Sunday, 31 July 2011

Laughing in the rain

Some random thoughts on the run-in to the Quebec City half marathon on August 28:
Since I found the Holy Grail of a sub-90 minute half marathon on May 29, something has changed. It seems that a comfortable pace for my long runs (sundays) and recovery runs (mondays) is about 20 seconds or more faster per km than it was before. There must have been something that really let go in my CPU after that race - perhaps in the knowledge that I could have done it even faster and barely felt tired right after.

Training seems more fun now too. A few times in the past month in Calgary, there have been heavy downpours. I've managed to miss them on sundays, but have got caught a couple of times. For a world-class sweater like me, it makes quite a difference in speed. It came down so hard on one of my monday, recovery runs that water was at least 3cm deep in the shallowest parts. Trying to avoid puddles having become irrelevant, I found myself laughing as I deliberately sprinted through the deeper stuff up to my ankles. All kinds of things probably underpin that episode.

In the meantime, when it's not raining, there are sunday runs with views like this:

Following my training plan for QC, I've made the sunday runs a touch longer, although the day after last sunday's long run my right thigh did feel a little tight. Monday's recovery run was done on the bike instead which worked well - "bike therapy" has always done the trick when it comes to soreness or injury. Keep it at 90 rpm and the legs think they're running and the lack of impact leads them to loosening up.

Today was supposed to be the longest run of all, but was the same distance as last sunday - 24.5km, though it was way hotter today so I'm satisfied that it acted as a longer run. It tops off peak mileage week - 4 weeks before the race:
12k easy run on monday (60 min bike instead).
20x 1min under 3:50/km on wed - ie hard running with 3:50 as minimum pace.
3x 10 min at 3:50 - 4:00/km on friday - same as 5k race pace, but 50% longer but with 3 minute breaks.
7.5k easy on saturday - should be 9k, but usually do this one on the bike after weights.
24.5k easy-ish on sunday.

Went to the hot springs in Banff on saturday - my first time to any hot spring ever. What an effect on a runner's legs! Hoping that now the kms will decrease, minor aches will fade away. All I need now is good running weather in QC. In Calgary back in May, I set my watch to pace me for 4:10-4:15 per km. Given how I felt at the end of that race, I'm probably going to set it for 4:07-4:12 and push for a strong time. I ordered a cheap mini-camcorder I hope to fix to a headband and have it rolling from start to finish, so if it arrives in time and works, the video ought to be great.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Stampede Road Race 5k report.

July 10, 2011. Time for a short one. I'm not that great at the shorter distances, the pace I'm capable of not much quicker than my half marathon pace. My training is pretty much geared to halves anyway. I still have no idea what speed I'm going at, so rely somewhat on my garmin to tell me. Before I had the garmin last year, I did a 5k in 20:15. Not a bad time, but the aim had been 20 minutes and I was like a fighter plane on afterburner for the first 2k, then running out of fuel having to glide in to land.
I did no taper for this race, just skipped the gym on thursday, shortened friday's run, and did a brief sprint the day before.
A-Chang took this from afar, somehow it looks like were talking about beer?
Getting to the finish line at the Glenmore track, I spotted a pair of feet I recognized. I'd exchanged a couple of facebook messages with Barefoot Neil, so said a quick hi. His blog is always a terrific read, and he was doing the 10k "naked". I need copious cushioning myself, due to being something of a heel striker and also running with my feet a little sideways, despite my best efforts.

