Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cresting the wave

Today I ran to work. The plan called for a marathon pace effort. I think I overdid it a bit. Either that or my next marathon will be fast. At 4:54m/km, my marathon time would be about 3h33m. I don't think I can sustain this speed for a whole marathon yet but who knows, with the crowds cheering, maybe I will speed it up :)

Today's run was very pleasant. I always like longish tempo runs. It feels like at the beginning of the run, I am pushing hard to get a good groove going. Once the groove is established, I feel like I am being pushed by the established pace to keep it up and continue doing well. The image that came to my mind today was a surfer cresting a wave, totally in control, riding the wave to the beach. That is how I felt today, totally in control of my machinery and riding the wave I created in the first kilometers all the way to downtown. What a pleasant feeling. The Endorphins were really flowing freely today. Then, toward the end of the run, something funny happened. The Testosterone came out and I started thinking about the Ottawa Marathon, my next race in about a month. Some of you may have seen my tweet after finishing the run, proclaiming that @ottawamarathon has nothing on me. I felt invincible and right then and there thought that I would shred the course apart. Even if the new course hasn't been finalized, I feel that I will do well on May 30th.

The pace itself was fairly consistent, staying between 5:00 and 4:40 once I warmed up.
I've been using both my Garmin and MyTracks from Google on my new phone. Preliminary thoughts are that the voice feedback is fun. It mixes in with the music playing in my BlueTooth headset and feels fairly non-intrusive. However, it's not the best way to see progress in between updates and there's no way it offers as much info as the display on the Garmin. The phone screen is somewhat hard to see in the sun and since it's up on my arm, almost on my shoulder, it's not as easily accessible as a watch. Accuracy is pretty good with about 5% difference between the mileage recorded by the Garmin and the phone. It wouldn't be my only tool but as a secondary/backup device it works well enough. It doesn't offer all the workouts and other advanced features of the Garmin but that's probably just Software related. If someone could come up with a watch like accessory and maybe heartbeat and footpod that works with BlueTooth then maybe we could talk about serious competition. I'll keep looking for other apps and eventually write in a in-depth review / comparison of all of them :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday Intervals

Leave it to me to schedule two speed workouts back to back! With my busy schedule it's not always obvious to fit all the workouts in but this time I think I did a good job. With the weird weather we had in Ottawa, I didn't quite know how to dress. I had to dig into my winter clothes to make up for the up to 30km/h wind gusts, making the balmy 2 celsius feels more like -5. Fortunately for me, the wet snow that had been falling in the early morning had stopped long enough for the sidewalks to dry up a little bit by lunch time. I borrowed this interval workout from Marlene last time and I liked it enough that I wanted a second crack at it. 1km warmup followed by 4 sets of 2x1km at interval speed with 500m cooldowns.
First set at 4:20 and 5:43. total failure against the wind and going uphill (do I sound like I am exaggerating? I might be a bit!). Second set at 4:22 and 4:47 (much better!), third set at 4:56 and 4:45 (is it over yet?) and last set at 5:04 and 4:30 (finally I'm done!). Not quite as consistent as I'd like but a good showing overall considering the wind gusts and the fact that I ran a track workout the night before! A total of 12km completed in 2 seconds short of 1 hour so I can call it at 4:59m/km, yeah!

You probably already know that I use RunSaturday a lot for all kinds of analysis and mapping. One of the things you may not know about RunSaturday is that it allows you to quickly see how you are doing on a dashboard type page when you log in. I love seeing how far I've trained in the last 30 days and this week I noticed I am above 300km for the last 30 days. Woot woot!
If you are the least bit serious about tracking your training, I recommend you check out. It supports a whole range of fitness devices and best of all it's free and open. Even if you don't have a device or train indoors, you can still enter all your relevant information manually for running, biking and swimming. I just love it!

If you have a bit of time today, check our RoadBunner's awesome picture review of Big Sur. That's one race I wouldn't mind doing some day!

