Thursday, 26 July 2012

Mud Hero!

And now for something completely different. It's times like this when I really enjoy being fit and healthy, doing a fun event and not even having to think about being worn-out. Then again, no-one was thinking about that anyway, regardless of the shape they were in. Still, all who turned up truly know what fun is, and really it isn't about stuffing your face or drinking loads. All events are fun to me, though I also take them seriously and get the best time I possibly can on the day. Today wasn't about time at all. To my delight, I managed to talk my wife A-Chang into doing this (blue top). We were joined by Joy (crimson top) and Matthew (white t-shirt, glasses), as deliciously bonkers as us, and the 5,000 or so others.
If we do this again, we should get a mad uniform to wear, an idea we got from the "dirty bitches" at the start line. "A Touch of the Muddy Runs" perhaps. Either that or "Muddy, Not Touching Cloth". "Brown Moments" is maybe the best I can think of.
The course was said to be roughly 6km long with 15 obstacles. It turned out that quite a few obstacles were grouped quite closely together, so there was a fair bit of trail running, especially at the very start. The bottle of G2 I`d brought with me was done pretty fast.
First obstacle was an over, under set-up.
Then came a climbing wall. I tried the "hard" part with a rope, reached too early for the ledge, then let go when I got a mild bit of rope burn. So I went up the easy part after A-Chang.
A quick crawl under a cargo net on soft grass, then a sprint to the river. A-Chang seemingly tried to wash off all mudsplashes, which would later prove futile.
A crawl over a cargo net.
Then a splash right through some deep watery mud. I just walked right through it, and my feet stayed perfectly dry. I was wearing my Salomons which I'd bought for winter, but only needed to use twice before this day, snow barely got deep enough and I usually stick to roads. This might even have been my first off-road run since school cross-country runs which were usually forced marches.
A climb over a really big cargo net. I paused at the top, trying to work out how to get my feet facing inwards for the journey down. A-Chang was really quick over this, climbing being a childhood skill learned from climbing out of her bedroom window to go exploring so she said. Never caught.
A fireman's pole, nice and slow to avoid friction burn. After this there was the uphill tyre run, "spiderweb" and then "deep woods" - up and down hill logs to jump over. Quite a long section of trail and a touch underwhelming. This is more running than A-Chang had ever done, so she said, so we walked for a bit. A couple of times she sped up, though I said I was fine with conserving energy.
On the home strech, I charged up the car ramp, and jumped down cautiously.
Next was a slide, which was rather hot on landing. Following A-Chang up, I went a little fast and ending up giving her, ahem, a helping hand.
Finally, the mud crawl. I thought we all looked a bit too clean. I'll confess to being a bit of a sissy and trying not to get too far in. I was also trying to not get mud near the camera and not be able to get all these screen-grabs you now see.
A brief roar, then finished. Matthew and Joy had been close behind a few others, so got comprehensively splashed. I've seen photos of others trying to do the backstroke.
The "Hero Shower" was actually a water truck. I laid the headcam down on one of its steps, whereupon it captured the most priceless footage of the day.
A-Chang, who enjoys hot-springs and high temperatures, knew she had to get the mud off. She also knew she would have to counter-intuitively get sprayed by ice-cold water from a fire hose. She is a very tough minded lady, though at this point she was squeeling and bouncing around. All were laughing, or trying not to make it look like they were. At one point I gave out a pantomime "quiet!" I heard that they ran out later, and were sending people to the river. We were in the first wave, without a doubt the way to go, as we missed the traffic too.
Adjusting the camera, below, are the only shots of me between finish and hose-down.
An unforgetable day, above all I was glad to have A-Chang right there with me. It makes a change from her merely being my race-day support.

Overall then, what is one to make of this event, and others like it? I find road racing a thrill, but it might seem too "serious" for many. This has some running, but also tests agility and thinking on one's feet. In a sense too, it permits grown-adults to challenge themselves to have fun and get muddy with almost child-like abandon. There is a time and a place for doing that, and this was it - a life-affirming experience that appeals to the best in one's nature. At least, that's what it meant to me.

So,  for more of the above, check out the video :)

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Marathon lessons learned & next training plan

"Every race is basically an experiment," my chiropractor said during my treatment session a couple of days after the marathon. Talking about the race then was the start of my post-race analysis and planning for future training. 7 weeks on, and one week from starting my next training plan, I've come to a few conclusions. Anyone looking for an action packed, witty post, please avert your eyes now.

