Monday, December 20, 2010

Overtrained + C4C

I've been suffering a bit from a cold and I tried to continue training during and I realized that I am really overtraining. Wikipedia lists the following symptoms for overtaining:
Okay, I may not have all of them but I definitively have fatigue, infections and more soreness than usual. The cure has many options from reducing the amount of training to reducing the intensity or doing cross training. I'm not quite sure how to mix up my training with Miami coming at me furiously (less than 6 weeks away now) but I will try to reduce the intensity and maybe even cross train on the bike instead of the shorter medium runs.

This week I did not accomplish the 80km that the training plan wanted. I did finish my 21k tempo but I cut short every other run and ended up with a 19k long run yesterday. The mind just wasn't in it and with the body recovering from a cold, the endurance wasn't there yet either.

Time for Cans for Comments. Christmas has just sneaked up on me this year. I hope you guys realize that it is next Saturday! The malls were crazy yesterday, it took us more time to park than we spent shopping. We got everything we need so let's make sure that less fortunate families also will, comment early and comment often. For each comment, I will give a non-perishable food item to charity.

PS: Thanks to Dalla for the beautiful picture!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weather woes

Phew, what a weekend. The weather took a turn for the worse here in Ottawa yesterday with Freezing rain, snow and regular rain all mixed up. It looks like all that beautiful H2O has frozen overnight to create very dangerous sidewalks. I'm glad I went for my long run on Saturday morning. The knee didn't complain too much during the run but there is definitively something going on with my mechanics right now, I feel a bit sorer and tighter than I would expect and some muscles I didn't know existed are sore. I think it's because of the snowy/slippery sidewalks, makes for a much more difficult run than dry pavement. The 32km long run took 3h01m, which is about where I want to be for the easy runs. I'll try to rack up the kilometers this week to sync back with my training plan but with the weather we've been experiencing, I'm not sure I'll have enough time with good weather to put in the required 80km...

Thank you for the (1) comment on the Cans for Comments, look for it again this week!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cans for Comments + Benched

Holidays are fast approaching and while I've been slacking off on the Cans for Comments since September, now is the time to make up for it. It's a simple concept, you comment on this blog post and I donate a can (or other non perishable item) to a local food bank. I'll spice things up for the month of December and add that if you are a blogger and do a C4C on your blog, I'll make your comment count for 10 cans, just mention your blog in the comments. Here is a picture of my last contribution when my friends at foodiePrints made me realize that I skipped over a few months.
Running news aren't that good lately. I had a sensitive left knee that was quite worse than the usual soreness. I decided to bench myself for a while. I could easily have blamed the weather or some other cause. The Truth is that I am not that sad to be benched and get a bit a a break even though I realize that I'm falling behind in training and that Miami is only 7 weeks away.. I had a good stationary bike session on Monday and expect to get back on the road for a short test run tonight... Hopefully it's nothing serious and I can get back to business quickly, I have a 20 miler planned for Sunday after all ;)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter Running

Winter is coming fast to Ottawa. While the last few days have been a bit warmer, we've had some snow and ice already. Last Friday's run was a typical winter run and as is the case with most runs, I thought of great topics to blog and one of them was how beautiful it can be running in winter. Unfortunately by the time I got home, all my eloquently composed sentences just drained away like the sweat in the shower. One sentence that I remember had something to do with how magical it can be to turn the music off and appreciate the beauty and stillness of a frozen and desolate landscape with nothing else than the crunching sound of a thin layer of ice breaking under my feet. It sounded better at the time with the moon shining over the freezing water of Dow's lake. I do love running in all kinds of conditions and appreciate the variety of conditions that running in Canada gives me.

Winter running can be scary especially to our southern neighbors who right now are blogging about bundling up for their runs in 40/50 Fahrenheit. The trick is layering up and knowing what works. After a few times only, I had learned to add or remove layers as required. I am always amazed at how comfortable I can be running with so little gear, as long as I don't stop or slow down I am usually okay. Slowing down or speeding up to maintain the body temperature can also be quite helpful if the layering are not quite adequate.

I'm pretty happy that I am back within my training plan this week. While I did shift a few things around doing a 10k and a 16k instead of two 13k runs, the total weekly mileage is exactly where it needs to be. Last Sunday's slow and easy 32km run was also quite fast, especially for the last 7km where I met up with the Frontrunners and got too excited while talking to notice that we sped up significantly :) As a result I've been the sorest I remember being in a long time after a training session.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2011 Plans

I think I'm about done for racing in 2010. While I was thinking about doing the Running Room's Resolution Run again this year, it sold out in Ottawa so no can do.

2011 will start with a bang for me with the ING Miami Marathon on January 30th. Right after the race, I'll be boarding a Caribbean cruise for a full week of rest and relaxation. I have to admit that not really having lots of downtime for my training has put a pretty big burden on me. I now feel that about 50% of my training runs I do because I have to, not because I want to. So that's why I plan to slow down training a bit after Miami and start looking for shorter races.

I've always wanted to do an event on the Gilles Villeneuve F1 circuit in Montreal and the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal might be just the event. It's in April so I still get a decent break after Miami and it can be a checkup run before Ottawa. I haven't raced a half in a while so I'm pretty confident I can PR in a big way if I can maintain my speed throughout winter.

I will run Ottawa Race Weekend again. Not quite sure what event I will do but most likely a half with maybe a 5k the night before.

