Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Lonliness of the Distance Runner.

Here is a little secret, I am single and always have been single. When I finally confirmed every one's suspicions and openly said I was gay I thought that I would instantly meet the man of my dreams, fall in love, and off we would run into the sunset. It turns out that the fairytale has not happened to this fairy.

I must admit, I am a good catch. I am focused and driven, I have a good career that is stable in these 'tough economic times', I am up to date on current events, I am well educated, I am fit and attractive, I don't use drugs or alcohol to excess, I have a normally 'sunny' disposition, I am an elite athlete and I am honest. If I sound arrogant and full of myself please take heart. As a gay kid who grew up in a very conservative town and faced bullying it has taken me a long time to believe in myself and have confidence in the qualities I have developed as a man. Achieving my goals in running has been the difference in my life to enable me to believe in myself and to know that if I want something I can get it with hard work, well almost anything. Herein lies the issue with my solitude. The harder I work on the track, the more workouts I complete and the more consistent I am with my training, the more success I have had running. The more I seek a partner, go on dates or get set up by people the less success I have with love. It has often been said to me that if I just go with the flow and let things happen I will meet someone when I least expect it. I have also been told that I need to get out there, take risks and play the town. If one dates enough guys they are bound to find the right one. How to reconcile these two strategies for finding a mate?

The biggest issue for me in finding the love of my life may just be that I have already found it. As my wise massage therapist once said,
"running is your boyfriend."
I have found the qualities in running that I have yet to find in an available man, though desire in a potential mate.

1. Honesty: Running does not lie. If you run a 70 instead of a 68 over 400 meters you are too slow. If you go out too hard in a race and try and convince yourself that things will be fine you will crash and burn. Men lie, most gay men I have met are unable to relate even their most basic feelings without fudging the truth.
2. Hard Work: There is no doubt that if you do not work hard as a runner you will not succeed. Hard work is rewarded with improvement.
3. Passion: The elite runners I know all have a passion for running that is truly inspiring. Every work out I attend I am encouraged by the collective passion for this sport within the ranks of VFAC. Apathy sucks! I need someone who has at least some sort of passion.
4. Attractive: Watch a well trained runner doing a track workout on a hot summer day. Imagine the lean sinewy muscles, long elegant stride, light touch off the ground, effortless as if dancing across a Mondo stage.
5. Intelligence: Running requires an intelligent mind to contain and remember many workouts, splits and personal bests. As an aside, most of the runners I trained with in university were brilliant in their respective fields of study whether engineering, law, medicine, etc.
6. FUN! Running is the most fun thing ever. A man should be just as fun and even more fun if he knows how to play the right games!

These are some of the core attributes that I find in running that I cannot find in a man. Running has always been there for me when I have needed to get something off my chest, when I have a bad day at work, if I need time alone. I sort through my problems when I run, I mourn the loss of loved ones, reflect on the happy times I have had with friends and reconnect with me. Running is a shoulder for me to cry on, a comfort in the cold to warm my heart when I am sad. I am who I am when I run, I am Jay. It does not matter what I wear, what my voice sounds like, how big my muscles are. The only thing that matters is me, doing what I love.

But running does not keep my bed warm at night, does not kiss me goodnight, does not make me dinner and cannot go to the ballet with me. I need a man, a love, to make me whole. I need a love to be the shoulder I cry on. I need a love to run with and share my passion. I need a love who returns my love.
This is a lot to ask, but as I believed I would run sub 31, I know one day love will happen. I will be at the start line ready.

Happy Training!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Illness.

I never get sick, well almost never.

