Monday, 27 January 2014

January check-up and a car full of hecklers

Mid-late January has spoiled Calgary runners with some shorts weather, though this isn't a January first. 

A good respite from the severity of the weather before. Downtown, one could get good purchase on clear and dry pathways. There were some major exceptions, where shade means melt water doesn't drain away enough before re-freezing. West of 14 street the guardrail leaves lines of ice like stripes on a zebra.
Worst of all is the state of Fish Creek Park pathways and its polished snow and the pavements to get there. There's so much piled up that there won't be much respite for my long runs until it's all melted in April-ISH. I've taken to the road a few times. 
After the first 2k it gets better on the way to FC Park. Once there, the access road and path around Sikome lake provide a good running surface, though to get in 20k means seeing this same route 3 times in one run. Along with fatigue, cold and everything else, this is all part of training.
Even hecklers come into the mix. While taking in that access road, a car (guessing it was a 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix) full of potheads pulled up along side. All they could do was yell "go!" A couple of times. Useless bored kids with nothing to do (duh, take up running!), I figured they'd last a few seconds before tiring of me too. They did. When they came back the other way, I crossed the road. 

Overall, training's been good. I started halfway through a half marathon program in December to lead into the hypothermic half then marathon training. Just to be sure of not over-stretching, I have cut interval runs slightly short by a minute or two.

Having done hot yoga last year - too sweaty and better for those who exercise less than I do- I tried "cold" yoga for a couple of months. Now I have the basics, I'm going to do a couple of yoga for runners routines I found online (here's a good one: at home from now on. 
Head stands are tough, and more importantly not contributing to improving my running. There's also something about some yoga classes that isn't for me. Actually praying ("ooohhhmmmm, shanti, shanti," etc.) at the start, and putting one's hands together and wishing "namaste" to everyone in the room seems contrived and false. 

One place I'm always going to go to is the chiropractor. The same doctor has been treating me since before I was a runner - just a fat guy with a bad back. These days he irons out tight spots, some of which I'm not aware of. My right foot is about half a size smaller than my left, as well as my right leg being slightly shorter than my left leg. The inevitable imbalance needs regular attention to enable a higher training load. I often ask questions on anatomy, muscle function, etc., making trips to the chiropractor beneficial in 2 ways. 

The Hypothermic Half is now just around the corner. Aim for that race depend on conditions on the day. There are 2 starts, mine is at 1pm. An afternoon race is another first. If conditions allow, I'll try for just under 1:30. I won't go any quicker unless there's somehow a chance of winning - previous years' times have had 1st place coming in just under 90 minutes. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Hanson's Marathon Method (& my plan)

The marathon, for me, has been in some ways frustrating. My PBs in other distances indicate that I should be capable of 3:05 or quicker. Yet in 2012, when I attempted to clock 3:10, I had to stop to stretch seized hamstrings 4 times after 29 km. 
A matter of more kms a week? Probably, however I can be quite injury prone, especially when I race too much. Refining my weight training and smarter race scheduling aside, I need to find a way to smartly add more kms without bringing on injury. The Hanson Method may be the answer. I will find out for sure on June 1. 

The general thinking is that too much emphasis is put on the Sunday long run. Too great a distance on that day takes too much out of the body, reducing the quality and training effect of other runs. It believes in the concept of "cumulative fatigue", while rejecting that of "junk miles". 
There are 6 runs per week, 3 of which are at easy pace. The longest run is 26km. 2 of the runs are higher paced, one at marathon target pace (instead of current 5-10 minute intervals I currently do). The other starts off with speed intervals (varying lengths at 5-10k race pace), giving way to long strength intervals between half and full marathon pace (in my case, 4:15-4:20/km). 

I have made a few key changes. The rest day is on Thursday instead of Wednesday for a couple of reasons, including wanting the day after the speed/ strength days to be a rest day (which means gym and yoga in my case). I have also put the intervals in minutes rather than distance. Remembering what distance my watch read constantly is difficult during hard running, a round number in minutes works better. Not having a track to run on and the possibility of a gps watch not working also figure. For these reasons, I have "converted" the distances into time blocks based on target pace.