I'll be looking at some shorter events (5km or 10km) throughout the summer and would like to end the year with a bang with another Marathon. Perhaps I will go back to Toronto for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon which I thought was a great event in 2008 or maybe go a bit further to Niagara Falls International Marathon for the only Marathon that ends in a different country than it started.

What about you, what will your 2011 look like?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Top 10 Marathon Thoughts

I may be a bit late in catching up with this clip from David Letterman about the top 10 things that go through your mind while running a Marathon. While it is focused on the NYC Marathon, I think most items could work for any Marathon.

What thoughts are going through your mind while running a long distance race (besides are we there yet) ?

Happy thanksgiving to my American friends!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Medals gallore

Marlene posted her medals back in July and issued a challenge to other bloggers to show her their own cache of medals. I was in the process of moving so I could not respond right away but when it came time to put my Hamilton Marathon medal away, I remembered her challenge. While I may not have as many medals as her and her husband, I think I still have some decent ones to talk about.

Here are all my medals, arranged in chronological order:
My first medal ever was a running medal. Appropriately it was also one of those rare placement medals as opposed to a participation medal. It remains to this day my only placement medal for running. It was way back in grade school and it was for a local cross country run. I don't even remember how I placed, whether it was second or third, but I do remember that my coach/gym teacher was quite angry that I had stopped to chat up one of the teachers that was manning one of the booths to supervise runners :)
I remember those running years fondly and I regret a bit stopping my running once I moved to a different city and changed schools. I think that this early running experience planted a bug in me that re-awakened a decade later and continues to fuel my passion for the sport.

My second medal is not even sports related. The geeky side of this runner earned this medal at a mathematics championchip called Concours Pythagore. The medal is dated 1991:
Again, I don't remember how I placed but this was a very significant event, where the brightest mathematic students of the entire province drove to Rigaud for testing and calculating. I was in grade 4 or 5 and this felt like quite an experience competing with all these brainy and glasses wearing kids. I'm glad I only had to do it once :)

This medal I didn't even remember I had. It must have been a participation medal or otherwise there must have been only 2 or 3 of us competing in my category because I was never really that good at Judo:
I can't believe there is a 10 year gap in medals before I earned my next one. The next one is significant because it is my first one of the recent era of running. Nothing shorter than a half marathon would suffice to introduce me to organized races with the ING Ottawa Half Marathon 2006:
This medal is not the prettiest of the bunch, but it holds a special place in my hearth. I had a very ambitious goal of finishing under 2 hours which I thought was uber fast. At 2h08 I didn't meet my goal but I had an awesome time and I was hooked. I found the next local half marathon and immediately signed up!

The Ottawa Falls Colours half marathon medal is not the nicest one of the bunch but at least it is event specific and features the year. The pink necklace gives it an extra distinction :)
I was able to breach the 2 hour mark for this one. In fact, at 1h46, I totally destroyed my previous time!

Fast forward a few months and I was ready to try myself against the ING Ottawa Half-Marathon once more. The 2007 edition saw me improve my time some more with 1h43.
An injury prevented me from running a fall half marathon that year. I was determined to get back to running despite a painful Plantar Fasciitis injury and signed up again for the ING Ottawa Half Marathon which was becoming somewhat of a tradition.
My running career was back on track even if it wasn't a new PB with a time of 1h50. I really liked that medal at the time, it was my first "rotating" medal.
I then decided to set my sights upon a mythical distance: The Marathon. I had promised a few years ago that I would run a Marathon before I turned 30 and, well, the clock was ticking. So I jumped in and trained with what I felt was an adequate training regimen of 2 runs a week combined with a biking regimen of about 150km while I was commuting to work. That kind of training was not adequate for a Marathon and I suffered through one of the most painful 2 hours at the end of race. But I did finish (4h37m) and earned this beautiful medal:
I like how heavy and sturdy it feels. The imitation gold color is great
And the necklace is silky and heavy at the same time:
This is one classy medal and still to this day one of my favorites.

I decided to switch things up a bit after that and start training for a triathlon. I still ran the Ottawa Half Marathon (ING stopped supporting the race in 2009) and achieved another PB with 1h40m24s.
Ottawa kept improving it's medal with another "Rotating" medal and a nice thick necklace. This is a medal that still stands out in my collection.
My next event would be a triathlon. Something called a sprint which is about half of an olympic distance.
This is where I earned this medal. The medal is not event specific and the year is only featured on the necklace. A bit disappointing to be honest. I didn't race another triathlon since, not because of the medal, but rather because training for Triathlon is a bit of a challenge with the swim times, bike maintenance and other travel commitments for all the equipment.

Going back to running felt like a bit of a let down so I decided to go back to the Marathon distance. I picked a destination that would motivate me throughout the training: Los Angeles.
I'm not sure why anyone would care that this is the 25th edition. In their defense this medal features my favorite necklace ever. It's smooth, thick and features the route along with some pictures of the icons alongside their scenic route:
I thought a bit about what distance I would do in Ottawa. I really enjoyed the half marathon and could have locked in a really decent time, but I was also very fit and wanted to take advantage of my fitness level and see if I could break my newly established PR at LA.
I think that this is still my best overall medal. The necklace could use a bit more work but the medal itself is beautiful. It's shiny, it rotates and is also colorful.
As you know I ran the Hamilton Marathon about 2 weeks ago. I locked in a new PR even if I couldn't achieve the most revered BQ. The medal was a bit disappointing:
Not only is the medal generic and not dated as well as not event specific, even the necklace is barely dated and not event specific.