As I write today I am close to the bathroom in preparation for whatever comes out of me. I push my body to extremes and eventually it tells me to "fuck off" by getting sick. Lord knows that the only time I would ever spend the day in bed is if I was physically unable to get out of bed, like yesterday. Getting sick is scary. As I lay in bed yesterday, at one moment shivering the next boiling hot and sweating enough to saturate my pajamas, I contemplated my upcoming race schedule and if I would have my strength back in time to race and train. With my G.I. system sounding like an old wooden ship being tossed on a rough sea, I wondered if I would be able to run this week without the worry of an 'accident'. I have almost two months until my next taper and peak so I am not worried about the long term goal, what about the little fun races coming up? I guess we will see how my illness resolves and if I am able to leave the apartment in the next few days.
A recap of my last workouts. Saturday was a track day and we ran at Chruchhill School rather then our usual Pt. Grey High. Initially I was worried as the track was a little harder then what I am used to. It did not turn out to be a problem. The workout was 4 X 1200 with a fast 400 recovery. The pace for the 1200's was to be slower then usual. The workout did not feel good, I felt sluggish and tired, which I blamed on the long cycle to the track, the previous night's 'critical mass' and the terrible sleep I had on Friday night. I ran pace time for the first two 1200 then the last two I took the pace down by 8 to 10 seconds. I ran faster for the sole purpose of finishing the workout faster. The great thing about running fast is that I finish faster. On Sunday I had my long run. I ran 11 miles and it felt pretty good, although I had quite a few aches and pains.
I have also gotten back into the pool and have begun training with the English Bay Swim Club. This is a gay/lesbian and friends swim club in Vancouver. This is one of the largest masters swim clubs in BC. My swim workout on Saturday night was not quite what I was anticipating. It was long and hard and made me realize I need to get some muscles. The annual general meeting was held after the workout and I was nominated to be the secretary of the club. I accepted. So my involvement in gay/lesbian sport continues to grow.
In retrospect, the combination of a terrible sleep on Friday night, despite going to bed at 9:30 (no wonder I don't have a boyfriend), the achy and tired workouts on Saturday and Sunday and the sporadic abdominal pain over the weekend, should have made me aware that I was getting sick. I have an intimate relationship with my body. I ask a lot of my body and it usually delivers. Now my body is asking me to rest, make frequent trips to the bathroom and put running on the shelf for a few days. I will oblige.
Nature Calls!

Happy Training!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Picture Says 1000 Words.

Within sight of the finish line I am air born and in visible pain. Behind me is Mike Booth, ahead is Ryan Day. Holding onto intense focus for 10 km is quite difficult, once I see the finish line it is easy? Not by the look on my face.

Happy Training!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness...

After every good race there is muscle soreness, pain and fatigue. This week has not disappointed! I have been quite sore this week and have not had quite the pep I was expecting. The effort of a hard 10 km has had an effect and consequently I have had a nice and easy week of training. I was very tired at work yesterday and thus decided to go to South Granville shopping and Granville Island for some bacon and bagels rather then run. Unfortunately walking around the city seems to cause more pain then running.

Tonight was my first workout since Sun Run and I was able to put out a good effort. It is always fun to train with the club and I was happy to see everyone! Tonight we ran 1 7/8ths mile, twice. My first interval was faster then the second but both were quite hard. The second interval I was focusing on staying relaxed for the first half. The last half of the interval I focused on getting my feet off the ground. When I get tired I tend to let my feet stay on the ground too long so to combat this, during last part of my workouts, I try to think of getting off the ground as fast as possible. It only goes to reason that the less time one is on the ground the faster they will run. I was sore at the beginning of the workout and the first interval was a shock to the system. Once I got running I felt much better and towards the end of the warm down I was back to my old self. I hope the DOMS is finished!

