Thursday, 30 May 2013

Calgary Half Marathon 2013, a PB despite the melodrama :)

So, the plan: seeing as my PB of 1:26:48 was set on a hilly course (Harvest Half last September), I decided to pace myself for a 1:26:00. However, any PB would do, and if not that I feel that a half has gone well if I can add to my collection of sub-90 minute performances.

In direct contrast with California in December, race day took place in a good weather window after heavy rain for the previous 3 days. Slightly chilly at sunrise, newcomers were easily spotted: dressed appropriately for standing still at the start line at 6:45am. They would all be literally wearing their regret later.
There was some kind of Zumba dance at the start line - one of the group came up to me to dance a bit, and all I needed was 3 seconds to show why I'm a runner. 
There were 4 or 5 Kenyans who do this race, I took a few steps back from Kip Kangogo (won the half) and Bernard Onsare (won the full) so as not to get in their way. Compact yet lanky frames, I felt like saying hi but didn't want to disturb them for their pre-race thoughts.

A tidy getaway with my camera facing backwards, by the Saddledome 300 metres or so later it was time for my annual standing appointment with Adam, this year with a more aerodynamic haircut. Going for a 1:20, I would loved to have joined him, but that's under my 5k pace. 
The world-record attempting group of 10 tethered runners were doing the full marathon at a slightly slower pace than my half. Most of them had individually done 2:40. "Any of you have those shoes with wheels on the soles?" was the wittiest thing I could think of. 

Just after 3k near the zoo, is the steepest incline, a c-train travelling parallel to the course gave a blast on his horn. A few spectators by this time were saying things about my camera, Team GB top or even quickly reading my bib and encouraging me by name. Always a nice touch. 

The course has been tweaked this year from last year's broad departure from the old one. There are fewer corners, crossing the downtown core is now 3.5k all along 11th ave. There was a nice breeze along here, and just after passing photomeister Neil, the full marathon course branched off. Unfortunately the 2 solid "pacemakers" I had chosen went off on that course. Next time I'll make sure to draw level so I can see the bib and check they're doing the same distance.

Kensington Road is a welcome addition to this year's course. If 17th avenue can be added then it would be perfect. Just after that is a right turn on Memorial Drive and the turnaround just under 2k later. Kip Kangogo flashed past the other way, 4k in front of me just as I passed 2 girls who saw my camera and said "I've always wanted to do that." It's great, but the editing takes forever. 

After the turnaround, it was quite a lonely run east along Memorial Drive. There seemed to be no-one within 100 metres of me.
At 17k, I felt a twinge in the hamstrings which is familiar to me from all 3 of my full marathons and one half. About 5 seconds up on 1:26:00 pace, I felt 4k was a little far out to maintain it. I decided to back off just a bit and get the PB anyway but with less risk. 

Threading through 10k runners who got in the way from time to time (though not too bad and much improved over previous years), tightness in the legs came and went. 
At the 20k sign they got a little tighter, and I tried to keep them a little straighter. Not far to go. With the Stampede Stadium in sight, all that remained was a left curve, about 75m, then a right and another 75m or so. Getting to the right hander, my right hamstring cramped and pulled me up. Not one step further. A quick deep stretch and I glance at my watch I said to myself, probably out loud, "can still get a PB". Rounding that last corner, I made for the line in lopsided fashion as fast as I safely dared, quasi-Terry Fox style.

As I crossed the line to see the clock giving me a PB by 4 seconds, I did the Mobot and let out what I would like to think was a roar, though it might have been more of a meow. Such melodrama. 
Doing a few more stretches after the line, I was fine to walk afterwards. 
1:26:44, and a PB it is. No matter what, disappointment is not allowed. If on the other hand I had missed it by a few seconds, that would've been annoying. Motivation is what comes from the "what might've been" part of the race. I have a few ideas, such as more hills in my training and negative splitting my next half - matching PB pace then accelerating for the last 10k. 

A great occasion once again, the Calgary Marathon weekend gets bigger and better every year. Next year is the 50th anniversary, and I have my eye on a 3:10 in the full, using the Hanson method.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

I Feel Good, Didn't know That I Would

Just over 2 weeks until the Calgary Half Marathon, and while I can sense the fatigue I'm supposed to have after peak week has just passed, I otherwise feel great. 

Before, it's been a matter of the taper arriving just in time before injury comes along. Not this time. Last Sunday's final long run is a case in point. Calgary's weather being weird as ever, much of April was wintry. For that 26k however, it was already 18 degrees when I headed out at 10am. So completely unused to the temperature, I did this hilly loop around the banks of the Bow river in 2:13. When I finished, I didn't have the "creaking" feeling in my legs, and a slightly tight hip flexor disappeared after a couple of hours. 

So what's changed/ going right? Mostly clearer thinking which has come from lots of reading and experience. The good things I'm doing which seem to be having a good effect, aside from the running training program are:

No April race. This one has required willpower, although the awful weather in April certainly helped. It has tended to be a shorter race, so high-paced, hard running. It proved a bad way to go before  my full marathon last year (even though I wouldn't trade that sub-40 10k for anything), more in terms of not wanting to back off training to recover. Training now goes on uninterrupted. 

Better posture. I keep trying to perfect this, making sure footstrike is behind the knee and remembering too that arm swing should be in synch. Speeding up arm swing to increase pace works well and feels like less effort - perhaps as it better ensures better balance and therefore having the hips work more on forward movement rather than stability. Not an expert in this field, but seems logical.
Logical too is that my physiology is still improving. There's a 10 year period of the body adapting fully to running that I've read and heard about, and I'm only 4
years into it. At times I notice the hips swivelling which I don't think happened before. Longer stride without over-striding perhaps.

Yoga. I don't go in for much of the spiritual stuff - much of that sounds overblown to me. One "expert" in from Australia to teach a class was one of the most pretentious people I have ever come across - perhaps I was completely wrong about him in thinking he was full of shit (or everyone else was taken in - I'll never know, but I stand by my opinion).
Furthermore, unless doing it 7 days per week, it does not constitute a balanced exercise regimen on its own just a couple of times a week. For me however, twice a week is an extremely useful supplement to my training. It pulls the spine apart, contains quite a few challenging balancing postures and many which nicely stretch out the hip flexors and hamstrings. I can see too how it improves circulation and has a general calming effect. 

The Stick. Like a roller without having to get on the floor. It can get to every part, even that tricky inner thigh. I personally feel a slight reduction in muscle tightness straight after using it, and the legs are generally fresher over time. 

Chiro. Similar benefits to the Stick, I go once a month unless there's a specific, noticeable problem. If anything's even slightly tighter than the rest of the legs, he'll spot it. An expert diagnosis on exactly how things stand.

Free weights. Of my 3 weight sessions a week, I alternate between 1 & 2 of them being free weights. Unlike static machines, nothing is completely isolated, just as in running. Squats are a big part of it too - aims to correct the quad/ hamstring imbalance. 

Minor backings-off from time to time. If feeling especially tight the day after a run - which is usually a weights day - not doing drills (high knees and butt kicks) has made it go away.

Diet and whey protein. Eating sensibly and more fish has served me well over the years. A couple of meat-free days each week can help in keeping one's weight in check. Also, immediately after all runs except easy Mondays I will have a whey protein drink for fuller recovery of running-specific muscles.

So the aim if all's still well in the engine room on race day is to get a sub-1:26. The signs point towards that being possible, with current PB at 1:26:48 on a hillier course.