These are the medals that I have earned until now. I have big plans for 2011, starting with the Miami marathon. I'll write a post to discuss these plans soon...

In the meantime, if any race organizer or medal designer is reading this, here is what I look for in a medal. I want something that is special and that stands out. I want the medal to clearly say what I did (Marathon, Half Marathon, etc) and where I did it (City, Disney, whatever). I also want it to be dated (the year is enough unless the event is reoccurring multiple times during the year). The medal should be thick and made of quality metal and if possible have some room to engrave my name and time. The necklace should be thick and yet feel like silk or velvet. I really like the LA one where they feature the route and some key icons that we passed by while running.

What about you, what do you look for in a medal? What is the coolest medal you ever received?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back on the (chilly) road

I've been quiet recently but rest assure that I am working my way back into a training plan to be in good shape for the Miami marathon on January 30th. After a full week of rest and relaxation, this week was a bit more busy training wise. I squeezed in two weight sessions and two runs. My first run was a systems check of about 6 km to see how everything felt and this morning a short 21km to get me back into the long run on Sunday routine. I always forget how substantial 21km is after dabbling in long runs of 30km or above for the last few weeks of my training plans.

This morning I joined the FrontRunners club here in Ottawa. They are a very friendly GLBT bunch and they meet a few times every week for a run and then breakfast. I didn't know what to expect so I didn't really prepare myself to be able to do breakfast after the run and besides, I needed a bit more distance than the regulars are used to. So I joined them for the first 8km and it was nice to run with company. I think I ended up going a bit faster than I planned but it was within endurance range so it's all good. My running partner left for breakfast while I kept going for another 10km loop to lock in the 21km I felt was appropriate for my return to long runs. At 1h44m it was a bit faster than a long slow run would regularly have been. I will definitively try to schedule my runs so I can run with them again. Maybe I can do my extra distance before I meet them so I can partake in the breakfast :)

Winter is coming here in Ottawa and today was quite chilly with the wind. I saw -11 on the weather network with the windchill but it didn't feel that cold. The layers are coming out of storage and the mathematics that comes with calculating how many layers and how heavy each should be is something akin to riding a bicycle, once you figure it out, you never have to learn it again. I was quite pleased with my 2 lights layers with a windbreaker on top. I added some hobo gloves and a tuque and was kept at an ideal running temperature throughout the workout.

My friends and local foodie celebrities at FoodiePrints were running their own Cans for Comments campaign and they made me realize that I have been totally forgetting running my own monthly drive. When they issues a call on Twitter for their followers to match their donations, I stepped up so I'm now on the hook for 25 items for the food bank. Stay tuned for my own campaigns to return weekly as the holiday season quickly approaches.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bust :(

I didn't have to think long about the title of this post. While the news is not quite that bad, the title of my last post was BQ or Bust, and even if I did establish a new PR, it wasn't nearly fast enough to qualify for Boston at my age. As I had outlined in my previous post, race strategy could go either way, what I didn't anticipate is that even while blowing up I would still land a respectable PR with 3h19m10s. The race itself was epic for me, as I guess every marathon is. I moved through the entire range of emotions in this race, from despair to elation to despair again.

I felt pretty ready for the race. Having traveled a full day ahead so that the day before could be spent resting and a proper night's sleep could be guaranteed. My pre-race nutrition and hydration was right on schedule. I went to bed even 1 hour earlier on the count of daytime savings being over. I woke up fresh and ready to tackle the distance.

I finally got to meet Marlene when I was headed to the start line. Her husband looked ready to race, even going through the effort of doing warmups before the race. Don't get me wrong, I totally respect warmups, but for a marathon, I need every mile in me before the race, there's no juice to spare for warmups. Things turned out differently for Marlene's Hubby as you will most probably read soon over Marlene's blog, he turned in a new PR by 16 minutes! I saw Marlene multiple times during the race and her cheering and M&M costume always brought a smile to my face and added speed to my stride.
At the start line, I realized how small a race this was. At 1500 marathoners, this is the smallest marathon I ever attended. A far stretch from LA's 25,000 or even Ottawa's 6,000. There was a pretty diverse crowd of young and old and everyone seemed upbeat about the perfect weather. I noticed how some people were carrying camelpacks. I found it funny to bring your own hydration at a race, kinda like bringing a sandwich to a buffet. I found out the reason why once I was on the course. Water stations were a bit sparser than I am used to and e-load was the chosen race drink. I am not very familiar with e-load but it did not feel sweet or taste like anything except salt. I regretted not bringing my own bottle of sports drink.
Warming up at the start line, I realized I was hanging out with the fast guys. It was a smallish race but being that close to the start line can be a bit intimidating. No waiting around after the gun looking at those heads bobbing up and down, when the gun goes off, you get going! Everyone settled into their own speeds fairly quickly.I settled into a good groove right at the start with a fast first 2 kilometers, right on pace for a BQ.
  • 4:27
  • 4:28
At about km 2, my left leg had a weird feeling in it. Not sure if it was the cold or if I was rusty from tapering. I didn't know if I should stop to relace my shoes, maybe they were too tight? I slowed down to see if that would help. I got a bit worried that there was something seriously wrong with my leg after the feeling didn't go away after a few kilometers and even considered dropping out to prevent serious injury. Eventually the feeling went away at about km 10.
  • 4:30
  • 4:33
  • 4:38
  • 4:32
  • 4:36
  • 4:32
  • 4:33
  • 4:33
At kilometer 10 I realized a was a bit behind on my 3h10 goal. Nothing major with about 20 seconds to make up but I realized that I had two choices if I really wanted to qualify for Boston, get faster or get older. I wasn't getting any older on the spot so I decide to get faster. Throughout the race, I pictured a fictitious runner called BQ and always remained aware of how far ahead (or even behind) that runner was. So I pushed a bit harder and got back on track.
It was great to see Alex cheering for me. I felt really good about the race so far. Marlene was also cheering a bit further down the line. Seeing her in her M&M costume was awesome and gave me an extra kick. Qualifying for Boston is what draws a lot of people to this race. Everyone was keeping track of where they were and where they needed to be. Some people had given up already by then and would wait for the next year when they would fall into a new category.
  • 4:27
  • 4:27
  • 4:30
  • 4:35
  • 4:23
  • 4:22
  • 4:27