While I'm never going to complain about knocking 9 minutes off my PB, I had been aiming for 3:10 and didn't reach it, despite my other PBs suggesting I'm capable of 3:05 (MacMillan calculator). So what went wrong and what should I do differently in the lead up to the California International Marathon on December 2 (with the Harvest Half on September 29th)?

-I should take it easy in the week after a race. The day after the spring trio 10k in April, I went for an easy run and my right inner thigh (looking at a diagram either the pectineus or gracilis) tightened. It had actually felt a little tight after that race, and in my elation at breaking the 40 minute barrier I gota bit carried away. Speed work was then done on the bike which effectively compromised my training. 

-This leads me to speed work. Speed intervals are the training runs that make me most vulnerable to injury. These are the short, sub-5k pace intervals that I usually do on wednesdays. A 10k race can be troublesome as I do it at almost the same pace as a 5k. I'm going to mix in some hill work for extra strength at the start to build a little more strength and also as an alternative to speed runs with similar effect (i.e. less exposure to them and kinder on the legs).
After the Harvest Half, there are 8 weeks until the CIM. The second half I will do long tempos - marathon pace or slightly quicker for the whole run - instead of speed intervals. This should, I believe, help build more endurance and perhaps even reduce my tendancy to go too fast at the start of a race. 
- I lacked raw endurance training going into the marathon. My sunday long runs should be longer, and there should be more of them. The tempos mentioned just above should also help with this.
This is my training plan covering July 23 to December 2:

Other observations:

-I'm a "salty sweater". I always knew I sweated a lot, but the way I thundered to a halt several times in the marathon then found my legs again after a spectator gave me some salt suggests to me that during a full marathon I need evev more electrolytes than gatorade has. The way I grabbed all the gatorade I could at aid stations suggests I might have had a touch of hyponatremia (low electrolyte to fluid balance). For runs over 20k then, I plan to experiment with various supplements such as salt tablets. Time to hit the specialist running stores.

-Quad/ hamstring imbalance. A classic runner's problem so I've heard. The main engine room is the front of the leg, with the rear stabilizing them and also pushing the leg forward after toe-off. On my tuesday and thursday weight sessions I've added 5lbs to the hamstring curl, and now also do dumbbell squats. In addition, I've also decided to replace the saturday static weights with a free-weight routine I found in Impact Magazine. I've attached the 3 pages below. I've tried it once, and my arse was well and truly self-kicked. I'll need to build up the number of reps in each set. It should also help with core strength. I work on that a little extra too, joining my wife in a home work-out between 1 and 3 times a week.
A lot of plans I read don't even mention weight training - it's as if a lot of athletes don't do it. That's not really true, is it?
Anyhow, that's my plan for PBs in the half and full marathons this year. I'd love to hear some suggestions.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Standing Mile

I made my way to the Foothills track this morning to check my watch footpod calibration. The ground staff put out those annoying barriers which block the first 2 lanes, making the turn in to each corner wide. After 5 laps, my watch said 100 metres over, so I told it I'd done 2,050. I still couldn't conculsively say the Stampede 5k was long or accurately measured, though I suspect it's still long. I'll leave my PB where it is, and perhaps I can aim for the "5k split" - 19:13 - next 5k race I do (most likely next year).

Having seen Roger Bannister on TV watching the Olympic flame, I thought I'd give myself a time trial over the standing mile as my training schedule for the rest of the year doesn't start for another 10 days.
The likes of me don't do track races - the shortest is 5k. There's a 3k fun run here and there in the autumn in Calgary I believe, so I might do one of those out of curiosity. Anyone else get curious about things like this? When I was 3, I dismantled a shop window shoe display because I was curious to see how it would collapse. Fast forward a few decades to an era where people wear less orange and purple, I wanted to see how I would make myself collapse doing a standing mile. Sort of. Anyhow, here began a self-timed time trial. I even found myself feeling a little pumped up, similar to the startline at a race.  

I was sharing the track with a few college athletes doing their warm-ups. A few odd looks from them, that and the barriers makes me prefer the Glenmore track where last week's Stampede race finished.
The first lap (of 4+ 9 metres - there's a line just before the start line that marks this) was done in just under 1:20, though I doubted I could substain this. I tried to concentrate on technique/ form, but pure speed-induced fatigue simply blurs the thinking. Endurance induced fatigue is different for me - with a little determination, it's possible to talk myself into doing it more or less right. As a last resort I'll even say "initiating manual override!" or something else perfectly reasonable.
My 1k split was 3:17.40, which I'll call a PB until I get round to doing a standing kilometre test. I'd like to think I dipped at the line, but it was more like a diagonal nod/ drunken Bollywood head tilt accompanied by a noise best spellt as "haruthooorh". My time was 5:45.78, just over 50% slower than the world record as my other PBs are.

