Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I thought that the ideal way to ring in 2010, the year where I will run a sub 4-hour marathon, was to do it running! So I headed out to the Running Room Resolution Run for a quick 10k before heading out to my sister's new year's eve party (where I had pre-negociated a shower upon arrival, thank you very much ;)

I didn't wear the official race jacket since I wanted Alex to spot me in the crowd and I knew that would be what everyone else would wear, hehehe.
I wore instead my trusty Chinese running outfit that I think is great and needs lots of showing off.
Can you tell I'm in celebration mode already?

The course was up and down colonel by, starting from Pretoria bridge.
While the temperature wasn't that cold at minus 3, the falling snow accumulated on the ground and the dry patches were pretty few and far between. I did a pretty decent time at 51:05 given the condition of the fun run which wasn't chipped.
Thanks to everyone who showed up to volunteer, cheer or run. This was a great way to kick off the last evening of the year and decade!

Now that the run is over, on to the real party. I hope you guys and gals will all ring 2010 in style and I wish you everything you desire and deserve for 2010: health, success, happiness and reaching all your goals and dreams. I'm sure we've all got a lot to be thankful for and accomplishments to celebrate from 2009 as well as many new challenges and things to look forward to in 2010 and beyond!
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Year in Review - Late C4C

With the weather outside turning all wet and icy, I have had to take my training inside. (That is an actual picture of the light at my front porch!)
I'm still not quite sure if my training session today will be in the gym or if I will brave the thin layer of snow on what is probably icy sidewalks underneath.

With this new dose of winter, I started thinking about my training so far this year and how much it has changed. A year ago, after conquering the marathon distance (at a snail's pace admittedly), I turned my sights to a new challenge: the Triathlon. I found a nice indoor trainer for the bike portion, familiarized myself with the myriads of pools around my stomping grounds and their various schedules and conquered old man winter to run in the cold, running outside throughout the winter was a first for me.

My training regimen was pretty hardcore by my standards. Most days saw at least training in one of the disciplines and sometimes even two. Rest days were few and far between with usually one or sometimes two a week. I also started blogging to share my experience with current friends and family. Little did I know that the blogging would introduce me to an entire community of athletes and allow me to create new friendships. All my training really paid off when I completed my first triathlon and met my objective.

Life sometimes take unexpected turns and that's what happenned after the triathlon where I left for China. I had wonderful experiences in China but was unable to keep the training up because of various health concerns. I still had some incredible runs and life experiences in China so I'm not even concerned about the setback that the trip introduced training-wise.

While I don't keep an official mileage counter, having a nifty GPS device that I carry with me whenever I run has advantages. I was able to play with the numbers and get my total so far for 2009 so far: 570km of running and 2380km of biking! Incredible. If I ran all these runs in the same direction, I would have been able to run to Niagara Falls! Add the biking and I would have reached Miami! Incredible!

All the training for the triathlon was fun, but with my current schedule, it's very hard to keep up with all the training. Plus the gear required for a triathlon is really intense. If I'm really serious about competing, I'd need at least a new bike and some way to carry it around like a car rack or something. I'm not saying I'll never do a triathlon again, but at this point in my life, I need simplicity and training for a triathlon is not simple!!!

Coming back from the experience of having trained and participated in a triathlon, I now have a new goal. This new goal is a bit of an old friend of mine. While I may have conquered the marathon distance at ScotiaBank Waterfront Marathon in 2008, but I never quite conquered the clock to my satisfaction. Entering this new year and decade, I have two goals with regards to the marathon clock. This year, I would like to break the 4 hour marathon. This decade, I want to qualify and run Boston. Quite the goal, eh? I figure that if I can't get to 3:10 in the next 5 years, at least it will get easier when it drops to 3:15 on the accounts of me getting older at that time :) Now that I've committed to it in digital ink, I will have to deliver. I hope I can take you all on that exciting journey with me.