Now, something went wrong in this race, though this time it wasn't down to me. There were 2 versions of the course map on the website, but the main clanger was the start time confusion. The website had the 10k down for an 8:00 start, 8:15 for the 5k. As is my habit though, I wanted to be early and watch the start of the 10k, then do some runs to get my heart rate up as it tends to spike at the start of races. Seeing 5k-ers lining up too, I asked the announcer who said all started together and that the website was updated. It was not, even at the time of writing this hours after the race. Boo! Perhaps trying to make things clear, the announcer at the start might have been telling everyone after I had asked. Although the speaker was turned up loud, however, it sounded like he was shouting through a pair of socks.
Rich, fresh from a sub-3 hour 11 min first time marathon was there supporting his better half. Perhaps he'd get a photo of me, seeing as A-Chang was at the 2.5 k mark, expecting me 15 minutes later. Pushing in Squeezing myself in at the front, I had to do an on the spot warm-up. My heart was ready for action when Mr. Muffle started to sound a little more excited and everyone shuffled forward. What seemed like a starter gun went off, then it was go. Most might have been expecting a horn, so a few even said "it's started" for reassurance.
Key for me was paying attention to my watch's pace alerts, above all not going too fast. Slight gradient for the first 1.5 or so km, and although going too quickly initially, I managed to not get too competitive and remember to go for time, not position. The free Stampede breakfast waiting at the finish should only enter my thoughts in the last km, just don't shout "pancakes" at the finish line.
Round the corner for the long "middle straight", and there was Rich camera in hand!
Great photo. I credit the photographer rather than the subject. My official photographer always does excellent work though.
Speaking of which, I was not able to see A-Chang early enough to give her a wave. She was still able to get off a couple of photos, unholstering the camera quickly (Stampede joke?). I turned my head towards the camera for as long as I could, eventually looking straight at another runner a few steps behind. Must've confused him a bit.
Wish someone had yelled "form check", look at my right foot!
Round the corner for the 3k sign, I sped up a touch, but found my lungs trying to expand to more than their actual size, lifting up higher in my chest. My breathing then got too quick, so I decided to wait a little longer. A few hundred metres after the 4k sign, there was a u-turn to do. With the running track in sight, though feeling breathless, now was the time to go for it. Before a turn to join the track, I overtook one guy looking to finish at an even pace. Up a grass bank, I did one more overtake, passing the second placed lady. 
It's great to finish on a track, and I went all out for that final 250 or so metres. "Here comes the winning lady!" said the announcer. She finished a few seconds in front.
Race pace graph, with finishing kick!
19:48 was my chip time, a PB by 27 seconds. I crossed the finish line out of breath, with my face feeling like it was the same colour as the track. The thought very briefly crossed my mind to lay down to get my breath back, for a touch of drama. I did the less diva-like hands on knees for a few seconds instead. It's quite exhilarating to push yourself to the absolute limit. Taking a bottle of water from a volunteer, I nodded as I was too out of breath to offer a "thanks".
Despite the short distance I was boiling over so half the bottle went over my head. I think I heard a chuckle or two.
My time got me 8th place overall out of 234. In my age group I was 4th, 40 seconds short of a medal (I felt tempted to take one of the Puma banners home instead). In a small irony, my time would've been good for 2nd in the younger 20-29 category - most of them were probably hung over. Still, can't complain about a PB and pancakes, sausages and scones afterward.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Calgary Half Marathon 2011

January 2011: the decision to push for a sub-1hr 30min time, something that I had deemed almost impossible in 2009 when I completed my first half in 1hr 46min 15sec. My main weapon? Books!
I would learn more about interval running and periodization later on. What mattered at the start of the year, I knew, was to build a good base. This meant throwing myself at the challenge of running in the Canadian winter, although that did have its compensations, such as the view on sundays. It mostly made up for the tedium of putting on 3 tops, 2 bottoms, running jacket, 3 (thin) pairs of gloves, neck gaiter, hat and balaclava.
"Running Anatomy" made it clear that more reps of lighter weights would help muscle endurance strength, along with balancing on the bosu ball. The balancing would work the lower leg more, enabling them to take on a fairer share of stabilizing work. I also took to doing As, Bs and Cs - drills that split the running action into 3 separate motions.
The foam roller would benefit also in loosening things up, my chiropractor added. I find that anything new in terms of resistance work takes around a month to kick in. Still, it made gym sessions a little less boring.