In the mix was Children of Paradise's Urban Alien.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Track Monday

Yesterday was a return to the track. I did the usual 4 sets of 4x400 with 2x400 rests but switched to a different track for a change of scenery and headed to the Sacred Heart High School. I'm pretty lucky to have two tracks within ~3km from my house, it gives me alternatives to changes things up.

I don't know what's up with me an my Garmin but I just can't seem to program it properly these days. I missed a step on the repeat and I think that's why I did an extra 400 again :)
My times were pretty good considering the wind. Mother nature must have something against me because every time I try to do speedwork the winds are blowing. I felt pretty good about my sluggish performance once I got home and saw the the winds were blowing 20-25km/h (as reported by The Weather Network).

Times for the fast 400s were:
  • 1:48, 1:45, 1:47, 1:51
  • 1:49, 1:49, 1:51, 1:51, 1:52 (yup, an extra, blame it on the Garmin!)
  • 1:44, 1:53, 1:46, 1:51
  • 1:47, 1:52, 1:50, 1:49
The track is always a test for my legs as well. I usually get all kinds of soreness and sensitivity after a good track workout. I'm happy to report that, after a good stretching session, the legs were almost back to normal. My training must be working!

PS: What's up with the snow this morning in Ottawa?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Week in review

Another week gone by where between the pressures of work, training and family, I didn't have time to blog! The week was very good training wise with 81km out of 85 the plan required. I'm calling it done :)

On Monday, I did a quick 12k at lunch in about 58 minutes. Nothing special to report other than the legs felt great. Tuesday was a weights day, I did my 2 sets satisfactorily.

On Wednesday, I ran in to work. The plan called for a 22km tempo run so I stretched it to 25km and finished in a little over 2h02m. It feels so good to let it all out once in a while and wonder at how well training has been progressing. I love the feeling I get when my legs are giving me what I want, I feel like a well oiled machine!

I remember looking at my watch at the 21.1km mark and realizing that if this was a half marathon, it would be a PR. This, during training with nobody to chase. Awesome. Some of my friends even saw me running and mentionned it on Twitter. Thanks @isfalk and @tgrevatt, that's a super boost to know that not only I felt great, fast and strong but also looked it :) Look at the speed heatmap (thanks RunSaturday again for this amazing feature!)
At 4:54m/km, it's a very respectable effort that is probably responsible for what came next. On Thursday, I was supposed to do an interval run. I picked 2x1k with 500m rests. However, the legs didn't agree and the wind started acting up so I finished with the first 2 intervals within my goals, the next 2 a bit slower than I wanted and then gave up and ran the rest of the way at a pretty even pace. Total of 12k at 1:01, not that bad.

I switched the long run to Saturday because my boyfriend got tickets to the Senators' hockey game on Saturday through a recognition program at work. I had 32km to do and decided to head for the trails (crushed stone, not really trails). I knew I'd be a bit short but there's a few places to loop around to add extra kms near my house anyways. I am really lucky that we have such wonderful trails here in Ottawa.
Even saw some horses that didn't look like they wanted to race
I had dressed a bit to warm and ended up slowing down near the end as mid day was approaching. I still managed a reasonable time of 3h01m22s which is about 5:42m/km, only 12 seconds/km slower than I wanted.

With a total of 81km for the week, I think my work is done. Next week is 90km. OUCH!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week in review

Phew, the week flew by. After Tuesday's track workout, I did a quick 8km (38:44) on my lunch time on Wednesday. On Thursday, I ran in to work for a 24km workout. At first I thought it would be real slow and after 10km, I started experiencing sensitivity in my right knee. After a brief painful moment where my knee felt like it was being pricked by a needle, everything calmed down and I was able to reach some good speed and get to work in time for my meetings with a time of 2h03 (~5:10m/km pace). Funny enough, my knees haven't felt better in weeks since that workout. I guess something needed stretching and that brief painful moment was just that happening. I'll keep an eye on them still.

