Sunday, May 23, 2010


Tapering always leave me with lots of time to think about the weeks that went into training for the race I'm about to tackle. This training cycle has been particularly long. Planning for 2 spring marathons felt like a super idea back in the fall. I could build on the success of the first one and really set myself up for a fantastic summer of training. What I didn't realize is that without much downtime between the 2 races, it would mean that I would be in a really long training cycle, falling right back in the thick of things right after Los Angeles. I've been effectively in ramp-up training mode for almost 6 months!

I've touched on the dollar costs of running before, but lately I've been more concerned about the other sacrifices runners must do to reap results on race day. The training regiment necessary for a stellar race day performance requires these sacrifices.

We have to learn to resist that snooze button and get our butt out there early otherwise there won't be enough time to rack up the mileage that the training plan demands. If we delay our runs too long into the day we'll have to deal with hotter weather, making us sluggish and turning our otherwise enjoyable runs into a tough slog to the finish. I consider seeing the sun rising a rare privilege, so as an early morning runner I've been really lucky to witness this natural spectacle many times this year.

Being able to wake up early and deliver a good training session requires some discipline on the evening front as well. Runners will often have to turn in extra early to ensure they are well rested for their run the next day. This has earned me the nickname of grandpa quite a few times here around the house and some joking about being close to my pumpkin time when my eyelids start getting a bit heavy :) I have to say no to going to the late show at the movies and skip on lots of social outings or shows that would take me too late into the nigh.

The time commitment alone is monumental to train for a marathon. I'm averaging about 10 hours a week on the road, that doesn't even include time preparing, fueling up and doing laundry. Trust me, the laundry heap alone is quite the task, especially in winter :) You can be as good a multi-tasker and time manager as you want, a 10 hour a week deficit over 24 weeks is a lot of time to make up. I am lucky to have a supporting crew that is willing to put up with the time commitments and sometimes mood swings that training (and especially tapering) can bring about.

We also have to watch what we eat. Too little of this type of food and there won't be enough fuel for the ride. Too much of other types of foods will mean extra weight, making our journey to the finish line slower and tougher than it needs to be. I didn't count the amount of carb-loading dinners I had, but with 80-90km a week and two runs of over 25km during the peak weeks, there was enough to go through all the pasta combinations. I also switched to Sushi and that worked quite well even if the folks at the all you can eat sushi restaurant look at me funny now.

There's also some things that are not permitted until a satisfactory performance like alcohol. I don't seem to be able to train properly after I drink, even if it is just one. Still, I really like mixed drinks and consider myself an apt mixer, so this one was a bit difficult for me. Throughout my training cycle, I would allow myself one alcoholic drink per week, the evening after my long run. More often than not a Cosmo, mixed just the way I like it.

We also ask those around us to make sacrifices when they spend an otherwise fine day around smelly athletes trying to recognize us in the crowd so they can cheer and give us that extra boost of energy needed for peak performance.

Despite all these sacrifices runners are a grateful bunch. Always thanking mother nature when conditions are favorable. I also like to hug race volunteers at the finish line but for some reason the favor is not usually returned : -)

Reflecting on the last 6 months of ups, downs and in-betweens, there is one thing that is sure in my mind: Running has made my life better. Like an old friend that is there when I need it, running helps me through the rough patches and makes the happy times happier. I know I can count on it. Even if I have a bad training session, I got out there and gave it all I could. I committed and delivered to the best of my abilities and the feeling of accomplishment that running gives me is priceless. The Endorphins are just bonus points ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Exercising or Exorcising?

Sometimes when I set out for a run I do so in a serene context and just focus on having a good time. Other days, where some things are bothering me, I use my running as a way to exorcise my demons or pound the pavement as an outlet to the frustration caused by the hurdles I faced during the day or know I will be facing soon. This week has been a bit like that. Combine some minor disappointments at work with some increasingly annoying inconsistency in the totally awful Ottawa Bus Service and you have the recipe for a post-workday run that feels more like a session with the punching bag!

Tuesday's run was meant to be a 16k run at medium pace. That's the only medium paced run of the training cycle. I am not sure what medium pace should be. Turns out I probably never will because by the time I actually got home, about 2 hours late from when I wanted to be, I was so frustrated that I made it a tempo run. And a fast tempo run too! In 1h16, it gives me a pace of 4:48m/km. Phew!