The last time I completed tonight's workout was a couple months back when we were running in Stanley Park on Saturday Mornings. It was a lovely Saturday morning with sunshine gently filtering through the coniferous trees of the temperate rain forest, trails covered with a light dew, our breath visible in the cool spring air. Visibility excellent! The first interval went well and I was feeling great, ready to run very hard, I was in the 'zone'. The second interval began as planned and I was running hard and with purpose. I was coming off of a downhill section to a flat and knew that I had to pick up the pace and keep strong. I made a left hand turn and then another slight left hand turn. Suddenly up ahead I see a group of people walking on the trail. I am not alarmed as it is a beautiful spring morning and there ought to be people on the trail. As I very quickly get closer to this group I notice they are not walking but rather are staring into a tree. I yell to them to watch the trail. They don't move. I see three tripods, approximately 15 middle aged people looking up into a tree and no one moving except for me, very fast, towards them. I yell again "watch the trail!" and they see me, I yell "Look out!" They finally move. With no time to spare I see a opening and move towards it to go on with my workout. One has to understand that when running fast during a workout there is not a lot of rational thought occurring in the oxygen starved brain. A runner is thinking one thing, go fast! Stop is not in the vocabulary, besides the fact that stopping, when running fast, is really, really hard. I make my way towards the daylight in the trail when a middle aged lady steps in front of me. The result was a collision that flattened the poor woman onto her back and nearly sent me into the forest (she had at least 100 lbs on me). The ensuing mayhem was both entertaining and distressing. I was in shock and trying to get the people, who it turns out were birdwatchers, off the trail while my club was not stopping. At the centre of the disaster imagine a skinny gay guy in short shorts and singlet trying to calm down a group of screaming birdwatchers with a 50 year old lady screaming on her back, another Bird lady screaming and freaking out while someone else was telling me it wasn't the Olympics and people should not run in the Park. The combination of dazed birdwatchers running with their tripods screaming bloody murder, 30 or so runners dodging the birdwatchers and me in the middle of the brouhaha, dazed and confused while trying to reinstate some type of order would have been priceless to watch. Once the lady was picked up and most of the team had been through I continued on my way. I finished the interval, a little worse for wear, with the sound of bird ladies screaming ringing in my ears. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness came in the form of shoulder pain and a bad S.I. joint/coccyx. Good thing I don't have a boyfriend, that might have been awkward.

Happy Training!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sun Run 2009

The race is done, completed, finished, over. I ran 30:58 and was 12th of 57,000 runners. I am happy, relieved and excited to go below 31 minutes for the first time.

The day started well when I was able to eat my whole bagel for breakfast. The last bite was a bit of struggle but I got it in just before the nerves hit my stomach. I have been having trouble eating before races this year and have gone into races with not much more then a piece of toast and coffee in my stomach. I took being able to eat as a good sign. Soon the coffee worked it's magic and off to the bathroom for the evacuation. I had time to get dressed and listen to the "Ting Tings" before heading out the door at approx. 8:05.

The warm-up went well. My run the day before felt terrible so I was a little nervous about my warm-up. I did feel a touch sluggish while running to the elite start area but not unlike how I feel at the start of any run. Once at the start line and in the warm-up area I felt much better. I am unsure if it was all the smiling faces of the VFACers or the energy of the moment. Once I started drills and strides I started to feel light and easy and ready for a hard effort. One or two more longer strides may have helped but we were corralled earlier then I thought we would be.

With the gun I ran hard to get running space and good placement then 'cruised' for an easy 2:54 for the first km, two seconds faster then last year. This is when the cruising stopped. I knew I had to race to get a good time and I had an idea of who I wanted to run with. I put in a little surge and got into a group with Jerry Ziak, Jamie Epp, Mike Booth and Kris Swanson amongst others. Around 2 km is when the effort started to take a toll. I started to question the pace and was feeling tired. I got nervous and began to doubt my ability to run with the likes of Ziak and Swanson, who have both beat me by substantial margins this spring. Thank goodness for mindfulness (roll your eyes now) because I started to count my breaths and focus totally on my breathing. I focused on staying on Ziak's Shoulder and my breathing and not much else. Doing this I was able to stay in the pack through beach avenue until we hit the Burrard bridge. I was dropped up the hill on Hornby and by the time we crested the bridge I was working with Swanson and Ziak to reel in the other guys. Swanson surged and Ziak fell back and I was on my own. The whole field surged on the downhill and I was left in their dust. At 5 km my split was 15:24 as per John's yelling, close to a new 5km PB!