I didn't post on Friday so this will have to take place of the Cans for Comments for last week. The total from the week before was 8 cans so here is what is going to the food bank:
Since I'm late with the C4C post and this is prime holiday season, I will pledge to donate at least 14 cans which is the total from my most popular C4C post. If we can break that number, I will top it up of course!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
or happy holidays if Christmas is not celebrated in your household. I hope you will all be able to share some wonderful moments with your loved ones.

On this Christmas eve, I decided to squeeze in a run while I could. Weather is predicted to sour over the next few days and I wanted to make sure I got my long run in before then. So instead of waiting for a crammed bus and squeezing in, I decided to run home after work! All 25 kms of it. I didn't do so bad, fuelled by a wonderful holiday potluck my colleagues prepared. The first half was pretty tough. Who am I kidding, the second half was tough too ;) I still managed to finish in 2:18 which I think is fairly reasonable given the conditions.

The sidewalks were fairly clean if a bit wet and slushy at times.
When I got close to home, I was missing about a kilometer so I took a bit of a detour to add the required kms!
While my pace wasn't constant, I managed to stay under 6m/km the whole time and even break 5m/km for one of my kms. I even managed a negative split by over a minute, all my training is paying off!

Anyways, I'll be checking back in after boxing day. I hope everyone finds the deals they are looking for, be it running gear, electronics, furniture or even kitchen stuff!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tempo Tuesday

Last night after work, I went for a quick 10 km. I'm pretty happy about the results. It's the first time I break the 50 minute mark in a while. As is usually the case for winter runs, the first 5 minutes were quite chilly but once I got the engine humming along it was pretty comfortable. I did have to wear my baclava however when it got a bit windy.
My pace was a bit uneven with my slowest km at 5:09m/km and my fastest at 4:41m/km.

With the holidays fast approaching time seems to be disappearing faster than usual. Not knowing when I will find the time for a long run, I'm hoping that the weather is good tomorrow to run home after work (~25km).

Still on random in the mix, better than repeat :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Long run

After yesterday's potluck, I was properly fueled for a long run this morning. There's really nowhere to go in winter since all the trails are snowy so I just went down the main road for as far as the sidewalk would take me and back. I did do a bit of a detour to ensure I reach the 22km that my training plan required. The Garmin says 22km, yet once I synced it, I get 21.8km. I'll believe the Garmin itself ;)
I was pretty surprised by how fast I was going. I think all the strengthening sessions are paying off. My average pace was 5:20m/km and my slowest kilometer was an even 6 minutes. It was a good way to digest all the delicious dishes I had last night, including char siu pork and japanese cupcakes. My reward for completing such a beautiful run was a nice 4 egg omelet.
Tomorrow is the winter solstice so that means that all the early morning (or evening) runners will start having more light. As someone at the office mentioned, it's all downhill from here :)

In the mix today was a random mix of Pigs in Space, Ozric Tentacles, Space Tribe, Protoculture and Texas Faggott.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tempo Lunch

On Friday, I didn't have much time to go out, so I decided to do a short tempo run. It was a beautiful chilly day in the Nation's Capital. I layered up and actually felt quite warm. The only item I wished I had in my kit was the sunglasses that I forgot in the office...
I took a simple route that I knew for sure would be clean and safe. McDonald-Cartier bridge to Portage bridge. This is my favorite route in the winter because it is always fairly clean and there's only 1 or 2 traffic lights that get in the way.
I did pretty well on the pace side. I'm not back to a 45 minutes 10k but at least I was able to run 5 of the 6 kms under 5 minutes (4:45, 4:42, 5:10, 4:46, 4:57, 4:55). I still felt great after the run and would have kept going for more if time permitted.

Thank you for your comments yesterday. It's not as much as the previous weeks but every little bit helps. I know that everyone is getting busy with the holidays and time for keeping up to date with blogs is more difficult. I'm thinking of doing C4C on a monthly basis anyways throughout 2010 so there will be plenty more opportunities for sure.