Nutrition and weight was another area I got to know much better. My weight had crept up a little by the start of the year. From the incomparable Roland I got key advice on attitude as much as food itself. "Mindful eating", taking one's time to feel just as full with less can work for anyone. Also, while this might scare some, I fasted on mondays. After sunday dinner I wouldn't eat again until monday dinner. Just water, tea and black coffee. Rather than just loosing weight through missing 2 meals, this encourages "metabolic flexability" which in effect means the body will access fat earlier as a matter of course. Not as tough as I had thought, the main thing was plenty of water to keep the stomach occupied.
"Performance nutrition for runners" expanded on some things I had previously read, but gave me 2 new pieces of key information. Firstly, you should train with a sports drink. The training effect will be much greater, I found this especially true for intervals - just take a sip during each recovery. I had previously treated gatorade as a special occasion drink, "race day, champagne!" Now I could do intervals without a dip in pace during the last few. The second thing I learned from this was what to do in the week, day, and morning of the race. More of that later, I'm trying to be chronological... 

As I mentioned in my Harvest Half report, I had a footpod to go with my Garmin. At the St Patrick's 10k 11 weeks prior though, it told me I'd run 10.7k. This was probably due to new shoes which had space under the insole for it, instead of a clip on top. I got 42:12 for that race, missing my PB by 44 seconds. At the same time though, I felt I lacked speed anyway so I decided to look at a training plan, that would have me peak at the right time - "periodization" this is called. Impact magazine had one that I adapted - it called for 5 runs a week. I had been doing 3, so I added one, plus an extra 45 minutes on the exercise bike after satuday weights. It was hard at times, especially sessions like 3 x 10 minute intervals at 5k race pace (my PB at the time was just over 20 minutes).
Because such plans are supposed to work you hard, and ease up just in time for the race, I wasn't really sure what effect it was having, save for a general feeling I was getting a little fitter. Funnily enough, it was during weight training that I noticed that the hip abductor and adductor machines (thigh push and thigh squeeze, if you will) were becoming increasingly easy. "Your stabilser muscles are gaining strength," my chiropractor told me. Something had changing then.

24 hours to go:  Having followed the training plan and its taper, the day before was all about the "loading plan" mentioned above. First of all, the workout. 2 1/2 minutes at one mile race pace followed by a 30 second sprint. I didn't exactly sprint those last 30 seconds, but close enough. I call it the "3 minute murder". Doing this the day before a race after having tapered, according to Australian research, leads to "supercompensation". The body in a way panics and stocks the muscles with even more glycogen than usual as more strenuous demands on it are anticipated.
The workout is done first thing in the morning. The rest of the day is spent taking on board lots of carbs. Post workout I drank 2 bottles of gatorade with a little whey protein mixed in. Breakfast itself was a bowl of cereal and orange juice. Then the mid-morning snack of a banana and a bottle of ensure, a meal replacement drink. Lunch: nutella sandwich, garden salad and apple juice. Mid-afternoon snack: an apple and another ensure. Pre-dinner snack was another bottle of gatorade. Dinner: noodles with assorted vegetables and an apple juice. Finally the evening snack of a power bar and an ensure. Notice no meat? Too many calories.
It was late afternoon that I started to get a touch anxious. The buildup to this had lasted months. I decided to lay out everything I would need. I even put my clothes in a pile in the order in which I should put them on. While doing this, I rationalized my chances of success: My PB, 1hr 33min 36sec had been set on a hilly course and this one was largely flat. I was leaner now, stronger, and injury-free since the start of the year. Good thoughts to take to bed at 8:30.

