run last Friday. By Saturday afternoon, it turned to actual soreness so I have decided not to push things too much this week. It's a recovery week any way.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

One hundred pushups

I know I haven't been complementing my running with cross training as much as I should. In particular, I've been wanting to incorporate some strength training since I'm the poster boy for scrawny. Losing weight certainly isn't one of the reasons I run.

I stumbled across this site while reading a blog. I have been doing some push ups recently and this looks like a challenging (to be honest, excessively challenging) way to progress.

It's a six week program with three workouts per week. In each workout you do several sets of push ups with the last set being as many as you can manage. An initial test determines which of the three programs to follow. I can do 30 push ups so that puts me in the hardest program.

For Week 1/Day 1, you do 10 push ups, then 10, 8, 6 and then as many as you can (minimum 7) with 60 second breaks between the sets. I managed to do 26 as the final set.

So, it looks like I have a new goal and we'll see where this takes me.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Week 5

I ran ten miles yesterday, completing week 5 of my marathon training program. When I woke up this morning my legs felt dead. There isn't any pain and sore isn't the right description either but they feel tired.

The upcoming week is another "step-back" week with the long run only 7 miles and the total mileage back under 20 miles. I think my body is telling me to enjoy the recovery week.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Week 4

I ran 9 miles yesterday. That's 1/3 of a marathon. It felt good. So good that I picked up the pace for the last mile. I upped it from really slow to just slow.

The long runs are now over an hour and a half so I have to start thinking more about mid-run fueling. I used Gatorade for yesterday's run. It's all I have ever used for my long runs including my two half marathons. The Portland Marathon doesn't serve Gatorade. They provide Ultima and Gleukos. I have never tried either. Ultima replenishes electrolytes but doesn't contain carbohydrates. Gluekos provides the carbs but I'm not sure it's available in Canada. I'm going to have to decide whether I'm going to carry Gatorade for the race and, if so, how. I may also experiment with gels to decide whether to go that route. Water is provided on the course and carrying gel packs is probably easier than wearing a water bottle belt. Using Ultima or Gleukos on race day for the very first time is not an option.

For week 5 the distances continue to go up. The mid-week sorta long run goes up to 5 miles and the weekend long run will be 10 miles. Ten miles is the farthest I have ever run outside of a race. The weekly mileage passes the 20 mile threshold.

Friday, June 27, 2008

You pay money to do this?

A friend asked me whether you have to pay to run a marathon. When I said yes, she asked whether it was around $5. No, I told her, closer to $100. She couldn't comprehend paying hard earned cash to put yourself through the rigours of running 26.2 miles (or 10K for that matter).

None of my friends run. None of them remotely see the appeal.

My wife would like to run but she has back problems and her doctor told her to cut running from her exercise routine. She recently re-introduced short distances so she could run last week's race. However, even she is constantly questioning my desire to run a marathon. Her biggest fear is that I'll get injured.

So, this got me thinking. Why am I doing this? Why a marathon?

Some days, I think the answer is similar to that of the proverbial question, "Why climb the mountain?". Because it is there.

But, really, it's more than that. I started running because I wanted to improve my health and fitness. I got a gym membership and there were plenty of options for exercising. However, long term motivation was always a challenge. It was too easy to skip a day or two, or even weeks at a time.

But with running, there are races. The race provides that line in the sand, a benchmark, a goal. It was an immovable point that forced me to reach a certain level of fitness. It provided a measurable challenge and a public one. Letting others know of your intent certainly adds to the motivation to achieve the goal.

Each step of the way, the challenges have become tougher. In the beginning, running 10K was a significant achievement. It would take me 3 months to be "race-ready". Then I decided to do a triathlon. The fact that I could barely swim was only a minor inconvenience. Then came a half marathon. Which leads to my latest challenge.

But, besides being in it for the challenge, I simply enjoy running. Not only that, I like treadmill running which puts me in a small club. I don't find it boring like many do. I enjoy the solitude, the "me" time, the time to let my thoughts wander.

By the time I complete this marathon quest, there's a risk I may not enjoy running as much (like that short period of time during my last half), but for me the marathon has a certain mystique. Even if those around me don't share in the sentiment.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Week 3

Three down, 15 to go. Last week was a recovery week with only 15 miles of running. I ran pretty hard on Monday, averaging 8:18 per mile. It was also my first outdoor run in a while. I tend to run faster when not on a treadmill. I took it easier on the other runs.

