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.