Raceday: Waking up at 4am, I chirped "race day, race day!", camp fashion. One slice of bread with nutella, 2 bananas, 2 ensure and a cup of coffee later, A-Chang and I were on our way. I'd remembered to "go" both before leaving home and at the venue, so as to avoid "going" during the race like last year's full marathon.
Copious rain in the days prior had left everything looking very bright and green. 4 degrees and no clouds, perfect race conditions.
I met up with Rich from work, who while preparing for the Seattle marathon wanted to go for the 90 as long as he felt ok during the race. He's busy plotting in the above pic. Apparently, my relaxed demenour at the startline relaxed him too.
Ready to roll, the countdown seemed to stop at 3 when the horn sounded, one guy having to virtualy dive out of the way to avoid getting flattened.
Why is no-one else smiling?
Going with the quick starting pace is the only real option in dealing with the chaos. One guy chopped diagonally from right to left after the first corner, setting a record for the most runners simultaneously upset by just one. My watch's pace alerts were set for between 4:10 and 4:15. The first km was done in 3:57, so I then made a point of slowing. Rich pulled up alongside having got separated in the mellee. The general plan was to stick within my watch's paceband. Things would be looking good, I felt, if the pace was manageable after 20 minutes. Another "checkpoint" would be at the 10k mark at the start of the westward section of Memorial Drive, then at the u-turn back again at around 14k.
At the first drink station - they were every 3km - several runners up ahead slowed for a drink and didn't start back running again. If I had seen that before I certainly don't remember. I had my own 2 bottles on my drink belt as I didn't want to slow down. I was taking a sip at around 5k when I heard in the distance the first of the "neighbourhood cheer squads" just after the Stampede grounds. "They know we're coming," I said to Rich. I flashed a victory V at the cheerers, then at the next squad around the corner.
17th avenue had a fun atmosphere, and I felt relaxed cruising along the "red mile". Having run and driven on it countless times, I found myself instinctively avoiding known bumps in the road.
10k, and I remember my watch saying 42 minutes, 12 seconds faster than my St Patrick's 10k time 10 weeks earlier. 30 seconds ahead of schedule. Up and over the Crowchild overpass (above), there was a slight wind. The other side, the 3 leaders came past the other way, about 3k ahead. They were 2 African runners and a causasian, leading me to joke with Rich "guess who's finishing 3rd?" Cheeky of me I know, but it turns out I was correct. The leading lady, by herself, followed around 5 minutes later. She looked extremely small and lean.
At the turnaround, and Memorial Drive was a slight downhill with a slight following wind. Speaking of which, it was around the Crowchild underpass that the previous day's garden salad made its presence felt, in the key of c#. "There you go," said Rich. Was he expecting it?
Getting to 14th street, one slow moving guy we were about to overtake got competitive and sped-up. He dropped off a couple of km later. Going the opposite way from those just joining Memorial from the 14th street bridge, we seemed to get admiring glances from runners who must've taken Rich and me for the overall leaders. I gave a couple of girls a cheesy grin, making them laugh. "Don't tell me wife," I said to Rich.
Seconds later, we passed the turnaround for the 10k race. Starting 30 minutes after the marathon and half, we would pass people taking 60 to 90 minutes to do that distance. That's a lot of people. There was a traffic barrier between us at first, when this finished, there were cones and a sign saying 10k-ers on the left, marathoners on the right. There were no further signs, however, and predictably many of them started wandering. I made sure to pull out early to overtake, which was just as well as there were many who would break into an instant walk with no warning at all.  
At the 20km sign, we were about 40 seconds ahead. The course left Memorial drive, and there was a 100 metre stretch only closed to traffic in one direction. It was like a slalom course for this stretch, exhausted and slow 10k-ers randomly positioned and in places blocking the course completely. I said to Rich that it shouldn't come down to race between the two of us. After turning the corner to more open road again, there was one last hill. Rich was a few metres ahead, so I thought I should draw level. It seemed like a bit of a race was happening afterall, or perhaps just excitement. I came close to yelling "charge!"
A-Chang had already had her phone call, and I turned the final corner, crossing one of the timing mats which prompted my name to be announced. As can be seen in the pacing chart below, my fastest pace came at the end. Crazy runner's high!
 Seeing the clock still saying 1 hour 28-something, I flailed my arms in the air like a loony and finished with a gun time of 1 hour, 29 minutes, 0 seconds. "Chip time" was later given as 1.28:56.
As I said in a facebook post, "I could just break into a Bollywood dance number!" The preparation and planning had gone so well that I had beaten my previous PB by 4:40, one minute ahead of target. It had all been months in the making.  
Apparently wishing he had joined us, Superfast-Scott(TM) did the 10k in under 39 minutes. Perhaps the 3 of us will all do the Harvest Half together. I wonder if I can sub-90 that one?
62nd out of 2,965 finishers I came in at. Not a very dramatic race (unlike those before), but one that went almost perfectly. The revelation afterwards is that I could've gone quicker. I didn't feel tired - no burning quads or aches, just slightly stiff. Nothing that a few stretches on the train wouldn't solve.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Harvest Half Marathon 2010 race report

October 2, 2010: This race was nearly over before it began. Having run myself into the ground with too many races in the summer, and coupled with - in hindsight - ill-suited shoes, I had had ITB trouble that had made it painful to run. In "exercise bike exile" for several weeks, I had just about got myself into a pain free state. I guessed that my fitness had taken a dive due to the lack of training kms.