Today begins week 4, and the long run upcoming on Friday is up to 9 miles so we're starting to get into more serious distances.

My wife ran in her very first race last Friday. It was the Chip's Not Dead Yet Memorial Mile. It's a fundraiser for the BC Children's Hospital. Chip Wilson is the (not dead) founder of lululemon athletica and he matched all entry fees with a contribution to the hospital. It's a one mile race up a rather steep hill. I didn't race but I volunteered as a greeter at the event.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Triathlon World Championships

Last Sunday, I volunteered as a course marshal for the elite race at the Vancouver BG Triathlon World Championships. I had a great view of the bike leg as the athletes climbed up Thurlow Street towards Davie Street. The highlights were broadcast on CBC yesterday and in this picture taken from the show, I'm the guy holding up the red flag on the left.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated and the conditions were cool but dry. Unfortunately, the results for the Canadians I've been following wasn't what I was hoping for with Simon Whitfield only managing a 6th place finish and Kirsten Sweetland finishing 38th as a result of a heel injury. Whitfield will be representing Canada at the Olympics but Sweetland was not chosen for the team.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Week 2

I have completed week 2 of the 18 week training program I'm following (Hal Higdon's Novice 1 Marathon Training Schedule). Each week there is one long run and three shorter runs. I have decided to run one of the shorter runs at a faster pace (nearing race pace) and one on hills. The other shorter run will eventually get sorta-long so I'll run it at a slower pace -- the same pace I'll run the long run at.

The long run this week was 7 miles. I felt strong and didn't get my heart rate too high. I could have kept on going with no problem. The long runs are run at a pace slower than my anticipated race pace. The idea is to get accustomed to the distances and not worry about speed.

Every third week is a "stepback" week where the mileage is reduced to allow recovery in preparation for building up mileage in the next couple weeks. So, next week will be an easier week with the long run only being 5 miles. I don't feel the need for a recovery week yet but I'll follow the program and try to avoid injury.

I'm starting to feel more confident about actually doing the marathon although I have a long way to go still.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Yoga

My wife decided we should attend a yoga class. I figured that it could help with my running and fitness since I'm not very flexible. I'm not really that interested in the spiritual side of yoga.

We went for a free beginner class at lululemon. There were a few others there but we were the only yoga virgins (and I was the only guy). We let the instructor know that this was our very first yoga class so she made sure she explained all the moves and positions.

We did some basic poses like the downward facing dog.


We also did some more difficult poses such as the crane pose (bakasana). My wife managed to face plant into her mat and I didn't fare much better.

I was surprised by how much trouble I had with a tree pose (vrksasana). It looks simple.


All in all, I actually enjoyed the session and I think we'll add some yoga into our routine.

Photos from www.yogajournal.com.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Volunteering at the Vancouver BG Triathlon World Championships

I woke up at 4 am for my 5:45 shift as a course marshal for the sprint distance races of the Vancouver BG Triathlon World Championships. The weather was miserable. It was 8 degrees Celsius and raining.

I was stationed in Stanley Park near the bottom of the hill leading to Prospect Point. This is the same hill I ran as part of the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. The triathletes had to climb this hill 3 times as part of the bike leg of the race.

My job was to control pedestrian access to the bike course. This wasn't much of a task. We were in the remotest portion of the race course in Stanley Park which, for the most part, was closed to all traffic. Let's just say I didn't see many pedestrians during the 4 hours I stood in the rain holding up my red "don't cross" flag. Actually the first one I saw was a trail runner that came from behind me and I didn't see him as he darted across the course as bikes whizzed by. I guess I wasn't a great course marshal.

The most unexpected event of the day was when a fireman asked me to move some pylons so they could turn their truck around. He said that someone had jumped off the Lions Gate Bridge and they were trying to get down to the sea wall. I later heard that witnesses said a car stopped mid-span and a guy simply got out of the car and jumped. He died. I watched the news but there was no report of the incident.

The athletes were obviously suffering from the affects of the cold. I found out on the news that hypothermia was a common problem.