So now I know. Next Sunday (22nd) my wife and I are going to do the Mud Hero obstacle race. Can't wait for that! It will also mark the end of my post-marathon period and start of training for the Harvest Half Marathon in September and California International Marathon (in Sacramento) in December. As one of my favourite lines goes, "running is awesome!"

Monday, 9 July 2012

Stampede Road Race 5k report

It doesn't get hot in Calgary. At the height of summer, it gets warm in the afternoon at the most. Not today. Thankfully given the heat, my world salt-shortage inducing levels of sweating were only going to be on display for the 5k.
Good thing too, as determined to wear a Canada top, the only one I'd been able to find was a cotton one. While Athletics Canada does sell very nice singlets, they are constantly out of stock. To complete my fashion inventory, I was wearing new Lululemon running shorts. Extremely light and airy, they are almost worth the hefty price. I digress, though "fashion consultant" is one of my wife's roles in my racing.
Lining up, I got talking to  a high school student visiting from Kingston Ontario (I think with his Dad). Asking me my backstory and age, as soon as I got to the losing weight, and running for 3 years part, he said "oh, high five!"
Having known what the weather would be - day high of 31, and already 17 and rising with a strong sun at 8am, I'd set my aim for this race a week ago. A sub-20 was my mission, and I considered a PB (19:25) unlikely.
Before that though was the entertainment provided by a half- marathoner who had arrived late - it started half an hour earlier. He came tearing down, vaulted some equipment like a showjump horse, ducked under the cordon and went over the timing mat to start his day.
A bit of banter at the startline - "start with your left foot first so you don't set off the timing mat..."
A nice bump-free start and a left turn. The air felt very warm, little cooling effect. More like opening a fan-assisted oven.
There was an incline from 0.5k to 1k, which felt tough without cooler air, despite not having been going long enough to start sweating.
I had half a bottle of gatorade with me, placebo effect mostly for this distance, though I really felt I needed it. There was a water station before the 2k mark (doubling as last water station for the 10k). Shortly after this I could feel my breath getting heavier, so would stick within the pace parameters set on my watch. My form seems to have suffered here too, with the headcam picture getting noticeably shakier. The distance markers and my watch were not in sync - last year I had wondered about the measurements too. More on that in a bit, there's a race to finish :)
A-Chang spotted me coming down the long straight from km2 to km3 from a long way off. "My distinctive attire?" I asked afterwards. "No, the way you run."
Form check! My running style had become a flail already.
Thanks to Kristy for the shot below. It's both flattering and shows how fatigued I was getting. Kristy was filling in the time waiting for the never-knowingly unenthusiastic Rich who was braving the 1/2 marathon.
Taking my mind of that was the F-18 which flew overhead a couple of times.
After that I backed off a touch to try to recover slightly. It worked to an extent, though I did get passed by a couple of people. The only change to this year's course was the extra loop went in a different direction. It was quite a bit tighter than the one last year. In an effort to make the course 5k, it was probably over-extended. Picking up the pace again was a struggle, my watch beeping to tell me I was at the right speed only after about 20 seconds.
To my surprise and delight, Kristy was in a great spot to capture me as the course joins the last 300 metres of the Glenmore track. Rich would be along later, defying the weather and clocking just under 1 hour 31 min.
I am panting like a dog in this shot, feeling quite close to exhaustion.
Half way around the final bend, my watch said I'd done 5k already. While it's easy to claim the course is long, for the Calgary marathon it was only slightly more off. I'll be checking my watch at the track soon to find out either way.
5k or 5.14k, I still wanted to have a sub-20 on the official results. The home straight revealed the official clock giving me a chance of beating last year's time. I managed to up the pace a little and close the gap to a couple of guys who'd overtaken me previously. Not a huge kick as can be seen below, but it got me a 19:46, 2 seconds inside last year's effort.
That final straight had me looking up quite a bit, trying to suck in just a little more oxygen.
12th overall out of 304. I was 4th in my age group - for the sceond year running. No matter really, having medalled my first 2 races this year anyway.
My splits as can be seen below, show me at 19:13 after 5k, which would be a PB by 12 seconds. I'll believe it when I double-check my watch. If it turns out to be true, I'm still likely to enter next year, just assuming it to be a long course worthy of the challenge.

At the end as always was A-Chang, indulging this passion of mine. We had the pancake breakfast, and now have the Mud Hero obstacle race in 2 weeks to look forward to - we'll be doing this one together. Fun will be had.

Here's the headcam vid, thought I'd go with a marriage concept - enjoy!