First of all, I lost my race number after picking up my package. I walked all the way back to the store having got on the train and realized I'd lost it. On my way back to the train, there it was sitting next to a drain. Like I'd found a bar of gold, I held it up high grinning "I've got it". I would now be running with a footprint on my number.
All this got me in a relaxed frame of mind. I now had a footpod to go with my Garmin FR60, so could pace myself. I had printed wristbands again. I set my watch to pace me from beating last year's time (1.38:07) to a half-marathon overall PB (1.34:05). No pressure, as I was genuinely expecting strong discomfort or hitting the wall within 5km.

 At least this would be the first race I had done twice, so it didn't matter when my body glide disintegrated.
 Enjoy the beautiful day, I thought, and say hi to the rabbits.
 What surprised me was the number of people who hadn't read the weather forecast and were dressed for the temperature as it had stood before sunrise. 10 minutes in and they would realize this to be a mistake.

A frantic but bump free start ensued, and I pretty much stayed with the leaders. After passing between 2 large rocks and a 90 degree left about 1km in, I checked my speed and let 3 or 4 runners pull ahead. The early hill seemed easier than last year, allowing the thought to enter my mind that this might be a good day. All was well even hammering down the gravel hill into Fish Creek park.
 The undulations had some guy in odd Under Armour tights and muscle shirt passing me, then slowing up again. "Clothes like that? Break him" I told myself, consciously increasing the pace for the first time on about the 8km mark.
Halfway, and I was about 30 seconds inside PB pace. Going strong. I needed the pacing function on my watch though. I found myself slipstreaming a guy in red for a couple of minutes when the "pace low" warning sounded. As I went past, I could hear somewhat laboured breathing from him.
At km15, I was still ahead and now increasingly surprised. As I passed a spectator I said out loud, "where's this coming from?" "What?"
Sikome Lake hill time. Gradually overtaking another runner I said, "I love this hill." "Not!" was the gasping reply. It really costs a lot of time, that hill. From being 40 seconds inside my PB, I arrived at the km18 marker about 25 seconds down.

Not far from home though, my "extra-time team talk" with myself was that I could now safely go for it and see what happens. If the PB doesn't come, you've still run a good race considering. Km19 sign and the deficit was 15 seconds. "Pace high" said my watch, which I now ignored. Through the twisty paths just before the end, I can't remember passing the km20 marker, just picking up more speed.
I crossed the line in 1.33:36, a PB by 29 seconds. No burning quads at the end either. "Give me a flat course, and the 90 minute barrier can be broken" I dreamed.
Back in the Midnapore community centre, I was astonished to see my name on the first results page. "14th?!" I shrieked in an extremely high voice. Just a great feeling to put in another against the odds performance.

K-100 2010 report

June 20, 2010:

There's epic, and there's the K-100. I had thought that only my run would be the exciting part, but it's such a logistical operation that it keeps you occupied the entire time, and you get pretty pumped cheering for your teammates. A-Chang stayed at home because I said she'd get bored. Next time I'll bring her along. I took her pink camera with me ("it's my wife's") to take in the race and a bit of scenery.
From Longview to Nakiska, this 160km relay is split into 10 legs and takes in the highest paved raod in Canada. It seemed like even my car was short of breath.

It was here that leg 5 finished, with Darren pleased to hand over to Erin (all of us work at the same place). She had an all downhill leg, but not as easy as it sounds - slightly downhill is easy, but there is such a thing as too steep.