A few of them talked to me as they passed. These were mainly the back-of-the-pack racers who thanked me for being there, or blamed me for putting a hill in front of them, or to tell me that they were on their last lap and that I wouldn't see them anymore. I enjoyed it when they interacted with me. I have to remember to try and talk to the volunteers more next time I run a race.

All in all, I didn't mind getting out there and helping but I sure hope it's warmer and drier for my next shift on Sunday.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Week 1

And it begins...

This is week 1 of my marathon training plan. I'm following Hal Higdon's Novice 1 training schedule. It consists of four runs per week. Up until now I have only been running three days a week so I have always had a rest day between runs. It'll be interesting to see how my body reacts to running three days in a row plus a long run, week after week.

The LogYourRun summary in the side bar includes the planned runs.

The first week should be pretty easy with a total of 15 miles.

I'm going to see how it goes for a couple months before actually signing up for a race.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Triathlon World Championships

I have taken part in some well run races with the support of some great volunteers. I decided that it was time to give back. I signed up to volunteer at the Vancouver BG Triathlon World Championships.

The Triathlon World Championships is the flagship event of the ITU (International Triathlon Union) and will be held this year in Vancouver on June 6 through 9 and comprises of several races. The elite races are the final qualifying races for the Canadian Triathlon Olympic team for Beijing. An estimated 2600 athletes from 40+ countries will be competing.

We had our volunteer orientation meeting today. I'm part of the Field of Play team. I'm a course marshal which means that I'm a glorified crossing guard. I'm responsible for controlling access to the race course and directing when pedestrians can cross the course. I had hoped to be a transition zone assistant but, oh well. I'll be helping out with Sprint Distance World Championships on Friday and the Elite Women's and Men's World Championships on Sunday. A sprint distance triathlon consists of a 750 m swim, 20 km bike and a 5 km run. The Olympic distance that the elites race is a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run.

I participated in the 2005 UBC Triathlon so I'm familiar with triathlons from the competitor's perspective. I ran in the Short distance race (400 m swim, 11 km bike, 5 km run). It was quite a challenge since I could barely swim 20 m when I started training for it. I came in 5th place for my age group (there were only 6 in the group) and last (by a fair margin) in the swim. I made up time on the bike leg and had a respectable run.


I have had occasional thoughts about doing another one to complete the sprint distance but I haven't gone swimming since then.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

LogYourRun.com

I have started tracking my training at LogYourRun.com. You can see a summary in the side bar of my blog. It allows me to keep a log of my runs and compare it against a training plan (in my case Hal Higdon's Novice Marathon program).

I have set it up so that the 18-week training plan starts on June 2. That means that I would be ready for a marathon on October 5 which is when the Portland Marathon is scheduled. Until June 2, I'm just going to build back some distance and speed.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Back at it

I went for my first run since the half marathon. Yes, I took a whole two weeks off. I wanted to make sure that my right knee was fully recovered before starting up again. I ran an easy 20 minutes and felt good.

I'm going to ease back into regular running and then begin a marathon training program. I'm going to follow Hal Higdon's Novice 1 Training Schedule. It's an 18 week program which will prepare me for an October marathon. I'm going to see how it goes before committing to actually attempting to run a full marathon but I'm targeting the Portland Marathon or the Royal Victoria Marathon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What is a Canuck?

While I take some time off running to recover after my half marathon, I figured that I would answer a question for you non-Canadian readers.

Some of you may not know what a Canuck is. Besides being the name of my hometown NHL hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks, a Canuck is a slang term for a Canadian. It's similar to the use of Yankee to refer to an American. It's an affectionate term, not derogatory in nature.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Runner's knee

I have had a few questions about the thing on my leg in my pictures. Here's the story...

Back in 2006, I was in the best shape of my life. I completed a triathlon and a half marathon in 2005 and my commitment to exercise was entrenched. After completing the 2006 Sun Run, I went of vacation with my family to Maui. Unlike any prior vacation, I found time to run. I even ran along the beach.

However, that turned out to be a terrible mistake. Once I got home, I tried to get back to some serious training but my knee hurt. It would be fine for a few minutes but once I hit the 20 or 30 minute mark of running I would experience sharp pains. I think that the uneven surface of the beach was to blame.

I rested for several months hoping that it would get better but it didn't. I started seeing a physiotherapist and he explained that I was suffering from patello-femoral syndrome. He had me do various stretches and exercises to even out muscle imbalances. Things weren't improving much after several more months and I eventually I asked him about a knee brace and he suggested a patellar tendon strap. I bought one made by Pro-Tec. It's supposed to aid the tracking of the knee cap.