Tonight I'm pretty excited to be partying with the team from foodiePrints. All that good food will definitively help fuel me on tomorrow's 22km. I'm still a bit nervous about where I will go for all these kms, my neighborhood is a bit in the middle of nowhere and without the trails, I'll have to find new routes for the winter.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Decade in review + C4C

Today is Comments for Cans again. You know the drill, for every visitor that leaves a comment, I will donate a can (or other non perishable food item) to the Stittsville Food Bank. Feel free to jump to comments right away if you don't want to hear about my decade-long story of getting fitter ;)

With the new year approaching, I turn a bit nostalgic about old times. This year two digits of the year will change at once bringing us into a brand new decade. I have an urge to take you on a reflection of how physical activity has changed my life and ponder at what is coming next.

10 years ago was the dawn of a new era. I spent New Year's eve 1999 partying like it was, well, 1999. I played the beach bum in Costa Rica with dear friends and warm weather. I was not in the best physical shape at all, weighing about 40 pounds more than I do now and not exercising very often...

The decade that followed was definitively not a lost one for me. I started on the path to a much healthier lifestyle without an actual plan to get fit. It started when my work took me to a location that had awful bus service. I decided then that biking to work was a viable option with the 10 or so kilometers that separated my home and my work.

Things took an unexpected turn when, a few years later, I transfered to a location some 25km away from my home. The new location had, you guessed it, awful bus service. I have never been a fan of driving a car to and from work (or anywhere at all other than highways really) so I took to biking there and back once a week, twice a week and eventually everyday in fair weather. I braved the rain once and discovered it wasn't that bad so I kept on biking from around easter to around Halloween. At some point I even biked an extraordinary 160km in one day with all my gear in tow to go camping. Thankfully a friend with an empty van drove me back from my foolish expedition.

The year after, I moved work locations again. I was a bit dissapointed when my new work was only 8 km away from my house. The bike ride was barely enough to work a sweat. One of my colleague was a runner and was able to convince myself and another colleague that running was fun. Pretty soon things snow balled and we were a bunch that would go out a few times a week. Never the same group but there was always someone heading out from a group of 5 or 6. Running can be infectious like that.

That's where I fell in love with running. The simplicity of the sport. The freedom of surfaces on which it can be practiced. The variety of routes I could take. I went from aiming to finish the 6 or so km route we used at lunch without stopping to beating my previous time over and over. I even started to leave the bike at home and run to and from work on top of my lunch time training. My runner colleague came back from a marathon and he could barely walk. I knew there had to be something mystical about the distance for him to get in such shape for it. I wanted some of that too.

While running with some more experienced colleagues, I noticed that one of them was wearing an armband computer. I had a total geekout when I realized that the thing tracked speed and distance. I always had odometers on my bikes but never realized I could have the same info while running! I had to get such as device and after setting speed and distance goals (approximate distance of course!) and meeting them, I rewarded myself with the gizmo and it totally changed the way I trained. I put it to good use by entering a half marathon right away. My first road race! It was a painful race but I finished it. I was a bit over my innocent goal of under 2 hours but very satisfied with my performance nonetheless. The Endorphins were buzzing in my blood and I knew I could never go back to the way things were before I became an amateur athlete.

I entered other races and continued my lunch day workouts whenever possible despite the changes in employers. I am lucky that my employers are always so cool with allowing me to take a long lunch and make up the hours at night. I raced twice in my first racing summer and only once the summer after that. I got hurt while pushing too hard in the fall and had to take a break from training for a few months, while my injuries healed.

The following summer, I planned to make good on a 3 year old promise to run a marathon. While I trained all summer, I had not followed a real training plan and about halfway through my training I started getting soreness in my knees and had to slow down training. I decided to still keep my commitment for the full marathon in the fall. The race was hard and long. I never imagined it could be that long and lonely towards the end. I was determined to follow through on my goals and I finished the race, uninjured but way below my goal time, swearing never to attempt the distance again!