I was now back on track right where I wanted to be. The next portion of the course then started getting a bit downhill. I knew a downhill section was coming but if I knew how much of a slope it was, I wouldn't have stressed about getting back on track. It actually felt like cheating a bit to go down the slope.
  • 4:18
  • 4:19
  • 4:19
  • 4:26
  • 4:20
  • 4:13
  • 4:12
  • 4:17
I felt like I was flying. I accumulated a lead of almost 2 minutes over my fictitious BQ foe. I was so happy, I felt like it was now impossible for me to mess up and not make 3:10. Images of flying over the finish line at 3:08 flew in my mind while I ran down the slope. Once the downhill section was over, my pace felt slow even when it was 4:30m/km. It was becoming increasingly difficult for me to keep it up. I kept chugging along as as much as I could.
  • 4:23
  • 4:25
  • 4:27
  • 4:49
  • 4:31
  • 4:25
  • 4:30
Marlene was waiting after an underpass and her M&M costume brought another smile :)
By that point I was becoming a bit thirsty. Avoiding the salty eloads at the water stops may not have been the best decision. I had brought my own gels and some starburst candies as well so I hoped that my carbohydrates were being replenished in time but there just wasn't enough water out there to quench my thirst. Shortly after km 32, my slow descent into hell started.
  • 4:43
  • 4:38
  • 4:55
  • 4:46
  • 4:51
As I entered into the final stretch of 10km, I felt the wall coming on. I mentally calculated my minimum pace to keep my 3:10 goal alive and realized that a 4:40m/km pace would be difficult with what seemed like a pretty strong headwind. Environment Canada reports winds of up to 25km/h yet I don't think everyone felt the wind the same way. The wall sometimes has its ways with runners. I watched helplessly as my fictitious BQ opponent closed the gap and passed me. My legs were painful, the juice was gone and my spirits were quickly falling. As we turned around the final bend, I was hit by what felt like a wall of wind. It literally took all the energy I had just to keep going. I started the painful mental process of adjusting my goal to 3:12 then 3:15 to finally dig deep just enough to actually keep going instead of sitting by on one of the comfortable-looking and appealing park benches by the side of the path we were running on.
  • 00:06:18
  • 00:05:28
  • 00:06:39
  • 00:05:44
  • 00:05:14
These last few kilometers were the most difficult I ever had to run. Finishing this race was even more difficult than the painful crawl of my first marathon. I just wanted to get the race done and over with and move on. Seeing everyone passing me by while I took walking breaks and extended every effort I could to just keep going. The disappointment I was feeling at not meeting my objective added to my exhaustion and made me feel really bad. Some really happy runners were prancing around shouting to the world that they were heading to Boston after trying for 10 years.

The final lap was pretty cruel with the runners going by the finish line and looping an extra few hundred meters. Wouldn't this race ever end? My Garmin reports the final 450m at 3:46 for an official chip time of 3:19:10. Marlene caught this great picture of an exhausted runner trying to stay together long enough to cross the finish line.
I was really glad to have finished. Coming in under 3:20 was actually fairly impressive given that the last 10km took me over 53 minutes. It's a new PR but could have been much lower if I raced smarter. I will learn from this to study the course profiles ahead of time to better plan my races. I could have taken it a bit easier on the first half to keep more ammo for the last end. Knowing that the water stations were 3km apart and knowing that eload wouldn't agree with me, I could have designed an hydration strategy that would have helped a bit.
I think the speed heat map tells the story pretty well.
And I wish I had taken a look at this elevation chart before I raced:
Overall, I think Hamilton's Road2Hope Marathon is a really well organized race. It's very small so there's not as much cheering as a bigger race could offer but there were cheerers peppered around the course. The course itself is fairly fast, if raced smart, even if a bit boring. The finishing kms would be very scenic if one had energy to take in the scenery. I'm not sure I would race this one again unless I was specifically looking for another go at the BQ. I think that I will do my time and train so that any race can be a BQ rather than try to cheat and pick a fast race to qualify.

My plans for now is a two weeks vacation from training. I know that I probably will not be able to withstand 2 weeks without getting out there but I'm not entering a training plan anytime soon. Miami is still on the table but I started wrestling with the idea of switching to a half marathon or at least of taking is easy and enjoying the scenery instead of pushing again for another PB/BQ. I know that I have a much faster race in me if I race smarter next time. I think 3:15 would be doable and I could hold it together until the end. As with every marathon, I learned a lot about myself during training and even more during the race. Marathons are life changing experiences in any case, difficult ones are even more meaningful if you ask me. As a friend told me yesterday, the fact that I ran faster than ever and managed not to get injured means I am doing something right.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

BQ or Bust!