The last 5 km were very tough. I ran in 'no man's' land for the whole stretch along 4th ave. There was a noticeable head wind along this stretch and although I was catching guys I was not able to get any help with running into the wind. It was along here that I really do not remember much. I remember Paul yelling like a crazy person on 4th, for sure at least 5 seconds faster with that! I remember my friend Natasha yelling at the bottom of Cambie and my leaden legs running up onto Cambie Bridge. I remember a woman yelling places mid Cambie Bridge, I heard 13, 14, 15... I remember thinking 'get Swanson' and really pushing hard to get under 31 minutes. There were targets along the bridge and I was able to pick off Mike Booth and then get Ryan Day at the line, two great scalps! I can remember John yelling 30:20 something and my friend Nick cheering near the off ramp. I remember crossing the line, exhilarated, overjoyed and beyond happy with a 30:58, 12th in the Sun Run.

One word on crossing the finish line...

Joy

The milestone of running 10 km in less then 31 minutes means a lot to me. When I started running I was, in the words of my first coach, "A fat kid from Nova Scotia who walked onto the team." Running fast was not something that came easy. I have led a life less gay because of my love of running and my desire to run fast and to achieve my goals. I have trained consistently for eight years to get to the level I am now. I have skipped many parties and even friends weddings to travel to races and meets. I have left many vacations early to go to training camps and I have a very restricted social life to enable training at a level necessary to achieve my goals. When I crossed the finish line on Sunday all the sacrifice and hard work was worth it.

Now that I have had some time to think about the race I am still very satisfied with the race. I am also happy to beat some of Canada's best runners including Jerry Ziak, Mike booth and Ryan Day. I was within sight of Jamie Epp, Kris Swanson and Bomba which tells me that I have a good 20 seconds to drop over 10 km this year. It is still hard for me to believe how I ran, that I was ahead of approximately 57,000 people, that I ran sub 31. I can't believe I beat a couple of former National Champions and even out kicked one of them to the line. I also recognize that with more training and hard work I can still improve. I do not think I had a perfect race, it was a grind. The first km was the one that felt good, the rest were a struggle and I had a good head wind for the last 4 km. I am happy, but also happy to get back to the track and trails and get in some good quality training.

I had a couple of easy runs the past couple of days and even had a little injection of pace at the end of today's run, anything to get to the top of a hill first... For the next few weeks I am going to try and have a little more fun with running and recreating some type of social life. Above all else I want to enjoy training and remembering the feeling of crossing the finish line. It would also be nice to get back to gay land at some point and hit the club for a change of pace. It might be fun to slow things down for a change...

Happy Training!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Art of Taper

With a good taper a runner stands at the start line feeling invincible, rested and quick, with a desire to suffer more then those around him. When done poorly a runner stands at the line feeling vulnerable, sluggish and fat. A bad taper leads to a terrible race which can be similar to a bad movie. It lasts too long, you know it is going to end bad, the lead character seems pathetic and not up to the challenge of the demanding role they have selected and the entire production seems ill prepared.
There are a lot of issues a runner faces during a taper. My main concern is usually with regards to getting fat. This taper happens with Easter in the middle with the added component of having a friend visiting from Toronto. I made a wonderful and delicious Easter dinner last night for a few of my friends. After several bottles of wine, herb crusted roast pork with roasted root vegetables and a few servings of lemon pie and strawberry shortcake I am feeling a little fat. If I could get away from temptation at work I would be happy but I cannot. The candy jar in my office was filled with delicious chocolate from the Easter Bunny over the weekend and I have no self control when it comes to chocolate!
After a weekend of Tomfoolery I am feeling a little worse for wear, a little heavier and slightly tired. To add insult to injury I have had a week and a half of bilateral foot pain and have been icing regularly. Not running as much also adds to the feeling of fat. I know I am not fat. I can still see my ribs through my shirt, my watch strap is still too big, my pants still fit with a wide margin and people are still telling me I am too skinny at work. I know I am not fat, but do I ever feel that way.
These feelings make the taper difficult. If I run more I will feel much less fat and heavy but will take away from the much needed recovery my body needs. If I eat less, avoid social gatherings and seeing friends I will become more isolated then I already am. When I am at the start line will I be thinking of running fast or will I perseverate on the extra piece of pie I had at Easter dinner?
To make the taper even more trying/exciting is the increase in libido. Towards the end of the taper I start to feel like an 18 year old. Normally, like a typical man, I think about sex quite often. When tapered I either think about running or sex. I find it hard to focus on tasks and if an attractive man comes in the room I might as well forget about any coherent thought. I think this would be a great time to have a boyfriend, someone to release this pent up energy with. Instead I flirt with anyone who will give even half a glance and try to think about running.
All and all a taper is both a blessing and a curse. I sit here wanting to be outside running, enjoying the warmth of the sun. I want to go for a walk or a bike ride, maybe meet some friends for a drink or even try to meet up with a guy for some fun. Instead I will elevate my legs, apply some ice and get ready to run like I have never run before.

