Monday, March 31, 2008

What I'm reading

I'm half way through First Marathons by Gail Kislevitz. It's a compilations of the stories of 37 marathoners sharing their experience leading to the completion of their first marathons. They range from elite runners like Bill Rodgers to complete fitness novices.

As I contemplate running my first marathon later this year this book has been both motivational and sobering. The description of the pain that some endured is rather disconcerting. However, the sense of accomplishment which they universally agree trumps the short term discomfort is inspiring.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Scotiabank Half Marathon 2005

The BMO Vancouver Half Marathon will be my second half marathon. Back in 2005 I ran the Scotiabank Half Marathon in Vancouver.

Here's the race report I wrote after the race.

My alarm was set for 5:00am but, not unexpectedly, I woke up before the alarm went off and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I’m not a big breakfast person so I went with my usual and was ready to go much earlier than planned. The weather looks perfect; it’s partly cloudy.

We (my wife drove) arrived at the UBC start area over an hour before the race was scheduled to start. My wife, a non-runner, couldn’t understand why I would want to be there so early but the short washroom lines made it worth it. I had plenty of time to get warmed up, almost too much time as seeds of doubt entered my mind as I nervously bounced waiting for the start.

7:30. The horn goes and we’re off. I positioned myself half way back. I wave to my wife as I ran by and decide that the pace of those around me seems about right. At the 1 km mark, I realize that I’m going much faster than I had planned. My “say it out loud” goal had been to complete the race in 2:20. My personal, unstated goal was 2:05. I finished the first km in just over 5 minutes! The rational thing to do was to slow down and save something for later. The irrational thoughts were to keep going at this pace and take advantage of the downhill slope of the first half of the race.

Water stations were every 3 kms. I decided to take a short walk break at each and get some fluids in without spilling most of it. At the 3 km marker I was still at a 5:20/km pace. At 6 km and 9km (my cheap chronograph watch only tracks 8 laps so I only took readings every 3 km), I was at 5:25/km.

Between 9 km and 10 km there’s a 70m drop in elevation and I took advantage of this hill. I hit the 10 km mark at 53:29 which is the fastest 10 km I have ever run. I was pretty amazed by that and, also, somewhat worried. Was I going too fast? Was this going to bite me in the end? Then, it occurred to me! I was on a pace to break 2 hours. Once again, the slightly irrational side wins out and I maintain the pace.

At 12 km, I’m still averaging 5:25/km and feeling pretty good. At the water station, I decide to take some Gatorade in addition to some water. At the Powerbar station, they’re handing out gels. The guy in front of me gets the last of the flavour I normally use. I get a chocolate, which I have never tried. Now doesn’t seem like the time to experiment so I put it in my pocket and keep going. Across English Bay I can see the finish line at Stanley Park. Gorgeous view but it looks like a long ways away still.

By 15 km, the course is getting a little hilly, nothing exceptional but certainly noticeable compared to the mostly downhill of the first half. My average is down only slightly to 5:30/km. By 16 km, mentally, I’m past the stage that thinks there’s a long way to go. It’s only a 5 km run to finish. I know that if I can keep even a 6:00/km pace I’ll break 2 hours.

At 18 km, my pace is still 5:32/km and I’m feeling confident. The random thoughts keep going through my head. As I said, the race started at UBC and finishes at Stanley Park. I had told my wife that I’d be finishing around 9:20 and that she could go have breakfast and that if she got to the finish line by 9:00 that would be fine. I could get there before she does!

Next up is my old nemesis (from past Sun Runs), the Burrard Street Bridge. It was tough and I felt like taking a walk break but I kept going. Once past the crest of the bridge, it’s the home stretch. However, instead of the downhill slope being a blessing, I start to feel an annoying tightness in my groin that’s aggravated by downhill running.

Only 2 km to the finish line. I think about stepping it up into another gear but I find that I don’t have one. Oh well, I take in the wonderful support of the strangers on the sidelines and push forward.

As I run down the chute, I glance left and right for signs of my family. Not unexpectedly, they’re not there because I have finished in 1:56:48! I forget to look at the photographer as I cross the finish line. I get my finisher’s medal placed around my neck and I'm quite pleased as it's my first medal. It took me another 30 minutes to find my family and share with them what I accomplished.

I had a great time and want to thank the organizers and volunteers for a great race.

I was probably in the best shape in my life in 2005 and I'm trying to get back to that level of fitness.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Vancouver Sun Run is an ideal race for a newbie

2007 Vancouver Sun Run
Like I mentioned earlier, I've been a runner on and off again for a few years. As I reached the age of 40, my fitness, or lack thereof became a focus. I joined a gym and started running in earnest.

Before I joined the gym, I did make several annual attempts of getting into running. The Vancouver Sun Run is an annual event that attracts 50,000 runners/walkers. Each year the Vancouver Sun newspaper publishes training programs including one for beginner runners. And for several years in a row, I would join the throng of well intentioned January athletes and begin training only to abandon the idea a few weeks later.

Finally, in 2002, I stuck to the plan and ran my first Sun Run. Part of the difference from prior years was telling everybody that I planned to run the race. I have found that having a well defined goal helps with my motivation and commitment to running.

I finished in 1:01:37. I was happy with the result and being tantalizingly close to one hour provided the motivation to do it again the following year. I broke the 60 minute mark in 2003, finishing in 0:54:59. I've done it a couple more times since, finishing with times of 0:55:03 in 2005 and 0:52:33 in 2006.

I missed it last year due to a knee injury (that's a story in itself) and I will be skipping it this year since it's too close to my half marathon.

The Sun Run is Canada's largest race and ranks second in North America behind only Atlanta's Peachtree Road Race. It's a fun event and well organized. For many people it's too big, but for me it was the ideal way to get committed to running.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Snow day

I'm scheduled to run 9 miles today. It's snowing (yes, it's snowing in Vancouver in late March!) so I think I'll do my run indoors today. In fact, I do the majority of my running on a treadmill. I think that puts me in the minority among runners. From what I've read on various forums (Running Mania, Running Room, etc.), treadmills seem to be a last resort for many runners with a lot finding them extremely boring. I happen to prefer them for a few reasons:
  • It rains (and sometimes snows) a lot in Vancouver
  • I have difficulty maintaining my desired pace outdoors
  • It's a lot easier on my knee (I suffered from patello-femoral syndrome)
There's always seems to be great debate on whether running on a treadmill is equivalent to running outdoors. A lot of runners claim that running on a treadmill is easier than "real" running because of a lack of wind resistance and that to compensate you should add an incline of 1-2%. Others claim that the treadmill is doing much of the work for you with the moving belt. I'm in the other camp. I find that when I run outdoors, I run faster at the same effort level.

For my first half marathon, I almost exclusively trained indoors. But that was a mistake as my legs weren't ready for the pounding they took from running on a much harder surface. I'm wiser now and trying to mix things up and to get outside whenever the weather has been nice.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I am a Runner

I am a runner. Well, kind of. Over the years I have been an on-and-off-again runner. More on that in a later post but, right now, I'm definitely on again. I'm signed up for the BMO Vancouver Marathon (for the half) on May 4 and I'm well into my training with my long run of the week now up to 9 miles.

I'm hoping to use these blogs to chronicle my training journey and share some of the thought process of a (most definitely) non-elite runner whose support circle of friends and family just don't get it and can't comprehend why anybody would even want to contemplate running a full marathon.

Oh yeah, and since I live in Vancouver, anything regarding the Canucks is fair game but I don't really want to talk about them right now after that disaster of a game in Denver last night.