Before I knew it it was my turn. My car would be driven to the end of my leg, weird as it was to see my own car driving past me. Every leg was sunny and it was pretty hot that day. A little clue as to what snook up on me is above my head here. I stood still for this one, but this blog's main picture was taken in full flight.
To backtrack a touch, it was sunny when I started my leg. Then as the valley narrowed, the sun went in. "Less sweating, good." I said. The guy I overtook with no shirt on would surely be pleased too. 5 minutes further on while climbing the clouds seemed to get within touching distance. Drizzle. Only a bit of water I said. Rain. Once I said "nooo" out loud it came down very hard. No choice but to keep going. I was completely drenched.
A teammate saved my life by handing me an extra shirt, longsleeve, to wear. Another few km on - my leg was 16.5 long - the valley widened and I was now going mostly downhill. The deluge abated, I took off the longsleeve and dried out in a couple of minutes. Thanks technical gear! This brief wintery weather caught me unprepared for one of every runner's least favourite afflictions, bloody nipple. Sprinting the last downhill part, I quickly found my way to a sink after handing over to Mary. Cold water and scrubbing very soon after gets it all out!

Now acting as Mary's support car, I was able to stop to get a reasonable photo that shows it still to largely be a road race.

 The last 2 legs are cross-country, and the mud was tough for me to walk in, not ready for trails yet. Save the best for last as they say, and it was Scott who did leg 10. I believe he finished top 10 for his leg, I was about 30th in mine. I'd only done the marathon 3 weeks before, so no complaints. We came in 9th out of 48 corporate teams, so extra pleased all round.

 It's certainly a beautiful part of the world, the drive home also being a pleasure, what could be better than this view?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Calgary Marathon 2010

May 30, 2010.
I'll say it upfront: I finished in 3hrs, 29mins, 56secs. My aim was 3 1/2 hours, so that number looks like the perfectly executed race. Read on...

Preparation, if that's the right word, consisted of me only doing one thing different from my weekly running. Hearing somewhere that I should do a 3 hour run 3 weeks before, I did. After 2 hours, I had to loosen my shoelaces 3 times as my feet were swelling up. So I also heard that taking advil would help. Some say take 1 before the start, others say 2 halfway through, then another 2 at 3/4 distance.
I did a taper of sorts in the week leading up, ate a little more, then really went to town on that old wives' tale and had a huge bowl of beef tortellini the evening before. All the above added up to getting me into the shape below:

Left home at 5am as the year before. Damp cold this time, so the blue gloves again. My aim was 3hrs 30mins, which would mean matching the previous year's half marathon pace. I found a feature on called "pace bands", which you can print off after entering your target time. It states what your total time should be at each km, useful tool for anyone wanting to keep a set pace. A-Chang stood on the left of the course, so as to get a head-start on the dash to Starbucks.
Who is the guy on the right, that's a genius pose for the camera.
One touch lesson I learned for this race: Have a bathroom break before leaving home and at the event start. I only went at the event start, and there was more, erm, left. Even if you don't need to go, take a "CC" to make sure anyway. CC stands for "confidence crap". Once the race was underway, things went well, first km was as expected, way too quick, upon which I dialed the pace down. After about km 4, I felt movement rumblings. Oh s***. As it happened, I had been comfortably going 10-15 seconds per km quicker than goal pace, so had a couple of minutes in hand when I decided at km12 to use the porta-potty at the roadside drink station. This wasn't going to hold for another 2+ hours, I reasoned, plus the stop is at the bottom of Shaganappi Trail, the course's major (though not all that tough) hill. While doing my business, I knew I wasn't the only one when I heard some loud steps, the next door slam and a muffled "damnit!"
There will be no more problems from here on, was my firm, errant belief. Anyway, up the hill, and past Market Mall for the first time at around km20, the leaders came past the other way, about 8km ahead. 2nd place looked a bit like one of those alien photos with his shaved head and orange compression socks.
It had got pretty quiet by now as the half-ers had long since turned around - there were 3 times as many of them. It was quiet enough to remember a rabbit running across in front of me, giving applause to a steel band, and a high school kid doing violin practice on his front garden as I went past.

Varsity is not a neighbourhood I know all that well, and it was here that my feet started to swell. 2 advil, and I felt my feet deflate a bit. After this, and just before Market Mall again, I got to 27km which was the furthest I'd ever run. Only 15 more. "What a bloody long way to run" I said, as the crowd of runners passing Market Mall for the first time in the opposite direction from me got quite thick.