With the marathon distance conquered, I needed a new goal. I set my sights on a triathlon, having recently cheered for a friend of mine at a multisport event. You'll hear all about how training for the triathlon was in an upcoming year-in-review post where I'll go into more details of the various events of 2009.

Last week, I had 14 comments, so here is what the donation looks like:
Hopefully I didn't scare too many people away with my long winded reflection on my life changing decade and we can beat the 14 items that were donated for last week!

Holiday Lights

With about an hour and a half to kill after work yesterday, I decided to enjoy the relatively clean sidewalks downtown and go for a tour of the holiday light displays. With the arrival of snow, most of my usual paths are off-limits, so I dug into my memory for last year's best winter routes. I wanted 12km so I decided to 2 two loop of Macdonald Cartier to Portage Bridge. A victory lap on Parliament Hill in support of M-rah's 20 day challenge brought my total to just over 13km, pretty close to my estimates!
The run was great. I felt light and fast and best of all warm. Once the run was over, I heard on the radio that the weather was -15 degrees celsius with a windchill of -21. Phew, I didn't feel that cold! Good thing I had my trusty layers. The run itself was great with an average pace of 5:15m/km and a negative split which is always a good thing to have in training. (5:01, 5:17, 5:27, 5:24, 5:15, 5:38, 5:45, 4:41, 5:02, 4:58, 5:11, 5:16, 5:21)

I was a bit dissapointed by the holiday lights set up by the NCC, other years were really much more impressive. I guess the lights were not included in the stimulus packages from our governments. I tried to snatch a few pics with my cell phone, here are the best of them.
Parliament was nicely lit up with spotlights shaped like snowflakes:
Live at Burning Man in the mix.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Olympic torch + Long run

On Saturday night, there was a big party on Parliament Hill to celebrate the Olympic Torch at the same time as the lighting of the holiday decorations. A lot of people made it. Much more than I've seen in previous years for the lighting ceremony alone. Athletes were offering autographs and pictures and even one of the torch bearer was there with his torch, graciously offering pictures to anyone interested. Cool!
Sponsors were out in full force dispensing with knick-knacks, product samples and talking about their special offers. I didn't stick around too much and went back to the hill to see the show. After Gregory Charles was done with a nice performance of singing with a choir and the crowd, the ceremony started to drag on with CEOs and presidents of Vancouver Olympic Committee and other government agencies. Even the PM made an appearance. Finally the flame arrived. It was tough to see it through the thick crowds, but easy enough to spot on the super size screens on both sides of the stage. Yay for technology.
After the torch had arrived, the program turned into an anti-climactic interviews of youths from up north. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy these kids are living a once in a lifetime experience but I don't think they should have been put on the stage like that, they looked shy and afraid. The fireworks that celebrated the holiday lights were really neat with amazing sync to the music. The lights themselves were a bit of a let down but probably because the stage was hiding them, I'll try to go back once they packed up the stage and left because usually the hill is a beautiful sight around the holidays. I left as the rock show started.

Since I didn't get to see the flame up close and personal, I followed on my plan to see it again on Sunday. I planned my long run so I could follow the flame on its journey. Exciting stuff I tell you! When I got to the intersection where the relay started for that day, I was surprised to see so many people. When the flame made its appearance, the crowd roared. It was pretty electrifying. I'm sure Canada's athletes can feel our support and they know they'll make us proud!
The flame relay runners were not all as speedy as I expected. Some took the moment in and allowed for lots of picture taking :) This one was pretty quick!
The coolest moment for me is when they light each other's flame and really "relaying" the flame from one torch to the other. Very moving!
I really liked the parts on the quieter streets such as Palladium drive. The lack of crowd allowed me to run in parallel with the flame. I still had to keep my distance, the flame bodyguards were out in full force.
A very inspiring start to my morning run. I thought I could run along with the flame for the 20 or so km I had planned for the morning. Unfortunately that is not what happenned...