I am usually fairly conservative when setting race goals. I like to be able to achieve them and reflect on my success. This time however is a bit different. I've been fairly straight forward with my goal to qualify for Boston eventually. With all the hard work I've put in over the summer, this might happen this Sunday. I could probably set a reasonable goal of 3:20 and shatter it at 3:18. However, I think a BQ (3:10) is achievable if I have a good day so I'll be pushing as hard as I can for as long as I can and then hang on and see where that goes. I realize that I may be putting a PB in jeopardy if I completely blow up at km 30, however I want to get that BQ under my belt so I can take it somewhat easy with my training for Miami.

The long term forecast looks pretty good for Hamilton with chilly but sunny temperatures. There's a slight 20km/h wind, we'll just have to hope that it's not going directly against the course. I have my outfits picked out, my gels tucked away and my shoes ready to roar. All I have to do now is trust the training and convince myself that this is not a cold I feel coming on and that my feet are not suffering from plantar fasciitis from walking around my winter boots for 10 minutes. Tapering is hard. I didn't remember running so many kms during the last week of training but looking back at my training log for my past marathons, I am right on par with another 10k run tomorrow and then a 6km Saturday before the big dance on Sunday. I may not post until after the race so follow me on Twitter in the meantime.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

7 days!!!

Less than a week left until race day. This is pretty exciting stuff. When I started training for this marathon 16 weeks ago, I didn't feel like I would ever get to race day. The grueling long runs, the exhausting speed training and the crazy things I had to eat in the last few weeks will hopefully pay off in a big way on race day. I'll follow up with a race goal post but for now the focus is on keeping the taper gremlins away.

Running "only" 50kms this week made it seem like I was procrastinating. I have to rationalize the feeling that I get in my legs when resting and convince myself that they are not injured and will be in top shape and ready to perform next weekend. No, this is not a stress fracture or a pulled muscle, it's just how it feels to not be tired all the time! Even the creaking in the morning feels different :)

Eating is also a difficult balancing act. Not running the crazy distances that the peak training was asking means that even though my appetite may be for seconds and thirds, the reality is that I have to be careful if I don't want to pack a few extra pounds come race day :) I've grown accustomed to the bottomless carbs and delicious desserts. Now I have had to cut back a bit to ensure that I hit the start line with the minimum amount of extra luggage ;)

It's been difficult to fit all the training in and find the motivation to keep going, especially the last few weeks. I am really happy that I managed to fit in most of the training plan for the last 3 months, only skipping a week's worth when I moved and even then I compensated wherever possible. I feel ready for the race and positive about giving a good performance in Hamilton.

If you are in Hamilton, let me know. We'll be there from Friday on. The long range weather report looks pretty good with sunny and sub 10 degree temperature. Depending on last minute weather, I'll be running with a variation of my chinese "orange blur" outfit that saw me through breaking 45 minutes for 10km last winter at the Richmond road race.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Over the hump

Wednesday is referred to as hump day sometimes. My Wednesday was a double hump. As I will be traveling this weekend, there won't be time or comfortable settings for a long run so I decided to squeeze in my 38km run, the longest of this training cycle, into a weekday. I don't know if the dread and anxiety of planning a run like that on a weekday evening is worse than the pain of actually doing it but I'm glad it is all over. Night running has its advantages. It's much quieter and a bit cooler than daytime running. It also gives a whole new perspective as you see things in the dark. Even the trails seemed different. I kept imagining giants spiders weaving a web that would catch me like we often see in bad horror movies. I saw a few other runners and quite a few cyclists out there.

The first 20 kms were easy peasy. The next 5 started to get difficult. I knew my nutrition wouldn't be where it needed to be so I brought along some gels, which is very unusual for me in training. I had the first one at km 25. It gave me a boost and something to think about other than the amount of kms left. At around km 30 I started losing it. Km 33 saw me stop for a walk break. What? A walk break? Me? I started doubting myself and that is never good. I took another gel and resolved to finish the distance running. Two walk breaks later, I finally decided to not allow myself any more breaks and run for it and ran the last 2 kms without breaking. I even ran an extra 500m to make up for it. Such is the mind of the runner. In 3h45m it's 8 minutes faster than the 38km run leading up to my 3:27 marathon. I hope that means I am in good shape.

The low 70km that next week requires will seem short compared to the heavy weeks I have endured recently. Then it's all downhill for taper until the race. Woohoo!

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend. Go get that PR!

Monday, October 11, 2010


For us Canadians, this weekend is thanksgiving. I have had the opportunity to reflect on what I am thankful for and a big part of what I cherish in my life is due to running. The positive things that running has given me are really what I am thankful for. I love having more energy throughout the day because my morning run went well or just because the training regimen has trained my body to be ready for anything. The rush of endorphins after a hard training keep me sane even in difficult moments. The "me" space that running gives me to think things through and plan ahead is priceless. Plus the positive changes that running had brought to my body cannot be overlooked.