Yesterday's 13km was intervals and I usually dread intervals but there were still a bit of frustration to fuel my run.
I think I may even have forgotten to slow down for one of the rest intervals ;)
I decided on a 1km warmup with alternating between fast and rest kms. Interval time were;
  • (5:40), 4:20, (5:10)
  • 4:20, (4:57)
  • 4:32, (5:06)
  • 4:24, (4:58)
  • 4:32, (5:07)
  • 4:30, (5:15)
Pretty spot on with my target of 4:30 for the intervals and much faster than my 5:15 goal for the rest periods.

In the mix this week was the always soothing Deedrah and the pounding and driving Psychedelic compilation from 3D Records.

PS: I think I convinced Alex to move back downtown. We are seeing some properties tonight.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hot 29k!

I promise to never be cocky about a short 29k again. I should respect any distance, even if it is not over 30km :) I wanted to sleep in on Sunday so I set out a bit late at 10:30am. That was probably my first mistake. My second mistake was not packing any ice cubes in my sports-drink. The first hour or so was fairly easy, but as the day wore on, it got progressively hotter. In the middle of summer training, this wouldn't be a huge problem, but I am not used to running that hot yet, so I had a bit of a meltdown / heatstroke and started slowing down significantly. I even walked for part of my last 3 kms (what!?!). I still managed to somewhat hit my easy pace goal of 5:30m/km at 5:34m/km but this run should have been way easier.
Reading my tweetstream, I'm not the only one that suffered from the heat. Here's to hoping that weather on race day is more manageable. The 7am start time should ensure everyone is done before heat starts building up.

In the eclectic mix was Daniel Belanger, Nine Inch Nails, Hallucinogen, Joujouka and Orbital.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Speed work

My last week of training before taper has a lot of speedword involved. Monday was a long tempo run, so I ran to work again. While 2h04 for 25km was not my fastest performance, I am really happy about how constant it was. No all over the map variations for each kilometer with most kms within a narrow 20 seconds/km range for an average of 4:58m/km. I think that is good.
Tuesday was time for the dreaded intervals. I decided on a 1km interval with 1km rest. I seem to handle those better than the more intense variations and with race day a little over 2 weeks ahead, I want to minimize the damage on the legs. I ran within my goals with speedy and consistent intervals.
Times for the intervals (and rest) were 4:28, 4:29, 4:25, 4:28, 4:23, 4:35 (4:56, 5:08, 5:08, 5:14, 5:00, 5:11, 5:24). Funny thing is, during km 7, I sped up without thinking about it before correcting myself into a recovery pace :)
I think that the one thing I am taking away from my training right now is that I'm getting that much needed consistency. It will be key for me on race day to select a pace I can sustain over the duration of the race and stay within that pace as much as possible.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wet and Cold 38k

It is somewhat ironic that throughout this training cycle the weather has been almost perfect, except for my longest run! Yesterday's 38km was done in a wet, cold and windy climate. I joined @isfalk and Tricia for the first 35km so at least the adventure didn't seem so horrible. I don't know why, but sharing intense or difficult workouts make them easier to handle :)

Tricia was the route master and came up with this route. It was pretty much ad-hoc I think based on how we felt and also to avoid hills, especially on the later portion. We went through a few portions of the Ottawa Marathon course.
I don't usually "correct" RunSaturday but I can see that there is a big portion missing and the Garmin says 38.4km so it seemed unfair to leave it at the 37.1km that RunSaturday wanted to have. Our goal was 6m/km and we stayed pretty close to it!
What I find the most impressive is that I finally reached 400km over the last 30 days. Woot!
It's all downhill from here, meaning there are no more >3 hours run. For some reason, I find that anything under 3 hours is easier to fit in the schedule and not so daunting. There was talks about repeating the group run for next week if the mileage and speeds are aligned again so I'm looking forward to more company on my long runs. It's a bit more difficult to schedule them in and to think about logistics but definitively worth the trouble.

PS: Happy Mother's day to all the moms out there. You guys are an inspiration for fitting it all in and yet always beaming positivity and love for your kids!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Windy Tempo

When I got home tonight, I knew the workout would be a bit challenging because I knew it was windy. Just how windy however is surprising!
46km/h winds! Can you believe it?

Alex was nice enough to play coach tonight. I tuned the bike up for him so he could test drive it since he wants to start using it to commute to work next week. We didn't want to go too far in case something happened to the bike. The Palladium Auto Park was the perfect place to go! LifeIn360 was asking before about a paved track and this is probably the closest to it in Kanata as far as I know. Traffic is usually pretty quiet (especially on Sunday mornings!) and the almost perfect circle is just about 1km around, making it really easy to pace and plan distances.
A couple of loops later, my 12km tempo was almost over. At 4:51m/km it was pretty good considering the wind! It gives me a bit of confidence after my somewhat slow commute to work yesterday (24km in 2h07).