Once the flame got to ScotiaBank place, it was quickly tucked away in a truck and driven away. I thought of treason or high stakes robbery but the police and officials were not reacting. I found someone who looked like he was in the know and asked about what had just happened. He was quick to calmly explain to me that the flame was now in "convoy mode", doublespeak for cheating! The flame had to cover 300km today, possibly to make up for staying in the nation's capital for 4 days.

I don't mean to rain on the "relay" parade but I'm pretty sure tradition doesn't involve relaying the flame on horses or carriages. We're boasting that this will be the longest relay in Olympic history but that means very little to me if this is what a relay looks like:
Okay, my angle is that of someone who wanted to carry the torch and wasn't chosen. I would have happily carried the torch from Parliament Hill last night to the starting point this morning. When I submitted my name, I purposely picked communities that were a bit remote because I knew they may not have lots of volunteers there. Unfortunately, the relay seems to be more of a marketing / photo op exercise and the towns where I volunteered for are probably covered with the flame in "convoy mode".

The official seemed to think that covering 4500km in 100 days is impossible if not using motor vehicles. I look at people like Ray Zahab and Terry Fox. They are Canadian inspirations and they covered more than the 45km a day, day in and day out, on their own. Having a real honest relay would have been possible and it would have given more opportunities for people that wanted to be torch bearers.

So with the flame disappearing away at high speeds, I decided to finish my 20k workout by going around in circles at the palladium auto park. It was very quiet on Sunday morning so I could use the street when the sidewalk wasn't quite clear.
The workout lasted a precise 2 hours. Not bad for 20km, especially since I stopped and slowed down quite a bit to see / take pictures of the flame.

Serial Killaz again (over and over) in the mix today as my music player was stuck in repeat and I couldn't play with the buttons since I tucked it inside my jacket!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My snow run + Thank you!

Everyone else is posting about their snow experiences so here's my own :)

After postponing my run because of weather and schedule issues, yesterday was when I found the time to go and evaluate the state of the running trails for myself.
I was pleasantly surprised at first that the running paths were in a pretty good state until I reached the point where the cleaning team decided it didn't need to go any further.
Running in winter wasn't that bad. I could use the snow and slippery surface as an excuse to not push as fast. With the sun shining it was very comfortable. I completed the 8.5km in about 45 minutes so it was a pretty good run overall.

Thank you for all your comments yesterday. Needy families in Stittsville will appreciate the donations!

Tonight I'm pretty excited to go see the olympic flame reach on parliament hill. I hope to have the determination to wake up early tomorrow for a long run and perhaps glimpse the flame in motion as it passes through my neighbourhood (at 8am!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quiet week + C4C

It's been a very quiet week on the running front. The busy schedule early in the week combined with the snow storm in the middle of the week forced me to move my workouts indoor. It's funny how I was claiming I don't need a treadmill a few days ago. This week surely felt like I could use one! Hopefully I can find some time today to get out there for a short run.

Last week's Cans for Comments (C4C) yielded an impressive 9 cans (7 online comments + 2 offline). I cheated a bit and got some Nutella in place of a can. I'm sure no one will complain :)
My good friends at foodiePrints were kind enough to donate their own cans based on the number of comments on Saturday...

Let's see if we can do better this week. The rules are the same, for every visitor that leaves a comment on my blog, I will donate one can/food item to the Stittsville Food Bank. If you want to share the love, remember that Marlene is also doing Cans for Comments on her Mission to a(nother) marathon blog.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday at the Track

I should have known better than to try to combine a long distance workout with a speed workout. Today's cold weather reminded me that the track will soon be covered in snow and my schedule wanted a long run so I designed a 16km run that would include a pyramid track workout of 2, 3, 4, 3 and 2 laps with 2 resting laps between each. While I am satisfied with the overall pace (~5:30m/km) I felt really slow at the track where I even got attacked by a dog!
The track itself was a mix of dry, frozen and mud. At the second lap, my mp3 player decided to give up, forcing me to be free earing for the remainder of the work out.