So I thought I'd write up on what I am thankful for, the things that motivate me to run or makes running easier:
  • Thank you to the exceptional runners that provide me inspiration such as Ray Zahab and Terry Fox.
  • Thank you to the regular Joes and Janes everywhere, running along at races and during training. Seeing you out there makes it easier for me.
  • Thank you to the online community that shares their training experiences, provides tips and tricks and makes running more social. (yes, I'm looking at you Marlene, Yumke, RoadBunner, LARunner, ChichRunner, Mel, Mel, Ray, Laurel, iRunNation, and countless others I am forgetting right now)
  • Thank you to the race sponsors, organizers and volunteers for putting out great events and to celebrate our running community.
  • Thank you to the apparel and footwear designers, engineers and retailers for making sure we are equipped with the latest and greatest to make running comfortable and safe.
  • Thank you to the National Capital Commission (NCC) and Ottawa city council for making Ottawa a city with so many parks and trails.
  • Thank you to friends and family for asking how I did with my training or at my last race. This support means the world to me.
  • Thank you for a financial situation that allows me to equip myself properly and travel to exotic and fun races.
  • Thank you for a healthy body that can take all the pounding of training and continues to deliver exceptional race results.
  • Last but not least, thank you to my dedicated lover Alex. He puts up with my hissy fits, finicky nutrition schedules, pre-race anxiety and long training hours. I couldn't do it without you.
Training this week was my biggest week ever with almost 104km. Not only did I have an out of plan 5k race to up my weekly mileage but I used an opportunity on Sunday to take a lead on next week's training since the week will be extremely busy and I will be traveling during the weekend. I'm still not sure how I will manage the 38km easy pace after work on Wednesday or Thursday but I'm sure I'll find a way to fit it in :)

Friday, October 8, 2010


This will be short. I just wanted to share with you that I raced a 5k in 20m30s yesterday, a 2 minute improvement over my time last year. It was a charity 5k at work and lots of fun to be running with my co-workers from different departments. I came in 25th which is pretty exciting given the speedy people that were there! I'm not quite fast enough to beat the 20 minute mark that a colleague challenged me to, but then again I didn't want to push too hard and jeopardize my real race next month. 5k is a different beast than a marathon, that is for sure. How did I celebrate? By running a sub-1hour 13km after work, of course :)

Check out the DC Rainmaker blog today for a Timex Global Trainer giveaway.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


H&M is a famous clothing store, but the H&M I am referring to isn't a big chain. You may remember a few months back, I was trying to decide what marathon to run next and I was undecided with two of my choices. You know that I will be attempting to BQ at Hamilton's Road2Hope marathon but what I haven't shared with you yet is that I wasn't able to resist a very tempting offer from and decided to go ahead and book their Miami Marathon and Cruise package. H&M is then my new challenge: Hamilton & Miami.
The goal is still a BQ at Hamilton and then a scenic fun marathon at Miami but if for some reason I am unable to obtain my BQ at Hamilton, then the race is on for Miami :) I will spend 7 days after the race being pampered on the Carnival Glory visiting exotic beaches and hopefully take in a bit of snorkeling.
Training this week has been pretty good so far. I'm trying to cram it all in early in the week so I can get a head start on next week's mileage since the week after I will be busy travelling for a conference. I went really back to back with a tempo 18k (+3k warmup/cooldown) yesterday evening at an average 4:34m/km. No wonder this morning's 16k intervals wasn't quite as satisfying with fast intervals at 4:24m/km.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Running

Fall Running is really special. The combination of the cooling temperature and the trees changing color create an environment that is perfect for runners. Add to that the fantastic training I've been doing this summer and I feel strong and confident when setting out on my runs.
This week was very wet here in Ottawa so I did something I shouldn't have and postponed my two biggest workouts (19k tempo + 32k easy pace) to the weekend. I still managed to get pretty satisfactory results.

Tuesday was supposed to be the original day for my 19k tempo but I started way too fast and to top if off there was a weird weather phenomenon where the temperature actually rose 10 degrees when I got to Dow's lake at about 6km. I switched gears and decided to abandon the tempo workout and run a total of 13k to make up for Thursday's planned track workout.

Wednesday was much better where I squeezed in an interval workout. Quick intervals at an average of 4:06m/km for the fast kms and 4:52m/km for the slow kms. Workouts like these where I exceed my goals are what makes running so satisfying. Every now and then I set a challenge that I am able to crush and it works wonders for my confidence.

Thursday's make-up 19km tempo did not happen. It was a dreary and raining day here in Ottawa so I decided to postpone the 19k to Saturday and do an indoor strength workout instead. Friday was also a strength day since I didn't have enough time to get suited up and get a good distance in.

Saturday's tempo run was another confidence booster. The plan called for a warmup of 1km, 19km at tempo pace and then 2 km of warm down. I actually strayed a bit and had a fairly fast warmup and didn't switch off the engine until I reached the half marathon mark (21.1km). I finished the 21.1km distance in 1h34m40s. That's 20 seconds under my BQ time if Boston was a half. Doing this speed in training is definitively a real positive development. I wouldn't have been able to sustain for another 21.1km but then again I didn't follow pre-race preparations such as taper and hydration.

Sunday's 32km was a bit difficult to get into. I was still a bit sore from Saturday's tempo run. The cooler temperature and the beautiful colors turning in the trees were definitively a big motivation.
The route took me across the river for a beautiful view of Parliament
And then alongside the Ottawa and then Gatineau river on my way to the Gatineau Park. Beautiful colors everywhere mixed with the sunshine gave me a glow that helped me get through the difficult workout.
If you take into consideration the steep hills
as well as the numerous times I stopped to snap pictures, I think the 2h57m is pretty decent for an easy pace run.