I broke out a pair of new shoes today. I think my other pair has quite a few miles in them already (2 marathon training cycles is a lot of kms!) and I'll probably start thinking about slowly retiring them after the race so I have to get the new pair ready and broken in. I like to alternate for about a month between the two pairs before I completely switch. This is my third pair of Saucony Triumph. Last time they were on sale I stocked up by getting two pairs and this is the last new pair that was gathering dust in my closet :)

Next up is the biggest run of the training cycle at 38km. OUCH! I'm almost looking forward to tapering even if I know I'll be like a big baby, crying because I want to run and feeling so full of energy I won't know what to do with it. The race is a bit more than 3 weeks away and I feel ready. I just have to be smart and finish up this training cycle in beauty!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Interval Monday

Today's training called for a "short" interval run of 16km. Whew. I'm in really deep when 16km is a short run and I have to do intervals too! You've probably picked up already that I'm not a big fan of intervals. I'd rather run a long tempo than do intervals or track but I understand their usefulness so I set out for a simple program tonight when I got home from work: 1km warmup followed by 7 sets of 1km at 4:30m/km or faster speed followed by 1km of rest hopefully around 5:30m/km and a final slowish km to seal the deal.
I must say I'm pretty proud about my course-making abilities. I decided on the course quickly while I was thinking up how to make a route that would not be too boring and yet safely within the distances of home. I actually missed a turn but it turns out my initial idea was a bit short so the detour made the distance perfect!

While I like seeing so much green on the heatmap, it's the pace chart that tells the full story:
For the number freaks like me, here are the full details of what I think is a pretty awesome performance:
  • Speed intervals: 4:11, 4:18, 4:26, 4:19, 4:24, 4:31 & 4:37
  • Rest intervals: 5:15, 4:53, 5:20, 5:02, 5:19, 5:23 & 5:39
  • Average pace throughout: 4:53m/km
The timing was definitively not the best. Right after work, when everyone is barbecuing their dinners, the smells made me really hungry. Add in the fact that I didn't think it was necessary to bring hydration since it didn't look that hot and you've got one major case of the dry mouth and growling stomach! Still, I'll take this balmy weather over a frozen water bottle run in the dark of winter.

In the mix was the hilarious Guy-Phillipe Wells.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Easy 35k!?!

I know that the easy in Easy 35k on today's training plan refers to the pace, and not the overall effort but I always find it misleading. There is nothing easy about running 35km, at any pace!

I chose to explore the west end of the Trans-Canada Trail. I'm really lucky to live within a short stroll of the trail and while I've run eastbound many times, I had never really went past Stittsville Main going West. There is not really a way to make it into a loop so it meant an out and back course, but the weather was beautiful and I had loaded good tunes to keep me going so I knew it would be worth it.
The trail itself is really nice. An old converted train track I believe. The crushed stone is easy on the feet and the trees provide for shade and break the wind a little bit. It's really amazing that one can escape the city so easily and seemingly be in the middle of nowhere. The further I went along the trail, the more desolate it got with encounters only every few kms.
I grew up in the country so it is always refreshing to go back to a more natural environment. The spring is definitively in the air as the buds are sprouting all around. Fragrances of early flowers were a good picker upper when I needed a bit of a boost. Very earthy smells were everywhere, a little bit like what burning sage smells like.

I even got to see some canadian geese!
The run itself was pleasant. I didn't need to push too hard but there are always mind games when long distances such as this one are on the menu. I've become quite adept at dealing with the wall so I think I did fairly well. Easy pace runs are supposed to be run at 30 seconds to 1 minute slower than marathon pace, so at 3h22, I think I did pretty well. Next week is the big 38km and then it's all downhill until the race. I'm pretty happy about achieving the training plan's required 90km this week!

As an aside, for those who are contemplating their first marathons or for people that just enjoy running themed movies, check out Run Fatboy Run. I think the scene about getting over the wall is worth the watch on its own. I was thinking I should watch it again before my next race!

There is a 15 seconds / km difference between my Garmin and MyTracks. I'll believe the Garmin as that's what I wear at races and it's usually pretty accurate.

In the mix today was Orbital, Carla Bruni, Rob Zombie and Psy Harmonics. Talk about eclectic to ensure boredom will stay away.