I found that it helped and I was able to run again and to eventually start building up the mileage. I sometimes wonder if I still need it but I'm dependent upon it now and it's part of my standard running gear.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

BMO Vancouver Half Marathon race report



Pre-race

The forecast was for sunny conditions with temperatures around 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit) at race time. I laid out my race wear before I went to bed at 10:30.



I had my alarm set for 4:30 am but I was wide awake by 3:30 am. Oh well, I did manage to get 4 hours of sleep. I had a bagel and Ovaltine for breakfast.

We got downtown shortly after 6:00, well before the 7:00 start time. There was plenty of time to check in my post-race clothes and go to the bathroom.

My wife and daughter woke up at 5:00 on a Sunday to come down with me and to take photos. I really appreciate their support.

I positioned myself about half way back among the crowd. It felt pretty warm so I was worried I may be overdressed in a long-sleeve technical shirt. (For you non-runners reading this, a technical shirt is made of polyester blends designed to wick moisture away from the body keeping you drier and prevents chafing. Cotton is not a runner's friend).

I didn't have time or space to do a proper warmup.

I had two levels of goals going into to the race. The first was to break the 2 hour mark and, more optimistically, to set a new personal best beating my time for at the 2005 Scotiabank Half of 1:56:48.

Mile 1 - 8:53 minute split time

It took just under 3 minutes to reach the starting line after the official start of the race. For the serious racers, it's gun time that counts; for recreational racers like me, it's chip time.

It was pretty tight for the first quarter mile as we quickly made the first turn onto Carral Street and there wasn't much open space to choose your own pace.

As we turned off Beatty onto the Dunsmuir Viaduct I quickly navigated to the right side. My wife and daughter were waiting there for the first photo op. Unfortunately none of the photos turned out.

I eventually settled into a pace following a girl in a red top. Her speed seemed about right.

Mile 2 - 8:32

I continued to follow girl-in-the-red-top as we went east on Prior and I was still on goal pace.

Mile 3 - 8:55

I stopped for some Gatorade at the first water station and walked while I drank it. As a result, I lost sight of girl-in-the-red-top, never to see her again. As I start running again I picked another girl on Cordova Street who seemed to be running my pace. Yes, another girl. It's just easier to be motivated to follow a pretty girl. This one has a tattoo on her right shoulder.

Despite the walk break, I was still on goal pace.

Mile 4 - 8:53

Mile 4 is slightly downhill on Cordova but it turned that we (me and tattoo-girl) were going a bit too slow and I fell behind goal pace.

I passed my wife and daughter near Richards Street, the second location we had arranged for photos. Luckily, they got some good pictures here.



Mile 5 - 9:21

As I passed spectators, some took note of my name on my bib and cheered me on by name. The crowds throughout the race were great and offered support to a complete stranger.

There was another water station so, again, I took a walk break to down some Gatorade. This time I lost sight of tattoo-girl.

I was passed by a pace bunny. Pace bunnies are runners who are designated to run the race in a specific time. They even wear rabbit ears on their hats. If you want to have help pacing yourself to achieve your time goal, you simply follow the appropriate pace bunny. In this case, it was the 2:00 pace bunny. That was not a good sign since my goal was well under 2 hours.

Mile 6 - 9:03

We entered Stanley Park for the most scenic part of the run but I wasn't really taking it in. I was more focused on my rhythm and breathing which was starting to labour a bit. I felt the beginnings of a side stitch and I tried deep breathing to try and stretch it out.

Mile 7 - 9:04

We passed the half way mark and I was over 1 minute behind my time goal. It wasn't looking good for a personal best any more.

Mile 8 - 9:34

Mile 8 is the killer mile as we climbed the hill towards Prospect Point. It's a 200 foot incline over a half mile stretch. However, as opposed to the last few miles where more runners passed me than I passed, I powered up the hill running past countless runners, many slowed to a walk.

I heard a couple of runners comparing the hill to the famous Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon. They said this one is much steeper and longer. Then again, Heartbreak Hill comes at the 20 mile mark in that race.

I caught up to, and passed, tattoo-girl.