As I descended Shaganappi Trail, last place was coming up it, followed by a police car. Shortly after, I overtook the 2 last placed half-ers, followed by 2 officials on bikes. They were smoking. The 2 runners, that is.
By now, at around km30, my legs were starting to feel empty, running more on momentum than energy. Countdown the bridges. Crowchild. Pedestrian bridge. 14th. 10th. C-train. Prince's Island. Centre Street. Edmonton Trail.
It was between 10th and the c-train bridge, around 30 seconds ahead of schedule that my right hamstring suddenly got shorter and my right foot nearly kicked up into my backside. A few quiet "ouch"s, and straightening it, I hobbled to the roadside. I did several angry stretches, then a deep breath and made myself break out of a too tempting walk. I had to run with my right leg straight, like a cliched pirate. A couple of hundred metres later, and it just relaxed so normal running could restart. A medic on a bike pulled alongside, "how you doin'?" "Good" I said, somehow smiling at the same time.
Last drink station, and as I drank this last cup of gatorade, my brain told me that it was going through my stomach and trickling into my muscles. Weird. Must've been part imagination, part muscle fatigue.
With 2km left, I phoned A-Chang. She had apparently won her race to Starbucks, found an armchair, then dozed off. My phonecall woke her up. The finish line wouldn't be too crowded by this time though.

I was now roughly 40 seconds behind, so decided I was going to still achieve my aim despite all that had gone before. Now then, some people might say "come on" to themselves or something like that. Not me. No, for some reason my internal mp3 played the end music from Top Gun, voiced over by Yoda telling me, "Do or do not. There is no try." Something in that last gatorade perhaps.

I overtook a couple of runners at the end, and I recall grunting on the finish straight as I saw the clock.
It was satisfying therefore to have clawed back time lost from mistakes made, something I hadn't done in a running race before. All this at my first attempt at the "king of distance races".

One final tip I acted on was to avoid sitting down staight after finishing. Junk food never tasted so good once I finally did. 

Police Half Marathon 2010

April 25, 2010 and the snow had just about melted. Getting ahead of myself, I decided to shoot for 1 hour 30 minutes.
 It was another one of those can't-decide-what-to-wear races. The hat wasn't needed long.
 Just in case any MRC students were still asleep, it started with a police car leading the way, lights and siren. One of A-Chang's family friends studies here, and she said hi as I passed her after starting. It took only a couple of km to realize that this course was up and down, far more than just the notorious Glenmore landing hill which comes at 2/3 distance.
I had printed a list of target times for each km, but it got sweatier each time I looked at it. An amusing distraction from the realization I wasn't going to get my 90 minutes this time were the improvised pitstops a few were taking in the trees - men taking advantage of being men.
To the hill then. First of all there was a tricky downhill section with some sharp corners, flat for a few km, then uphill to the unwelcome sound of bagpipes at the top. Thanks to the trainer halfway up who was telling people to swing their arms more to get up the hill more easily - it works.

After this is what I was told was a false flat. I was slowing down despite my best efforts, and feeling a little breathless. An estimated finish time of now 1.31 quickly became 1.32, then 1.33. 2km from the end and then came then burning quads and the feeling that only momentum was keeping me going. I wasn't even able to find a couple of seconds to avoid a 1.34.
A-Chang and pal were late getting back to the finish from the college dorms behind, so this is me a couple of hundred metres before. 1.34:02 was still a PB by 4 minutes, so no complaints overall especially with 86th place out of 1,829.

St Patrick's 10 K March 2010

Injury back story: In January, I badly twisted my foot getting off a bus. Coming back from this took a while. By early February, my chiropractor allowed me to start up again on the treadmill. I can't stand treadmills, to me it's fake running, and I think I'm going to fall off. "No corners!" I was ordered, so treadmill it was. Do 5 minutes, then 2 minute walk and see how it feels, then repeat. After the first one, I asked myself how I was, and the answer was "fine". At that moment, my phone being on shuffle decided to play Handel's Messiah. I laughed LOUD at the sound of the first "hallelujah!", getting some odd looks from others walking past.