The laps still went by quickly with a bit of effort. Lap times in red are supposedly the fast laps :) 1:59, 2:00, 2:18, 2:16, 2:03, 2:03, 2:04, 2:19, 2:12, 2:00, 2:11, 2:06, 2:18, 2:26, 2:24, 2:01, 2:11, 2:14, 2:29, 2:25, 2:16 and 2:21.

With the ~3.5km that it takes to get to the track, my total today was 16.5 km. Not bad in 1:31:06. I think I'm slowly getting my mojo back.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tempo Lunch + Thank You!

After yesterday's failure to get out to run in the dark early morning, I was able to make a bit of time and go out for an early lunch run. Being a bit short on time, I made it a tempo run, thinking I could shave a few minutes that way.

Going back to a familiar route after a long absence from it is somewhat like seeing an old friend that moved out of town. While there has been a few changes over time, making things more interesting as you need to catch up, the basic features are the same and I was reminded why I liked this course so much that I ran it at least twice a week over 2 years ago.
I can't say that the whole run was easy, but it definitively felt better than my other runs since I started training again. I feel like I'm getting back in the thick of things and even if I didn't meet my goal of finishing under 50 minutes (I did 50:41 according to the watch) I am pretty satisfied with my speed with the following lap times:
  • 4:44
  • 5:02
  • 5:14
  • 5:06
  • 5:09
  • 5:11
  • 5:13
  • 4:42
  • 4:53
  • 4:56
Maybe Atomic's Serial Killaz helped me maintain a more steady pace throughout the 10km
Another week or two of catch up training and I will be ready to start a marathon training plan, hopefully in time to catch up with the Los Angeles Marathon. Anybody knows a good 12 week plan? I have a 16 week plan that I can probably compress a bit :)

And a big Thank You! to all that commented yesterday! I also received offline comments so I'll be adding cans for those as well.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Early failure + C4C

My schedule is getting really busy so it was with the best intentions that I set my alarm at 4:30am this morning so I could get my run in before I go to work. I even actually woke up in time and looked outside to convince my sleepy self that it would be dangerous to run that early in the darker than dark streets. To be fair, the area I live in is somewhat remote and any 5km or longer workout would need to include at least 1 or 2 km on a dark road with no sidewalks or lighting. So I went back to bed and enjoyed the extra hour and half before it was time to get ready for work. Hopefully I can squeeze in a run at lunch time (not very probable with my crazy schedule today) or after work if I still have the energy for it.

Today is Cans for Comments day (C4C). For every visitor that posts a comment on this entry, I will donate one can of food to the Stittsville Food Bank.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Change of Pace

It was refreshing today to change gears and do a run-walk session at lunch with my friend and colleague Sonia. Sonia pretends she hasn't run in quite a while but she was still following impressively for the first kilometre. We then set into a run-walk until about the 3rd kilometre where we dropped all running pretence and walked the rest of the way to work.
I'm not used to seeing so much purple in the heatmap. Truth be told I was pretty happy about the slow pace today. My muscles still haven't flushed all the lactic acid from Sunday's 15km despite the strength & 30 minute stationary bike sessions yesterday. It was cool to catch up on all the office stuff that I missed while I was in China.

I'm upgrading my home gym for the winter. I picked up some new all in one dumbbells and I'll be on the lookout for a cheap flat screen TV on boxing day so I can watch my Dallas and Dexter on something bigger than my 7 inch portable DVD player. The store person yesterday was telling me about the good deals on treadmills on boxing day but I feel that I can brave the weather and run outside again this year as I did last year.