With only two more weeks of heavy training before I start slowing down and tapering, I feel very confident about Hamilton. If you are racing in Hamilton on November 7th, drop me a line, we can meet up!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

35k is a long way!

Phew, what a training week. At 85km total distance this week, I am in the 2nd heaviest week of my training cycle. Things slow down a bit next week with a 80km week and then the final stretch begins with another 85km week and a 90km week before slowly reducing the distance before tapering begins. This week's runs were pretty successful with a great tempo on Tuesday, a satisfying 16km of intervals on Thursday (avg 4:10m/km for fast intervals, 5:12m/km for the slow intervals), a medium tempo 13k (4:56m/km) on Friday and an easy pace 35km yesterday.

I've said it before, the easy pace long runs are everything but easy. 35km is a long distance to cover, at any pace! Yesterday's route took me over the canal, alongside the Rideau river through Beechwood to the Aviation museum and then alongside the Ottawa river until it was time to turn back and take an alternate route home through Rockliffe.
What a beautiful city in the fall. Colors are turning on the trees and the quietness of the path alongside the Ottawa river combined with the fall colors made me want to stop running and take my time to enjoy the scenery :) Being an easy pace run on back-to-back-to-back running days, I wasn't too worried about my speed. Logging the miles was my main concern.

The run went really well except for one little detail. Alex always laugh at me when I carry my camel pack with the tube to drink while I am on the run. That's pretty much the only way I can think of carrying 2L of sportsdrink when my route doesn't include cornerstores everywhere along the way. For those of you watching the Office, you'll have noticed this week that Dwight started using a camel pack to stay hydrated because he is too busy between his many jobs. This gave Alex plenty of opportunities to poke fun at me and my drinking tube. Well, when I came back from my run, he had a lot more opportunities to make fun of my hydration techniques. You see somewhere at about km 15, my camel pack sported a leak. By km 20, my backpack was sloshing around and the sportsdrink was permeating through the backpack mesh and made my shirt and shorts all wet and sticky. I eventually stopped to empty the backpack (twice) and ran out of sportsdrink by km 25. At least I could look forward to drying now that there was no more sportsdrink to leak onto my back :)

Next week will be a bit of a break before the last stretch of this training run. Only 80km in the plan with the long run capped at 32km. This should be easy :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Training Wall

Most long distance runners can tell you a story about how they hit the wall during their race. Some hit it first during a half marathon. Some do after 30km of running and some never really seem to hit it at all. I've been lucky in a sense since I haven't had to deal too often with the wall. My first marathon saw me hit it head first and the wall caused me to question my resolve to finish the race and even to enter future races. I did cross the finish line proudly but not without a significant amount of pain and what seemed like a superhuman effort to keep going. Fast forward to today and it seems that ever since I started following a training plan the wall has been easier to deal with. The race day mental game is one that can be conquered during those lonely training runs in the dead of winter or early morning when everyone else is sleeping. The training is probably having me more prepared for race day as well. Someone once told me that during a race you race up to when your training runs out and then you just slug it out. My last 2 marathons I didn't feel that my training ran out, I felt ready and thoroughly enjoyed race day. Of the approximate 1200 kms required for my training plan, the last 42.2 were definitively the most enjoyable and memorable ones. To a properly trained marathoner, race day is a crown to the achievement that is the training cycle and should be celebrated as such.

This training cycle, I seem to be hitting the wall hard during training. My individual runs are fine once I get started but sometimes I feel that running is starting to get in the way of my life :) Often I have to give myself an extra kick to get out there and do my training runs. As I can start tasting the home stretch of my training, I am realizing that the weeks of training for a marathon and the feelings one goes through are pretty much identical to the race day mental games, but on a longer time scale. I caught myself last week discussing my training schedule with a colleague and I even uttered the words "Maybe I should quit running". This is the wall talking. I should not listen! I remember thinking the same thing around km 30 in my first marathon. Just like a smoker resolving themselves to quit a bad habit. Of course, I can't imagine my life without running, but maybe, just maybe, I ought to take it a bit easier. Of course I want to qualify for Boston someday and I feel that the sooner it happens the better that will be and I can always relax after, but on the other side I'd like to be able to stay up late on Saturday nights and have a drink with my colleagues once in a while after work without worrying about the impact on my training :)

The remedy for the training blues? More training. And quality training. Today, I took the legs out and unleashed them for a long tempo run. This is by far my favorite type of run. I feel like a jockey taking his favorite horse out on the track for a speedy session. The legs going full tilt, the feeling of speed and power resulting from each step is something that I find very addictive and fulfilling. At 4:31m/km for the tempo portion (total of 21.1km in 1h39m24s) this was my fastest 10k in a while and would have been a PR if it was a half marathon.
Look at all the green on the map. I could get used to speeds like this. If I can do two of those in a row, a BQ is within reach. With 5 more weeks of training and proper tapering, I think I am on the right track. Runs like the one I did today are the perfect remedy to break down that wall.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Army Run

The Ottawa Army Run is now becoming a can't miss event on Ottawa runner's calendars. The army theme has a broad reach and this run is able to catch many people that may not necessarily be interested in running otherwise. The race expo features military vehicles for runners to explore and the race has lots of army related touches such as the camouflage themed race shirt, the adrenaline pumping giant cannon start and the dog tag "medals" given to those who complete their events.

Two distances were offered to runners this year, a 5k and a 21k. The weather was perfect for a run even if towards the end the sun started beating down and making it a bit warm for some runner's taste. (That's what I heard anyways, I was shielded away in a tent the whole time :) Lots of smiling runners achieving personal bests or otherwise just having a good time on what some called a fairly challenging course.