Onto the race: cold, but not quite enough to stop me going in shorts. It was the competitive debut of my Adidas hat, bought in San Francisco of all places.
One thing I remember at the start line was a tatoo on the calf of the guy in front of a set of burning golf clubs and the years 1988-1997 (I think). I somehow thought I'd go for a sub-40 minute time, but having got bumped at the started this only lasted the first 2k. Shortly after, I grabbed water from one of the stations - very cold! I couldn't get my pace all the way up again. It was a fun event nonetheless, a PB of 41:28 which got me 56th place out of 653. Rather pleased as per the blurry photo below, a second "hallelujah!"

Harvest Half Marathon 2009

October 3, 2009

My second half marathon. It was going to be cold, so I hastliy bought a couple of items, though I then looked like a mime artist.

There was snow coming down on the way there, though it magically stopped before the horn sounded. It was one of those races where I had 2 aims: sub-1hr 40min, or failing that, any PB (1hr 46min, 15sec).

I must have started a way down the order as I found myself quickly flying past quite a few people - surprising because I still thought of myself as very slow. Got to an early hill near Fish Creek c-train station and didn't feel tired at the top, but the "false flat" nature of the part after was more energy-sapping.
Plunging down into Fish Creek Park almost literally, there were numerous later mini-ups and downs leading to a comedy of pass/ re-pass of several people due to my caution heading downhill.
More challenging for me was the math - 4:45 per km. I would multiply the distance by 5, then the distance by 15 and subtract the two numbers. It seemed to take a whole km to work it out - who thought of 60 seconds to a minute? At the halfway sign though I knew for a fact that I was on course for about 1.40, despite having a shoe lace come undone - could've sworn I've double knotted without fail since the age of 4.
Between Macleod Trail and Sikome Lake hill was some 6 or so km, though this did seem longer. Heat wise I was doing fine, though when that hill came into view it made for a daunting sight when I correctly guessed the race route was going around it. Having got to the top without stopping (don't ask me how), this time the burning quads only came right at the end. Still, I finished in 1.38:07 and didn't mind at all knocking 8 minutes off my PB, 49th place.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The first race

May 31, 2009.
I had registered for the Calgary Half Marathon the previous year. It had been a case of "I could do that". This had been in doubt for the month leading up as I had developed ITB syndrome (links backside to the knee on the outside of the leg) 4 weeks before. Staying on the bike for 2 weeks helped it go away, but in my first run back it happened again. Only hope was to stick to the bike again and hope come race day.

I set myself a target of 5 minutes per kilometre as it was a good round number my math skills could cope with. Left home at 5am with A-Chang (my wife) and was at the start line by about 6:10.

(behind the guy in the bandana)
I'd never worn a dry-wear running shirt before, so wore the official one (most don't I've learned). I was amazed at how well it worked even with the amount I sweat. One less thing to worry about.
First km I did in 4:30 as I was just flying along with those at the front whom I started with. "Slow down" I said. Somehow I did the next one in around 4:20.
I got the pace under control, but then the "sequence" started. Soreness above the knee, becoming tight just below the hip, however after turning off 17th avenue and still thinking about the novelty of having run in the middle of the road on Calgary's main bar street, it seemed to vanish. After getting onto Memorial Drive at around the 10km mark, the leader came back the other way 6km ahead. "Turn around and you'll only finish 10 minutes behind" said one. "Cheat" said another, might have been me who said that.
After the turnaround, I found myself a little behind schedule, so I sped up and re-passed about 20 or so surprised runners. It was then when I started feeling "burning quads" as I call them - no energy left in the muscles which then start to break themselves down for energy. Lactic acid?
Anyhow, I phoned A-Chang with 2km to go as arranged - she was just leaving Starbucks with JL from work who had never met her. I left a message on her voicemail before the race that A-Chang had her hood up with shades on and looked like the Unabomber. I was made to wait a few seconds for an ambulance to go past, presumably to see to an out of breath runner I had seen being tended to by volunteers a few minutes before.
Finished in 1.46:15, in 410th place out of 2,846.

The ITB seemed to have forgotten itself, which was fine by me. Still, I went to my chiropractor about it and started a long running series of "leg work", in contrast to the previous years of "fat guy with bad back"!