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

I have started tracking my training at 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


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.


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 ;-)


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.