I couldn't fit the 21k in my schedule again this year so I decided to volunteer for the baggage check. This is my favorite volunteer selection since I get to see the runners before they start the race, anxious, nervous, confident and focused and I also see them after, tired, beaming, proud and sometimes barely able to walk :) We processed a lot of bags this year, the estimate I hear was about 2000!
We didn't lose a single bag even if we got a few scares where some people would mark 2 numbers on the bag. In theory, the first finisher gets the bag back and finds their friend. In reality the first finisher gets the bag, cannot find their friend and the second finisher not knowing they are not the first finisher are also looking for the now gone bag. We had a few nervous people that got reunited with their friends while looking for the bag. Eventually everything worked out but the stress of not finding the bag combined with the soreness and tiredness of having just raced did create some uncomfortable moments. Notice to runners out there, don't expect us to check your car keys, ID, visa card, room key, pocket change or wallet. These will get lost so we won't even accept them. Some people were checking in their jacket. I guess it's all right but still causes a lot of problem and is a risk for runners that the jackets will get damp / dirty since they will be on the ground, probably with a bag on top.

It's always fun to be involved in an event even when I don't run it. There's this feeling that I get around runners that makes me feel at home! It's also pretty cool to see the events from the other side and figure out how everything works out in the background. To all those that raced the army run and thank me for volunteering: THANK YOU! Thank you for being out there and creating this vibrant community

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Week in review

This week was a return to my training plan. I did my 4 runs and 2 weight sessions. I'm pretty happy being able to squeeze all of the training in.

After Monday's 21k tempo the next set was a 16k intervals. I did pretty well keeping my fast intervals under 4:30m/km until my watch decided the battery was dead. I think I completed the workout as planned but I'll have to rely on my gut feeling for that. Thursday's 13k fartlek was pretty good, I breached the 4m/km quite a few times!
Friday was a rest day and Saturday was an easy weight day. I'm still watching Dallas while doing my weights and the current intrigue of who shot JR is really entertaining :)

Sunday was the long run. The plan called for a 32km distance and I needed to go back to the house to do some more cleaning so my plan was to do a reverse commute while adding a few detours to come up to 32km. It was nice to be able to take my time and not rush into a meeting right after my run, Sunday runs do have their advantages :) I did fairly well with a moving average of 5:20m/km. I had to give myself a pit stop at a mall along the way for relief and a new bottle of sports drink as I ran out of crystals and couldn't mix my camel pack as usual. Turns out today was a perfect day for a long run. The forecasted rain didn't really materialize while I was running except for a very light sprinkle towards the end.
I am always amazed at the thoughts that cross my mind while doing a long run like this. At the 17km mark, I looked at my watch and thought to myself: that's pretty cool, I only have 15km left. 15km seemed like a short stroll after completing the first half of my run :)

In the mix was Iron Maiden, Yann Perreault, X-Dream and Distance to Goa 7.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to schedule

Phew. What a week! Packing, moving, unpacking. It's tough stuff. Most people think my training is tough but the real tough part is fitting it all in. I missed a total of 3 runs during this hectic week. I think the soreness of moving means that even though it wasn't as focussed as my usual training, those days were not really wasted away.

I got back on schedule Monday with a really good tempo 18k + 3k warmup/cooldown at about 1h40m. Tuesday was a weight day in my new home gym. My screen is not up yet but I still had my portable DVD player so I could keep going with my Dallas. I'm currently at beginning of season 4 with the very exciting plot twists of finding who shot JR :) Yesterday was a 16k intervals which I think I did pretty well with most of my fast intervals around 4:30m/km.

Today is a short 13k and tomorrow I'm taking the day off training to host a housewarming. Drop me a line if you are in Ottawa and would like to drop by :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Moving week

I knew moving week would get busy so I threw in some extra mileage last week for a total of 81km while the plan called for 75.

Noteworthy was my super intervals run of 6x2.5km with 5 minutes rest. I completed all the intervals at 4:30m/km or less. Sunday's tempo run didn't go so well with a new heatwave hitting Ottawa it was difficult to get any kind of speed...

I redeemed myself this week with an easy pace 32k (20 miles) at a 5:15m/km pace (2h48m).

I am not sure when I will find time this week to run next. Packing and moving boxes count as training, right?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Keeping up

It's becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the demands of work, training, preparing for the move and ... blogging. Unfortunately blogging is one of the first to be neglected when time runs low and you have probably noticed that my updates are getting further and further between. I expect this situation to start getting better in September once the move is done and work lets up a bit. In the meantime, I'll try to stick with a minimum of at least one post a week.

This week in training has been very positive. A planned intervals run on Monday was somewhat successful despite the heat. I managed to keep all my slow laps averaging at 5:10m/km (great!) and my fast laps at 4:48m/km (could have been better). On Tuesday, I ran in to work for my slow long distance run. It was very difficult for some reason but I still achieved a respectable 5:33m/km for the 26km distance. In general, I want to aim for a 5:15m/km or lower on my slow runs but there's no sense in pushing too far and breaking apart. Yesterday's speed play (Fartlek) was all over the place as I believe is required for these types of efforts.
It's good sometimes to get out there and push as fast as possible for short periods of time.

I only have a 18km tempo run to reach my training plan total of 70km this week. This will probably happen Saturday.