Today, Sunday, was the long run. The weekly ritual for all long distance runners. I had a 35km to do and I really didn't feel like it. I got out of bed (15 minutes later than planned) and, after a bit of procrastination, hit the road. Whoever arranged this perfect running weather for Ottawa has my full gratitude. Low single digit temperature with sunny skies made the difficult distance easier to handle.
I ran into quite a bit of wind, but that's all right, it will just end up making me stronger, I guess. I usually cruise through the long slow runs at an almost tempo pace. I recognise the value and benefits of the slow run but I just don't like feeling sluggish. I didn't really have a choice today as the combination of kms already in the bank, poor nutrition and fairly late bed time yesterday made the engines cringe when I tried to push past a 5:45m/km. The fact that yesterday's thai dinner was really not enough to fuel me for the entire duration became really obvious after km 25 where things started slowing down even more. I finished in 3h26m (5:55m/km pace, not bad for the conditions).

With a total of 85km this week, I'm tracking pretty good to the training plan. I wish I has been a bit faster today but my legs feel great so that's definitively a positive aspect. Next week's long run is back down to 32km even as my total remains 85km. I'll have to look back at last year's summer routes. I used my old winter routes on the road this week since I was too busy to design a scenic route through the numerous and beautiful paths and parks available around here.

In the mix today was Sun Project's Zwork, Daniel Belanger's Nous, AC/DC's Blow up your video and OOOD's Breathing Space.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Track Tuesday

My knees haven't hurt at all today so I figured it was time to pound them real hard and head to the track. A quickly programmed 4x400 with 2x400 rest repeated four time would do!
Unfortunately I didn't program the Garmin the right way (even after bragging over the weekend about how easy it was to do!) and ended up doing 5 fast laps before I realized I had doubled up the fast laps.
  • 1:39, 1:48, 1:43, 1:49, 1:52 with rests of 2:21, 2:12
  • 1:41, 1:34, 1:41, 1:45 with rests of 2:03, 2:07
  • 1:42, 1:48, 1:44, 1:47 with rests of 2:20, 2:01
  • 1:43, 1:47, 1:40, 1:44 with rests of 2:46, 2:18
Not bad at all, with an average of 1:44 (4:10m/km). With the warmup and cool down I came about 100m short of 18km in about 90 minutes. Awesome.

I'm always taken aback by the runner's high I get from letting the engines go full tilt. The Endorphin was flowing freely tonight. I can't believe that a painful workout can also be so enjoyable.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Back on schedule

The small break that I took from training after Los Angeles is officially over. This week saw me return to my training plan with a total of 84km (the plan asked for 80). I'm pretty confident I can maintain the plan again until race weekend at the end of May. I hope I can get back in the groove of blogging at least a few times a week instead of rushing to lump it all in at the end of the week.

Monday was a 16km tempo at a pretty even 5:01 pace
On Wednesday's interval, I tried to copy Marlene's 2km intervals with 500m rest. While I wasn't able to get progressively faster like she did, I still got satisfactory intervals of 4:26, 4:34 and 4:30, 4:39 and 4:22, 4:35. I don't know how I managed to keep a 4:30 pace for an entire 10km back in January. I wonder if I could do it again at a race... I just love seeing so much green on's heatmaps:
Friday was supposed to be a 20km tempo, so I ran to work. Not quite the tempo I was looking for at 5:13 but it just didn't feel right to push faster.

The plan on Sunday was a long slow run of 32km. Some friends were doing a 10km run downtown that I was told would be quite slow so I felt it was safe to join them for the last portion of my own run after running to downtown. Add in some delays because it's early Sunday morning and a last minute change of venue and my quite comfortable 6:00 pace was no longer reasonable if I was to meet them at the agreed time. I was a bit unfamiliar with the route I was taking so I even threw the afterburners on for a bit and managed a 5m/km pace for a few kms to ensure I would make it in time. I got there about 2 minutes before we set out at a leisurely 7m/km pace. Two of us managed to sprint for the last 2 kms to put in a bit of an extra effort. I ended up with 2 more bonus kms in the bank at an overall pace of 5:41.

Monday, April 5, 2010

LA Afterthoughts + C4C

I received lots of online and offline congrats and comments about LA! Thank you! One of the things that came back the most was about taking so many pictures yet crushing my goal at the same time.... How did I manage it?