The plan is meant to start a couple of weeks earlier than it actually does, however I'll be doing the Hypothermic Half on February 8. 
No more races until the marathon after that - I can never stop myself from going full speed, so not racing is the only way to solve that problem. 
I did a 5 and a 10k in the 2 months before the 2012 marathon - the joy of those 2 performances (19:25 & 39:23 respectively) was tempered by affecting my training and by those 2 races themselves taking the place of training runs. 
This marathon has involved a lot of analysis given past races (I'll admit to a lingering fear of the 42.2), so it's just one race nearly 4 months prior, new weight routine and the Hanson Method.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

7 years healthy, 5 years running

I run for both of these guys. Running has set me free.
Running wasn't part of my weight loss, but it was a natural  progression which followed it. 
The morphing of the old me to into the new me began in January 2007. Most who have gone through weight loss can likely remember some kind of lecture-to-self, a resolution not to continue as before. For me, it was something like: "you're about to turn 30 and you shouldn't be like this."
3 times a week in the gym, and the key was to keep in mind that to start with I would feel worse before fitness caught up with the exhaustion. Persistence, no excuses.
Concentrating the mind months later was the news that my cholesterol was double what it should be. There followed a very disciplined approach to my diet. None of the nasties (such as all the non-turkey stuff at Christmas), smaller portions of meat, bigger lunch than dinner, etc.
From that point on I was losing one pound or more per week. The lighter I got, the more I could work out, the fitter I got, the quicker the weight came off. 
Losing and having lost weight, there were many reactions I laughed about then and still do:
The doctor's delayed reaction to moving the slider when the scales showed under 200 lbs;
Drilling an emergency hole in my belt after my trousers fell down at work;
Drilling 2 more holes over the following month;
Not being recognized by people I hadn't seen in a couple of months followed by looks of pure astonishment;
Being asked "where's the rest of you?" by someone I hadn't seen in a year.

I started running in summer 2008, mostly to get outside when the weather was nice (a basement gym feels like a dungeon in summer).
I had the idea to enter the half marathon distance at the Calgary Marathon in early 2009. This was my first ever running race at the age of 32. It was intended as a "victory lap" more than an ongoing hobby. 
However, the sense of occasion, the atmosphere and the feeling of crossing the finish line (starts in the stomach and lifts up through the heart and the arms go up) made it clear to me that this should become a way of life. I was pleased to finish in 1:46:15, what could I do if I really worked at it? What was the new me capable of?
Since then, I have been able to break 90 minutes in a half marathon, 40 in the 10k, and 20 in the 5k. 3 hours 10 minutes has so far eluded me over the full marathon distance, and this is my aim on June 1. A new training plan (the Hanson Method), and more focused weight training are how I am hoping to get there. My PB is currently 3:20:47, so improving on that is my "silver" aim.
Unlike the elites however, it's not always about the time or placing, and while I may envy their perfomances, they face heartbreak when things don't go their way. For the rest of us, there is the ideal of savouring the experience of every race, and finishing with your head held high. 
Myself, I grin like a Cheshire Cat smile every time I run. My health benefits, I am sharper and an infinitely better human being than before I started. Running sets me free.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Resolution Run - a lucky wrong turn and win

Every December 31 at 6pm, I do the Resolution Run 5k. A mad dash in the dark, it has no official timing. Each runner does however get a number, there's a start/ finish line and a clock. Add in the jacket that comes with entry and I'm game.
There will be a certain number of runners who will try their hardest, so it's fairly competitive if you want to up the pace. The downtown pathways are cleared almost daily of snow, so just be mindful of hidden ice.
I was glad I asked about the route, as there was no course bike, and it had changed again. 14th street and Prince's Island bridge loop. No Peace Bridge, which is a shame. That bridge at night makes me feel like a starfighter launching from the Battlestar Gallactica.
It does however get started by a police helicopter, which also follows the runners for a couple of minutes. 
Then it's a whole load of dark. 
I stayed level with another guy at the front until 14th street bridge.
For some reason, I thought that the sign telling everyone to pass under 14th street bridge then cross it was wrong. Standing there for a few seconds like an idiot (or even, as one), 4 went past.
The new leader then have me a heads-up by thoughtfully slipping on some ice.
Bridges, then I slipped past 2nd place before passing the Peace Bridge.
After getting onto the Prince's Island footbridge, it's about 250 metres to the finish line. I thought I'd make my move for the lead then, but when I saw a walker up ahead I had a brainwave (it had returned after the 14th street farce). Being first when passing the pedestrian would force the other guy to follow me in single file until after the sharp turn onto the bridge. Accelerating hard out of there would give me a head start too.
A superb view on the way in through the park too. 
So, I crossed the line first. All unofficial, but I'll call it a win if there are others trying to get the same thing.
That's it for 2013, a fairly uneventful year that finishes with a wry smile.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Calgary Marathon 2014, Forerunner

Welcome, especially if you have found this page through the Calgary Marathon ForeRunners page. 
We runners are a good kind of crazy:
On a serious note (!), if there's anything anyone wants to ask, please add a comment and I will aim to blog on a subject if broad enough, or give a quick answer. I've been a runner for 5 years, have read extensively and put much of that research into practice. 
Check out my recent post on winter training: 
Want to know about leg work, such as intervals?
What to do in the gym?
Race day and getting to the startline?
Race strategy?
Anything at all, just ask. Let's bounce out of the front door and run!