Happy Training!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The start of the taper begins!

I have made it to the taper!

First, a recap of my last two workouts. Thursday night I ran 1km, 2km, 2km, 1km. The first km was slow and I was off pace. To remedy this situation I ran hard on the next 3 intervals. The first km of the second 2 km felt awesome. I was able to move along at pace without feeling the need to drive hard, I was even able to take a gaze at Beaver Lake as a light steam came over the water and a few ducks bobbed along. The last km of the second 2km didn't quite feel as good but I was able to dig deep and think light and easy. I ran below pace times for both my 2km. The last interval of any workout is always the easiest. By the time the last one comes around it is all about going hard and holding on for dear life. My last km was well below pace time and may have been one of my fastest splits ever. It did not feel light and easy, it was a grind, but it was fast!

Today was a track day. After cycling with my friend Sony up to the track we started our warm up. I felt good in the warm up and thought that I wasn't too sore or tired after the hard effort on Thursday. John (my coach) has a pre Sun Run surprise workout for us. After the warm up 400 I knew this was going to be a tough day on the track. After the 400 we had a mile. I was to run 4:35, 68's for quarters. I ran the pace time but it was an effort and did not feel light and easy. Following the mile we had a quick 400 recovery followed by a 400 hard. I ran 58 0r 59 and felt like dirt. My feet were stuck to the track, heart in my throat and breathing through a wheezy straw. We had a 200 recovery and then a 200 all out. Again, I felt like dirt but finished. We had full recovery before running a 1200. When John announced the 1200 a collective groan went through the training group. These are the times when it is so wonderful to train with a group. We all felt the exact same at the beginning of that interval, tired, full of dread, nervous for the pain, afraid to fail and miss the pace time. The 1200 didn't disapoint. It was one of those intervals when 200 in I know it is going to be a battle with myself. The last km I felt like stepping to the side of the track, crawling into a ball and crying, but I didn't and made my pace times. After the 1200 we had 200 recovery with 200 all out. At this point I just wanted to be done. I was happy with the 200 and it was great to have my club mate Mike to chase on the home straight. We had 400 recovery and a final 400. The last 400 was to be hard, then John yells and you go harder. I ran 60 flat which was pretty good for how I felt throughout the duration of the workout. After the workout Sony and I took a dip in English Bay as a recovery ice session, quite nice! And a very attractive older gentleman came by as well!

So now it is taper time!!!! Taper time is really hard. It is during the long hard hours of training, when the brain says go and the body says no, that I really look forward to this time. But this is also the time that I question my training, question if maybe going out for a light run will help my stride, perseverate on food and worry that I am getting fat because I am not training as much. On the good side my energy level gets back to baseline and I think about meeting friends and going out and seeing people, although the week before a race it is not an option. Taper means nerves, excess energy and starting to feel human again. This is the time when I have to be mindful, shut off my brain and enjoy the fruit of my labour. This is when I get to rest, recover and stop to see the view.

"The hay is in the barn"

Happy Training!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How far do you run?

"Oh you are a runner? How far do you run? Have you run a marathon?"

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me these questions I would be able to fund a running career. Why do we measure the merit of a runner by the distance they run?