First of all, I don't think my goal was too easy. I think I just had a very rare perfect day. The fact that I was in a timezone 3 hours behind made the 7am start quite a late one for my eastern system and my nutrition was going right on schedule prior to the race, thanks to an All-you-can-eat pasta special for the Marathon at Maria's downtown LA. The weather was gorgeous. Even if it got a bit hot in downtown, once when we started going towards the sea the refreshing breeze came in to cool us down. The course was fabulous with lots of sights to take your mind off the grueling task of putting one foot before another and the community support was outstanding, recharging my batteries at every turn. I can't forget mentionning that my dad was also inspiring me to push the limit of what I knew I could do.

As the picture taking, I think it actually helped make me faster. Marathoners will know that the course can get pretty lonely and boring. It's not unusual to strike up a conversation with fellow runners when breathing is allowing it. Taking our minds off the littles aches that are developing or not thinking about how much fuel is left in the tank versus how many miles are left on the course is paramount to a good performance. Having the camera and thinking about the pictures and the sights that I wanted to bring back to friends and family did just that for me. While the running backwards was a bit dangerous (I almost tripped at least twice!) it also gave my muscles a break in the motion and I think this had a positive effect.

Where do I go from here? I have another marathon scheduled for the end of May, in my hometown with friends and family watching. I'll have to do well! My goal is simply a repeat of my LA performance to confirm that I am strong and can use the summer to get even faster towards that elusive Boston Qualifying time (3:10 for me).

LA Marathon, like most major races, had a bunch of race photographers on site. I never understood the race photography economy. While I do realize they spend tremendous amounts of money to take all these beautiful pictures such as this one:
What I never understood is the market for these pictures. A single picture will cost you $60. Granted they also offer an "economical' download of all the pictures they take of you for a "modest" $80. I can't justify myself paying that much money for pictures. Yes, I want a copy. These are amazing pictures of what is for the most part an extraordinary event, but seriously, $60 per picture? I had a chat with the girl at the counter at the expo about this. She seemed to hold a position of fair responsibility in the company and all she could do to validate that $80 for a download of all the pictures was a fair price was that it was their most popular product. I don't have an MBA in race photography economics, but let's say there are 50 photographers paid a per diem of $2,000 (I think this is generous, especially for LA where every closet paparazzi has good quality photo equipment), that's only $100,000 of fixed cost per event. Add in a generous amortization of $50,000 per race for website and bib recognition software and you only have a fixed cost of $150,000. If you sell a download package to %10 of the field at $80, that's $200k ($50k of profits). If you'd sell the same package for $25, you'd probably get %50 or more of the field buying it, that's over $300k ($150k profit). Maybe I'm wrong and there's already %50 of the field buying the download and I'm totally off the track here with my numbers.

If you are in the race photography business, I think your sweet spot for an almost universal buyin is about %25 of the cost of the race entry fee. For $25 or less, I'd buy the pictures before the race, before I even see them and not ask for a refund if they are no good. Anything over $30, I'll wait to see the results and if they are good I will get them. Anything over $40 I won't even think about it even if the picture is worthy of Time Magazine or National Geographics.

One of the benefits of having gone to LA is that I broke my phone so I got this new one:
It's more like a computer than a phone really and it has a GPS. I've seen lots of software for running and tracking distance, pace, etc and I will be trying them out in the next few weeks to see if there is a possibility of replacing my garmin. Less electronics to carry while I run is better in my books but I think it will be difficult to replace the purpose built Garmin watch with a more general use device like a phone. More on this as I experiment with the various software. If you have any suggestions for a good running software that runs on Android, let me know!

I totally forgot the C4C with the race excitement so I'll use the comments on my race report for the March numbers, so 8 food items will be donated to the Kanata Food Cupboard. Don't think that's enough to feed the needy? Leave your comments here for April's C4C, for every visitor that leaves a comment I'll donate one non-perishable item. If we go over 8 comments, I'll double March's donation!