Mile 9 - 9:29

Mile 9 is mostly downhill after reaching Prospect Point. I tried to take advantage of gravity and lengthened my stride to run downhill. I passed more runners but I decided stop and briefly walk at the water station. I only drank water this time since my stomach was starting to be unsettled from the Gatorade.

Tattoo-girl passed me again.

Mile 10 - 8:36

Only 5K left so I tried to pick up the pace. I had to do a sub-30 minute 5K in order to break the 2 hour mark. That shouldn't be a problem but setting a personal best was now out of the question. I managed to pass tattoo-girl for the final time.

However, I was passed by a 75 year old senior from Germany. I wasn't embarrassed by that, though. I was simply impressed by his fitness.

Mile 11 - 9:01

As we exited Stanley Park I could see the Burrard Street Bridge in the distance. It looked far. My right knee started to bother me and my gait wasn't smooth. It's at this point that I vowed to give up on my marathon dreams and wondered why I even run races.

A little later, though, my knee felt a bit better.

Mile 12 - 9:05

BC Place was now in sight and I had planned to go all out for the last couple of miles but I found that I didn't have another gear and so I continued to plod along at my (now slower) pace.

Mile 13.1 - 9:39

I found some energy as many of the finishers pushed forward for a strong finish. I was looking for my family on the right side of the road but I heard my name called out on the left. Luckily, they took some nice photos.



My official chip time is 1:57:59, a couple minutes slower than my goal.

Post-race

I was stiff as I walked through through the finish area to receive my medal, have my timing chip removed and receive a space blanket. The space blanket is a plastic sheet intended to reduce heat loss from the body. I don't really think I needed it given the sunny conditions.

I did a few stretches before entering BC Place Stadium to get some food and pick up my gear bag. We have to go down a set of stairs to get to field level in the stadium. This seemed like a cruel thing to do to runners who have just completed a half marathon. It didn't really hurt but I did feel a bit unsteady going down the stairs.

I met up with my family. They were proud of me despite that I missed my time goal. I told my wife that a full marathon was no longer in my plans. She laughed.

I got a post-run massage. Hopefully this will aid in recovery. When I got home I had an ice bath and a shower. I was stiff and going down stairs was now downright painful. The next couple of days should be fun ;-)



Epilogue

Although I'm a bit disappointed that I couldn't achieve a personal best for a half marathon, I'm still pleased that I came in under 2 hours. The course was challenging, more so than the Scotiabank Half's point-to-point route from UBC to Stanley Park.

I'm already beginning to waffle on my vow not to attempt a full marathon.

Monday, May 5, 2008

BMO Bank of Montreal Vancouver Half Marathon

I'll post a more detailed race report later but the official results are in...

Gun Time: 2:00:57 (this is the time from the official start of the race until I crossed the finish line)
Chip Time: 1:57:59 (we wear a timing chip on our shoes which triggers timers when you cross the start and finish line giving you personal results - it took me 3 minutes to get to the start line)
Final Place: 1680 out of 5595
Place in Sex: 1000 out of 2012
Place in Division (45-49 year old males): 135/247

It's not a personal best but I did make it under 2 hours.

This is how I feel today.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The expo

The expo for the BMO Vancouver Marathon was held at the Westin Bayshore. I went on a weekday morning so it wasn't too busy. Package pickup was quick and efficient.



The Expo was much bigger than the one for the Scotiabank Half which is the only other one that I have been to. There was a good variety of vendors hawking running gear, food and other marathon events.


I bought some WrightSock running socks and collected samples of PowerBar, tofu cakes, Advil, granola bars, etc.

I also picked up the premiere edition of iRun. It's a brand new Canadian running magazine. I get a free subscription for running the Vancouver Marathon. It looks like it has some good articles in it and I'm looking forward to reading it.

It turns out that the package pickup may have been efficient but accurate it was not. I didn't notice until after lunch (and luckily we decided to eat lunch on Denman Street and we were still in the area) but they gave me a large shirt instead of the medium I ordered. I had to quickly pop in again to get the correct size. It was noticeably busier than before lunch but as I made my way through the expo again, I had more granola bars forced upon me. I didn't resist and collected even more food.