I am a distance runner and I love my long run and distance races but I have yet to race a marathon and my mileage maxed out at 80-90 miles per week 5 years ago. When I was running high mileage I was miserable. My life revolved around getting in the miles. I would run in the morning before school, if I got up early enough. I would run to school and at lunch. I would run home from school and take the long way. I avoided going out with friends because I wouldn't get my miles run. Sundays were spent running and then recovering from my run. I double ran on my speed work days. I was too tired from running to climb stairs, it took me 45 minutes to walk to school (when I was not running) and I did not smile. I had no sex drive, woke from my sleep with night sweats and became skeletal. I couldn't even drink, one beer and I was toast with a hangover in half an hour. I managed to make a semester of school in England less then ideal and then I got injured.

The injury opened my eyes. It was my first real injury that prevented me from running for any period of time. This injury placed running in perspective for me. I realized how much I loved running but also how running has to have a place in my life, not be my life. It was while I was injured that I came out, when I started to become the real me. I stopped running away from me. When I was able to start running again I stopped counting miles and ran because I loved it, not because I had to click off the miles to please my teammates or coach. I do ensure I do a long run and I "count" the miles, but only by time and not on a measured course. I figure in the end my slow days balance my fast days and it all evens out.

What is most important is that I stopped listening and comparing myself to other runners and their mileage. I stopped thinking that I was less of a runner for running fewer miles. Luckily since moving to Vancouver my coach does not push me to run huge mileage and I am still reluctant to measure my miles.

So why is everyone obsessed with mileage? Is it a measure of cock size? Is it the distance runners version of a flashy car or a big shiny truck? Some runners benefit from high mileage, it makes them stronger and enables them to run fast times and compete at an international level. Some runners just love the high of running and are out there for the pure joy of the experience. Some runners will tell you their mileage within five minutes of "hello, it is nice to meet you." They will outline every laborious and minute detail of the hundreds of miles they are running and then will ask "how many miles do you run?" (or what I now imagine "my cock turns out to be approx. 8 cm but by telling you I run a lot you will think it is 16 cm, how big is your cock?")

My response is "I don't count my miles" and I have never had a complaint!

Happy Training!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Begining Something New

I am a Runner, I am Gay. I imagine the picture in your mind is of a skinny little guy in a tank top and cut off jeans prancing down the street, that is not me. I am a runner like any other on outward appearance. I may have beaten you in a race or you may have seen me on the track. You would not have noticed much besides the quick pace I was running or the brand of my spikes.
The difference lies on the inside. If you feel marginalized as a runner or as somewhat of a freak, imagine if the stereotype of your minority consisted of partying, drugs and anonymous sex. Partying Friday night does not equal a fast track workout Saturday morning. I think it is time to flip the gay stereotype and show that gays are focused, driven and are achieving success. I wish I knew at sixteen that gays run, go to the Olympics and lead lives that do not revolve around the 'gay club', alcohol and drugs.
Running! I have had a great past few weeks running. Last Saturday I was on the track with my club Vancouver Falcons. I had my fastest ever workout which consisted of a 2:05 800m in the middle of the workout. The best part is that it felt hard but light at the same time. I wasn't pushing and grinding, I was floating. I kept the words of my club mate in my mind "run faster not harder". I finished the workout with a 26 second 200m. I was very pleased with this effort! Today I had a 20 minute tempo in the sunshine and it felt great! I really wanted to run hard and had to hold myself back from going too hard. I was in my new FastTwitch Flats which may have added to my excitement. Usually I would run two miles cooldown but today was just too nice, I took the long way home. As I come to the end of a long and exhausting spring training session I am encouraged that I still want to run and run hard. I still have a lot of fire in my belly and I am ready to run fast.
If anyone happens across this blog and has a question or comment don't hesitate to leave it. I am going to try to report on what I see when I am running and relate some stories along the way.
To file under, "random things I have seen while running". I was running a workout in Stanely Park when I came around a corner. In the middle of the trail I saw a women crouched over. As dusk was falling over the park with a slight mist blowing through it was difficult to discern what this figure was doing. As I got closer I could see the shock of white of a woman's bottom, her pants around her ankles and relieving herself. Of course I averted my eyes as I continued along my way. I guess when you have to go, you have to go!
My first post done,
Happy Training!