The shirts for the half marathon are black Adidas technical shirts and I think they look quite nice.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Not good for my confidence

I decided to run the hills around my neighbourhood this morning as my last hard workout before the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. OMG, what a struggle. The first part of the run was downhill; no problem there. However, I really laboured on the first incline and ended up taking a walk break once I reached the top. On the next hill, I started experiencing side stitches -- another walk break. All this in a short 20 minute run!

So, am I ready for Sunday's race as I thought I was? I'm not so sure anymore. Did I do enough outdoor running in cool temperatures? Did I do enough morning runs? Did I do enough hill work? Did I taper too early?

I'm going to have to rethink my race strategy and time goals.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Taper madness

My mileage this week is way down as I taper in preparation for next week's race.

Many runners experience what they call taper madness. After months of training building up mileage, they feel a void with the lack of running in the last couple of weeks. I didn't think this was going to be a problem for me as I looked forward to taking it easy.

However, it seems that I'm showing symptoms. Since I'm running less, I can push harder. Right? I ran faster for Monday's tempo run. I run faster for Wednesday's hill run. I ran faster for yesterday's "long" run (albeit only 4 miles).

I only have a couple more runs scheduled before the race and those are only 30 and 20 minutes respectively. If I do those on Monday and Wednesday like I usually do, that leaves 3 days of nothing before Sunday. That seems like too long. Do I squeeze one more run in on Friday? Do Monday and Thursday instead?

Then there's the sleepless nights as I lie in bed and calculate splits and race paces trying to decide on my goal time. Do I go conservative, try to break 2 hours or go for a PR (personal record)?

Oh, the madness!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's on my iPod

Here's a sample of what I listen to while I run:
  • You Shook Me All Night Long - AC/DC

  • Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams

  • Smooth Criminal - Alien Ant Farm

  • I Want You To Want Me - Cheap Trick

  • Paralyzer - Finger Eleven

  • We Got the Beat - The Go-Go's

  • Paint It Black - Gob

  • Holiday - Green Day

  • Somebody Told Me - The Killers

  • Promise - Simple Plan

  • Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

  • Money Honey - State of Shock

  • Vertigo - U2

  • Panama - Van Halen

Friday, April 18, 2008

T minus 2 weeks

The BMO Vancouver Half Marathon is now just over two weeks away. This week's runs were shorter as part of tapering but I kept up the intensity. I did speed work on Monday, some hill work on Wednesday and then 8 miles today. I upped my speed for the last 2 miles to something closer to my race pace. Cardio-wise I felt good and my knee was fine but the bottom of my feet hurt and I was probably close to suffering blisters. I think it's time to get some new running socks.

I had thought about entering this Sunday's Vancouver Sun Run instead of running today's miles but decided against it. I really enjoy running the Sun Run and it would have been a good rehearsal for an early morning race but I probably would have been tempted to go for a PR (personal record) and that may be a bit risky with only 2 weeks to get ready for the half.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ice bath

I was a bit sore after my LSD last Friday so I tried a post-run ice bath. It wasn't actually an ice bath since I didn't use any ice but it sure was cold enough. Ice baths are supposed to promote quicker recovery although there is some scientific debate regarding their benefits.

It certainly doesn't have the appeal of sitting in a jacuzzi but a hot bath is the worst thing for your muscles after strenuous activity.

A cold bath is quite a shock to the system and I never did feel comfortable and I didn't last more than 5 minutes which probably isn't long enough to have the desired affect. Anyway, as I sat in the bath, it reminded me of an episode of Seinfeld.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Taper time

The BMO Bank of Montreal Vancouver Half Marathon is just over three weeks away.

Today's LSD (long, slow distance) run was 11 miles. This is the longest run in the training plan that I'm following. I ran it on a treadmill and I felt good and I probably could have maintained the pace for another couple of miles. I must admit, though, that I did entertain the thought of cutting it short at 8 miles. I ran at a 5.5 mph pace which projects to a 2:23 half marathon finish. I should be able to beat that on race day.

After the run, I felt more fatigued than I have for any other run so we'll see how I feel tomorrow.

From now until race day the training runs will be shorter allowing my body to recover from the training of the last few months so that it will be in peak condition on race day. This is known as tapering. By now, I have attained the level of fitness required to run the half marathon so the remaining runs will be used to maintain that fitness without risking injury or fatigue. A lot of runners find it difficult to taper as they stuggle to adapt to reduced mileage. I don't foresee that as a problem.